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T-Mobile promises UMA; U-turns on VoIP

T-Mobile USA intends to deploy Unlicensed Mobile Access (UMA) devices in at least one market before year-end, in a bid to maintain a competitive edge while it rolls out 3G.

The operator last week said that work on its 3G network has already begun, with a majority to be completed before 2008. But in the meantime T-Mobile plans to fill its speed gap by sending calls over other carriers’ broadband networks.

UMA technology allows dual-mode phones – those with both cellular and wifi radios – to route calls via wireless hotspots where available.

Most interest in the technology has come from carriers with both fixed and mobile networks with a view to Fixed Mobile Convergence (FMC) strategies. France Telecom is one such operator looking at using the technology in Europe.

But T-Mobile’s parent, Deutsche Telekom, has no fixed networks outside Germany. However, Robert Dotson, chief executive of T-Mobile USA, was quoted by the Associated Press as saying that UMA was important to the operator because more than 10 per cent of T-Mobile USA users do not have a traditional home phone.

By selling, or even giving, T-Mobile USA subscribers wifi hubs to install at home, T-Mobile could try to hitch a lift on DSL and cable broadband deployment in the US.

With UMA, calls made over a competitor’s fixed line network would generate billable Call Detail Records (CDRs) on T-Mobile’s own network.

Elsewhere, T-Mobile’s European operations this week ended their policy of blocking Voice over IP (VoIP) traffic, at least for premium customers.

Users of the Web’n’Walk mobile internet tariff were previously forbidden to make use of Skype, Gizmo et al, on pain of being disconnected. But customers who pay for the 10GB Web’n’Walk Max service at £44 per month can now use as much VoIP as they like. Users of the basic service charged at £29 a month are still restricted however.

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