By Greg Mills
The Micro Cell technology AT&T recently announced is sort of like a 3G WiFi device. They can be really small and amount to a mini cell tower connected to your Internet connection. The fact that they are needed says a lot about the network holes that bug us all who use iPhones, iPads, and, for that matter, all junk (non Apple) cell phones that use AT&T.
If the device works as advertised, it will create a small area where a strong 3G signal will fill in the holes in the AT&T network we seem to all fall into. To be fair, there are problems due to dense buildings, geographic issues like hills and mountains. My house is one of those problem areas due to a metal roof with two layers of grounded steel and one layer on the exterior walls. This amounts to a radio dampening field. Sometimes I go to a window and get a better signal.
The US$150 one-time charge for the MicroCell device is one thing, but charging users for minutes using our own G3 router, our own power, our own Internet link where AT&T is obligated by their own coverage maps to provide service is nuts.
It turns out Magic Jack (http://wwwmagicjack.com) is beta testing a $40 Magic Jack that not only provides a phone line for $20 per year, but has a Micro Cell built in to allow you to use your cell phone if you are in range of the device, for no additional charge. How all that works on incoming cell calls I am not sure. I will attempt to obtain a unit for testing and report back in this column.
The point is that the price point of $150 seems high. The using of our power, the device we are forced to buy and the use of our Internet service to fill in holes in the AT&T network should gain us something from AT&T. AT&T, can you hear me now?
(Greg Mills is currently a Faux Artist in Kansas City. Formerly a new product R&D man for the paint sundry market, he holds 11 US patents. He’s working on a solar energy startup using a patent pending process of turning waste dual pane glass into thermal solar panels used to heat water. Married, with one daughter still at home, Greg writes for intellectual web sites and Mac related issues. See Greg’s web sites at http://www.gregmills.info . He can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org)