AT&T 3G MicroCell, who is doing who a favor?

Syl and I moved into a loft late last year and have had the worst experience imaginable with our AT&T iPhones. I completely understand that concrete structures aren’t exactly known to amplify carrier signals, but no other carrier (T-Mobile, Verizon or Sprint) suffers nearly as much as AT&T Wireless in the apartment. It’s terrible! In order to complete calls or successfully send a text message, we have to stand next to the window or door. I’ve made it a habit to point my phone towards the city hoping that the phone maintains a newborn strength grip of a single bar of service. Bottom line, this sucks…

When AT&T announced their signal boosting femtocell a.k.a. the 3G MicroCell, I knew it was the answer to our coverage woes. Essentially, the MicroCell is a miniature cellphone tower which increases indoor coverage by utilizing your existing internet (Cable or DSL) connection. The idea sounds awesome until you start to digest the monetary details.

So the current situation looks like this:

  • $150 – One MicroCell plus taxes so that I can enjoy an iPhone.
  • $180 / mo. – Two iPhones sharing minutes, unlimited data and unlimited messaging on AT&T’s Family Talk plan.
  • $60 / mo. – Comcast internet connection which AT&T is going to use to improve our cellphone coverage.

Ok, that’s a decent chunk of money going towards communicating on a cellphone via AT&T Wireless. But it’s hard to let go of the iPhone. I’ve tried.

I’m tired of having poor service. I’m even more tired of friends who come over with their non-AT&T service who are able to use their devices without fuming. I actually walked into an AT&T Wireless Store on the way home from work today with the intention of purchasing a 3G MicroCell. I was so close to pulling the trigger until I asked the sales rep:

What do you think about a customer having to pay $150 for a piece of hardware that piggybacks on a home internet connection to fill AT&T service holes?

The answer that convinced me that today was not a day to give AT&T more money:

We’re actually doing you a huge favor by subsidizing the MicroCell. The actual price of the device is $500. $150 for reliable home service is a great deal.

No AT&T, I would be doing you a favor by staying on as a contract customer and reducing your wireless network load in the area. Wouldn’t it be great if AT&T has some kind of system in place that would provide 3G MicroCell towers to customers in order to maintain quality service?

Discuss - 9 Comments

  1. jacky says:

    Leaving ATT/Iphone to Android/Tmobile was one of the harder choice I had to make. I miss the Iphone but glad switching to a more reliable & better costumer service network.

  2. Darrell says:

    Have you tried out the iPhone4 yet?

    Antenna ‘weakspot’ aside, many owners claim they can make calls in their homes in places they haven’t before.

    iPhone owner here too – it’s hard to let go of the iPhone if iTunes is running in the background most of the time on the computer.

  3. Rick says:

    I thought the exact same thing when I read about the microcell but once I saw the price I figured I would just live with bad service in my home with my iPhone 3GS. UNTIL NOW. Last week I received a letter from AT&T letting me know that as a preferred customer I was now eligible for a free MicroCell. What the? I took my letter down to the AT&T store and got my free MicroCell. Sweet. Totally free. Wow. A friend of mine who has been a customer of theirs for as long as I have and lives only two blocks away didn’t get a letter. When I asked the AT&T rep why I got a letter, he just said that AT&T was giving the microcells out to customers who lived in trouble spots. Weird. I haven’t had a chance to hook it up but I’m hopeful it’ll improve my signal.

  4. Let’s see, I have a $15.00/mo iPad plan, and two contracts worth about $230/mo for two iPhones (one 3gs and one 4). All in, I’m into them for $150/mo.

    For that, I have days where I spend more time redialing than I do talking. I couldn’t feel more similar to you my friend. I would leave AT&T with almost NO consideration for the break-contract fees if there were another option. Not to stir the debate here (because it’s been debated enough), but I *really* like my iPhone and I’m not (as yet, though it’s growing) a huge Android fan. I just don’t like the tinkering — I don’t want to put my time into it.

    I’ve got no notice for a Microtower, and my friends that have them get like 15-20 foot range on them anyways. It just blows my mind that AT&T can’t deliver great service.

    And no, I don’t live in a “trouble” area. I live near Sacramento, in CA. But I’ve had egregious issues in NYC, Chicago, LA, San Francisco, and North Carolina. And during those times, I’m sitting next to my business partner on Sprint and his service is working no problem. I mean, it’s about 95% more reliable, even in buildings in NYC (which are notorious).


    I’m not a vocal complainer — this is maybe the second or third time I’ve posted anywhere. I can’t understand how they call it “a small number of users.” I don’t know anyone with AT&T service that likes it: even my parents hate it, and they’re about 0% techie. It doesn’t work reliably in their house unless they go outside. My LA friends have to go out on their decks to have phone conversations.


    Anyways, thought I’d drop it. Derek, thanks for the link — very helpful — I’ve loaded it up and will start providing feedback to them.

  5. Nas says:

    SO glad my search for logo design somehow lead me to this post. It is great to know that I am not going crazy especially when I am nearly reduced to tears out of the frustration that comes with trying to use my iPhone. It is horrible. especially at home which is a Brooklyn, NY brownstone.

    They also tried to get me on the micro cell wagon but I just can’t jump on it. I mean, really, why should I have to pay more money when I am already paying for service that hardly works. I say send the micro cell and maybe I won’t complain about the fact that it has to attach to my internet connection and maybe slow down the speed of my wireless connection. I am so tired of talking to them on the phone but I just cannot let go of my iPhone.

    I will definitely try MArk the Spot.

  6. When I decided to purchase my first smart phone a few months ago I really considered getting an iPhone 4G, but I live Nebraska and we have probably some of the worst AT&T coverage in the nation. We also have really good Verizon coverage and I had my last contract with them so I decided to go with an Android phone. I get really good coverage, both for calls and for 3G. I’ve had no connection problems so far. I’m very glad I didn’t let the iPhone entice me. Apple really needs to strike a deal with Verizon soon.

  7. Brent says:

    I have the SAME ISSUE and I’m so frustrated. I also got “the letter” and the free microcell.

    [ From what the dude at the AT&T store said was it’s because we are not actually preferred customers, we’re just in their test market. I think it’s Kansas City & Phoenix (by mistake according to him)]

    This thing is a piece of CRAP! I had to shut it off because it actually made my one bar of service worse. I went from one AT&T bar to zero AT&T MicroCell bars to NO SERVICE AT ALL (yes I’m yelling – so pissed right now)

  8. Nick says:

    The microcell is so bad that I’ve actually gone and registered