Here it is, the AT&T 3G MicroCell. It’s a router-like device that piggybacks on your home broadband connection to provide better AT&T signal strength, including 3G data.
You’re apparently able to use your existing plan minutes for no additional charge aside from the cost of the device, or for $20 per month you get unlimited minutes for up to ten registered phones. Mind you, these are unlimited minutes while you’re within range of the MicroCell. When you’re out and about, you’re using your plan minutes.
However, if you initiate a call at home and then walk outside and hop on a bus, the call will be counted as a MicroCell call even though you’ve left your house. So that’s something, eh?
I tried a few different zip codes but was unable to get actual pricing info because none of the areas I tried (Boston, Minneapolis, Seattle) are covered yet. There’s some Internet Nerd Rage (TM) going around about the $20-per-month charge, although it appears from the awful, awful informational videos on AT&T’s site that the $20 fee is only if you want unlimited at-home minutes. Otherwise, it seems that just using your regular plan minutes carries no extra charge.
If you have AT&T Home Phone and Internet service, though, you can get unlimited MicroCell calling for free. If you have either Home Phone or Internet (but not both), you can get it for $10 per month according to Engadget.
This stuff still isn’t totally official yet, although the AT&T MicroCell website is real. I’d be most interested to learn the actual price of the device, if any. If you’re able to get your zip code to work, maybe you could drop a line in the comments detailing the upfront costs.
UPDATE: Apparently it’s only available in Charlotte, North Carolina right now. I tested a zip code there and was directed to visit an area AT&T store for more information.
UPDATE 2 (from AT&T):
“The site is supporting a public trial of AT&T 3G MicroCell in Charlotte, North Carolina. No other announcements to make at this time. I’d also note that one of the things we are trialing is the pricing structure, as you’d expect from a consumer trial.
We have not announced any national plans, including pricing.
For this market trial, customers can purchase the device for $150, or if they choose a $20 monthly plan to get unlimited calling for the subscribers individual or FamilyTalk lines, they can enjoy a $100 rebate for a best price of $50 for the AT&T 3G MicroCell.”
AT&T 3G MicroCell [AT&T]