AT&T updates Microcell policy: data usage now counts

AT&T's Microcell is slowly rolling out nationwide adding more cities here and there. The microcell itself will run you about $150 and we know that customers can use package minutes with the microcell. AT&T subscribers can also purchase unlimited minutes through the microcell for an additional $20 a month.

We are now finding out that with the recent changes to AT&T's data packages, any data used through the microcell will go against a customer's monthly data package.  Back in the good old days when everyone had unlimited data, this never developed into an concern.  Now that AT&T has put limits on data packages, it may become one for some. 

According to an AT&T spokesperson who spoke with us:

A 3G Microcell functions as a miniature cell tower, and data transmitted using the Microcell uses the core wireless network just like a call placed while driving down the highway uses the core wireless network. The only difference is how that data or call gets there – via a broadband connection versus via a cell tower. As a result data and voice consumed through that access point are billed according to the users’ plan.

While the microcell will double as a data and voice solution it was primarily intended to be a voice solution for those areas with weak coverage. The optimal data solution likely remains to be wi-fi and nowadays is just about standard on all Windows Phones.  Using wi-fi for data downloads won't go against your data package. Granted, not everyone has a wireless network in their home and while the microcell can be a dual solution, just remember it's use will go against both your package allotments.

Then again lets be honest, we are now doing some of the work for AT&T by using our own data-for-data, unloading the stress on their towers--seems odd and sneaky to be penalized. On the other hand, AT&T has a leg up on competition as Sprint doesn't even offer 3G coverage via their AirRave. Thoughts?

Daniel Rubino

Daniel Rubino is the Editor-in-chief of Windows Central, head reviewer, podcast co-host, and analyst. He has been here covering Microsoft since 2007 when this site was called WMExperts (and later Windows Phone Central). His interests include Windows, Microsoft Surface, laptops, next-gen computing, and for some reason, watches. Before all this tech stuff, he worked on a Ph.D. in linguistics and ran the projectors at movie theaters, which has done absolutely nothing for his career.

  • Definitely less incentive to get a MicroCell now...
  • Agreed
  • That's absurd - you're not using AT&T's "core wireless network" - you're using a "semi-cell tower" that you PURCHASED from AT&T, plus your PERSONAL broadband connection. Sure, I'd probably be using my wi-fi anyways, so it wouldn't matter, but this concept is just ridiculous. First, I have to buy the microcell cause AT&T can't get their act together to provide decent coverage, and now this?
    This would be like Time Warner trying to charge me for playing a DVD in a TV I bought from them (hypothetically speaking) - it's my TV and my DVD, they just happen to be connected to the same TV to provide another service (cable television).
  • Comming soon from AT&T: Data usage limits on your DSL connection. According to an AT&T spokesperson: "Sure, why not? You have a meter for your water, electricity and gas usage. Charging for the bytes you down/up load is a logical step towards getting our act together like other utilities. Bwawahahahaha." No word about how this will affect cell phone data usage through the microcell charges.
  • dear god... good i'm not an at&t-customer... very good i'm living in europe...
  • AT&T is getting it very wrong. You buy internet for your home. It works. you buy your smartphone. It doesn't work. But, they will sell you a private cell "tower" to let your phone work through the home internet connection you are paying for and charge you extra for that too. Oh, and even though you are no longer even using their network you are limited by a data cap... That's like Germany sending me a speeding ticket for driving my BMW too fast in Texas.
  • Don't you think they are doing this from a business standpoint. I know AT&T is just trying to lighten the load on their network in order to improve it for customers.
  • They're definitely doing it from a business standpoint - rather than spending their money to upgrade their networks to work properly, they're connecting us to a working infrastructure supplied by a company that we (the consumer) are paying for...and they then charge us to do so. Sticking with the BMW example, it'd be more like Germany making me pay German income taxes simply because I own a BMW (despite being a US citizen living in Texas).
  • m3, your comment makes no sense whatsoever. AT&T is indeed doing it from a business perspective; the faster their customers reach the data cap, the more revenue they can generate, so, in the spirit of maximizing revenue, this will benefit their business. It doesn't make it any more right - the customers are still using their home connection for which they are paying separately, and to have that counted towards their AT&T cap is not just wrong, it's ridiculous. Somebody's got to challenge AT&T on this. Again, the point is that AT&T is trying to say that the customers owe them money for the traffic through a network for which the customers are paying separately (be it to AT&T through DSL or somebody else such as a cable or FIOS company). I like the BMW speeding example - that's exactly what it's like.
  • I will say this, I'm in a screwed up area for AT&T service. There is no 3G and one edge GPRS tower in the middle of the city. We bump each other off the towers. It sends calls to voicemail often. You usually cannot load a web page standing across the street from it, let alone at home. There is less than 1 kb up and less than 3 down. Let me let you all know that all cellular data including text and mms goes through the AT&T network. So if you add a picture or video to a text message, or sometimes just a plain old low bandwidth text; it will fail on a poor network even if you're on wifi. This is because cellular texting routes through the cell tower and not the wifi. However, it also counts against your cell's data cap too. I've tested this. If you have the microcell, you can freely send SMS and mms without all those failed attempts. I know that this is not the way we wanted this network fixed, but... I also know how some of you feel about switching carriers. I don't blame you for those thoughts or if you do. Do what's best for you. Now, I've looked deep into AT&T's 3G technology. It's the best. Infact, EVDO and HSPA is not the same. AT&T's data is much faster than Sprint or Verizon's network can be. AT&T can be better. Don't get me wrong, sprint's wimax (4G) is the fastest. It's faster than dsl. That's off the subject thought. AT&T has the best technology, they just haven't expended it to the majority. We all do need 3G instead of just edge I agree. Not to mention being limited to the range of the microcell for it. At least it's a onetime pay.
  • SMS and MMS do not count against the data cap. SMS moves exclusively over GSM/voice. It doesn't require a WAP connection whatsoever. While MMS does require WAP in order to send the file, the data used to send MMS does not come from your data bucket. These are considered separate from data. For instance, if you had no data plan and only had pay-per-use, you could send SMS/MMS all day long and not incur any data charges. But the second you push the MEdiaNet or browser button, the charges begin.
  • Remember that wimax is a type of wifi transmitted over 80 km, not quite called a cellular, but wifi.