Tuesday, April 19, 2011

T-Mobile Adds Free Calling Through Facebook By Jenna WORTHAM


 T-Mobile has 33 million customers in the United States. On Tuesday, the wireless carrier hopes to increase its reach 15-fold with a new application, Bobsled, which lets people call each other free through Facebook.



 
 The service lets any Facebook user, even those outside of the United States, make voice calls to Facebook friends who are on Facebook chat. They can also leave public or private voice messages as wall postings for their friends.
 “Even though we are a mobile company, we don’t want to be limited to mobile,” said Brad Duea, a senior vice president at T-Mobile. “We want to be where customers are, and every day, half of the Internet logs into Facebook.”
 Eventually, Mr. Duea said, the company wants to add video functionality to Bobsled and expand the application to other platforms, including Internet-connected televisions and even gaming consoles.
 At some point the company may enable calls and text messages to mobile phones and landlines through the service, he said.
 T-Mobile’s goal, he said, is part of a larger evolution into a communications service, from a wireless carrier. For most wireless companies, voice revenue has been steadily declining as people increasingly look to mobile data services like text-messaging and VoIP services for communicating. Other carriers, like Sprint, are also experimenting by offering Internet-based calling services to their customers.
 The carriers are also competing with a wave of companies and start-ups, including Skype, Fring, Nimbuzz, Truphone and Jajah, which bring the same kind of Internet calls to Facebook.
 T-Mobile hopes to adapt by turning its portfolio of smartphones and tablets into “multimedia softphones that you can use anywhere,” Mr. Duea said.
 Mr. Duea did not know whether the pending merger between T-Mobile and AT&T would affect Bobsled and its availability.
 “Regardless of who our shareholders are at this time, they should value our efforts to innovate and that relationship with our customers,” he said.

© 2011nytimes.com




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