We've mentioned home signal extenders such as Verizon's Network Extender and Sprint's Airave and now it appears AT&T is joining the femtocell bandwagon with their 3G MicroCell (opens in new tab). While pricing and availability aren't indicated on AT&T's site, we do know that it will cover up to 5,000 square feet, allow up to four simultaneous, secure voice or data connections, and will require a broadband connection to operate. It is also only compatible with 3G phones. This may end up being an advantage because similar cells offered by Sprint are limited to 2G coverage.
Another feature, according to the AT&T site is "Unlimited nationwide calling: With the 3G MicroCell, you have the option of unlimited minutes in the home or on any 3G MicroCell* with a 3G MicroCell service plan." We don't know if this is an additional cost feature or if the MicroCell will require a monthly fee to use period. Sprint charges for the Airave device ($99.99) and also charges a $4.99 monthly fee. Verizon eliminated the monthly fee but their Network Extender is a more costly device ($250). It will be interesting to see what the final pricing details for AT&T turns out to be.
I believe the differences in Sprint's and Verizon's is the $5/mo on Sprint gives you unlimited minutes while on the Airave, but Verizon just uses minutes from you existing plan. As I read some of the information on ATT's version, they will also have unlimited minutes options available. If this is the case, I would probably moe from Sprint to ATT with this device in my home as I do not currently get avery good 3g signal.
I'm glad to see this development, as it means I won't be, living in the boonies as I do, tethered to T-Mobile by virtue of it being the only one offering a UMA-like technology. So far, though, these newer offerings gauge the pocketbook somewhat compared to T-Mobile, which runs you $10/mo. for unlimited UMA calling plus one-time router cost ($50, but got mine free after rebate). I would be interested in switching to Sprint for the Palm Pre, given that I'd actually have reception with its new service, but ouch! -- for use with multiple lines (we have two in our family), we are looking at $25/mo. plus the initial $100. It also is not as portable as UMA, I'm thinking, which allows me to grab most any wireless signal anywhere (such as at my office) and avoid draining my minutes. To get the equivalent, you'd have to buy one of these devices for each location you frequent. Sigh... was hoping these extenders would allow me to make a clean break with TM, which I have grown to loathe (customer service for BB users is utterly incompetent, and phone selection stinks generally speaking).
It is pretty cool. I am not that impressed with the range on it but otherwise while I am in my house I get full 3G coverage. I think it would be cooler if you could have more than 10 lines going through it (that only supports me and a couple of friends).
Any word as to whether voice quality improves (will improve) noticeably when using one of these? I have solid 3g service, and more than enough minutes, but would happily pay if it meant I could get closer to land-line voice quality.
Cellular may truly become Mobile.
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