T-Mobile USA has sold over 250k FMC integrated handsets. The company does not reveal how many of those have actually taken up the FMC service. Sources suggest that about half the people who buy the phone sign up for the service.
If half those who bought the FMC pre-integrated handsets subscribed, that would still make T-Mobile the second biggest consumer FMC provider after Orange. There are not many commercial FMC offers out there. The ones offered by the fixed operators did not bother iLocus number crunchers too much. BT is still going at around 50k subscribers. The last reported figure that came from Orange was 573k FMC subscribers at the end of October 2007.
Coming back to T-Mobile dual mode FMC service Hotspot@Home, which is offered across the US, it is possible to buy a dual mode FMC integrated phone and not subscribe to the FMC service. There is a subtle point however. If you buy a dual-mode handset, it will work over WiFi anyway (clever T-Mobile â€¦. we will tell you in a minute why). So you effectively get to â€œtryâ€ FMC. For example, you can buy Samsung dual mode phone through T-Mobile and operate it over WiFi at home. You donâ€™t get any additional calling benefits. The calls that you make over WiFi are just like the calls you make over GSM network. They still come out of your bucket of minutes. This is T-Mobile conveniently offloading calls to WiFi thanks to the fantastic FMC technology.
So while you get a dual mode phone and make it work over WiFi without ever subscribing to FMC service on paper, you still get the handover/FMC capability. Then T-Mobile comes along and offers a special package to you: for an additional $20 per month you can make unlimited phone calls over WiFi.
Going deeper into the economics of this thing, T-Mobile is subsidizing an additional amount of around $5 per handset (for the WiFi bit in the handset) and getting $20 from half the people who buy it. That canâ€™t be bad. That is perhaps the most profitable application that goes into subsidizing the handset.
T-Mobile sells five different dual mode FMC handset types through its retail outlets in the US.