Review: AT&T 3G MicroCell

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tHU89qQrZ50

microcell-3

I live in an area that is JUST outside of the “good” AT&T service. See this screenshot to see exactly where I am…

AT&T Coverage for my area

The light orange represents “moderate” according to their coverage map, but when I am in my home it is far from “moderate.” I am lucky if I ever go to 2 bars. It makes me never want to use my cell phone when I am at home, even though I have unlimited minutes!

Here is a screenshot of my phone before adding the MicroCell:

2014-02-20_14-14-54

Sorry, had to include the temp to make you cold people jealous. :)

As you can clearly see, there are only 2 bars of service. I called AT&T because I was not happy that I was always dropping calls in the house etc, and much to my surprise, there was a device that would, in the words of the sales person, bring a mini cell tower into my home as long as I had an internet connection. (see specs for requirements)

I met all the criteria, and a quick search showed it was available in my area, so I went and got one…here is what it looks like. It looks really cool!!

AT&T 3G Microcell

The price tag on this thing is a tad steep at $200. I personally feel that if you have poor service in your home, these should be provided, because Verizon has great service in my area, so they should do what they can to keep me from switching…but no chance. I had to pay the $200…

The installation process is very simple. All you have to do is go to the activation page that is provided on the machine and enter the serial number. Once you do that, simply plug it in and wait. It says set up can take up to 90 minutes, so don’t do it if you are in a hurry. It ended up only taking about 15 minutes for mine to update.

It uses GPS to locate the router, and says it works best by a window, however mine is sitting next to my desk on the floor, because I wanted to test to make sure it worked before I gave it a home, and it works great…

So…the result??

2014-02-20_14-26-27

Yep…full bars! 

I have also heard Verizon offers a similar device for their customers who may need to expand their service, but I have neither seen nor tried it.

SUPPORTED DEVICES
Supports voice and 3G data
3G and 4G wireless phones
Up to 4 phones can be used simultaneously

INTERNET CONNECTION
Broadband connection such as AT&T U-Verse®, DSL, or cable required. Not compatible with satellite broadband.

Recommended Internet Speed: Minimum speed is 1.5 Mbps download and 256 Kbps upload. Recommend 3.0 Mbps download and 384 Kbps upload for heavy data users. Check your internet speed.

POWER SUPPLY
100-120 VAC, 15 W; 12 VDC, 1.25 A Output

STATUS INDICATORS
Power, Ethernet, GPS, Computer, 3G

DIMENSIONS (H x D x W)
8.5 in. x 6.3 in. x 1.5 in. (at top), 4 in. (at legs)

UNIT WEIGHT
1 lb 2 ounces (AC power adapter not included)

AMBIENT TEMPERATURE RANGE
Install device in a sheltered location with a temperature range of 0 degrees to 38 degrees C (32 degrees to 100 degrees Fahrenheit).

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION
Installing near a window is strongly recommended to ensure access to Global Positioning System (GPS). A GPS link is needed to verify the device location during initial startup.
3G MicroCell unit may be moved if new location is within an AT&T authorized service area and properly registered online.
Calls transfer out, but do not transfer in. Calls transfer from the AT&T 3G MicroCell to the strongest available AT&T tower signal. Calls connected on the cell tower do not transfer to the 3G MicroCell.

FIREWALL SPECIFICATIONS SYSTEM ADMINISTRATORS (Business Customers):
Installing the 3G MicroCell behind a firewall, or behind a router with firewall capabilities, requires the following ports be opened to prevent the firewall from blocking communication with the network. This type of installation is typically found in corporate environments.
123/UDP: NTP timing (NTP traffic)
443/TCP: Https over TLS/SSL for provisioning and management traffic
4500/UDP: IPSec NAT Traversal (for all signaling, data, voice traffic)
500/UDP: IPSec Phase 1 prior to NAT detection (after NAT detection, 4500/UDP is used)
4500/UDP: After NAT detection, 4500/UDP is used

Direct Link: http://www.att.com/standalone/3gmicrocell/?fbid=rQ3sDb-d7Zk

Comments

  1. Avatar of Larry Miller says

    Hey All,
    I got mine for free. I work in the IT field and use AT&T personally and at the office.

    My home has terrible service; so, I contacted my sales rep and they sent one me for free. Also, I have two at the office (for free). I gave them a sob story about my reception and told them if it worked I will “promote” them :)

    I only have a couple issues with the devices.

    1) When my non-smart phone devices connect to them, they tend to have a problem with sending SMS messages.

    2) If I am connected to phone call when my device(s) are connected to the “AT&T M-Cell” and I unplug the power to the MicroCell during the call, it will drop the call. It will not transfer to another tower.

    Beyond the 90 minute setup time, it needing to be near a window and periodically having to reboot the device, it is a very good system.

  2. Pocono Charlie says

    Got mine 3 weeks ago; I happened to be at an AT&T store purchasing a MyFi device and mentioned how poor the signal was in my home. The rep told me because I lived in an area documented to have poor coverage, they would sell me the device for $100. Now, my much-better-half no longer gets a bunch of SMS messages after midnight that were sent hours earlier.

  3. Tom Cain says

    In the biz, this is known as a femtocell. All of the Big 3
    offer them. A buddy who lives in Argyle, TX got one for free from Sprint due to their poor coverage at his home.

  4. Peter says

    AT&T actually contacted me a couple of years back saying that I was in a poor reception area (as if I didn’t know that already) and said that they were going to give me, for free, a 3G Microcell. This is when they first started using them. All I had to do was go down to my AT&T store and pick it up.

    I set it up without any issues but it really didn’t seem so make my reception any better so I’ve actually had it in a cabinet drawer for a while now (got it for free, it didn’t work very well so I stashed it). After see your review, I may bring it back out, dust it off and see if any software updates allow it to function any better. The other issue I have is that my home office is about 30ft from the device so that could be part of the reason for not seeing any difference.

  5. ken says

    I paid $175 four years ago when they first came out. Heard they were giving to some people free so went back in and complained to manager and he gave me a refund. Mine works for awhile and then starts breaking up to where we have to hang up. Only thing saving me is a Comcast bundle with VOIP. Use that now and then with no problem. If you keep it I would definitely go back and ask the Manager to give you a refund. Tell them you run a blog and everyone is posting that this is wrong.

  6. Jeff Cahill says

    So lemme get this right…AT&T can’t provide the service you’re paying for…so you have to buy a $200 device AND use your own broadband to make AT&T’s service work?!?! No way would I pay $200 for the microcell…they either provide it for free or I would be changing wireless carriers!

    • Avatar of David Foster says

      Hey Jeff…you are correct, and I told them how bad the service was. The only reason I have not switched is because I am one of those still under a 2 year contract, so it would cost me more than that to buy out of it. So it is kind of a catch 22. I did read where someone was able to get it free by complaining, so I guess I just was not a squeaky enough wheel! :D

  7. Avatar of WebLuke says

    I was having low signal at my house with T-Mobile and I called them up to see if they had a microcell and found out they have some kind of booster box. They are shipping me one right now and it only cost me the shipping ($7.50). They said it comes in 2 peaces, one part you put in a window, and one part you can put in the middle of your house and it should boost my service with out using my cable Internet. Will see how well it works and have to post an update.

    • Avatar of David Foster says

      Wow. I may have to look into their service. I just wish they had better coverage in my area because I have to be honest…I feel T-Mobile are the ones pushing the market down for the consumer and making Verizon, Sprint and AT&T get their act together to catch up. This is how the free market should work. They need to COMPETE for my business. This is also why I am glad they are all moving away from contracts. They are learning how we consumers work these days! :)

      • Avatar of WebLuke says

        So I have had some time with the T-Mobile booster (Cel-Fi RS2) and it works OK. It comes in 2 peaces and they are kind of big boxes for what ever reason, but are super simple to setup. All you need to do is plug it in (T-Mobile preset the address location data for 911). I put the receiver box in my office when testing and ended up going around my place looking for better signal for it but no luck and it shows 2-3 out of the 4 bar LEDs so it works. Then I put the transmitter in my kitchen because its more central. This gives me full to mostly full bars on my phone using 3G for about 40 feet. It may do 4G/HSPA service if the receiver box could get better service but it dose the job of keeping calls connected. The distance it covers could be better and the documentation should be easier to read but it works. Here is a link to the makers website and they do have one for AT&T also: http://cel-fi.com/product/cel-fi-signal-booster-for-t-mobile

  8. Keith Nealy says

    I had one of these for a couple of years. I would use it and then give up on it, and then try again. It was horrible. It would periodically lose the GPS signal and I’d have to reposition it to try to reacquire. Mind you, other GPS units including my iPhones and iPad had no trouble getting GPS even when not near a window. The main problem I had was that every time I tried to call out it would take 20 seconds or so and then fail to connect. Then on the second try it would go through. That’s a pain. It would also occasionally drop incoming calls. It showed full bars, and I tried it at several locations around the house, and used it with ten or less feet between the phone and the Microcell. It sucked. When I bought it it was about $79. I wish I could get my money back.

    • Avatar of David Foster says

      Dang, sorry to hear that Keith. I am not sure if the thing has had some major improvements or what, but it works really well here. My only gripe is that I was not given, at the very least, a discount. I live in a very heavily populated housing development where I would think they would want service…but nope…and funny thing is…as soon as I leave my neighborhood…not even a mile from my house…I jump to full bars. I am sure there is a way they could expand their service…but nope. They have not done it. We will see what happens. I have no loyalty to cell carriers at this point, but if one of them would step up and make me feel like they WANT my business…then I would be their biggest fan.

  9. Tyler says

    We got our microcell for FREE from AT&T. No way I was paying for that when we had always had good service in our home them one day it was gone. It took many calls and threats but we got it sent to us from AT&T for free.