Print 21 comment(s) - last by cmdrdredd.. on Jun 24 at 7:08 PM

Microcell gives new option to customers in areas where 3G voice coverage is poor

AT&T is notorious for poor service quality in some of its service areas. While poor reception might be forgivable in mostly rural areas where the environment makes cellular towers hard to install and cuts range, some of AT&T's highly publicized network issues are in major cities.

In September of 2009, an Apple Genius in a store in New York City famously told a customer that 30% dropped calls were normal. AT&T knows that reception can be an issue in some areas and is making efforts to fix the network. One of the ways that AT&T hopes to improve the network for customers is by getting users to adopt femcells.

The AT&T Microcell femtocell is now available to any AT&T customer. The Microcell takes the user's mobile phone call and routes it across their broadband network rather than over the AT&T wireless network. The catch with femtocells is that the customer has to purchase the hardware device and pay more each month to use it. This has made the devices unpopular with many consumers who feel that the femtocell makes them pay again for network coverage they are already paying for.

Another significant issue with the AT&T Microcell is that data usage on the 3G network conducted when connected to a Microcell will still count towards the monthly data use of the user. AT&T claims that this is because all 3G data eventually goes across the AT&T backend.

AT&T has also completed the transition of assets that it purchased from Alltel in 79 different service areas ranging across 18 states. The purchase of the assets cost AT&T $2.35 billion and was part of the approval Verizon received to purchase Alltel. Most of the new coverage is in rural areas where Alltel operated. Customers whose networks have transitioned to AT&T will not have to purchase a new device according to the company.

Update: Wednesday June 23, 2010 11:35 p.m.-

AT&T contacted us late today and chatted a bit about the Microcell.  Their spokesperson
gave this additional info on the product:

As background, a 3G Microcell functions as a miniature cell tower, and data transmitted using the Microcell uses our core wireless network just like a call placed while driving down the highway uses the core wireless network. The only difference is how that data or call gets there – via a MicroCell connected to a wired broadband connection instead of a cell tower. As a result, data and voice usage on a Microcell access point are billed according to the users’ plan. 
However for those users fearful about the data usage limitations mentioned, AT&T pointed out:
3G MicroCell is primarily intended to enhance the voice call quality experience in your home. While it can carry mobile data traffic, that’s not the primary solution it provides.

Microcells require you have a wired broadband connection and our surveys show that around 96% of our Microcell users have a Wi-Fi router, as well. Wi-Fi is the optimal solution for home mobile data use. We encourage people to take advantage of Wi-Fi capabilities. That’s why all of our smartphones include Wi-Fi radios, and usage on Wi-Fi doesn’t count against your mobile data usage bucket if you have one of our new data plans.

Editor's Note (Jason Mick)
AT&T has been getting a lot of flak for its voice network lately.  While this is largely fair, it should be noted that it has the nation's best data network
. Some publications, such as the The Consumerist have drummed up the Microcell/data plan story, but honestly this seems like a non-issue, considering that, like AT&T points out, you can just use Wi-Fi.  If voice coverage is poor in your area, but you want AT&T either for either the iPhone 4, its data network, or its strong international coverage, it seems foolish to avoid the Microcell for this practical non-issue.

It's also important to note that you can buy a Microcell without signing up for an additional plan.  The additional plan ($20/month) allows for unlimited voice, plus gives $100 off the Microcell itself.  AT&T's spokesperson says that families are one potential group that may benefit from this additional option.

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By SanLC504 on 6/23/2010 1:10:34 PM , Rating: 2
Since most AT&T phones with 3G capability (smartphones making up the biggest part of 3G users) have Wi-Fi built in, couldn't you just utilize your own home Wi-Fi for data? The femtocell has to connect to a router or switch to start.

Maybe the Femtocell will help them get more bars across more places (in your home).

RE: Redundancy
By GaryJohnson on 6/23/2010 2:27:21 PM , Rating: 3
You can use a VOIP app on your smartphone over wifi. This is how I do it. But the problem is you then have two phone#s. At my work, getting people to try two different numbers to reach me requires some kind of act of god. They'll try one number... once... and the next day I'm "the guy that never answers his phone"

RE: Redundancy
By OoklaTheMok on 6/23/2010 4:00:05 PM , Rating: 4
You could just use Google Voice to route the calls to the appropriate phone number... but oh yeah, didn't AT&T demand Google to not route to AT&T phone numbers?

I find AT&T actions reprehensible. They have poor coverage, so you the customer, augment their failings buy purchasing a microcell, and AT&T in turn charges you to use the device, plus counts your usage on the device against you. WTF is AT&T thinking?

With T-Mobile, I use UMA at home because the coverage sucks where I am. It uses my wifi connection to make calls and access data. I don't pay to use UMA, and using UMA doesn't count against my minutes or data. This is how it should be. By using your own access point, you are in turn helping the company by reducing the load on the cell towers. Yeah, one connection is practically nothing, but still it helps them.

AT&T wants to monetize everything. I am glad I stopped using them years ago and I have never regretted switching.

RE: Redundancy
By cjc1103 on 6/24/2010 8:22:42 AM , Rating: 2
If you read the article, AT&T says WiFi use doesn't count against your data limit. While this doesn't address voice calls, you can still opt for VoIP over WiFi, which is essentially no extra cost to you. It seems to me that you only need the femtocell if cell coverage at your house is bad and you don't use VoIP. Or switch to another carrier. BTW, AT&T is not the only carrier with coverage problems, T-Mobile and Sprint have issues too, but you don't hear as much about that.

RE: Redundancy
By Falacer on 6/24/2010 8:29:51 AM , Rating: 2
I love being that guy! I just tell them if they were worth talking to I would have picked up :P

By jakefalcons on 6/23/2010 1:08:13 PM , Rating: 3
so at&t's solution to their network problems is to piggyback someone else's infrastructure and then make you pay extra for it. well played at&T well played...

RE: at&t
By Quadrillity on 6/23/2010 1:52:35 PM , Rating: 1
... in completely unrelated news: All carriers see a sudden spike in new customer accounts while AT&T scratches their heads at massive customer loss.

RE: at&t
By mcnabney on 6/23/2010 2:53:39 PM , Rating: 2 the iSheep are going anywhere.

RE: at&t
By Alexvrb on 6/23/2010 4:04:35 PM , Rating: 1
Exactly. AT&T has an infinite supply of wool at their disposal. Baaahh!

RE: at&t
By NA1NSXR on 6/23/2010 6:22:51 PM , Rating: 2
Not everyone has issues with ATT service.

RE: at&t
By AstroCreep on 6/23/2010 4:19:43 PM , Rating: 2
In the spirit of fairness, I will state that all carriers (in the US anyway) have a femtocell device (or will be offering one soon) that works the same way and the customer is still charged for it.

They're just a way to patch deadzones at your house or place of business.

Gay ads opening new frames inside the page
By leexgx on 6/23/2010 7:20:30 PM , Rating: 2
Gay Ads you gone something thats opening New frgin Frames inside the page i cant go forward now to an post i was making

Fix your F site, i have to press back 2-3 times to go back an page, i am useing up to date opera (even with me blocking all your ads on this site something is making page go forward 2-4 times)

By leexgx on 6/23/2010 7:35:20 PM , Rating: 2
last thing i blocked was this and i can now press Back please Fix it


yep that stupid link above was makeing the page make an new frame

i still blocking very annoying *intellitxt* inserting popuplinks randomly

and the below service was making every page take to long to load or stall for some time

all other blocks have been removed

By MGSsancho on 6/24/2010 4:07:16 AM , Rating: 2
May not also be for home use. If I had a retail shop or a place hipsters gathered a few of these so my customers had great reception seams like a good idea.

RE: Retail
By PMP on 6/24/2010 12:58:20 PM , Rating: 2
Only ten iPhones can be registered per microcell and only six be active at one time.

This solution works great, the voice quality was like land-line. The only problem is that the iPhone was still dropping calls when connected to microcell. Turning 3G off worked better in my case because 2G coverage in my area is fine.

What's with the constant AT&T bashing?
By sleepeeg3 on 6/23/2010 10:06:12 PM , Rating: 2
AT&T may have some connectivity issues, but they are still the fastest network that is available nationwide:,2817,2364263,

Compare equal plans - you pay more for the luxury of using Verizon.

With AT&T, you can switch to a multitude of GSM phones worldwide by just switching SIM cards. GSM dominates worldwide, because it is a better technology. With Verizon you are stuck with only the CDMA phones they offer and have to jump through hoops to change phones. Loving my Samsung i8910 HD OLED, 8MP camera phone...

Hopefully the whining will subside when the iFruits finally get their iPhone when Apple's contract is up in 2012.

By cmdrdredd on 6/24/2010 7:08:09 PM , Rating: 1
I pay LESS than I did with ATT after switching to Verizon and the network is FASTER, not slower. Don't believe everything you read. Plus, my network fucking works. ATT never really did when you wanted it to...fuck that.

By muhahaaha on 6/23/2010 1:32:33 PM , Rating: 2
One word... Fail

Voice only?
By TonyB on 6/24/2010 6:20:57 AM , Rating: 2
3G MicroCell is primarily intended to enhance the voice call quality experience in your home. While it can carry mobile data traffic, that’s not the primary solution it provides.

this is a bunch of bull. Voice call quality was their primary solution for the 3G MicroCell, that's why non-3G handsets aren't supported.

"Best Data Network"
By SSDMaster on 6/24/2010 8:35:32 AM , Rating: 2
AT&T has the "fastest" data network, but certainly not the best. If its not widely available it doesn't count for much.

You can't just setup the fastest data network in your backyard and then start calling it the best. I can't believe Dailytech is even defending AT&T.. Are we going to start seeing AT&T ads on this site now?

Different country?
By HrilL on 6/24/2010 12:44:36 PM , Rating: 2
Can one take such a device to a different country and make calls using their normal voice services from At&t? Or does At&t block non US IP addresses?

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