Previously existing GSM/2G services
I, Mother Mychaela, the founder of FreeCalypso and Themyscira Wireless, am based in Southern California, USA, specifically in a rural area near San Diego. This geographical area once had stellar-quality GSM/2G service, with not just one but two operators: first Pacific Bell Wireless, which later became Cingular, and then VoiceStream, which later became T-Mobile. I personally experienced Cingular service briefly in 2001, then in 2003 I switched to T-Mobile (I don't remember why — it's been too long), and I have been a T-Mobile GSM/2G customer ever since, almost continuously, with only small breaks. My currently active T-Mobile service account and SIMs date back to 2013.
From my first introduction to it in 2003 until at least 2014, T-Mobile GSM/2G service was absolutely stellar everywhere I went, roaming over an area of several counties (San Diego, Orange, Los Angeles and Riverside), and I was very happy with it. It was during those happy service years that I started the original FreeCalypso project seeking to design and build my own phone handset for GSM. Over the course of 2015 and 2016 there may have been some slight degradation in the quality of service, but it was still good: I had continuous service on road trips between Southern and Northern California, and I distinctly remember making CSD test calls in early 2016 without any difficulties.
Degradation in the quality of GSM/2G service from T-Mobile became noticeable at first some time around 2018, and it has been getting steadily worse ever since. In the most recent years they have been applying heavy-handed tactics to block new (non-grandfathered) users from accessing what is left of their once-great GSM/2G network, and even for grandfathered customers like me who aren't being booted off the network altogether, the service is terrible. But no matter how bad it gets, I will never give up — I shall continue using this network until its last breath, or until my last breath, whichever comes first.
As of this writing (early 2023), T-Mobile's latest word is that they are
planning to kill their GSM/2G network in April of 2024.
If they do indeed kill their network on that date as they are threatening,
and if I don't die before then, I will have no working cellphone service
at all outside of my own small-scale network deployment — I will
never accept any kind of
modern 4G or 5G
phone, I would rather have no working cellphone at all.
Building a replacement GSM/2G network in San Diego area
In the opinion of this Mother, there is only one correct response
to the societal problem of T-Mobile degrading and eventually shutting down
their GSM/2G service: We the People need to build our own GSM/2G networks
to replace those that are being wrongfully taken away from us.
T-Mobile have already demonstrated that they have no interest in
maintaining a high-quality GSM/2G network, and as the saying goes,
cook food, or get out of the kitchen: if TMO aren't up to the job,
then someone else, who will be better at it, needs to do it instead.
Needless to say, building a new cellular network that can cover a geographical area as vast as an entire country would be a task far beyond the means of a small non-profit community initiative. Instead of trying to replace T-Mobile on a nationwide basis, we need to think, plan and act locally: we need to limit our geographic scope to no more than just San Diego county at the most, or perhaps an even smaller area, and focus our efforts on just our own locality.
I (Mother Mychaela) already operate an experimental prototype GSM network in my home town of Ramona, in rural San Diego county to the north-east of San Diego proper. This prototype network is currently purely experimental and does not serve any live customers, but it does function as a proof of concept. The next step is for us (San Diego 2G retrotechnology lover community) to advance this Ramona GSM network to operational status, and then go from there.
Anyone who is interested in joining this effort will need to begin by attending one of our in-person monthly meetings; right now we are hosting meetups as part of San Diego FOSS and Tech-Selective Meetup Group.