Weekend Experiment #2: WiFi Telephone Calling

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Oh, if only it were always summer and the research would flow like bubbles from a Woodbridge hot tub all the time:

The other cool experiment to occur this weekend was that after nearly wetting myself about T-Mobile's HotSpot@Home WiFi Cell phone announcement, I subscribed to the plan, got a new phone and wifi router for home, canceled my landline, and made my first WiFi phone call with T-Mobile's system. I think this is a fundamental shift in phone computing/communication that dwarfs the iPhone.

Using the hand-set I registered with UCI's network guardians so that the phone's MAC address was recognized on campus. Nearly instantly I was making unlimited calls everywhere on campus with much better reception that I had previously.

Several funny things happened. First I realized that I had gotten in the habit of walking toward windows when I was on my cell phone. Now, that's not the right thing to do with this phone. Second T-Mobile apparently has arranged that the phone will make unlimited WiFi calls from all T-Mobile Hotspots. So suddenly all Starbucks are also effectively cell phone towers. Futhermore, anytime I plug my laptop into a land line network I can turn it into a cell phone repeater by turning on Wi-Fi sharing. Which means that if I can get internet access internationally with my laptop, I can make unlimited calls to the U.S. with this phone and avoid the outrageous roaming fees.

In a lot of ways this is like Skype with SkypeIn and SkypeOut, but let's face it, it's a lot more convenient to use a cell phone to make calls and stay connected than a laptop. Futhermore, the cell phone gracefully transitions from cell to wifi and back again.

Okay, now the bad things. When I cancelled my home phone number, my DSL also got cancelled. T-Mobile assured me that this wouldn't happen, but it did. So I lost broadband at home in the process (hence why the experiment was going on on campus). I have a work order in with Speakeasy to set up a "One-Link" DSL line which cuts AT&T out of the picture. It costs $5.00 more than my previous broadband access, but it allows me to have DSL at home without any phone company involved.

Secondly, I haven't rigorously tested the hand-off from cell to wifi and back. Other reports suggest that wifi to cell is seamless and cell to wifi takes a minute or two. But in using the phone I never even noticed when it switched back and forth.

Finally, we haven't tested the Starbucks thing. It's just a matter of time of course, but fair disclosure/ buyer beware.

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You just pulled a Palmer. Don't try and deny it. Thanks a lot.

Posted by: Nate at July 20, 2007 12:01 PM

That's rampant consumerism at work. Yes!

Posted by: Nate at July 20, 2007 12:03 PM

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