T-Mobile Takes On Vonage

New T-Mobile@Home plan adds unlimited U.S. calling to mobile accounts for $10/month.

By Ted Stevenson | Posted Jun 25, 2008
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T-Mobile's been working up to this slowly for a long time, but as of July 2, T-Mobile customers with mobile phone plans priced $39.95 per month or more will have the option of adding unlimited nationwide "home phone" service for an additional $10.

The Bellevue, Wash.-based Deutsche Telekom subsidiary got into the IP-based communications business obliquely when it pioneered Wi-Fi hotspots roughly five years ago. When dual-mode phones became available, the company began offering hotspot-based voice over wireless LAN (VoWLAN or VoFi) service, and subsequently made their economical Wi-Fi -based VoIP service available at home, using a T-Mobile-branded wireless broadband router.

The new T-Mobile@Home plan does away with the need for dual-mode mobile handsets, adapting any standard touch-tone phone to VoIP by adding an ATA (analog telephone adaptor) port to its @Home HiPort Wireless Router. (The @Home HiPort With Home Phone Connection will set purchasers back about $50, with a two-year service agreement.)

In addition to anywhere-in-the-U.S. dialing, @Home provides some mobile phone-ish features—call waiting, caller ID, three-way conferencing, voicemail, call forwarding, etc.—and T-Mobile will port existing home phone numbers to the new service.

The @Home program, which piloted in Seattle and Dallas, was enthusiastically received, and, according to an internal T-Mobile study, prompted most test customers (about 97 percent) to ditch their landline service.

The big motivator? Cost savings.

"For years, the traditional landline companies have been great at consistently delivering one thing to their customers—a high monthly bill," said Robert Dotson, president and CEO, T-Mobile USA. Indeed the company cites a 2007 Scarborough Research finding that average monthly bills for home phone service came to about $65.

By contrast, $10 per month and no need to change phones—or phone number—seems to be a compelling offer.

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