T-Mobile’s CellSpot: You Cover What They Can’t

I’m simply amazed by the press coverage T-Mobile is getting from the announcement that it will offer free 3G/4G/4G-LTE hot spots. As their Fact Sheet says, “the 4G LTE CellSpot ensures customers with a limited signal will now have strong, dependable voice and data coverage in their home or small business.”

T-Mobile CellSpot
“Here Spot!” “Heeeeer Spot!”

All you need to do is request one of these babies from T-Mobile, give them $25 as a security deposit, plug it in to the wall, hook it up to the Internet, and away you go.

And that’s a problem.

You have to pay for T-Mobile’s coverage in two more ways.  First, you have to provide your own power to operate the unit.  In the grand scheme, that’s not much money each year.  I’m guessing something like $15.  Then you have to connect this baby to your own internet connection, which then takes some undisclosed portion of your Internet to provide connectivity to the CellSpot.  Have a slow connection…or dial up…then you might have a problem.

What’s the real problem, here?

The way I see it, this big splash in the press is a tacit admission by T-Mobile’s that its company-provided radio frequency coverage AND capacity is far less than adequate, especially for in-building service areas.  Viewed that way, T-Mobile’s announcement appears to be painting flaming red lipstick on a pink porcine.  Still not pretty.

So who can connect to these units?

I’m not sure.  Traditionally, carriers have required cell site hotspot users to register their phones so that only they can use the hotspot.  If T-Mobile goes the other way and allows any T-Mobile user to connect via any CellSpot, then there’s another problem: T-Mobile’s customers installing CellSpots are now also funding connectivity for T-Mobile to provide service to third parties.

Hey? What the GPS light?

If you noticed the GPS light on the photo of the CellSpot, good for y0u.  That’s because this unit needs to be near an window what it can have a view of the heavens.  Huh?  The unit needs to receive reliable GPS data from GPS satellites so that T-Mobile knows where the unit is located. More huh?  The FCC requires that all wireless carriers be able to identify the location of 911 callers.  To meet this federal obligation, T-Mobile collects GPS data from each customer-installed unit so that it can tie the GPS location back to a 911 caller.  That’s actually a good thing, especially if you want the fire department to know where you’re calling from in the event of an emergency.

The bad thing for GPS (and cellular reception) is that many high-rise buildings effectively interfere with outside reception they are large grounded metal boxes with hybrid metalized window tint that substantially reduces signal strength.  Here’s a very informative YouTube video that illustrates my point:

The bottom lines in my view:

  • T-Mobile effectively admits its own network coverage is not adequate.
  • T-Mobile shifts the burden of providing coverage to its users by taking their power and Internet connections without compensation.
  • T-Mobile gets to hold on to its subscriber deposits, apparently as interest free loans.
  • I’m going to wait to see how long it takes for a class action law suit to be filed against T-Mobile in connection (hey, it’s a pun) with the CellSpot.  Such a law suit seems inevitable to me.

With this, I suppose that T-Mobile’s slogan that it is the “Un-Carrier” might be amended to claim that it is the “Un-Coverage-Carrier.”   And that’s too bad since I think many of T-Mobile’s service plan offerings are innovative.

Here are the CellSpot tech specs published on T-Mobile’s web site:


CPU: Broadcom 4708
Switch: in Broadcom 4708
2.4Ghz radio: Broadcom 4360
5Ghz radio: Broadcom 4360

Flash 128MB
Network standard

IEEE 802.11a/b/g/n/ac

Data rate

802.11a: 6, 9, 12, 18, 24, 36, 48, 54Mbps
802.11b: 1, 2, 5.5, 11Mbps
802.11g: 6, 9, 12, 18, 24, 36, 48, 54Mbps
802.11n: up to 450Mbps
802.11ac: up to 1300Mbps

Antenna External antenna X 3
Operation frequency

2.4Ghz Channel 1~11
5Ghz band1: 36~48
5GHz band4: 149~165


64-bit WEP
128-bit WEP
WPS support

Firewall and access control

Firewall: SPI intrusion detection,DoS protection, IPv6 firewall
Access control: Parental control, Network service filter, URL filter, Port filter


UPnP, IGMP v1/v2/v3, DNS Proxy, DHCP, NTP Client,
DDNS, Port Triger, Universal Repeater, System Event Log
SNMP (tender project only, not for retail)
TR-069 ( tender project only, not for retail)

VPN support

IPSec Pass-Through
PPTP Pass-Through
L2TP Pass-Through
PPTP server
OpenVPN server
PPTP client
L2TP client
OpenVPN client


Download master
Support BT, NZB, HTTP, ED2K
Support encryption, DHT, PEX and magnet link
Upload and download bandwidth control
Image: JPEG
Audio: mp3, wma, wav, pcm, mp4, lpcm, ogg
Video: asf, avi, divx, mpeg, mpg, ts, vob, wmv, mkv, mov
User definable rules for IP/MAC/Port.
Upload and Download bandwidth management.
ACK/SYN/FIN/RST/ICMP with Highest priority
Guest Network
2.4GHz guest network x 3
5GHz guest network x 3
Printer Server
Multifunctional printer support (Windows only)
LPR protocol support
File server: Samba and FTP server with account management
PPTP VPN server
Network map
Traffic monitor

WAN connection type

Internet connection type : Automatic IP, Static IP, PPPoE (MPPE supported), PPTP, L2TP
3G/ LTE USB dongle
Android USB tethering
Support dual wan fail over and load balance


4 x RJ45 for 10/100/1000/Gigabits BaseT for LAN
1 x RJ45 for 10/100/1000/Gigabits BaseT for WAN
USB 2.0 x 1
USB 3.0 x 1


WPS button
Reset button
Power button
Wireless on/off button


PWR x 1
AIR x 2
LAN x 4
WAN x 1
USB x 2

OS support

Windows® 8.1
Windows® 8
Windows® 7
Windows® Vista
Windows® 2000
Windows® ME
Windows® XP
Mac OS X 10.6
Mac OS X 10.7
Mac OS X 10.8
Mac OS X 10.9

Dimensions 220 x 83.3 x 160mm (WxDxH)
Weight 640g
Package content

1 x TM-AC1900 Wireless-AC1900 Dual Band Gigabit Router
1 x RJ-45 cable
1 x Power adapter
1 x QSG9
3 x Wi-Fi antennas

Special features

3G/4G data sharing
Printer server
Multiple SSIDs
Parental Control
VPN server
VPN client


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