T-Mobile, the US wireless carrier that bills itself as the "uncarrier," has introduced another innovative feature that undercuts rivals and makes its service more valuable to customers. As part of an initiative dubbed "Wi-Fi Unleashed," T-Mobile customers who purchase a new phone will be able to make phone calls and send text messages over Wi-Fi as well as the firm's cellular network.
Apple announced that Wi-Fi calling would be part of its upcoming iPhone 6 handsets and presented it as something new, but Wi-Fi calling has been around for years and is getting increasingly popular as users become accustomed to, and expect, pervasive connectivity. This technology, combined with things like Voice over IP (VoIP) and Voice over LTE (VoLTE) will likely transform communication techniques like phone calling in the years ahead.
"Wi-Fi Un-leashed is a game changer," T-Mobile president and CEO John Legere said in a prepared statement. "This is like adding millions of towers to our network in a single day. We'll do everything we can to solve your problems, and today, that’s about uniting Wi-Fi with our data strong network for unprecedented coverage."
As its name suggests, Wi-Fi calling allows users to make phone calls over a Wi-Fi network rather than a traditional cellular network, and do so with the handset's normal phone app and not a different app. But it also offers high-quality HD voice capabilities and results in fewer dropped calls, while seamlessly transitioning between the network's VoLTE network and Wi-Fi on compatible devices. And this functionality is free for calls made to the United States, including from outside the country.
In addition to free Wi-Fi calling, T-Mobile is also providing its customers with free personal base stations, which they can place in their home or workplace as a sort of mini-cell tower, improving reception. The firm says this device provides "full bars" of connectivity, and should result in fewer dropped calls.
And T-Mobile is enabling free unlimited text messaging—including multimedia MMS messaging—in the air through a partnership with the Gogo in-flight connectivity service, which is available on over 75 percent of domestic flights. As long as they stick to messaging and not phone calls, we're good.
Thanks to its other recent initiatives, T-Mobile has been making steady gains this year against bigger competitors such as AT&T Wireless, Verizon and Sprint. The company added a record 2.75 million new customers in August, Mr. Legere said Wednesday, compared to just 1.5 million new customers in the entire second quarter. He credited T-Mobile's payment of early termination fees for users who abandon their existing carrier to move to T-Mobile, and various other facets of the Uncarrier strategy, including its no-contract plans, free international texting and data, early upgrade programs, and lower prices.