AT&T’s MicroCell Boosts Signals–and Makes the Company Money

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Image: Apple Insider

Last night, AT&T unveiled a new website for its MicroCell signal booster, a “miniature cellular tower” that uses your broadband connection to increase your wireless signal strength, notably 3G. CrunchGear has the details:

You’re apparently able to use your existing plan minutes for no additional charge aside from the cost of the device, or for $20 per month you get unlimited minutes for up to ten registered phones. Mind you, these are unlimited minutes while you’re within range of the MicroCell. When you’re out and about, you’re using your plan minutes.

However, if you initiate a call at home and then walk outside and hop on a bus, the call will be counted as a MicroCell call even though you’ve left your house. So that’s something, eh?

I tried a few different zip codes but was unable to get actual pricing info because none of the areas I tried (Boston, Minneapolis, Seattle) are covered yet. There’s some Internet Nerd Rage (TM) going around about the $20-per-month charge, although it appears from the awful, awful informational videos on AT&T’s site that the $20 fee is only if you want unlimited at-home minutes. Otherwise, it seems that just using your regular plan minutes carries no extra charge.

If you have AT&T Home Phone and Internet service, though, you can get unlimited MicroCell calling for free. If you have either Home Phone or Internet (but not both), you can get it for $10 per month according to Engadget.

AT&T has already released MicroCell in Charlotte, NC.

Gizmodo’s Danny Allen thinks AT&T should give users in known dead spots the MicroCell for free. From a consumer rights perspective, I agree with him, but I don’t think AT&T will do it. The MicroCell gives them a way to put the onus of network functionality on their users–and profit off it.

Unfortunately, AT&T is entrenched enough that it can afford to dissatisfy users and still make a profit. The MicroCell benefits users–but AT&T is responsible for the problem in the first place. Because iPhone users in particular don’t have a choice in providers, AT&T can capitalize off its position, despite the fact that it created the market for its own MicroCell.