Why UMA Still Matters, Especially On Smartphones

I’ve often wondered why UMA doesn’t get more playing time in today’s T-Mobile world and, to be honest, it frustrates me. A service so simple, so powerful and yet seemingly avoided on T-Mobile smartphones, save for the Blackberry. I can’t wager as far as to say it’s a hardware problem, or a software problem that prevents T-Mobile and their partner manufacturers from getting this service up and running on Android, Windows or even Nokia smartphones. When I lived in my old house, it was a cell phone dead zone for everyone but AT&T. Verizon, nope. Sprint, not a chance. T-Mobile…well that didn’t work so well either but UMA was a dream come true. Not only did I not get stuck with the death star (AT&T) but it allowed me to use my phone inside any room, or outside, even on the driveway. It was like paradise had found me and I was living the dream. Remember the Nokia 6085? Oh yes, I sported that for a while, that was my home phone and my Pearl was my going out to impress people phone. I sim card swapped every day and I was perfectly fine with it, because I had my magenta inside my home and I was perfectly happy.

Nowadays, those looking or, more importantly, those needing UMA services are forced to skip out on every smartphone worth buying on T-Mobile. I’m not saying the Blackberry 9700 isn’t worth anything, it’s a perfectly awesome phone but Blackberry just isn’t the cup of tea for a large contingent of smartphone buyers anymore. Let me go on record as saying we’ve heard, on more than one occasion and from more than one source that T-Mobile will be bringing a UMA Android device to the masses this year. Of course, this is, like all things, merely rumor and speculation until we get something concrete and on paper. We’re holding out hope, but more importantly I’m ready to beg T-Mobile not to give up on this service, not to avoid its advantages in favor of trying to score points on the HSPA+ front.

I know it might be an image problem where T-Mobile doesn’t want to put a focus on a service that basically says “hey, we don’t have good enough coverage in your house but by using your broadband we can fill that gap.” Look the bottom line is I understand that, from a marketing perspective, it’s not a good look. With so much talk of 4G this, HSPA+ that, who wants to emphasize Wi-Fi? This feature isn’t something that makes T-Mobile look less effective; it makes them look more efficient and more likely to fulfill customer’s needs. Say what you want about Verizon’s impeccable marketing, they very well may be the most reliable carrier in America. That doesn’t make them the best carrier for everyone and we all know plenty of locations where Verizon works, T-mobile doesn’t and vice versa. UMA isn’t an end all be all problem and some people don’t want to consistently rely on a Wi-Fi connection for service and I get that, it’s not something you should have to rely on. However it’s also something you shouldn’t ignore because, frankly, what’s the difference between that and a Microcell? When push comes to shove they are both tools to increase signal capacity in a low signal area. The reality is that’s what matters to the consumer, the ability to make calls and reliably make them. If T-Mobile can provide an alternate method for customers who want to keep T-Mobile service, or lived in a dead zone for cell service like me, then why not do more to up sell this service.

The bottom line is I think T-Mobile is missing a golden opportunity with UMA and has ignored it for some time now. It came out with a lot of hoopla but died down quickly and whether or not that was due to poor marketing, poor implementation or just a stigma on needing to piggyback off a wifi connection to make a call is anyone’s guess. I think T-Mobile can handle both an HSPA+ rollout and a redoubled UMA service because what it’s really about is providing the customers with alternatives and selection. Why can’t I have both? I know HSPA+ is going to come to my area eventually, maybe by the end of the year or maybe in 2011 but it’ll come eventually. In the meantime, for those of you who still live in a house like I did why shouldn’t you have the option to enjoy the T-Mobile service you love on a wifi connection that’s readily available? Come on Magenta, give us our UMA!

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  • GDL

    I’ve had T-Mobile UMA for three years and love it. I did not get it because I didn’t have a signal in my area, but I got it so I can make free calls from home with my cell phone. I still have it and do not want to give it up. I hope T-Mobile brings it back for other people. It’s a great service to have.

    • Yaniv C

      Its so much more than just that. I remember going to a wedding in St Maarten. Since we were pretty much “out of commission” no one thought of going to the local cell provider to pick up some GSM sims. Everyone was stuck for 4 days with NO PHONES.
      Since I had my Curve and the place we were staying at had free wifi around the whole complex, I was able to get UMA and call the states and receive calls with no problems. Totally amazing.

      • Pat

        I had a similar situation when I went to Ireland. My bank account had a couple of issues and with UMA I was able to call the US and not have to pay a thing. It was a life-saver.

      • J-Hop2o6

        Why doesn’t everyone Tweet @Tmobile_USA and tell them to push UMA again and put it on more smartphones since it very useful, especially out of the US and dead zone in your house.

      • Chino B

        @J-Hop2o6 that’s a great idea!!

    • pjs

      UMA was on Windows Mobile (T-Mobile Shadow 09) and Nokia e73 has UMA so that invalidates some of the article :)

      • Cassie

        No it doesn’t..simply left out the less popular phones goofy! And yes, I can say less popular because I worked smart phone tech care for T-Mobile…I got a call on a windows mobile phone every 3 or 4 days…everything else was Blackberry or sometimes Android. Never had a call on that Nokia or any other Nokia for that matter.

  • Jeff

    I’ll tell you what the problem is with UMA is. In area’s with spotty when the signal strength changes from 3 or 4 bars to no bars, like near the mountains, your phone switches back and forth from network to UMA and eventually you call will drop. So the solution is to put it on UMA only in these areas. However, if you have it UMA only when you walk out of your house and hop into the car and forget to turn it back to to radio/uma your SOL. I had it and it didn’t work for me.

    • tpavey

      So what you are saying is UMA is bad because it may lead to dropped calls or you forgetting to turn on wireless when the alternative is MORE dropped calls due to poor coverage in the area you need UMA?

  • franktronic

    There has been endless speculation on this subject but the only logical explanation posited so far is that it allows essentially free calling all over the world. That’s a lot of money that someone — not necessarily T-Mobile, but someone — could be missing out on.

    I used UMA for years and saw it work across BlackBerry, Nokia, and Samsung phones so it can’t possibly be a software or chipset issue keeping it from broader deployment. Somehow this issue comes down to money, I’m just not sure exactly how.

  • derrickps3

    slow news day huh?

    • David

      You do realize there isn’t 365 days worth of T-Mobile news right? Did you consider that before deciding to be a smartass?

      • Adam

        Oh snap! Hahaha TmoNews FTW

      • BOOM, Admin on your head!

      • Reece

        ooooo snap!!!

      • JoshL

        lol! get him David!

    • tackyboy

      In your face!

    • tackyboy

      In you face! smartass LMAO

    • davidohio

      I suppose he can do a better job writing tmonews. What a smartass moron

    • ItsMichaelNotMike

      Slow IQ day, huh Adam? ;)

      • Deadinditches

        I expect better from you.
        But I guess you enjoy a nice bandwagon ride from time to time too, huh?

  • Adam

    UMA is the the MAIN reason I am still with Tmobile and I have been with them since 1997!. I do love the customer service and prices but they desperately need better smartphones with UMA included. Thanks for posting this and hopefully it will get Tmobile’s attention.

  • mikeeeee

    my ZIPCODE is 38221.

    there aint no fire in the air.

    i have 3 active lines, 2 UMA and one tmobile@home.

    i’ll stay grandfathered on this ’til they kick me off.

    the only thing i want is UMA/ANDROID.

    i carried around a KATALYST and a G-1 for well over a year.

    mash them together and watch it sell.

    what’s better than WIFI indoors and 3G outdoors?

    the name of the game is communicating aint it?

  • PathogenX

    It’s basically a ATT femtocell just like the cell this failed as well.

    • crimson230

      No, it’s definitely NOT the same as femtocell. With UMA you can jump on ANY free WiFi location worldwide and make/receive calls. The range and number of femtocells are only a small fraction of the available Wifi locations. Also, at least with at&t, your number has to be provisioned online for your phone to even be able to connect! How useless is that?

  • DavidinJax

    Your story is my story. The only cell phone carrier that works in my apartment is Verizon. I love T-mobile, I’ve been with them for over 7 years..
    Then the whole UMA thing happened, and my life changed!! I love UMA!! It’s the 75% reason why I still have my blackberry.
    Although, I am thinking a change is gonna come for me. Sadly I see Verizon in my near future. Even Sprint put a tower in my area so now my Sprint friends have a signal in my apartment and surrounding areas.

    WAIT!! I make free phone calls with UMA?? Why do I have an umlimited plan?!?!?!?!?!
    I didn’t know the calls were freeeee!!!! Wow :\

    (although changing my sim card when I get home isn’t such a bad idea)

  • Bob

    I was told by a T-Mobile rep. that the android 2.2 upgrade that is coming (when?) will have UMA built in for any android phone. He said when you are in a low signal area it will switch to wifi. I told him I have the original mt3g and he said it will be on there. Now, just when is that froyo update???

    • David

      That’s ummmm, ridiculous…it’s a hardware thing as well as software and the older phones don’t have the hardware. Simple, it won’t happen.

      • Bob

        All UMA does is encapsulate GSM packets inside TCP/IP packets over WiFi. It doesn’t require any “special” hardware to work. It doesn’t require a “special” router to work. For the T-Mobile implementation of UMA, you need a TMO account, a phone with UMA software on it, a WiFi router and an internet connection. A router with a few tweaks on it will help the phone battery life, but isn’t required.

        UMA (on phones that support UMA) does not require the $10/mo feature. All the $10/mo feature does is give you unlimited minutes over UMA.

      • mikeeeee


        has an ANDROID app ‘workaround’ but it aint so hot.

    • bryan

      That is mostly correct, the 2.2 update coming for the mytouch and mytouch slide will include a wifi calling app/capability but it is not UMA. The difference is that it will not be able to handoff calls from wifi to cell and back. The update should be out before the end of the summer (likely september) for both handsets according to out htc rep. Hopefully it will also be offered as a downloadable app for other handsets.

      I do think it is software that has prevented a UMA/ wifi calling capable Android handset yet, UMA is basically VOIP and Android did not originally support a full VOIP capability. That has changed but i dont remember what version of Android it changed in (it could even be 2.2).

  • JC

    I heard from a regional TMobile manager that UMA on Android is in testing and should be released later this year.

    As for UMA – gotta have it. I use it all over the world to make calls and avoid roaming charges.

  • Nate

    I have continued to purchase Blackberrys simply because they have UMA and are the only phones that work in our basement. I too am hoping for UMA/Android. It would make a nice September birthday present!

  • I love the UMA service!! I live in a area where NO cell service from ANY compamy works but I do have internet and at home use a blackberry for service and than sim change to an andriod when I leave.

    So T-Mobile you have a GREAT service that already working and has been for years lets see the service on all if not most the smart phones!

    As from a hardware issues they make many programs that work over wifi (VPIP) for phones like the iPhone and androids why cant they make the UMA service part of the phone…

    Come on Tmo with the customer service!!

  • Biker84

    Rumor has it that T-Mobile is testing a 3g microcell, similar to what AT&T uses to help their indoor coverage problems. This is why they have been slowly doing away with UMA handsets. At least this is what I have been told certain T-Mobile employees….. Who knows if its true or not…..

  • Dennis

    “It came out with a lot of hoopla but died down quickly and whether or not that was due to poor marketing, poor implementation or …”

    I would say the same about the TMobile@Home service. Those of us that have it are rabid about it, it is a fantastic deal and a real carrier lockin in the right situation. But …. it’s gone now. As far as I’m concerned TMobile’s advertising department should be asking AT&T and Verizon for some kickbacks for the great job they’re (not) doing.

  • Noah

    UMA is the unsung hero of cellular services. I got it for the sake of traveling and also (initially) the $10 all-you-can-eat deal that is gone via “@Home”. Currently, my sister and her whole family swear by it simply because of a lack of signal.
    I don’t know that there would be a stigmatic effect on the service as per T-Mobile’s “reputation” for low-service if they offered it as an integrated service as opposed to their original concept – Pay-per-month. Most phones are capable of pretty darn good VOIP service these days and I would think that shoehorning it into UMA for Android, etc. wouldn’t be an issue. To offer this as a “value-added” service, an augmentation and a gift could help T-Mobile maintain its position as service-oriented, increase the perception of the service in general and continue to undercut expensive services like Verizon or the asinine AT&T MicroCell.
    All that said, they really do need to work on the switch-off. It was horrible on my BlackBerry.

  • the android

    The G1 Blaze will have UMA as well as a dual core 800mhz processor. A buddy of mine was testing it. If it didn’t have a hardware keyboard i would be all over it. Should be dropping mid to late September.

    • alex32

      nice cant wait. The g1 blaze/g2 is the phone i will be getting. The dealbreaker compared to the mytouch hd for me was the fact that this phone will have android 2.2 stock compared to the mytouch hd having that horrible expresso/mytouch skin.
      It has been more or less confirmed that itll have a 3.7 inch screen which is a bummer but I dont care. September needs to come already. Hopefully it launches from september 9 to 15. I cant wait any longer

    • bryan

      God i hope that processor spec is right. That will be the only thing that might have kept that from being my next phone. With Google’s recomended specs for the next version of android being 1Gig processor and 512Mb ram I would not buy a high end handset with less than those specs. If the processor is really dual core then sign me up now. The vision/blaze/whatever the final name will be is nice, processor was my only concern.

      • alex32

        processor is my concern as well. Something tells me the g2 blaze wont have a dual core, then again i dont mind if it has 1ghz processor. I do think its strange that itll have a 800 mhz processor..it gets me thinking why does it have a 800mhz processor when the rest has 1ghz? Then again it could also mean a dual core. So we’ll have to wait and find out.
        I am almost sure a dual core wont come out till 2011, but since the g2 is a google experienced phone like the g1..im sure google would want to make it special by hopefully adding a dual core (;
        In my opinion tmobile would have to start either advertising now or putting up some kind os news on this phone next week. the earlier the better..but who knows.tmobile is very unpredictable

      • bryan

        Our HTC rep stated that the vision/blaze processor was not a 1Gig processor. He said it was a custom chip so there is a possibility of a dual core chip. I did not even think to ask about dual core chipsets, since i was not expecting them to be available until closer to the end of the year or early 2011.. It did feel faster than both the Mytouch slide and the Vibrant, but that could also be from running a stock non skinned 2.2 rom. If the processor is not at least 1 Gig i will be very disapointed, since that will put it below the recomended specs for the next version of android.

  • L


    The only carrier that has coverage at my house is AT&T. I don’t live anywhere crazy… just a random black hole in the burbs. I want to stay with Tmobile but I want an Android phone that I can use on my wi-fi. My Blackberry is nice but it’s just not scratching the itch.

    When traveling to visit family in rural mountainous Arkansas I was the only person who could use my phone…. because it was UMA!

    I don’t get unlimited minutes on UMA. Calls still count against my plan. I don’t pay extra for t-mobile hotspot. You just have to be able to connect to an open wi-fi signal. So many people, even T-mobile reps, do not understand the difference of UMA calling, hotspot calling, and femtocell. I finally had to figure it out myself by just asking the question of the t-mobile rep trying to sell hotspot.. did I have to use their router and sign up for hotspot? NO!

    UMA calling transfers automatically. I do not have to change any settings in my phone. I walk into my house, it changes to UMA. I leave and get into Tmobile coverage a couple of blocks from here and it changes to 3G or Edge.

    Adding UMA to an Android phone WITH proper knowledge by their sales/customer service people and marketing would be a slam dunk for T-Mobile. Why wouldn’t a company want to say.. “Yeah, we’ve got you covered. Even in your cold-war era bunker of basement.” I mean… come on.. that’s just awesome..

    BRING IT!!! Thank you tmonews… keep this in the forefront!!!

  • jwal636

    Our Motorolla rep told us the Charm will be UMA. Anyone else hear the same?

  • RWWackoStu

    I would not be with TMO if it was not for UMA. My town is a TMO dead zone. The only thing around me is Sprint and the Deathstar. IF UMA goes, so do I. I’ll take my 6 year grandfathered plan and walk. Thats how important it is.

  • Bill

    I am a Blackberry fanatic and have stuck with T-Mo because of UMA. The 9700 works greats with it BTW! (So did the 8120 and 8900)

  • Chris

    Right there with you fellas. I was UMA for years and decided to take a chance and abandon the BB. I love my new Vibrant but having to walk to a window just to make a call gets old.
    No chance of it getting better due to geography. Dang you Earth!

  • derrickps3

    david you don’t have to be a jackass man. chill out, and stop being so butt hurt over a small saying that wasn’t even offensive

    • Manny

      I have to agree with this guy… you do kinda flip out on people over nothing. I’ve been watching, but i didnt wanna say anything the other times.

      • David

        You honestly don’t know the time and energy that goes into making this a place where you guys can get the news, discuss it and enjoy it. To have your work constantly criticized is both frustrating and difficult to read. This isn’t some conglomerate blog where the money rolls in no matter what. Its my dollar that comes into play here when your work is consistently bashed its hard not to respond. Let me show you my inbox one day, the hate mail that comes because people just don’t appreciate what is being done for them. I’m sorry you feel that way and I can’t disagree that sometimes I take things a little to personally but perhaps some of the people here need to consider the work that actually goes into this. Its not a mild mannered thing to do on a daily basis.

      • Manny

        I was scared the other times….But, wow i didnt know people were sending you hate mail…why would they wanna do that?… I appreciate every thing you are doing for the site and i dont take it for granted. i enjoy reading ALL of your articles too.

  • derrickps3

    david you don’t have to be a jackass man. that wasn’t even and offensive comment directed towards you

  • MW

    I actually had purchased the T-Mobile wiresless router to enable this service in my house so I would not have to use my minutes (that was their selling point). Little did I know that they would not add this feature to the G1 or any other Android phone. This is a place that disappoints me with T-Mobile, if you have a service put some phones in place to use the service. Unfortunately they continue this foolishness with HSPA+. All they have is HSPA+ compatible phone. What good is an HSPA+ compatible phone, I am paying top dollar for my phones and I expect full use of it. I don’t want an HSPA+ compatible phone, I want a HSPA+ phone and UMA. Come on T-Mobile pulling for you, if you have a service have phones ready for the service at the time that the service is first available!

  • ManoloDF

    UMA is the best and the reason I am with T-Mobile. When the Nokia E73 came out I bought 2, one for my mom and one for my brother since it finally had UMA. It really stumps me that it is not in every smartphone out there, android, WP7 etc. It should be essential, especially to TMO and with all their business accounts, the blackberries just dont do it for me. Another thing they should implement is how to enable UMA ONLY mode on all UMA phones, blackberries do a great job of this but for example Nokia does not. I want more UMA news!

  • Memphis1979

    We strayed away from UMA, because no other carriers were promoting it. Its hard to get phone manufacturers to include chip sets that no one else wants.

  • Screw UMA, it always seemed like a half-assed “solution” to spotty coverage.

    Should get into microcells which will work with any phone.

    • bryan

      I dont see how microcells are much better, instead of buying a handset you have to buy a microcell. Additionally, microcells limit how many handsets can access them at once (not an issue for UMA/wifi). You still have to have highspeed internet access to use it so you probably already have a wifi router at least.
      Im not saying microcells are worse, or that they are any better, they are just different.

      I would like to see both as an option, microcells for low end phones without wifi and UMA/ wifi calling for smartphones since they already have wifi. Give the customer the choice of which solution works best for them.

    • Jeff

      Robert, exactly! It seems to be working for these guys, but where i needed it worked, but like you said it was half-assed!

      Just focus on better coverage and you don’t need it.

  • NiiDiddy

    Loved UMA when I had my Blackberry Curve however many couple yrs ago before Android. It was great—I had the feature that allowed me to be able to free/unlimited called over the UMA.

    Note people: fact that you have UMA doesn’t mean you have unlimited talk through UMA. If they bring it back, T-Mobile should also bring back the $10/mo add on for unlimited talk.

  • Ludda

    To the best of my knowlege, most T-Mobile phones are already have Wi-Fi. I’ve been using Wi-Fi for the past for 2 years with 3 differen phones (Samsung T339, Shadow, & Cliq) and I won’t purchase a phone without it from now on. If this is something that T-Mobile is going to decrease then I will be very dissapointed because that is a required feature when making a decision on a new phone purchase. Even if you have good service at home, the internet is much faster than 3G, and most times it’s more convenient to use your phone then going on your computer to look something up real quick. My school is in a dead zone (very small because I get full bars across the street) but we have plenty of Wi-Fi connections to choose from so I would be helpless without it.

  • sat

    So vote on the Android UMA ticket:


    And there are companies that have created working android UMA software stacks:


  • ItsMichaelNotMike

    I was one of the first people to sign up for HotSpot at Home. Back then it was $10 monthly, a great deal for us on limited minutes.

    I remember using the phone (I think it was a Curve) at Starbucks and it was super cool the way the phone seamlessly switched from WiFi to my cell plan. What was really cool is that any call STARTED at a public WiFi (UMA) remained free and unlimited after leaving the public WiFi area.

    Even though the plan was $10, I cancelled it once going to unlimited talk since it was no longer an issue, keeping track of minutes to avoid overage charges.

    As I recall, the reason HotSpot failed is: 1) people did not understand HOW the service worked, no matter how simple the TV ads made it look; 2) there were simply too many competing services, where people at home could use those services, such as Skype, Vonage and other VOIP (internet calling); and 3) in line with not understanding how the service worked, people either did not have the required broadband cable modem or they were unwilling to get it from a cable provider.

    IMHO #3 above is what killed HotSpot @ Home. Having to “do a deal” with one’s local cable provider so to get HotSpot to work was as toxic as telling people to get the iPhone they had to sign up with AT&T.

    The savings to a T-Mobile customer became foggy when one had to calculate in the cost of cable broadband service into the mix. If one did not have a cable modem it then became $50 monthly to enjoy HotSpot, not the advertised $10.

    And of course this did not pencil out if one compared the rates with Skype and Vonage (for international calls).

    Yes, for those who did not get a T-Mobile cell phone signal this was a great alternative, especially if one could then leave the “dead zone” UMA connection then seamlessly continue a call via regular cell service. But IMHO there’s too few of those customers to justify the service.

    Hotspot was like FedEx’s “Zap Mail” in the late eighties. Zap Mail was simply a fax machine used via Fed Ex offices. One would go to a Fed Ex office, the clerk would fax a document to the FedEx office where you wanted the document delivered, and FedEx would deliver the document in a FedEx envelope.

    Zap Mail lasted about a year because soon everyone had fax machines rendering the service moot.

    HotSpot is the same because there’s so many alternatives. And a UMA phone was hard for anyone except the geeks to understand. (And there were not enough geeks to justify the expense of providing the service.) For example, I suspect that setting up the router required a lot of calls to T-Mobile tech support. Having live people available to answer questions is very expensive.

  • maritza

    100% agreed! My home is a deadzone for all cell phone signals. My BB Bold works beautifully on my wifi, but I wish I had more options :( I pray the UMA/Android rumors are true!

  • Dave

    We have dropped our landline, and now rely totally on our TMO phones. As we have good cell coverage at home, my love for UMA has nothing to do with bad coverage at my house.

    I travel internationally, nearly monthly, and when at home, many business calls are overseas. I switched to BB rather than Android about 15 months ago. My initial reason was that I could pay an extra $19.95/month for unlimited BB messaging services overseas. That beats $20/MB for data charges when roaming internationally.

    It was a pleasant surprise to find out the BB had UMA. I can make free international calls from home in the US, and make free calls when overseas, provided of course I have a WiFi connection. It sure beats firing up my laptop and getting Skype started, or paying anywhere from $0.49/minute to $4.99/minute. (Yes, I know minutes are deducted from my plan, so the calls are not techincally ‘free’.)

  • I considered the hotspot at home for for a while. I did not have internet. By the time I installed it Magenta gave me unlimited for $60 bucks and made it not revilement. We will see what happens after all the fall things happen. I’m curious to see what HTC has in store for Sept.

  • Jake

    As a customer, I love UMA. Better reception, and access to my pool of minutes from anywhere in the world so long as I have wifi access.

    From T-Mobile’s perspective, UMA has become a liability for a few reasons.

    Reason number one: The technical parameters required to add UMA make it another loop for phone manufacturers to jump through if they want to deal with T-Mobile. In this new age of smartphone competition, customers are quick to jump ship to other carriers for the latest and greatest, and T-Mobile’s business priority is to get their customers to stay put by making sure there are no barriers to negotiating with handset manufacturers. Simply put, T-Mobile can’t risk placing an added burden on manufacturers that UMA technology potentially requires.

    Reason number two: T-Mobile marketed their UMA sales pitch around the benefit of “unlimited free calls when on wifi” instead of the advantage of better reception in more places. Now that they are pushing their unlimited talk plans, touting UMA plans with unlimited talking will take a bite out of their most profitable talk plans. IN theory they could still offer UMA on future handsets without supporting unlimited UMA talking, but then UMA has a weaker marketing pitch as simply a “better reception” technology. Unsavvy customers would start to wonder, why does my phone need a feature to help reception? Is T-Mobile’s reception bad?

    The reasons mentioned above provide a window into the complexity of balancing the needs of the business with the needs of the customer.

  • I completely agree

  • mikeeeee

    i think there’s a little consensus here.


  • SPyla

    if t-mobile does not come with UMA on Android before Verizon comes with android world phone, I am switching to Verizon.

  • JustLoseFocus

    I love UMA, it does what I need it to do, have great coverage at home for me. I started using it when I had my Blackberry Curve 8900 and now I use a 9700 and my friends are jealous of that one feature T-Mobile offers to its capable UMA phones. If the iPhone had it and Android phones had it, people would be happy. I thinks its very very useful, depends on the phone users needs.

  • Rick

    whoa… do i hear crickets on this page, or what?!

  • penguin

    motorola charm has UMA

    its android/uma

    • mingkee

      May you elablorate?
      I don’t see “wifi calling” on spec.

  • Tony

    Would UMA work on t-mobile’s pre-paid service using the bold 9700, or any UMA phone? I recently switched to simple mobile, but when I had my t-mobile blackberry, UMA worked world wide with no issues and basically giving me free US calls over wifi while overseas. So this could be a great tip for travelers. Oh, and add google voice, and you get affordable international calls too!

    Great post, by the way!

  • Danny

    The new UMA service for Android won’t be an app you’ll be able to download from the Market Place.

    Instead, it will be a FOTA update pushed to select devices.

    The good news is that UMA functionality will be enabled on Android phones that don’t have the specific hardware chip installed.

    The bad news is that this version of UMA will only work while connected to a WiFi hotspot which means the call will not hand off to the PCS/AWS network (or vice versa) like it does on current BlackBerry devices. So if you start a call over UMA on your Android and you go outside the call will drop.

    Should be ready later this fall per my local Sales Engineer. That is ALL I KNOW. No specific dates, links or which OS version will be compatible with the service.

    • mingkee

      Will nexus one or Behold II qualify for UMA for Android?
      I can put Behold II on main line and let nexus one runs as mobile hotspot on webconnect.

    • Ted C..

      UMA is primarily about how to perform handoffs between GSM and VOIP so something that doesn’t support this simply isn’t UMA. That doesn’t mean that it wouldn’t be great to have but please don’t represent this as UMA.

      UMA doesn’t require specific hardware other than both a GSM radio and a WiFi radio. It does require the vendor to implement a UNC (UMA Network Controller) which basically handles all the signaling which tells the backend network that a switch is being made between access methods. From the UNC back to the rest of the carrier equipment the WiFi connection looks like a regular GSM connection which is part of what makes it *relatively* simple to implement UMA. So basically the handset talks to the UNC to ask for a transfer from GSM and then initiates a GSM session over TCP to talk to the UNC. The UNC just looks like any other tower to the providers network.

      If you want to understand the standard you can get information at:

  • mingkee

    Please add UMA on Mytouch HD or MyTouch slide HD.
    Don’t T-Mobile know this is pretty critical for those who are in bad reception area?
    I am waiting and waiting for UMA Android phone, so I can utilize my nexus one to use webconnect, and use the UMA on mobile hotspot built in nexus one.
    Here is the scheme how I want to utilize “mobile UMA”
    3G->nexus one (mobile hotspot)->UMA over wifi->UMA Android phone
    This is pretty useful for me as I am in some areas where I have to put the phone close to the window to get reception and wifi isn’t available, this scheme will save my day.

  • remixfa

    ok UMA.

    Its better than FemToCell.. why? If you have a UMA phone, u dont have to buy additional equipment that requires additional monthly fees. Period.

    UMA on Android.
    T-Mobile has promised to release a UMA APP on android for Tmobile Phones. It is NOT a HARDWARE problem, just a software problem. They HAVE NOT made good on the promise yet, but still keep promising, so i think it will come shortly.. 2.2 perhaps?

    The Mytouch3g has been promised 2.2. Its in the last android magazine. If they are going to print it, they are going to deliver it. Point blank. Rumors are one thing, printing it in the “official android magazine” for Tmobile is another.

    UMA is great at getting service where you have no signal but WiFi. BUT it still counts against your minutes. Everyone that thinks it doesnt, just didnt pay attention. Weather it counts as international or not if your out of the USA i dont know, but in the USA, it is MINUTES,not FREE. :) It connects you back to the Tmobile service from your ISP and it very much tags your minute usage… so dont think you are going to be on a 500 minute plan and call your VZW buddy for 1k extra minutes and not see a funny bill.

    UMA is GREAT as a network alternative for those that recieve weak signal at home or work but have WiFi. And its really sad that its not on all devices by now on Tmo’s or anyone elses network.

    • bryan

      T-Mobile has never made any official statements promising a UMA/wifi calling app for Android. There have been rumors before but there have been no official statements promising a UMA/wifi calling app. It is very likely coming soon but even that has not had official confirmation.
      There was a $10/month unlimited UMA calling feature but it was not required to use UMA only if you wanted unlimited calls over WiFi, so some people on here may very well have unlimited UMA calling if the kept the feature.

  • akil

    main reason why they prob wont bring UMA to T-mobile especially android because of features like Hotspot WIFI, if you really can make free calls via UMA then i could just use my nexus one’s for hot spot and connect off of it and make free calls

  • Cassie

    I now live in an apartment where ATT and TMobile both get pretty much NOTTA in signal. Because of a move I had to switch from my Motorola Cliq to a Blackberry 8520. I don’t mind Blackberry (by the way the “search” option in the message folder is awesome and I just discovered it last night), I would still much rather have an Android device. I bought my fiance the Vibrant because the lack of signal doesn’t bother him as much and he lovesss watching tv on it at work. I have less patience for dropped calls than him. I want an awesome Android phone with UMA that’s what I want, I love T-Mobile and I’m sure plenty of customers are thinking the same thing as me.

  • Cassie

    And one more thing. Please correct me if I’m wrong but don’t you have to have the “unlimited wifi calling” feature in order to make “unlimited wifi calls”? Otherwise they deduct out of your regular bucket. I do believe that feature is still grandfathered as of October of 2009. So some of you may have it, but other users like myself do not. So bottom line if you have the feature it is unlimited, if not minutes comes out of your bucket…Like I said correct me if I’m wrong. Oh how cheap my rate plan would be if I could have that cheap little feature back! tehehe lol


    This is one of the few things I do miss from by black berry. It was a great feature to have when you didn’t have cell service, but you did have WiFi connection. It would be nice to see it rolled out to the android line of phones from T-Mobile.

  • shackk

    Originally when I signed up for the @Home service it came with unlimited UMA calling that does not come out of your bucket minutes. I can still confirm that if you have the feature grandfathered in, your minutes are still unlimited both @Home and UMA. If not UMA minutes are pulled from your bucket allotment. @Home service is no longer available.

    I think personally the @Home service was a no brainer. $10 all you can talk VOIP service just makes sense for a home phone. Couple that with the unconditional forwarding minutes and you have an extremely cheap option all while having a separate number. Take the router with you and you have your @home service wherever you have an internet connection. Even internationally, your number goes with you and free. I can see where Tmo lost money on this but it certainly could have been marketed differently and easily competed with other VOIP options. As for UMA, while it may not be a perfect solution it works and works well and if you jumped in at the beginning you can’t beat the unlimited minutes it came with.

    I have also seen ATT branded blackberry’s use UMA which leads me to believe that it is not hardware but a software limitation and hoping Android will have this sooner rather than later.

  • Ted C.

    UMA is primarily about how to perform handoffs between GSM and VOIP so something that doesn’t support this simply isn’t UMA. That doesn’t mean that it wouldn’t be great to have but please don’t represent this as UMA.

    UMA doesn’t require specific hardware other than both a GSM radio and a WiFi radio. It does require the vendor to implement a UNC (UMA Network Controller) which basically handles all the signaling which tells the backend network that a switch is being made between access methods. From the UNC back to the rest of the carrier equipment the WiFi connection looks like a regular GSM connection which is part of what makes it *relatively* simple to implement UMA. So basically the handset talks to the UNC to ask for a transfer from GSM and then initiates a GSM session over TCP to talk to the UNC. The UNC just looks like any other tower to the providers network.

    • Ash

      Totally agree. I just created a facebook fan page for T-Mobile USA UMA. Become a fan and let’s hope T-Mobile brings this service to all android phones!

  • Jimbo

    Uma is amazing and there is not going to be a simple app for android phones out already it would need hardware in the phone to run also uma calling is not free international calling it aslo uses your minutes if you don’t have the grandfathered unlimited uma feature that’s 10 before uma was dismissed tmo fixed the system to charge for international calls over wifi and dave your amazing keep up the good work

  • wam

    How dose the UMA work with the Nokia E73?

    • quailallstar

      The Nokia E73 really doesn’t do UMA as well as Blackberry phones does. The handoff between EDGE/3G into UMA is horrible and drops calls. I’ve gone through two new E73’s with them both doing this.

      Holding out for an Android OS phone with UMA :)

      • Not just Android phones, please.
        We all need this.

  • wam

    How good dose it work, is what i meant to say. lol

  • TheLight

    this is off topic 6ut I would love to see more articles posted…even though Monday is supposedly a slow news day and T0Mobile isnt going to have news over flowing in the wireless industry, 6ut I still think you TMOnews can report a little more news even it repeats engadget and other sites who get it 6efore them… I like to visit this site 6ecause its carrier specific to me, 6ut I only look at the other sites when I get 6ored here and lately thats 6een awhole lot..just saying..I still love you guys though

    • David

      I would love to post more news everyday, but this is a T-Mobile based site so the news we write on is T-Mobile related. I won’t post stories just to drive traffic or just to make it look like the blog is busy, I’d rather go a day or two without news than lose focus. There aren’t any phone launches this month so its a little slower than usual but rest assured as the rest of the year goes on we all know there are phones that are going to make you guys very happy!

      • TheLight


  • T-Mobile UMA

    I just created a T-Mobile UMA Fan Page. Come and support! Let’s get this bad ass on Android phones!


  • SeanPDX

    UMA is why I stay with Tmobile. Verizon has better coverage. AT&T better phones.

    UMA makes Tmobile work where no other cell phones do – in countries with different frequency bands, and out in rural areas of the US. Hopefully Tmo will get cutting edge hardware, but if they lack UMA it is a dealbreaker for me.

  • gmo tulane

    UMA is the best thing that has happened in my life. Need to make a call in Cuba? You got it. Need to make a call in my basement apartment? You betcha. UMA is so fantastic I frequently show it off to people as the greatest invention ever. They always wonder, why havent I heard of this before? Why dont more phones have it? How can I get it?

  • Michael

    My family has been using this feature for a couple of years, love it. Bad reception-solved, using tons of minutes-solved, need to call home from overseas-solved (magenta killed this feature recently-????). I agree, I don’t understand not promoting this feature fully. Friends always ask me why I’m still using Blackberry’s and I tell them about UMA and they don’t even realize it exists.

  • remixfa

    yes, you are correct about “granfathered UMA plans”. I wasnt talking past tense though as most people have moved away from those plans for some reason or another and they are not availible. I dont want some person comming into the store and yelling at me because they read on the internet that its unlimited, and its not.

    A UMA for Android app has NOT been “Promised” publicly, absolutely. I have heard from multiple sources much higher that is IS in the works. If it ever comes out or not, is a different story. Concidering we had UMA refresher stuff a few months back, they are not done with UMA so be patient.

  • Guy

    The wifi app for android is coming. UMA is back strong.

  • Happywith339

    We have been using the Samsung t409 and t339 UMA phones for a couple of years and the service generally works great. Same story here, NO cellular carrier works in our basement excepts our T-Mobile UMA phones (maybe microcells do, but I already have a Wi-Fi router for computers, so I don’t want or need that).

    T-Mobile should have just called it Wi-Fi calling from the beginning, instead of all the confusion with hotspot, hotspot@home, etc. A great example of bad marketing.

    My suggestion is to add some new regular cell phones that have UMA and a better feature set than the T339. For example, add in software that allows logging in to many hotel’s free wi-fi networks via the built-in web browser. Speaking of web browsers, how about using Opera Mini and allowing it to connect for free to Wi-Fi instead of going through the UMA servers via Wi-Fi for internet access at $10/month? Add in software that can log when call quality goes down to determine if it is the phone, the cable provider, or T-Moible’s UMA servers causing the problems. A higher quality camera would be nice, maybe even one with a flash. Higher quality video recording would be a bonus. How about an external extending antenna to prevent dropped calls on T-Mobile’s sometimes weak 1900 MHz GSM network? The antennas on the T339 are on the bottom of the phone and the hand does reduce signal strength unless you just hold it with the tips of your fingers. Finally, a bigger battery and maybe a slightly larger flip phone to accommodate it. Price could be about the same as the SE Equinox ($160 range) and I would buy it. Why reinvent the wheel, just make it better!

    Smart phones are still a small percentage of the total cell phone market. Many people do not want to pay for slow, unreliable, and high latency (compared to home Wi-Fi) mobile broadband at $30/month. The Nokia Nuron was a good idea, except that it does not have Wi-Fi, does not have UMA, and the antenna is weak. The E73 mode requires a data plan.

  • rinklighter

    T-Mobile doesn’t exactly some super amazing news every day, but when it breaks TmoNews is on usually on top of it. This is off-topic, but what is up with the moronic use of the sixes in your post? Is it that difficult to type a “b?”

  • bleedingmagenta

    from what i understand of UMA here in the U.S. is that the FCC has tight restrictions on approving UMA handsets (since they don’t make any money off the access or bandwidth persay). And since TMO is the only US carrier that supports UMA that makes it harder for device manuf. to pass one thru FCC. BB is great with it cause they have the feds. in their pockets due to all the government contracts with RIM. Just my 2 cents.

    • Doug

      Why would a UMA handset need to meet any different requirements than any other WIFI enabled phone? UMA is just a service that operates over wifi like web traffic, or streaming video, etc. to be more specific UMA is an encrypted ipsec tunnel or basically a VPN connection

      Thats kind of like saying bittorrent programs need approval from the FCC before you can use them over wifi, because they might over saturate a wifi channel or something

  • Matt

    I keep a 8320 around specifically for UMA and traveling out of the country. People always ask if calling internationally is going to cost me a ton of money. Nope, UMA :)

    I’ll add my vote to the “UMA is part of the reason I’m still with T-Mobile” camp.

  • Jimbo

    Hey matt when you use uma to call internationaly and get a huge bill don’t be crying to customer service

    • TheDude

      So when is that “huge bill” supposed to hit, exactly? I’ve used it internationally as well :/

      • TheDude

        I should mention to make/receive calls to the US while in international locations. I get a local phone (or swap sims) for any locally international calls.

  • ItsMichaelNotMike

    If not a UMA phone, how about a waterproof one?

    Per Boy Genius Report 8/17/10:

    Boost Mobile might have the Motorola i1 as a ruggedized Android handset, but we’ve just been informed that T-Mobile will be upping the stakes. A new Motorola Android phone, codenamed Jordan, is set for a November launch on T-Mo. The interesting thing about the Motorola Jordan is not that it is just a ruggedized handset, bur rather that we’ve heard the phone will actually be completely waterproof down to 10 meters (that’s just shy of 33-feet for those of you who are metrically challenged). Even IP67 certified. So, the phone will be swimming with the fishes at launch then?

    • alex32

      im sure itll be a “slam dunk” of a phone..NOT..how in the world are we able to get info on this phone coming out in November when we are in august and havent gotten anything on our hspa+ phones in September? tmobile is so aggravating.

  • Kirsten

    UMA is the only thing keeping me on TMobile once my contract is up. Otherwise I’d move on to a carrier that can at least provide me with a signal in my house (even if its a tad more expensive). ya know… where I am at least 50% of my life?

  • i love uma i wish it was on my hd2

  • Wifi and battery life don’t mix well together. So not only would T-Mobile have a marketing problem saying they have no coverage in your house but then T-Mobile phones would suddenly have no battery life the more you relied on it.

  • CoCo

    I once was told (in a town hall meeting) that it takes 4-5 months longer to make and pass the FCC for a phone with UMA capabilities. Maybe that’s why, with the envelope being pushed quickly now-a-days with the better and faster phones being put out this would make sense. That being said i think some new high end phones should come with it. Hell they usually put out updates a month or two after the phone releases anyways. So even it it was a tad bit behind the high-end curve a update could solve this problem. IE Android update ect..

    • Ted C.

      That doesn’t pass the sniff test to me… The FCC doesn’t regulate protocols for the most part. And since UMA is entirely a signaling implementation I sincerely doubt that the FCC would step into this at all. Some interesting notes about UMA (now referred to as GAN for Generic Access Network):
      – As of 2008 it supports data handoffs as well as voice
      – While some have commented that using Wifi may negatively impact battery life GAN actually makes it possible for implementations to turn off the cellular radio while “roaming” on WiFi which can have a dramatic impact since it allows only one radio to be on at a time. VOIP can’t do this!
      – VoLGA (Voice over LTE Generic Access) is a version of GAN that allows GSM equipment to operate over LTE and was finalized late in 2009 or early this year (can’t remember)
      – The 3GPP (which is the group responsible for the UMA/GAN standard) announced earlier this year the development of a generic smartphone app for GAN. That should mean general availability of GAN-based smartphone apps in the next 12 months!

  • Happywith339

    “Wifi and battery life don’t mix well together.”

    I’ve not had any problems with battery life on my t339 with Wi-Fi running all day and making calls all day via UMA when at home. I do make it a habit of charging the phone every night, as my consulting business depends on my phone working. Maybe the T-Mobile Linksys router I got for FREE after rebate from T-Mobile is superior with UMA devices for power management? Anyway, it just works.

  • Nath12

    Great posts by everyone. I sincerely hope uma gets to my Vibrant, even without cell to wi-fi handover it would help tremendously!

  • manny

    keep uma alive

  • TMo in FL

    Not only is UMA a great feature for those in the US who don’t have the best coverage but, as has been alluded to by some previous posters, one of the best uses of this feature is while someone is traveling internationally.

    When I say that I don’t mean to make international calls, you’d still get charged for making an international call as if you were in the US. What I am saying is that for an international organization who has over 50 lines with T-Mobile, three quarters of which are Blackberries of some flavor (on Blackberry Enterprise Server Express…oh so nice), most of those staff traveling internationally, we save a boatload of money. Sure you need a solid internet connection but you’d be surprised the places you can find sufficient bandwidth. To be able to make calls using UMA and have them count as if you were in the US and not have it cost extra (only takes away from your available minutes) is a huge undersold benefit (plug for the Unlmited Blackberry International Data Roaming feature here which can be scheduled to turn on and off and is prorated…only $20 a month, yet another huge cost savings!).

    I’ll gladly say that we are an enterprise customer who is happy with T-Mobile and one of the reasons why is UMA!

  • Former TMO

    This article is spot on. In my condo, I got no reception with Tmo almost 80% of the time(other 20% was when I was near my patio window). UMA helped out tremendously. I was able to get reception just fine. I got off contract in May but really wanted a phone that wasn’t another blackberry, and unfortunately I had no options for an android phone. Since nothing was officially announced or upcoming for a UMA android phone, I decided to leave Tmobile for Sprint just 2 1/2 weeks ago(got the Evo).

    I was with Tmobile for over 8 years, and I had a pretty good plan and for the most part I liked their customer service. I just really wanted a change in phones and unfortunately I had no options since UMA isn’t on any of the high end android phones.

    Bottom line, unless they implements UMA in new phones, upgrading to a new high end smartphone with TMobile isn’t an option for some of us who have spotty reception. Other carriers have devices to boost reception on their android phones if necessary(Sprint with the Air rave and ATT with the Microcell), so why doesn’t Tmobile?

  • Animate

    UMA is the one feature I really miss from y BB8900 when I switched to my Vibrant. I went to the mountains a few months ago and Tmobile service was noexistent in the cabin. but they had a wireless connections. Other than people flooding the router with laptops I had pretty reliable connection on my BB when I was connected.

    Praying Android gets UMA or at least a similar feature.

  • Spineless

    I will only buy UMA enabled phones. We have virtually zero T-Mobile coverage where I live, and that is about 1 mile from the T-Mobile headquarters in Bellevue, WA!!!

    I have no desire to switch to any of the other carriers because I feel that they are even more over-priced than T-Mobile. So until T-Mobile releases smartphones other than Blackberries with UMA, we will be sticking with our Blackberries.

  • Josh

    Preach, preacher! Maybe now T-Mobile will come to the altar and get right. Hope so…

  • Bruce

    Don’t forget 911 safety!

    My wife, daughter and I share a 700 minute plan and only use half of those minutes every month thanks to UMA. We have no land-line. My wife stays home and her phone is connected to the router so none of those calls count against the 700 minutes. If she should have to call 911, it will pop up on their screen as a physical address, not a wandering cell phone. That is because the call goes through the router.

    Battery life? If she makes a lot of calls, she has to charge her phone overnight. With normal call volume, her UMA phone lasts two days. UMA is very battery efficient.

    We will stay with T-Mobile as long as we can keep UMA. If they get rid of it, we’ll be gone.

    • mikeeeee


      plain vanilla UMA phones are really cheap on ebay.

      • A variety of used UMA phones are available for free at Cell Escape. You get a phone, a short term contact (also used) and avoid the usual $35 activation fee. You can choose your own phone number and downgrade the plan to what ever suits you, or roll it into your family Plan for $10/month.

  • Yukiyu

    When you visit the Issue 6242: UMA enable Android OS you could see there’s a lot of people asking Google to add this item to Android Phones. Let’s make some noise. Visit Google and tell them how important it is to get involved in this UMA feature with T-Mobile.


    No UMA support on Android remains the sole reason I haven’t moved from my Blackberry. When Android get this UMA feature, Blackberry eventually died. So, problably there’s money running under the table to stop it make it happen. No other logical explanation. But the customer want it!!! I estimate more than 60% of the people doesn’t know about UMA, and how it works. If they address this issue, they could get a lot more of customers.

    Over 400 people asking for UMA on Droids in this ISSUE 6242. Google, do the math!!! $200 aprox. each unit. EIGHTY THOUSAND DOLLAR IN ANDROID PHONE SALES!!!

    400 on a two years agreement paying $50 (obviously, will be higher). T-Mobile do the math!!! HALF A MILLION DOLLAR!!!

    This is a Win-Win situation here for both of you. Nobody can’t lose… well, RIM does. BUT WHO CARES?

  • Cu2cool

    Yes, I would definitly love this on my HD2 or next upgrade. But please bring it to HD2! Otherwise, if on Android I will dual boot with Android. =)

  • deckrider

    After my Blackberry Curve died, I got a myTouch 3G 1.2. I like the myTouch, but UMA is one of the huge things I miss:

    When out snowboarding, with UMA I could easily have coverage at Arapahoe Basin (Colorado Ski Resort) where there is little coverage from any carrier–just by connecting to the free WiFi in the lodge.

  • Hi David,
    Agree with your post completely. Android is what made me move to T-Mo. I am sure it will make others move to it in the future (bcoz TMo does a pretty good job with their plans and data rates). Would be nice it TMo also pushed Android more – in particular with UMA support.


  • upnorth85

    I have had UMA service for many years now. I too delayed getting my latest BlackBerry 9700 because I was hoping to get an Android phone with UMA. With BB having dumped its loyal T-mobile customers (first for Storm and then for Torch), my loyalty to BB is dead. I am currently in China and call my family daily using the UMA feature and have a local phone for local calls. I use connectify to set up a personal hotspot on my Windows 7 laptop. I have stopped using mmagic jack when I go overseas. I have been with T-mobile for over 8 years now. I am surprised how few people outside of T-mobile know about the wonderful UMA feature. Other than Rogers in Canada, not many providers provide UMA.

  • Any news on the UMA on other smart phones or networks? I love my UMA i use it at work no one even Verizon has converge in ER or some other areas in the hospital but I do so I can be reached anywhere I am for emergencies. I could use a bigger screen then my BB Curve for reading CMA articles.
    Was hoping iPhone or other smartphones like Android would have it but looks like BB is the only one and T-mobile is also the only one that provides it.