Only Getting 3G Using Straight Talk Wireless with an iPhone 5

A reader, Jay, asks…
hey, I have an unlocked iphone 5 32gb with a straight talk simcard which shows 3G on top even after enabling LTE and trying few tricks like swap sim and enter back and all but still can’t let go of 3G on top and when entered t-mobile,it showed 4G! what’s going on!?

If you are using a Verizon iPhone 5 with either Straight Talk’s ATT compatible or Straight Talk’s TMobile compatible SIM card your phone will only get 3G or 4G but not 4G LTE. The Verizon iPhone 5, is only compatible with Verizon’s LTE network, not ATT’s or TMobile’s LTE network. The radios in the phone don’t support the required frequencies. I wrote an article about these phones.

If you are using the ATT Compatible SIM, your status bar will only show a 3G indicator when you have either a 3G or a 4G HSPA+ connection. The indicator on the top is just what the carrier decides to display for a given connection. I wrote an article about this in the past, see I Updated My iPhone to Net10 & Straight Talk Carrier Update TFW 15.7 and Now My 4G Is Only 3G!

Now, if you are using a ATT, TMobile, or GSM iPhone 5 and not getting an LTE connection, it may not have LTE service in your area. A number of readers report that they don’t get LTE at home but do in nearby towns or more populated areas.

Finally, I usually recommend that people measure their actual data speeds, as this is more important than a 3G, 4G, or LTE indicator in the status bar. Se my article, Using SpeedTest to Measure Your Internet Speed

14 Comments

  1. Jon | | Reply

    Hi Bob,
    I’m wracking my brain trying to get 4G LTE for my father’s iPhone 5. Here’s the deal:

    ATT-compatible phone, ordered a new Straight Talk SIM about two weeks ago.
    The phone only shows 3G at it’s best–everywhere. My house, along with most of our area has LTE coverage. His phone will only show 3G, no matter what.
    I checked the LTE button in Settings.
    I ran a speed test on his and my phone (I’m using Net10 with LTE), and where I get 40 Mbps, he’s getting only 8.
    He’s given this a week or so, and still no LTE. Gotta love him, he’s patient and doesn’t even care if it’s faster. Now it’s just a matter of my stubbornness! 😀

    So after hours on the phone with Straight Talk (and being told that I am in a 4G area), the nice lady said I need a new SIM card. I don’t know if I buy that though, because the SIM number is exactly the same (TF128PSIMC4ND) on both the card I put in his phone, and the new one they’ve mailed.
    The new one hasn’t arrived, but like I said I’m very skeptical.

    I didn’t think to swap cards with my iPhone 5s’ Net10 card. What will that tell me? Could the phone itself have some defect?

    Are there any other things I can try? I am desperate for help. Any ideas?

    Thank you!

    • Bob Thompson | | Reply

      Jon,
      1. Try a network reset on your dad’s phone Resetting Network Settings on Your iPhone. If that does work try resetting all settings. Resetting All Your iPhone’s Settings

      2. Try your SIM in his phone and yours in his. While this won’t fix the problem, let’s see what the results are.

      3. Transfer his service to the new SIM, sometimes it does help.

      4. If he is getting 8MBps down he is probabally getting HSPA+, which AT&T would display as 4G in the status bar, but Straight Talk displays a 3G. So 8 Mbps is fast enough for him to use while trying resolve this issue.

      Let me know what happens.

      • Jon | | Reply

        Thanks for the fast reply, Bob. Yes I tried the network reset with no luck. I then put my Net10 SIM in his phone and his SIM in mine.

        The result was he still got 3G with my sim and I got LTE with his. So it seems like a phone problem. Possibly the cellular antenna? That’s not a bad fix and a cheap part. Does that sound like the problem?

        Thanks for helping me!

        • Bob Thompson | | Reply

          Upgrade the phone to latest iOS, take it to the Apple store, tell them LTE didn’t work after the update. Be really polite.

          • Jon | |

            What a great idea! Thanks, Bob!

          • Bob Thompson | |

            they replaced my sister-in-law’s iPhone 5 for me when she had a problem after an update.

  2. Alex | | Reply

    Yes when i had atnt i was getting 4G Lte an my i phone 5 s then I switch from atnt to straight talk using the same phone witch straight talk had this program bring your own phone which they unlock my phone and activated it but the issue is that i dont have 4G network but my wife does with straight talk

    • Bob Thompson | | Reply

      What happens when you put her sim in your phone and your sim in hers. And FYI, when ATT, the company, shows 4G, that’s not LTE. A iPhone with straight talk att network will show 3G or LTE never 4G.

  3. Alex | | Reply

    I have the same problem im using a atnt iphone 5s with straight talk and im not getting 4G only 3G but straight talk said i m getting 4g which is not true

    • Bob Thompson | | Reply

      Everything I wrote in the article is still true. Your 3G connection is probabally an HSPA+ connection. Were you previously using this iPhone with AT&T? Did it show 4G or LTE?
      Do you know anyone with an iPhone 5 or later using AT&T in your area?

  4. DOLORES FIELDS | | Reply

    Why does my Samsung galaxy S5, straight talk, only get 3g when it’s spouse to get LTE.

    • Bob Thompson | | Reply

      Do you know if you are using the Straight Talk Verizon, Straight Talk AT&T, or Straight Talk T-Mobile network?
      How long have you had your phone? Did it ever get 4G LTE?

      Typically your phone gets the best connection available at your location. Sometimes phones take a little time to get and LTE connection. You can look in the settings and see what you have set as the preferred connection and make sure it’s LTE, that is rarely the problem.

  5. Josh | | Reply

    Bob,
    I’ve been doing some research on this and can’t quite figure out what I need to do to get LTE working.

    StraightTalk sent out the email the other day the LTE is rolling out (on Verizon? I think AT&T phones already had support).

    Either way – I’m using an iPhone 5 (Model: md097ll/a or A1429). I’ve been on ST for about two or three years and do *not* use a SIM card to access the network.

    Is it possible to access LTE and what SIM (if any) do I need to achieve this? Will I need to reactivate my phone if I will be using a SIM from now on?

    Thanks so much! ST has been less than helpful.

    • Bob Thompson | | Reply

      Hi Josh,
      If are currently using an iPhone 5 model A1429 without of SIM on Straight Talk’s network, you are not going to be able to update to LTE. This phone was sold by Straight Talk to use on their 3G verizon network and they will tell you it’s not eligible for use with their Straight Talk BYOP Verizon 4G LTE SIM.

      A lot of by readers have been very disappointed by this.

      The problem is that in order to use the phone, you need to register the MEID on their network then activate the SIM. when they check the MEID, they will tell you it’s not eligible. To use ST’s Verizon 4G LTE network you’ll need a BYOP iPhone 5, 5s, 5c, 6, or 6 plus.

      To date, I haven’t heard of any workarounds for this. I’ve been told that if you can get the SIM activated, you can put it a Verizon phone that isn’t eligible and it will work, but that’s the issue. You need a valid MEID as part of the sign up process. Even if this does work, there still might be some problems with doing this.

      Your best bet is to keep your eye out for a used iPhone 5 or 5s, that is eligible. Buy it, activate it, then sell your current phone. If you are lucky you might break even on the deal or have to go out of pocket for a little cash.

      Keep in mind that ST’s Verizon network speeds are capped at 5Mbps. Check out what your current speeds are using SpeedTest
      Using SpeedTest to Measure Your Internet Speed

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