My cell phone service carrier, T-Mobile, has recently gone national with their UMA technology offering. The service, Also known as Hotspot@home, was introduced almost a year ago but released only in certain markets.
UMA technology is meant to extend the carrier’s cellular network into your home using your broadband internet connection or anywhere else you might run into an accessible WiFi connection.
UMA phones operate just like a regular cell phone, but they are dual mode. This means that they can connect to the carrier’s over the air network or via a WiFi access point to the carrier’s servers over the Internet. This is cool but also useful for folks like me who live in an area where the network coverage is less than stellar.
For an additional fee (I call it a bargain), your calls that originate on UMA (WiFi) are billed as unlimited talk time. Even if you walk away from the access point or hotspot and the phone switches to GSM you will still be covered under the unlimited calling umbrella. Likewise if you make or receive a call while on GSM, you’ll be billed for the entire duration of that call using your regular plan minutes, even if you get in range of a hotspot and the phone switches to UMA. Got it? Good.
For the techies among you, UMA works only with GSM and it’s technically not VoIP as are SIP services. UMA provides a pipeline for pure GSM to travel through via IP. This is one reason why the switch between GSM and UMA is seamless.
Using my new Blackberry Curve 8320, call quality over UMA is excellent and I haven’t had a single dropped call. An icon on the upper right corner of the phone’s screen indicates when my phone is currently on UMA and shows the access point signal strength. When I’m not in range of an access point, the phone displays the usual EDGE signal information.
Connecting to a WiFi network therefore is quite easy, all you need is the required data plan and the appropriate device and you’re on your way.