AT&T Starts Trial of 3G MicroCell Service; Should Users Pay Extra For It?


Engadget is reporting that AT&T has started a “public trial” of 3G MicroCell service in Charlotte, North Carolina.

The 3G MicroCell service will allow wireless subscribers to utilize their home Internet connection for enhanced voice and data coverage.

AT&T is the last of the big 4 U.S. carriers to offer such a device to its customers.

Back in February, there were hints that iPhone might support AT&T's MicroCell service. Here is AT&T’s explanation of the 3G MicroCell service:

"AT&T 3G MicroCell acts like a mini cellular tower in your home or small business environment. It connects to AT&T's network via your existing broadband internet service (such as DSL or cable) and is designed to support up to 10 3G capable wireless phones in a home or small business setting. With AT&T 3G MicroCell, you receive improved cellular signal performance for both voice calls and cellular data applications, like picture messaging and surfing the web for up to 4 simultaneous users."

The service will cost up to $19.99 per month for unlimited minutes, although users with either AT&T home phone or Internet service will be charged $9.99 per month and those with both home phone and Internet service from AT&T will be able to utilize the 3G MicroCell service for free. In addition to the monthly cost, the 3G MicroCell device will cost $150. However, AT&T has just started a “public trial” so I’m assuming the pricing is also part of the trial and the final decision on pricing for the full rollout is yet to be made.

Let's compare it with other carriers (courtesy Engadget):

  • Sprint's Airave runs $4.99 a month, but they'll give it to you for free if the alternative canceling your service. Unlimited use is $10 a month.
  • Verizon charges nothing once you buy the unit, though there's no unlimited calling option available.
  • T-Mobile offers unlimited calling through its WiFi-based [email protected] service for $9.99 a month.

The service will be quite useful if you have poor 3G coverage at home or office but as Kevin Tofel over at jkOnTheRun correctly points out:

“you’re paying the carrier extra money each month because they can’t provide you service that you’re already paying for. They benefit from the decreased traffic on the rest of their network. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again — instead of charging consumers $5, $10 or $20 a month for femtocell use, they should instead be crediting customers that amount to help with their coverage and network issues.”

What do you think?

[via Engadget]

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