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Summary:

Add AT&T to the list of operators looking to create a new revenue stream even as they move to offload network traffic. The nation’s second-largest carrier has launched a consumer trial of its 3G MicroCell, a femtocell that uses the customer’s home Internet connection to connect […]

att_header_logo Add AT&T to the list of operators looking to create a new revenue stream even as they move to offload network traffic. The nation’s second-largest carrier has launched a consumer trial of its 3G MicroCell, a femtocell that uses the customer’s home Internet connection to connect to AT&T’s network for both voice and data usage. The device — which is available only in Charlotte, N.C., following AT&T employee trials earlier this year — is being offered for $150, with a $100 rebate for users who sign up for a $20 monthly 3G MicroCell plan, which enables unlimited calling for those within range of the gadget.

The pricing structure is one of the things being tested in this trial, according to an AT&T spokesperson. And MicroCell’s price tag falls in line with that of femtocells from Sprint’s Airave ($100 device fee plus a minimum $5 monthly subscription), Verizon Wireless’s Wireless Network Extender ($250 one-time device fee; no subscription or usage charges) and others. But asking users to shell out to cover a carrier’s holes in its own network isn’t exactly the path to riches, as evidenced by the slow uptake of femtocells by mobile users around the world. Until femtocell prices come down substantially, femtocells will continue to be a niche offering for high-end users with poor in-h0me coverage and no other alternative. And carriers will continue to struggle with how to manage increasing data traffic on their networks.

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  1. AT&T should be using this as an opportunity to steal business from VoIP customers using Vonage, Comcast and TWC’s offerings as well as appeasing their customers who were let down by their terrible 3G coverage.

    Adding a $20 premium to their existing wireless plans for unlimited calling is absurd when other VoIP offerings go for much less. Its even more absurd that a customer has to shell out more money to fix signal issues which AT&T should be fixing from their existing cellular plan revenue!

    AT&T doesn’t get it. I wish the realities of a free market economy would kick in and let At&T burn based on their overwhelming incompetence at providing products/services that people want.

  2. Two things:
    1) Unless the original pricing has changed — all of the other carriers are cheaper for femtocell use.
    2) I guess this is a viable option if you are desperate to fill a coverage gap – but if the carriers can get you to pay for the hardware, *plus* additional monthly fees to offload the network you are already paying them for – then they are marketing geniuses.

  3. why bother when better alternative already exists .. wifi and voip.

  4. AT&T’s pricing structure appears to be the worst of the three. They over charge you for the device – the device really isn’t a whole lot different (cost to build wise) than a $39.95 wireless router. Then they want to charge you an extra monthly charge while they get to offload a ton of traffic from their cell networks onto your broadband carrier’s network.

    I have been looking hard at the Verizon version as my cell signal where I live in the country doesn’t work most of the time. But $250.00 is just too much. Especially if you end up switching carriers or moving to an area with better coverage.

  5. Sprint and Verizon units appear to be the same Samsung box. Why can’t we have independent femtocell products that can be configured to use which ever carrier you wish?

  6. This is not a hard problem to fix. Just encourage everyone you know and post online not to pay for it. The free market does work, we all need to make our voices heard. Don’t play their game and don’t buy their crap. I expect decent cell service for what I pay each month anyway. I should not have to pay extra to get a decent signal. These devices save the cell companies money by reducing the load to their cell towers and reducing the need for more of them. They should not be charging a monthly fee for this. No WAY!

  7. With AT&T Femtocell, Your Coverage Troubles Could Be Over | ComputerDumb.com Wednesday, March 24, 2010

    [...] up a GPS signal). The one-time pricing is good news, because when AT&T in September 2009 began consumer trials of the MicroCell in North Carolina, the trial version was being offered only in combination with a $20 monthly plan. [...]

  8. 4 Ways Carriers Are Fighting Wireless Data Demand: Tech News « Tuesday, October 19, 2010

    [...] activity is then routed over a home broadband connection, which reduces wireless network demand. AT&T began offering a femtocell last year, and both U.S. CDMA carriers, Verizon and Sprint, do as well. The biggest challenge for consumer [...]

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