T-Mobile Launches UMA in USA

T-Mobile US Inc. 's gloves are off, and it's out for fixed-line operators' business with today's launch of its long awaited UMA-based service. Unlike UMA (unlicensed mobile access) services in Europe, T-Mobile's HotSpot @Home is a pure fixed/mobile substitution (FMS) play and works over any broadband connection. (See T-Mobile Intros UMA Services and T-Mobile: UMA 'Round the Corner?) T-Mobile is offering unlimited domestic calls over WiFi routers in the home as well as at any of its 8,500 WiFi hotspots in the U.S, for an extra $10 per month for one line and $20 per month for up to five lines. Customers will need a WiFi router from D-Link Systems Inc. or Linksys , which is free after a mail-in rebate. (See BT Adds WiFi Devices, BT Touts Fusion WiFi, and BT Adds WiFi to Fusion.)

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

rmason25 12/5/2012 | 3:06:04 PM
re: T-Mobile Launches UMA in USA Of course, they are not positioning it as a landline replacement.

zwixard 12/5/2012 | 3:05:57 PM
re: T-Mobile Launches UMA in USA I was with Alcatel UMA Network Controller dev team. Both Femco Cell and UMA need a network controller in carrier's office and an access point at home. UMA requires new cell phones while Femco requires access point using cell radio (GSM/CDMA) which is subsidized by carriers anyway. Other than monthly fees, Femco reqires no additional cost to consumers.
dawood1981 12/5/2012 | 3:05:54 PM
re: T-Mobile Launches UMA in USA I have been a lightreading reader for a while now but am very disappointed in the comment that Alcatel-Lucent may have sourced the UMA Network gear from Kineto Wireless. This is absolutely incorrect, Kineto Wireless sources its gear to Motorola and Nokia which is why they dont have any network deployments. On the other hand, the UMA Network gear in T-Mobile network is 100% by Alcatel-Lucent (former Spatial team) and the team has done an incredible job to beat Kineto and make sure they are limited to just providing the software on the handsets. I hope the author of this article removes this article from here as it is pretty damaging and is not a rumor but rather a lie.
lrmobile_postar 12/5/2012 | 3:05:54 PM
re: T-Mobile Launches UMA in USA Great news and also a significant step towards convergence.

I would like to clarify the confusion about the FMC/FMS nomenclature.

It is perceived by the industry that when you walk into your home and your active cell call is handed over to a "pico-cell" (ultra small home Base Station) then this is FMS.
If your call is handed over to another wireless access technology (WiFi, Bluetooth) then this is FMC
joset01 12/5/2012 | 3:05:54 PM
re: T-Mobile Launches UMA in USA Okay, I have toned down the statement for the moment. We will double-check into exactly which vendor is providing what. If you have further info feel free to email me on [email protected]


Dan Jones
IPobserver 12/5/2012 | 3:05:52 PM
re: T-Mobile Launches UMA in USA It's cool to see mobile operators trying different stuff.

I always thought fixed-to-mobile substitution referred to the capture of fixed-line minutes by mobile operators.

i.e. in situations where you would have used a fixed-line phone, you substitute this for a mobile.

Cancelling your fixed-line phone connection and going mobile only would be the ultimate FMS.

It gets confusing with all this convergence around.
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