Question whether the Librem 5 can work on T-Mobile's network with AweSIM

@todd-weaver, @Kyle_Rankin, @nicole.faerber, @dos:

I got into a debate with the peanut gallery on r/Purism about AweSIM.

In one of my responses, I cited an article stating that T-Mobile is no longer allowing activation of non-VoLTE phones after Aug 4, 2020 and will stop allowing any non-VoLTE phones to use its network after January 2021. However, I assumed that these restrictions wouldn’t apply to T-Mobile’s MVNOs like AweSIM and I cited a Ting representative saying that it will still be possible for Ting customers with non-VoLTE phones to use the T-Mobile networks for years to come.

That same Ting representative, however, jumped on our Reddit thread and stated that T-Mobile’s MVNOs (like Ting and AweSIM) will NOT be able to connect non-VoLTE phones (like the Librem 5 with the BM818 modem) to T-Mobile’s 4G network:

If it doesn’t do VoLTE, that’s correct that it wouldn’t be able to do a 4G connection on T-Mobile. At best it would be 2G/3G, which means in addition to not great speeds, calls and texts might just vanish.

Could we please get a response from Purism on what is the situation with AweSIM and non-VoLTE phones on T-Mobile networks?

PS: By the way, the Ting rep’s attitude toward Linux phones is pretty good.

Buried in your question is highlighting a significant convenience of Librem AweSIM. The user does not have to worry beyond swapping SIMs, and at some point the option to swap Modems. Librem AweSIM means Purism is handling all the complexities of bands that are supported, regions that are supported, carriers changes as they announce them, and the compatibility with different carriers. For some regions where a specific carrier is superior to another in coverage a user can choose from the available backbone providers to the service. The future of carriers is ever-changing, and with a modular phone in the Librem 5 (think modem swap out), and adjustable service with Librem AweSIM (think carrier changes or SIM changes), that is all backed by Purism, the peace-of-mind for compatibility and support is a big value add and why customers will enjoy Librem AweSIM on the Librem 5.


From another thread: “PLS8 has VoLTE support advertised. BM818 does not.”

Living in the US and being a T-Mobile user, I like that the BM818 supports more of T-Mobile’s cellular bands than does the PLS8, and I was planning on getting the BM818 with Evergreen.

Now, however, without VoLTE on the BM818, it appears that this board will not be compatible with T-Mobile in the US after Jan 2021. Therefore I would need to specify the PLS8 as the modem to ship with the Evergreen L5.

This issue should be fully clarified and publicized before customers finalize their modem choice when Evergreen is ready to ship.

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I like the concept, but this article says that T-Mobile and AT&T are not going to allow non-VoLTE phones on their networks after January 2021 and February 2022, respectively:

The article says it isn’t sure what will happen with T-Mobile’s MVNOs (like AweSIM), but the Ting rep says that non-VoLTE phones will not be able to use T-Mobile’s 4G network, and will be stuck with only T-Mobile 2G/3G networks that are slowly being deactivated.

So …
It’s either the BM818, which has lots of bands, but wont work on voLTE in the near future.
Or the PLS8, which will work on voLTE, but has far fewer bands.
Both seem sub-optimal to say the least.

I was going to go for the Broadmobi - because of all the bands it supports. But the lack of voLTE strikes me as a non-trivial issue. So, from a European stance, all of a sudden the (Dutch or German developed) Gemalto seems to be the safer option. After all, a European manufacturer should know what the European market demands.

Anyhow, it would be great if Purism could and would shed some light on this matter shortly.

Purism is charging extra for the PLS8 M.2 card because it has to manufacture the M.2 card itself. Both the PLS8 and BM818 are using Qualcomm basebands, but the PLS8 is more out-of-date.

Not having VoLTE isn’t that big of a deal, because it just means that during a cellular call or SMS, you lose your 4G data connection, but the data connection can switch to a 2G or 3G network if available,

The problem is that it looks like all the major US carriers are going to have a strict policy that they won’t allow non-VoLTE phones on their 4G networks. The issue in the US is that most of the major carriers only allowed phones on their networks if they were on an approved list. T-Mobile was the most tolerant of the major carriers in terms of allowing non-approved phones on the network, but it looks like it is now not allowing new activations of non-VoLTE phones and will prevent non-VoLTE phones from connecting to its 4G network after January 2021. Maybe Purism can negotiate something different with the AweSIM, or maybe the reporting isn’t accurate, but I would appreciate more clarity or at least something like “we understand the problem and are working on it”.

Yes, IF available. In many places around the world 2G and 3G networks are being phased out. Where I live 2G networks are gone in most densely populated areas so that’s not an option. Luckily the PLS8 has all the bands I need, but that’s not the case for everyone.

In the U.S., T-mobile is shutting down its 3g network in 2021 (reportedly in January) and re-farming it as 4g. AT&T will follow suit in February 2022. Verizon has already done so, as far as I know. Sprint now belongs to T-mobile. All MVNOs in the U.S. run on the networks (i.e. hardware/towers) of these four, effectively three now, major providers. Once 3g ceases to exist on their towers, then it will not be available to any phone, voLTE-capable or otherwise. That’s how I understand the situation, at least.
Other countries have their own schedules and plans, of course, and may continue to use 3g for a while.

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Yes, that is what T-Mobile officially says, but the Ting rep says that the shutdown of T-Mobile’s 2G/3G networks will be gradual, and not happen all at once, partly because T-Mobile still has a lot of important M2M clients on its older 2G/3G networks.

See this global list, for what the cellular network owners officially say will be the shutdown dates:





It isn’t clear how many of these will be hard shutdown dates, or just they will start shutting them down piecemeal like T-Mobile is doing, so 2G/3G will continue to work in some areas, but not in others.

My hope is that BroadMobi promised Purism that it will have firmware updates that provide VoLTE support, but it hasn’t yet delivered and Purism can’t say anything. This is not something that Purism can fix on its side. If that isn’t happening, my other hope is that Purism is investigating other cellular modems. (I never realized how hard it is to find a decent baseband, but the PinePhone is having problems with Quectel as well.)

Another major issue is that even if a phone supports VoLTE, it looks like all the major US carriers are going to require that only certified phones are allowed on their 4G networks. As I said, T-Mobile was more tolerant than the other networks in the past, but it looks like it won’t be in the future.

The Ting rep said that he would be willing to check the IMEI numbers for Librem 5 owners to see if their phones will be allowed on the T-Mobile network. Would someone PLEASE tell him your IMEI number and let’s get the results. (See the r/Purism thread that I linked to in the first post.)

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Just over a month away from the launch date, that is one nifty little plot twist…

I haven’t really followed the development closely, and I don’t understand all the technical details; however, this challenge of mobile providers shutting down older networks has really perked up my ears. I never really thought about it. Not to mention the issue that happens if providers decide to close access to non-whitelisted phones.

A very interesting piece of news for me to say the least.

I don’t think you’ll need to worry about it with the AweSIM as @todd-weaver just said, it’s Purism’s job to worry about it all. You know when you receive an L5 with the AweSIM it WILL work. They will make sure your L5 will be registered with Purism and their parent carrier (approved list) and the phone will function. They may need to work their carrier to make sure all functions work.
The only issue is if T-Mobile currently does not work in your area and Purism is only able to work with them, or vise versa.