Phone Genie 4G Issues and Ruminations

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7072969554
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Joined:Tue Jun 22, 2021 6:45 pm
Phone Genie 4G Issues and Ruminations

Post by 7072969554 » Fri Jul 02, 2021 12:25 pm

After a little over two years of using an Ooma Telo Air 2, we grew increasingly irritated by the growing daily barrage of dropped calls, weird noises during conversations, inability to hear or be heard during calls, etc. VOIP was not working for us. Best guess: either the Telo Air 2 base station or the power adapter, or both, were failing. Then we bought an Ooma Phone Genie with 4G/LTE adapter sold through Walmart, and all our Ooma VOIP troubles went away. Now we’re deliriously happy over the Genie 4G’s performance as a phone, but we’re struggling to understand how it works.

Even though the Phone Genie 4G has been around for close to two years, there is very little information about it, except standard user and promotional stuff at ooma.com or walmart.com. There are only two posts in this forum about it. That is a big problem. Here are some issues I've been having. I hope this post elicits responses from other Phone Genie 4G users, as well as Ooma.

The Phone Genie's little 4G mini-mini tower antenna should be placed in a window in order to receive the strongest LTE signals, said Ooma. Fine, then I had to figure out where Ooma's LTE partner, Sprint, has cell towers in my area. That meant I had to delve deep into an online search for cell tower locations. I finally discovered cellmapper.net, and eventually found two verified, live cell towers broadcasting Sprint B25 and B26 bands (both of which the 4G adapter can use) in my hometown of Eureka, CA. The confusing part was that there's a multitower cell site a half-mile north of our house, but it's not identified as a Sprint site. I am pretty sure T-Mobile (Sprint’s new owner) is using it for 5G signals and 4G signals for its T-Mobile Home Internet service, which we have pointed our TMHI gateway/base station toward. But there are no Sprint bands at that site. Thought: Why doesn’t Ooma make a map of Sprint cell sites broadcasting B25 and B26 bands available to Ooma 4G-equipped customers?

So after trying 7 window locations in our 2-story house, I finally lucked into a spot that turned the LED light on the 4G adapter blue (for Excellent), though it occasionally turns green (for Good). But what fun I had getting there. Ooma said to use the iOS/Android app Ooma Setup on a smartphone or tablet, but I couldn't make it work. So I spent 1 hour, 3 minutes and 31 seconds in a call with Ooma Support (I enjoyed listening to the first rep's neighbor's rooster do his cocka-doodle-do number over and over), and finally was told by a higher level rep that I had a standalone 4G adapter that couldn't be activated via the app. I hung up, feeling more confused than ever.

I eventually solved that issue by myself. I had installed the app during the Telo Air 2 setup back in 2019, which meant that all I had to do was delete the app and all its accumulated data and reinstall. It quickly connected to Ooma when I put in my now-Phone Genie 4G phone number, and immediately began giving me signal strength information. That's what helped me find the strongest signal in window 7. My faith in Ooma's telephone support? Very, very, very little indeed. Wrong adapter? Hah!

However, in the enlightened process of using the app I learned that the Ooma Phone Genie would work even when the app showed an LTE signal strength in the red (Poor) area over -120db. The only way I could force the LTE adapter to stop connecting to Sprint was to unplug the USB cable from the Phone Genie base station. The strongest signal I've gotten is -92db, which turns the blue Excellent light on at the adapter, but shows only as Good in green on the app's 4G Adapter Status screen. Confusing? You betcha. Also confusing is why and/or how the 4G adapter switches between Band B25 and B26. I got really poor signal strength readings on B26.

During the day, signal strength now wanders between -92db and -96db, with the adapter’s blue LED turning to green at -96db. Since that's about -25db better than the worst red signal strength I've seen (with the always-on cell connection still working), I'm pretty comfortable that I've got a robust cell connection despite the confusion between what the adapter's LED shows and the app's readout shows.

Ooma charges $11.99 a month, plus the usual taxes and fees (about $5.65 where I live) for the always-on Phone Genie 4G cell connection. That means any of the dozen or so wireless and wired phones scattered around our house delivers a crisp, clear and robust phone connection anytime we pick one up and get the Ooma musical sound. It's well worth the expense to not have to deal with the vagaries of a VOIP connection which is subject to all kinds of interference or issues, thanks to the multitude of routers, servers, switches, hops, skips and jumps as a voice call travels to and from our phone and another one.

Ooma sells a similar setup known as the Ooma Telo 4G VOIP Safety Phone for $130, as opposed to the Phone Genie 4G which sells for $50 at Walmart. The Safety Phone package includes a 10-hour backup battery that permits use of the 4G cell connection in case of a power or internet outage. (I added the battery to my setup for just that reason.) Instead of $11.99 a month, there is a charge of $4.99 a month for the Safety Phone's 4G connection. Ooma also sells the 4G adapter separately, though it won't work with a WiFi-enabled Telo Air. Beyond that, it's kind of difficult to unravel all the ways Ooma's offering 4G products and adapters and pricing, which maybe someone else can explain better than I have. Ooma's marketing is neither coherent nor clear.

Another concern I have about the 4G adapter is that T-Mobile is actively in the process of migrating Sprint customers to T-Mobile SIMs. I queried Ooma Customer Care about when Ooma 4G Adapter Sprint SIMs would be switched over, as the T-Mobile CEO recently announced Jan. 1, 2022 as the target date for conversion of all Sprint customers to T-Mobile. Ooma Customer Care said, “We are aware of the Sprint/T-Mobile partnership but at this time there are no foreseeable changes to the platform for the service. In the event that changes do present themselves, we will communicate any impact/change accordingly.” “No foreseeable changes?” Oh boy!

Meanwhile, T-Mobile Home Internet’s second-generation Nokia gateway device has an unactivated R-45 phone jack, which some observers say T-Mobile is planning to use for a future VOIP phone service. Hmmm, is it possible Ooma 4G will be available via T-Mobile Home Internet?

Ooma's got a real winner in the Ooma Phone Genie 4G. It's too bad it's not got the support, promotion and marketing it deserves.

7072969554
Posts:3
Joined:Tue Jun 22, 2021 6:45 pm

Re: Phone Genie 4G Issues and Ruminations

Post by 7072969554 » Wed Aug 04, 2021 11:27 am

T-Mobile announced today that it would be shutting down the Sprint LTE network in June 2022, and upgrading customers with GSM-compatible devices to a GSM SIM card. Hmmm, since Ooma 4G adapters have Sprint LTE SIM cards installed, I used the Ooma Setup app to find my 4G adapters' IMEI number. Then I went to T-Mobile's web site and ran that IMEI number through T-Mobile's Bring Your Own Device app. The news was very good: My 4G adapter's compatible with T-Mobile's GSM network. Whoever designed Ooma's 4G adapter must have anticipated the possibility and included GSM capability. That's a relief. Now I'm wondering if it's possible to swap one of my activated T-Mobile SIMS into the 4G adapter to see if it will work. Hmmm.

murphy
Posts:7538
Joined:Tue Jan 27, 2009 12:49 pm
Location:Pennsylvania

Re: Phone Genie 4G Issues and Ruminations

Post by murphy » Wed Aug 04, 2021 12:11 pm

I recommend that you change your user ID to something other than your phone number unless you like getting spam phone calls.
Customer since January 2009
Telo with 2 Handsets, a Linx, and a Safety Phone
Telo2 with 2 Handsets and a Linx

7072969554
Posts:3
Joined:Tue Jun 22, 2021 6:45 pm

Re: Phone Genie 4G Issues and Ruminations

Post by 7072969554 » Wed Aug 04, 2021 2:44 pm

Thanks for the suggestion. However, that's not my phone number. Somehow, Ooma Forums gave that user ID to me when I signed up, and I was unable to change it. Tried everything, but no go, so I just left it that way. Maybe I'll give it another try, maybe not. :^}

Robek
Posts:32
Joined:Thu Sep 26, 2019 6:56 pm

Re: Phone Genie 4G Issues and Ruminations

Post by Robek » Fri Aug 27, 2021 12:41 pm

I think only the forum administrators can change the forum username. Or maybe they can't actually change the username, but instead they just delete the whole forum account, and then create a new one with a different username. But if they do that, then I don't know what happens to the existing posts for the old account.

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