People in one growing area in Montgomery County say they have a huge problem -- they can’t get cellphone service in their neighborhood.
The problem is not just annoying, it could be dangerous if someone needs to call 911. This issue is going on for customers who use various cellphone providers, and they say nothing is being done to fix it. They contacted KPRC 2 Investigates for help.
It’s nine o’clock in the morning and Montgomery real estate agent Shelly Raines has a very important business call to make. Shelly’s about to have a very bad day.
“Call failed!” said Raines. “I can’t even make a phone call!”
Welcome to life in the Woodforest community where homeowners say they’ve been battling cellphone disruption, dropped calls and horrible coverage. The issue has been going on for years for customers who use AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon.
Home construction is booming in the rapidly growing neighborhood with over 10,000 people and close to 4,000 homes. The more people who move in, it seems the worse the cell coverage problem gets.
“Well, it’s absolutely terrible,” said Chanel Raesis. “There are many of these parents that are panicked because they can’t get ahold of their kids because text messages won’t go through, a phone call won’t go through.”
“My biggest fear is that when you call 911 someone’s going to die because you cant’ get through,” said Marc Meyer.
“Pull your head out of your a** and get us some towers out here. I mean, it’s not that hard,” said Raines.
How serious is the problem?
A group of neighbors gathered together to share their cellphone coverage concerns.
We asked the group how many of them can’t even make a cellphone call right outside their front door. Every person raised their hand.
We asked how many can’t make a call inside their own home. Every person raised their hand.
We asked how many can’t make a call within a mile of your house?” Every person raised their hand.
We even had one of them try and call Investigator Bill Spencer. The call failed.
Developers of Woodforest said the problem is there are cell towers to the north and south of this community. But clearly, at least one more tower is needed.
Chanel Raesis worries most about her two children needing help someday, but can’t reach her. Even cellphone signal maps show she and her family are getting zero coverage where they live.
So what are the cellphone companies doing to resolve this issue?
These neighbors say they have contacted their cellphone providers multiple times, trying to get answers to this problem. KPRC2 Investigates has asked for interviews and an explanation of what is being done to help the people of Woodforest get the cell service they deserve.
AT&T and Verizon both sent us statements, essentially saying they’re always looking at ways to improve their networks. (See full statements at the bottom of this article.) Despite our requests, T-Mobile kept saying they would respond to our questions but failed to send us a statement.
If you live in an area with lousy cell phone coverage, what can you do?
Solution #1: Switch your cell phone to wifi calling. Go to settings, click on connections and choose wifi calling. Now, turn that on and if you have wifi in your home, this should work.
Solution #2: This is a lot more involved and expensive. You can buy a cell phone booster system that requires you to put an antenna on top of your roof to pull in a weak cell phone signal and broadcast through your house.
Solution #3: Switch to a different cellphone company that may have a stronger signal.
Solution #4: Get a landline phone and use that for calls when you are inside your home. Of course, this wouldn’t be a the best solution if you need to get ahold of someone who is using a cellphone in the area. But, it might be worth having this backup in case of an emergency.
Statement from Woodforest:
“With towers existing both north and south of Woodforest, we have a major void in communications here — an issue we’ve been working on for years. To press the issue, last year, we hired an experienced consultant who has delivered a contract from a cell tower developer; the contract has been executed, and we have reserved three potential sites that would have the least impact to residents and businesses but offer maximum capabilities. The land would be leased at very modest rates on a long-term basis.
It is now up to the mobile network operators to agree to the actual site positions. Construction cannot begin until this happens. The mobile network operators have yet to connect with us.
In addition, the Woodforest Owners Association has been reaching out to residents urging them to connect with the mobile network operators directly to voice their displeasure with the disappointing level of service. We are thrilled this issue is receiving attention and hope it will lead to better service for our homeowners and our commercial businesses.”
Full Verizon Statement:
“Verizon constantly invests in our network to deliver our customers the quality experience and reliability they expect and deserve. As more people are doing more things, in more places with more internet-connected devices, we’ve seen a dramatic increase in voice and data traffic on our network. We only expect that trend to increase.
Over the weekend our network engineers have made some enhancements to a cell site in the area to improve the network experience. They also let me know we’re continuing to evaluate performance in this region.”
Full AT&T Statement:
“We understand the importance of keeping our customers connected and we continue to look for ways to improve our network and provide better service through additional investments. Last month, some customers in Montgomery may have experienced intermittent service while we completed maintenance on our existing wireless facilities. We remain committed to working with city officials to find solutions that balance the needs of our business with the concerns of the community.
We encourage the use of Wi-Fi Calling for anyone with coverage concerns: https://www.att.com/features/wifi-calling/.
From 2018-2020, we expanded coverage and improved connectivity in more communities by investing more than $7.7 billion in our wireless and wireline networks in Texas.”
We did get a response to our question about cell service in this area from a T-Mobile spokesperson asking for more specific location information. We sent more information on 4/18 and touched base three times after that to try and get a response. Each time the spokesperson said they were working to get a statement but still have not sent us anything.