or Connect
AppleInsider › Forums › Mobile › iPhone › AT&T 3G MicroCell to offer unlimited iPhone calling for $20 extra
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:

AT&T 3G MicroCell to offer unlimited iPhone calling for $20 extra

post #1 of 64
Thread Starter 
AT&T customers who live or work in one of the company's many pockets of poor or dead 3G service will soon have the option to pay $20 extra to obtain unlimited calling over 3G using their own Internet access.

AT&T hasn't yet set a retail price on its forthcoming new 3G MicroCell appliance, which connects to your existing Internet to supply local 3G voice, SMS/MMS, and data coverage for nearby AT&T customers. However, a report by Engadget Mobile attributed to an anonymous tipster says that the company plans to offer an unlimited calling plan for users for $20 per month.

Bundled with AT&T-supplied Internet (if available in your area), the monthly fee drops to $10, and with AT&T Internet and landline service (if you also pay to have one of those old plug-in type phones), the monthly fee goes away entirely.

It's not clear if the monthly fee for unlimited wireless calling through the device will be mandatory in order to obtain the 3G MicroCell device. According to the photo of official looking marketing collateral included in the report, "3G phones connected to the MicroCell without AT&T Unlimited MicroCell Calling continue to use existing plan minutes."

If unlimited calling is entirely optional, iPhone 3G and 3GS users may be able to buy and install the 3G MicroCell and simply use it to burn their existing plan minutes without paying any additional monthly fees, solving dropped call or delayed SMS issues for users working inside shielded buildings, for example.

Even if obtaining the device requires the additional unlimited calling plan, users may end up saving money by cutting their existing plan minutes and placing most of their calls from their home or work location. Current iPhone service plans with AT&T cost $60 for 450 daytime rollover minutes, $80 for 900, $100 for 1350, or $120 for unlimited.

In either case, other AT&T users who access the MicroCell to place 3G calls, texts or access mobile data will not be charged any differently than if they were to use a regular 3G tower; they will simply eat up their existing plan minutes.

The 3G MicroCell does not create a VoIP alternative to AT&T's network; it simply tunnels 3G voice and data over the user's existing broadband Internet service to AT&T's servers, which process it like any other call handled by its existing 3G cell towers.

AT&T's 3G appliance isn't usable by 3G mobile users on other carriers, nor does it provide GSM/EDGE service usable by the original iPhone model. It will work with any 3G-capable sold by AT&T, however. It's not yet known if the MicroCell supplies the standard 3.6Mbit/sec HDPA service typical of AT&T's current towers, or if it supplies the faster 7.2 service supported by the iPhone 3GS.

Due to broadcasting regulations, users will also be prevented from using the 3G MicroCell in areas where AT&T doesn't officially do business. For example, it can't be installed by users in Vermont or North Dakota or in other countries outside the US; this is enforced by GPS tracking in the device.

Other mobile providers already sell similar "mini cell tower" devices, commonly referred to in the industry as a femtocell, either solely to provide service where coverage is missing or to allow customers to provide their own pipe for unlimited mobile calling. For example, Sprint sells its Airave for $5 per month, or with an unlimited calling plan that costs $10. Verizon sells a femtocell for its 3G users with no monthly fees, but does not provide any unlimited calling option.

T-Mobile provides unlimited calling through its HotSpot@Home service, which costs $10 per month. However, rather than being a 3G femtocell that program uses UMA (Unlicensed Mobile Access), a 3GPP standard for placing mobile calls over WiFi. Unlike femtocells, which work with existing 3G phones by emulating a regular cell tower, UMA requires special hardware support to be built into the phone in order to place calls wherever WiFi service is available.

AT&T is expected to begin rolling out 3G MicroCell devices to users in a limited number of markets over the next couple of weeks, following an extensive beta testing period. Hammered by the iPhone's voracious data demands, AT&T's 3G mobile network has been criticized as severely inadequate by many high profile critics and plenty of frustrated users.
post #2 of 64
Quote:
Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post

Due to broadcasting regulations, users will also be prevented from using the 3G MicroCell in areas where AT&T doesn't officially do business. For example, it can't be installed by users in Vermont or North Dakota or in other countries outside the US; this is enforced by GPS tracking in the device.

Yeah, typical. Yet another newfangled 'offering' where everything is in the fine print. Gee, this one will take off......
post #3 of 64
Quote:
Originally Posted by anantksundaram View Post

Yeah, typical. Yet another newfangled 'offering' where everything is in the fine print. Gee, this one will take off......

Um, that fine print isn't AT&T's... its prob. the FCC/FTC. Still, AT&T doesn't operate at all in two states??? Who the heck operates in Alaska but not Vermont?

If you can outright buy this, and not be forced into a monthly unlimited contract, I just may be tempted to install one in my office at work (which is in the basement) depending on the price. I have no need for it otherwise...
post #4 of 64
Last to the party and the most expensive too...

Nothing like paying extra to fill in for poor service where there is supposed to be service.

I would think that providers would give these things out like candy for free. Think of all the money they would save because of the reduction of people calling to complain about poor coverage...
post #5 of 64
What does the device itself cost?

If, as the article thinks is possible, they don't charge any monthly fee for not using the unlimited plan, that's not expensive. Why would someone think it would be?
post #6 of 64
Quote:
Originally Posted by clexman View Post

Last to the party and the most expensive too...

Nothing like paying extra to fill in for poor service where there is supposed to be service.

I would think that providers would give these things out like candy for free. Think of all the money they would save because of the reduction of people calling to complain about poor coverage...

This is $20 per month, right? I would prefer to pay for the device and then have my minutes used when going over internet instead. (I think Verizon does it this way)
post #7 of 64
Quote:
Originally Posted by Dorotea View Post

This is $20 per month, right? I would prefer to pay for the device and then have my minutes used when going over internet instead. (I think Verizon does it this way)

Read the article again, it discusses that possibility, as well as a $10 a month service, and a free one.
post #8 of 64
Quote:
Originally Posted by clexman View Post

Last to the party and the most expensive too...

Nothing like paying extra to fill in for poor service where there is supposed to be service.

I would think that providers would give these things out like candy for free. Think of all the money they would save because of the reduction of people calling to complain about poor coverage...

I agree. Why would I pay for this? If I didn't get good service, I would switch to a company that does provide service at my house and work. What is interesting is if the GPS could be hacked and allow you to use the phone internationally with the microcell.
post #9 of 64
AT&T should give these things away, and allow unlimited talk at no additional cost. It would reduce strain on their network, which they should be MORE than happy to provide for free. It creates an incentive to subscribe, entices those of us who are "stuck" with them to stay on board, and hopefully would also help network performance by offloading much traffic to the internet pipe.
post #10 of 64
Quote:
Originally Posted by floccus View Post

Um, that fine print isn't AT&T's... its prob. the FCC/FTC

I did not say the fine print was ATT's.

That said, I misunderstood the point in the article - if it is only a couple of states, it is, as you say, not an issue.
post #11 of 64
Is AT&T nuts?
The danger is that we sleepwalk into a world where cabals of corporations control not only the mainstream devices and the software on them, but also the entire ecosystem of online services around...
Reply
The danger is that we sleepwalk into a world where cabals of corporations control not only the mainstream devices and the software on them, but also the entire ecosystem of online services around...
Reply
post #12 of 64
Why can't AT&T allow iPhones to operate over wifi with built-in voip? People would be able to use their phones in remote locations where service is unreliable/not available and it would reduce strain on their network considerably.
post #13 of 64
I have the opportunity to pay an extra $20 per month to cover the fact that AT&T's service sucks in my area. Quite a business plan... maybe soon we can pay extra at a restaurant so the chef doesn't sneeze on our meal. Steve Jobs, are you watching what your business partner is doing with your great product??
post #14 of 64
Quote:
Originally Posted by philweb View Post

Why can't AT&T allow iPhones to operate over wifi with built-in voip? People would be able to use their phones in remote locations where service is unreliable/not available and it would reduce strain on their network considerably.

I've been wondering why ever since the iPhone came out. It seems like the most sensible way to go.
post #15 of 64
I'd doubt the FCC and FTC actually let this option stand for long.

Mafia:
"If you want to make sure that we don't accidentally break all of your windows, you can give Mr. X a low fee of $20 per month. Oh, and if you sign up for another 'protection plan' you'll get a $10 discount."

AT&T:
"If you want to make sure you have service that you've already paid for, you can give Mr. X a low fee of $20 per month. Oh, and if you're already paying us for a redundant internet access plan to supplement your cell phone's unlimited internet access, you'll get a $10 discount."
post #16 of 64
Quote:
Originally Posted by philweb View Post

Why can't AT&T allow iPhones to operate over wifi with built-in voip? People would be able to use their phones in remote locations where service is unreliable/not available and it would reduce strain on their network considerably.

This service is called UMA, and it is offered by T-Mobile USA. The iPhone doesn't support it nor does AT&T.

UMA allows your phone to access the same core network, over WiFi instead of 3G.
post #17 of 64
Quote:
Originally Posted by retroneo View Post

This service is called UMA, and it is offered by T-Mobile USA. The iPhone doesn't support it nor does AT&T.

UMA allows your phone to access the same core network, over WiFi instead of 3G.

Thanks, I didn't know that. Still seems like AT&T could make a Skype-like app for use in one location, a cottage for instance, where people aren't moving about and switching between 3G and wifi.
post #18 of 64
Oh when will the horror of the plundering and pillaging ever end. The hawking savagery beset upon the gullible masses is so disgusting to witness first hand.
post #19 of 64
Quote:
Originally Posted by melgross View Post

Read the article again, it discusses that possibility, as well as a $10 a month service, and a free one.

That's only if you have an ATT land line going to your house. If you have another provider, like Verizon, you're stuck with the $20 rate.

Quote:
Originally Posted by midtownomahaboy View Post

I'd doubt the FCC and FTC actually let this option stand for long.

Sounds like the FCC is mandating this restriction. The cell phone frequencies are licensed and controlled by the FCC. If ATT doesn't hold a radio license for those frequencies in that area than they can't use these frequencies.
What goes online stays online. What is online will become public.
Reply
What goes online stays online. What is online will become public.
Reply
post #20 of 64
Quote:
Originally Posted by aresee View Post

That's only if you have an ATT land line going to your house. If you have another provider, like Verizon, you're stuck with the $20 rate.


Sounds like the FCC is mandating this restriction. The cell phone frequencies are licensed and controlled by the FCC. If ATT doesn't hold a radio license for those frequencies in that area than they can't use these frequencies.

I'm sure the FCC is not mandating a fee for the service. The concept of the device and even the plan makes sense but only if this intended for really remote areas where you wouldn't expect service. Otherwise its only hurting the company's rep further.
post #21 of 64
I would look at this as an absolute last resort, where you decide you must use an iPhone despite poor signal rather than switching service providers. Before this, I would suggest trying a cellular repeater. It's still an expense that shouldn't be necessary, but at least that way, you are still using AT&T's infrastructure rather than letting them piggyback on your internet service while also giving them money for that favor. I would hope that this system operates in a way that it controls QoS such that heavy internet use doesn't interfere with the call quality.
post #22 of 64
My initial reaction to this story is "so THATS why Google voice got killed..." it makes more sense than any PR ridden explanation issued by AppleT&T

Am I off base, or should the investigation be turned over from the FCC to the Justice Dept at this point?
You can't quantify how much I don't care -- Bob Kevoian of the Bob and Tom Show.
Reply
You can't quantify how much I don't care -- Bob Kevoian of the Bob and Tom Show.
Reply
post #23 of 64
Quote:
Originally Posted by JeffDM View Post

I would hope that this system operates in a way that it controls QoS such that heavy internet use doesn't interfere with the call quality.

This sounds less than ideal. Having to forward ports and set up QoS. I know people with computer engineering degrees that can’t seem to figure out their home router. I wonder if this device would potentially have a built in hub (or come with a special modem) so that any home router would be off the hub and give more direct access to the MicroCell before it gets to your home router. Moving GB of data between home PCs can really bog down a home router. I wonder if they have anything with these ISPs (outside of their own) so that QoS can automatically initiate when you connect the MicroCell.
Dick Applebaum on whether the iPad is a personal computer: "BTW, I am posting this from my iPad pc while sitting on the throne... personal enough for you?"
Reply
Dick Applebaum on whether the iPad is a personal computer: "BTW, I am posting this from my iPad pc while sitting on the throne... personal enough for you?"
Reply
post #24 of 64
Quote:
Originally Posted by solipsism View Post

I wonder if this device would potentially have a built in hub (or come with a special one) so that any home router would be off the hub and give more direct access to the MicroCell before it gets to your home router.

That's something like what I was thinking, but not with a hub, just one eth jack to the cable modem or DSL box, one to the router. If you connect it between the router and the internet connection, and it did its own QoS, you could get around the big download problem.
post #25 of 64
Quote:
Originally Posted by melgross View Post

What does the device itself cost?

If, as the article thinks is possible, they don't charge any monthly fee for not using the unlimited plan, that's not expensive. Why would someone think it would be?

Based on oversaturated markets, I'm sure they'll sell a ton of these (NYC & SF).

These are my additional question (on top of price).

1. Can you buy more than one.

2. Can you use more than one cell phone on it at a time?

3. Will businesses (small businesses) be able to add this to their locations?

4. Will this be pretty seamless to transport and setup for multiple locations (within US coverage)?

That said, perhaps if we complain loud enough, and critics pan the price hard, they'll drop the prices a bit.
I would imagine it would be hard to sell to consumers for more than $200, psychologically, and also practically. Any price below that would just help sales explode. To me this is a no-brainer to buy it outright. Dropping one or two price plans would help cover that cost, and increase reliability, even if you were charged monthly. But here's to hoping it can be purchased under $100.
post #26 of 64
Quote:
Originally Posted by a_greer View Post

My initial reaction to this story is "so THATS why Google voice got killed..." it makes more sense than any PR ridden explanation issued by AppleT&T

Am I off base ... ?

Well, unless you can point out exactly how this relates to GV, I would say you are off base. I can't see how this affects GV, or that GV would affect this, or the need for it, it any way.
post #27 of 64
Quote:
Originally Posted by JeffDM View Post

I would look at this as an absolute last resort, where you decide you must use an iPhone despitI would hope that this system operates in a way that it controls QoS such that heavy internet use doesn't interfere with the call quality.

And the reverse as well - can you throttle the number of wireless phone connections or radio signal range to keep your neighbors' phones (at home or at work) from connecting and overwhelming your Internet connection with data? Ideally you should be able to restrict the femtocell to only recognize specific phones to make sure that you get the full use of the service. I sure would hate to pay for this device and find that sometimes I still can't connect with my phone or data transfer slows to a crawl because others' phones are connecting to my device!
post #28 of 64
Quote:
Originally Posted by philweb View Post

Why can't AT&T allow iPhones to operate over wifi with built-in voip? People would be able to use their phones in remote locations where service is unreliable/not available and it would reduce strain on their network considerably.

Because they would make no money off that. It's all about profit. Using their airtime minutes costs you. Wifi is free.

Quote:
Originally Posted by retroneo View Post

This service is called UMA, and it is offered by T-Mobile USA. The iPhone doesn't support it nor does AT&T.

UMA allows your phone to access the same core network, over WiFi instead of 3G.

Yet another reason I can't wait until AT&T's exclusivity contract expires.
post #29 of 64
Quote:
Originally Posted by gmo View Post

I have the opportunity to pay an extra $20 per month to cover the fact that AT&T's service sucks in my area. Quite a business plan... maybe soon we can pay extra at a restaurant so the chef doesn't sneeze on our meal. Steve Jobs, are you watching what your business partner is doing with your great product??

This applies to ALL 3G phones that AT&T sell not just the iPhone.
This new service is not for iPhone users only!!
post #30 of 64
Quote:
Originally Posted by Kolchak View Post

Because they would make no money off that. It's all about profit. Using their airtime minutes costs you. Wifi is free.

Well, if they can route calls to your iPhone number, they can identify your phone and they can charge you for calls, so it wouldn't seem to make any difference to them if you are using 3G, VOIP (or UMA, can someone explain if or how this differs from VOIP other than being a means of switching between WiFi and 3G?).

However, ironically, AT&T is basically offering you VOIP service, potentially, over someone else's network with this. Seems like your minutes used ought to at least count as half minutes if you are providing your own "backhaul".
post #31 of 64
....no one is forcing you to buy this. If you like the service/price, buy it....if not, don't buy it.

If I understand the article correctly, If I already have AT&T DSL and a land line, then this is free. Free is good.
post #32 of 64
Unfortunately, the 90046 zip code in Los Angeles (the Hollywood Hills) doesn't qualify for this new device, even though that is the one area of Los Angeles that needs this service badly!
post #33 of 64
Quote:
Originally Posted by clexman View Post

Last to the party and the most expensive too...

Nothing like paying extra to fill in for poor service where there is supposed to be service.

I would think that providers would give these things out like candy for free. Think of all the money they would save because of the reduction of people calling to complain about poor coverage...

if they gave them out for free you probably wouldn't get the unlimited minutes
post #34 of 64
Umm, Maybe I'm missing something, but wouldn't the smart thing to do is provide these for free and essentially allow the user base expand the shitty network for them? This would be great in a large city, events, office buildings, etc where traffic is already strained.

1. AT&T provides the hardware free to a user who plugs it into their broadband connection.
2. Resulting 3G signal is accessible to anyone within a small radius. Throttling could allow only a few calls at a time so as to not impact the broadband connection too much.
3. Happy customers = profit.

The network is expanded quickly and efficiently, in the areas that need it most, people are happy, AT&T doesn't have to spend million rolling out huge towers, what am I missing?
"Education is what remains after one has forgotten what one has learned in school." -- Albert Einstein
Reply
"Education is what remains after one has forgotten what one has learned in school." -- Albert Einstein
Reply
post #35 of 64
Quote:
Originally Posted by philweb View Post

Why can't AT&T allow iPhones to operate over wifi with built-in voip? People would be able to use their phones in remote locations where service is unreliable/not available and it would reduce strain on their network considerably.

Because I'd install it on my 2G and get "free" calling from China.
post #36 of 64
AT&T could still charge for use over wifi (use up minutes) and detect your location to charge extra for international calling. This seems WAY more feasible than selling more hardware when wifi already exists.
post #37 of 64
I understand the network is weak in certain areas, and this device seems to address that problem. What I don't understand is paying extra for this. Am I missing something here?

1) You pay your internet provider.
2) You pay AT&T your normal monthly service contract.
3) You buy this device.
4) You pay $20 extra on top of your normal monthly service contract.

It's 3 and 4 I don't get. You're basically creating internet traffic, right? I suppose AT&T is still routing phone calls to and from this device, but that should be covered under your monthly service contract. So I pay $20 a month for a strong signal while decreasing the burden on AT&T's network?

How does this work if we lose network neutrality? I am sure Comcast is going to be just fine propping up AT&T's network... when they sell their own VoIP service.
post #38 of 64
Quote:
Originally Posted by Dogcow View Post

The network is expanded quickly and efficiently, in the areas that need it most, people are happy, AT&T doesn't have to spend million rolling out huge towers, what am I missing?

That the ISP's are hit with traffic that they aren't getting any revenue for. At some point the ISP's aren't going to allow AT&T to continue to dump all their traffic onto the ISP's network.

BTW, love the login name.
post #39 of 64
Quote:
Originally Posted by Dogcow View Post

Umm, Maybe I'm missing something, but wouldn't the smart thing to do is provide these for free and essentially allow the user base expand the shitty network for them? This would be great in a large city, events, office buildings, etc where traffic is already strained.

1. AT&T provides the hardware free to a user who plugs it into their broadband connection.
2. Resulting 3G signal is accessible to anyone within a small radius. Throttling could allow only a few calls at a time so as to not impact the broadband connection too much.
3. Happy customers = profit.

The network is expanded quickly and efficiently, in the areas that need it most, people are happy, AT&T doesn't have to spend million rolling out huge towers, what am I missing?

if they gave them out for free then people who don't need them would still order one just to have it and a lot of the probably wouldn't plug them in
post #40 of 64
I think you only need to pay if you want the extra "unlimited calling" service. My understanding is that you can buy these things near cost and let you hook them up and use your normal minutes with no monthly fee. AT&T is just trying to make some extra money by offering another service for those who use their cell phones as their home phone and for whom it would be worth it.

Anyway, I know I'm going to be buying one of these things. Perfect cell coverage in the basement and every nook and cranny in my house? Sounds good to me.
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:
  Return Home
  Back to Forum: iPhone
AppleInsider › Forums › Mobile › iPhone › AT&T 3G MicroCell to offer unlimited iPhone calling for $20 extra