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T-Mobile Announces WiFi Meshing Cellphone 275

Posted by Zonk
from the nothing-about-the-iPhone dept.
tregetour writes with a link to a New York Times article penned by David Pogue about a quiet announcement last week by T-Mobile. It has nothing to do with the iPhone, but it could still be a welcome revolution for users plagued by high cellphone bills. "Here's the basic idea. If you're willing to pay $10 a month on top of a regular T-Mobile voice plan, you get a special cellphone. When you're out and about, it works like any other phone; calls eat up your monthly minutes as usual. But when it's in a Wi-Fi wireless Internet hot spot, this phone offers a huge bargain: all your calls are free. You use it and dial it the same as always — you still get call hold, caller ID, three-way calling and all the other features — but now your voice is carried by the Internet rather than the cellular airwaves." He goes on to explain further benefits of the system, and describes the wireless routers that the company will be pushing with the service. The only thing missing: an estimate of when it will hit stores.
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T-Mobile Announces WiFi Meshing Cellphone

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  • An estimate? (Score:4, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 05, 2007 @03:24PM (#19757617)
    How about last week... when it actually hit stores? Anyway, it's just too bad that existing phones with WiFi like the Dash don't support this.
    • If the carriers see this eating into their revenues they won't support it. Why give something away when you can charge for it?
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by guruevi (827432)
        So you can sell the "premium" service plan to them. Whether or not you make a call doesn't make a difference for most providers, the infrastructure is the same and has to be running anyway in order for you to get reception.

        Yes, calling eats more bandwidth, but not everybody is calling at the same time nor 24/7 so the point is moot. That's how they can sell you unlimited calling/messaging plans at a premium ($5 extra/month).

        The same here, whether or not the infrastructure will be used, the equipment and a re
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        Because T-mobil is more customer oriented then other AT&T family? Before anybody starts, I know, a business entity has to make money - but some companies out there do it without sucking their customers to death.
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Cemu (968469)
        They are charging for it, $10 more a month. And when the phone is using Wi-Fi what's the likelihood the call is being routed through T-Mobile's lines? They're genius, getting double benefits, more money and less traffic.
        • So, what if you have one of these phones, and it connects to the 'free' wifi the coffee shop you are near...will you be arrested for 'stealing' wifi like that guy awhile back did? I don't remember the city/state (somewhere in Penn.?).

          Could you get arrested for this phone 'hijacking' an open wifi spot without the owners permission?

      • by catbutt (469582)
        Because they are subject to competition. If they don't do this, someone else might (or do something else, like make a really cool phone [apple.com]), and they will lose customers, be forced to lower their price to retain them, or whatever.
  • seems like a market skype should get into... or are they already?
    • Re:skype (Score:5, Interesting)

      by RingDev (879105) on Thursday July 05, 2007 @04:18PM (#19758367) Homepage Journal
      The biggest problem with mobile wifi is hand offs. It's been a while since I've looked into the issue, I know there were a couple of MIT guys working on millisecond hand off from one hotspot to the next a year or two ago, but the power consumption was huge.

      Cellphones don't have to handle hand offs, the towers do all the work. I had a job doing a lot of testing of call hand offs a few years back. You literally drive back and forth between a few towers, or in a bad hand off area (especially around lakes) and work on programming the towers as to when they should hand calls off to another tower based on vector, signal strength, and a tower list. The whole thing is dynamic too, so weather changes, call volume, new construction, etc... can all be handled at least in the short term with out further work.

      I know Sysco has some really cool auto-meshing technology that makes their routers talk to each other and adjust signal strength to pick up for downed antennas, but that technology would have to mature a lot to get the same kind of hand off performance as cell phones enjoy.

      -Rick
  • Great. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by evilpenguin (18720) on Thursday July 05, 2007 @03:26PM (#19757643)
    Now "I'm in the coffee shop. Where RU?" will take 10000 times the bandwidth it took on ICQ.

    So much for Wi-Fi hotspots being useful for telecommuting...
    • Good point. While I can dig this for use on my own wireless network at home or work, I'm not sure all the customers (or the admins, for that matter) of places like coffee shops will be quite so thrilled.

      However, this will get much more interesting in the future, considering the metropolitan areas that have been throwing around the idea of free municipal wifi.. imagine everyone in a given city getting free calls 24/7.
      • by Kadin2048 (468275) *
        imagine everyone in a given city getting free calls 24/7.

        Yeah, and so can the phone companies.

        Ain't gonna happen. They'll just raise that $10/mo (what the hell is that for, anyway? Ten bucks a month to not use their network? WTF) until it's as high as the average person pays to use the cellular network. And then laugh all the way to the bank.
        • by lymond01 (314120)
          They'll just raise that $10/mo (what the hell is that for, anyway? Ten bucks a month to not use their network? WTF)

          You nailed it, I believe. It's a trade-off for them: They don't really think they'll lose that much overage revenue because of these phones, but the service they're providing means, if properly exploited, they could lose some...but also gain a ton (or more!) of customers.

          CEO of Major Firm: Good news, everyone gets a cellphone to replace their desk phone. Bad news, you can only use it within r
        • (what the hell is that for, anyway? Ten bucks a month to not use their network? WTF)
          I believe what that's for is the ability to retain access to your standard phone number, voice mail, etc. through their machines on the other end of that Internet connection. Basically it's granting you access to their VOIP provider. While the fairness of the price is debatable, it's not as though either you or the telco is getting a free ride off the Internet connection.
      • Re:Great. (Score:5, Informative)

        by arivanov (12034) on Thursday July 05, 2007 @03:59PM (#19758107) Homepage
        Most coffee shop deployments will not die on bandwith. They will die on packet rates. One VOIP call is 100 packets per second. 8 calls are 800. While the nominal rate of most devices used for APs should in theory allow 10+ times more than that, in reality they will die NAT-ing the traffic. 3-4 calls at most is what they can handle without excessively jittering the flows. 8+ calls is likely to kill most APs with built in NAT outright. 8 calls assuming IPSEC in UDP NAT traversal and AMR internally is around some measly 320Kbit. So packet rates start killing this long before bandwidth is of any concern.

        While there are few of these phones, they will be great. If they really get market penetration its own popularity will kill it or make it useless as it will be switching to GSM/3G all the time due to detected congestion on the WiFi. From there on there will be endless billing nightmares as consumers will insist that they called over WiFi while the call really was routed over cellular and so on and so fourth.

        It will be fun to watch. From the sidelines. Thanks god I am no longer in this business.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      Now "I'm in the coffee shop. Where RU?" will take 10000 times the bandwidth it took on ICQ.

      So much for Wi-Fi hotspots being useful for telecommuting...

      That statement would take approximately 2 seconds to say. cellphones transmit at ~8k/s. Flash adds are bigger in implementation than the resulting 12k phone packet. Additionally, every hot spot I've seen has a high-speed connection of some kind. 15 phones going at the same time would barely make an impact on the overall speed.
      Additionally, it's not like we aren't gaining bandwidth every year at a breakneck pace. Sure this may be slightly noticeable at first, but even the slower connections in the very nea

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by evilpenguin (18720)
        A) I was joking, and

        B) The text version took 33 bytes plus packet overhead. Still way more efficient.

        Another commenter who took me far too seriously points out (correctly) that it is packet rate that will be a problem. I would add that latency will also be a serious issue. I use Vonage on a 1Mbit wireless broadband connection and sometimes latency kills me. The delay messes up the codecs, which take time to resynch. I have to ask people to repeat themselves a lot because my network has highly variable RTT a
    • With people getting arrested for using free WIFI
      (http://yro.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=07/05/23/1 551227)
      why would you use this?
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Lumpy (12016)
      No the correct call will be ....

      Im in ....th....offie...shp... Where...r...Bzzzzt pooo bubububububub.. you?

      every coffee shop I have ever been in had so high latency and jitter that Voip was 100% useless.

      This will be an utter failure, Most broadband is high latency, most free wifi is throttled and minimal bandwidth shared way beyon the capabilities of the connection. T-mobile is trying to stay relevant without adding cell towers like they should be and picked something that will completely kill them as the
  • Mesh???? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by fatgav (555629) on Thursday July 05, 2007 @03:28PM (#19757673) Homepage
    Yeah, but how exactly is it a mesh?
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      T-Mobile hosts plenty of HotSpots of their own around the country (the majority being in a starbuck nearest you). So if you have a cell phone that is capable of Wi-Fi and CELL you can utilize a t-mobile hot spot when you're close or cell network when you're far. It's a t-mobile back end either way you connect.
    • by Have Blue (616)
      It's a cell phone that "meshes" with existing wifi networks. They're not using the technical networking sense of "mesh".
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by pHZero (790342)
      The word "mesh" isn't mentioned once in TFA. The article's poster or possibly editor made up this word in the title. Go Slashdot!
    • by b0bby (201198)
      I think the two networks, cell & wi-fi, "mesh". It's not a wi-fi mesh network. Calls can start on one network then get handed over to the other without the call being interrupted.
  • by SpiffyMarc (590301) on Thursday July 05, 2007 @03:28PM (#19757687)
    What does this have to do with the iPhone? I mean, I know the summary says it doesn't have anything to do with the iPhone, but I'm not sure what that means. Did Apple figure out how to do this? Are they working with T-Mobile to roll it out? Are the phones made of white plastic?
    • by CaptainPatent (1087643) on Thursday July 05, 2007 @03:30PM (#19757711) Journal
      Here's the connection:

      It has nothing to do with the iPhone
    • by dirkdidit (550955)
      It's a new technology in the cell phone industry that isn't the iPhone or something for the iPhone. That's pretty much the only connection. That and this phone has WiFi capabilities, like the iPhone.
    • by fistfullast33l (819270) on Thursday July 05, 2007 @03:43PM (#19757881) Homepage Journal
      Like the rest of the Slashdot community at this point, I decided this summary was worth my time only after I discovered it had nothing to do with the iPhone.
      • Re:iPhone fatigue (Score:5, Interesting)

        by abes (82351) on Thursday July 05, 2007 @03:57PM (#19758073) Homepage
        That is as long as no one points out how it's interesting that Steve Jobs and the head of AT&T were talking about doing VOIP on the iPhone in the eventual future (it's in one of their interviews). Which would then lead to a conversation how this very well could be the eventual future of all cell phones.

        Don't worry, though, to save your sanity, I won't mention it.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by mcrbids (148650)
          Which would then lead to a conversation how this very well could be the eventual future of all cell phones.

          Begin conversation...

          Locally, there's an Internet Service Provider called "ClearWire" that uses WiMAX to deliver ISP packets. It's real slick, too. When you buy service, you get a box about the size of your average router, with a power brick and an ethernet port.

          Take it home, plug it in (power, computer) and go. It delivers DHCP address to your computer, and you're online in about 12 seconds. It really
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by SeaFox (739806)

      What does this have to do with the iPhone? I mean, I know the summary says it doesn't have anything to do with the iPhone, but I'm not sure what that means.

      The connection is, the iPhone does this right now with it's internet browsing (switching from EDGE to Wi-Fi), and lots of people wanted it to do the same thing with voice. That's one reason they wanted to get Skype working on the iPhone since then their voice calls would be handled the way data is.
  • How is this Meshing? I was expecting the handsets to talk to each other and form an adhoc wifi network.... now I check the word "mesh" doesn't appear in the article.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by isaac (2852)
      I believe 'meshing' here is referring to the seamless handoff of calls between GSM and WiFi, not that the phones form or use an adhoc WiFi mesh network. Agreed, not the right choice of words.

      The real hotness about these phones: you can use them at any wifi hotspot in the world without roaming charges. That's a killer feature.

      -Isaac

  • $10/Month? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by TheRaven64 (641858) on Thursday July 05, 2007 @03:31PM (#19757737) Journal

    Seems a little steep for being allowed to run a SIP client on a machine I own.

    Also, where does 'meshing' come into this? This isn't a mesh network. If it were, then I could route packets from my phone via half a dozen other random users' phones to a hotspot and not need T-Mobile's network at all much of the time.

    • T-Mobile's GSM/WiFi phones do not use SIP when they are on WiFi. Instead, they
      use a tunneling mechanism to tunnel back to the operator's core, and connect
      to their GSM MSC instead through translation layer called UMA (Universal
      Mobile Access).

      GSM/UMTS has this concept of non-access-stratum
      signaling, which consists of messages that are tunneled between the MSC
      and the phone, which are completely transparent to the underlying
      transport technology. (BTW, the presense of these layers is partially
      what makes UMTS/GSM
  • by fantomas (94850) on Thursday July 05, 2007 @03:34PM (#19757763)
    Nokia launched the 6136 last Feb (2006) in Europe:
    http://news.zdnet.co.uk/communications/0,100000008 5,39252128,00.htm [zdnet.co.uk]

    This does the roaming wifi/GSM stuff as well.

    Tested in Oulu, Finland in 2006:
    http://www.mobiledia.com/news/49241.html [mobiledia.com]

    Anybody know how those tests have gone, what the take up is?

    • As the parent suggests, this is old news. These sorts of things have been around for a while, but they really were free before.

      FreeWorldDialup [freeworlddialup.com] used to sell a number of interesting hybrid phones including one that was a regular cell phone that, when in a free WiFi area, would route calls through your VOIP system instead of using the cellular network. I think you had to stay put through the duration of the call because there didn't seem to be any mechanism for switching between VOIP and cellular if you mov
  • Encryption? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by jshriverWVU (810740) on Thursday July 05, 2007 @03:34PM (#19757767)
    Would hate to work for a fortune 500 company and be talking on this with a co-worker only to have the packets sniffed from some random server in Malaysia on a major pipeline.
    • by nettdata (88196)
      Yeah, because after all, it's not like cel calls can be sniffed anyways or anything.

      Besides, it's a well established fact that the shortest possible network route is via a pipeline in Malaysia.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by AK Marc (707885)
      OK, so you are in Denver. You are talking to someone in Atlanta. The IP traffic routes from Denver to Chicago, down to Dallas, then off to Atlanta. I'm curious how you think that it will make it to Malaysia. If you are thinking that if you are in India and talking to someone in Australia and the packets could be intercepted in Malaysia, I'm curious why you are worried about the IP traffic being funneled through Malaysia, but not someone putting taps on the POTS connections taking the same route. Are yo
      • I was just picked a random place. It's not the location that matters but the concept. Unencrypted data going over the internet isn't secure, so if I was using the phone for business purposes and security was an issue this doesn't sound like a nice feature. To me this would be like having a secure wireless line to the net for doing banking transactions, then all of a sudden your laptop finds a wifi and chooses to use it instead of the secure line.

        Saying cell phones are insecure is about as true as saying l

  • Why $10 extra? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by crow (16139) on Thursday July 05, 2007 @03:36PM (#19757793) Homepage Journal
    Why should people pay extra for this? It seems like it should save T-Mobile money by reducing the load on their cell towers (allowing them to reduce their infrastructure costs).

    And what about the consumer who isn't short on minutes? Why not offer an option to use it without an extra charge, but still charge minutes?
    • Re:Why $10 extra? (Score:5, Informative)

      by ad0gg (594412) on Thursday July 05, 2007 @03:56PM (#19758057)
      Umm.. You still use tmobiles network. The call doesn't magically travel across the country and terminate at another phone.
      • by sholden (12227)
        Which part of "cell towers" are you having trouble understanding?
      • You still use tmobiles network. The call doesn't magically travel across the country and terminate at another phone.

        Depends on what you mean by "tmobiles network".

        Surely the new service will require some involvement of T-Mobile servers and network infrastructure on the public internet: to authenticate your handset, to send call data through an IP-to-POTS gateway when the person you're calling is not also a HotSpot@Home customer, etc.

        But use of T-Mobile's GSM cell towers and satellites--their network, if you
      • But that's the part I already get without paying the extra $10.
    • by gstoddart (321705)

      Why should people pay extra for this? It seems like it should save T-Mobile money by reducing the load on their cell towers

      Are you that naive, or are you being serious?

      In the mind of a company, if they give you more, even if it costs them less, they charge you more. Period. If it had no value, then why would they even be offering it? Since it has value, they're selling it.

      Everybody wants to monetize everything. Where I live (Ontario, Canada) the provincial governments have kiosks whereby you can renew y

    • Re:Why $10 extra? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by MaceyHW (832021) <(moc.liamg) (ta) (whyecam)> on Thursday July 05, 2007 @04:08PM (#19758223)
      You pay "extra" because T-Mobile still has to operate a voip server and route your call. But those of us who make lots of calls from an area with wifi coverage can save money by changing to a plan with far fewer minutes and adding the $10 wifi option.

      This is an outstanding development if you use your cell as a primary line and you have wifi at home. I hope it delivers as promised!
      • by Vellmont (569020)

        You pay "extra" because T-Mobile still has to operate a voip server and route your call.

        _I_ have a freaking VOIP server, it's really not that expensive. It takes a little more processing power than a webserver, but it's not really all that heavyweight. The costs of running a voip are minuscule compared to operating a cell tower and the rest of the network to get the call to t-mobile. Connecting via voip reduces t-mobiles costs on increasing coverage and signal strength.

        The cost reductions for T-mobile are
    • by tji (74570)
      Probably the same reason Vonage charges for their service and calls into the phone network are no longer free on Skype.. It costs them money to connect calls from VoIP into the telephone system. There are obviously big savings for them, but it still costs them money. And, it's a big customer benefit. $10 per month seems like a great price for a way to do unlimited calling.

  • This doesnt sound like a mesh. At first thought when I saw the article I imaged each phone acting like a repeater, creating a mesh and thus extending range for a given hotspot. Alas that doesnt appear to be the case.
  • If you have not notice people have tried put Skype on their SDA but the cpu on the SDA is somewhat of a limiting factor. It works though.
  • This is a tiny step toward the inevitable. With the release of the iPhone, the world has become officially aware that our phones now are little computers without keyboards. From this point, it's only a few tiny steps away until the informed consumer is going to want the ability to treat the phone like a computer, including picking the operating system and any software that goes on it. At that point, having such a "mesh" won't be a news item -- it will be a fact of daily life.
  • A friend here at work said he signed up for this last night. He said the T-mobile person who was getting his details said he was the first person she had signed up for this. The main attraction for him is better reception throughout his house.
  • Will wiretapping be an item on the bill, or is it included?
  • It's a great idea, but why should you have to pay extra for it? You're saving T-Mobile precious air-time minutes, and paying for the privilege! If you make half your calls from home over your own WiFi broadband connection, you're really overpaying now.

    Catagorize this under Rip-Off.

    • by prockcore (543967)
      Except that the endpoint isn't a computer. So you have to go through T-Mobile regardless.. you go from wifi to t-mobile to POTS or Cell customer. That's why you pay for it.
  • ... wish it worked on more phones. Specifically, it would be nice if they could roll out a software update for the Windows Mobile-based phones (such as my T-Mobile MDA) to be able to use this feature. I'd be all over it then, but as it stands right now, I'd have to buy a new, less featureful phone to be able to use this service.
  • From TFA:

    T-Mobile's billing system isn't smart enough to notice handoffs between Wi-Fi and cellular networks. So each call is billed according to where it begins. You can start a call at home, get in your car, drive away and talk for free until the battery's dead.

    The opposite is also true, however; if you begin a call on T-Mobile's cell network and later enter a Wi-Fi hot spot, the call continues to eat up minutes.

    One thing I'd want to make certain of is that in the presence of both wifi and a cell net

  • by Thail (1124331) on Thursday July 05, 2007 @04:03PM (#19758151)
    Let me preface the rest by stating I work in T-Mobiles Operations and Engineering Department, and helped alpha test this device. =) When making a Wi-Fi call, the handset creates a GSM tunnel allowing it to maintain the same security used on any normal cellular call you make. So if you're still afraid of people tapping your calls, I recommend that you don't use a cell phone at all. No releasing it at the same time as the iphone doesn't seem like the best bet, however I'm not in marketing ;) One of the major advantages of this over a normal wi-fi phone, is that it will hand over between GSM and Wi-Fi and maintain the call. No other Wi-Fi call provider can offer that at this time (AFAIK). If you buy the phone but not the service, you can still use Wi-Fi but it will use your minutes as normal, the feature just give you unlimited Wi-Fi calls. Will it make calls for T-Mobile cheaper to process? Maybe if enough people start picking it up, but there was an investment in time and added hardware to the network that would need to be paid off first. But in the long run, yes t-mobile should save money as people route calls over IP, however, this savings is passed on to the customer in that they can make all the calls they want for $10 a month. (It's up to the customer to decide if they will use it enough to warrant that cost) Working for T-Mo I think this feature is great, but my opinion is of course biased.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Thail (1124331)
      ECH... once more with formating.

      Let me preface the rest by stating I work in T-Mobiles Operations and Engineering Department, and helped alpha test this device. =)

      When making a Wi-Fi call, the handset creates a GSM tunnel allowing it to maintain the same security used on any normal cellular call you make. So if you're still afraid of people tapping your calls, I recommend that you don't use a cell phone at all.

      No releasing it at the same time as the iphone doesn
  • Good grief, from the number of "this isn't a Mesh" posts, it seems like no one is aware that the word "mesh" has a plain-English meaning. That's the great thing about context. When you read the summary, and then TFA, and you don't see mesh, you should think "Oh, they meant mesh in the sense of joining".

    Just because a word has a technical meaning for branding purposes, the plain-English meaning isn't somehow superseded or obsolete.
    • by AndersOSU (873247)
      First, your explanation doesn't cover how this device is related to the iPhone.

      Second, so, does each phone act as a node or what?

      Third, this might be the most redundant slashdot discussion I've ever seen, and I'm feeling the need to snarkily contribute.
    • by prockcore (543967)
      Never underestimate a nerd's overwhelming desire to correct people and show off their knowledge of technical terminology.
  • Hmmm..

    1. Set up wireless AP at my house
    2. Wait for WiFI meshing phone to come into range
    3. Sniff packet traffic. listen in on calls, or interrupt them. Heck, try to emulate them.
    4. profit!

    Thank you T-Mobile. You've just given the Phone Losers of America several more years of phun.

    "Can you hear me now?"
    "ROY!"
  • When I was workin' there.

    The thing that strikes me, with this T-Mobile deal at least, is that you basically get to help them ease the traffic on their network by using your cable/dsl Internet connection. All while paying T-Mobile for the feature.

    How awesome of them.
  • It's important to note that the minutes are counted (or not) based solely on how the call originated, not on how it's transmitting now.

    You can use this to your advantage, of course, by starting a call within range of your WAP, then continuing it for your half hour commute in your car. Or you can be screwed by it if you take a "quick" call in your car, then get home in three minutes...and talk for another 45 via your wireless network.

    Not necessarily a deal-breaker, since it does work both ways - but certainl
  • My (French) ISP plan includes a SIP account that can be used from anywhere.
    It also sells a wi-fi/GSM phone for 199.
    Not bad for 30/month.
    And no, it is not limited to the device they sell, you can use anything you want with the SIP account.
  • Wifi from the cell phone is a nice option..

    But, I would prefer to have a standard cordless phone handset(s) option too. I would definitely get rid of my land line if I could replace it with a VoIP handset that integrated into my cell account.

    Multiple handsets might be tougher for their service.. People at home could be using VoIP all day, while I was using my handset on the road.
  • This has been available in Europe (France at least) for a while. Orange's "Unik" plan. But I think they only allow you use the WiFi at your place.

    Other DSL operators (Neuf, I think) have started rolling similar plans, but which allow to use any WiFi tied to the same data plan. i.e., if your friend is also a subscriber from the same service, you can use your cell phone at his place over his wifi for free. (I think)

  • There's already "T-Mobile Hotspot" commercials playing here in Clearwater Florida, they mention that all your calls at home are free, but they don't mention anything about calls anywhere near any wifi spot, it's still $10.

    I wonder if this will lead to being able to use "hacked" iPhones on T-Mobiles network.
  • I get most of my mobile calls when i'm at:

    a) Home - Poor cell reception
    b) Work - Good cell reception
    c) "out and about" - varies.

    If I can eliminate the poor reception in my house by having the cell phone use my own wifi connection, then all the better. I've considered in the past getting rid of my land line, but my cell reception isn't that great.
  • Free != $10/mo. I don't go over my minute allotment as it is already. So this is like giving them an extra $10/mo for nothing.
    • If you make so many calls near a WiFi hotspot that you can drop your plan to a bracket that is at least $10 cheaper, then it's essentially free.
  • Instead of all this silly "minutes" nonsense, with separate internet browsing plans, why can't we just have flat-rate connections, IP-based (IPv6 based?), that let the end user decide what to do with the bandwidth, whether voice, web-surfing, or downloading pr0n?
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Lord Bitman (95493)
      Phone companies don't want to charge less for bandwidth, consumers don't want to be confronted with the fact that they're currently paying 1 cent per byte for some things.
  • The New York Time article very-much outlines why AT&T might one day, hopefully sooner than later, embrace VoIP on the iPhone.

    Convergence of IP-powered and Cell-Tower telephony is coming, has been for some time now. The big question remains who will be first to market.

    Regardless, if Apple comes through on my prediction, remember where you read it first [blogspot.com].

  • by klaun (236494) on Thursday July 05, 2007 @04:59PM (#19758821)

    The article linked to from the summary seems to speculate a little beyond the official press release [t-mobile.com] from T-Mobile.

    Specifically T-Mobile says this will be available from your home Wi-Fi and from T-Mobile hotspots. It makes no mention of general availability from any WiFi location. The story author seems to speculate that this will be due to registration web pages and what-not. Based on my experience with UMA or DMS (Dual-Mode Service) technology and product offerings, I'm imagining the actual reason is E911. The company has to know an approximate location for your phone to supply to 911 dispatchers... Normal location base services (LBS) use antenna face and signal attenuation, or cell tower triangulation, or similar strategies. With WiFi, these don't work... so you need to know the location of the WAP. If it is a HotSpot... T-Mobile already knows and if it is your home WAP... You tell T-Mobile when you sign up for the service.

    Also, these types of services do not use SIP (or MGCP or H.323 for that matter), they use GSM tunneled over IP. That is how the meshing is accomplished. The registration event for the GSM-o-IP service is where the MAC address for the WAP being connected to is supplied to the service provider for use with LBS (such as E911).

  • Would this be good home line replacement? Both my mother-in-law and my wife make long, long calls all day. Assuming this works as advertised, for 10$ a month one could get unlimited national calling and get rid of the expensive land line. Am I missing something here?
  • I recently purchased an iPhone, only to find that AT&T's coverage sucks where I live (their map claims it's 'good').

    If this were available, I would be able to keep the iPhone as my primary phone rather than having to switch back to my old T-Mobile service and return the phone.

  • by cameronk (187272) on Thursday July 05, 2007 @07:24PM (#19760699) Homepage
    I use this Hotspot@Home service and find it fantastic! T-mobile already offers the best customer service, now I have a cell tower in my bedroom...and free wifi roaming while overseas.

    The Good
    -WiFi call quality better than GSM
    -WiFi-GSM hand-offs work well
    -No minutes charged for calls started on WiFi and finished on GSM
    The Bad
    -Will not work with hotspots that require a web log-in (aside from T-mobile USA Hotspots)
    -The bundled router does not support Mac OS X (to register you need to run a Windows-only application from a CD)
    The Ugly
    -The service currently works with only 2 very basic phones that even lack a web browser...even though high end devices like the Dash have wifi chipsets
  • by Renaud (6194) on Friday July 06, 2007 @12:33AM (#19763467) Homepage
    The underlying technology is most likely UMA : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unlicensed_Mobile_Acc ess/ [wikipedia.org]
    We've had offers based on this in Europe for over a year.

    Very roughly speaking, this works by encapsulating GSM over IP+Wi-Fi. This is why handover between the GSM cell network and the Wi-Fi connection is possible at all : AFAIK, the phone still uses all the higher layers of GSM and the operator's usual servers on their GSM network. Your Wi-Fi access point is just another cell tower.

    I personally see this technology as the "evil telecom world's" preferred way to add VoIP on a GSM phone (as opposed to the Internet world's plain old good SIP).

    I'd much rather use a real GSM + SIP/Wi-Fi phone like my Nokia E65.

    VoIP and GSM calls are perfectly integrated together, and using the SIP account associated with my landline (this is with the "Free" ISP in France), I can call and answer my home calls anywhere in the world exactly as if I were sitting in my sofa, and at the same rates, i.e. free for national calls and to around 30 countries

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