T-Mobile Will Offer Wi-Fi Calling on Android Smartphones

T-Mobile is working to push its Wi-Fi calling technology deeper into the marketplace. It will soon offer built-in Wi-Fi calling capabilities in many of its Android-powered smartphones.

T-Mobile will begin the Wi-Fi calling rollout with smartphones like the T-Mobile myTouch and the Motorola DEFY with MOTOBLUR. T-Mobile is no stranger to Wi-Fi. The company reports it already hosts about 40 million Wi-Fi calls each month.

This is all part of Unlicensed Mobile Access, or UMA, technology. T-Mobile has remained committed to UMA, and it has offered the company a competitive advantage against larger carriers. The Wi-Fi calling for Android is powered by Kineto's Smart Wi-Fi application. The Wi-Fi capabilities make way for both voice calling and text messaging from 802.11 b/g/n access points around the world.

UMA Pros and Cons

"Wi-Fi calling hasn't been much of a competitive advantage for T-Mobile in the past," said Michael Gartenberg, an analyst at Gartner. "Most people don't even know T-Mobile is still using UMA technology. T-Mobile hasn't really promoted it in quite some time. But it's a nice addition to its Android devices, and it's a nice feature if you are a T-Mobile customer."

Torrie Dorrell, vice president of T-Mobile's connected family products and services division, said adding Wi-Fi calling to Android smartphones is part of the company's effort to enhance indoor coverage. The Wi-Fi capability means calls will flow between Wi-Fi and cellular networks, making up for spotty cell networks during the transition from outdoors to indoors.

T-Mobile has been offering the service since June 2007, but is making it available for Android phones for the first time. T-Mobile already offers Wi-Fi calling on devices such as the Nokia E73 Mode, BlackBerry Curve 8520, BlackBerry Bold 9700, and the new BlackBerry Curve 3G.

No Competitive Advantage

"The Wi-Fi calling is lacking some things. For example, if you walk out of the range of your Wi-Fi signal, it's not going to automatically reconnect to the cellular network," Gartenberg said. "It's a useful feature, but it's probably not going to move the dial very much. The other carriers offer different types of technology that allow you accomplish the same thing in your home."

Still, T-Mobile is pushing the message hard for businesses customers. The company feels its UMA technology is a strong benefit for small businesses and multinational companies alike, and said both groups have been leveraging its Wi-Fi calling to slash domestic and international minute usage and drive greater productivity.

In addition to the Android Wi-Fi features, T-Mobile is also expected to roll out a prepaid data-plan package this week. News reports suggest T-Mobile will offer 100MB of data a month for $10 on a prepaid basis, 300MB for $30, or 1GB $50. T-Mobile currently offers 1GB for $39 in one of its standard plans.[source]


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