Tuesday, July 10, 2007

T-Mobile USA turns a bug into a feature

T-Mobile is the smallest nationwide US carrier, has the fewest cellsites, and the weakest coverage. Problem, right? Well, in general, yes--but with its new product, HotSpot@Home (link), T-Mobile is turning this weakness into a strength.

HotSpot@Home relies on hybrid cellular-WiFi handsets and an elegantly-designed handoff process to allow phones to hop seamlessly from wireless LANs to T-Mobile's GSM network, and back. All for $10 per month on top of your cellular plan. (New York Times personal technology columnist David Pogue raved about the service in last Thursday's paper.)

So, lousy cell coverage in your house? Don't worry, use your home WiFi network to make your calls, without burning up cellular minutes. You can also connect at T-Mobile's 8000+ hotspots (in places like Starbucks) or, with some limitations, other public hotspots.

Are any of the other network operators going to imitate HotSpot@Home? Not likely. They're terrified of WiFi calls siphoning off minutes that they currently bill for.

Turning a bug into a feature, changing the ground rules for competition. No matter what you call it, it's innovation at its best.

It's so cool, I'm almost ready to give it a try.

Voice-to-Screen messaging - powered by SpinVox

(Photo: the Nokia 6806 with WiFi and mobile calling)