ATT Wireless is one of the four major US networks, providing nationwide wireline and wireless service. With combined wireline and wireless annual revenues exceeding $120 billion in 2012, and around 80 million wireless customers, it is a major industry player.
It uses the name 3G Microcell for their residential femtocell service, and has also been pioneering the use of 3G and 4G small cells for enterprise and urban use.
Unlike other US operators such as Sprint and Verizon, their residential femtocell is fully 3G capable and supports both voice and high speed data services. Since ATT use a different technical standard (GSM/UMTS) rather than CDMA, they can take advantage of developments for what should be a larger overall market. The 3G Microcell is not compatible with early 2G only iPhone models or GSM only phones. Most modern phones other than the very cheapest now support both GSM/UMTS, including the latest iPhones.
The 3G Microcell is branded as a Cisco product and is based on ip.access femtocell technology (Cisco have a stake in this UK company). Customers do need to have a cellular phone contract with ATT, but don't have to have ATT DSL broadband - for example the product will work via cable broadband.
in 2008, John Stankey, Chief Executive of AT&T's Operations Division, had stated that the company was testing fully capable 3G femtocells in their employee's homes and plans to launch a "city sized" commercial test with customers in the second quarter of 2009.
ATT Wireless launched the product commercially in October 2009 in selected markets in North Carolina, with the nationwide rollout starting in April 2010 and being completed in June 2010. The product was called ATT 3G Microcell and included a product information and maintenance page on the ATT website here.
Their website includes a section describing the AT&T 3G Microcell
- Prices aren't stated on the website, with press reports of $150 (one-off fee, no ongoing charge) and rebates of $100 or more if a wireline customer. In some cases, the femtocells have been given free to high value customers.
- Coverage of up to 5000 square feet
- Optional unlimited calling plan (elsewhere suggested at $20/month) means all calls to US landlines or cellphones made through the microcell are free - even if you leave the house after starting the call. Without this option, calls are charged to each individual phone user's account.
- "Lightening Fast" 3G speeds, although this might be limited by the wireline broadband speed in the home
- Can grant access to up to 10 other ATT 3G phone customers though online web self-service page
- The Microcell can be moved to any location where ATT has licensed spectrum. Each time you move it, you must update the address on ATT's website for E911 purposes.
- Prepaid 3G phones can also be used on the microcell, although at least one postpaid/contract account is required
An online availability checker looks up specific ZIP codes to confirm if the service is available in that area. When last checked, there was no overall list of areas where the product is available.
The manual also gives further insights:
- Allow 2 hours for initial setup when first powered on
- A GPS receiver is included which needs to lock on before the system will operate
- Hand in (transfer of calls into the 3G Microcell from outside cell towers) is not supported
- It may take up to 5 minutes for your mobile phone to recognise and re-home to the 3G microcell when you return home.
- Hand out (transfer of calls from the 3G Microcell to outside cell towers) is supported. Calls started on the microcell as part of the optional unlimited calling plan continue to be free for the duration of the call, even when leaving home
- The optional unlimited calling plan applies when using any 3G Microcell, not just your own
- You can sell or transfer your 3G Microcell to someone else. The new owner will need to register it for use.