Nasty phone chat lines
Suddenly Bill Nye's disembodied head is floating across your screen, with 1s and 0s streaming in and out of his ears. Instead your carrier confronts some laws of physics and gets those 1s and 0s from the little brick in your hand to a cellular tower that's miles away, which then sends the call over a mess of wires, pipes, and lines that dates back to Alexander Graham Bell himself.
"Did you know," shouts Bill Nye (I don't know why he's shouting, but he is), "that when you make a cellular phone call your voice is transmitted as digital data, just like how a CD or DVD stores information? It's all very impressive, but who are they trying to impress?
After Hot Spot @ Home launched in 2007 to little fanfare, as a monthly landline-killer, two things happened to vindicate T-Mobile's strategy: T-Mobile remains the lone major proponent of Wi-Fi calling in the US, despite the fact that UMA is an open standard (which AT&T, as the other GSM carrier in the US, could easily implement), and the fact that there was a CDMA version of UMA in the works as far back as 2005.
As odd as these Wi-Fi-avoidance contortions might sound right now in the early days of 2012, they're going to get really silly as Verizon and AT&T implement "Vo LTE" (Voice over LTE, pronounced "voltie") later this year — in fact, Verizon allegedly has a couple trial Vo LTE markets up and running.It was a reasonable idea, after all: by providing a reliable service inside the home, a cellphone could replace the stalwart landline, whose only technological advantage in 2007 was reliability and voice quality.Built on the little-used UMA standard, the service shipped on a couple of specially Wi-Fi-equipped mid-range featurephones and was promptly forgotten."It means admitting that your network isn't perfect, admitting that there are places, a lot of places, where people have stronger Wi-Fi signal than they'll have cellular signal." See, the cellphone networks didn't ever beat out landlines for in-home reliability — a huge concern at the beginning of this century — it's just that people decided a cellphone was "good enough" at some point, and so maybe they didn't bother to install a landline when they moved to a new house, or didn't renew that nasty long distance plan when they were making up their family budget for 2008.It doesn't hurt that a typical cellphone plan today includes of data charges that weren't common in 2007. I spoke to Josh Lonn, T-Mobile's director of product marketing, at length about Wi-Fi calling, and while he was very forthcoming and bullish about the service, he went to almost comical lengths to make sure he didn't slip up and in any way imply that the existence of Wi-Fi calling means there are holes in T-Mobile's "all around great 4G experience." While I kept on trying to slip the word "augment" into my questions, Josh and his team kept firing back with the word "complement." But even Josh, like his best-value nationwide 4G network, makes mistakes sometimes.
Many people I've spoken to were unaware that T-Mobile offered the service until they actually started using their device — and now find they can't live without it.