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T-Mobile UMA Service Expanding
Mid-June launch, landline phone option being cooked up...
by Karl Bode 12:54PM Thursday May 03 2007
Late last year T-Mobile launched their "Hotspot@Home" UMA service in the Seattle region. UMA technology allows users to "seamlessly" switch between traditional wireless voice networks and Wi-Fi VoIP if you're using a T-Mobile-operated hotspot. Users must have a traditional mobile plan of $40, and last we checked, could only use the Nokia 6136 or the Samsung SGH-T709. Users then pay $20 a month for unlimited U.S. calls via a provided T-Mobile hotspot with a primary phone, with additional phones costing $5/month.

Early impressions were mixed, some saying (Glenn Fleishman, specifically) the overall quality was good, but the network hand-off functionality needed work. The Wall Street Journal today reports that those problems have been resolved, and the service is set for broader deployment in mid-June. There's some changes in the works, according to the report:
"One feature that might be added later to the T-Mobile router but not in time for the national launch, people familiar with the matter say, is the ability to plug in ordinary landline phones, which would make T-Mobile a direct competitor to landline phone providers like Verizon Communications Inc. and AT&T Inc."
You can find additional analysis at Wi-Fi Networking News and GigaOM.

topics flat nest 

Your tax dollars at work.
Tallahassee, FL

Build in a SIP client.

They could easily expand this by building a SIP client into the phones and having a SIP server on their end. When you log in the minutes you use get taken from the minutes you pay for. This would allow people who are in an area with little or no coverage to continue using their phones.

Vernon Hills, IL

I don't get it???

whats the big deal. They charge you $20 a month to save themselves money? Maybe if you don't get good reception in your home? Maybe if you make a gazillion calls and go over you minutes all the time?... but I still can't see spending the extra $20 a month for it.

Maybe I'm just not getting it?


Austin, TX

Re: I don't get it???

Couldn't agree more...T-Mobile should be paying its customers to use this service instead.

The bear formerly known as aaron8301

My experience

I agree with those above; $20 to NOT use minutes on their towers... doesn't really make sense... since you already have to buy a special phone to use the service, it should be free, or at least in the area of a couple of bucks. On the other hand, consider this: You can make unlimited calls to anywhere in the us. Qwest here charges an extra $20/month for that on top of your regular phone service. My Vonage service charges almost $30.

Anyway, one thing this report (and all reports) fail to mention is that you can use the service on ANY wi-fi connection, secured or not. You simply enter the security key on your phone to connect to a secure wi-fi network. I use it in my home, on my OWN router; I use it at all of my friends houses on their wireless routers, and if I am in an area with no service, I can usually get close to a house and 'borrow' someone's router to make a call.

In the beginning, hand-offs between router and cell tower were impossible for me. It would simply drop the call. Now, I can walk out to the street and pick up cell tower, and walk back inside to the office to pick up router, back and forth while on a call, no problem. Sometimes, there is a half-second cut-out where I must ask the person I am talking to to repeat themself. But usually, not a problem at all.

I originally got the service because there is no cell service at my house, and it's been my main contact number for years. I will be moving soon to a large city, and I would like a PDA, but I don't know if I want to give up this Nokia!
A computer lets you make more mistakes faster than any other invention, with the possible exceptions of handguns and Tequilla. -- Mitch Ratcliffe



Re: My experience

Are you people really that unaware? You pay 20.00 not to NOT USE THEIR TOWERS, but to get unlimited voice at ANY WIFI area, which are everywhere now-a-days. So, you pay 60.00 a month for almost unlimited wireless phone access.

Re: My experience

My understanding is that if you have an UMA phone and do not pay the $20 is that your calls come out of your regular minutes.



it's about damn time!

I've been using the Samsung for about 4 months now and it's not bad. I've heard that the quality of the Nokia is significantly better but I haven't been able to get a hold of one (they're NEVER on ebay). Here's what I think so far:

Handoff: People talk about the handoff between WiFi and cell tower not being perfect. In my experience (even with the mediocre Samsung), it's nearly flawless. However, that assumes that you're in an area with decent cell reception and only using the WiFi to take advantage of the unlimited call plan. In the more likely situation that you're using it because you can't get cell reception, there's an inherent flaw; My apartment has no reception. My WiFi router only has reception to a short distance outside of my place. If the gap between where your WiFi trails off and the cell reception begins, you're stuck with a dead zone.

There are some definite quirks to it when you're using it on a router with a few machines connected to it. Obviously it's using bandwidth like any other device so if you hit a bottleneck, it'll either drop the call or break up. Adding a device to your network (e.g. powering up a laptop and connecting it to your WiFi network) causes the most problems. The Samsung has, on several occasions, dropped the call I was on and then wouldn't reconnect until I power cycled it. This seems like a problem that could easily be fixed by future software upgrades though.

One sort of interesting bonus of using WiFi is that T-Zones works about a million times faster. In my three years of using T-Mobile, I've yet to encounter a use for T-zones so I hesitate to call it a bonus.

I'm pretty psyched to hear that it's finally being released for real. To get my Samsung, I put up a Seattle Craigslist post and paid some guy to buy one and ship it to me. It cost me waaaaay more than this little thing is worth but at least I can make calls in my apartment. I'm dying to get the Nokia and get one for my girlfriend. Hopefully this will become a fairly standard feature on future T-Mo handsets.

Beyond FM, Beyond AM, XM Satellite Radio
Cedar Hill, TX

UMA Service

I beta tested the Samsung last year when this was all still in the testing phase, and from my experience it was flawless. We have two regular LinkSys wireless G routers in our home to cover both floors, and cell to router transition is flawless now. (in the beginning... dropped calls...)

$20 a month for unlimited calls on top of my unlimited MyFaves... this is starting to become a better and better deal. Think about it... almost everywhere you go there's a free wireless hotspot somewhere. Not to mention every single T-Mobile HotSpot is compatible with this phone without any additional fees.

-Antwan L.

San Diego, CA

I'm sure I'll get roasted for this, but

It seems to me that it shouldn't be too difficult to "convince" the phone to connect to Wi-Fi regardless of whether you have the plan or not, if the phone has the hardware for it. I wonder when they'll get on that. Maybe I'm not understanding the protocol and something I'm overlooking

Because quite frankly - for me, if I take the near perfection of the messaging features of the BB Pearl, add the independent operations (Read: no server required to route your email which is subject to outages that you can't control) of the T-mobile Dash/Wing, with this UMA, I'd have an absolutely flawless device.