T-Mobile to Work With Wi-Fi for Indoor Coverage

T-Mobile says it will boost indoor coverage with Wi-Fi and has no plans for femtocells at this time

Michelle Donegan, Contributing Editor, Light Reading

February 1, 2011

2 Min Read
T-Mobile to Work With Wi-Fi for Indoor Coverage

While speculation circulates that T-Mobile US Inc. will use 3G femtocells this year, the operator says that it is committed to Wi-Fi for its indoor coverage strategy, it is piloting a 3G repeater and it has no plans to offer 3G femtos.

Light Reading Mobile reported recently that T-Mobile plans to offer 3G femtocells this year. (See T-Mobile to Join 3G Femto Fray .)

According to several industry sources, those plans involve using femtos to boost coverage in retail shops rather than offering a device for consumers to use in their homes. The sources also say that the devices will be provided by ip.access Ltd. , which already supplies GSM picocells to T-Mobile in the U.S.

But T-Mobile says our story is off the mark and that it has no such plans for femtocells.

"We are focused on driving robust in-home coverage this year to provide voice quality and rich broadband experiences," writes a T-Mobile spokesman in an e-mailed reply to LR Mobile. "We will accomplish this goal by applying Wi-Fi coverage to bolster in-home coverage and broadband. T-Mobile does not plan to use femtocells for either consumer or retail applications at this time."

Josh Lonn, T-Mobile’s director of product management, told Light Reading Mobile that the operator is always open to new customer premises equipment (CPE). He said that T-Mobile is running a small pilot with a 3G repeater product, but the operator doesn't have "any plans to launch."

In fact, Lonn said that Wi-Fi calling is "the only in-building solution we intend to market." T-Mobile's Wi-Fi calling is based on unlicensed mobile access (UMA) -- or, generic access network (GAN) -- technology. Voice calls can be initiated on a mobile phone, which has a UMA client installed, and are routed over T-Mobile's core network. The technology doesn’t allow handover between 3G and UMA.

So why has T-Mobile backed Wi-Fi and not femtocells for indoor coverage? "We took a hard look," said Lonn. "We've got this great [UMA] infrastructure. And femto requires a lot of backend work. We've got the UMA system. ... Let's leverage that."

T-Mobile has more than 5 million enabled Wi-Fi calling handsets and it says it hosts 40 million Wi-Fi calls per month. (See T-Mobile Brings WiFi Calls to Android and Kineto Does Smart WiFi on Android 2.2.)

— Michelle Donegan, European Editor, Light Reading Mobile

About the Author(s)

Michelle Donegan

Contributing Editor, Light Reading

Michelle Donegan is an independent technology writer who has covered the communications industry on both sides of the Pond for the past twenty years.

Her career began in Chicago in 1993 when Telephony magazine launched an international title, aptly named Global Telephony. Since then, she has upped sticks (as they say) to the UK and has written for various publications, including Communications Week International, Total Telecom, Light Reading, Telecom Titans and more.

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