Convergence T-Mobile StyleMonday, November 19, 2007
A while back, I wrote a blog about T-Mobile's HotSpot @Home. You might remember that T-Mobile offers this service over phones that include its wide-area GSM/GPRS/EDGE technology as well as Wi-Fi (not using VoIP but rather GSM voice wrapped in a UMA blanket). The system is supposed to know when you enter a Wi-Fi area, such as your home, and move all of your voice and data traffic off the GSM network and over to the Wi-Fi connection.
Several weeks ago, I received a new BlackBerry Curve from the folks at RIM, activated on the T-Mobile network. The new Curve is smaller than my 8800 and includes Wi-Fi so it will work with T-Mobiles HotSpot @Home. I have experimented with this service not only at my home and office but also on the road.
I changed my exchange server over to the new BlackBerry and got it running on the T-Mobile network without any hasslesRIM makes it very easy to change from one device to another and from one network to another―and wondered what I would have to do to set up the Wi-Fi side. I was busy with deadlines so I thought I would try this later.
Well, heres the answer: You dont have to do much. When I walked into my home and searched for Wi-Fi networks, it found mine and I entered my WPA encryption key. In about 30 seconds, I was using my Wi-Fi system at home instead of the T-Mobile network.
I then began playing with the device. I went out to my office where I dont have Wi-Fi, placed a phone call and walked toward my house. When I came within range of my Wi-Fi access point, the phone automatically moved over to the Wi-Fi service and I couldnt tell when the call switched as there was no hiccup. I am impressed with the way T-Mobile has implemented the system.
A few minutes after I set up the Wi-Fi portion, I received an SMS from T-Mobile instructing me to go to its Website and set up an address to be reported to fire and police departments when I dial 911 while connected via Wi-Fi. I registered my home address and easily set that up as well. This system works great and I dont even have one of the special access points T-Mobile claims will make it even better. I do plan on getting one for my office so I can test the difference between a standard access point and one of T-Mobiles modified access points.
Last week, I took a trip to the Midwest and then to New York City. I flew through the Dallas-Fort Worth Airport and while I was in the Admirals Club I noticed that my Curve had switched to the Wi-Fi network and I had not realized it. Later, as I was at my gate waiting for my plane, I looked at the phone again and it was still showing that I was connected via Wi-Fi. I dont know if T-Mobile runs hotspots all over the DFW airport or if I was still in range of the one from the Admirals Club. I was a long way away from the Club and still connected automatically, so I have to assume there are other T-Mobile access points at the airport as well.
The bottom line is that T-Mobiles HotSpot @Home works as advertised, and using the Internet via Wi-Fi is a lot faster than with EDGE. I still hate having to use a browser to get to information though, and I have written about this issue often over the past few years.
T-Mobile had an advantage with wide-area/Wi-Fi integration since both networks were already combined in the back-end. A little additional work was necessary, but basically, the system was already set up when T-Mobile decided to converge the two.
I have not tried to attach the Curve to other Wi-Fi networks such as the one provided at my hotel in New York, but I am sure that once I register it will work the same.
T-Mobile, you have done a great job with this integration. It is always gratifying to be able to review a product and service after the press release and briefing and find that it really does work as advertised!