Dear AT&T, I’m Going To Purchase One of Your New Microcells, but Let’s Not Act As If You’re Doing Me Any Favors, Okay?

AT&T’s Microcell. You get great reception. AT&T gets to double dip.

As you may have read elsewhere on the web AT&T is rolling out Microcells that will solve many of the reception issues people have at home. That is, assuming they already have a highspeed Internet connection. You see, the Microcell will allow you to connect to your high-speed Internet service and then have your iPhone or any other AT&T cell phone jump on the data connection from your cable company and route calls through it. This will, in turn, improve your cell reception because you won’t be using AT&T’s network. This will also be the case with data.

Seriously, this is friggin’ brilliant on AT&T’s part. Their coverage stinks in many areas so in order to improve it they are using SOMEONE ELSE’S connection. Actually, when you stop and think about it it is actually pretty funny. (And if I were Cablevision or Comcast, I would want some $$ from AT&T!)

The new device will cost you all $150 although eligible customers who “upgrade” (more in a sec) will receive $100 mail-in rebate. If you buy a Microcell and use your cell phone over it (which is the point in the first place) it will use your minutes even though the calls are going out over your cable connection not AT&T’s system. (Slick!!! Sleazy!!!) . However, for an additional $19.99 per month you can make unlimited phone calls through the new Microcell. (Really really slick. Really really sleazy!!)

Okay so let’s look at what this really does.

This is a way to use your existing high-speed Internet connection to compensate for the fact that AT&T stinks. When I’m at home I get almost no cell phone reception. My wife does a little bit better because she’s using a Blackberry instead of an iPhone but she needs to go to a specific part of the house in order to get that connection. And it’s not like we live out in hick-ville. And it’s not like we are sophisticated Texas ranchers who, by virtue of our ranch’s location have few cell towers nearby. No, we live in the middle of New Jersey. Populated, modern New Jersey. And yet our cell reception here is absolutely awful.

So by buying one of these new Microcells Elana and I will suddenly be able to get perfect cell phone reception at home. That’s a great thing and we might even be able to dump the landline that Elana has continued to want available. But what AT&T is really doing is simply bypassing their problems and routing calls through someone else. In doing so they are putting more load on my cable company’s data connection while they benefit in the process. That’s pretty smart on AT&T’s part. But then they are going to charge ME for the “privilege” of doing so? Can you say double dipping?

Look AT&T, I’m going to actually buy one of these because it will solve a host of issues. I’ll use it and be happy to have the option. But don’t think you’re doing me any favors. If anything it just makes me resent you even more.

Categories: Editorials

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8 replies

  1. Wow … I hadn’t read any of the details (AT&T has pretty much no coverage here at all) … but it reminds me of a sort of ‘inverse tethering’ …

    And you’re right – it IS slimy!

  2. Seriously, I don’t get this. I would pay something for the actual hardware, I suppose, but how can you use minutes when you’re not using their network? That’s crazy. And $20/mo to for unlimited use of someone else’s network? Absurd. Fortunately coverage in my house is good. If it wasn’t I would get one of these in a heartbeat – and, like you, resent AT&T even more.

  3. If I am not mistaken, when someone installs photovoltaic solar panels-windmills-fluxcapacitors power generating devices to their house, under federal law, the local power company has to buy the excess power that is generated. With that in mind, you are generating excess cellular coverage and then bill you?

    While I do not support government intervention in many things, this is funny.

  4. In fairness, they do still have to pay the destination carrier for outgoing calls that end up outside of their network. (This is, in part, how Google Voice, Gizmo, etc. can give you free incoming numbers.) But that is nowhere near the cost of actual on-air minutes, and it’s also balanced somewhat by incoming calls. A few bucks a month might make sense, but $20 is absurd.

    If you think AT&T is bad, though, check out Sprint’s microcell. They charge you a $4.99/month “enhanced coverage charge” even if you use your own minutes, in addition to the optional unlimited-minutes-at-home plan. On the other hand, everyone I’ve met with one of these already has unlimited minutes, and most of them got it because they live in “shadows” which have nearly zero coverage from any carrier.

    It’s too bad that UMA never took off — if you have T-Mobile and a wifi router you can use it without even having to specifically sign up, but unfortunately it only works on certain handsets, which seem to be few and far between at this point (pretty much just Blackberries, if you want a smartphone).

  5. I bought a Verizon Network Extender. Unlike the AT&T femtocell, it is a voice carrier only. That said, while I am not pleased I needed to spend so much to get a decent signal, over the course of the several years I expect it will take for Verizon to finally get their act together and put up the promised tower a mile from my house, I am finally able to make and receive cell calls without dropping, with a clear signal, without draining my battery in a few hours.

    For 60 kb/s upload speed per call, I’m more than pleased. Of course it uses minutes – Verizon still has to connect to the public network, not matter how it connects to them. I never get close to my monthly minutes anyway, so it’s not a big deal at all.

    If only it offered 3G coverage as well, I wouldn’t need to run the WiFi radio as well…


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