September 17, 2014
Last week, T-Mobile announced that it would begin providing subscribers with free in-home WiFi antennas, along with phones that can make calls and send texts over WiFi (an offering also known as VoWiFi — Voice-over-WiFi).
Released as part of its “UnCarrier” strategy and called a “game-changer” by some, T-Mobile’s new tactic seems to be an effort to make up for its notoriously spotty cellular network performance. This poor network quality has remained a huge drawback, regardless of T-Mobile’s recent improvements and advances (see T-Mobile Gains Customers, Advances on Competition and T-Mobile Boldly Paves the Way to an Uncertain Future).
Despite this growth, T-Mobile has remained stuck behind wireless leaders AT&T and Verizon largely based on call quality, reliability, data performance and speed.
This discrepancy is especially true when it comes to T-Mobile’s services indoors (that is, the struggle against dropped calls and poor signal quality from inside buildings or homes). The carrier has attributed the issue to its airwaves, which largely lack the strength and correct frequency to effectively penetrate through walls and buildings.*
Now T-Mobile will improve its indoor coverage and the overall quality of its network – not by building new cell towers or working out any new licensing deals, but instead with some interesting WiFi offerings.
For a $25 deposit, T-Mobile will install in-home WiFi antennas for its subscribers. The device, called the T-Mobile Personal CellSpot, is designed to prioritize voice calls over other WiFi traffic.*
The offered WiFi equipment will include a 4G LTE Signal Booster and a WiFi CellSpot Router. According to T-Mobile’s website, these tools will allow subscribers to “make more dependable calls, send/receive texts and connect to the web at no additional cost.”†
In addition, all new T-Mobile smartphones will be able to call and text over WiFi – and the carrier will allow customers to upgrade immediately through T-Mobile’s JUMP program.
In addition to helping improve the user experience for T-Mobile customers, this offering could also become a new option for all wireless carriers looking to augment their network performance.
According to a recent poll (commissioned by T-Mobile), 57 percent of all U.S. wireless users have experienced dropped calls in or around their homes, regardless of their carrier.*
On one hand, AT&T and Verizon have recently tried many tactics to combat this statistic (such as offloading data onto WiFi networks to relieve the stress on cellular networks), eventually settling on service plans that charge for more cellular data usage.
On the other hand, T-Mobile’s actions could set a new standard in carrier call quality and networks. If the campaign is successful, the “UnCarrier” will have pulled off a drastic leap in network coverage – all for a relatively small investment (and at no additional cost to its subscribers).
That, truly, would be a game-changer.
* Gryta, Thomas. T-Mobile Rolls Out Wi-Fi Offerings That Can Plug Network Gaps, The Wall Street Journal. Dow Jones & Company, Inc.
† T-Mobile: Personal CellSpot, T-Mobile USA, Inc.