From Wi-Fi to Cellular—and Back Again

Review: T-Mobile's HotSpot @Home system offers seamless switching but is suitable only for smaller companies.

A new phone system may herald a more seamless wireless communications experience for users, although the technology has a way to go before its enterprise-ready.

T-Mobile USAs new converged cellular/Wi-Fi phone system, called T-Mobile HotSpot @Home, enables subscribers toting one of the services two supported phones to place calls over regular cellular networks and then roam to thriftier Wi-Fi hot spots as they become available.

Unlike previous handsets that support both Wi-Fi and cellular communications, this is the first that moves seamlessly between the two modes and the first in the United States to do so with carrier support.

/zimages/3/28571.gifRead more here about T-Mobiles converged cellular and Wi-Fi service.

While this version, announced June 27, isnt intended for enterprise use, it will work in an enterprise environment. In fact, based on eWEEK Labs tests, the new phones work well enough with existing Wi-Fi networks that theres no reason an enterprise user couldnt walk in off the street, have the phone switch seamlessly and use the phone at work.

We conducted initial tests of the service in our Washington lab network and found that the system functioned perfectly. The fact that the lab network included a firewall and NAT (Network Address Translation) did not adversely affect operations, nor did it require any specialized setup. We tested the service with an existing Wi-Fi network backed by a Linksys 802.11g router.

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However, according to officials at T-Mobile, of Bellevue, Wash., the specialized D-Link and Linksys routers the carrier is offering for HotSpot @Home will provide priority for voice calls, conserve battery life on the Samsung t409 and Nokia 6086 handsets that support the service, and let T-Mobile engineers access the access points remotely to help solve problems.

Currently, T-Mobile is offering the unlimited Wi-Fi voice plan for $10 per month for a single line and $20 per month for as many as five lines. The company is offering unlimited Wi-Fi use as part of the package.

Phones for the T-Mobile converged offering cost $50 each with a two-year contract. The specialized routers are offered for free with a mail-in rebate. The cost of the unlimited voice plans is expected to rise, but T-Mobile has not said how long the introductory pricing will last.

Next Page: Enterprise appeal.

Wayne Rash

Wayne Rash

Wayne Rash is a freelance writer and editor with a 35 year history covering technology. He’s a frequent speaker on business, technology issues and enterprise computing. He covers Washington and...