AT&T adds data to femtocell product. Why bother?

AT&T goes national with a femtocell product that adds data boosts, too.

A more robust AT&T signal may be coming to your town soon. But this signal boost isn't because of an infrastructure investment by AT&T. This signal boost comes from a hardware investment by customers.

Starting in mid-April, AT&T will begin a national rollout of its 3G MicroCell, a femtocell product that now boosts the data signal, as well as the voice signal boost that the previous-generation product provided. The company explains it like this:

The service has been in trial markets since September but is now scheduled to be rolled out nationally over the next several months.

AT&T 3G MicroCell is an innovative solution that allows residential customers to route wireless phone calls and data connections (or sessions) across a home broadband connection. This solution is designed to benefit customers who live in homes that have coverage impediments that consistently interrupt wireless spectrum, such as dense wall and roof construction or unfavorable terrain.

The device is priced at $149.99 but does not require a monthly service plan (and there are possible rebates.)  However, for those willing to pay an additional $19.95 per month, calls made through a 3G Microcell will not count against monthly voice minute allotments. Customers can provide 10 lines with access to the 3G Microcell and four of those can use it simultaneously.

The use of femtocell products, such as those offered by the other carriers, is a good option for those who live in areas where signals are weak or obstructed. But it's hard to justify the expense of the device when you consider what it does.

OK, the voice signal boost is important. Aside from taking the landline route or setting up a Google Voice number, your options are pretty limited. However, I don't see the value in the data connection boost.

A growing number of mobile devices are WiFi-enabled and, more often than not, a home with a broadband connection also has WiFi. The modem that brings the Internet service into the house probably also has built-in WiFi networking to transmit it. In that case, there's no reason that I would need a data signal boost at home when my device runs on WiFi?

To see if the product is available in your area, go to the AT&T 3G Microcell site and type in your zip code in the "Availability" tab.

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