Help me receive text messages from people on all cell networks.
December 23, 2009 1:39 PM   Subscribe

After porting a number from Virgin Mobile to Page Plus, I don't receive text messages from people on the AT&T network.

Page Plus is a small MVNO cell phone provider that "rents" space on the Verizon network. This is all in the US.

I ported my number to them from Virgin Mobile about two months ago. Everything seemed to have gone OK until I figured out that texts from people who have AT&T were not coming through. (I have tested this several times with several people. They get no indication that the text has not gone through, and I get no indication that a text has been sent.) Texts from Verizon and US Cellular are fine; I don't seem to know anyone on Sprint or T-Mobile, so I'm not sure about those. People on any network seem to *receive* my texts just fine.

Strange thing: after porting, I was still able to log in to my Virgin Mobile account online. And whaddya know, I could see a record of texts received from those AT&T numbers there. (Incidentally, Page Plus has no such online account management feature where you can see that someone with a particular cell number has sent you a text.)

I called Page Plus about my problem and mentioned what I'd noticed about seeing the record of the texts in my VM account online. They told me that I needed to speak to Virgin Mobile to have them fully close and delete the account, and that would solve the problem. I have since called Virgin Mobile several times. They swear to me that they have closed and deleted the account, and I can no longer log in to account management online, but the texts from people with AT&T still do not come through.

I've called Page Plus customer support again numerous times. They have "reset my account" and "reprogrammed my phone" a bunch of times, neither of which helped. Then they told me there was nothing else they could do because I use an unlocked CDMA phone/handset rather than a phone I purchased from them, and insisted that the issue must be my phone's software, which they cannot troubleshoot. That seems pretty ridiculous to me - it seems pretty apparent that it's a network issue.

ANYWAY - after pushing and threatening to contact the Better Business Bureau, I finally got tech support there to acknowledge that it might not be an issue with the phone/handset I use, and agree to troubleshoot what they can on their end, but without guarantees since "it could still be your phone." They're doing that now, but I suspect I still may need to make some suggestions for how they proceed in order to get this resolved. I'm supposed to call them back tonight.

SO - what could be causing this issue? Are there any concrete suggestions I can make to them (either Page Plus or Virgin Mobile's customer service) for how to resolve it? Do you think there is a snowball's chance in hell that this is an issue with my phone (Samsung SCH-i760)? If all else fails is there some intermediary inter-carrier text-directing entity I can speak to directly to try to get this fixed? I've googled and read and posted a bunch on HowardForums, and seen some people with similar issues, but that hasn't gotten me anywhere.
posted by needs more cowbell to Technology (19 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: Also - on a random whim I tried calling Verizon's tech support to see if they could help, since Page Plus rents space from their network, but the tech support guy (while friendly and nice) could not submit a trouble ticket because my number isn't really a Verizon number.

I have also tried calling AT&T, who told me that they could not do anything. (They said if it were an issue with just one AT&T customer's texts, they might be able to fix it if that person submitted a complaint, but as it is, it is something on my provider's end.)
posted by needs more cowbell at 1:47 PM on December 23, 2009

I can't give you specific advice about this, but be prepared for this issue not to get resolved. My friend had this issue once she moved her phone number over to Nextel and then eventually AT&T and she could never get texts from anyone on the Sprint network, even when she changed phones & networks. We all spent about a dozen hours on the phone and in the store with customer support.

Nobody ever gave us a solid answer about why it didn't work, and we hounded all 3 networks for months. Everyone deflected to everyone else and nothing ever changed. It's been awhile, but I think the best thing we heard was that the number wasn't ported correctly, or it was a network issue about some weird way texts were sent. I wish I could remember more of the details for you. Basically, we were told the only way to fix it was to switch phone numbers.

I'm sorry this is such a crazy hassle for you. Based on my experience, it's probably not your phone but the Verizon network. But they're not going to change, and we never found any third party texting organization to appeal to. If it's at all feasible I'd suggest you change your number.
posted by lilac girl at 2:32 PM on December 23, 2009

Wow that sucks. My only advice would be to port to Verizon or InPulse (Verizon's native pre-paid plan) and then raise the issue with them directly if the issue persists. Or you could port back to Virgin Mobile, since the problem started with them. Once/if you get it fixed you can port back to PagePlus. It might be that porting again is enough to solve the problem.

You can swap your ESN to a new $5 ebay phone and make sure that your phone isn't the problem, although I'm with you that it almost certainly has nothing to do with your phone.

Good luck.
posted by ChrisHartley at 3:40 PM on December 23, 2009

I believe the term you are looking for is "reprovisioning".

I had a somewhat-similar problem where I could receive SMS from anyone on the same carrier as me (AT&T) and I could send SMS to anyone at all, but I could not receive SMS from anyone not on AT&T.

To get it fixed, it took myself and a Verizon customer friend-of-mine, standing in front of an AT&T rep, demonstrating the problem still existed, all while rep was on phone with tech support, who were swearing up and down problem did not exist. The "fix", as I was told, was to completely reprovision my phone. Unlike some of the other posters, I did not end up having to change numbers.
posted by namewithoutwords at 4:20 PM on December 23, 2009

Response by poster: namewithoutwords, was reprovisioning something they did on on a network level or did it involve your phone software/touching your phone in any way? I'd encountered that term before but I'm not sure exactly what it involves and googling doesn't really explain it. And did your trouble also begin after porting a number? Just curious.

Page Plus doesn't have physical stores, so I can't quite pull what you did, unfortunately. But at least they've agreed to work on this, finally.
posted by needs more cowbell at 4:33 PM on December 23, 2009

I've had this problem with my T-Mobile number for at least 6 months now, and I get a call once or twice a week from someone at T-Mobile saying that they think they've gotten the problem resolved. Inevitably, it isn't.

I did have one representative tell me that Verisign handles all inter-carrier SMS messaging and that they fault could lie with them, but that there was nothing that they could do about it short of sending an email. It may be worth bringing up with support to see if there's something they've heard of that my customer support people didn't.
posted by markolson at 4:52 PM on December 23, 2009

Yeah, what does it mean to "reprovision" a cell phone? Can't find anything specific on the web.
posted by exphysicist345 at 4:57 PM on December 23, 2009

I work in tech support for a Canadian communications company, we use the term 'provision' to describe the act of adding or enabling hardware on a customer's account. For example: we provision an broadband modem or digital phone terminal by adding it's serial number and MAC address to our network equipment and linking it to the customer's account.
posted by baseplate at 7:16 PM on December 23, 2009

you could get a google voice account and route all your sms through it. works great for me. if you need an invite memail me and i'll hook you up tonight or tomorrow.
posted by artof.mulata at 7:32 PM on December 23, 2009

Response by poster: artof.mulata -

Thanks for the offer :) I actually have a Google Voice account, but the trouble I run into with that is that if I send a text to someone, it will show up on their phone as coming from my actual number, and it gets complicated telling people that they need to text me back at my Google Voice number instead of the number I texted from. As far as I know there's no way to fix that automatically on a Windows Mobile 6.1 phone like I have - plus, I have limited monthly data to use, so I prefer any kind of texting to be actual texting, not something web-based.
posted by needs more cowbell at 7:45 PM on December 23, 2009

Response by poster: I spoke to customer support again tonight and while the rep basically admitted that it was a network issue, he didn't seem to think there was much they could do. He seemed to say that other people have had this issue and didn't think it was port-related. He suggested I have people who have AT&T call AT&T and tell them that there was a "translation error," which I will try, but I am doubtful.

Reprovisioning (which I'm told consists of totally deactivating the account and then activating again) has to be authorized by a supervisor and it was too close to Page Plus's closing time to speak to one, but I'll try again. In the meantime, if anyone has additional suggestions...
posted by needs more cowbell at 9:07 PM on December 23, 2009

First - PagePlus tech support has been useless to me via voice(you got through?), but pretty good to me online - I use the web form.

If they've tried to reprovision your phone, and it's never done this whole 'I've been taken over by aliens' thing where it freezes up and goes through a series of [UNLOCKED][DOWNLOADING] style prompts, you might try forcing it from your end: Dial [*228], then select 1(Firmware settings update) from the voice prompts - If that dosen't do it, call back and try selecting 2 (Which is the actual tower provisioning).

You might also try checking the Proxy settings to see if anything's off.
posted by Orb2069 at 9:09 PM on December 23, 2009

Response by poster: Orb2069, I've gotten through a few times (after waiting forever each time.) When I initially submitted a web form about this (almost two months ago) they told me I needed to call in.

Most recently I tried submitting a very detailed trouble ticket and got an email response reiterating that it was my phone (uh huh) but my own very firm "I will complain to the BBB" response to that has led to the somewhat more helpful dialogue that's happening now (as in, at least they are willing to help troubleshoot. But they did still tell me I needed to call in and speak to the tech support department.)

I have not yet gotten them to reprovision my phone since it was too late to get a supervisor to do it tonight. Are you saying that the *228 is actually reprovisioning? Because I've done something involving dialing *228 before (not sure what the selection was afterwards) and it didn't help - I think it was resetting the account - and the person I spoke to tonight did assure me that the "reprovisioning" that a supervisor (if I can get through to one) might be so kind to do would be something different.

Are those proxy settings for texts as well as data/internet? I thought they were just for data (and my data has worked fine from the moment I turned the phone on, fortunately.)
posted by needs more cowbell at 9:53 PM on December 23, 2009

Your provider has not properly updated the Verisign intercarrier SMS gateway. I had this problem for years with a number that was ported out from T-Mobile to AT&T and who could not receive text messages from T-Mobile users. AT&T immediately recognized the problem and their rep said "Oh, let me check Verisign. Yep, there's the problem; I've fixed it."

In your case, texts from Verizon users are not affected because Page Plus uses the Verizon infrastructure. I suspect if you have a Sprint PCS user try, it will fail, because Virgin Mobile uses the Sprint network. This is why you can see the pages in your Virgin Mobile account, because the database that other carriers use to locate where to send your texts still points at Virgin.

Unfortunately, you will need to deal with Page Plus, since they have to be your point of contact through to Verizon. Call Page Plus and tell them they need to check with Verisign and have the record for your number update.
posted by fireoyster at 10:22 PM on December 23, 2009

Response by poster: Thanks, fireoyster. I'd heard about Verisign's existence but most stuff about it online seems to be about other (non-cell-phone) services that the Verisign company provides. Good to know that is something they can update - hopefully I can get them to.

What do you mean by "have the record for your number update"?
posted by needs more cowbell at 10:37 PM on December 23, 2009

Pardon, that should be have the record for your number updated. Page Plus can communicate with Verizon who can then communicate with Verisign to say "Hey, you have number 5125550019 directed to Sprint PCS/Virgin Mobile; it should be directed to us!" I know the AT&T tech had a web page he visited to update the information; it is possible Page Plus has access to that same type of setup, but it may take some pressing to find someone familiar with this process. Again, this is common with number ports, so there should be someone who knows how to fix this. You might try calling Page Plus' number porting department, or at least asking for someone who knows how to handle number ports, and describe the issue to them.
posted by fireoyster at 2:10 AM on December 24, 2009

needsmorecowbell: provisioning happens at the network level. When my SMS problem was resolved, there was no action taken on/with my phone hardware - the solution was entirely completed by AT&T's tech support (I want to say tier 3? it was definitely not the initial tech support wonk who fixed things)

They did the "provisioning" magic, and about 2 hours later, everything started working fine. (to their credit, they told me it would take 4 hours. to their detriment, I went 6 months not realizing that I couldn't receive off-network SMS)
posted by namewithoutwords at 7:44 AM on December 24, 2009

Response by poster: Ah, funny how that missing "d" threw me off, fireoyster. Thanks for the additional explanation. Now to find someone at Page Plus who's willing and far just calling to speak with the porting department has not been helpful.

namewitoutwords - funny story - I didn't text a lot before I ported my number (or after, yet, since I have this stupid issue), but the weekend after I ported, someone emails me on Saturday apologizing for the three drunk texts she had sent the night before, which led me to investigate. (Worked out well, sort of - I never saw the apparently rude things she wrote, and I became aware of this issue under non-urgent circumstance.) Otherwise it might have been 6 months for me as well.
posted by needs more cowbell at 8:25 AM on December 24, 2009

Response by poster: Update the first: the issue has been fixed, although I don't know exactly what they did. After making a great ruckus that lead to being on the phone with an AT&T rep, a Page Plus Rep, and then having Page Plus call Verizon at the same time, Page Plus filed a trouble ticket with Verizon. I did mention Verisign to them, which may or may not have helped.

A few days ago I got a text from a random 817-number saying "test text from an AT&T phone" and immediately afterwards I asked a bunch of people on different networks to text me - and they all went through.

I'm trying to contact Page Plus to find out exactly what Verizon did to fix this, both for my own curiosity and to help others who have this problem, but no luck yet.
posted by needs more cowbell at 12:05 PM on January 1, 2010 [1 favorite]

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