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AT&T expands 3G MicroCell trial to five markets

post #1 of 63
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AT&T announced this week that in addition to its Charlotte, N.C., test market, the 3G MiroCell hardware is now available in select counties in Georgia, South Carolina, San Diego and Las Vegas.

Customers can visit the AT&T Web site to find out if they are eligible for the device, which improves cell phone reception in potential trouble areas.

The hardware blankets a 5,000 square foot area, about a 40 foot radius from the device, to provide voice, data and text service coverage in areas that might otherwise be a "dead zone" for cell phone reception. The hardware supports up to four users making simultaneous calls, and up to 10 on 3G standby available for incoming calls and messages.

Last year, Charlotte, North Carolina was the first test market for the femtocell device, which provides 3.2Mbit/sec 3G service from the home. In order to support that bandwidth, the device must be connected to an appropriately fast broadband connection.

It was expected that AT&T would expand its 3G MicroCell service to other markets in 2009, but until this week availability was limited to Charlotte. In that test, the device was said to cost $150 and carried no monthly fees.



Not included in the short list of test markets thus far are New York City or San Francisco, both of which have been notorious problem areas for the AT&T network, particularly with heavy-bandwidth devices like the iPhone. However, even without the deployment of the 3G MicroCell, one test revealed this week found that AT&T's network speed improved 84 percent with strong reliability as well -- a major improvement over a similar study done last spring.
post #2 of 63
Rather than building towers with its profits - AT&T will dump the Microcell coverage onto my ISP and my ethernet line. And - charge me for the opportunity to use it - for a few feet in each direction.

What a joke.
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post #3 of 63
My house could use one of these. My calls get dropped all the time. Reception fluctuates between 0/1 bar EDGE to 4 bars 3G

I wonder though, do you need to register every phone that uses the microcell? The website says that you can let your friends use it, but do you have to log on to the website and register your friends' numbers to your account?
post #4 of 63
acslater, You are correct. You log into your AT&T Microcell Web site and simply add the phone numbers that you want to allow to use your Microcell. Nothing to it.

I really like mine. My neighborhood is a dead zone for all carriers (not just AT&T). I pay $150 for the equipment, and that's it. Reception is fantastic and covers my whole house.
post #5 of 63
I think letting people fill out coverage for their area is a great idea. What is taking so long for a wider rollout of this hardware? Seems to be happening very slowly.

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post #6 of 63
Quote:
Originally Posted by BigPhotos View Post

Rather than building towers with its profits - AT&T will dump the Microcell coverage onto my ISP and my ethernet line. And - charge me for the opportunity to use it - for a few feet in each direction.

What a joke.

It is and it isn't:

They can't cover everywhere - so Microcells are a necessary evil.
They can't give it away - people would abuse it.

I think $50 is a fair price. But I think anyone who has one should get something like 2000 free microcell minutes per month in exchange for easing the burden on AT&T. Charging for Microcell minutes doesn't help AT&T's bruised image.
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post #7 of 63
I think it's funny how some people are upset that AT&T is using femtocells to help their network, but don't realize that T-mobile and Sprint are doing the same thing. If the final price is right, I'll be getting one.
post #8 of 63
Quote:
Originally Posted by walshbj View Post

It is and it isn't:

They can't cover everywhere - so Microcells are a necessary evil.
They can't give it away - people would abuse it.

I think $50 is a fair price. But I think anyone who has one should get something like 2000 free microcell minutes per month in exchange for easing the burden on AT&T. Charging for Microcell minutes doesn't help AT&T's bruised image.

Could you explain the pricing schedule you posted? Where does the $50 or charging per minute come in?
post #9 of 63
Quote:
Originally Posted by BigPhotos View Post

Rather than building towers with its profits - AT&T will dump the Microcell coverage onto my ISP and my ethernet line. And - charge me for the opportunity to use it - for a few feet in each direction.

What a joke.


a lot of homes are built in a way that blocks cell phone signals so it doesn't mean it's always AT&T. and it costs a lot of money to build a cell site as well as maintain it. in the boonies it doesn't make sense to spend $500,000 on a site plus say $100,000 a year in maintenance costs for only a few people
post #10 of 63
Quote:
Originally Posted by Abster2core View Post

Could you explain the pricing schedule you posted? Where does the $50 or charging per minute come in?

did you read the article? It says the device cost $150 in the north carolina experiment, with no charge for minutes. I think Walshbj was speculating on what he/she would consider acceptable pricing.
post #11 of 63
How much testing must be done before this thing hits the open market...

It seems I've been hearing about this for the past... let me Google it... since Jan. 25th 2009 for release in 2009 and here it is 2010?...

What's up with that AT&T?

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post #12 of 63
So I have more than 5000 square feet to cover, can I use multiple microcells? Registering every phone to use is a little impractical for a business trying to accommodate their clients. Do I have to unregister them at the end of the day a if I want to accommodate more than 10 numbers?

In my secondary business, we have allot of clients with AT&T service that would love it if we installed one of these things, but then I would need to cover 2 locations on our campus. We have solid Verizon coverage and no AT&T 3g coverage in the area. Often our clients come up from NYC and most have iphones these days.

I'm not sure charging any price for the hardware is really fair either, but so long as we aren't charged monthly for the service I guess it's water under the bridge. I would suggest AT&T suck it up and include the microcell device with contracts outside of their normal coverage area. I doubt it would cost them any more than the ISP's pay out when they include a modem with your internet plan. It's a little tacky to ask for money to cover their asses.

Sounds great for families, but it doesn't sound like this works for us or any business for that matter. Aren't most Iphone users business people?
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post #13 of 63
Quote:
Originally Posted by rtdunham View Post

did you read the article? It says the device cost $150 in the north carolina experiment, with no charge for minutes. I think Walshbj was speculating on what he/she would consider acceptable pricing.

Of course I did?

So am I to think that he would love to pay $50 for the device and anything over 2000 minutes each month against paying a one-time charger of $150 and unlimited monthly usage?

Does that not mean that he is willing to pay $600 a year for renting the device and speculating that he wouldn't use over 2000 minutes a month?
post #14 of 63
Quote:
Originally Posted by BigPhotos View Post

Rather than building towers with its profits - AT&T will dump the Microcell coverage onto my ISP and my ethernet line. And - charge me for the opportunity to use it - for a few feet in each direction.

What a joke.

Homes have always had dead spots. If they didn't, we would probably all be sterile from the energy sent out from the towers and phones.

When I am at home, I use Skype or my home line which is digital, so most of the time, still on my ISP's network. This just allows me to use a single device more of the time.

I think this is a good solution to the issue, and am just glad it does not have a monthly fee!
post #15 of 63
I wonder what the electricity costs are to run this 24 hrs a day.
post #16 of 63
Quote:
Originally Posted by rtdunham View Post

did you read the article? It says the device cost $150 in the north carolina experiment, with no charge for minutes. I think Walshbj was speculating on what he/she would consider acceptable pricing.

thanks - that's right.
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post #17 of 63
Quote:
Originally Posted by Abster2core View Post

Of course I did?

So am I to think that he would love to pay $50 for the device and anything over 2000 minutes each month against paying a one-time charger of $150 and unlimited monthly usage?

Does that not mean that he is willing to pay $600 a year for renting the device and speculating that he wouldn't use over 2000 minutes a month?

Sorry if I wasn't clear: I was trying to say I thought $50 was a fair price to purchase the device. But I don't think there should be any other charges going forward. Additionally, AT&T should provide something like 2000 Microcell voice minutes per month for anyone who has purchased one.

I'm surprised there hasn't been more ISP posturing about femtocells in general. You know, "those are my pipes" and that kind of thing...
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post #18 of 63
Quote:
Originally Posted by walshbj View Post

Sorry if I wasn't clear: I was trying to say I thought $50 was a fair price to purchase the device. But I don't think there should be any other charges going forward. Additionally, AT&T should provide something like 2000 Microcell voice minutes per month for anyone who has purchased one.

I'm surprised there hasn't been more ISP posturing about femtocells in general. You know, "those are my pipes" and that kind of thing...

Well you can find out exactly what they are charging.

From what I can see, voice minutes are unlimited. Not sure what the price of the device is. You need an account with AT&T and I gather your home site would have to be in the posted available areas. I used a Vegas pc to get some information.
post #19 of 63
Quote:
Originally Posted by Abster2core View Post

Well you can find out exactly what they are charging.

From what I can see, voice minutes are unlimited. Not sure what the price of the device is. You need an account with AT&T and I gather your home site would have to be in the posted available areas. I used a Vegas pc to get some information.

We are really out of sync Abster. I am speculating on what I think would be fair as opposed to what AT&T offers. I have actually installed one of these for a friend.
I also wrote the review of this device at TUAW believe it or not !

I'm sorry I've caused you so much confusion, but reading all my posts I'm not sure why we went off the rails....
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post #20 of 63
Grammar question here...

I know this is AT&T's language, but:

>>>now available in select counties in Georgia, South Carolina, San Diego and Las Vegas.

I didn't know the cities of San Diego and Las Vegas were in more than one county each.
post #21 of 63
I think that the $150 cost is a bit on the steep side -- $50 to $75 is fairer in my mind. Obviously it's hard for any cell carrier to erect a tower near your home or business, but asking $150 sounds too much.

What I want to know is why is it taking them so long to roll this out? When I first read about them, I figured by this point they'd be widely available.

Frankly, I don't really care about the unlimited minutes thing. I just want to have good coverage in my home since we don't have a landline. My concern with AT&T's coverage (or lack thereof) has kept me on the fence when it comes to signing up for an iPhone.
post #22 of 63
i live close enough to san diego to be able to easily buy one of these there, but i live up in LA... does anyone know if i buy one there if it will still work up at my place in LA? or will they only activate it if you live within one of the "rollout" zip codes?
post #23 of 63
I understand the concept of a "test market" to work out issues, but now they've expanded is still a reason why they are limiting it so much?
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post #24 of 63
Quote:
Originally Posted by justbobf View Post

Grammar question here...

I know this is AT&T's language, but:

>>>now available in select counties in Georgia, South Carolina, San Diego and Las Vegas.

I didn't know the cities of San Diego and Las Vegas were in more than one county each.

I see no issue. Counties is plural and the number of places mentioned are plural and obvously cover a total of 2 or more counties. Writing "now available in select county in Georgia, South Carolina, San Diego and Las Vegas." wouldn't make sense. They could break it up to make it more detailed but I don't see a need for that.
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post #25 of 63
Quote:
Originally Posted by BigPhotos View Post

Rather than building towers with its profits - AT&T will dump the Microcell coverage onto my ISP and my ethernet line. And - charge me for the opportunity to use it - for a few feet in each direction.

What a joke.

This is the way they work for all carriers.

No matter how good the service, there will always be spots where coverage is slim to none. Carriers can't always add towers because local governments make that difficult, as do building and homeowners.
post #26 of 63
So, is it microcell or femtocell? Nanocell? Picocell?

Were the Greeks even prepared for this??

stop the hypobole!!
post #27 of 63
...not anymore. AT&T must have added a new tower or new frequency near my home....4 bars inside now.
post #28 of 63
From other reports I've read, these devices have a gps unit and won't work outside these so-called 'test' areas.
post #29 of 63
Quote:
Originally Posted by Rot'nApple View Post

How much testing must be done before this thing hits the open market...

It seems I've been hearing about this for the past... let me Google it... since Jan. 25th 2009 for release in 2009 and here it is 2010?...

What's up with that AT&T?

a lot

verizon and Sprint already have exploits of their versions that they rushed to market
post #30 of 63
Quote:
Originally Posted by solipsism View Post

I understand the concept of a "test market" to work out issues, but now they've expanded is still a reason why they are limiting it so much?

this is how you deploy new tech

test
limited test
expanded test
roll out

years ago we deployed an IM system in our company. test went great for 2 months. once we put 1000 users on it the problems started. you have to test to see how this new gizmo scales
post #31 of 63
Quote:
Originally Posted by solipsism View Post

I understand the concept of a "test market" to work out issues, but now they've expanded is still a reason why they are limiting it so much?

I have an iPhone and I have had a MicroCell since November. I paid $150 and there's no usage fee. It's like a router in size and power consumption.

It's a long, complex installation process. It takes at least an hour. At least. I'm sure they spent $500 getting mine going.

1. They want it upstream from your router or wireless access point.

2. It should be near a window (in theory) so it can grab a location for emergency 911 calls.
My unit never did get a signal and after a half-dozen calls support calls I think they turned that location requirement off remotely.

3. You have to have an ATT online account. Their software has to find and recognize the MicroCell and tie into your web page

4. You have to register your phone(s). Only 3G phones supported by ATT work.

5. You have to cycle your phone(s) off and on a couple times or leave the premises and come back on for it to see your phone(s)

PROS & CONS
My unit crashes about once a week. I used to restart the whole network but now just unplug and replug the MicroCell.

It only covers half my house which is 1800 sq ft. That's lame coverage, no doubt about it.

Sometimes I come home and it doesn't see the phone. So I have to cycle the phone or MicroCell off/on again

When it's connected and running the WIFI doesn't work as normal. You have to use one or the other (or so they said). If you set the iPhone to Airplane mode that disconnects from the MicroCell so WIFI can be used for downloading giant files from the App store, or calling via Skype.

OTHER THOUGHTS
There are lots of other things the MicroCell could do. It knows when a phone comes within range, so if JR comes home from school it could send a message to MOM "he's home".

It can "hold" a message from MOM and deliver it when JR comes in "Do your homework", etc.

I think they are testing or planning these and many other features to get more value from it

OVERALL

I give it a B-. I can make more calls from home than before but it's still lame.
post #32 of 63
Quote:
Originally Posted by al_bundy View Post

a lot of homes are built in a way that blocks cell phone signals so it doesn't mean it's always AT&T. and it costs a lot of money to build a cell site as well as maintain it. in the boonies it doesn't make sense to spend $500,000 on a site plus say $100,000 a year in maintenance costs for only a few people

Exactly!

My home was built in 1925. A very solid brick house. Not veneer. There's stucco as well, but that's on top of brick. So good for the outside.

But the interior is a bear. The way these were built is different from today. All interior walls are wood beams either 2 x 4 or 2 x 6. The interior of the outside walls have 2 x 2 wood attached. To the wood, or beams, is a .25 to .5" lath layer. Stapled to that is a galvanized iron mesh which the .75" of mortar and .25" of plaster is attached to, plus years of paint.

Even though when I had the two upstairs bathrooms and the downstairs kitchen and bathroom done by removing everything down to the beams, and replacing it with two .5" layers of sheetrock, the rest of the house, including the ceilings, still have that mesh.

We have always had reception problems. I tried several WiFi routers over the years with problems in the next room! recently, I installed an Airport Extreme, with three channels and two frequencies. Works well upstairs. Better than any other I tried, but downstairs, unless you have a device connected upstairs and walk it down, you can't connect reliably. No signal in my basement shops. So I added an Express in the middle of the first floor as an extender. Now, it's great everywhere, including the basement.

Problems with phone reception as well, but not as bad. When I first got my iPhone3G, there were problems in the house. 3G would drop out. Reception in EDGE would drop to one bar, etc. But then, one day, it was much better. Not perfect, but much better. Then we found out that they went to 850 MHz. That goes through these walls much better. Still have very weak reception in the basement, but it's fine otherwise, though 3G speeds are slower than I would like. I get about 800 average download, and about 275 upload. Both about 25% higher than before their change. With WiFi, I get about 2800 download, and 725 upload.

The point to all of this, is that it's the house that's the problem, not the carrier. This can be true anywhere.
post #33 of 63
I’d rather see AT&T and Apple get together to have the phone functionality automatically fall back on using WiFi when the cell signal is poor. No need to buy anything, or even be aware of it. Maybe the “bars” display in the title bar would take on a different look, just so you’d know it was happening.

Quote:
Originally Posted by melgross View Post

...The point to all of this, is that it's the house that's the problem, not the carrier. This can be true anywhere.

It would be cool if somehow you could turn your home’s entire electrical wiring into a WiFi antenna, reaching every room (and probably Mars). I’ve seen things that transmit wired data that way to a little wireless antenna you stick on the outlet, but I’d like to see the wires in the wall BE the antenna.

Or that mesh in your walls... find a way to tap that as an antenna!
post #34 of 63
Quote:
Originally Posted by walshbj View Post

We are really out of sync Abster. I am speculating on what I think would be fair as opposed to what AT&T offers. I have actually installed one of these for a friend.
I also wrote the review of this device at TUAW believe it or not !

I'm sorry I've caused you so much confusion, but reading all my posts I'm not sure why we went off the rails....

Before someone states what they think is fair, they have to know what the device costs the carrier. It's likely to be more than $50.
post #35 of 63
I bought one from a local AT&T store a couple of months ago in San Diego and while it worked well if you were in the same room as the device, the further away you were from it, the worse it handled. Some people I called said I sounded like Darth Vader with quite a bit of echoing.

We usually had 3-4 bars of 3G coverage at home before the microcell, so I was only looking for an incremental improvement in call clarity. Unfortunately it didn't work well for us.

I was able to return it after a couple of weeks with no questions asked and a full refund.

I will say that the setup was pretty straightforward, though it took 15-30 minutes to lock-in the GPS signal (which proves to AT&T that you are in an AT&T coverage area). After a power failure, it does have to go through this authentication again and does need to be near a window initially.
post #36 of 63
I like this - to get to use an iPhone, I have to sign a two-year contract with AT&T, which has notoriously bad service, and have to endure dropped calls to all my family members EVERY time they call me at home! For this, I pay $89.99 per month for 900 minutes and unlimited data. That's over $2,000 for the life of the contract. Now, I have to accept that it is OK to NEED to spend an additional $150 just to get cell phone reception in my own home? WTF?

How many millions of AT&T customers are there that can't get decent coverage? Multiply that times $150, and that's a lot of money, on top of the sweet deal they already have. I am so sorry that their corporation's leadership either did not want to spend the money on or did not anticipate the need for additional bandwidth by signing on with the most web-intensive phone on the market, but now I have to pay just to get normal service? That is screwed up!
post #37 of 63
Quote:
Originally Posted by rbonner View Post

Homes have always had dead spots. If they didn't, we would probably all be sterile from the energy sent out from the towers and phones.

When I am at home, I use Skype or my home line which is digital, so most of the time, still on my ISP's network. This just allows me to use a single device more of the time.

I think this is a good solution to the issue, and am just glad it does not have a monthly fee!

Shit I need a new house cause I got five bars in mine.... I'm in the burbs so our cell tower is the water tower, which is the highest structure around. I think this will work nicely in the city though, cause I get crappy reception when I'm in school down town.

Anything over $20 for a device that lets you essentially do your provider's job for them is a joke. Either build a tower or pay me (discount my bill) to install one of these in my house.
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post #38 of 63
Quote:
Originally Posted by sheff View Post

Shit I need a new house cause I got five bars in mine.... I'm in the burbs so out cell tower is the water tower which is the highest structure around. I think this will work nicely in the city though, cause I get crappy reception when I'm in school down town.

Anything over $20 for a device that lets you essentially do your provider's job for them is a joke. Either build a tower or pay me (discount my bill) to install one of these in my house.

Very often, the local government won't allow them to build another tower, and so you should look to them when you complain to find out if that's the reason.

As far as the $20 goes, that's what you would pay for it, not what it might be worth.
post #39 of 63
Quote:
Originally Posted by melgross View Post

Before someone states what they think is fair, they have to know what the device costs the carrier. It's likely to be more than $50.

I don't agree with that. While that sounds logical, fair is fairly opinionated. So what is fair to one person may not be fair to another.

I think $50 would be fair.

I also could use one in my house.
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post #40 of 63
Quote:
Originally Posted by aplnub View Post

I don't agree with that. While that sounds logical, fair is fairly opinionated. So what is fair to one person may not be fair to another.

I think $50 would be fair.

I also could use one in my house.

You're misconstruing "fair" which is what you think you would be willing to pay for it, with "fair" which would be AT&T getting its money back for it.

Often, I think that if something were cheaper, I'd buy it. But that doesn't mean that the product isn't being offered at a fair price. Just not the price I would pay.
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