Home Microcell Towers... No Thanks
Over the past several months I've gotten a number of promotions from AT&T touting their microcell devices, which are designed to improve cell phone reception in a small areas such as a home or office. AT&T service on my iPhone is terrible in my house, which is an annoying problem that I'd like to solve. However, these microcell offers are kind of irritating.
Ultimately, health is my biggest concern with the microcell. If standard cell towers have been linked to cancer, why would I want a miniature one in my home? I don't know much about the health issues, but they do linger in the back of my mind regarding microcells.
As a frustrated customer, I feel like poor coverage is AT&T's problem and the microcell solution is an effort to position network holes as my responsibility to fix. I'm generally a results oriented person (or at least try to be) so the blame game wouldn't normally be that important to me, but these feelings are exacerbated by AT&T seemingly attempting to make money off my patching of their network.
AT&T will sell me the microcell device for $150. If I'm not mistaken the device works by broadcasting a cell signal that is converted into VOIP. This means that the microcell is using my networks' bandwidth. While I certainly don't use all of my bandwidth all the time, VOIP is bandwidth intensive and call quality quickly degrades when it gets tight, so in addition to the cost of the device, I may need to buy more bandwidth.
If the microcell is offloading traffic from AT&T cell towers near my home to my home network, shouldn't my calls be free? Well, only if you pay $20/mo for unlimited microcell calling. I guess I don't mind using minutes from existing plan, but, for me, an extra $20/mo would never work out as a good value considering that most of my calls at home are nights and weekends anyway.
Maybe I'm being a little harsh on AT&T with this last point, but $20/mo really feels like they are trying to profit from their network problem. If I'm going to be forced to buy the device for $150, go through the hassle of setting it up in my home, risk getting cancer from it and provide bandwidth I want the unlimited microcell minutes to clearly be an outstanding value. Free would of course be ideal, but I could probably be satisfied with $5/mo. If MagicJack can provide unlimited VOIP calling for $20/year, I definitely don't think AT&T should be charging $20/mo.
Admittedly, I don't know what AT&T's costs are on providing microcells, but it feels more like a profit-center than a loss-leader to me. Customers that need microcells are probably unhappy with their AT&T service. Microcells could be great customer retention tool, but getting bombarded with marketing materials asking me to spend money to fix their problem is just building more frustration on my end.