T-Mobile is planning to unveil a new phase of its Uncarrier program next week, but in the meantime, it's revamping Uncarrier 7 from last year. In case you're not keeping count, that was the CellSpot Router. Now, T-Mobile is adding the 4G LTE CellSpot to its lineup. This mini cell tower plugs into your internet to provide a bubble of T-Mobile LTE coverage for up to 16 simultaneous voice/data sessions. It's also kind of free.
The 4G LTE CellSpot is available to all Simple Choice subscribers with a $25 refundable deposit. It will only work at a given service address (there's a GPS antenna inside), but it provides 3000 sq. ft of coverage once it's plugged into your internet via ethernet. T-Mobile is keen to point out that because this is an LTE signal, it supports all of T-Mobile's new network technologies like VoLTE, video calling, and advanced messaging. The device itself is about the size of a large router at 8.5-inches across and 1.3-inches thick.
The CellSpot should work with all T-Mobile devices because the network it produces is using band 2 UMTS (1900) and band 4 LTE (AWS). Other carriers offer 3G-based femtocell devices, and they require you to register your phone numbers. T-Mobile is vague about how the LTE CellSpot will work in that regard, but they're pushing it for businesses as a way to give customers coverage. That certainly makes it sound like the CellSpot will work for any T-Mobile device in range, but I have to think there will be some sort of security settings so random passersby can't saturate your internet connection via the CellSpot.
The 4G LTE CellSpot will be available in T-Mobile stores starting on November 4th. You'll also be able to call customer support to order one.
It's wide open
According to KTLA technology reporter Rich DeMuro, The T-Mobile 4G LTE CellSpot is completely open and does not require authorization to use. That means once you plug it in, anyone with a T-Mobile phone will be able to connect to it and use your data. So, if you live next door to someone with unlimited T-Mobile data, they could connect to your CellSpot and leech your home internet bandwidth streaming Netflix all day. If you have a capped home broadband plan, that could be both annoying and costly. Here's the statement from T-Mobile's PR.
The 4G LTE CellSpot does not provide restricted access. Other T-Mobile customers within the device’s coverage range can also access the 4G LTE CellSpot. Other wireless carriers’ customers will not be able to access to the T-Mobile 4G LTE CellSpot. In a commercial setting, the 4G LTE CellSpot is ideal for providing 16 employees or visitors simultaneous access.
If a customer is concerned a neighboring T-Mobile customer consumes too much capacity on their 4G LTE CellSpot and home high-speed internet, the customer can contact T-Mobile to discuss a more appropriate solution.
This isn't necessarily a terrible plan, but consumers need to be made aware when setting up a CellSpot that random people will be able to use their bandwidth. This really should be explicitly stated by T-Mobile, and it's weird they didn't mention it in the blog post. I guess we know why they're giving these things away now.
We've gotten a statement from T-Mobile with more info.
The 4G LTE CellSpot does not provide restricted access. Other T-Mobile customers within the device’s coverage range can also access the device, but other wireless carriers’ customers will not be able to access it. In a commercial setting, the 4G LTE CellSpot is ideal for providing 16 employees or visitors simultaneous access. In addition, all voice and data calls made through T-Mobile’s 4G LTE CellSpot are encrypted for security. It’s worth noting that customers should not attempt to open the 4G LTE CellSpot case because when it’s opened, it will be automatically deactivated due to network security protection.
So, it's only wide open in that other people can connect to it. If you actually try to physically open the CellSpot, it breaks itself.