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The New York Times reports that T-Mobile has launched its converged cell/Wi-Fi service in Seattle: It’s in my own backyard, but I haven’t seen it yet! The service will run $20 per month above a normal voice plan, which must be at least $40 per month. Two handsets are available, which cost $50 with a two-year service commitment. This service also requires a T-Mobile router, which the company charges for but offers a full rebate (the cost wasn’t mentioned). The service allows Wi-Fi roaming onto the T-Mobile HotSpot network, which comprises mostly Starbucks, but a few other chains, including Hyatt Hotels. The new service’s name is T-Mobile HotSpot @Home.
The requirement of a specific router relates to the low-power mode of handsets that needs a particular protocol embedded in the router to work—WMM Power Save. Few routers have this right now, but it’s really a protocol-level feature, not a hardware change. However, it does require Wi-Fi Alliance certification if you want to use the label on the product, and thus adds cost at that level.
The Seattle launch is a trial of unknown duration. The article also states that T-Mobile hasn’t said when it will launch nationally.
Update: There’s more information at TheOnlyPhoneYouNeed.com, including the useful information that Wi-Fi minutes are unlimited (which usually means there are limits, but I can’t find disclosure at the site). At $20 per month, this is a very clever move on T-Mobile’s part, because it underprices similar VoIP offerings, and yet is untethered from VoIP. The Web site is also a place to sign up with T-Mobile for notification when they add HotSpot @Home to your market.
This strategy of unlimited works well for T-Mobile. They currently offer a $30 per month package of unlimited GPRS/EDGE, and unlimited Wi-Fi usage on their network. That package also requires a $40 minimum voice plan. With the @Home offering, you could spend $50 per month for unlimited VoIP over Wi-Fi, mobile data (slow), and mobile data (fast).
It’s extremely compelling, and I’m a happy Cingular user. However, I have Speakeasy VoIP at home and at the office which I might be able to get rid of in favor of T-Mobile’s plan. We’ll see how this shakes out. What I’d really like is a way to tie in an ATA at home and the office so that I could use a mobile phone or a landline-like phone, too. [Web site link via GigaOm]
Posted by Glennf at October 24, 2006 7:50 AM
I can't see how the phone would be restricted from working on an ordinary AP. I understand that having the T-Mobile wireless router would help conserve battery life because of WMM-PS, but I don't see what that has to do with allowing phones to associate. In fact, I'd bet money that the service does *not* require a T-Mobile wireless router to work at a subscriber's home.
[Editor's note: My guess is that the phone uses EAP-SIM authentication or perhaps another form which requires 802.1X. The gateway is preconfigured to authenticate with T-Mobile over the Internet connection. This would prevent the phone from associating to another other gateway.--gf]
Posted by: Rusty at October 24, 2006 5:50 PM
I have to say that makes even less sense.
First of all, if they require 802.1X that would mean that the T-Mobile wireless router would be unable to handle any other Wi-Fi stations on a subscriber's home network. There's no chance of that happening.
Secondly, I can't see how they would be having the T-Mobile wireless router act as the client to the VOIP gateway. Unless they are having the router build some kind of tunnel (extremely unlikely), the handset would be connecting to the VOIP gateway directly.
I guess this is a silly discussion because we will know a definite answer soon enough. Keep us posted, will ya.
[Editor's note: The gateway will very likely have multiple virtual SSIDs, with separate authentication options. This is very typical in newer Wi-Fi gateways for the home (see Peplink, Ruckus).
802.1X doesn't interpose a tunnel or whatever you're describing. It's a method of controlling access to a network, which, in this case, would also be a method of controlling a device's access to specific networks. In this fashion, 802.1X allows the device access, and then the device makes direct IP connections.-gf]
Posted by: Rusty at October 25, 2006 7:09 AM
Please keep us posted on this pilot. I am looking to roll this out in West Africa using the same phone. But i have to put up quite a few hot spots though as most people don't have internet at home here. I would especially like to here about the quality of the service more in terms of codecs used by the mobile phones, QoS features in the actual router itself. I do realise that the quality of one's internet connection ultimately impacts the quality of the service. I am primarily targeting the large expat market who call North American and European destinations.
Posted by: tinykov at October 29, 2006 3:15 PM
It's been a few months since T-Mobile launched HotSpot@Home. Any additional user experience feedback someone can share?
Posted by: Anthony at January 14, 2007 6:48 AM
UMA Phone doesn't use a codec, it uses Wi-Fi and works as a wrapper to take the packets to the security gateway of the UMAN then the UMAN takes that traffic back to the GSM network.
QoS looks at the packet size and UMA service has a very distinctive packet size, thats how the router gives priority to UMA traffic over data packets.
[Editor's note: That's not correct. The Wi-Fi protocol that's used for QoS, WMM, relies on a priority queue number being placed in the packet. That pushes some packets to higher priority than others. See this article at SmartBridges for details.--gf]
Posted by: Amar at July 10, 2007 11:13 AM