Femto-Cells

T-Mobile gets VoIP right

October 6, 2010: 11:30 AM ET

Finally, a carrier decides to use a better technology for their customers.

Details are starting to emerge on T-Mobile's new VoIP service that lets customers switch over to Wi-Fi when the T-Mobile signal is no longer strong enough to take a call.  T-Mobile explains it like this:

Wi-Fi Calling for Android is built upon the same technology as UMA, but is a different implementation from our past offerings. While T-Mobile's current Wi-Fi Calling solution which operates on BlackBerry smartphones, for instance, seamlessly hands off calls from T-Mobile's network to Wi-Fi networks, Wi-Fi Calling for Android does not.

A pre-installed application from T-Mobile will allow customers to make and receive voice calls and SMS over an accessible Wi-Fi connection.  This provides customers with better indoor coverage and in some cases may provide the ability to make voice calls in locations where they weren't able to do so previously.

For consumers, Wi-Fi Calling for Android increases coverage and uses voice minutes. [NOTE: calls originate on Wi-Fi, but are carried across T-Mobile's network once beyond the initial Wi-Fi connection.]  T-Mobile also has plans for business which can help defer wireless minutes and provide cost savings.

Wi-Fi Calling will be available on the new T-Mobile myTouch, Motorola DEFY and others Android phones in the coming weeks. We are planning to expand Wi-Fi Calling for Android to as broad a selection of Android smartphones in our line-up as possible.  Éclair (2.0/2.1)  and Froyo (2.2) are the Android OS versions that currently support the application.

Competing carriers like AT&T (T), Verizon (VZ) and Sprint (S) use something called a Femto or Micro Cell.  That's a product that usually costs $100 or so (though carriers are known to give them away free to louder customers).  These devices create "mini cell towers" in your home to reach the areas where the carrier's real towers can't.  This is a proprietary technology and isn't compatible with other devices.

But most phones these days also have Wi-Fi ... More

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