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T-Mobile And Apple Prepare For Wi-Fi Cell Phone Battle

While Apple and AT&T's Cingular Wireless prepare to announce pricing plans for the Wi-Fi-equipped iPhone, T-Mobile is going to up the competitive stakes with a national launch of its Wi-Fi HotSpot @ Home service.

Personnel at AT&T stores said Thursday they're still waiting for pricing plans for the much-anticipated iPhone, which is scheduled to ship next month. T-Mobile's HotSpot @ Home service has been tested in the Seattle area for several months at $20 a month.

The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday that T-Mobile is planning a national launch of Wi-Fi-equipped mobile phones as early as mid-June. The network infrastructure of both AT&T and T-Mobile is based on the European-developed GSM standard, which is generally less robust than the CDMA2000 EV-DO Rev. A standard used by Verizon Wireless and Sprint.

However, Wi-Fi has broadband capabilities that could catapult the iPhone and T-Mobile handsets into the world of high-speed communications. Cell phone companies have hesitated to embrace Wi-Fi until recently because it could cut into revenue when it's used with VoIP.

"In the future, VoIP on Wi-Fi could tear at the whole underpinnings of the [wireless] industry," said Joe Nordgaard, managing director of wireless consultancy Spectral Advantage, in an interview. "This issue is only going to grow. Operators are going to have to develop strategies to deal with it."

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