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T-Mobile Launches First LTE Mini Cell Tower For Home, Business

T-Mobile launched the U.S. market’s first 4G LTE femtocell for homes and small businesses, extending T-Mobile’s cellular voice and LTE coverage up to an average 3,000 square feet with “full-bar” coverage, the carrier said.

Other carriers’ femto cells deliver 3G service, T-Mobile said.

The 4G LTE CellSpot mini-tower acts like a miniature version of the carrier’s full-size cell towers, enabling T-Mobile LTE phones to connect automatically to T-Mobile’s network as if connecting to one of the carrier’s regular cell towers. The device delivers all of the carrier’s LTE services, including HD Voice, VoLTE (Voice over LTE), and LTE-based Rich Communications Services (RCS), which is part of the IP-based VoLTE standard. T-Mobile used RSC to offer a video calling service, launched in September, to let subscribers place video calls just like standard voice calls without launching a third-party app. The carrier’s RCS-based Advanced Messaging service, launched in July, delivers messaging capabilities previously available only with third-party apps. The messaging service upgrades regular SMS and MMS by adding real-time chat and the ability to share photos and videos up to 10MB right out of the box.

For RCS to work, both parties must use an RCS-equipped phone and connect to an LTE cell tower.

The 4G LTE CellSpot will be available Nov. 4 for free to eligible Simple Choice customers − one per business or residence − with a refundable $25 deposit and a $138 non-return fee if the customer cancels T-Mobile service without returning the device. The device measures 8.5 by 8.5 by 1.3 inches.

The 4G LTE CellSpot differs from the company’s Wi-Fi Personal CellSpot router, which fills in dead zones or weak-signal zones in a house or business by connecting select phones to a Wi-Fi network to place voice calls. The phone must be equipped with T-Mobile’s Wi-Fi Calling technology. The Personal CellSpot router, however, doesn’t deliver HD Voice over Wi-Fi or other VoLTE services.

With the new device, users don’t need to own a Wi-Fi Calling phone, nor do they have to log onto a Wi-Fi network when they enter a home or business. The device is promoted as particularly useful in small businesses because it supports up to 16 simultaneous call or data sessions, a spokesperson said. The spokesperson also claimed LTE “delivers the best signal.”

Voice calls and LTE data delivered via the new device will count against a user’s cellular voice and LTE data buckets, whereas Wi-Fi calls and Wi-Fi data don’t.

“Every customer’s coverage scenario is different,” the spokesperson said. “That’s why we’re providing coverage choice.”