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T-Mobile: Cellular/WiFi Phones To Replace Landlines At Home

Bellevue, Wash. – T-Mobile became the first U.S. carrier to offer cellular handsets that make voice calls through cellular and Wi-Fi networks.

Marking the convergence of cellular and wireless local area networks (LANs), GSM carrier T-Mobile has begun commercial trials in the Seattle area of HotSpot@Home service, which uses Unlicensed Mobile Access (UMA) technology to enable cellphones to send and receive voice calls and access data via Wi-Fi. It also enables subscribers to receive calls while in a Wi-Fi network from anyone calling their cellphone number.

The carrier has not detailed plans to expand the service to other markets.

The service lets consumers place unlimited voice calls and data sessions over wireless home and office networks and more than 7,000 T-Mobile-operated wireless hot spots in Starbucks, Hyatt hotels, airports and other public locations.

For the home or office, users must install a UMA-equipped wireless router available from T-Mobile at $49, or free after rebate.

The carrier positions its UMA service as a landline replacement for the home and a way to improve in-home because it improves in-building and in-home penetration of cellular service without building costly cell sites and because it reduces battery drain when used in a Wi-Fi network.

The service can also be used by the carrier to offload cellular calls from the cellular network during peak periods to reduce network congestion.

T-Mobile’s service can be accessed through a pair of hybrid Wi-Fi/cellular phones from Samsung and Nokia. The two phones – Nokia’s 6136 and Samsung’s SGH-t709, are available at $49.99 each with two-year contract, or $99.99 with one-year contract, if the subscriber gets a rate plan of at least $39.99/month. The Wi-Fi service costs subscribers an additional $19.99/month on top of the cellular rate plan.

The Samsung t709 is a triband GSM/EDGE slider with music player, 1-megapixel camera, instant messaging clients, and speaker-independent speech recognition. The GSM/EDGE quad-band Nokia 6136 clamshell features 802.11b/g, FM stereo, music player, and 1.3-megapixel camera.

Internet telephony and landline replacement are part of T-Mobile’s long-term plans for the nationwide spectrum that it won in the 1.7GHz and 2.1GHz bands during FCC spectrum auctions ending in September, T-Mobile parent Deutsch Telecom said during a post-auction press conference. In a presentation, Deutsch Telecom said T-Mobile’s 3G services will “harness IP convergence to unleash new services” and drive “displacement of fixed landline” service cited

In the auction, T-Mobile spent $4.2 billion to more than double the amount of spectrum it owns on average in the top 100 markets to 52MHz. The additional spectrum will enable the carrier to add high-data-capacity W-CDMA HSDPA (Wideband-CDMA High Speed Downlink Packet Access) technology to its network. The 3G (third generation) technology would enable T-Mobile to compete more effectively with high-speed data services currently offered by Cingular, Sprint, and Verizon, all of which also landed spectrum in the auctions, as did Sprint Nextel’s joint venture with several cable companies.

T-Mobile, which bought the most spectrum during the auctions, will start building out its 2.1GHz network this year and complete the rollout in 2007-2008, Deutsch Telecom said.