T-Mobile has long touted Wi-Fi calling as one of its key features, and the carrier has been better than its competition at implementing it — and now the company is making it easier for every one of its customers to take advantage. As part of its latest round of Uncarrier announcements, T-Mobile today revealed that every smartphone it sells from here out will be capable of Wi-Fi calling and texting. Furthermore, the carrier is letting users who may not have a smartphone capable of Wi-Fi calling upgrade their device through T-Mobile's Jump program, even if they aren't currently eligible for an upgrade. Between the two initiatives, virtually every T-Mobile customer on one of its contract-free Simple Choice plans will be able to use Wi-Fi calling with minimal effort.
T-Mobile claims that with its current Wi-Fi calling technology, customers won't have to set anything up — their phones should seamlessly transfer between available Wi-Fi connections and the carrier's LTE network without disruption. And while any Wi-Fi network should work, T-Mobile is going to give away a Wi-Fi router so that more customers can take advantage of Wi-Fi calling. T-Mobile is confusingly calling the device a "Personal CellSpot," but it's simply a router that supports 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac wireless networking on both the 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands. It does have a special feature, though, which preferences your local voice traffic over other traffic on the Wi-Fi network so your call will be less likely to drop if somebody else in the house is streaming HD video.
T-Mobile will start giving them away as of September 17th to "qualifying" T-Mobile customers — those who are on one of the carrier's Simple Choice plans and have a smartphone capable of Wi-Fi calling (which is now anyone on the carrier who wants one). T-Mobile did note during its Q&A that there's a $25 deposit required to get a Personal CellSpot — the router will stay T-Mobile property and you'll return it and get your deposit back if you want to discontinue service.
Wi-Fi calling is also going to be useful for international travelers, as well — if you're a T-Mobile customer and you're using your phone internationally, you can make WI-Fi calls back to the US for free. Currently, voice calls cost 20 cents per minute on T-Mobile's plan, but assuming you can find a Wi-Fi signal, you can make calls at will.
T-Mobile is also announcing a new deal with Gogo's in-flight Wi-Fi service. While T-Mobile customers aren't getting free access to all of Gogo's Wi-Fi, they can now send unlimited SMS and MMS messages while in flight and connected to Gogo. You'll also be able to grab your visual voicemail messages, but without being able to return calls that's only so useful. Being able to text while flying should be pretty handy, however — much like Wi-Fi calling, these aren't features that are going to entice people to switch, but it's a nice added value for T-Mobile's expanding customer base.