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T-Mobile became the first major mobile phone carrier in the United States to begin selling service that allows a single handset to communicate over both cellular networks and Wi-Fi hot spots. The first phones, which are available to consumers in Seattle on a trial basis, link to T-Mobile’s cellular network outdoors and to Wi-Fi routers at homes, in offices and in other locations like airports and hotels. This lets customers avoid using some of their cellular minutes and increases coverage in places where signals are typically weak, like basements and rooms without windows.
Customers also need a wireless router, which is free with a rebate. The router is then connected to any available broadband line for home or office use. The phones connect not just to the wireless router, but also at any of 7,000 Wi-Fi hot spots that T-Mobile operates at Starbucks coffee shops, Hyatt Hotels and other public locations.