FAX & Alarm Support for T-Mobile @Home

February 19, 2009 at 4:46 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 18 Comments
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Good news for @Home users that desire to send or receive the occasional facsimile (FAX): support for incoming and outgoing FAX is coming in YE2009 (from my friends at T-Mobile). This feature has been delayed (original target: 2Q2009) as it requires an upgrade of T-Mobile’s cellar network (scheduled for 4Q2009). Note: This is the current target delivery date, so the actual deployment may vary. I presume that this will be available for existing and new users as a firmware update to the Linksys routers (e.g., the Linksys WRT54G-TM).

Personally, I will disconnect out my last, remaining wireline service when this feature is available. I already use @Home service for my Home Office, but have held off on using it for my residential service due to my need to occasionally send or receive a FAX. When that box is checked, I’ll have completely cut the cord from my wireline service, and I will be saving over $1,000 per year (versus my previous Qwest charges for voice, long distance, and features).

It is with some remorse that I celebrate cutting the cord, since I was hired by AT&T and spent my early years, as an engineer, designing and enhancing the AT&T Bell System wireline network. Great work, but progress is relentless, and the future is mobile … and IP.

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Caller Ring Tones for @Home

October 26, 2008 at 3:48 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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If you like Caller Ring Tones (you select a ring tone for the caller to hear when they call you), then you can apply this to your @Home line(s).

Although it looks like a wireline phone to you, it is really a T-Mobile mobileservice. Just a mobile phone that is not mobile. Without a display (can not receive and display text (SMS) or picture messages (MMS)). Hmmm. Maybe an immobile mobile phone is not the clearest description. 😉

Suggestions to T-Mobile for Improvements to @Home Service

October 26, 2008 at 1:16 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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FAX support
It’s a valuable feature to truly replace a wireline service. Vonage has it, so it’s feasible over VoIP, although I suspect that it merely may be that UMA does not support FAX, which would explain why T-Mobile can not readily add this feature.

Latest Wi-Fi capabilities (better range)
802.11n support (better range, with compatible devices) as well as the choice of Wi-Fi frequency bands (2.4 or 5 GHz) would be nice, although you can attach your favorite Wireless router to the @Home router and get the benefits of both, but a single device that is current is a better solution.

Web portal
Some customers desire the ability to manage Call Forward/Call No-Answer settings from a web site, instead of using feature codes that must be entered from the wireline phone. This would undoubtedly make the service more complex and would be of value only to a select audience (not the mainstream). This feature (and others) could be added without complicating the standard setup and use; give the power to those that are ready to use it. Actually, T-Mobile could use this method – a web portal – to add new features (much as Google does with its one number service).

Caller ID Slow
For some customers, they do not receive Caller ID until the 2nd to 3rd Ring (which seems to be related to the issue of fast ring cycles, see below).

Support for Answering Machines
Some @Home customers prefer to use a separate answering machine, and some of those customers have had slight problems with the existing @Home service that could be corrected. Most customers use T-Mobile’s included voice mailbox (and I recommend merging it with your existing mobile phone’s voice mailbox, to avoid having to check two, different voice mailboxes).

Fast Ring cycles => Answering Machine picks up too quickly
Some customers note that their answering machines are cued to record the message too quickly, due to very fast ring cycles from the router.
[Reference: http://forums.linksys.com/linksys/board/message?board.id=VoIP_Routers&message.id=2950&query.id=225743#M2950%5D

Caller disconnect not indicated => Answering Machine records busy signal
Suggestion: Drop the line voltage when the calling party disconnects instead of giving a busy signal
(so that the answering machine does not record the busy signal). When the caller hangs up after leaving a message, the answering machine can’t detect the hangup and stays connected for 10-15 seconds during the fast busy signal.

“Based on my research on similar problem with other VOIP setups, I suspect the CPC duration (aka Open Loop Disconnect–the amount of time the router has the phone line voltage go to zero to indicate a hang-up) is too short, probably 150-200 ms, and so most answering machines can’t detect it. On other VOIP systems the CPC duration was a setting on the router, but on the 1.004 firmware for this router there are almost no configurable options for the “Voice” settings on the router.”
[Reference: http://forums.linksys.com/linksys/board/message?board.id=Wireless_Routers&message.id=104470&query.id=229383#M104470%5D

Free calling in Wi-Fi Hotspots; Multiple cell phones @Home

October 22, 2008 at 5:33 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Want more free calling for more members of your household?
Do these members of your household prefer to use their cellular phone?

Solution: Add the “Hotspot @Home” calling feature and then they can call free from any hotspot, including your @Home hotspot, over 8000 T-Mobile hotpost locations (including Starbucks locations), any open Wi-Fi hotspot (school, cafe, etc.). Check out the excellent website and animations.

This option is for other folks that spend a lot of time in hotspots and who could benefit from talking for free in those hotspots. 
Whoever set up the @Home account already gets this benefit, as part of their @Home feature.

This would benefit someone who talks A LOT. My daughter, for example, prefers to text, and so this is not a good fit for her. She has a monthly subscription and never uses up her allotted minutes of talk time, so this is not a useful feature for her. 

Even though it’s called Hotspot @Home, it is offered independently of the @Home service. You can have one, or both, I think of HotSpot @Home as @Home service without the free, wireline service in your home, but with the added ability to use T-Mobile hotpots for free. Hotspot @HOME = Unlimited Hotspot Calling

Limitations of the Hotspot @Home feature
Only applicable to:
( ) T-Mo monthly subscriber  (not “To Go” Pre-Paid)
( ) Wi-Fi capable handset
( ) UMA support

I’ve compiled a list of compatible phones, check that post for a comprehensive list and more details about handset choice.

One or two fixed lines and numbers (double your savings!)

September 29, 2008 at 1:11 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Q: Want more than one wired telephone line (and telephone number)

Solution: Just request the additional line of service from T-Mobile.

In case one wired telephone line (and telephone number) is not enough, @Home can provide two, separate lines.
Just request the additional line of service from T-Mobile (an additional $10/month; same price as your other line of all-you-can-eat wireline service).

Router supports One or Two telephone lines

Router Can Provide 1 or 2 Phone Lines

T-Mobile will send you an additional SIM card for your router, and you will connect the second line just like you installed the first line.

Remember: You can have multiple phones in the home without having to add an additional line of service. This blog explains how to do this. You can have multiple wired phones, multiple cordless phones, even multiple cellular phones … all making free calls using your @Home service.

You only need to add another port to:

  • get two, separate wired lines, ringing different phones, allowing you to make two, simultaneous calls
  • get two, different wireline telephone numbers
    If you have two, wireline numbers, you can move both to @Home and double your savings.

Your choice: one line or two.

One Number To Reach You (Mobile + Office)

September 29, 2008 at 12:37 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Prefer to have all of your calls alert you on your mobile? Prefer a single voice mailbox? Here’s a way to set up a simple, free, “One Number” service that ensures that you will see all of your calls on your mobile and get all of your voice messages on your mobile voice mail … even if people call you on your @Home number. 
Solution: Route calls to your office number also ring on your mobile.

How to: From your @Home line, set up Call Forwarding (when Busy or No Answer) to your Mobile number.

Dial *42 plus <Your 10-digit Mobile Number>

Calls to (1) your @Home number will go to your (2) Mobile, and then (3) to your Mobile Voice Mailbox. And, of course, calls to your Mobile will also go to your mobile Voice Mailbox. To cancel this Call Forwarding connection, just dial *93. With @Home, I prefer to give out my mobile number so that folks can reach me immediately and, alternatively, text me. But if anyone calls me on my wired, @Home, desk phone, I want to be sure that the call reaches me on my mobile and then goes to my Voice Mailbox. 

Suggestion: To ensure that a caller does not hear a lot of ringing (50 seconds or more, in this situation) you can select the amount of time that the call rings on your (a) @Home line and (b) your mobile before the call goes to voice mail. Just call T-Mobile Customer Care and tell them the amount of time (in 5-second increments) that you want the call to ring on each device. (Note: the default is 25 seconds of ringing on any T-Mobile line, and if I let it ring on (1) my wired @Home line and then (2) my mobile phone, then this would be 50 seconds of ringing that the caller would be subjected to before they had the opportunity to leave a message-too long to expect anyone to wait).

Ensures call delivery in case of an outage: Some folks have asked for a way to ensure that calls are delivered if the ISP is out of service, and this is a fine solution. If calls are not answered on your wired line (router down, DSL out of service, whatever), then the call will go to your cell phone.

Want More?While this is a great solution for a residence or Home Office, even more sophisticated solutions are available for an individual (Google’s Grand Central offers a very flexible and feature-rich, One Number service to simultaneously ring multiple numbers, etc.) or a business (voice mail systems, PBXs, Microsoft, and even BlackBerry have solutions).

 

 

Here’s an example of the kind of enterprise solution that delivers one number (with simultaneous ringing) and one voice mailbox:  

BlackBerry Mobile Voice System Gives You One Phone Number, One Mailbox

BlackBerry Mobile Voice System Gives You One Phone Number, One Mailbox! BlackBerry® Mobile Voice System (BlackBerry MVS) helps mobile workers reach new levels of responsiveness, by consolidating multiple phone numbers and voice mailboxes, and extending enterprise phone functions to BlackBerry® smartphones.

According to research firm Gartner, up to 75% of telephone calls go to voicemail, creating a frustrating, yet often avoidable, time-lag in communications between your mobile employees and their customers, prospects and co-workers.

With BlackBerry MVS, mobile users can give out a single phone number that will ring simultaneously at their desk phone and on their smartphone, allowing them to be more responsive to their customers and colleagues when they’re away from the office.

BlackBerry MVS lets users enjoy the productivity benefits of enterprise voice communications on their BlackBerry smartphone, in a similar fashion to how they use enterprise email on the go.

It helps users manage incoming calls by giving them the opportunity to: 1) first answer calls made to their enterprise number on their BlackBerry smartphone; or, 2) allow unanswered calls to go to a single corporate voicemail. Users spend less time managing messages as a result.

Ways to Enhance T-Mobile @Home

September 23, 2008 at 9:04 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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OK, so @Home is a smokin’ deal, but you can make it do even more. Here are a few improvements that I was able to make as I set up @Home in my home office:

  • Multiple phones a ringin’
    Most people have more than one phone in their apartment or home, right? Well, @Home can serve all of them (although the Install Guide and Manual do not lead you to that conclusion, and suggest that you directly connect a single phone to the router. Uh, that’s kinda limiting, don’t you think? You can connect the router to your home wiring so that you can make/receive calls from all phone in da house.
  • One or two fixed lines and telephone numbers (double your savings!)
    More than one person want to talk at the same time in your home? No problem! You can have one or two wireline connections, so that two, independent calls can come in or go out, each on different telephone numbers. If you have two, wireline numbers, you can move both to @Home and double your savings.
  • Multiple cellular phones (free) calling
    You can have more than one cell phone simultaneously using your @Home wireless service.
  • Free calls from anywhere you have Internet access
    @Home provides you with free calling when your phone is on a Wi-Fi network, not just from your Home. Get more! (as T-Mobile used to say). You can have free calls from anywhere that you can access the Internet: Starbucks, airport, hotel room in Hong Kong, … anywhere! With this technique, you will save a lot on roaming fees for voice and data.
  • Expanded range, better audio quality
    To ensure that you have lots of (free) Wi-Fi coverage, you can expand it, if you desire.
  • Conveniently Locating the Router
    To avoid placing creating an equipment pile (I didn’t want all that hot gear flashing and heating up my home office), you can move it to a convenient place.
  • Ensuring Calling Name delivery
    I like Calling Name (considered part of the “true Caller ID” that T-Mobile offers as part of @Home) and had to do so me work to ensure that it was provided.
  • Things you’ll Like and Dislike
    Here’s a summary review of @Home service, with comments on some things that you may miss, like sending/receiving a FAX.
  • How to successfully Port an existing number to @Home
    You can save a lot of cash by moving any existing wireline phone service to @Home, while keeping your existing telephone number (no one will know).

I’ll review each of these, in detail, over successive blog entries. I hope that you benefit from these ideas, as my intent here is just to share something that may be useful to as many folks as possible. Enjoy!

Enhancing Range and Audio Quality of @Home (UMA)

September 22, 2008 at 3:27 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Q: Want to increase the range of your wireless @Home system,
and ensure that you have the best audio quality?
Solution: Improve the signal strength and range of your wireless LAN.

Audio can cut out unacceptably if the phone is receiving a weak Wi-Fi signal (and a mobile handset’s received is typically not as good as a laptop’s, so your actual range is less than you might expect). I noticed this when using T-Mobile ‘s Hotspot @Home service, so I boosted the range and signal strength of my WLAN signal with an inexpensive, Wi-Fi repeater. I recommend the D-Link DWL-G710 <http://www.dlink.com/products/?pid=357>  ($50, very easy to set up). This effectively doubled the range of my Wi-Fi network by placing a repeater where my Wi-Fi phone started to have difficulty in maintaining a connection. More importantly, it extended coverage to an area of the home where I was dropping calls due to weak Wi-Fi signal.

Alternatively, @Home service allows you to expand your WLAN including handoff of calls between multiple APs (so long as the APs are on the same subnet and using the same SSID). Although that might seem like an easy solution, in practice it is not easy to deliver in a home as it requires that the APs obtain wired Ethernet which is not typically available at multiple points in a residence. This is a fine solution for seamless service on an enterprise WLAN, but not for a residence.

Future Enhancement (for T-Mobile, not you):
A limitless solution to wirelessly expand the range of the @Home Wi-Fi radio coverage exists, but the Linksys @Home router does not support <http://gizmodo.com/archives/why-apples-airport-express-may-unofficially-extend-nonairport-networks-015834.php>  the WDS  <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wireless_Distribution_System> (Wireless Distribution System <http://www.connect802.com/wireless_bridging.htm> ) standard to connect to other Wi-Fi Access Points (using the same SSID), which would allow you to expand your WLAN with any number of devices. The benefit of WDS is that the APs only need power-not Ethernet-as they relay the messages securely as a coordinated mesh. This is an excellent solution for a home or moderate-sized enterprise. Unfortunately, WDS is not guaranteed to work across different vendors’ products; although WDS is a IEEE 802.11 standard and many vendors implement it <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wireless_Distribution_System> , its interoperability is not assured since the Wi-Fi Alliance does not test is as part of the certification process. It typically works with other routers, but it’s currently not a sure thing. WDS is a good option since it allows you to expand your WLAN without having to run Ethernet.

Wireless Distribution System (example)

Wireless Distribution System (example)

Multiple phones a ringin’

September 22, 2008 at 2:34 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment
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Most households have multiple phones, and T-Mobile wants @Home to replace your wireline service, so let’s ensure that @Home lets you use all of your existing phones, OK?

@Home Can Serve Multiple Corded and Cordless Phones. Although the manual suggests otherwise, you can use multiple corded and/or cordless phones, including phones currently connected to your residence. The following note explains how to connect the router to existing wiring (and all devices connected to it).

It seems kind of clunky to expect you to place your T-Mobile router next to your Internet connection, and then have a single phone attached to it (as suggested in the Install Guide and Manual). Instead, you can

  • use your existing home wiring
  • simultaneously serve up to five (5) wired/standard phones
    (according to my discussion with T-Mobile engineers)
  • add cordless phones, too

Here’s how you proceed:

A) If you receive phone service and DSL Internet service on the same line, then you should:

  1. Install the @Home router per T-Mobile’s instructions,
    connecting the @Home router to the back of the Internet termination in your home (DSL router, Cable Internet box, etc.).
  2. Connect the @Home router to the wall jack (just like you’d plug in a new phone).
    This allows your router to serve all phones on that circuit in your residence.
    All of the phones in the house on to that line will now get dial tone from the @Home router.

B) If you do not receive DSL Internet service on the same line that you are replacing, then you should implement this optimized process (to avoid any damage to the home wiring or the router):

  1. Install the @Home router per T-Mobile’s instructions,
    connecting the @Home router to the back of the Internet termination in your home (DSL router, Cable Internet box, etc.).
  2. Disconnect the home wiring from the Telco’s, existing wireline circuit.
    Go outside of your house and find the network termination box, open it, and disconnect the telephone cord that connects your line to the telephone network.
    This allows your router to serve the phones in your house and severs the old connection to the wireline phone provider.
    Since you do not receive Internet service on this line, you are only disconnecting this phone line from the Telco.
  3. Connect the @Home router to the wall jack (just like you’d plug in a new phone).
    This allows your router to serve all phones on that circuit in your residence.
    All of the phones in the house on to that line will now get dial tone from the @Home router.

Apparently, it is potentially hazardous to connect the router to the existing wireline loop:
“Should you attempt to connect your VoIP service to your home’s inside telephone wiring, you must first completely disconnect your inside wiring from the telephone company’s cable coming into your home. Failure to do this will damage your VoIP adapter, and for that reason some VoIP companies do not recommend connecting your VoIP service to your inside wiring.” [www.wikihow.com]
To disconnect your home wiring from the wireline provider at the Network Interface, just disconnect a single telephone connector, following these directions.

Adding Multiple Cordless Phones: You can also add cordless phones, if you’d prefer. Just connect a cordless base station that will allow you to have several cordless phones in your residence. You can connect the cordless base station to (a) the router, directly, or (b) the home wiring (if you have connected the router to the home wiring, as described above). This allows you to plug in a single cordless base station that serves up to 8, cordless phones in your residence! VTech offers numerous models, but I like the VTech DS6121-5 or  VTech i5871 that can support up to 8 cordless handsets. Other models are available for as little as $25. It costs a bit, but since I’m saving $100/month of typical wireline telephone charges with @Home, I can afford to accessorize. This allows you to have as many phones as you want with @Home!

VTech Cordless Base Station + Multiple=

Corrections to the Product Documentation
Note: This works (I’m using it right now), but is not reflected in the straightforward T-Mobile documentation. In fairness, T-Mobile is trying to make it simple for people to get up and running and do not want to introduce complexity. @Home is a complex service and T-Mobile is trying to make it as simple as possible for the average user. Nonetheless, these enhancements are useful, so I wanted to be sure to document them for others to enjoy, too.

Sadly, these enhancements are not reflected in the existing T-Mobile and Linksys documentation. Ideally, this documentation needs to be updated:

(a) T-Mobile product documentation (Installation manual and Product Manual) states “Do not connect the phone port to a telephone wall jack … or the telephone wiring in your home or office may be damaged.”

(b) Linksys router (there is a T-Mobile specific router model-WRTU54G-TM-and associated discussion) here.”

Install Guide correction:
Should explicitly support up to five, wired phones via RJ-11. Currently reads:

You can do better than this

T-Mobile Install Guide (poster)

User Manual correction:
Remove incorrect warning (“Do not connect the phone port to a telephone wall jack … or the telephone wiring in your home or office may be damaged”), and should add that it supports up to five, wired phones via RJ-11. Currently reads:

Warning from T-Mobile @Home User Manual

Warning from T-Mobile @Home User Manual

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