For the past two years I’ve been taking calls on my iPhone from the deck off the back of our home or in the middle of our backyard or from our driveway. Pretty much anywhere around our home but never inside our home.
And it’s not just a problem with AT&T’s coverage. I had Verizon and Sprint service before that and their phones were even worse. Calls to my mobile number went to voicemail. It wasn’t worth trying to find a spot in the yard with coverage. Not to mention that Seattle doesn’t have the ideal weather to be making a lot of outdoor calls during much of the year.
But this week a letter from AT&T arrived in the mail. I assumed it was another “you can talk and browse the web simultaneously so please don’t leave us for Verizon” plea and nearly ran it through the shredder. The letter detailed how I could pickup a Microcell for free at the nearest AT&T Store.
In short, a Microcell is a signal booster that plugs into my broadband connection. AT&T says it’s like having a cell tower at your home. It does a bunch of other stuff too, but what I care about is this: it gives me five signal bars from anywhere inside my home.
It almost sounded too good to be true. But two friends have the same device and swear by them. As much as I wanted one before, I didn’t feel like I should have to pay $200 for a device in order to make calls from home on top the thousands of dollars I’ve already given and continue to give for my service.
As instructed, I took the letter to the AT&T Store and left with a new Microcell in under 10 minutes. There were no hidden fees or slimy upsells. They didn’t even make me sign anything. The device looks like a large cable modem (If that model were made by Fisher Price) that I plugged into my Netgear gigabit switch.
Once I had the Microcell installed, I activated it at the AT&T website and added the phone numbers that are allowed to access it. I can currently add ten numbers but only four can access the Microcell at one time. We have two iPhones so that won’t be a problem. When friends and family visit, or at least those with phones on the AT&T network, I can give them access as well.
Last night I made a 90 minute phone call on my iPhone from my computer in the basement. Two days ago that wasn’t possible. I’ll hold off before I dropkick my old-school Panasonic land phones across the yard. But that day is coming based on how well the Microcell has worked this week.
Engadget provides more details on the AT&T offer here.