Thursday, February 09, 2006

T-Mobile goes with Wi-Fi handsets to combat lack of 3G network in U.S.

The Seattle Times writes about T-Mobile's marketing efforts to get the word out on their new handsets, the MDA (HTC Wizard) and SDA (HTC Tornado), "to catch up in the wireless broadband race."

The article notes T-Mobile is the only major U.S. network operator not to debut its 3G network yet, unlike Cingular, Verizon and Sprint Nextel. Instead, the new Wi-FI enabled handsets will allow T-Mobile customers to take advantage of Wi-Fi networks, both at T-Mobile hotspots, like at Starbucks, and at work or home "to check e-mail, scan the Web or perform other Internet tasks."

T-Mobile is offering a new plan that includes unlimited EDGE network data usage and use of its T-Mobile Hotspot network for $30 a month on top of the subscriber's regular voice plan. This compares favorably with Verizon's $50 all-you-can-eat EVDO plan and Cingular's $19.99 EDGE plan, but pales in comparison to Sprint's $15 a month Power Vision EVDO one.

Michael Gartenberg at JupiterResearch said, "It comes down to your model for usage and traveling. If you are near T-Mobile Hot Spots or use Wi-Fi a lot, it's a deal that makes sense."

IDC analyst David Linsalata agreed, noting that T-Mobile "is able to offer something the other carriers don't have — a Wi-Fi network." He said, if that's something that appeals to you, "that's something that competitors can't match."

The T-Mobile SDA and MDA both have Wi-Fi, run on T-Mobile's EDGE network, and use the Windows Mobile 5.0 operating system. The SDA is $299.99 and the MDA is $399.99.

I like the SDA, but I'm hearing T-Mobile's voice and EDGE data coverage aren't that great compared to my current carrier, Cingular. I guess I need to find someone who uses T-Mobile in the SF Bay Area, and then invite them over to my house to check...