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T-Mobile: Free WiFi Calls on Your iPhone and Your Own Personal Cell Tower

Dan Tynan
Yahoo Tech

SAN FRANCISCO — T-Mobile wants to turn your wireless home network into a cell tower, and it’s getting a big boost from its friends at Apple.

John Legere onstage at T-Mobile's Uncarrier 7.0 event

T-Mobile CEO John Legere. (Dan Tynan/Yahoo Tech)

At today’s “Uncarrier 7.0” event, bad-boy CEO John Legere unveiled his latest scheme to upend the business models of AT&T, Verizon, and Sprint: free WiFi calling on every T-Mobile handset, with seamless handoffs between calls made outside the home (on the cellular network) and those made within (on WiFi).

All new T-Mobile phones will support Voice over LTE (or VoLTE), which uses high-speed 4G data networks to make calls and send texts. The newly announced iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus also support VoLTE on T-Mobile, which allows for clearer, higher-quality calls than those made using traditional voice networks.

Watch: VoLTE Could Mean Clearer Calls and Fewer Drops

If you initiate a call on your T-Mobile handset using VoLTE, Legere says, it will seamlessly switch over to your WiFi network when you enter your home — essentially making the rest of the call free. If you initiate a call at home via WiFi and then leave the house, it will switch over to VoLTE.

To enhance home calls, T-Mobile is introducing the Personal CellSpot, a fully featured ASUS 802.11ac WiFi router that’s been specially modified to give priority to voice calls and texts. The idea, Legere says, is to eliminate the cellular dead spots in everyone’s homes — so you can make WiFi calls from the attic, the basement, or the panic room, if you have one.

T-Mobile’s CellSpot router

T-Mobile’s CellSpot router. (Rafe Needleman/Yahoo Tech)

The carrier is offering the router free to any T-Mobile customer who uses WiFi calling (with a refundable $25 deposit) and is charging $99 for customers using prepaid phones who have no credit cards on file with the company. Additional CellSpots will also cost $99.

The T-Mobile phones will be able to use any WiFi network, but with a few caveats. The phone will automatically switch from VoLTE to WiFi only if you’ve already logged on to that network in the past and set your phone to automatically connect, T-Mobile CTO Neville Ray says. And unless that network also uses a Personal CellSpot, you won’t see the same quality of service.

Every T-Mobile handset sold from now on will be VoLTE compatible. T-Mobile is offering a trade-in program for older handsets that don’t support VoLTE.

John Legere onstage at T-Mobile's Uncarrier 7.0 event

(Dan Tynan/Yahoo Tech)

“With this announcement, every single WiFi connection just became a T-Mobile cellphone tower,” said the iconoclastic Legere, wearing his trademark pink T-Mobile T-shirt and matching shoes. “When people ask me why T-Mobile is doing this, I answer, ‘Why the f**k not? Why wouldn’t you want to do this for your customers?”

The company also announced an exclusive partnership with Gogo Inflight to allow T-Mobile users to send and receive texts and check their voicemail from 30,000 feet.

T-Mobile will begin offering the Personal CellSpot on Sept. 17.

 Questions, complaints, kudos? Email Dan Tynan at ModFamily1@yahoo.com.