Remember that 3G Microcell that AT&T pushed out to a public market trial in Charlotte, N.C. last year? Well, AT&T has finally decided to expand the availability of its femtocell to just a few more places--sorry, New York and San Francisco not included. The extended areas include "select counties" in Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, San Diego, and Las Vegas.
If you'll recall, the 3G Microcell essentially acts as a mini tower in your home, designed to boost both voice and data signals. Its maximum coverage is approximately 5,000 square feet. Other carriers have femtocells, too; Verizon has its Wireless Network Extender, and Sprint has the Airave--but neither of those supports 3G/EV-DO. And though T-Mobile never got onboard the femtocell bandwagon, it tried to go the UMA route with T-Mobile HotSpot @ Home, which let you make calls over Wi-Fi with certain phones. Unfortunately, T-Mobile decided to nix that plan due to lackluster response.
As before, the femtocell solution isn't cheap. The 3G Microcell is $150, whereas the service is free. The unlimited calls option is $20 a month, unless you already have an AT&T landline or DSL service--though AT&T is offering a $100 rebate if you sign up for it. Compare this with Verizon Wireless's Network Extender that costs $250 up front and has no monthly fee, but lacks an unlimited call option, and Sprint's Airave that is $100 for the hardware, a $5 monthly fee, with an optional $10 a month for unlimited calls.
We're not too sure on the exact details of the rollout--which counties and cities exactly?--but you can find out if you're eligible by entering in your zip code on AT&T's Web site. If you're eligible, let us know. And if you've tried this out, definitely let us know your impressions.
UPDATE: An AT&T spokesperson has told us that the above pricing structure of the 3G Microcell service is just one of many pricing models they're testing during this trial period. They have not yet announced official pricing.