Wherefore Art Thou UMA?


It is not unusual for me to receive emails that ask questions regarding T-Mobile services and often I cannot answer them. As we are an unofficial site, we are not privy to corporate decisions regarding the future of various services, I imagine most of our sources, and ninjas are not either. In this specific instance, I am talking about UMA and its future with T-Mobile. A T-Mobile customer wrote in and explained his desire to purchase an Android device but was unable to give up his UMA service currently found on his Blackberry pearl. I think it is with perfect understanding that this individual wants something sleeker, shinier and with more cowbell touchscreen. Unfortunately, his options are limited and disappointingly so.

After responding to this email, I found myself really wondering what the reason is T-Mobile has yet to produce an Android phone or a Windows Phone with UMA inside? Is it a software issue that has yet to be worked out between carrier and the manufacturer? Is it a cost factor? As in the placement of the UMA hardware inside a phone is cost prohibitive versus the sales volume? Is it simply a hardware factor that I am ignorant of or a software factor I have yet to consider? What is the reason that this service, mildly popular, yet incredibly useful to some. Why are the options so limited and the company so quiet? I do not believe the sudden inclusion of UMA inside an Android device would lead to an explosion of sales, but I do not think it would hurt them either. Admittedly, I don’t enough here to make a reasonable, if only an informed decision but I think the question itself is worth considering.

Perhaps one of you has an answer that I have not considered or knows an actual explanation that has both reason and validity. Something to think about I suppose, UMA is a service that has some measure of benefit to a number of people and I’d hate to see those customers so limited in their upgrade options that they are forced to go to another carrier in order to get both the service they require and a device they want. Time will tell I suppose.

Good luck Luigi and thanks for writing in!

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  • SardoNumspa

    The Shadow 2009 is a Windows phone with UMA. But it has bugs. After 24 hours of being connected to UMA it drops the connection, never to be picked up again until rebooted.

    It was pretty awesome for making calls while I have traveled internationally, however. I had to keep the phone radio off so it wouldn’t try to pickup a local tower.


    Sounds like he’s gonna be stuck with a bb for a little while longer

  • Eric

    If only tmobile had invested in those units that dint require the hardware on the Phone to be different. Those units that sprint, vzw, and AT&T that connect to your wifi and enhance signal for phnes on that network are way better becase they work with every phone on that network not just special blackberrys ans 2 dumb phones. Tmobile always shoots themselves in the foot in pursuit of doing thngs differently. I think ipo and new leadership that actually has a clue would be nice.

    • Quake97

      I think femtocell is what your talking about. I agree, I wish Tmo supported them too.


    • mark

      Tmobile did it that way to make it so you wouldn’t have to have extra hardware on your network. And it would also work in places like Europe so you wouldn’t have to pay any roaming. UMA saved me a ton of cash when I had it on my blackberry.. I’d love to see it on my Android phone

  • Nick M

    i love the SNL reference and that is probably one of my all time fav skits lol. oh yeah and UMA should be on all tmo phones by now!

    • manus

      I want more cowbell!

  • Tom

    That is the reason why I am stuck with a BlackBerry. I need UMA to get reception at work. I would be willing to buy Google Nexus One but I can not bring myself to loose the UMA.

  • Bama

    I have been with T-Mobile since 1997 and I’m very loyal. But, UMA is the only reason I am still with them. I have used it in Russia and around the country (USA) where T-Mobile service is lacking. My family lake house gets no service from any carrier so the T-Mobile UMA is a must. It is hard to believe they don’t include this in most phones and market it better. Yes, T-Mobile likes to be different and some of those differences are for the better. If only they would engage in a strong marketing campaign to show people how much better some of their services are they would certainly gain some customers. Just my 2 cents.

  • timmyjoe42

    Viva le UMA. We want more not less. If they drop UMA, I may take my 3 lines of service to Cincinati Bell.

  • C762

    There could be some big things happening in the next few months with UMA and with @home service…. not in the way that you think though. It could be a done deal unfortunately. I hate that because I use it on my 9700 like crazy. I think its a wrong move, but only time will tell what they decide to do.

  • nutzareus

    I have good coverage 3G coverage at my house, but it drops out completely when I’m in my walk-out basement. As a matter of fact, NO cell phones work down there. However, with UMA, my BlackBerry Bold 9700 works like a charm. Please, T-Mobile, do NOT drop UMA! I’m not going to pay extra to buy a femtocell. Additional plus, UMA works with ANY WiFi hotspot.

  • nutzareus

    David, why use the ancient Linksys router in photo? The current (soon to be discontinued?) one is the vertical and silver one. That’s the one I have.

    • Kickstar13

      Does it really matter?

  • It’s an unquestionably powerful technology. I don’t know if everyone realizes what a big deal it is that you can just hop on any WiFi network, anywhere in the world, and have all the convenience of your local phone number and not pay so much as a penny more than you would if you were in the US. This is NOT the same as a femtocell since some femtocells need a GPS fix to keep you from using it in foreign countries.

    I can understand why they might not be rushing to add it to Android since it requires some amount of new development. What’s truly perplexing though is why they wouldn’t add it to phones that are essentially ready for it, i.e. they already have a WiFi radio and and OS that supports it.

    Even stranger is that T-Mobile dumped tons of money in that inexcusably bad ad campaign featuring “Jimmy”, the bathrobe-clad bachelor, and then never said another word about it.

  • FILA

    You would think its just a software issue. I mean UMA is just WiFi, itd be so easy for them to write a app for Android and let us have UMA. Although I have pretty much excellent coverage wherever I go. Be cool if UMA, or maybe it can cuz I never used it before, but be cool if it would work on any open access point without having to set it up, in cases where theres a open point around and you have no service. be cool

    • AZBear

      It’s not just software. There is a hardware element in the UMA capable phones.

    • Redwoodflyer

      The reason hardware comes into play is because they wanted to make WiFi/GSM handoffs interruption free and transparent.

    • Redwoodflyer

      Part of the problem is their ****iy branding decision… having two different products called “HotSpot” and “HotSpot @ Home” was way too confusing.

  • J

    Look for a new solution. Manufacturers don’t want to put the technology into their phones. Look for femtocells to be released in the near future. It is just a better option all around.

  • Josh78

    UMA is excellent! I travel a lot (sp. Europe, South America) and always use any WiFi I can find to make “free” calls to the US. Calls are charged as US domestic calls! and the quality is good, sometimes there is some lag time in the conversation but I would say 90% of the time is normal. UMA has saved me hundreds of dollars! Nice to be able to receive and make calls anywhere in the world as long as there is WiFi..

    • PP3

      UMA is what makes the BB 9700 the best smartphone around period.
      3G+UMA+GSM= always connected

  • mikeeeee

    go to http://www.truphone.com.

    get the android app.

    4 bucks a month and 2 cents a minute.

    works pretty good on my g-1.

    this is good enough ’til google gets off their asses and integrates gizmo 5 into google voice.

  • Hitch

    femtocells are a better technology? seriously?
    so I guess I get to drag a femtocell around to every wifi-enabled place and plug it in to use it…
    Im sure Panera bread is going to think that’s swell. and Starbucks (which still has free wifi calling for tmo, btw) and the local coffee shop…and the airport…yeah, I can see how great that’s going to be.

    Here’s my use case – I went to a bed & breakfast last fall. they had no wifi, they can zero cell coverage. but they did have an ethernet jack, and I had a laptop. setup a quick ad-hoc, and suddenly I’ve got cell service.

    I’m so looking forward to having to buy a half-dozen femtocells to replicate that user experience.

  • bryan

    I have heard a couple of different reasons for the lack of uma on smatphones. The first thing is that the wifi chiset is actually different to support uma. I don’t know for sure but that seems to make sense, with manufacturers and carriers not wanting to add cost and complexity to their designs.
    Secondly, I have heard that there was an issue with getting 3G and uma to work properly on the same phone, that’s why the Shadow 2009 was uma, while the dash 3G, and touch pro 2 were not. This issue seems to be fixed with the bold.
    Lastly, I don’t think the Android software suppers full VOIP calling, and uma is basically a VOIP bridge to the cell network. Google commented about the lack of a full skype client for Android a while back and stated that android did not support voip, but it was planned in the future. I don’t know if versions, 1.6, 2.0, or 2.1 include full voip support.

    Last thing, there is no more free international calling over uma, the system has been upgraded to recognize location even on a wifi call. Free international calling was never intended to be a feature of uma calling but the billing system did not track international uma calls. International calls on uma are Now being Billed International rates.

    • ManoloDF

      I dont think they are celebrating making international calls, Those should be billed. It was the fact that you could roam internationally be in any wifi hotspot anywhere in the world as I myself have done in just about every continent on earth and still have your phone work as if I was standing in USA. Send/Receive TXT Messages, Calls, etc. Talking to US numbers. Of course I would expect dialing an international number would charge me for an international call though.

    • PP3

      That is not true. If you make international calls of course you will be charged international rates but you can receive, make and text calls to the US for free. I did that last month btw. They only show up as UMA calls not International.

      • Bryan

        The system was updated a little over a week ago, keep an eye on your bills if you are making uma calls while traveling internationally.
        In the past you were able to call over uma without paying the international roaming, this is no longer the case.
        I have already had customers who were using this feature come in with international roaming charges where they were not being charged in the past.

    • Matlock

      Actually if you make a UMA call while abroad to the US it will be “free”, it will just use up your minutes on your plan! but if you are abroad and use UMA call for calling an international number, than you will be charged international rates, but if all your using it for is calling the U.S. than your fine!!!

    • mmaxsooner

      Just a note on the bold and uma, NO it is not fixed! Have more issues with uma since they went 3g in my area and don’t get me started on suddenly dropping calls, have had 2 different customer care agents let slip that yes tmobile and rim seem to be having a heluva time getting the 3g/uma issue worked out. this issue is so bad I’m hoping to find an ebay sucker to take this off my hands and Take my chances with winmo. I feel rim and tmob let me down bigtime with the 9700.

    • It is not a different chip set and if your phone has wifi built in that’s all it takes on your end aside for an app. the carrier i.e. tmobile needs equipment in there network but they already have it (as BB and other phones run the service over tmobile). My guess is either they are moving away from uma to something new or google (father of android os does not want it on it’s phones because they are working on something similar through google voice). Not sure why it’s not on andriod but the app has been developed just waiting for carrier to deploy (as the company that developed the app only works with carriers not end users).

  • Roger

    UMA is the unique differentiator for me with Tmobile. If they drop it then I have zero reason to stay with Tmobile. (The other was MyFaves which I can now get at any carrier *except* Tmobile!)

    Note that UMA can’t just be added to any phone. The GSM frames are wrapped in IPSEC and then sent over wifi. Consequently this requires cooperation from whatever part of the phone generates the GSM protocol and the wifi part.

    Unfortunately the implementation is often quite temperamental which means that there can be a high support overhead.

  • ManoloDF

    an iPhone on T-Mobile 3G bands with UMA would be my dream phone. Well if the Nexus would have had UMA i would have switched to it in a heartbeat, but I need a high profile phone with UMA. The BB 9700 just doesnt cut it for me.

    • abe

      oh yea that sounds good!

  • Jordan

    I remember reading a few months back that BlackBerry signed an exclusive contract with the T-Mob for UMA smartphones

  • umaluver

    UMA is why I switched to TMO. The only other way to get service in my hella old condo is to use Verizon.

    I really thought UMA was going to be the next big thing and would soon be in all phones from all service providers. I used to call ATT and bitch ALL the time about getting better service in my home. I havent called TMO once to bitch. That seems like that would be the only needed incentive to include it in everything.

    UMA in my phone has allowed me to get rid of my home phone. UMA is pretty much the greatest invention since the wheel and they seem to be ignoring it. What if the cavemen abandoned the wheel because of compatibility issues? where would be now? huh?!?!

    • HeLLkAt31

      I was wondering the same thing as to why its not the next big thing. My room is the Black Hole and never got reception on any carrier except when I tried, TMO. And thats when the Goddess of Magenta, Catherine Zeta Jones, smiled upon me and then there was, UMA…

  • andrew

    Despite T-Mobile maps saying that I have coverage, I do not. UMA was he PERFECT solution I had it on my BB Curve. Well, my Curve hit the curb and broke and I decided to replace it with the MyTouch.

    UMA is a great addition to a phone for those subscribers who are in a no TMO coverage area like me. When I work and if I travel less than a mile I have coverage.

    I really hope they will add UMA in some future Android devices and other non-android devices.

  • Matt

    I’ll continue the general consensus here:

    UMA is awesome.

    I use it all the time on my Blackberry in places where there is no reception (like rooms on the inside of concrete buildings) but that have WiFi. I would probably switch carriers if they drop support for it.

  • rfgenerator

    Count me in as another one who would in all likelyhood drop T-Mobile if they ditched UMA. There coverage in my area is very spotty once you go a mile or two off a major road. UMA has saved my butt many a time. No UMA means I’ll have to find a provider who has better coverage.

  • It really looked like they were going full-bore with UMA, as evidenced by the afforementioned ad campaign, but then it disappeared. I have to assume that some executive was like “Wait a minute… this basically let’s people make international calls for free? WTF were you guys thinking?! Get rid of this immediately!”

  • vikingfan45

    the reason they dropped it because companies don’t like to develop handsets with UMA option available. T-mobile was the only company that was doing that because of the lack of coverage they have but with the expansion of there network they have no use for it anymore.

  • demnoc

    @homes been suspended as well. Manufacturers other then blackberry could never figure out the battery needs of uma for one. Secondly it didn’t sell all that well. Jimmy just didn’t know what he was doing.

  • Angus188

    UMA is a great service! I have had T-M@Home since 2008 and love it! Besides allowing for free calls from my @Home router (OK it is actually $10/month) it provides me service in an area that it not well served by T-M. Plus I can use UMA anywhere I can log onto the internet. Now why would T-M be reluctant to add devices to the UMA line up? UMA doesn’t generate any money during the time that paretn DT in Germany is screaming for more US$ revenue? A quick search at http://www.umatoday.com indicates there are a mere 29 handsets with UMA capacity built in:

    Nokia 6301 Nokia 6086 Samsung P260 LG KE520 Samsung T409 BlackBerry RIM 8320 Samsung P220 Sagem my429x Sagem my519x Motorola Z6w BlackBerry RIM 8820 HTC Shadow II Samsung T339 Samsung Katalyst LG KF-757 Samsung P180 BlackBerry RIM 8120 BlackBerry RIM Flip 8220 Samsung P250 Chicago Samsung P270 Samsung T336 HTC Touch Sony Ericsson G705u BlackBerry RIM 8900 Nokia 7510 BlackBerry RIM 8520 LG GT505 BlackBerry RIM 9700 Note that a number of these handsets also have 3G. Check the frequencies to be sure the unit you select is compatible with T-M GSM service.

    The operators that support UMS are: Orange (France, UK, Holland, Spain, Poland); T-Mobile (USA); Fido (Canada); Rogers (Canada); Telia Sonera (Denmark, Sweden); Saunalahti (Finland); Cincinnati Bell (USA) and NetCom (Norway).

    Hope this is helpful. Ciao!

    Cincinnati Bell


    • PP3

      Not true, UMA frees the cellular -and 3G- bandwith by using the
      customer’s internet connection instead of the wireless network, that is money for Tmobile. Also, if you don’t have @ home, it still deducts minutes without using their network!, that is more money for them!. The convenience for the customer are: connection anywhere you can get wifi, no long-distance calls, independence from wireless coverage. It’s a win-win service IMO.

  • Allen

    Please everyone that can, vote by clicking on the star in the upper left hand corner next to the word “ISSUE”


    With more clicks, maybe (big maybe) one day android techs will look into it.

    Here is what I wrote:

    Google, you could have a huge advantage in the business community with such a feature!
    Just think, with your “voice to text” capabilities, clients could read voicemails as well as receive text messages while cruising from NY to LA at 35,000 feet on planes fitted with WIFI.

    Talk to family and work from their hotel in Paris with no outrageous roaming bills (lets face it, most people don’t use roaming, they use phone cards or simply wait till they can get online and send an e-mail).

    Relax at their secluded home in the mountains without having to rely on spotty cell coverage.

    Continue to use their Nexus One phone without hiccups in the steel reinforced concrete buildings of Manhattan.

    All using a simple WIFI connection that are so abundant these days. The potential is greatly overlooked and vastly underestimated! Marketed right, this could be a HUGE deal over your competitors.

  • abe

    this article is exactly what i was hoping for…PLEASE TMOBILE get more uma phones…and yes if tmo gets the iphone and uma or nexus and uma id get that….

  • doofus666

    This is a great example of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. Does it cost more to add UMA to a phone. Yes, but when you sell 100’s of thousands of phones its only adding $1-$3 a phone not a big investment. Femto cells are nice, however you have to buy one. Then they make you pay monthly for it to work. Then they will not work outside the US, they have gps to prevent that. What T-mob should of done is put UMA it EVERY PHONE IT SELLS. Every call made on uma means one more call can be made on a tower. It solves the ” my phone wont work in my house” complaint. We had a great opportunity to advertise the international roaming aspect of UMA but refused to. Why? Because bean counters were worried we’d lose all that revenue. One of the most revolutionary features to come out for cellphones and tmob totally dropped the ball.

  • HappywithT339

    We have been using the UMA service with the Samsung T-409 and T-339 phones since 8-08. It generally works well. Because of this service, we dumped our landlines for both personal and home business. No cell phone carrier service works well in our little valley and NONE work in our finished basement. The cell phone coverage maps are FALSE, which, of course, is nothing new with this poorly regulated business.

    If T-Mobile dumps UMA, then we will probably go back to landlines and cordless phones and switch back to pre-paid cellphones to keep the costs from going up. Alternatively, we could invest in signal amplifiers and go with the better network that starts with a V.

  • CallawayBomber

    UMA was/is a hit with those who need a signal they can rely on when the tower is not local.

    But just as it was with Android…The lack of marketing ingenuity leaves a gaping hole of opportunity wasted on an ingenious perk for end-users to flock to T-Mobile…

    I’m surprised that marketing along the way hasn’t screwed up and advertised as T-Bobble for the opportunities that T-Mobile has wasted.

    Seriously, how many chances are they going to have to make a real run for 3rd or even 2nd? More like “Project Lost In The Dark….”

  • alan

    I believe UMA was discontinued simply because it made tmo miss out on legit roaming charges. Its kinda like they shot themselves in the foot with this service. It is a great benefit for people that do not have service in their home and if it wasnt for UMA i wouldve never given up my tmo iPhone. I love my 9700 but only real reason i use it is because of the UMA. The company also gave me the moto cliq before it came out but the phone was kinda useless in my house which is where i sometimes use it the most. It sucks tmo gave up on UMA but i think it probably saved people roaming charges. Also same with @home, you can send any router to any country overseas that has a high speed connection and have a USA phone number and call overseas for the $10 month rate. People have done this in the Phillipines and they said it worked great. O well, hopefully they make more UMA phones but i highly highly doubt it.

  • mike

    I was thrilled when uma first came out and was the reason i came to tmobile, the best technology in a cell phone ever, making calls thru wifi anywhere in the world, and now they gonna take it out forever? if it wasnt for uma i would have no reason to stay with tmobile and i’ll just switch to another carrier.

  • Ray

    I noticed a few months ago that they dropped UMA “Hot spot @ home” as a searchable feature for phones on the T-mobile web site and their “hotspot @ home” website, http://www.theonlyphoneyouneed.com/
    is now gone. They seem to be slowly phasing it out and that’s a shame, it is really a great feature for those of us who knew how to use it. It saved me a ton of money when roaming internationally. However, it has never been marketed properly and I think its too complicated for the average mobile phone user to figure out.

  • Marianne

    I have tmo@home, but haven’t thus far had a UMA handset. I’ve got a Moto Cliq right now and am really just hoping that they’ll get Google Voice and Gizmo 5 integrated so I can do calling over wifi with it. That would be a dream come true. Tmo@home has been flawless for $10 a month. I definitely see the value in it and UMA and it’s said it’s not seen as “revenue” to the company to promote. I believe the rumors on @home is that it’s pretty much a done (as in going away) deal. Sad. It’s nice to have multiple handsets available in the house to answer and with GV I have it ring that and my cell. Hopefully GV comes through for wifi and *hopefully* SIP too so if there is an end of life on @home that I can just set up an ATA to do GV at my dmarc.

    • Marianne

      Er “sad it’s not seen as” is what I meant to say.

  • PHRider

    UMA is the reason that I moved my small company’s primary mobiles to T-Mobile.

    We would consider ceasing UMA to be a breach of the service agreement, and argue that no ETF is due when we move to another carrier.

    Hauling around femtocells is silly when WiFi is all over the place.

  • Nikolaus

    If T-Mo is unwilling to invest in more UMA phones because they think it will not attract a huge number of new subscribers, they should realize what most of us here are saying: UMA is keeping us with T-Mo. If they don’t bring out newer phones with UMA, and if they drop UMA support, they will have a flood of people leave. Wake up!!!

  • Brian

    I have been told by MANY by phone and in stores that UMA is dead. They will allow all phones that have it now to keep using it but T-mobile has requested NO new phones be UMA capable.

    This is very disappointing because it will cause a move away for many people when they want to upgrade beyond their present blackberry. If you live in a ‘dead zone’ and use UMA and decide you REALLY want an Android phone?? or anything else? You will HAVE to leave T-mobile.

    • PP3

      Thats ok, luckily we can just swap SIM cards, eventually I will upgrade my phone but I will keep my UMA phone. This is the advantage of a GSM system.

  • TMOCSR666

    TMO will be discontinuing support for UMA calling…which means no more “free” minutes for voice over internet calling…all calls will be deducted from your bucket…my senior slipped that little tidbit tonight….

    • Hotnicks

      what about those folks currently with unlimited hotspot calling?

  • Brian

    with UMA, minutes were ALWAYS removed from your total. IF you have an unlimited plan then it would be unlimited over UMA but if you have minutes: IT JUST SUBTRACTS minutes. T-mo is shooting themselves in the foot here. MANY Tmo users don’t get decent coverage in their homes and will have to go to another provider when they upgrade their phones that are not UMA compatible because T-mobile towers are sparser then everyone elses!

  • I am a t-mobile employee

    Blackberry flip, 8120, 8520,8900, 9700 – uma enabled

    Htc – Shadow 2009 – Uma enabled

    Samsung T339 – Uma enabled

    Nokia 7510, 6301, Uma Enabled

  • DL

    I just read that the upcoming Moto Cliq XT will have WiFi. Maybe UMA will work on this new phone? I hope so.

  • JJG

    T-mobile wake up!!!! Don’t kill UMA and give us some new phones that use it. I have been a customer since 03. I am carrying 5 lines on my plan and will dump them all the second you kill my unlimited UMA calling feature. I get no coverage in my home or many of the places I roam. I travel extensively and find open WiFi networks all over the world.

    UMA is the holy grail of cell phone features and I tell every person I know about it. I cant believe that your marketing departments were to stupid to properly advertise the benefits of this feature to the world.

    You could have easily gained huge market share. You still can. It is not too late but you need to act fast. Once Skype and SIP clients can seamlessly move their data path from wifi to 3g and back your opportunity will be lost and you will be forever destined to be a fourth rate cellular company.

    Wake up T-Mobile, your clock is ticking.


  • Joe F

    There’s two issues here.

    1) the unlimited calling over the Internet for $9.99. It’s grandfather’ed.
    I.E> if you got it then you can keep it. If not then not available.

    2) making calls over the Internet and phones available. It’s all Blackberry now.
    and it continues to work.

    There are UMA phones available outside T-Mob. Overstock has the 6086.

    Can anyone confirm the International change? Are they really looking a IPs now?
    .. joe

  • anonymouis-x

    Is the BB 9700 the only US phone that is GSM UMA?

    Are there any GSM Android UMA phones & with what carriers?
    Thank You

  • z

    Check out an app for android from a company called Kineto wireless. Its called Smart WiFi. I think its going to be a lot like UMA.