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Summary:

Time to get rid of that landline, and say hello to Cellular-WiFi convergence. The much-talked-about dual mode T-Mobile USA wireless service, called HotSpot@Home, that uses both the cellular and WiFi networks for seamless phone calling is now available at a T-Mobile store near you. The service, […]

64311.jpgTime to get rid of that landline, and say hello to Cellular-WiFi convergence. The much-talked-about dual mode T-Mobile USA wireless service, called HotSpot@Home, that uses both the cellular and WiFi networks for seamless phone calling is now available at a T-Mobile store near you. The service, is an attempt by the smallest of the big four US wireless carriers to overcome its lack of fixed line infrastructure. This is the second US telecom to launch a UMA service. Cincinnati Bell launched its UMA-based service called “Home Run” last week.

T-Mobile has launched the service with two basic handsets – the Samsung T409 and the Nokia 6086 – for $50 a pop if you sign-up for a two-year contract. If you get one of these two phones, you can add an unlimited nationwide calling (over WiFi) option for $10 a month. The wireless company is also offering especially configured routers with the phone, though your existing WiFi routers should suffice. It also works with 8,500 T-Mobile Hot Spots in the US including Starbucks locations, and doesn’t require extra payments.

64308.jpgWhile many of you might be wondering what’s the big deal: you can actually do that with a VoIP plan from one of the mobile start-ups like Truphone over a WiFi enabled handset. T-Mobile describes its technology as GSM-over-IP, and uses the UMA technology. (See 5 Things To Know about UMA) The phone companies have promised this type of convergence for a long time, but this is the first time such technology is being offered for mass consumption.

We have been using this service for last week or so, and it works as advertised. You turn on the phone, and it automatically scans for networks, and allows you to connect to your home network, and can handle all types of security options.

We did have trouble with Apple Airport network that had WPA2 protection turned on, but when we switched to our new ADSL2plus connection from Covad and a generic (T-mobile provided) WiFi router, things went smoothly. When we took the phone to our office, it found our work WiFi network, connected and stored that information. It is hard to tell which network the call is being routed over, and if there was any quality difference, we couldn’t tell.

The service isn’t exactly cheap – but it does offer convenience of one single number. It also allows you to get the most out of your minute plan. Given that nearly 27% of mobile wireless minutes are used from home, it is not such a bad option.

It also is a good way to over come weak signals in your home. Web workers who spend a lot of time in Starbucks can also cut their wireless minute usage quite a bit, without even paying for the Starbucks Wi-Fi access plan.

The big beneficiaries of this service will be International travelers. You can carry the phone with you, say to Rome. The phone will connect to a WiFi network, and allow you to call home as if you were calling locally. The bad news is that if you have to call someone in Rome, then it becomes an international call.

Hey, you can’t win them all.

  1. David Epstein Wednesday, June 27, 2007

    How many wi-fi ssid’s will the phone hold? ie – can you add your home, office and friends wi-fi to the preferences so you automatically switch over when it sees one of these three networks?

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  2. It’s interesting to see how these companies start such cool services always not on their own turf, where they are the incumbents, but abroad where they are the incumbents’ attackers.

    Why doesn’t T-Mobile start this services in their home country Germany? Because it would take away minutes from Germany’s biggest cell phone operator, T-Mobile Germany.

    That reminds me of Telefónica. They attack in Germany with cheap broadband and VoIP. But most of their money they make in Latin America where they keep the broadband prices high, making use of their infrastructure monopoly, and charge exorbitantly for phone calls, because there is nearly no VoIP or alternative phone companies.

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  3. The problem with UMA phones is that the WiFi standard at UMA does not work with any already existing WiFi access points. So this is a CLOSED solution approach. You leave your home and you will not be able to access your friends access point.

    In addition UMA is very slow and uses a lot of processor time in the phone. Meaning nothing else works. — I would stay away from any UMA phones and go with the long established standard of existing WiFi standards.

    Installed truphone 6 months ago and love it!!! It is certainly the best applicatioin I have used on my phone! If you couple it with a MIMO WiFi routers like Ruckus Wireless, MediaFlex/ MetroFlex the Voice Quality is going to be better than 3G or GSM. At least in my home and my office I have the best mobile VoIP call quality! All my employees are on truphone

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  4. The problem with WPA2 doesn’t surprise me. We had relatives staying with us when I upgraded to 80211.n via Airport Extreme. I automatically bumped for the highest security and discovered an Herculean task before me to get my father-in-law’s Shuttle [running XP] into the system.

    Apple support told me about an undocumented shortcut to one of the reduced levels of security – which I put in place while he was here.

    Lots of firms – unsurprising – just test and design for a lower common denominator of wi-fi security. Whether they’re aimed at Windows products only or broader markets.

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  5. David,

    so far i have three SSIDS. as I travel around in different locations, i will see how it works out.

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  6. Om,

    Are you saying that it will work with any wireless network? I thought Glenn said to the contrary in his post yesterday (that since T-mob cannot guarantee the voice quality at public wireless networks and hence it can only be used at your “home” network and at Starbucks). Or maybe I heard it wrong ??

    If it can be used at any wifi network, is Hotspot@home an intentional misnomer?

    -Rajeev

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  7. Rajeev

    i am using it at home. and it worked well – with and without t-mobile router. i could not detect any quality issues.

    secondly, at starbucks it worked without a hiccup. now in the office it is the same situation, and we don’t have t-mobile router there.

    i guess the cellular quality is so bad in many places that i don’t know if there is any difference we can detect.

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  8. This might be a dumb question: Do I have to use the same phone at home and outside home? Is it possible for me to leave the dual phone at home for use by my wife over the Wi-Fi network, while I carry my regular cell phone outside to use over the cellular network?

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  9. Jesse Kopelman Wednesday, June 27, 2007

    Libran Lover, the point of this service is for people who want to use the same phone everywhere. The UMA phone works on WiFi and cellular GSM. If you don’t need to use the same phone at home and away, it might be cheaper to seperate GSM only and WiFi only handsets. Even if you want them to have the same phone number, that can be done using 3rd party services for free or very cheap. UMA is all about having a single handset for all situations.

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  10. Jesse Kopelman Wednesday, June 27, 2007

    Om, how has battery life been on WiFi? From what I understand, unless your WiFi AP supports WMM, battery life will not be very good. I bet the Apple Airports due, but I’d wonder about random hotspots like Starbucks and corporate networks (WMM has been pushed as a consumer feature and is often lacking in $600 business-grade AP). Man, from your comments T-Mobile’s cellular network must really suck in SF. You’d think they’d have more shame in such a high profile market. I guess it shows you the difference between Voicestream (West Coast) and Omnipoint (East Coast), as T-Mobile is as good as anyone in the large East Coast cities.

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  11. Terry OConnor Thursday, June 28, 2007

    Wondered if anyone has an informed opinion on the implications of convergence for the stand alone VOIP guys like Vonage.

    Curious if there is a potential marriage here of Vonage’s VOIP customers and T-Mobile’s mobile customers.

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  12. I’m going to try this service in a few weeks when I have more time.

    I just returned a T-Mobile phone because there was no coverage at my house, or generally around my small town. (the T-mobile coverage map hanging in the store is criminally inaccurate).

    But I’m likely to have wi-fi most places I would want to use the phone, so I’ll give this a try. It would be a backup to another cell phone anyway. It will also solve my problem of no coverage in my office (it’s in the basement).

    Does anyone know if SMS text messages will come thru the wifi connection?

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  13. More specifically than WMM, it needs U-APSD support.

    Frank

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  14. For the past 10 days, TMobile Hotspot in SoCal has had relay server problems preventing the sending of email from Microsoft Outlook. This is a recurring problem at TMobile and one hopes the home service isn’t similarly problematic.

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  15. I recently bought a T-Mobile wifi phone and I cannot get it to work
    with either a Verizon (FIOS) Actiontec Router or a standard G Linksys router. The phone sees my wireless network right away but cannot access it. It will not let me into my home network even when I key in the proper WEP key. The mystifying thing is that if you bring any laptop into the house, it will immediately get onto the network once you put in the WEP key. Anyone have any ideas why this might be happening.

    Disappointed in T-Mobile. Help me solve this problem. btw, T-Mobile tech support was not able to solve it. Jesse

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  16. Jesse,

    I had the same problem with a Linksys router. My router was 4 years old and had never had a firmware update. After I went through the tedious process of updating the firmware, the phone would connect. I eventually went and bought the T-mobile Router because it’s basically free. You pay 50 bucks for the router and there is a 50 buck rebate. If you are interested in using hotspot at home, i would suggest getting the t-mobile supplied router. It will solve all of your problems and it’s free!!

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  17. i have Tmobil for hungary but i go to austria but it is not work

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