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AT&T Femtocell Service Launch Very Close
Will AT&T follow Verizon's ridiculous plan to have it eat your minutes?
by Karl Bode 11:03AM Thursday Feb 18 2010 Tipped by JonBoySC See Profile
AT&T told attendees at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona this week that they're still testing their in-home 3G femtocell service, which essentially creates a mini cell tower in the home -- allowing users to route wireless calls over their home broadband connection. While that tweaking may be ongoing, AT&T users continue to tell Broadband Reports they've received flyers advertising the femtocell service. A U-Verse and AT&T Wireless user in Pickens, South Carolina writes in to note that the flyer directs users to the AT&T 3G Microcell website, which doesn't show pricing.

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The flyer does, however. "The hardware is $149.99 with a mail in rebate for $100 bringing the cost down to $49.99," the user writes. "That is a one time cost for hardware -- in small print though on the flyer it says that there is a cost for monthly use: Unlimited minutes for $19.99 a month."

Except this may not be the pricing when the Microcell fully launches nationally. AT&T's testing different pricing models in test markets, according to AT&T executives, who say the product and pricing still aren't fully cooked. AT&T's executive director for radio access network delivery Gordon Mansfield told conference attendees in Barcelona product specifics are very much still up in the air. According to Mansfield, AT&T wants the device to be "one touch," meaning users just plug the device in and go.

Pricing will be important. Carriers like Verizon have managed to shoot themselves in the foot with their own femtocell services, bizarrely sucking all the consumer value out of the product. Verizon's service eats away at your normal wireless minutes, even if you're making wireless calls over a broadband connection from another company. Indications are that AT&T may follow Verizon's lead on using consumer minutes, but will also offer an unlimited monthly calling package for a fee.

Update: Our AT&T source gave us a little more detail on the pricing in his local femtocell trial:
I called my local AT&T store and got a little more information about this product. They have two ways you can use the 3G microcell. You can purchase a $20 plan and you will get unlimited calling, or you can just use your plan minutes that you are currently paying for. Also pricing; if you set up internet with att you can get the device for free (mail in rebate), or if you currently have internet service you get the device for 49.99 (mail in rebate). I hope this extra information gives AT&T a little more credit by not forcing you to pay $20 if you would rather use your own minutes.

Ideally product pricing should be centered around giving the consumer value, given they help carriers ease the strain on their local towers. It's not clear yet that AT&T understands this, despite all of the carrier's recent whining about needing to manage wireless network congestion. We should have a better idea of AT&T's mindset in a few weeks or months once AT&T solidifies their full commercial launch plans.

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2 recommendations

$20 a month to supplement their poor signal?

I have to hand it to AT&T. At least their pricing is consistent: a confident middle finger to their customers.

Mechanicsville, VA

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reply to jandar1

Re: They should follow Sprint's model for the Airave

said by jandar1:

Device is 99.99 (AT&T will be cheaper)

4.99 a month service fee per device (easy to get waived though)
This uses your minutes still.

A single line can be unlimited for 10$ a month, multiple unlimited calling for 20$ a month.

Personally I don't see an issue with the lower rate still using your minutes, it might be cheaper for you still if your plan is good enough (or unlimited). And you can lock it down to just your phones.
Why should I be charged at all if still using my plan minutes? I have to pay for an internet connection and the hardware and they want to bill me monthly to use the minutes I already purchase.

No thanks!!

As many others have stated this is a money grab for providers as they win all the way around. You foot the cost for the hardware, you pay monthly for the internet connection, you already pay for plan minutes and finally it lightens the load on their cell towers. Not to mention that if you buy it because of a weak signal that gets them out of adding more towers.