T-Mobile’s Bobsled Now Running on iPhone, Android and the Web

Published on October 10, 2011
by Ina Fried

Aiming to find some new territory to conquer, T-Mobile USA said on Monday that it has expanded its Bobsled IP calling service to run on Android and iOS devices.

T-Mobile notes that 20 percent of calling is currently done using IP telephony; that figure is expected to reach 40 percent over the next three years.

“We want to embrace the opportunity to get our fair share of that market,” T-Mobile Senior VP Brad Duea told AllThingsD. It doesn’t hurt that T-Mobile has the smallest share among major U.S. cellular carriers, or that it doesn’t have its own landline phone business, as do Sprint, AT&T and Verizon. “We don’t have a legacy landline business to protect,” Duea said.

T-Mobile launched the Bobsled service earlier this year, initially focused on calling between Facebook friends. The company had a little trouble getting off the ground, as Facebook took issue with the way T-Mobile was marketing it. It was eventually relaunched in May.

With the latest expansion, the service now allows calling via mobile devices as well as through Mac and PC Web browsers. Calls are free not only to other PCs but also from any device to any phone number in the U.S., Canada and Puerto Rico, Duea said. T-Mobile also has a group and text messaging component to Bobsled, which is currently available on three T-Mobile Android devices, and is coming soon to any Android or iOS device.

“With IP (telephony), we can extend our reach beyond our market, literally into other countries,” Duea said. T-Mobile isn’t the only carrier that sees such calling services — dubbed “over-the-top” services — as a way to expand their markets to new geographies. France Telecom’s Orange, for example, has an app called ON Voicefeed that aims to get into VoIP calling by providing a custom voicemail service.

T-Mobile is particularly interested in offering calling to young iPod touch owners, who might then be interested in T-mobile service when they get their first phone. (Of course, T-Mobile also hopes to be acquired by AT&T before that happens.) The company plans to eventually issue Bobsled customers their own phone numbers, so they can receive calls from any phone.

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