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AT&T breaks out its new 3G Microcell

AT&T to start femtocell service, and we compare it to the femtocell/network-improvement competition.

AT&T has finally unleashed its new femtocell in a public market trial in Charlotte, N.C. Dubbed the 3G MicroCell, the AT&T femtocell is designed to boost both the voice and data signal in your home by using your home broadband network. This is similar to how Verizon's and Sprint's femtocells work, though neither of them handles 3G/EV-DO. (Instead of femtocells, T-Mobile has gone the UMA route with T-Mobile HotSpot @ Home, which requires UMA-enabled phones that can use Wi-Fi to make calls).

Gearlog reports that AT&T stores are charging $150 for the actual 3G MicroCell hardware, while the service is free. If you want unlimited calling as well, there's a $20-per-month charge, unless you already have an AT&T landline or DSL service. To help take the sting off that monthly charge, AT&T is offering a $100 rebate if you sign up for the unlimited plan.

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. T-Mobile's HotSpot @ Home plan doesn't require hardware beyond your own wireless router, and the service is $10 a month, but it only works with certain phones that have UMA support.

No word on when AT&T will roll this out to the rest of the nation, of course, but if we have any folks in Charlotte, N.C. who have tried this, definitely let us know how it is and if it improves things at all. We should also note that the Sprint Airave has been out of stock for awhile now, and there are rumors that it might be replaced with a 3G Airave some time soon.

(Via Engadget Mobile)