October 24, 2006

T-Mobile rolls out UMA in Seattle

T-Mobile quietly rolled out its planned combination of Wi-Fi and cellular phone service, called Unlicensed Mobile Access (UMA). As expected, the service has initially rolled out in the Seattle market, with eventual plans to roll out the service across the country.

Called HotSpot@Home, the service would cost $19.99 USD per month, and requires the purchase of a router that would be free after rebate. The customer would need to sign up for a $39.99 USD per month or higher rate plan in order to qualify.

When either of two phones are in range of the router, which retail for $49.99 USD with a two-year contract, they would use the broadband connection and VOIP over T-Mobile's GSM network. The phones would also work at any T-Mobile owned Wi-Fi hotspot.

The service would also potentially help T-Mobile deal with what has historically been a problem for it: limited spectrum. However, any benefit -- at least early on -- would be minimal. Coverage in houses and buildings would potentially improve, traditionally a problem with GSM.

Analysts say that T-Mobile's UMA service is likely to appeal mostly to younger consumers, the majority of which do not own a landline phone, yet have broadband and wireless accounts.

Those interested in the service can learn more about the offering and register at theonlyphoneyouneed.com, even if they are not located in the Seattle area. The company would alert registrants when the UMA service is available in their area.