Monday, October 5, 2009

Info For Those Considering AT&T's Microcell

I wanted to send this out in case others are considering purchasing AT&T's Microcell.  Before this becomes an "AT&T stinks" thread, let me preface that my particular issue is with my apartment.  It's a proven dead zone for AT&T, Sprint, and Verizon.  Also note that the Microcell only works with AT&T 3G phones.

Yesterday, I purchased the Microcell from the AT&T store in Cary. After taxes, it was about $162. The sales rep also informed me that if I did sign up with the $20/month "unlimited minutes" Microcell plan at the time of purchase, there was a $100 mail in rebate for the Microcell.

After some issues trying to set me up with the rebate deal (a Microcell with 5 months of unlimited minutes?), we found out my account wasn't eligible since it was created in the Washington, DC Metro area. The deal is only good for plans created in these trial markets. This also goes for the ability to purchase the $20/month for unlimited minutes. The sales person did say that they've been told the Microcell was going to be further rolled out in January, and I'd be able to get the $20/month unlimited minutes plan then (sadly, minus the $100 rebate). However, the Microcell itself only has geographical constraints, so it would still work in my apartment.

Once I got home, my set up was pretty easy. The only caveat is that the Microcell needs to be able to get a GPS signal. That meant I couldn't place the Microcell where I really wanted to in my apartment. Once it was powered on and connected, it took about 90 minutes for the Microcell to connect, register with AT&T, get its GPS signal, and be ready to go. When it was online and ready, I received an SMS message saying something to the equivalent of "Thanks! You're Microcell is ready."

I now have full signal in my apartment (as opposed to none). A few test calls and text messages worked fine as well. I haven't tried web access over Microcell, since I use my wi-fi with my iPhone. You can have up to 10 phones that can connect to your Microcell. The numbers have to be added to your online AT&T account management page for others to be able to use it. Right now, it's just my wife's and my cell phone.


Ben C said...

Well that seems silly (the GPS thing). I guess people who have apartments or offices below ground won't be able to use it. Seems to me like they'd be prime candidates for such a service, too. I know it's not the bulk of the potential users, but it makes sense to sell it to as many people as possible. I wonder if the GPS requirement will be dropped once it is available in more places?

Reamer77 said...

I'm confused as well about GPS. Initially, I thought it would assist with 911 over Internet, but I was told I need to make sure to keep my address online current for 911 to work properly. It's funny that my iPhone, when connected to the Microcell, thinks I'm located outside of Charlotte when I'm actually in Raleigh-Durham.

With this hardware, it appears that GPS is mandatory to provide the 3G signal. What happens when this service goes national? It would be silly for it to be dependent on my location. I don't think Vonage or other VOIP providers care where I am geographically. To me, this is a VOIP service, but with a mobile handset. Will AT&T disable the GPS dependency, send me new hardware, or force me to "upgrade" to a new access point if I want to place this in my phone/network closet?

It would be nice to have the GPS requirement dropped. Having to place my Microcell near a window hinders where I want to place it in my apartment. Thankfully, my apartment is wired for ethernet, and I don't have a long ethernet cord across the room for this to work.

Scott Laird said...

I think the GPS bit is actually for timing. Most cell signals have really tight timing requirements, and it's cheaper to put a GPS receiver into the microcell than it would be to put an accurate oscillator.

Jay Snow said...

I was under the impression that the GPS requirement was for 911 and their carrier requirements and that once the settup is done the unit could be moved into a basement and still work.

Reamer77 said...


I'll have to try that and report the results.