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AT&T Microcell Deployment Begins In April
$150. $100 if you sign up for $20 a month plan. $0 for new AT&T broadband users.
by Karl Bode 06:37PM Wednesday Mar 24 2010 Tipped by SuperNet See Profile
We've had plenty of leaks over the last few months highlighting the looming launch of AT&T's new femtocell service, and today AT&T officially announced the product. AT&T's new "Microcell" won't be officially available until "mid-April." The device, as we've well-discussed, in effect creates a miniature cell tower in your home, allowing users to route wireless calls over their home broadband connection. The service is particularly useful for those who suffer from poor cell reception in their homes. For carriers, femtocells help ease congestion on local towers.

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Pricing for AT&T's Microcell is about in line with what trial participants have been reporting since last fall, with the device costing $150. If you're an existing AT&T wireless customer, you can get $100 off that price if you sign up for $20 a month service. That $20 a month allows you to make unlimited domestic calls over your home broadband connection.

Those who don't want to pay $20 a month (plus wireless plan) can pay the full $150 for the device, but calls made via the Microcell will eat away at your AT&T wireless minutes. As we complained with Verizon's "Network Extender" femto-based product, eating away at user minutes when consumers are using their own bandwidth to make the call -- while saving carriers money on wireless tower bandwidth -- never seems to get any less absurd.

According to AT&T, new users to AT&T can get the device for free after mail in rebates if they sign up for the $20 a month plan, and sign up for new AT&T DSL or U-verse service of 1.5 Mbps or faster. The device, which supports up to ten devices authorized by the user, has a range of approximately 5,000 feet according to AT&T (barring interference or obstruction). We'll of course bring you user impressions of the device when it officially launches next month.

While femtocells offer promise for those in homes with limited reception, carriers seemed determined to price them so that they suck all the value out of the proposition for consumers. That, unsurprisingly, has resulted in the femtocell not really taking off the way analysts had predicted. AT&T's Microcell pricing certainly doesn't change this equation.

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Chicago, IL

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Why would anyone want to pay money to help a company provide better phone service, AND have more unsightly things in your house like more power bricks, & more wasted electricity.

The way I understand it AT&T should be paying the customers to use these devices. Is AT&T going to reimburse me for the data this thing consumes on my internet connection? Is AT&T going to pay me for the electricity this device uses?

That's essentially like me making monthly payments to the government to not drive my car and keep it sitting in the garage so other people can enjoy faster commutes.