– Editors Note: This article is a direct rebuttal of Digital Trends article by our resident Tech Lord, TEGMan. Right? Wrong? Read and leave your comments below. – AD
AT&T mobility announced that their 3G Microcell hardware would finally be available for the general population (provided you are an at&t customer), in April. I think this is a great idea, but it is hardly something new. Verizon and Sprint have had Femptocell devices (of which the 3G Microcell is) for over a year. at&t has been stubborn about making it available nationwide, instead testing it in various markets. Some people are unsure or confused as to what the 3G Microcell is, and what it actually does.
The 3G Microcell is a miniature cell tower, that uses much lower power than traditional cell towers. It allows AT&T phones to make and receive calls or texts, and utilize data plans, in places where either by coverage gaps, environment, or structure, one cannot access the cellular network. It takes the traditional cellular data, in at&t’s case GSM/HSPA, and converts it to Internet data, and routes it to their servers via the Internet. at&t also has built-in restrictions to prevent this device from being used by unauthorized persons, a good security concern since the data is going over your internet connection, and something not provided by Verizon’s on Sprint’s devices. It does include GPS to ensure you do not take it outside of at&t’s legal coverage area.
However, the 3G Micocell does not work with non-3G AT&T Phones, so I, as an original iPhone owner, am out of luck, even though my metal roof kills wireless signals. It does require a broadband internet connection, which for some people is the reason they have a cell phone (via teathering). I would have liked to see the 3G Microcell actually just connect to regular AT&T network, then rebroadcast it for local use, instead of using Broadband. It would also be nice to have GSM/EDGE support, but that may not be possible with the EDGE standard.
All told, the 3G Microcell only costs $150, or $100 if you get a $20/month add-on to allow for unlimited calling on the device. There are other discounts for new activation and for those with at&t Uverse or DSL. If you have limited to no signal at home, then this device is exactly what you need.