San Francisco – T-Mobile has become the most Wi-Fi-centric carrier in the U.S. with the launch of international Wi-Fi Calling, call hand-off between Wi-Fi and its expanding 4G VoLTE network, a Wi-Fi calling-device trade-in program, free Wi-Fi texting and voice mail on airplanes, and a free Wi-Fi- router optimized for Wi-Fi calling for subscribers.
The company also said that all of its new phones are Wi-Fi calling compatible and that customers who lack a compatible phone can trade up to a one that is. Those phones run Android KitKat 4.4 or Apple’s iOS 8, which is due Sept. 18 on the day before the iPhone 6 phones go on sale. How much the trade-in will cost depends on how much they still owe on their existing device.
The new services and programs are part of the carrier’s most recent “Un-carrier” announcements.
T-Mobile CEO John Legere also announced that the carrier enjoyed its most bountiful month, signing up a record 2.75 million gross adds, and expressed his usual choice (and often profane) words for his alleged copy-cat competitors, whom he repeatedly referred to as the Three Stooges, all of whom were attending CTIA’s Super Mobility Week in Las Vegas. Legere predicted T-Mobile would pass Sprint in total subscribers by the end of the year, and then the company will set its sights on catching AT&T.
Unlike its rivals, the company announced no special iPhone 6 deals.
Dubbing his strategy “Wi-Fi Unleashed,” Legere announced that now “every Wi-Fi connection just became a T-Mobile connection.”
T-Mobile became the second carrier to activate international Wi-Fi Calling, with Sprint having announced the capability last month. More than T-Mobile 100 Wi-Fi Calling devices can now be used to make free Wi-Fi calls from anywhere in the world to and from all 50 U.S. states and Puerto Rico.
The carrier previously announced free data and free texting internationally as part of its Un-carrier 3.0 announcements, but international calls were still charged at 20 cents a minute.
At home, T-Mobile became the first carrier to enable seamless transfer of calls between Wi-Fi and its VoLTE network. However, the carrier has only 17 markets wired for VoLTE, with a planned expansion to 26 by the end of the year. T-Mobile also offers only a handful of VoLTE devices, though they will grow to a dozen by year’s end.
T-Mobile also announced a partnership with airline Wi-Fi provider GoGo to give T-Mobile customers free unlimited text messaging – video and photo as well as plain text – and access to visual voice mail.
Finally, in order for all its customers to access its network via Wi-Fi at home, Legere announced the carrier would give away a free T-Mobile-optimized dual-band Wi-Fi router with only a $25 deposit. Legere noted that a recent survey revealed 57 percent of mobile subscribers reported a dead spot in their home.
The T-Mobile Personal Cellspot, made by Acer, is a standard 2.4/5.0 GHz router with a rated 3,000-square-foot coverage that can serve as a home’s primary route. “It’s likely an upgrade to most people’s home Wi-Fi router,” Legere noted. However, the router would give priority to any T-Mobile HD call over other Wi-Fi draws. T-Mobile pre-paid customers would pay $99 for the router.