Ok just a little update. It looks like my phone is picking up a Cingular tower as shown under net operator: 310410 which is giving me such high service when I don't have any. When I connect to the T-mobile network, it shows net operator: T-mobile and the service drops to the usual level. So I am able to send txt's and make calls without data and it is a case of no service.
T-mobile Samsung Galaxy Note 3 (SM-N900T) - Personal Phone
AT&T Samsung Galaxy S3 (SGH-I747M) - Work Phone