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Brier Dudley offers a critical look at technology and business issues affecting the Northwest.

June 25, 2008 at 11:12 AM

Mini review of T-Mobile@Home service, by telco veteran

Among the feedback today on the story about T-Mobile’s @Home service was an e-mail from Rob Meldrum, an Edmonds veteran of the telco industry and chief executive of an advanced calling services venture back in the dot-com era.

Meldrum used Vonage’s voice over IP service for years, then switched to @Home three months ago, after T-Mobile began offering the service here on a trial basis.

Here’s Meldrum’s take on T-Mobile’s service, which he likes a lot:

PROS:

Price. At $10 per month it is a smoking deal. This includes voice mail, Caller ID and unlimited LD calling (domestic US). You should note that landline providers’ taxes and assorted fees are usually far more than this, let alone the cost of the actual service.

Great voice quality. My Vonage service had frequent problems with echoing on the line (especially annoying to people on the other end), and about 15% of the calls would not connect properly, forcing me to redial. This was on their “best service” setting. The T-Mobile connections sound just like landline quality.

This is an unlisted service, so your home phone number is not in the phone company’s directory. If you get a new phone number, this will dramatically reduce telemarketing calls.

Improved cell phone service. T-Mobile service in my house used to be poor. We live on a hillside facing the Puget Sound, and had trouble getting one bar of service. Now we have good cellular connections throughout our house. This alone is worth the price, as T-Mobile’s pricing plans are superior to most of the other major carriers.

Service. T-Mobile’s “helpdesk” people are unfailingly polite and actually help fix problems! In the past six years I have used all of the big carriers, and T-Mobile is the best of them all. Check their J.D. Powers ratings.

CONS:

The service does not support facsimile transmissions. I typically have modest but regular faxing needs (a couple of times per month), and now I have to bother my neighbor to send a fax from his house, or go to my wife’s office. This really hurts if you work from home. I guess the alternative is to scan and e-mail, or get a fax service like eFax. At any event, this is the biggest drawback.

Most typical users will associate the service with being restricted to a single telephone device. In fact I have my router’s phone output connected to my house wiring so that all of my traditional telephones are connected to the phone line (just like landline). You could also use the new cordless phones that support multiple phones from one base station.

Meldrum obviously isn’t as paranoid as I am about switching from bulletproof old phone lines to a broadband phone service that will go down when the power’s out.

But he’s almost persuaded me to add @Home and use it just to save on long-distance calls from home, where I’d rather not use a cellphone all the time. With @Home, you can use your existing home phone equipment.

As insurance, I’d still keep a barebones landline service, for which Qwest charges $13.50 a month, before taxes and fees, but drop its long-distance plan.The trick to coming out ahead (besides a careful choice of T-Mobile calling plan …) seems to be avoiding the upsell to fancy ringtones and premium services on both @Home and the landline.

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