T-Mobile Launches UMA in USA
T-Mobile offers two dualmode WiFi/GSM phones for this service: Samsung's t409 and Nokia's 6086, which each retail for $49.99. For the UMA network equipment, a T-Mobile spokeswoman says that it uses equipment from Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU).
"T-Mobile is positioning this towards the youth and family demographic," says William Ho, senior analyst at Current Analysis. "So this complements its myFaves plan approach."
Steve Shaw, associate VP of marketing at Kineto Wireless Inc. , which provides phone software for the service, says that the cost of the service shows that T-Mobile wants to take on more than than traditional fixed-line operators. "They're going after the VOIP guys as well," he says, noting that Vonage Holdings Corp. (NYSE: VG) charges $29.99 a month for its service.
Ho adds that T-Mobile's billing approach is interesting, noting that T-Mobile will bill for calls based on the network from which the call originates. So, if a domestic call originates on WiFi, the call is still charged at the flat [email protected] rate even if the user roams out onto the GSM network. And if a call starts on GSM and the user roams onto WiFi, then minutes are deducted from the customer's cellular calling plan as if it were a normal cellular call.
T-Mobile unabashedly explains its intention to replace fixed lines with this service. President and CEO Robert Dotson states in a press release, "More people than ever are looking to drop their home landline phone and pocket the savings."
The operator joins the ranks of BT Group plc (NYSE: BT; London: BTA), Orange France , Telecom Italia (TIM) , and Telia Company , which offer UMA services in Europe. (See Orange Doubles FMC Customers, FT vs BT on FMC, Gateway Key to BT's Fusion Flop, and TeliaSonera Picks Moto.)
But T-Mobile's service in the U.S. is unique, because it is not tied to a specific broadband provider or bundled with a broadband service. To use BT's Fusion, for example, consumers must have a BT broadband subscription and BT's home gateway. Orange Unik customers need an Orange broadband subscription and the operator's Livebox home gateway.
"European service providers have been thinking about [offering the service over other broadband networks] but just haven't done it yet," says Emma Mohr-McClune, principal analyst at Current Analysis.
BT and Orange position their UMA services as fixed/mobile convergence plays. It's a value-added service to their broadband packages. But, with this approach, BT admits that it has struggled with marketing Fusion so potential users understand the value of the service. (See BT's Flat Fusion .)
For now, T-Mobile will offer UMA services only in the U.S. A T-Mobile International AG spokesman says that at the moment there are no plans to bring UMA services to Europe.
T-Mobile's parent, Deutsche Telekom AG (NYSE: DT), badly executed its T-One FMC service, based on session initiation protocol (SIP) over WiFi, in Germany earlier this year and cancelled it. But comparing T-One to T-Mobile's HotSpot @Home service is unfair for many reasons, mostly because the services use different technologies. There is no reason to think that T-Mobile's service will suffer a fate similar to T-One's. (See Deutsche Telekom Cancels FMC Service.)
— Michelle Donegan, European Editor, Unstrung