Lousy iPhone Reception? Want an AT&T Tower in Your House? Meet Femtocell!

Mike and Dieter discussed this newfangled tech being offered up by AT&T (and others) called Femtocell during the last Phone different podcast, and our sibling site, WMExperts has posted up the quick and dirty:

AT&T is joining the femtocell bandwagon with their 3G MicroCell. While pricing and availability aren't indicated on AT&T's site, we do know that it will cover up to 5,000 square feet, allow up to four simultaneous, secure voice or data connections, and will require a broadband connection to operate. It is also only compatible with 3G phones.

Gizmodo has an update as well, but basically if you have poor to no 3G reception, you can stick this box on your home broadband network and it will route all your smartphone connectivity (including voice calls) through your cable or DSL. Cell to internet adapter, in other words. Negatives will likely include an additional -- though hopefully small -- upfront or monthly fee. Positives could be free nationwide calling while your phone is on the home femtocell network.

Anyone in a bad area think they'll consider this? Would you rather pay $250 up front and no monthly charge like Verizon, or $100 up front and $5 a month like Sprint? Or is AT&T not scratching one more dime out of your already picked-clean pockets?

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Rene Ritchie

EiC of iMore, EP of Mobile Nations, Apple analyst, co-host of Debug, Iterate, Vector, Review, and MacBreak Weekly podcasts. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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Reader comments

Lousy iPhone Reception? Want an AT&T Tower in Your House? Meet Femtocell!


Sounds like a good thing for those who have no signal.
And if it were me, i would rather pay something big upfront for the hardware/box rather then pay some sort of subscription for it.

You gotta love the cell companies. What you have poor reception? Don't leave for another carrier with better reception, just buy this expensive piece of equipment and/or pay an additional monthly fee over your already enormous phone bill! Instead of building extra cell towers to improve our reception and coverage, we'll just get our customers to buy and pay for mini cell towers in their homes!
No thanks cell phone companies. If I don't get decent cell phone reception as is, it's time to shop for a new carrier. Still I could see this as a benefit for those in rural areas who don't get good coverage with any carrier.

I also love how you'll be paying extra for this and yet it must save the carriers a bundle since they'll be putting the voice and data burden onto your home ISP instead of on their cell network. Win-win situation for them.

If I didn't have reception at home (and I owned my home), I would pay the large sum upfront for the reception with no extra monthly fee. I don't have a landline phone at home and never want to. IMO the $250 would pay itself soon enough not having to have a monthly landline bill.

Note that more towers won't solve the problem of building materials blocking the signal. In that case, you still need a repeater (or a 'femtocell').
Personally, I'm waiting for the picocell, which creates a cellular network only for devices that are within a few inches from your body.

Definitely getting this no matter what the charge. Reception in my condo isn't very good for any carrier (one of the issues of living in a high rise).

AT&T may say that you have to pay up front and indeed you will but in all likelihood they'll credit you something like $25 per month for the next 10 months making it essentially free. They do the same thing with DSL routers so I would not be at all shocked to see them do that along with another sweetener to get you to take the hardware.

And they have the audacity to charge extra to get decent reception lol what happened to the days when it was expected. Actually i'm not surprised about ATT they try to squeeze every penny out of you that they can I don't know how many WTF looks I gave the ATT rep as he was reading my rate plan details and how much I would be charged a bit extra on features because I was purchasing an iphone.

If you get no reception, you probably live too far out to get a high speed ISP anyways. Kinda pointless unless you live in a cement house.

Dyvim, you sure have a sour disposition...
Yes, femtocells do reduce the burden on the carrier's cell tower network but (i.e. the air interface and network connecting the cell towers to the central office) but the still carry your call on their core.
Also, to implement the service they have to roll out a lot of new equipment. The customer site femtocell is only one end. At the central office they need new equipment to talk with your femtocell. When you consider this nationwide it is a significant capital expense.
I would be thrilled to pay the upfront cost of a femtocell for my home. Paying some monthly fee in perpetuity is a bit offensive though. After all (as pointed out by others) I am reducing the burden on the mobile carrier's backhaul network and the up front capital expense of rolling out a new technology does not continue in perpetuity.

While President Obama is in favor of establishing net neutrality laws, right now there is nothing in law or business preventing an ISP from blocking or assigning a lower priority to traffic they identify as AT&T voice traffic. For ISPs that offer competing voice or cel services, there is every incentive for them to do so. Since AT&T is against net neutrality, they can hardly complain should this happen. So AT&T will get customers and competitors to bear infrastructure burdens, while creating a scenario where AT&T cannot guarantee or even take responsibility for service levels, and customers are supposed to pay for the privelege. That tIpb image for AT&T looks more accurate by the day.

I think if their website SAYS I should get good 3G reception (like it does) but I don't (like I don't) they should give me one for free. And it isn't in my house, because outside all I get is a couple of Edge bars. Half a mile in any direction of my house and I get four bars of 3G.

PHEW! I was betting on AT&T releasing this service sooner than later. I for one am thrilled.

I would just like the iphone to work properly, I cannot seem to get a signal to work my past much less new phones. I am on a fixed income and cannot afford a large upfront fee. thus I feel that to be captive to any carrier is a mistake, it is inevitable.

i have the worstreception in my house and i isnt even a brick home or apartment the map i was shown said we had lots of covrage now i get 1 if no bars most of time searching

I purcased 2 m-cells. One for my home and one for my office because I had no service in the metal building I am in. Now I have a good signal in my office. Cost for each cell-$150.00 and easy to hook up. Just make sure you are near a window so you get good GPS Lock.

I bought something called iTena, which is supposed to boost iphone reception. You stick it on the back of your iphone. Yep, it don't work. Now I gotta unstick the fecking thing. Meanwhile, my wife's iphone works fine around the house, but mine doesn;t. What is up with that?