Making Free Calls with Your BlackBerry Curve
Some wireless carriers around the world support a technology called Unlicensed Mobile Access (UMA), also called Generic Access Network (GAN). This technology allows mobile phones that have Wi-Fi radios to seamlessly roam between the cellular network and Wi-Fi networks. This technology allows for certain benefits, including free phone calls.
How UMA Works
UMA has two parts. The first part is equipment that is installed at your wireless carrier. The second part is in your phone or BlackBerry. Your BlackBerry must have a Wi-Fi radio and the UMA software installed. In the case of the BlackBerry, your wireless carrier preloads this software if it supports UMA.
When your BlackBerry is in range of a Wi-Fi network and you have connected to that Wi-Fi network, your BlackBerry’s connection to the wireless carrier disconnects from the cellular network and connects over the Internet via the Wi-Fi hot spot. After that, all communications, including phone calls, go over the Wi-Fi network.
When you move between the regular cellular network and the Wi-Fi network, your call does not drop or stutter or give any other indication that you are moving between networks. If you start a call while connected to Wi-Fi and later move into the cellular network while still on that same call, the call remains free, as discussed next.
Benefits of UMA
The UMA technology has benefits. The first is to expand the reach of your wireless carrier’s network. In areas that have low or no coverage, if you connect to a Wi-Fi network, that Wi-Fi network acts as another cell tower for your wireless carrier. This is very useful, especially in computer rooms where cell coverage normally is very bad or nonexistent, but it can also be handy in the basement of your home.
The second benefit of UMA is free calling. When your BlackBerry is connected to a Wi-Fi hot spot via UMA and you make a phone call, that phone call normally is free. We say normally because every carrier has different rules about how it implements UMA. Some require a small monthly fee to get the free calling, but that monthly fee can be offset by the fact that you can lower your regular monthly minute plan because many of your calls could be made while on Wi-Fi.
This free calling ability works regardless of whether you are in your home country. As long as you are connected to a Wi-Fi hot spot, your call is free. Imagine that you live in New York and you are sitting in a coffee shop in London. As long as you are connected to the coffee shop’s Wi-Fi hot spot, your calls to the U.S. are all free. The ability for UMA to save you money is certainly there. Imagine how much money a company could save if it purchased its BlackBerry Curves from wireless carriers that support UMA.
Many wireless carriers around the world support UMA, including T-Mobile US, Rogers Wireless, and Orange, to name just a few. If your carrier does not support UMA, ask the carrier to look into it.
Which BlackBerry Curves Support UMA
The following BlackBerry Curves support UMA:
- BlackBerry Curve 8320
- BlackBerry Curve 8520
- BlackBerry Curve 8900
If you have one of these BlackBerry Curves, and your wireless carrier supports UMA, you should be all set. If your wireless carrier does not support UMA, these BlackBerry models will still work on that carrier, but you will have no UMA and no free calling.
>>>step-by-step Setting Up UMA
The great thing about UMA is that it requires no setup and no special instructions for making calls while on Wi-Fi. The only setup that is needed is to associate your BlackBerry Curve with one or more Wi-Fi hot spots. As soon as your BlackBerry is aware of all the hot spots you normally come into contact with and knows how to connect to each one, it automatically switches to those networks when you are in range of them. As soon as Wi-Fi is established, UMA starts working automatically.
- To associate with a Wi-Fi hot spot that includes your home Wi-Fi network, go to the Settings Folder on your BlackBerry, and click Set Up Wi-Fi.
- The first time you run this setup wizard, you are shown some general information about Wi-Fi and UMA.
If you do not want to see this information again, scroll down and check the box next to Don’t show this introduction again.
- Scroll down and click Next.
- On the next screen, you see a list of choices. Click Scan For Networks to scan the area for Wi-Fi networks in range.
- Your BlackBerry scans the airwaves for Wi-Fi networks in range.
- After it completes its scan, which takes only a few seconds, you see a list of Wi-Fi networks in range. Click the Wi-Fi network you want to connect to.
- When you click that Wi-Fi network, if some kind of key is required, your BlackBerry prompts you. Enter the Wi-Fi network password encryption key or pre-shared key to connect if required.
- After you type in the required key, click Save.
- The next screen asks you to save the Wi-Fi network profile. It prepopulates the profile name with the network name. Either leave the name as is or type in a new name such as Home or Work, and click Next.
- The final screen is a success screen.
When you have successfully connected to the Wi-Fi hot spot, your BlackBerry Curve should connect to your carrier via UMA. As soon as you are connected to UMA, the regular signal meter on the top right of your BlackBerry screen should change to say UMA. The signal strength then reflects the signal strength of the Wi-Fi network. When you move out of Wi-Fi range, the signal meter changes back to showing GPRS or EDGE.