T-Mobile suspends trial of Passpoint-enabled Wi-Fi phones with Bright House Networks

T-Mobile US (NYSE:TMUS) as of Dec. 10 suspended a trial of its Preferred Wi-Fi Network for select customers in its Orlando and Tampa, Fla., markets.

The trial with Bright House Networks involved a limited number of customers using Android devices; Apple devices were not eligible for the trial. T-Mobile didn't specify a reason for ending the trial. The trial used existing Passpoint features on handsets to auto connect to Bright House Networks, which has about 34,000 hotspots in the Tampa and Orlando areas.  

"We're committed to evaluating and investing in innovations that deliver coverage solutions to our customers," a T-Mobile spokesperson told FierceWirelessTech. "The Preferred Wi-Fi Network technology trial was about seeing what works, what can be improved and how we can continue to work with ecosystem partners. "

No timetable has been set to resume the trial, but "Wi-Fi remains an important part of T-Mobile's strategy and we will continue to deliver unique Wi-Fi connectivity experiences to our customers," the spokesperson said.

T-Mobile told those interested in the trial that while VoLTE was not required for the trial or to use Passpoint technology, it strongly recommended it. For seamless handoffs to occur between the T-Mobile network to Wi-Fi and vice versa, customers would need a VoLTE-supported device, have VoLTE enabled on that device and be in a VoLTE network service area. Those not using VoLTE were warned that they would experience dropped calls when transitioning from the T-Mobile network to Wi-Fi and vice versa.

Passpoint, also called Hotspot 2.0, is a relatively new standard from the Wi-Fi Alliance that essentially smooths the login process for Wi-Fi users. Instead of having to log in to each new Wi-Fi access point, the Passpoint standard allows users to automatically connect to any Passpoint hotspot as certified by their provider.

Getting handoffs to work between cellular and Wi-Fi has been the subject of years of studies and trials throughout the industry, and T-Mobile has been working on handoffs both in-house and with outside vendors for many years. In 2007, the operator launched its T-Mobile HotSpot @Home that encouraged customers to use Wi-Fi for domestic calls from their homes and the wide area network -- GSM/GPRS/EDGE -- when on the go.

In March, T-Mobile reported that 7 million Wi-Fi calls were being made every day on its network. By this past summer, that number grew to 12 million, half of which use T-Mobile's next-generation Wi-Fi calling and connect to its LTE network.

AT&T launched Wi-Fi calling in October on certain Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) iPhones after it received a crucial FCC waiver. Verizon last week expanded its Wi-Fi calling to two different Samsung smartphones through a software update; it previously enabled Wi-Fi calling on newer iPhones via a new version of its Verizon Messages app.

For more:
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