ATT 3G MicroCell + iPhone3G = 3G Calling Bliss

July 10, 2009


I was one of the apparently precious few AT&T 3G Microcell trial users, so I’ve had a unit plugged into my Airport Extreme router connected to a Charter cable modem for a few months now. Actually, now I have a brand new white (with orange accents) retail unit that recently replaced the black trial unit (both OEMed by Cisco).

The trial unit early on, well let’s say it had some issues, as in it would simply lose the 3G signal for periods at a time and if you happened to be on a call when it happened? You guessed it – dropped call. A pushed firmware update a month into the trial seemed to make the unit much more reliable and now as AT&T seems to be readying their retail push, the new unit I have definitely seems ready for prime time. One of the issues with the trial unit was its embedded GPS antenna as AT&T requires a GPS lock before it activates and the trial unit had issues making that connection. The GPS connection isn’t necessary once connected to the 3G network, however, the new unit has maintained it since connecting (unlike the trial unit). Also, activation requires a visit to your AT&T account online where you enter the device’s serial number and then enter the 3G capable phones you wish to allow to connect to the microcell. Once this sequence of events occurs, you get a text message from AT&T indicating your activation is complete.

There will likely be personal and enterprise plans where you can get unlimited minutes for a flat fee each month, but AT&T also seems poised to simply offer the microcell straight up with no monthly plan necessary. You use your minutes when you make calls attached to the microcell, but paying ~<$200 to effectively get a cell tower installed in your house or office seems pretty palatable to me?! Based on the call quality I've experienced between my wife's iPhone 3G and whatever phone I happen to have been using at the time (Treo Pro, E71x, N97, E75), I would pay at least $200 to keep my microcell if AT&T asked me for it back.

In fact, if the 1900 HSDPA band on the Omnia i8910 HD I have in route to me from Hong Kong right now can take advantage of the microcell’s signal, then the ransom number AT&T could get get out of me might go up even more!

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8 Responses to “ATT 3G MicroCell + iPhone3G = 3G Calling Bliss”

  1. HKM Says:

    that is sweeet! how did you score the trial unit? I am dying to get my hands on to this. Called ATT customer service, their stores but no one seems to know what 3G microcell is.

  2. Jon Says:

    Since this is the first review of the new 3g microcell unit (not the black box) please keep us updated on the quality of the new unit.

  3. John Says:

    I think there's more than a few of us who have been begging AT&T to let us in on this for a while. There's no 3G at all where I live, so this will let me finally drop my VOIP home telephone service and use my iPhone for everything.

    Do you have any indication of when these will be available at retail?

  4. John Says:

    @HKM I don't think AT&T has a bonafide go to retail market plan for these just yet. I would assume we might find out more around the time they allow for MMS and tethering on the iPhone, but that is pure speculation on my part. I'm not sure why they asked me to be a part of the trial (though my coverage where I live goes back and forth between EDGE and weak 3G and therefore quite sucks), but I'm sure glad they did!

    @Jon no issues with the signal since activation on Thursday, but I'll definitely do some follow up posts.

    @John I think they would be stupid not to make these available as soon as they can just to capture more iPhone buyers who want one, but haven't taken the plunge because of poor AT&T coverage where they live, but alas I have no clue exactly when the launch will be……

  5. Jon Says:

    Thank you for the news. Couple of more questions.

    Did it come in a retail like box? Do you have pictures of that?

    Also, can you hook it up between your cable modem and your airport router (instead of just connecting it to your router)?

    Thanks for your posts?

  6. John Says:

    More pictures are forthcoming, and yes you can connect it directly to your cable modem, and then connect your router to the microcell (and that is what AT&T recommended during the trial). But I experimented and just plugged it into the router and I've had no issues with that setup.

  7. Serak Says:

    Thank you so much for posting some information on the microcell. I'm dying to get my hands on one! Keep posting if anything interesting come up. Thanks!

  8. Anonymous Says:

    Cool post you got here. I'd like to read more concerning this topic. The only thing your blog misses is a few pics of some gizmos.
    Nickolas Flouee
    Cell phone jammers


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