Customers who lack indoor cellular coverage are the target market for a new offering from T-Mobile called 4G LTE CellSpot, which T-Mobile in a press release yesterday described as a “mini-tower” that extends LTE coverage indoors. A T-Mobile spokesperson told Telecompetitor that T-Mobile worked with Alcatel-Lucent to develop the device, which will be available for free with a $25 refundable deposit.
To use the offering, customers must be on a T-Mobile Simple Choice plan. They also need a broadband data connection.
“Customers only need to plug it in . . . and then let the device provision on the network,” the T-Mobile spokesman wrote in an email. “Once T-Mobile customers move within range of the 4G LTE CellSpot, their compatible 3G/ 4G/ 4G LTE device will automatically detect the signal broadcasted by the 4G LTE CellSpot.”
The 4G LTE CellSpot can cover an area measuring approximately 3,000 square feet, T-Mobile said. The company claims that the 4G LTE CellSpot is the “first-ever 4G LTE mini-tower available from a U.S. wireless provider.”
Before the 4G LTE CellSpot
T-Mobile launched a similar offer last year on a device that was essentially a Wi-Fi router designed to prioritize voice over Wi-Fi traffic and which also targeted people without indoor cellular coverage. But with that offering, customers had to use a cellphone that supported VoWi-Fi in order to place calls. The LTE CellSpot has the advantage of working with 3G, 4G and LTE handsets. Both products also support texting.
Despite its limitations, T-Mobile’s Wi-Fi product – known as the Wi-Fi CellSpot Router – has sold more than a million units, according to the company. Whether the LTE CellSpot will be more popular remains to be seen, however, as unlike the Wi-Fi CellSpot Router, it can’t take the place of a traditional Wi-Fi router in the home – and people most likely will still want a Wi-Fi router. Of course many people may already have Wi-Fi.
In keeping with its Un-carrier image, T-Mobile couldn’t resist taking a jab at other wireless providers in its press release, noting that competitors “make their customers pay hundreds of dollars and jump through hoops just to get their outdated 3G-based femtocell solutions.”