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The 3g Microcell™ is a product from American telephone company AT&T that is used to improve cell phone reception for 3g phones in a household or small business environment. Users plug the device into an outlet and a broadband connection preferably near a window. The signal extends over an area of several thousand feet, or several hundred meters. It supports up to four users at a time.
This product was created because many people were having trouble with at-home reception for their 3g phones, such as the iPhone. Especially in hilly or mountainous areas, 3g coverage is spotty or sometimes nonexistent. Even in some areas that have a 3g connection, reception can vary widely depending on location.
Each 3g Microcell™ has a list of approved phone numbers that can use the service. The user list can be edited or expanded online by the owner to prevent unauthorized users from accessing the signal. Up to 10 numbers may be entered. Setup involves plugging 3g Microcell™ directly into a computer or a router and then waiting around an hour to receive a signal. At times, 3g Microcell™ may drop its signal during use, but it can usually be restored by briefly unplugging the product.
The 3g Microcell™ has several disadvantages. It can only be used with AT&T phones. The number of phone minutes used are limited, unless a monthly fee is paid. If a monthly fee is not paid, minutes will be deducted from the user's cell phone plan. Text messages and Internet browsing are not included in the monthly fee.
Alternatives to the 3g Microcell™ include switching to an alternate provider for 3g coverage or making calls over a computer with a broadband connection and appropriate software. At least one other provider offers a service similar to 3g Microcell™ at a lower price. Software that allows phone calls to be made over a high-speed Internet connection with the aid of a computer is widely available.
Currently, 3g Microcell™ has an initial cost of $150 US Dollars (USD), but several rebates are offered that can bring the price down to at least $50 USD. The initial price and monthly cost for unlimited usage has been a major source of complaint for many users. For those people who cannot or will not switch from AT&T to another provider, the 3g Microcell™ may provide an option for at-home coverage.