Instead of a candle, put AT&T's MicroCell in your window
9/23/2009 by: Darleen Hartley
AT&T launched a pilot project using a home-based cell tower so the device can access GPS satellites during set up. Dubbed the MicroCell, the AT&T 3G wireless femtocell is supposed to improve voice and data service. It covers 5,000 square feet and connects to a home user’s Internet network.
Consumers in Charlotte, North Carolina, site of the pilot, can purchase the MicroCell for $150 with a $100 rebate if they sign up for unlimited calling for $20 a month on an AT&T landline or DSL. Roll out time frame to the entire US is not known.
The MicroCell strategy is aimed at pleasing iPhone users who have complained about spotty service. Hopefully it will stave off Apple from being pressured by users and analysts to open the iPhone to Verizon or other networks in the US when their AT&T-exclusive contract ends.
Bandwidth gets used up by applications that connect to the Internet, or mapping, or Web browsing. iPhone users are known to consume high rates of bandwidth, putting a strain on the AT&T network. The company claims with the MicroCell to provide better performance for cellular data applications such as picture messaging and surfing the web.
AT&T has been testing this solution for several months in undisclosed cities. The company is in catch up mode, but moving to the head of the pack with this offering. Verizon came out in January with its Network Extender femtocell system, which is priced higher than AT&T, at about $250. Sprint beat Verizon to the punch in July, 2008 with its Airave femtocell system at $99. Business Week stated that Sprint’s offering had poor security and spotty coverage. AT&T has the lead with its new 3G offering, passing up both Sprint and Verizon who are still on 2G CDMA.
Yahoo Finance says that "2009 is the year of femtocell, as leading telecom carriers across the world are aggressively bidding to enter this emerging market."
In July, British Vodafone announced its femtocell residential service would launch as the Femtocell World Summit opened in London. Thus, Vodafone became the first European network operator offering femtocells to individual users. Their Access Gateway mini base station is from Alcatel Lucent and PicoChip Designs, a femtocell chip specialist in Bath, England.
Requirements to use AT&T’s new MicroCell include having a 3G wireless phone/device, broadband service over DSL or cable, and a computer with Internet access for online registration. It will supports up to four voice or data users simultaneously. Security is supposedly handled - AT&T claims that the device, has secure online management of its settings and unauthorized users cannot access it.
The real question is: can Femtocell save AT&T from continuous embarrassment with its iPhone service and enable the carrier to introduce bandwidth-savvy devices such as BlackBerry 9000 Bold and Storm, Strom 2 on time, and not five to six months after European operators.
AT&T, Verizon, Verizon Wireless, Sprint, 3G, femtocell, MicroCell, CMDA, 2G, Business Week, 2.5G, UMTS, HSDPA, HSPA
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