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T-Mobile First U.S. Carrier to Launch Dual-Mode Phone Service

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T-Mobile has become the first mobile operator in the U.S. to deliver a dual-mode service that allows users to make cellular and Wi-Fi calls from the same handset.

Since T-Mobile HotSpot @Home is based on Unlicensed Mobile Access (UMA) technology, it can seamlessly switches calls between a Wi-Fi and cellular connection; depending on which is available and most cost effective at a particular moment. So a user can be on a cellular-call, using the minutes from their mobile plan, but when they walk into their home or in range of a T-Mobile hotspot, the call is automatically moved over to Wi-Fi; saving those minutes, without interruption.

T-Mobile HotSpot @Home is available now in the Seattle on a trial basis. The carrier has a page on the HotSpot @Home Web site where you can sign up to be notified when the service launches in your area.

A T-Mobile HotSpot @Home costs $20 more a month on top of your regular cell phone plan. It delivers unlimited voice over Wi-Fi calls from T-Mobile's 7,000 hotspots and your home—through a Wi-Fi access point connected to your broadband Internet service. T-Mobile offers a router for $50 that is free after a mail-in rebate. The service will work with any router, so it is not necessary buy T-Mobile's if you already own one.

The two dual-mode handsets T-Mobile is launching the service with are the Nokia 6136 and Samsung T709, both $50 with a two-year contract and a voice plan of $39.99 per month or more.

Unlike most voice over IP (VoIP) services, T-Mobile HotSpot @Home has the advantage of supporting a single phone number for both cellular and Wi-Fi phone calls. It also promises to deliver better phone service to areas where cell phones do not work well or at all.

T-Mobile HotSpot @Home should also prove very attractive to those who prefer to do without a landline phone.

The nation's number four carrier is still far behind operator competitors Cingular, Verizon, and Sprint when comes to the delivery of third-generation cellular data services to the U.S market—in spite of its recently announced plans to roll out UMTS/HSDPA technology on the 1700 and 2100 MHz bands through 2008, starting in the middle of 2007. By leveraging its heavy hotspot investment - by far the largest of any mobile operator - with dual-mode, T-Mobile may have a chance to make up for its current lack of of 3G.

Rumor has it Chicago and San Francisco are possible early candidates after Seattle for T-Mobile HotSpot @Home.

The Samsung SGH-T709 slider - in addition to integrating Wi-Fi - is a tri-band (850/1800/1900) GSM/GPRS/EDGE handset that includes a 1.3 megapixel camera, speech recognition, video recorder, MP3 player, speakerphone, and a slider design. There's no expansion slot, however. It measures 3.7 x 1.7 x 0.9 inches, weighs 3.3 ounces, and has about 69 MB of usable memory.

The 6136 clamshell includes a 1.3 megapixel camera, a microSD memory card slot, and a stereo FM radio with Visual Radio support. Its screen handles 262,000 colors. The phone specs out to get about 5 hours of talk as a cell phone and 5.5 hours in Wi-Fi mode. Standby in Wi-Fi is only 82 hours, while it’s 280 hours for cellular.

Story courtesy of PDAstreet.