Review: T-Mobile Unlimited Hotspot Calling
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If you make most of your calls from home, or from an office with an open Wi-Fi connection, T-Mobile has introduced a service that will save you hundreds of minutes per month, and for not a lot of extra money.
The trick is that it turns your over-air cellular calls into over-the-'Net VoIP calls. If that sounds risky, know that it performed beautifully in our testing.
If you've already heard of this service, you probably know it as T-Mobile Hotspot@Home, the name it was given when it was first introduced. Recently, however, T-Mobile introduced a related service called T-Mobile@Home, which lets T-Mobile subscribers make landline calls over the Internet for a flat $9.99 per month.
Since the names were similar, T-Mobile changed Hotspot@Home to "T-Mobile Unlimited Hotspot Calling," which isn't nearly as catchy.
To use Unlimited Hotspot Calling, existing T-Mobile cellular customers will need to purchase a compatible phone and then sign up for the service, which costs $9.99 per month. Subscribers will also need a router.
T-Mobile sells two optimized wireless routers, one from Linksys and one from D-Link. Both sell for $29.99 (less with two-year commitment) and make your VoIP calls smoother thanks to integrated data prioritizing instructions. What T-Mobile would prefer you not know, however, is that the Internet calling works over any connected wireless router. We actually did most of our testing over an existing 802.11g router and call quality was fine. Occasionally calls had that underwater-like sound, but it was brief and rare. Quality was better and consistent with the T-Mobile router, though.
If you already have a router you're happy with, perhaps one with an extended range that covers a large home, don't worry--you don't need to replace your router with the T-Mobile offering. A T-Mobile router can be joined to your existing router; just run the included setup software.
We tested Unlimited Hotspot Calling with two supported phones, the Nokia 6086 (a basic budget model) and the BlackBerry Pearl 8120. Since introducing the service, T-Mobile has rapidly increased the number of Wi-Fi-enabled phones it offers. The Web site now offers more than half a dozen models, many of which are BlackBerries.
Not only will the supported phones shuttle calls over your home or work network, they'll also instantly latch onto any free networks while you're out and about. Starbucks cafes, for instance, with T-Mobile Hotspots (which are, unfortunately, slowly being phased out in favor of AT&T service) offer Internet calling. Amazingly, the phones can juggle the hand-off from cellular service to Internet service without a hiccup. T-Mobile customers can use the BlackBerry Pearl 8120 with the Unlimited Hotspot Calling service.
In testing, we walked into and out of our home network area while making calls and never noticed any type of audio delay.
The Unlimited Hotspot Calling service allows for free calling within the U.S. only. For home-based workers who are T-Mobile subscribers, it seems like a tremendous deal. If you're already paying for a higher-priced monthly plan, getting Unlimited Hotspot Calling will probably allow you to switch to a lower priced plan, making up the cost of the $9.99 monthly fee.
For more on Unlimited Hotspot Calling, see this page from the T-Mobile site.
Article adapted from BlackBerry Today.