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T-Mobile: Kill your landline, keep your number and most of your money

June 24, 2008 |  9:00 pm

Router_2 T-Mobile is trying harder to pry that home phone out of your hands. Beginning Wednesday, the No. 4 U.S. wireless carrier will let subscribers ditch their land lines and plug cordless phones into a router instead, keeping the old phone number active for just $10 a month.

It's the boldest pitch yet to capitalize on the increasing willingness of consumers to ditch their home phones for cellphones or Internet calling. The trimmings in this case are aimed at those who don't feel comfortable relying on either of those substitutes.

This way, there will still be a phone assigned to the house, so you don't have to depend, for example, on your babysitter having good cell coverage. And T-Mobile, a unit of Deutsche Telekom, will insist on having your physical address on file, which will be displayed during emergency calls to 911.

If you worry about earthquakes and power outages, you can pay extra for a backup battery that will power the phone and the router.

Speaking of paying extra, we have this from the Department of Caveats: You need a two-year service contract with T-Mobile, and not one of the cheapest contracts but at minimum the $40 monthly package (before the new $10 charge) for a single line. T-Mobile doesn't have the strongest wireless network in the world, and it has the zippiest 3G service only in the New York area. You also need to buy its router for $50 and have your own broadband Internet connection. Then there are the ever-mysterious "taxes and fees."

Yet that still amounts to a pretty good deal, said Forrester analyst Charles Golvin, because last year people paid an average of $65 a month last year for a home phone line and calls. T-Mobile is throwing in free long-distance and local calls, caller ID and call-waiting -- "all the things you usually get nickeled and dimed for," said Brett Wehrman, T-Mobile director of product development.

Since home numbers have been just as portable as cellphone numbers for years, why hasn't anyone else been pitching this? Because the two largest carriers, AT&T and Verizon, have their own land-line affiliates, while Sprint's technology isn't compatible with T-Mobile's approach, Golvin said.

"It's a really smart idea," he said of the T-Mobile pitch. 

-- Joseph Menn

Photo of a Linksys router courtesy of T-Mobile.

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