I do a lot of international traveling and I’ve been seriously thinking of switching to T-Mobile for its low-cost international roaming rates that include 20 cent per minute calls from abroad and free data and texting from 120 countries.
But I don’t travel all the time, and the reason I’ve never been able to use T-Mobile is that I happen to live in a near T-Mobile dead-spot, even though I’m in the middle of Silicon Valley. But now I have a T-Mobile “tower” in my home. Instead of spotty coverage, I now have an extremely strong signal.
T-Mobile had introduced Wi-Fi calling a number of years ago, but it just improved the service for customers who have Voice Over LTE (VoLTE) phones such as the new iPhone 6 and 6 Plus. The company is also offering a free router that improves voice calls within and near your home.
The phone allows you to make and receive calls and texts from a Wi-Fi network (any Wi-Fi network, even public ones such as in hotels and cafes) or through the T-Mobile network and, for compatible phones like the iPhone 6, if you’re in the middle of a call and walk away, the call is handed off to the cellular network. Likewise, you if you’re on the phone and walk into your house, the call gets handed over to your Wi-Fi router.
T-Mobile said that “100% of new smartphones in T-Mobile stores will be Wi-Fi calling and texting capable,” and the company is offering a trade-up plan for customers who wish to purchase Wi-Fi enabled phones.
I tested the service using an LG Flex and it did a great job handling Wi-Fi calls from inside and around my house. it worked right out of the box with my existing router but when I connected T-Mobile’s “Wi-Fi Cellspot Router” (built by Asus), the service improved for two reasons. First, the special router (which is available for free to T-Mobile subscribers with a $25 refundable deposit) prioritizes voice calls over other traffic so if someone is streaming a movie on your network, it won’t interfere with call quality. And second, the router has a particularly strong Wi-fi (a/b/g/n/ac) signal both at 2.4 Ghz and 5 Ghz which, unlike the router it replaced, is able to broadcast a signal to all parts of my relatively large two story house.
The service works with your existing T-Mobile service for incoming and out-going calls and sends out caller ID with your T-Mobile number.
Unlike the iPhone 6, the LG Flex is not able to make the hand-off between WiFi and the cellular system so, if you walk out of the house while on a call, the call will terminate. My iPhone 6 arrives on Monday and I plan to test the continuity aspect of the service and update this post once I get the new phone.
T-Mobile also announced that its phones would be able to send and receive texts using GoGo’s in-flight network.