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T-Mobile Launches Home-Based Wi-Fi Calling Service

The UMA-based service is aimed at consumers who have dropped or are thinking of dropping their home landlines.

T-Mobile began its home-based Wi-Fi service Wednesday and said T-Mobile HotSpot @Home will cost subscribers an additional $19.99 a month. The service seamlessly switches subscribers back and forth between cell phone calls and calls made over Wi-Fi.

T-Mobile is also offering two HotSpot phones tailored to the new Wi-Fi service. The Nokia 6086 and the Samsung t409 are each available for about $50 with a two-year contract and a T-Mobile plan.

T-Mobile indicated it's targeting consumers who have dropped or are thinking of dropping their home landlines. "More people than ever are looking to drop their home landline phone and pocket the savings," said Robert Dotson, president and CEO of T-Mobile USA, in a statement. "However, they don't want to use all their wireless minutes talking from home. Our new service solves this dilemma."

No surprise, though, that T-Mobile HotSpot @Home begins two days before AT&T launches its service for the Apple iPhone, which also features Wi-Fi. T-Mobile and AT&T (formerly Cingular) use the Edge data network, which is slower than the CDMA EV-DO network used by competitors Verizon Wireless, Sprint, and Alltel. Wi-Fi, where it's available, enables T-Mobile and AT&T to offer high-speed data connections for their Edge subscribers.

T-Mobile's use of Wi-Fi follows an investment last month by its Deutsche Telekom parent in startup company Jajah, a VoIP calling service that involves a consumer calling a destination phone number and waiting for the destination number to return the call -- all at greatly reduced prices.

T-Mobile's HotSpot @Home looks and feels like VoIP, but it isn't. It's based on Unlicensed Mobile Access technology. UMA is supported by cell phone manufacturers and competes with VoIP technology.

For its HotSpot @Home service, T-Mobile has partnered with router manufacturers D-Link and Linksys to provide Wi-Fi routers for use with existing broadband connections. T-Mobile said the routers are free, although a mail-in rebate is required.

T-Mobile is offering the HotSpot @Home service for $9.99 a month for a limited period. The company, which is the fourth-largest U.S. mobile phone service provider, also offers paid Wi-Fi service at 8,500 U.S. outlets, including Starbucks.

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