Free mobile calls via Wi-Fi (T-Mobile Wi-Fi plans)

Q: Want to make free calls, virtually anywhere?

Solution: Use a T-Mobile’s smartphone to connect via W-Fi … 

You can make unlimited, free calls at any place that you have Internet access via Wi-Fi, like coffee shops. With a little help, you can expand that to any place where you have Internet access, such as your hotel room. This could save you a bundle in roaming charges if you are traveling internationally, as you will be able to call (and access the Internet) for free.

T-Mobile supports free calls over Wi-Fi via two plans, Wi-Fi Calling, and @Home (no new customers permitted, but existing customers supported). Both plans offer the same feature of no-cost calling over Wi-Fi, even when roaming internationally.

Solution for Wi-Fi Calling subscribers (Free!)

“There is no additional monthly charge to use the Wi-Fi Calling feature on your handset.” To add this no-cost feature to your smartphone, see the complete description for this option in the relevant Support document.

Solution for @Home Subscribers

For @Home subscribers, T-Mobile does not distinguish between your usage on your home Wi-Fi network or on other Wi-Fi networks, so hopping onto a Wi-Fi network is a great way to save money. Calls are billed the same from any hotpot just as if you were at your @Home hotspot. So calls to/from the U.S. are free (as you said), and calls to foreign locations incur only Long Distance charges (instead of more costly roaming charges).

Solution 1: Connect to the existing hotspot (from your Wi-Fi capable, @Home phone).
How: If the Wi-Fi hotspot already exists, you can connect to the hotspot and use it. This works whether the hotspot is open (no password) or requires a password. Just go the menu of your Wi-Fi capable phone and scan for networks, select the local network, and enter the password (if any). Done! Thereafter, all calls are free and your calls will be handed off to the cellular network if you leave the hotspot coverage. Calls that are originated on the hotspot are free, even if they end up being handed off to the cellular network (read in a previous, thorough @Home review).

When you are connected to the Wi-Fi network, you will see the words “UMA” in the handset display (where you’d usually see the serving, cellular network name). You must be connected to the Wi-Fi network to get free calls, so be sure to look for this indication.

Solution 2: Create your own Wi-Fi hotspot for your @Home phone to use.
How: If there is no Wi-Fi network but you do have access to an Internet connection, you can create your own hotspot for your phone to use. Just plug in a small, wireless router (like the minuscule, Apple’s AirPort Expressthat is about the size of a deck of playing cards). Apple’s portable, wireless router is made for this: it plugs into the wall, and you connect it to the Internet connection using a standard Ethernet cable (RJ-45). Then, just connect to the new network from your @Home handset (“Set Up Wi-Fi” on my BlackBerry 8320 Curve) and you’re in service!

Plug it in, and Connect to Ethernet

Plug it in, and Connect to Ethernet

To make it completely simple to use when you are travelling, I configure the device and then toss it into my luggage. Although this device is extremely portable, I’ve not been impressed with the ability to set it up with a Windows OS (which I use on business travel), so it can be inconvenient to try to change settings while on the go. I configure my AirPort Express with a secure password for the Wi-Fi network that I will create.

There’s a nice, simple explanation of the use and setup of AirPort Express here, which includes the added benefits of acting as a wireless extension cord for your (a) printer, (b) stereo, (c) Ethernet connection, including extending the range of an existing Apple Wi-Fi network. For more on extending the range of your home Wi-Fi network, please see my notes here.

Wi-Fi Hotspot "To Go"

Wi-Fi Hotspot

You’re Secure: You are not at risk when using a public hotspot for these calls. There are multiple levels of security, even if you are using a public hotspot. Your @Home phone still uses embedded GSM security (the A3 & A5 algorithms), since UMA takes the whole GSM stack, packetizes it and sends it over the Wi-Fi (IP packet) network and the internet. While connected, your connection is also encrypted from the device to the T-Mobile network by encapsulation in an IPSec VPN tunnel. Genius!

Summary: Free calls at home is a great deal, but even better is free calls on the road (wherever you have an Internet connection), especially internationally.

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24 Comments »

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  1. I really love the article. It proved to be very helpful to me and I am sure to all the commenters here! It’s always nice when you can not only be informed, but also entertained! I’m sure you had fun writing this article.

  2. is there a similar setup for sprint withh samsung epic phone?

    • Yes, you can use a Voice over IP (VoIP) service, such as Skype, to make low/now cost calls, which can save you a bundle in international Long Distance and Roaming fees. Although I wrote the article to praise the benefit of T-Mobile’s service that allows you to make/receive free calls over Wi-Fi, you can do the same (without the Operator’s permission) by installing a Voice over IP app on your smartphone (if you have a smartphone), such as Skype.

      Save $$$ on International Roaming: You will not be charged Dollars/minute for Intl Roaming calls, only Cents/minute, by using VoIP. To maximize your savings, use (free) Wi-Fi instead of the 3G connection.
      Save $$$ on International Long Distance: You will not be chanrged Dollars/minute for Intl calls, only Cents/minute, by using VoIP. Calling home from abroad can be very costly.

      Caution: If you are outside of your country with a smartphone, consider using WiFi only, as international roaming data charges can be as high as $20/MB, allowing you to come home to receive a thousand dollar roaming charge. 40% of smartphone users have received a “Surprise” charge that was far larger than they expected.

  3. I have a mobile wi-fi (Mi wifi). 1. Can I make free calls if I connect my smartphone to this hot spot? 2.What about incoming calls?

    • Since your phone has Wi-Fi access, then you can use access to Wi-Fi networks (where available) to reduce your bill in many ways (please read the articles to see how), bincluding (a) avoiding data charges by using Wi-Fi (often free) instead of your 3G/4G data plan, and (b) avoiding roaming costs for voice and data. So, YES, you can make incoming and outgoing calls.

      To make low- or no-cost Voice calls over Wi-Fi, you will need an app on your phone that allows you to call over the Internet (VoIP software). I recommend Skype, if you do not already have this on your phone (some carriers, such as T-Mobile, include it in their smartphones.

      The “Mobile Wi-Fi” feature that your phone has is a more advanced feature than just Wi-Fi access. Mobile Wi-Fi allows your phone to create a Wi-Fi hotspot, to share data access with other Wi-Fi devices (iPad, laptop, etc.), carrying this data your 3G data plan. You do not need this feature to use Wi-Fi to save money. In fact, sharing your 3G data plan with others can be very costly, depending on your plan–so be sure that you know your data plan limits before you use this feature, and avoid using it when roaming, as the costs can be devastating.

  4. Can you please mention the destinations where i can make free calls, i want to make free call to India, i saw a few option at http://www.freecalltophone.com but that disconnect my calls after few seconds, please advice with long duration to India

    • Using Wi-Fi, there is no charge for cellular air time, but you will have to pay separately for Long Distance. I recommend Skype for Free (to other Skype users) or extremely low cost for LongDistance calls. You will need to install the Skype app on your smartphone.

      • Thanks for the information, my question is, can I make calls to regular phone numbers through Skype? i know it may not free but I can be very cheap i guess.

      • Yes, you can make (international) calls for pennies per minute. I called my family & friends from Korea last week for less than $2. Skype user to Skype user is free, but regular calling offers great savings. For best quality, look for a good Internet connection. Enjoy!

  5. Very good this solution because it can make me save a lot. Does it have something similar in Brazil? So I could combine and also have savings when you’re here and call USA.

    • To find a similar plan in another country, I would check out the Wi-Fi options offered by your mobile Service Providers – you may find that they allow free calling over Wi-Fi or similar benefits to entice you to use Wi-Fi instead of adding the traffic to the cellular network. I do not attempt to keep up with the available plans in other countries, sorry.

      Robert

  6. Very good solution its save lots of money, i also like the features and functionality, Nice device, for cheap international calling use http://www.amantel.com

  7. I think what you published was very reasonable. But,
    consider this, what if you typed a catchier title? I ain’t saying
    your information is not good, but suppose you added a post title
    that makes people desire more? I mean Free mobile calls via Wi-Fi
    (T-Mobile Wi-Fi plans) I’m Cellular is kinda plain. You might
    glance at Yahoo’s home page and see how they write post headlines
    to get people to open the links. You might add a related video or a
    pic or two to grab readers excited about what you’ve written. Just
    my opinion, it would make your posts a little livelier.

    • Thanks very much for your suggestion! I’ll try to follow up on that, as I agree that a punchy title would really help.
      Robert

  8. Very good blog! Do you have any recommendations for aspiring writers?

    I’m planning to start my own blog soon but I’m
    a little lost on everything. Would you advise
    starting with a free platform like WordPress
    or go for a paid option? There are so many options out there that I’m completely confused .. Any suggestions? Thanks a lot!

    • To get started, I would recommend a free platform like Blogger or WordPress. You can always graduate and set up a more elaborate website, if you desire. An intermediate step after you setup your own blog is to add some widgets that provide the ability for folks to email you from the blog, share information on your blog entries via Twitter and LinkedIn, and to set up your own URL.

  9. Greetings from Carolina! I’m bored at work so I decided to browse your blog on my iphone during lunch break. I enjoy the information you present here and can’t wait to take a look
    when I get home. I’m surprised at how quick your blog loaded on my mobile .. I’m not even using WIFI, just
    3G .. Anyhow, wonderful site!

  10. Nice

  11. You actually make it seem sso easy with your pdesentation but I find this matter to be realy something that
    I think I would never understand. It seems too complex and very broad for me.
    I amm looking forward for your next post, I will try tto get the
    hang of it!

    • I appreciate that you’re recognizing that I’m trying to make a complex subject simple, but you’re right: it is a complex topic. Please pose any specific questions that you would like, and I’ll be happy to give you a simple answer.

  12. Very good info. Lucky me I ran across your blog by chance (stumbleupon).
    I’ve bookmarked it for later!

    • I’m gratified that these travel tips can be useful to you, as the travel industry and frequent travelers are exactly the people who would make most use of this. Thank you for your compliment!

  13. Can I call anywher without wifi

    • On a mobile phone, of course you can call any number on the planet without Wi-Fi. I think that’s self-evident. Perhaps I am misunderstanding your question. My article was intended to explain how you can use Wi-Fi to reduce your costs.


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