Unlocked Band 66 devices like OnePlus 5 aren’t guaranteed to work on Freedom LTE

oneplus 5

When the OnePlus 5 was announced, many Canadians were excited to see that it supported Band 66, thus theoretically allowing them to use it on Freedom Mobile’s LTE network with a low-cost plan.

Unfortunately, not all devices that support Band 66 LTE are compatible with Freedom Mobile’s network. The carrier has confirmed to MobileSyrup that some Band 66 handsets “may not be compatible with Freedom Mobile’s LTE network.”

“All of Freedom Mobile’s Band 66 devices contain software developed specifically to enable Freedom Mobile’s LTE network on Band 66 spectrum,” Chethan Lakshman, vice-president of external affairs at Freedom Mobile told MobileSyrup in a written statement. “Only LTE-Ready devices sold by Freedom Mobile are guaranteed to have these necessary software features.”

The carrier also noted that it is working with handset partners to investigate the issue further.

“Only LTE-Ready devices sold by Freedom Mobile are guaranteed to have these necessary software features.”

According to users who have posted complaints on multiple online platforms, their LTE frequently drops to 3G, particularly after making phone calls, and remains there unless the customer manually forces it back on to the LTE network by rebooting or toggling airplane mode.

Though forcing their phone to always stay on LTE is an option, the customers would then be blocked from receiving phone calls, which come through on the company’s AWS-1/WCDMA spectrum.

One MobileSyrup reader with an American Samsung Galaxy S8 (a device that Freedom Mobile stocks in its Canadian version) reports that he was able to get the phone to work correctly after a few technical adjustments — namely, flashing the Canadian CSC (Consumer Software Customization) file and choosing ‘GLW’ (Globalive Wind) as the carrier code. The same solution won’t work for non-Samsung devices, however.

On the OnePlus forums, a moderator stated that after reviewing various logs from users affected it seems Freedom’s network was to blame for the issue.

oneplus moderator freedom comment

The issue is frustrating to those who bought devices partly for the purpose of using it on the Freedom network, with many commenting that they feel the company didn’t do enough to make them aware of this issue.

In response, some Freedom Mobile representatives have indicated that there is a cautionary note on the LTE section of the company’s website that says is only accessible with “Freedom Mobile LTE-ready phones and plans.”

Internet archiving tool the Wayback Machine indicates that wording was in place since at least February 2017, but in November 2016 the company instead referred to “future-ready devices” — as shown below.

freedom mobile future ready phones

In both instances, the carrier notes that customers in Ottawa, Kingston and Peterborough do not require Band 66 compatibility to access LTE, as the company has licenses in those areas for AWS-1 spectrum that’s already supported on a broad range of phones.

The entire issue of unlocked phones not working well on Freedom’s LTE network carries with it a certain amount of irony, considering Freedom lobbied against unlocking fees at the most recent Wireless Code review and now that the unlocking fee ban will soon come to pass.

Compiled with assistance from several readers, including prominent contributions from Joseph de Leon.

Update 11/07/17: Article has been updated to include Freedom’s statement regarding investigating the issue alongside partners.

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