AT&T Microcell draining batteries?

Is the AT&T Microcell sucking the life out of your Windows Phone batteries? Apparently there are a few Windows Phone owners who believe so.

For those not familiar, AT&T's Microcell is a gadget that picks up your cellular signal and carries it over your local internet service. It is designed for households and businesses that are in poor reception areas.

A short discussion has developed over at AT&T with one commenter stating with the microcell plugged in his battery drain on his Samsung Focus S is in the neighborhood of 15-20% per hour. Unplug the microcell and the battery drain pulls back to about 1% over two hours.

Now we are not certain if those complaining are using their microcell for data or connecting to their wifi internet network. If they are relying on the microcell for data, that could contribute to the increase drain.  But not knowing for certain, this is only a guess.  Personally, I've had an AT&T Microcell since day one (without it I only have half a bar of coverage at the house) and have yet to notice any increase in battery drain on any of the phones in the house.

AT&T hasn't commented on this issue and if there is a bug with some of the microcells, hopefully it can be addressed quickly. Curious, has anyone experience faster battery drain rates when your Windows Phone is connected to the microcell?

Source: AT&T; Thanks, Ronald, for the tip!

George Ponder

George is the Reviews Editor at Windows Central, concentrating on Windows 10 PC and Mobile apps. He's been a supporter of the platform since the days of Windows CE and uses his current Windows 10 Mobile phone daily to keep up with life and enjoy a game during down time.

  • I had the exact same issue when I first got my Samsung Focus S. Then I disconnected it from the microcell and the battery drain went away. I used WiFi for data. It was definitely due to the microcell. Kt would sit there doing nothing and lose about 10% an hour.
  • Definitely an issue. We have a microcell set up in our small office. 4 people with Samsung Focus' and we all have major battery loss while at the office.
  • My HTC titan uses my micro cell at work and I do not have this problem
  • My Microcell is now unplugged due to this. In addition to the high battery drain (that caused me to get a replacement battery!), I'm also getting a high number of dropped calls.
    Turning off the cellular data on the phone stops the drain, even though I had WiFi on.  It would drain just sitting on the table doing nothing.
    However, due to the dropped calls, I can't use the Microcell anymore.
    The iPhone 3G S I had didn't have an issue with it, but my new Samsung Focus S is where the problem started with.
  • All a 3G MicroCell is, is a wireless tower in your home... so having 5 bars of service on that is no different than 5 bars of regular towers.. right?
    What does Windows Phone do when you have full bars of cellular service, and are actively using a Wifi signal(hotspot or router)?  I've read that using Wifi is better on the batteries... Could the phone be getting confused since everything is so strong?
    I'm just throwing out questions...
  • Sounds like this may be a Samsung issue.  I can't say that I've read where a HTC phone has had the drainage problems. The Titan is my day to day phone and I haven't seen any changes in battery usage while on the Microcell.  I didn't see any issues with the Focus when it was used daily or when I used the Focus S or Flash with regularity. Then again, I'm constantly downloading, updating and such when at home so my battery levels could have been draining faster than normal only disguised by my use (I hope that made sense). Could the Samsung Phones be ignoring Wifi for the Microcell?  Or dropping Wifi and resorting to the Microcell for data?  One more question for those feeling the drain... are you seeing a rise in your monthly data consumption?
  • It's quite BS that AT&T's in building coverage is still so poor that they have to build a device that leeches off ones broadband connection. What if someone doesn't have such a broadband connection? They're screwed, AT&T SUCKS!!!
  • True.  But to be fair, they ALL SUCK!!!  Every last stinking one of them - yes I've been on all 4 majors in the last 7 years... 
  • Oh, yeah,I've got the same issue with my microcell.  Both the Focus and the Focus S. 
    I just leave it charging while I'm at home...
  • Turned off "Data connection" on the "cellular" page of Settings last night and battery did not drain as usual - 92% remaining upon waking.  (20% remaining is normal if I go to bed with a full charge). 
    There's no extra drain away from home (microcell) either.
  • Sprint has had the same product for years.  It is called the Airave.

  • Sprint sucks too, they tried to make me pay for one of those back when I was complaining over their slow speeds. Switched to t-mobile now.
  • It is unfortunate that this problem exists, but like many things, it is one side of a trade-off: As I understand it, the technology that has trouble penetrating buildings, is the same that allows much faster 3G data speeds than CDMA data.
  • What a dumb comment. Certain people live in places with lots of trees, or certain laws that prevent carriers from installing cell towers over a certain height, limiting signal... At least they have the option of this box. Verizon often uses them in businesses and large office buildings, giving people the impression that they have superior cell tower coverage.
  • U obviously missed my point.
  • Samsung Focus here - definitely a battery draining issue with my Microcell - If I leave my phone unplugged overnight, it'll be almost completely drained in the morning. I believe this started happening when I upgraded to mango, but not certain.
  • Looks like this is an issue with Samsung and Mango. Even without the Microcell my Focus has shown increased battery drain.
  • Same here. The battery life on my Focus is less than stellar. I can barely make it half a day if I do some light gaming and internet browsing.
  • I believe that I'm having this problem as well. I have an app on my Focus S that graphs battery levels. I've tested this by turning the Microcell tower off for 4 hours and on for 4 hours. The Microcell-on method drained my battery a good twice as fast as the Microcell-off method.
    I've been on non-WP7 sites and even the AT&T Forums and there are iPhone and Captivate users complaining about battery drain due to the usage of the MicroCell Tower.
    I called AT&T and the representative, Jennifer, basically told me to pound sand. They said that they can't be held responsible for battery drain when using the Microcell tower. She told me that if I were home, I should keep the phone on the charger. She then told me that she could give me Cisco's phone number. I've never been more disappointed. If she'd simply offered to pass my information up the support chain, I'd have been much happier. Such crass honesty sucks!
  • AT&T offered a (small) discount on one of these when I moved to an area with little/no service. I'm kind of glad I passed, and just payed the ETF.
    Not that (other major provider) is wonderful in the area, but they're mediocre. Usually.
    Someone with more engineering know-how than me might be able to explain how different frequencies have different abilities to penetrate buildings . . .
  • Here is a brief history on my batter life for my Focus
    Pre Nodo - lose about 9% overnight
    Post-Nodo - lose about 8% overnight
    Mango Beta - lose about 6% percent overnight
    Mango release - lose about 12% overnight
    Added Microcell - lose about 60% overnight
    I unplugged my microcell last night and lost about 10%
    Most definitely there is a bug with microcell communications. But also something changed between the mango beta and release. My GFs and my Focus both got worse battery since the official release.
  • Mango release came with a radio rom update from Samsung.  I don't have a microcell but my developer-unlocked Focus became much less stable after I upgraded from the dev release of mango to the commercial release.
  • Yes I agree that this may be a Samsung but also AT&T's issue.  I don't see any data rate usage increases overnight even though my battery is draining really fast.  It may have something to do with the 3G signal coming from the Microcell telling the phone's radio driver to increase power when it isn't necessary?  I also connected my daughters HTC Windows phone to the cell and it is seeing more of a power draw overnight but not as much as the Samsung.  I loose about 70% of my battery overnight and the HTC is losing about 20% Over the last two days I have disconnected my Microcell and have seen my battery usage left unplugged overnight drop to about 10%. I also tried turning off Cellular Data and that didn't have any effect when the Microcell was plugged in. I am going to setup my router with the Microcell in it's own class of service so I can monitor bandwith usage with the phone connected and not, and with data turn off and on on my Focus.
  • I don't have a microcell, but I have connected to one at a friend's house to try it one time. When connected, the phone knows it is connected to a microcell and not a tower. I'm wondering if the handset continues to search for a cell signal, like when a phone is just out of service.
  • I believe that's what has been happening to me. I noticed that at work, it seems to last a bit longer, where I don't have microcell. I'm actually gonna turn it off as I think it's effecting my 3G iPad as well.
  • Both my wife and I have this problem with our LG Quantums, so it is not a "Samsung" problem. We pretty much have to leave the phone plugged in overnight so we don't wake up to a drained battery.
  • Well I confirmed it is not of issue of Windows Phone using 3G data when WIFI is turned on.  I have had my microcell being monitored in my router for bandwidth.  And all day today it averaged .04 kbps transmitted to AT&T from  my network and .03 kbps received into my network from AT&T.  If is was doing data I would have seen a spike every 1 for email sync and I am not seeing this.  I did not take or receive any calls today on my Focus. So the issue must be within the 3G connection between the phone and the microcell as I theorized yesterday.  Something either in the phone's radio driver or the microcell is causing the phones radio to do some strange things.
  • I have this problem on my Samsung Focus. I have an AT&T Microcell in my home due to low signal strength in my area. I've had it for 2 years. I first had an HTC Windows 6.1 phone which I never noticed any effect upon. However, when I got my Samsung Focus, it wasn't long before I noticed that the battery drained much faster over the weekend when I am mostly home vs. during the week when I am at work and not in the range of a Microcell unit. I really noticed the difference this past summer when I went to California for a week. During that time, my battery lasted much longer than I had ever seen it last, and I was using it more because I was checking my email many times per day both by 3G and WiFi as available. I could only figure the main difference was that I was never around my AT&T Microcell while in California.
    When I came home I started experimenting. I soon found that if I turned off the cellular data connection when at home in the presence of the Microcell, my battery lasted much longer than when the data connection was on in the presence of the Microcell unit.
    When I am home all day with my cell phone data connection on, the battery will have less than 20% by the end of the day. When I turn the data connection of my phone OFF in the presence of the Microcell unit, I will normally have an 80 - 90% battery level at the end of the day even with a lot of WiFi usage. 
    I definitely have proof (at least in my mind) that the AT&T Microcell unit causes drastic battery drainage when the phone cellular data connection is on and in the presence of the AT&T Microcell unit. I continue to turn off the data connection on my phone immediately on entering my house so that my battery strength will not be drained. This has solved my battery drain problem and worked fine for me since I have good WiFi connection in my home.
  • I have a Focus S and the battery life has been horrible, going from 100% to 0% in six hours while I sleep. I read this and other articles regarding the Microcell. Sure enough, I turned mine off and I've used only 70% in 15 hours. Guess I'll be taking my chances without that POS. It drops half of my calls anyway.
  • Definitely an issue. I tested battery drain with a new Lumia 900 using the Nokia Diagnostics app. Consumption averages 120mA with the MicroCell off, and closer to 400mA with it on. In both cases, I had a 4G indicator (although weak signal on local cell). Turn off data and it goes to 100mA. Explains why my battery lasts 6 hours sitting at home. FYI, WiFi apparently draws little current.
  • I experienced this with a Nokia Lumia 900.  Fully charged when I went to bed and down to 10% after I woke up.  Could not stand this and returned the Lumia.  I am now using my Pre3 and am experiencing the same drain issue. 
  • There are updates to the firmware. Power off your microcell. The go to the AT&T website and remove your microcell. log out and back in, make sure its removed.Then add it again. Power it back up. It may go through several firmware upgrades over the next 1-2 hours. Bad news, doesn't help much. Time to start calling AT&T daily complaining about it. Seems to happen with some, but not all phones. OS doesn't seem to matter. If enough people complain a lot, they will fix it. If I have to buy a Wilson antenna/amp combo to get a good signal, I'll drop ATT at the end of my contract. I'll save a lot of money by going with StraightTalk or one of the other ATT network competitors.
  • I've had the battery drain issue for almost two years across three different phones in my household with the Microcell. Well the other day the Microcell locked up and the "signal" light was red. I power cycled the Microcell and ever since then, no more battery drain! I am thinking that maybe the Microcell may have gotten a firmware update that fixes the batter issues and needed a reboot to properly apply it and start working again. Anyone else notice any changes recently?