T-Mobile @ Home VOIP Opinions Wanted
September 16, 2008 2:54 PM   Subscribe

Anyone have experience with the T-Mobile @ Home VOIP service?

I need to lower my phone bill but keep my landline phones. The T-Mobile @ Home service provides local and long-distance service for $10/mo. using a broadband router. I already have T-Mobile cellular service and have been very pleased, so the @ Home service is very tempting. However, there is a 2-yr. contract and I would like to know:

Anyone here have actual experience using the @ Home service? Would like to hear both positive and negative experiences before I make the leap. Thanks!
posted by cscwallace to Technology (6 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
It was not what it advertised to be, I still had to pay AT&T for the broadband and then the service was only good in places where I could get "excellent" wireless coverage, which meant I couldn't even talk in my own bedroom. It also is difficult to get a connection if you are anywhere outside of your own house with a wifi connection, so good luck going to Starbucks.

I ended up getting home phone service through Verizon and pay $15 a month.
posted by parmanparman at 3:02 PM on September 16, 2008

This is not an experience with T-Mobile @ Home. However, my opinion is that you might be able to do better by picking any SIP Client or SIP Adapter, and then signing up for a much less expensive service like Skype or Gizmo or something. Your monthly costs would probably end up being less than half what you'd pay T-Mobile (possibly much less), and you wouldn't be stuck in a 2 year contract.

The downside is that Skype and Gizmo really aren't super high quality carriers -- I think there's noticeable signal degradation and all kinds of audio artifacts. And parmanparman's caveats about coverage apply if you're running your SIP client using any WiFi device. But they're basically capable and if your priority is to reduce costs while keeping service, then this is one plan that would fit the bill.
posted by weston at 3:18 PM on September 16, 2008

You may need to clarify which service you mean. There's two T-Mobile services that involve WiFi: One is the service where you have a router at home, and one of a few special WiFi-enabled cell phones, which hop onto a WiFi connection when you're at home or traveling, and use the regular T-Mobile cell network.

The second is, basically, standard VoIP, like Vonage, etc. where you get a special router and attach a landline-style telephone to it, and it becomes your "land line phone." (You can hook it into your home's phone wiring too, if you want to get fancier about it.)

From Parmanparman's reply, I think he/she is talking about the former, not the latter. Your question sounds like you're asking about the latter. I hope so, because that's the one I can speak on (sort of).

My parents have the new, $10-a-month VoIP service. They ported their phone number over from Vonage, so they were already used to VoIP and its occasional limitations. They say they've had a problem with this new service, a couple of times, where the phone service just conked out. But the Internet still continued to work. Plus, everything's going through the T-Mobile/Linksys router, so if the computers behind it are able to get on the Internet just fine, then obviously, something's hinky if the phone service itself is down.

I don't live there, but from what I'm told, my mother called T-Mobile's tech support, and was on the phone for nearly an hour each time (a lot of it on hold), before they got it fixed. She says they apologized and said it's still kind of a new service, and that they're apparently still working out a few kinks (paraphrasing heavily here). From the sound of it, the router itself is fine, but maybe the VoIP server(s) on T-Mo's side screw up periodically.

I don't doubt they'll work out the bugs as they go along. My parents are kinda paying a bit of a price for being early adopters, I suppose . . .
posted by CommonSense at 3:22 PM on September 16, 2008

I looked into TMobile@Home for a while, a couple of months ago. I was intrigued with it but eventually decided that it wasn't for me.

CommonSense is correct that there are two 'flavors' of it. They are both basically repackaged VoIP services. One just allows you to use certain T-Mobile branded cellphones -- ones that have WiFi capability -- to talk using the VoIP router. This is aimed at people who want to decrease the amount of cellular airtime they're using, by having it not use the cell network when they're standing around in their house, but still want to use their cellphone as their primary communication device even when they're at home. I think this service is officially called "T-Mobile Hotspot@Home".

The other flavor is designed more along the lines of Vonage or Comcast's VoIP service, and is meant for people who want to stop paying the phone company for the time they spend using their household, analog phone. This flavor is what they actually call "T-Mobile @Home" I believe.

Anyway, for roughly $15 a month when you roll in all the fees (plus $50 for the adapter, which they call the 'HiPort' but is basically a locked-down SIP ATA), it's an acceptable if not really outstanding deal. I was put off by the 2-year contract and $200 ETF.

It's not a bad product if you're fairly technophobic and don't want to deal with buying an unlocked SIP ATA and getting generic/commodity VoIP service, you're comfortable getting locked in with T-Mobile for two years, and you don't do a lot of international long distance. If you meet those criteria, I can't really criticize it that much.

However, their international long distance rates are really not that good, compared to what you can get if you have an unlocked ATA and shop around, and you can avoid the ETF and lock-in that way as well. That's the route that I took, and I don't have any regrets.

All of the "consumer" VoIP services -- T-Mobile, Vonage, Comcast Digital Voice -- basically, in my opinion anyway, overcharge you, sell you crippled hardware, and lock you into ridiculous contract terms in exchange for glossing over and simplifying what's a mild afternoon's challenge for anyone with a willingness to do a little reading about VoIP/SIP and configure an adapter themselves. That's not to say it might not be worth it to some people (opportunity cost is an issue), but I think everyone should at least be aware of what they're being sold.
posted by Kadin2048 at 5:14 PM on September 16, 2008

I second the generic SIP phone and service.

I use a Linksys PAP2T with Vitelity. Vitelity charges 1.49 a month for the number and 0.16 cents per minute (I believe charged in 6 second increments) for continental US. It's never been more than 4 dollars a month in at least a year of doing this.

My boss was so impressed he bought my exact setup to add a few extra outbound lines to our phone system for a fraction of the cost of adding analog lines. They work very well.
posted by dozo at 6:26 AM on September 17, 2008 [1 favorite]

Oh, and no contract, plus a really amazing customer portal to access all your services, billing and other info. Their support section has the exact configurations for getting your devices (SIP device or Asterisk/SIP Proxy) working with the service.

That right THERE is worth 20 bucks.
posted by dozo at 6:28 AM on September 17, 2008 [1 favorite]

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