T-mobile offers Vonage-like service

February 21, 2008
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Last year, T-mobile introduced a Wi-Fi calling UMA service called @Home, a mobile handset-based service. The idea was that you would use your mobile handset exclusively as a replacement for a standard home phone. The selling proposition of this service was basically (1) no in-home GSM coverage problems (because calls use wi-fi/broadband in the home), and (2) “unlimited” (domestic) calls from at home or at wi-fi hotspots.

T-mobile is now introducing a variant of that @Home play called Talk Forever Home Phone. It is an add-on service for T-mobile wireless customers that essentially provides a Vonage-style replacement home phone service. You get an ATA/router with a standard RJ-11 phone jack output to connect to a standard touchtone home phone.

The Talk Forever service is available as an add-on to an existing T-mobile plan and cannot be purchased separately. It is priced at $10 per month. This should put significant downward pressure on Vonage and AT&T CallVantage. But before you get too excited, note that this comes with the usual cell phone fine print and red tape – specifically there is a two-year agreement required and a $200 early cancellation fee! It also has unspecified taxes and fees.

With the advertised $10/month price point, one has to wonder if it might also impact Cable VOIP which has seen strong growth at a $40/month price point.

At the moment the service is only available in Seattle and Dallas. One thing not talked about with this service is international calling rates – if they are the same as normal T-mobile mobile prices, then this service will not be a competitive threat to other VOIP services in that regard.

Standard touch tone home phone

I think this move by T-Mobile of offering a “home phone”-based service shows that T-mobile has discovered through their experience with the handset-only first generation of the @Home service that there is a customer segment out there that is more comfortable using a ‘home phone” in the home, rather than their mobile handset. Here are some possible reasons why:

  1. missed calls because the cell phone was on silent or vibrate somewhere.
  2. cell phone is turned off to conserve battery power
  3. accidentally leave cell phone at work and find yourself without a home phone for a night

T-mobile has no wireline assets in the US, so clearly this is a way to attack Verizon and AT&T for the household user experience. It will be interesting to see if any other pure-play wireless carriers make similar moves.

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