3G MicroCells: Carriers Want You to Pay Extra to Fix Their Own Failures

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AT&T's network is basically a huge failure. And if you want to fix their incompetence in your area, you'll need to pay an additional $150 for a 3G MicroCell. I call bullshit.

Update, March 24th, 2010: While AT&T wisely offered to cancel the monthly payments, we still think some of the principles below still stand. The most important being, if I'm paying for service, and that service is terrible, why do I have to pay more to get it to work as it should, and as well as it does on Sprint and Verizon?

Danny touched on this earlier, but the logic here is blowing my mind. How little regard for your customers do you have to have to offer a product that fixes your own product for an additional fee every month? Seriously, somebody explain to me how this is going to fly.


AT&T is currently testing the MicroCell in North Carolina, charging up to $20 a month to people who want to fix the dead spot in their apartment by running their phone through the internet. And they're charging subscribers $150 for the box itself. It's all a trial, so any of these prices could change, but as it stands it's pretty ridiculous.


And AT&T is the last carrier to the femtocell party. Sprint charges $20 a month for its AiRave femtocell and Verizon charges $250 for its Network Extender box. T-Mobile charges $10 a month for its @Home service, which uses Wi-Fi instead of a cellular connection, but does the same thing. All of the carriers are ripping off their customers with these things, since all of the work is being put on your home internet connection, which you pay your broadband carrier for.

AT&T's new test of their MicroCell seems as egregious as any of the carriers, so let's use them as an example. Basically, AT&T didn't have a strong enough network to handle the iPhone. It still doesn't. Yet they still charge about $100 per month on average to iPhone customers, who have to deal with dropped calls, delayed voicemails and unreliable 3G speeds. If you are in a particularly bad spot, the 3G MicroCell will let you run your calls through your internet connection rather than over their shit network.


Where do they get off charging for this? Femtocells will actually reduce the load on their networks. It shifts the traffic over to the internet provider you're already paying for (which I'm sure ISPs will just love). How does this earn AT&T $20 per month, no matter how much you talk?

The way the iPhone performs on AT&T's network—or really, any dead spot for any carrier—they should be giving these out to people for free. In NYC and San Francisco, the service is near-unusable a good percentage of the time. AT&T is always talking about how they're increasing coverage, but it never seems to get better. In fact, the week after they claimed to have completed upgrades in New York, my experiences with their coverage got noticeably worse.


Imagine this was the case with any of your other monthly bills. Oh, sorry about the brownouts! The power company has had some troubles at the plant. I know it was inconvenient, but they'll fix it for you with a solar panel for an additional fee per month. As for your gym membership, sorry that it was closed four days a week last month! For an extra fee every month you can get a Bowflex so you can still work out whenever that happens.


It's ludicrous. If their network was solid, these MicroCells wouldn't even need to exist. AT&T is cutting off your arm and then trying to sell you some bandages. Hey, AT&T: people are already paying you for cell service. You can't charge them again for the same service. Fix your fucking network.