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AT&T 3G MicroCell

Boyd 1985 Points
edited November -1 in Smartphone Navigation
Not sure if this is the right forum, but it has a GPS chip in it and works with my iPhone....

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I just got one of these today, and it's pretty cool. I am out in the country, and inside my home usually get between 0 and 1 bars of cell service. Now I have 5. :)

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AT&T has just finished their nationwide rollout of this device - got an e-mail two days ago informing me that it was now available in my area. Cost was $150 at my local AT&T store. The hardware is made by Cisco:

http://www.cisco.com/en/US/solutions/ns341/ns973/att_microcell.html

I have not yet tried wandering off into the woods to see how far I can get, but the device automatically hands off calls to/from an AT&T Tower so its use is transparent.

It must be placed in a location where the internal GPS gets a signal lock - no problem in my home. But there's an external GPS antenna jack if you want to put one in the basement (for example).

For some reason, it confuses the iPhone's A-GPS however, and my phone cannot figure out where it is (unless it can use the phone's real GPS chip). Evidently this is a known issue - some googling turned up discussion and a possible work-around (although that doesn't seem to fix it for me).

You can authorize a maximum of 10 users for the device, and again, it will be completely transparent to them. They can call or text anyone using their normal calling plans. The specs say that only 4 calls can be active at the same time though, and it only works with AT&T 3G compatible phones.

So, for the first time since moving away from civilization in 2006, I can now use my cell phone at home. Only downside is that I will now need a new excuse for ignoring all those calls I'd rather not answer. :twisted:

More info available here:

http://www.wireless.att.com/learn/why/3gmicrocell/index.jsp?locale=en_US

Comments

  • patruns 10 Points
    I saw some articles on this a little while back. My first impression was that AT&T figured out a way to make people pay for coverage in lieu of doing the much needed coverage upgrades themselves. Of course with you being in the boondocks, it doesn't necessarily apply. :)
  • Boyd 1985 Points
    Yes - it is a very good strategy for AT&T, and very much related to the whole "net neutrality" issue. For every one of these that they sell, they make $150 and also remove one or more users from their overloaded network to hitch a free ride on Verizon, Comcast and others. Basically, it's a VOIP gateway.

    Nevertheless, it fulfills a practical need for people like me as well as others that live or work inside big buildings with poor reception. I had become very reliant on my cell phone at home, so moving out here was a bit of an adjustment (although not all bad).
  • navxguy 0 Points
    Thanks Boyd for the reminder ... heard about these last fall and picked it up today. I have a cottage in northern Wisconsin that fortunately (and somewhat suprisingly) has high speed internet, but ATT coverage is dismal ... enter 3G MicroCell. Hopefully this will solve our coverage issue, at least w/in the proximity of the cottage ... which is important since we don't have local phone service, and I like to work remotely for weeks in the summer. Thanks!
  • Boyd 1985 Points
    Cool - hope it works out for you. Working very well for me. I tried wandering around outside. Got about 75 feet from the house and the signal dropped to 2 bars, but that is still pretty good (specs say it is good for about a 40 ft radius).

    When I pull my car up next to the house to park it, the service hands off to the microcell just like it should. Have not tried this while in the middle of a call though.

    The only thing that doesn't work is the a-gps, I get an error that my position cannot be determined. Not a big deal though. Hopefully they will come up with a software fix for this.
  • I bought mine a few months ago and love it. I live in the woods of NH and had 1 bar outside and of course 0 inside. The Microcell gives me 5 bars throughout the house.

    As far as calls, if you are on a call from the tower and go in to your house, it switches just fine. If you are inside and walk outside, it will disconnect. The handoff from Microcell to tower does not work well. I believe the manual states that also.
  • navxguy 0 Points
    Nope, didn't work for me in northern WI ... can't be 100% sure, but 2 possible issues; 1. cottage does not have a "mail drop" (PO Box only) and something w/ GPS to address cross check during authorization may not have completed properly ... or 2. my Wireless WAN provider speeds (1.5 Mbps down and up) don't sustain high enough constant connection for a quality VOIP connect (no Comcast or other option) ... crazy thing is that Skype and other VOIP audio works fine ...

    so get this, ATT MicroCell won't "connect" if the quality of audio connection isn't good enough - fancy that! they actually do care about connection and voice quality ... go figure.

    by the way, ATT customer support was of NO help ... i even gave the device over to the Wireless Internet provider and they couldn't get it to work ... and again, they tried to work w/ ATT and support was no help for them either.

    so returned and awaiting later release
  • Boyd 1985 Points
    Wow, that's too bad. Mine is great for the most part. A couple times my iPhone stopped seeing it, not sure if the problem was the phone or the microcell, but a restart of the microcell cured it. This has only happened twice in two months, so not a big deal.

    I seem to have problems accessing the iPhone's "visual voicemail" on the microcell however. Don't know why this would specifically be an issue, but it seems to be. I actually learned something in the process though... you can call regular voicemail by just pressing and holding down the "1" on the phone keypoad. Did not know that. :)

    I have the microcell plugged into my DSL router, along with another computer on ethernet and a wifi router. There is an alternate hookup, where everything else plugs into the microcell itself, and evidently this gives it bandwidth priority. One of these days I will try that.

    My ADSL is 2.5m/512k (I think). That is also all I can get in my location, not likely they will ever run cable or FIOS down this road, let alone back to my house which is ~900 ft back in the woods with no utility poles (buried phone and electric).

    I was having location issues with my iPhone 3g, where it couldn't determine where I was. The iPhone 4 has fixed this - it has a much better GPS chip, and shows me right inside the house, so it's using that for location data instead of trying to figure it out on the network.

    Have you visited AT&T's forum? You are not alone in having problems, but others like myself have had a good experience. Go figure...

    http://forums.wireless.att.com/t5/AT-T-3G-MicroCell/bd-p/3gmicrocell

    Walt Mossberg at The Wall Street Journal just reviewed the microcell a couple days ago - you will find it at ptech.allthingsd.com
    My verdict is that the AT&T MicroCell can, indeed, dramatically improve cellular reception and reliability, but it’s not a silver bullet. I found it works best in truly dire coverage locations, with little or no service, like my son’s apartment.

    It is less useful in places like my house where the carrier’s outside towers provide some reception, even if you find that outside reception unreliable.
  • That is too bad. I have my house 800 feet back from the road. The cable company had to run all of that cable when I signed up 8 years ago!

    I do have VERY fast cable Internet which helps!
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