Monday, April 12, 2010


Gordon Snyder and I recently recorded a podcast on femtocells - here's a review of AT&T's 3G MicroCell
I tapped dial. There's ringing, and the call goes through. It's the first call I've made from my house in two years. All it took was AT&T's 3G MicroCell to give me 5 solid bars where there were none.

$150, no monthly fee, with no strings attached—but it counts against your monthly cell minutes. It's $20 a month for unlimited MicroCell calling. If you get an unlimited plan, the MicroCell drops to $50 after rebate. (If you have AT&T broadband, it knocks another $50 off.)

It's a Lifechanger
A box about as big an oversized cable modem, the MicroCell is a mini cellphone tower that plugs into and passes calls through your existing broadband connection, giving you about a 40-foot radius of solid cell reception. Dead zones crackle to life; calls can be made without dropping.

The setup process is mostly plug and play—if you've got a router, it jacks into that, or if you plug your computer directly into a modem, it has a port for passthrough. You just activate the MicroCell through AT&T's website and then wait for about an hour as it springs to life (which is agonizing if you're revving to make the first call from your house in over two years. The MicroCell's only inconvenient installation requirement is a view of the sky for GPS reception—a necessity for 911 location services (and presumably the way AT&T prevents you from using it overseas).

It only works with AT&T numbers, and you can only have 10 numbers registered at once tapping into the MicroCell. Since you have to assign the numbers through AT&T's site every time you want to add one, friends who're just stopping by (or your neighbors) won't be able to take advantage of your newly awesome reception, unless you add them to the list.

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