T-Mobile Targets In-Home Dead Zone

T-Mobile on Wednesday launched its converged cellular and WiFi service HotSpot @Home that lets cell phone users switch seamlessly between T-Mobile hotspots and their own wireless routers.

Cellular phones often don’t work as well inside as they do outside, which is frustrating for many given that an average of 41 percent of wireless minutes are used inside the home, T-Mobile said.

The company’s new service lets users tap into WiFi networks for better service at home. Once they leave those confines and the WiFi range, the service automatically and seamlessly hands off the call to the regular T-Mobile network.

One of a Kind

“More people than ever are looking to drop their home landline phone and pocket the savings,” said Robert Dotson, president and CEO for T-Mobile USA. “However, they don’t want to use all their wireless minutes talking from home. Our new service solves this dilemma once and for all. T-Mobile HotSpot @Home is a first-of-its-kind service that helps people simplify their lives, save money and enjoy great call quality on one device — their mobile phone — at home.”

Samsung’s SGH-t409 and the Nokia 6086 are currently the only cell phones that work with the service. Both are priced at about US$50 with a two-year contract.

“We have worked closely with Samsung to ensure T-Mobile HotSpot @Home and the Samsung t409 work seamlessly together, giving customers the best experience possible when making and receiving voice calls at home over WiFi, or on T-Mobile’s nationwide wireless network,” said Mike Selman, director of product marketing for T-Mobile USA.

Introductory Rate

T-Mobile customers must have a cellular plan of $39.99 or more in order to sign up. Standard pricing is an additional $19.99 per month for single-line plans, or $29.99 for a family plan with up to five lines. A limited-time, introductory rate is $9.99 for one line and $19.99 for up to five.

While any access point will work, T-Mobile encourages customers to use either its D-Link or its Linksys router, both of which are free after a mail-in rebate and include software that gives voice calls priority.

“I think it’s a neat service to offer, and very natural for T-Mobile to push in this direction,” Shiv Bakhshi, director of mobility research at IDC, told TechNewsWorld.

Meshing Two Worlds

“T-Mobile built its reputation on HotSpots, and they’ve done a good job of leveraging that asset,” he said. “Now users don’t have to worry that their call might get dropped because they are in the basement, for example. This meshes the cell world with the HotSpot world T-Mobile has worked on for so long. It’s a smart thing,” Bakhshi added.

“It’s a really interesting service,” agreed Neil Strother, wireless analyst with JupiterResearch.

“So often people say, ‘I have terrible coverage in my house,'” Strother told TechNewsWorld. “If this cleanly solves that problem for a lot of people, it’s a great thing.”

Extra Hardware

A learning curve may be involved, he added, because of the fact that T-Mobile recommends its own routers for the service to work optimally. “It’s not a big hindrance, but it’s one more piece of equipment,” Strother noted.

The service will be particularly attractive for younger people in their twenties and thirties, he added, as a way to avoid having to get a landline each time they move to a new home.

“This is something you can buy that can go with you and give you that one phone that works wherever you are,” Strother said.

“It puts on the table the question of why do you need a landline, and what are the economics of dropping it,” he concluded. “There’s a shift underway between calling a place and calling a person.”

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