While Apple and AT&T are giving iPhone 4 users a break on voice caps with a VOiP solution for the iPhone 4 called FaceTime, carrier AT&T is not being generous with its micro-cell solution, stating that users will still incur charges (or use minutes and/or data) while using an AT&T handset connected to the carrier’s micro-cell solution.
A micro-cell is basically a small router that AT&T Mobility (AT&T’s wireless arm) customers can install into their home DSL or cable modem network. The micro-cell is used primarily in areas where users are either far away from an AT&T tower or in areas where there is no AT&T service reception, like a basement. The job of the micro-cell then is to route data and voice over a user’s home network to AT&T, acting like a VOiP solution for the carrier.
So why is AT&T charging customers for voice and data handled–primarily as a VOiP workaround–when there is little to no strain to the carrier? According to AT&T, once the data is broken up into bits and leaves your home, AT&T still has to handle the data when it reaches them. That explains voice calls–that it still has to be handled and routed by the carrier, but what about data? Well, for the most part, AT&T says that the micro-cell is primarily used for voice as customers mostly will use data over WiFi (directly onto the home network rather than through the micro-cell), so there is little fear on that end.
Here’s what AT&T has to say about its micro-cell service:
· 3G MicroCell is primarily intended to enhance the voice call quality experience in your home. While it can carry mobile data traffic, that’s not the primary solution it provides.
· Microcells require you have a wired broadband connection and our surveys show that around 96% of our Microcell users have a Wi-Fi router, as well. Wi-Fi is the optimal solution for home mobile data use. We encourage people to take advantage of Wi-Fi capabilities. That’s why all of our smartphones include Wi-Fi radios, and usage on Wi-Fi doesn’t count against your mobile data usage bucket if you have one of our new data plans.
Of course, with new users having a 2 GB data cap on the highest data plan they can acquire from AT&T, there is still room for concern so make sure you’re using data on WiFi and routing your calls, in areas with little or no reception, thru the micro-scell connection.
For its part, T-Mobile, the other major US GSM provider, was one of the first to roll out its in-home micro-cell router service, dubbed @Home. In the case of T-Mobile, calls initiated through the micro-cell are free and do not incur minutes usage; those calls can seamlessly switch between T-Mobile’s cellular towers and the @Home micro-cell routers as well.