T-Mobile Improving 4G LTE Coverage in Businesses, Homes

With its new 4G LTE CellSpot devices, Simple Choice phone plan customers will get more powerful network signals for their mobile devices.

T-Mobile Improving 4G LTE Coverage

T-Mobile is now offering 4G LTE CellSpot devices to its Simple Choice phone plan customers to improve the indoor 4G LTE signals they receive for their cellular devices, building on its earlier Un-Carrier 7.0 efforts to improve indoor coverage using WiFi.

The 4G LTE CellSpot is a 4G mini-tower that promises up to 3,000 square feet of LTE coverage inside homes, businesses or other locations when signals from traditional cell towers are difficult to receive, the company said in a Nov. 2 announcement. "Think of it as your own 4G LTE mini-tower—with low power settings for indoor use," the company said.

The technology builds on T-Mobile's Un-carrier 7.0 announcement back in September 2014, when it unveiled its WiFi CellSpot router devices for customers so they could use their home or business WiFi networks to make WiFi calls using their T-Mobile accounts.

The 4G LTE CellSpot devices—which essentially are small cells—use the LTE network directly and don't provide WiFi services to users like the WiFi CellSpot devices do. The latest devices, which are 3G, 4G and VoLTE-capable, provide all of the usual 4G LTE services, including voice over LTE (VoLTE), HD voices, advanced messaging, video calling and more, according to T-Mobile. T-Mobile customers can connect to the devices automatically just like any other cell tower, with no passwords or log-ins required.

The new devices are available to Simple Choice postpaid customers for free as long as they are T-Mobile customers. The CellSpots will be available starting Nov. 4 with the payment of a refundable $25 deposit at T-Mobile stores or through the company's Customer Care center.

"Where the T-Mobile WiFi CellSpot's like a T-Mobile tower, this new 4G LTE CellSpot is a T-Mobile mini-tower—and it's a huge feat of engineering," John Legere, the president and CEO of T-Mobile, said in a statement. "The big difference between us and the [other major] carriers is that they'll do absolutely everything they can to bleed you dry. We'll do absolutely everything we can and use every proven technology available to give you the best coverage possible."

T-Mobile says that about 1 million WiFi CellSpot Routers are in use by customers since they were introduced last year, and they are used to make more than 11 million calls each day using WiFi.

The physical hardware for the T-Mobile 4G LTE CellSpot is 8.5 inches wide, 8.5 inches tall and 1.3 inches thick and can be placed in any location for coverage. The device is installed by connecting it to an Internet broadband service and plugging it into a wall socket. It supports up to 16 calls at one time and works with any 3G, 4G or LTE device compatible with T-Mobile's network, including devices that aren't capable of WiFi calling, according to the company.

The earlier WiFi CellSpot router program will continue to be offered as well, providing separate WiFi calling services. The latest unit is a small cell that delivers its own wireless signal and does not interfere with customers' WiFi signals.

In September 2014, T-Mobile launched its free WiFi calling services as a way to allow customers to extend their mobile range and call quality by letting them take advantage of WiFi hotspots and technologies, according to an earlier eWEEK story. Through that program, T-Mobile has been providing free routers made by Asus to customers so they can help solve dead-spot cellular problems that many users experience.

The updated Un-carrier 7.0 services were unveiled by T-Mobile just before its upcoming and still secretive Un-carrier X announcement, which is slated for Nov. 10 in Los Angeles. Rumors circulating about Un-carrier X speculate that it will involve free, unlimited video streaming capabilities for customers, similar to what the carrier already began offering following its Music Freedom Un-carrier 6 event in June 2014, according to an eWEEK report.

T-Mobile likes to call itself the Un-carrier because it says it does the things that traditional carriers won't try. In the last few years, T-Mobile's Un-carrier events have ended mobile contracts for consumers, removed overage charges and brought more innovations for customers.

In May 2015, T-Mobile unveiled its Un-carrier 9 benefits, which were new mobile services targeted directly at small and midsize businesses to bring them into T-Mobile's ecosystem. Under its Un-carrier for Business, or Un-Carrier 9.0, offering, the company began selling mobile services for $16 per line per month for up to 19 lines of service, with each one including 1GB of high-speed data. Pricing for 20 to 999 lines is $15 per line per month, including 1GB of high-speed data per line, while pricing for 1,000 lines or more is $10 per line per month.

In June 2014, T-Mobile introduced its Un-carrier 6 Music Freedom offering, which allowed customers on its Simple Choice plans to listen to streaming music from Pandora, Rhapsody, iHeartRadio, iTunes Radio, Slacker and Spotify without using their monthly high-speed data allowances. Previously, such streaming would count against a user's data plan usage.