Many users of Google’s Nexus One phone are having problems with sporadic 3G connectivity. Kevin Tofel found a very small adjustment that makes a world of difference.


To say I’m happy with my Nexus One so far would be an understatement. It’s not perfect, but there’s quite a bit to like — enough that I haven’t powered up my iPhone 3GS in nearly 10 days. But one of the biggest frustrations is the sporadic 3G issue that many folks are experiencing. Here at my home office, I’m on the fringe of T-Mobile’s 3G coverage area. Yet, when I test the exact same SIM card here in the old G1 handset, I get full 3G speeds. With the Nexus One, I’m stuck on lowly EDGE service, even though I have the same four bars and signal strength. Clearly, there’s a software issue that’s causing the Nexus One to not “see” the 3G network.

I just did some quick poking around on the handset and made one very small manual adjustment. Guess what — I now have full 3G speeds at this location on my Nexus One!

I have no idea if this will work for other Nexus One owners that are in a 3G coverage area and stuck on EDGE, but here’s all I did.

In “Settings,” I went to “Wireless & networks.” Look for the “Mobile Networks” option at the bottom of this listing. The next screen has a “Network Operators” section — tap it. Your Nexus One will search for compatible GSM networks in the area. Once it’s complete, you’ll see the choices, which will consist of T-Mobile and/or AT&T. You’ll also see a choice to Select Automatically — tap it and your phone should say “Registered on network.” That’s it. That’s all I did and I immediately saw the phone jump from EDGE to T-Mobile’s fast 3G network.

Again, I don’t know if this will work for everyone, but it can’t be a fluke. I’ve had the phone for nearly a week-and-a-half and it hasn’t seen the 3G network once while here at home. Now it does all the time, even after a reboot, so it looks like my particular issue is resolved! Perhaps there’s something in this Android build that doesn’t correctly register the phone on T-Mobile’s network by default? I still anticipate a software fix for everyone, but for now my Nexus One is speeding along quite nicely on mobile broadband.

Related GigaOM Pro Research: Google’s Mobile Strategy: Understanding the Nexus One

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  1. Trying it on mine and I will post my findings after using it for the day, hope it resolves it, if so YOU ARE THE MAN!

  2. Ray Goldenberg Tuesday, January 19, 2010

    Kevin, is the photo above your “fast” 3G connection speed?

    1. It is the 3G speeds in my home office, which is on the fringe of T-Mobile’s coverage. When I tested the N1 at Philadelphia International Airport, I saw download speeds of 2.1 Mbps. It all depends on where you are in the network…

      1. I was curiouse as it is faster than my 3G on my Iphone at home

      2. I have not seen any speeds past 900kbps no matter where I am on the 3G network. I believe the 7.2Mb upgrade was a hoax. Only completed is some cities if even that. When you checked at the airport are you sure you weren’t on WIFI?

      3. Geoff, I was on the tarmac as the plane had literally just landed from CES. No Wi-Fi for sure. We weren’t even close to the gate.

      4. Oh Kevin, you’re such a geek. How many other people do you think were standing on the tarmac running internet speed tests :)

      5. Doesn’t everyone?!? ;)

  3. Matthew Miller Tuesday, January 19, 2010

    Kevin, I just followed your directions and while I am not in an area at the moment where I was experiencing major problems I did indeed see the 3G signal bars jump from 2 to 4 and stay at 4 for the last half hour or so. You may be onto something here. I plan to test it out more in other areas where I have had some hopping between 3G, EDGE, and nothing lately.

  4. Bentley Rothschild Tuesday, January 19, 2010

    Nice Fix, good to see the Google Phone is back in the fast lane.

    My guess is now it will be very hard to slow that beast down.

    Maybe Android 3.0 will feature speed-doubling technology ! Nothing will slow Google down i tell you, now get outa my way slowpokes.

  5. How did you get speedtest.net on the Nexus One without the latest ver. of Flash?

    1. Magic! Oh and with a little help from the Android Market — it’s an Android app from the SpeedTest folks, not the website. ;)

      1. Kevin,

        Did you notice that app lists:

        Phone calls
        read phone state and identity

        Why does Speedtest need to be able to access that information??? Spyware apps in the Android Market, it’s becoming an issue.

    2. Its the Speedtest.net Speed Test app in the Android Market.

  6. It must be great to have a Nexus One. Why you can install at least 3 or 4 apps until you run out of room.

    No multi-touch to bother with.

    You don’t have to use it outside since you can’t see the screen anyway.

    Plus all the little hardware and OS issues that are a result of using Googles latest beta OS.

    But at least you get that Google ad money by acting like its actually a super phone instead of another warmed over iPhone imitation.

    1. What’s up with all the hate? I’m a happy 3GS owner but can appreciate the Nexus One, aside from these network issues and multi-touch. Of course, multi-touch is possible but I wonder if Google or HTC is afraid of an Apple legal smackdown.

    2. Someone’s clearly upset about something. But I just got to say:

      The single and only reason why I have never bought an iPhone is because of people like you who make the phone the cornerstone of their life, and defend it pro-actively with all the sheepishness of the masses that are too stupid to resist Apple’s incredible marketing machine. Thus turning it’s hype into their own personal cause – not too far short of a young religion. It’s so utterly pathetic and sad I simply don’t want to be seen with one in my hand as I am not alone. Hell, comedians have made a mockery of it for a while now. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CZGIn9bpALo&feature=related

      These people here are talking about ways to fix a specific problem on a specific device. Never the merits, pros and cons of either this phone or any other. Now, take a look at your random post in comparison to that, and maybe you will see it might be time to unplug, take a walk, get a life. Something.

      Good luck with that.

      1. You know, your abject hatred is extremely pathetic. You chose an apt name. Now keep it friendly or go away.

      2. “Now keep it friendly or go away”

        One full stop from “You chose an apt name”?

        Easy now. Hardly drinking your own cool aid there. Not incredibly mature either.

      3. Not all of us iPhone users are like that. I’m no blind faith follower of Apple and I’m not a sheep. I have my harsh criticisms against Apple and iPhone personally dislike Apple more than I like it. I’ve had almost every smart phone type and I choose the iPhone for what it is. It just does the things I care about better than the others.
        These douchebags give all of us a bad name.
        I’m just sayin’, I’m man enough to stand on my own two feet choose products I want without the insecurity of being stereotyped.
        If you ever wanted an iPhone, you should have got one and not let morons like that dictate your game.
        This article isn’t about the iPhone. It’s about Android so I’m sorry for perpetuating off topic.

        On topic, I’m glad there is a fix. It does seem to make sense why this could overcome the bug.

    3. Do you research puh-lease… ;)

      It does have multi-touch support. Research it.

      The screen is by far one of the best hardware features of the phone. Better than any iphone’s.

      This 3g issue is pretty much the only issue so far which is pretty decent if you think of this as a 1st gen release, which it is. People compare this to the current Iphone 3gs which is a 3rd generation phone. If you go back and look at the whole slew of issues that surrounded the 1st iphone, this is minor in comparison.

    4. As a previous iPhone user I can say I love my N1. No issues with mine in Orlando. You are wrong on several counts. The N1 does have multi-touch, using XScope right now to reply to you. It also has pin-zoom, yes you can zoom with one finger. My screen is as viewable in the sun as my iPhone was. Go back to your iPhone, even though you secretly know you want a N1, that is why you are reading things about it.

  7. I had a similar problem on my Droid. I changed the wireless settings from “Automatic” to “Home” and I haven’t seen any more problems.

  8. Funny thing here, when I follow your procedure I only get T-Mobile as my network provider..no AT&T here, I did the automatic thing anyway but it won’t make any difference for me. Just wondering if anyone else gets T-Mo as their only provider.

  9. Kevin,

    I did the secret menu to set my Nexus One to only use North American frequencies and not only did it cure the 3G/Edge fandango I got better battery life as well (end of the work day I was seeing 32% now I’m getting 47% left).

    I also have two 3G bars at my desk and speedtest.net (yes I installed the potential spyware) gets: 1871/382

    Dialing *#*#4636#*#* gets you the secret menu.

    1. Scotty, a few days ago I had tried the menu you pointed out, but the downside was that in a non-3G area, I think you get no data at all. Could be a workable solution for some, but thought to point that out. Thanks!

      1. Kevin, you still get Edge.

        On the bus ride home I’m crossing in and out of T-Mobile 3G coverage into T-Mobile Edge coverage. The advantages to restricting the frequencies is that it hops directly from no-3G over to Edge instead of trying to hunt down 3G on the other frequencies first before going to Edge. Plus when it’s in Edge mode it also only checks 2 of the 4 frequencies.

        This sharpens the phone’s focus when operating in marginal signal areas.

        The change you mention above has the side effect that when you’re out of T-Mobile coverage (like when I’m at home) you get a permanent ! inside a triangle in the notification bar on your Nexus One saying “No Service Selected service T-Mobile is not available”.

        When I got home I ran speedtest.net from the Nexus One over 802.11g on my 50Mbps Comcast network and got 5421/2187. It’s possible this phone can’t saturate 7.2Mbps 3G…

      2. Good to know Scotty, thanks. That wasn’t my experience, but I didn’t leave the setting on for very long. I’ll take another look if I “lose” my 3G functionality again. :)

  10. Mine went from E to G………..:o)

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