T-Mobile’s Personal CellSpot hands-on

T-Mobile’s Personal CellSpot hands-on
T-Mobile’s Un-carrier 7.0 announcement was filled with a lot of great announcements, keeping Team Magenta two or three steps ahead of the competition in some ways.

While many of the announcements broke new ground for the American wireless industry, one of them arguably did not, but it still generated a lot of buzz, in part, due to the presentation as only T-Mobile CEO John Legere can do, but also because the price is ridiculously low.

T-Mobile is offering its customers their very own personal T-Mobile cell site. This concept is nothing new, and other carriers offer their own versions of the same product, albeit at an additional cost. Built by ASUS, the Personal CellSpot is a router with Wi-Fi calling capability. That too, is not necessarily new either.

The CellSpot gives voice traffic priority over other data streams to ensure HD-voice quality. Indeed, even that is not new, there is a long established protocol for Voice-over-IP, and ensuring Quality-of-Service (QoS), without which, it is common to hear stuttering and jittering in one’s voice. In fact, even with QoS turned on, such phenomena can be experienced if the settings are not correct or if the network is congested.

No, what sets the T-Mobile Personal CellSpot apart is that carrier developed its own software to ensure a higher level of QoS above the standard, and the fact that the device is free to customers – okay it is not totally free, there is a $25 deposit. If you want to buy it outright, it is only $99. There is no extra charge to use it. Plus, the Personal CellSpot will support T-Mobile’s newly announced VoLTE-to-Wi-Fi hand-offs, an industry first.

Not only does it enable all the T-Mobile features a-la the old days of UMA, but it in all likelihood upgrades your home router anyway. Supporting 802.11 a/b/g/n and ac Wi-Fi standards, MIMO, and it is dual-band. It also packs four gigabit Ethernet ports, plus a 1 USB 2.0, and 1 USB 3.0 port.

The set-up is meant to be as painless as possible, and T-Mobile will provide all the necessary support. The Personal CellSpot should provide enough coverage in a house up to 3,000 square-feet, and assuming you do not live in a Faraday cage, will probably be adequate to cover some of your back yard as well.

For those wondering if the router is an open or shared signal, it is not. The set-up affords the user the ability to secure the SSID through the usual means, plus settings on the Personal CellSpot can be managed from your smartphone too.

What do you think? In addition to adding Wi-Fi coverage in general, does T-Mobile’s Personal CellSpot give you the coverage you want in and around your home?  For the money, you would be hard pressed to find an equally capable home router that also gives you full coverage for all your T-Mobile services.


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17 Comments

1. GTRagnarok

Posts: 48; Member since: Aug 22, 2014

Nice! That looks like the Asus RT-AC68U which is a very good router. Even for $99, that's a huge bargain since it sells for $200.

2. PapaSmurf

Posts: 10457; Member since: May 14, 2012

Good guy T-Mobile.

3. silencer271

Posts: 254; Member since: Apr 05, 2013

Now if only AT&T would do this... Id gladly buy a high end router that will increase my AT&T coverage to for 99 bucks.

4. Augustine

Posts: 1043; Member since: Sep 28, 2013

Underwhelming Uncarrier. A femtocell would work with any phone, not only those bought directly from TMUS. Especially when its coverage is far from stellar, it should strive to have repeaters all over instead of offering something to push customers to upgrade their phones. And just why would I ever upgrade a less than year-old Nexus 5 for offerings that are not even half of it at its final price?

5. 0xFFFF

Posts: 3806; Member since: Apr 16, 2014

I'd rather have wifi support as that will work everywhere there is wifi. A femtocell makes sense only if there is some advantage to cellular RF in the home environment. Most of the time, there isn't. And who is to say wifi calling won't be added to the Nexus 5. Hopefully it will.

6. devon613

Posts: 127; Member since: Oct 13, 2011

At does have that had it for years just ask for it

7. 13Elves

Posts: 93; Member since: Feb 21, 2014

T-mobile a step ahead as always! Good job T-mo!

8. Dominique3392

Posts: 10; Member since: Dec 11, 2013

So will the cellsite also function as a router and allow other non tmobile devices like my ipad or laptop to access data?

11. jerrycutshaw

Posts: 48; Member since: Apr 27, 2011

Yes WiFi only however.

17. Dominique3392

Posts: 10; Member since: Dec 11, 2013

is it standalone? like will it replace my current brighthouse router and provide data alone?

9. alven

Posts: 1; Member since: Sep 11, 2014

This device keeps T-Mobile 2 steps ahead of the competition except in the most important category: coverage. No one asked them about the program announced way back in March where they said they would be upgrading their entire GPRS/EDGE coverage (which makes up 90% of their system by coverage area) to LTE, half by the end of 2014 and the second half by mid-2015. At this point in time, there should be quite a large amount of territory that has been upgraded, but they said nothing about it and no one asked them about it during the Q&A. Amazing.

10. drazwy

Posts: 354; Member since: Jan 15, 2014

Agreed. I too would like to know the status of this rollout.

13. Augustine

Posts: 1043; Member since: Sep 28, 2013

Indeed, by now, I expected 20 to 25% to be converted, but TMUS coverage map still is mostly 2G and no service lands. In the 200mls circle around my home town nothing has changed whatsoever.

12. stO_obs

Posts: 10; Member since: May 22, 2014

If only T-Mobile were sticking it to the cable companies. I cut my cord awhile ago, so this really doesn't uncarrier that much.

14. scsa852k

Posts: 331; Member since: Oct 16, 2012

They always had Wifi calling. I don't know why T-Mobile is trying to make this look like a new concept. They clearly ran out of new ideas.

15. zennacko unregistered

They always did, but offering a top-level bleeding edge router for 50% its MSRP PLUS offering the capability of uninterrupted VoLTE calls through wi-fi/cellular is totally new, I mean, your call started on cellular network would not get interrupted even if the tower kicked you out for no apparent reason, as long as you're in the range of your home router. Unless I missed some shady practice and they made all these routers to work for any t-Mo customer with no signal nearby (thus stealing bandwidth from our home internet, since it has a STRONG QoS setting to be VOIP-friendly)

16. downphoenix

Posts: 3165; Member since: Jun 19, 2010

well done T-Mo, this will definitely remove a major customer pain point: poor service at home. I know Sprint also offers a product like this but 1) They pretty much make you pay for it, unless you whine about it and threaten to cancel, and even then they might not budge. 2) They've had to re-release it twice since it worked like crap the 1st couple times 3) At a time in the past people had to literally wait MONTHS to get it. Plus the fact that this also works as a wireless router is a nice bonus, I know the Sprint one has no such capabilities, doesnt work with sprint's version of HD voice, and is incompatible with some wireless routers, go figure.

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