T-mobile @Home

Good David Pogue style:

Man, oh man. How’d you like to have been a PR person making a cellphone announcement last week, just as the iPhone storm struck? You’d have had all the impact of a gnat in a hurricane.

But hard to believe though it may be, T-Mobile did make an announcement last week. And even harder to believe, its new product may be as game-changing as Apple’s.

For a modest extra charge on your cellphone bill, you can make free wifi-connected calls from any wifi network – including T-mobile hotspots, and also from a router they provide for your home. There are only a couple of phones currently offered, but they can hand off seamlessly from wifi network to GSM and vice-versa.

BT and others have played in the past with mobile phones which could, alternatively, use DECT when they are in your house, and many smartphones are now capable of making voice calls over wifi, but there’s nothing as elegant as this, if it works as advertised.

US only at present. Definitely worth watching.

Here’s the full article.

-60 Comments

Whereas many US cell plans offer free night and weekend minutes, t-mobile generally offers “anytime” minutes, so a wifi phone is particularly attractive on their network.

You can already get this kind of service using Truphone http://www.truphone.com for some Nokia WLAN enabled E and N series phones, including the E60 like I have, and the E61 that you have. Truphone is a SIP and RTP solution, rather than UMA like the BT Fusion.

Hi Steve –

Yes, I’ve used Truphone – I’ve met some of the guys behind it – and when it works, it’s cute. I can’t get the latest version to work on my E61, though, so I’m experimenting with Fring instead.

But I don’t think any of these offer the seamless hand-off, mid-call, between wifi and GSM that T-mobile @home are claiming. The article mentions some interesting features of this, like the fact that the billing is based on where you start the call. If you’re at home, say, and calling using wifi, you can then walk out of the house and drive away, still chatting, all for free. If, on the other hand, you come home while on a call, you’ll still be billed even after switching to wifi.

One day all phone calls will begin in Starbucks for this reason 🙂

Hi Quentin

I certainly agree that the session hand-over between the VOIP and GSM components is crucial to getting the most from the technology, but if you travel/roam frequently, particularly outside the EU, then making calls using a WLAN connection makes a massive difference to your monthly bill. Unfortunately, Truphone are currently in dispute with T-Mobile, so I can’t really try it all out with my phone at the moment (the High Court judgement is due tomorrow according to reports on El Reg). Truephone are claiming to support VOIP over 3G connections too now, so when this is all a bit more stable maybe I’ll be able to test the unlimited data part of my T-Mobile Web N Walk contract to breaking point…..

Did you try Truphone with your E61 running v2 or v3 firmware? The v2 firmware support for SIP basically didn’t work through NAT, so that might have been your problem. It should work with the v3 firmware though.

Fring seemed to work very well for me on WLAN and 3G connections the couple of times a tried it, as did the new native Skype client on the N800 Internet Tablet.

Steve

I agree – my main use of Truphone (on my old E61) was in California, and it was pretty handy. I’m on the v3 firmware. Just tried a fresh Truphone install and it still won’t connect to my WLAN. Mmm.

I too am on the T-Mobile unlimited data plan, but unless you’ve got the most expensive ‘Max’ option, they explicitly exclude VoIP protocols. Not sure whether they actually monitor it, though…

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