AT&T wants to sell you better coverage

As you know, I’m no fan of AT&T.

With that in mind I couldn’t help sharing this piece of news: AT&T is now offering customers the ability to pay up and purchase a 3G Microcell to use in their homes (since no-one it seems actually gets descent service at home). The device supports both voice and data usage (presumably the latter is only marginally useful since most consumers with data devices connect to their home wifi networks in house).

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For the privilege of better coverage at home (and the added benefit to AT&T of presumably offloading traffic from their cellular network to customer’s internet providers) you’ll get charged $150 for the device (ok – that seems fair) and $20 additional monthly service fee (what?!? – an additional monthly charge for helping AT&T clear traffic from its network, shift cost to your internet provider and extending coverage where Verizon and other carriers already have it?).

Rock on AT&T!

(hat tip Jeff Kohn for the pointer to the news)

  • For the technically inclined, if you have, say, an iPhone, why not use a home wifi connection and Skype-over-wifi for the same effect? You'll save $20/mo and not feel as if you're being screwed even further by AT&T.

    • sethlevine

      or google voice! oh . . . wait a minute . . . at&t has managed to block that app so far . . .

  • Why is AT&T getting its ass kicked over this thing when the other carriers have had similar devices for a while now? I know a few people that have never had great AT&T coverage (even before it was cool to kick them in the teeth) so a device like this is a really good thing.

    • sethlevine

      1-it’s fun to pick on AT&T because their network coverage is so bad and 2-they’re charging an incremental fee for the “service”, which is BS. while i don’t object to their charging for the device the face that they are using it to sell landline service (it’s free with that bundle) and charging incrementally all of their other users for it is BS (Verizon, for example, does not charge an incremental service charge for their similar device).

  • Chris Kilmer

    Skype over wifi is fine if all you are doing is making outgoing calls. What if you want to be able to accept calls? Leave your Skype iPhone app running all the time? Pay extra to get a dedicated Skype number that forwards to your iPhone? Tell people that you want them to call you on Skype between 5-7 pm and on your mobile number between 9-5? Skype's dedicated numbers aren't reliable.

    I live in the mountains and AT&T's mobile coverage is dismal. I would pay the $120 for the device no problem. But an extra $20 a month for a service that I should already be getting? “You can pay $120/month if you want the service or you can pay $140/month if you actually want the service to work”!

    Hey AT&T, go to hell! As soon as we get other providers up high, I'm leaving AT&T.

  • sethlevine

    well put!

  • This reminds me of Warner Bros' announcement of their move to distribute their movies via Bit Torrent. It made them seem hip/progressive at first glance. In actuality they were just transferring their distribution costs to their consumers.

    • sethlevine

      yes – “we’re doing this great thing for our customers . . . which happens to benefit us a whole lot more than it does them . . .”

  • Stephen

    A lot of smart phones (BB Curve 8900 for example) already are enabled to route calls over Wifi to the wireless provider's network, through a technology call UMA. TMobile lets users use UMA for free. I'm appalled that AT&T thinks its appropriate to charge this much money for something that actually alleviates traffic on their network. With the way things are going with VoIP and Google Voice, it just doesn't make any sense to charge for this and alienate customers. They should use this functionality as a selling point for their network (commonly viewed as sub-standard) over their competitors like Verizon.

    • sethlevine

      it seems like the strong feedback from this post is that 1) people would pay for the hardware and 2) they think it’s bs that AT&T is charging for the “service”. i completely agree with your thought below – AT&T could have easily turned this into a PR positive instead of just another think they f’ed up…

  • I think what everyone is missing is that they're only charging for UNLIMITED phone calls. All this thing does is put a 3G tower in your house. There's no service fee for that, just the cost of the hardware. If you want *an additional service* (unlimited calling) then it's $20/mo. If you don't pay the $20/mo then you use your minutes as your existing plan dictates. Verizon doesn't do 3G with theirs, and it's $100 more up front.

    http://www.engadgetmobile.com/2009/09/21/atandts-

  • James Hafer

    An extra $20 a month is ridiculous. Your neighbors should be able to use it too, and for that, they should be paying you in some kind of rev-share arrangement for extending their network.