After taking a brief hiatus, T-Mobile US (NYSE:TMUS) is again offering Nextivity's Cel-Fi signal boosters to customers who demand better cell phone coverage in their homes and is even providing the devices for free to qualifying customers, according to reports.
Nextivity is selling the Cel-Fi direct to consumers for $575.
The news was first reported by iMore, which explained that T-Mobile had previously offered the devices to certain postpaid customers but stopped in 2013 as it focused on modernizing its 1900 MHz GSM and AWS 1.7/2.1 GHZ HSPA+ network and rolling out LTE service in the AWS band. During that time, Nextivity also reworked the Cel-Fi to accommodate additional frequencies, including those needed by T-Mobile.
The Cel-Fi is made up of a window unit that picks up the cellular signal and a coverage unit that is placed inside the home, expanding coverage to about 13,000 square feet.
Nextivity's web site shows that it is selling the Cel-Fi direct to consumers for $575. However, T-Mobile will reportedly provide a Cel-Fi for free to certain customers who have only one bar of 3G or LTE service in their home.
TmoNews provided inside information regarding T-Mobile's signal booster distribution policy. Among other things, after assessing a customer's indoor coverage problem, a carrier representative is supposed to identify whether Wi-Fi is an option to provide a better in-home coverage. "Currently T-Mobile doesn't have enough inventory to offer proactively. Do not proactively offer signal booster," according to operator documentation obtained by TmoNews.
Documentation shows that T-Mobile has eased its requirements for customers to receive a signal booster, for example, lowering the monthly rate plan they must be on to $50 from an unspecified, but higher amount, which was previously required.
An FAQ list for T-Mobile employees cited a situation in which a new T-Mobile customer took advantage of the operator's early termination fee credit, trading in more than one AT&T Mobility AT&T (NYSE: T) phone at a T-Mobile store. The customer subsequently complained that their residential coverage was worse with T-Mobile, but T-Mobile no longer had the customers' AT&T handsets and, thus, could not return them to the customer.
The recommended solution, according to the FAQ, was to provide the customer with a signal booster using in-store inventory. "This is a perfect situation where the solution needs to be resolved immediately," noted the FAQ.
T-Mobile's documentation also noted that deployment of a signal booster delivers "300+ points in-home network performance improvement," resulting in customer coverage satisfaction and loyalty that has more than doubled since it began offering signal boosters.
Some of T-Mobile's coverage issues should be alleviated once the carrier begins deploying service later this year in certain markets using the lower-band 700 MHz spectrum it acquired in April from Verizon Wireless (NYSE: VZ).
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