Smartphone users will now have the ability to call and text over any Wi-Fi connection in the world, so long as they are T-Mobile customers. The San Francisco-based mobile carrier on Tuesday announced its "Wi-Fi Unleashed" initiative, which will allow customers to use the calling and texting functions on their smartphones even when they find themselves in places without cellular coverage.
T-Mobile said Wi-Fi calling and texting will be available to all of its customers on all the handsets it sells. It is also starting an upgrade program to allow existing customers to turn in their current handsets for Wi-Fi-calling-ready smartphones through its "Jump!" program.
Free Calls from Overseas
"Wi-Fi Unleashed is a game changer. This is like adding millions of towers to our network in a single day," said John Legere, president and CEO of T-Mobile. "We'll do everything we can to solve your problems, and today, that's about uniting Wi-Fi with our data strong network for unprecedented coverage."
Although making calls over Wi-Fi networks is already possible through smartphone apps such as Skype, Google Voice, and even T-Mobile's own Wi-Fi calling app, this new program differs in that no additional app needs to be installed, and the user can make calls without switching to a different phone number.
The company said the service will allow U.S. customers to make calls to the U.S. from anywhere in the world free of extra charge, so long as they have Wi-Fi access. In addition, the company announced that it would be making upgrades to its coverage network to deliver HD voice and improve the connection speeds and call quality for customers using the cell network.
T-Mobile also announced a partnership with Gogo Inflight Internet, which provides service offered on around 75 percent of U.S. domestic flights. The agreement will allow T-Mobile users to send and receive unlimited text and picture messages and receive visual voicemail on any Gogo-equipped flight on a U.S.-based airline. Like Wi-Fi Unleashed, the company is offering the service free of charge, although customers will have to enable the service on a compatible smartphone in order to use it.
A Cellphone Tower in Every Home
The company also unveiled its new Personal CellSpot device. The unit acts as a kind of miniature T-Mobile cell tower that can be installed inside a customer's home. T-Mobile hopes the technology will appeal to the 57 percent of American wireless users who say they often experience dropped cellphone calls in their home. According to the company, the Personal CellSpot can replace an existing Wi-Fi router or operate alongside it.
Personal CellSpot will be available starting Sept. 17, but will require both a broadband connection and a Wi-Fi-calling-ready smartphone in order to work. T-Mobile is offering the device free of charge with a refundable $25 deposit.
"For years, the big phone company utilities have told you where you can and can't have coverage. And wherever their networks can't reach, you're SOL," Legere said. "Now, you can decide wherever you want your own T-Mobile tower."
Jerry k in Minnesota:
Posted: 2014-09-11 @ 3:47pm PT
I have been using T-Mobile wifi calling now for years. It was really nice years ago when you used it with a minutes plan, none of those minutes counted against your bucket of time. We still use the wifi calling in the home & office, as well when away in a rural area that has poor coverage. As long as you have wifi, you can always make & receive calls. Again, T-Mobile's wifi calling is NOT a new service, it's been around for years. Making & receiving calls world-wide free is new ;)
But most T-Mobile users already knew this.
Posted: 2014-09-11 @ 3:37pm PT
Extremely Smart - If you're home and on WiFi, this will reduce the load on T-Mobile's mobile infrastructure.
Posted: 2014-09-11 @ 3:25pm PT
Well, this is surely nice, but a fairly large number of apps could do this long time ago, regardless of who your carrier is.
Now, a GoGo deal with T-Mobile is a different story, because GoGo inflight service limited use of voice-over-ip traffic while in the air, making calls from an airplane difficult-to-impossible. Then again, who would want to end up in a seat during a 9-hour flight to Europe next to a person on the phone...
As far as CellSpot service goes, I am wondering if this is a sly strategy for T-mobile to cut their cost by offering an in-home wifi router that works seamlessly with the phone and routes calls placed in its vicinity via wifi, which would reduce their expenses for routing it in a traditional way. Republic Wireless and some other similar providers are able to provide this kind of service for a fraction of what it cost the big guys to place a call.
Posted: 2014-09-11 @ 3:22pm PT
If it is true and it works, I am going to T-Mobile.
Posted: 2014-09-11 @ 3:18pm PT
Republic has been doing this for years....and cheaper.
Posted: 2014-09-11 @ 3:09pm PT
We got a T-Mobile antenna booster, when we found out the coverage was poor. When we tried to file an engineering ticket, the T-Mobile customer service rep said "we already have 140 engineering complaints for your area, and the system won't let me file another". Hmm.
Unfortunately, the coverage, from the booster is very, very weak. It adds a bubble, between 3 and 5-feet in size, and isn't strong enough to use in the kitchen. We would have better signal coverage if we left the phone upstairs next to the window, and used a Bluetooth headsets. Perhaps T-Mobile could make a bluetooth phone extender, which works like a cordless phone. This way, we could leave the T-Mobile phones upstairs, next to the windows, and use the cordless bluetooth handset around the house. It would be handy if the Bluetooth Cordless also supported callerid, receive text messages and take pictures. Then, the service would work in the living room, kitchen, and basement.
So, we're considering Cricket. With AT&T's verified Coverage, and Cricket's rate, we'd be better off.