Is T-Mobile Backing Away From UMA?


The other day someone asked me why, in this era of Android (s goog) and iOS (s aapl), I insist on carrying around a BlackBerry (s rimm). I could offer many reasons — one being that the BlackBerry keyboard makes sifting through email and replying to instant and text messages easy — but the biggest reason for me is the Unlicensed Mobile Access (UMA) technology on my T-Mobile BlackBerry Bold.

UMA allows me to make and receive phone calls and receive text messages over Wi-Fi. When traveling overseas, I can make cheap phone calls to U.S. phones without worrying about overages. Given T-Mobile’s Wi-Fi HotSpot network, UMA can be pretty useful in areas where T-Mobile’s cellular network has spotty coverage. I’ve often used my MiFi as a way to do work around the holes in the T-Mobile’s network. In fact, UMA is the primary reason why I stick with T-Mobile.

However, this very useful technology isn’t getting much love from T-Mobile. The U.S. arm of the German phone giant is a big supporter of Google’s Android OS, and last week, when I asked a T-Mobile USA representative if there were plans to add UMA to Android phones, he said T-Mobile will continue to support UMA on the current and forthcoming BlackBerry devices and Nokia E73. That’s four models in total. In other words, T-Mobile has no plans on adding UMA to Android phones.

The falling fortunes of UMA are the polar opposite of T-Mobile’s strategy four years ago when the fourth largest U.S. carrier was touting the Wi-Fi/Cellular hybrid service as the next big thing. A spokesperson said that now that lower-cost, flat-rate, all-you-can-eat voice plans were commonplace, it didn’t make much sense for the company to keep pushing its UMA service.

I think the Seattle-based carrier is making a mistake. I think UMA is a good way to overcome networks that are less than stellar. With the growing presence of Wi-Fi in our modern lives, I think T-Mobile is missing an opportunity. It could use UMA on Android as a way to stand out against its competitors.

What do you think?

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I too use UMA exclusevily at home since the T-Mobile signal does not work well in “native” mode. When not in UMA mode, I get dropped a lot!

Zane H.

I have the T-Mobile Mytouch 4G. It is Android 2.2.1 and has UMA capabilities straight from T-Mobile. I use it all the time at home on my wi-fi.


T-Mobile’s UMA service is the ultimate way to get home service!!! I tried all the other providers, and all had spotty, unreliable cell service in my home. T-Mobile is also not so great on the T-Mobile network, but when connected by UMA everything changed for the better.
I get blazing internet and clear, solid phone connections.
Thanks T-Mobile. BTW I have the Bold 9700, 500 anytime min, $30 web plan, unlim txt all for about $79/month.
If UMA support goes away, so will I :)

Steve Fienberg

I live in an area with very poor cell reception. T-Mobile and UMA allows me to use my phone at home. I was thinking of getting an Android but now I won’t because I need UMA. If T-Mobile drops UMA, I will drop T-Mobile.


TmoNews is reporting that UMA is coming to T-mobile Android devices as an Android app. Interested to see if this is something that will show-up on Android Market, be part of an OS, or pushed from T-mobile on request?


Don’t despair…

I got confirmation today that UMA will be included in the upcoming Android 2.2 updates. From what I was told, the testing took a while due to UMA being pretty hard on the battery life on Android (all the VoIP registration/deregistration activity when wifi goes “idle” in Android, I personally suspect). All devices but the behold2, G1 and moto cliq should get 2.2. The G2 will launch with 2.2 (and likely UMA as well).


I hate BB, love UMA and Android and T-Mo are okay if I can get HSPA+ and UMA in one device. After several years with T-Mo I am getting rather frustrated with my BBs limitations and slow tether speed. Ive been hanging on, waiting for the G2 w/ UMA but I am so frustrated and disappointed I am ready to throw in the towel unless T-Mo gives me a reason to hang in there (are you listening, T-Mo? You are losing me! It is easier to retain an existing customer than to find a new one. We want UMA on an HSPA+ android. This is inexcusable!


+1 to customer sticking with TMo for UMA. Our home is a black hole for cellular signals — no carrier has any coverage due to a combination of architecture, geography, and direction.

Unless they build a tower in the park across the street, I don’t see the coverage ever improving, so UMA is all I have.

Given the lack of UMA capable handset, it also means BB is all I have.

Brett Schulte

I’m a HUGE fan of T-Mobile UMA, and like OM, it’s one of the reasons I stay with T-Mobile. I guess the problem is a lot of people just don’t understand it.

Monica Paolini

As far as I know UMA is just software as you point out, but it has to be installed and supported by the phone manufacturer (in addition to the phone operator). And there is a licensing fee that the phone manufacturer has to pay – not much, but not free either. So if the manufacturer does not think that UMA makes their phone more attractive and if T-Mobile does not push for it, there is an economic incentive not to install it. Said that, if there could be a way to install UMA as an add-on, that could be very valuable for those of us who like it

Ian Wood

The technology is there to do it. People with bad service in or around their homes or work would surely use it. So why not? Does it cost T-Mobile that much to support it? I wouldn’t think so.

Even if it’s not UMA, we will likely make some of our mobile calls using some form of VoIP over fixed Internet connections in the future. Which is good because we need a layered approach to full coverage. We cannot expect the towers to reach everywhere. Plus there has got to be a cost advantage to offloading traffic when carriers can barely upgrade their networks fast enough to carry what they already do.

Never mind though. Google Voice, Skype or someone new will hopefully find a way to deliver similar capabilities if the carriers don’t want to bother. But, in order to make that possible, Chairman Genachowski had better see to it that we get at least some limited net neutrality for wireless. It’s the only thing preventing us from a more complete voice calling solution.

Mike Pittaro

Agreed – big mistake on T-Mobile’s part. Support for UMA is the primary reason I use T-Mobile. Given T-Mobile’s spotty network coverage in many areas, UMA is essential. Lack of UMA support for their upcoming Android phones (G2, MyTouch HD) means I can’t upgrade phones, and they will probably lose a multiple line customer.

Since UMA is really just a software function, it should be possible to add support independent of T-Mobile. The issue is logged on the Android project, lets see if Free Software can overpower a vendor again.


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