My Wind cell phone does not work in the US!
July 5, 2015 1:53 PM   Subscribe

I am travelling from Canada to the US for 11 days, and discovered that my Wind Mobile phone has no reception here -- as in, zero bars. Help me figure out what to do!

I e-mailed the Wind Mobile people, but they have not gotten back to me yet. Hilariously, the contact form required a callback number. Assuming that they are not able to fix the problem, what do you suggest that I do?

- Should I get a new sim card? I don't even know if my phone is unlocked. I don't know if the no-reception problem can be fixed by getting a new sim card -- I have no idea how cell phones work.

- Is it possible to buy a cheap (<$20) prepaid phone?

- Anything else?

I am in NYC at the moment, so you can assume that I have access to pretty much anything. Thanks!
posted by tickingclock to Technology (18 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
Is your phone supposed to work in the US? If so, is it possible you've got international calls disabled? In my (Android) phone this option is in settings: wireless and networks: mobile networks.
posted by geegollygosh at 2:28 PM on July 5, 2015


A prepaid SIM card might be a good option depending on if your phone is compatible. What is your phone model and how did you get it?
posted by demiurge at 2:29 PM on July 5, 2015


You need to have their unlimited U.S. Roaming add-on. It cost $15/month

From their website:

You can activate the add-on in a number of easy ways:

New Customers:
In-store: At the time of activation at any WIND Mobile retail location.

Existing Customers:

Web: Online through ‘My Account’ at www.WINDmobile.ca/myaccount

Device: By dialing *134# from your WIND phone.
Phone: By calling WIND Customer Care at *611 from your WIND phone.

Remember – You must have Away and US data roaming enabled on your account in order to use data while away
posted by yyz at 2:34 PM on July 5, 2015


Oh, shoot, I forgot to include an important detail in my question: I have unlimited roaming, and have successfully roamed in the US with the exact same phone last summer. I checked my account just now, and I see that international calling, away and US roaming, and international roaming are all enabled. My plan states that I have unlimited US roaming.

My phone is LG-P769, running Android 4.1.2 (Jelly Bean). I got it through a Wind Mobile location in Toronto.

I can't even do *134#, because I have literally no reception. When I look under Settings > About Phone > Network, it says: network = unknown, signal strength = 0 dBm 0 asu, mobile network type = unknown, service state = out of service, roaming = not roaming, mobile network state = disconnected.
posted by tickingclock at 2:46 PM on July 5, 2015


Go to a T-Mobile store and get a SIM. Use WiFi to sign up for the $30 100 minute/5GB plan if that is enough minutes. Pay for said plan, have a ball.

This after ensuring that your network selection is set to Automatic. (And if it is, attempting manual selection of T-Mobile) I say T-Mobile because they are the only US carrier that broadly uses the same frequency band as Wind, so it will almost certainly work with your Wind phone.
posted by wierdo at 2:52 PM on July 5, 2015


Zero bars might mean your phone's radio is off. Try putting it in and out of aeroplane mode.
posted by scruss at 2:57 PM on July 5, 2015


You will be able to follow wierdo's suggestion only after unlocking your phone. This will take $30 and a call to Wind.
posted by demiurge at 3:00 PM on July 5, 2015 [1 favorite]


I tried putting the phone in and out of airplane mode, as well as powering down and powering back up; neither worked.

I googled around, and learned that you can check whether the phone is unlocked or not by entering its IMEI into IMEI.info. The site says that I need to register to find out, though, but I don't know if I trust this site.

Looks like T-Mobile has its own IMEI checker, to see whether a phone can work on its network or not. It says, "We do not recognize the IMEI number you entered," which I guess means that my phone can't get on the T-Mobile network?
posted by tickingclock at 3:22 PM on July 5, 2015


Do you have roaming turned off? Not just on your account but is it enabled in your phone settings?
AT&T and tmobile both use the same type of network so you may be able to use AT&T instead.
posted by fiercekitten at 3:23 PM on July 5, 2015


I was just traveling in the US and my reception was terrible. I could connect to T-Mobile but had to restart my phone every time. I attributed it to my phone being old but it could be something with the network. Your best bet is to go to to T-Mobile and get a cheap prepaid sim I think
posted by betsybetsy at 3:37 PM on July 5, 2015


Have you tried to select a Network manually? I'm going from memory here but I think it's Settings>Wireless and Networks>More>Mobile Networks>Network Operators>Search Networks. There should be a list of available networks.
posted by Zedcaster at 3:40 PM on July 5, 2015


So international roaming is enabled in your account, but is it enabled in your phone itself? It wouldn't be in the about phone section. It's in the networks settings, under roaming.
posted by geegollygosh at 3:43 PM on July 5, 2015


OMG, Zedcaster (and also the helpful person who MeMailed me)! That was it! Under the same Mobile Networks section, there was an "Available Networks" section, and here, I tried "Search networks," and found US UMTS, US GSM, AT&T UMTS, and AT&T GSM. I didn't see T-Mobile. I tried AT&T GSM, because that seemed to be the natural choice, but that didn't work. I then tried US UMTS (no idea what this is), and this worked! Yay!

Thanks so much for your help, everybody! Unlimited roaming, here I come!
posted by tickingclock at 4:06 PM on July 5, 2015


You would be well advised to limit your phone usage as much as possible and not assume you have "unlimited roaming". If you don't, you may get a thoroughly unpleasant surprise on your next phone bill.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 4:18 PM on July 5, 2015


Chocolate Pickle, it's an add offered by a Canadian carrier.

Included While Travelling in the USA
Talk 2400 minutes of CA/US-wide Talk
Text Unlimited Global Text
Picture/ Video Messaging Unlimited Canada/US-wide
Data Unlimited

So only 2400 minutes of talk time.
posted by yyz at 4:47 PM on July 5, 2015


Wind is really clear/upfront with their charges and specifics, in my experience. Much more so than others. Unlimited with them really does mean unlimited--even data; they just start throttling your speed if you go over 10gb in a month.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 4:48 PM on July 5, 2015


I suspect "US UMTS" and GSM are what Wind's SIM makes your phone say instead of T-Mobile, to theoretically make it easier to figure out which network you should be connecting to. If the MCC-MNC listed is 310-160 or 170 (among others they use, but those are the main ones), that means you're using T-Mobile. If you actually care to know, you can use this list to cross reference.

at&t does something similar in that all US networks are called "AT&T" when you use one of their SIMs.
posted by wierdo at 4:57 PM on July 5, 2015


UMTS is 3g. It's much, much faster than GSM.

Wind devices usually won't work on ATT networks except at the slowest speeds (GSM and/or EDGE).

Your device isn't unlocked unless you deliberately made the effort, either at Wind or via an online unlocking provider (there are many), and paid for the service. You would not NOT know this unless you bought the phone second hand. If you got it from Wind, it's not unlocked and you cannot simply slap in a T-Mo or any other foreign SIM. But since you're already paying for US Roaming you souldn't unlock- unless you're heading to Europe or something.
posted by ethnomethodologist at 10:00 AM on July 6, 2015


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