ATandT 3G MicroCell to Cure Indoor Reception Woes

AT&T will begin rolling out a 3G MicroCell solution in April, the first femtocell solution, AT&T says, to support both 3G and voice services, which it routes across a home broadband connection. While call clarity has cleared up, reception remains an area of competition.

AT&T introduced a femtocell solution March 24, for those home owners who find themselves pressing their foreheads to window panes, or standing at funny angles in drafty back hallways, in hopes of catching enough cellular reception to place or finish a phone call.
The AT&T 3G MicroCell solution, which AT&T will start rolling out in April, routes wireless phone calls and data connections across a home broadband connection. According to AT&T, it's the only femtocell solution to support both 3G data and voice services.
AT&T 3G MicroCell will sell for a one-time fee of $149.99, though minutes - and their attending fees - will continue to be clocked on one's phone bill. For $19.99 a month, however, AT&T will offer individual or Family Talk plans, allowing customers to make unlimited calls through the 3G MicroCell without using the minutes on their monthly wireless plan.
The solution is said to be easy for customers to set up themselves, though tech support will be available. At the AT&T MyWireless site, customers can set up an account and designate up to 10 phones that can access the 3G MicroCell, though only four can place calls at once.
While app stores and user-friendly operating systems have become new areas of competition for wireless carriers, coverage has long been, and remains, a major definer - as Verizon Wireless, to AT&T's ire, made abundantly clear in its ad campaign comparing the competitors' wireless 3G networks.
"We see that the indoor coverage issue is going to be a main driver for femtocells," Juniper Research Analyst Howard Wilcox wrote in a November blog post, following an ADC survey of UK businesses regarding their wireless reception. While reporting that the majority of mobile device use takes place indoors, and 38.5 percent of survey respondents said the use their mobile phone as their primary work phone, 22.3 percent of respondents said they had coverage problems at their desks and 28.5 percent had coverage problems in conference rooms.
Among those using their cell phones as work phones, 27.6 percent said their work had suffered due to poor cellular reception.
"Call quality has improved to where it's not a major issue anymore, but call coverage and dropped calls are still important issues for consumers," Ken Hyers, an analyst with Technology Business Research, told eWEEK in response to the survey results.
AT&T is planning to activate the 3G MicroCell solution in cities across the U.S. over the next few months, and will be coupling them with rebate offers. Customers who "select 3G MicroCell calling plans at purchasem" AT&T said in a statement, are "eligible" to receive a $100 mail-in rebate toward the purchase of the 3G MicroCell.
Additionally, customers who purchase AT&T broadband service - DSL or U-verse 1.5MB or higher - will be eligible for a $50 mail-in rebate. And, good news, it's possible for customers to be eligible for both rebates, enabling them to pick up the device for, essentially, free, and pay only for their service fees.