Review of the AT&T MicroCell or Personal Cell Tower?

I finally had a chance to get around to doing a review on the AT&T MicroCell, but in the end, the MicroCell review was different than I had anticipated.  I was so excited when I found out that AT&T’s MicroCell had come to Auburn a few months ago, especially because I have been desperately wanting to cancel our landline for years. I have NEVER (yes never) had a cell signal at my house, and no matter how many times AT&T doesn’t believe me, I still can’t make a cell call from my house, so the AT&T MicroCell I thought was finally going to be THE thing to be able to solve the cell signal issues we have here.

Well, I gave it about one or two months to test out to see if I would actually be able to cancel my landline, and at this point, no way. The concept is really cool, but there are far more negatives associated with the MicroCell than the positives. For me, since I have no cell coverage here, I am going to just keep it, after all, what else can I do with it.

The two big issues I have with the MicroCell is that the phone calls drop constantly (yes, even more than the normal cell tower), and the call quality is really like a bad Skype call. There is a huge delay (I’m talking 1-2 seconds) when talking with anyone, a noticeable echo, and occasionally there is just overall call interference. The fact that AT&T actually has a monthly fee that you can (not required) to pay on this “cell tower” is so laughable that it is an insult that they would even try to charge for what we already pay for with our AT&T/BellSouth landline, AT&T Internet service, and AT&T cell service. To charge me for a signal I already pay for it ridiculous.

So, about all the MicroCell is useful for on an ongoing basis is the ability to send and receive text messages, but I wasn’t able to do that before the MicroCell, so I guess paying $150 for text messages is probably not the best use of money either, but there was no way to know that before hand. If you are still going to get one, be sure to allow for plenty of setup time, along with other ridiculous requirements like making sure it is near a window (see photo below, that isn’t quite close enough) for the GPS signal, and also make sure it isn’t near your WiFi signal (how I don’t know, but that’s what AT&T says). I will start with the Pros since there really aren’t that many. My list of Cons or reasons I would not recommend the MicroCell if you have another option available to you (we don’t) I will continue to evaluate, but in our situation (no AT&T service for miles around) this is our only choice.

AT&T MicroCell Pros

  • You can send and receive text messages (if you couldn’t before)
  • Voice mail works, you just can’t call anyone back
  • If you really HAVE to make a phone call (like long distance), you can, but don’t expect much
  • Range is about 5,000 Sq Feet, so you can get the signal in the whole house (if within widow shot)
  • People think it’s cool to have one (I just threw that one in there, to make this list longer)
  • You get this really cool AT&T M-Cell signal on your iPhone (that’s one doesn’t really count either)

AT&T MicroCell Cons

  • Drops more calls than the regular cell towers do
  • Major interference with the phone calls that don’t drop
  • Major delay talking from person to person, like 1-2 seconds
  • AT&T charges any data against your data use even though you are using your own Internet ISP (whoa)
  • GPS signal is impossible to keep and reconnect if power goes out
  • Setup, while not technically difficult, is a pain, and takes forever (45-90 minutes)
  • If setup doesn’t work on your own, you are pretty much out of luck
  • AT&T has basically no support for the MicroCell (i.e. anyone that knows anything)
  • It costs $150 when AT&T should be providing cell coverage for their own customers
  • Not supposed to put it near the WiFi signal even though it uses an ethernet cable itself
  • Your only “allowed” to add 5 phone numbers that can use the signal (might be 10 can’t remember, but any limit is stupid)
  • Any allowed numbers have to be manually added on the AT&T website, every time you want to change
  • You will need a additional router if you don’t have an empty ethernet slots available
  • They actually charge $15 a month for unlimited use that doesn’t count against your cell service (crazy)

14 thoughts on “Review of the AT&T MicroCell or Personal Cell Tower?

  1. Alex

    I was having problems with my microcell until I played around with my router’s settings. Did you try QoS settings on your router? Did you try putting it in priority mode?

    Reply
  2. Scott Fillmer

    @alex actually I didn’t mention it, mainly because I had forgotten until you mentioned it, but I did have to mess around with the router settings before I got it to work the way I expected it to work… it didn’t clear up the issues of dropped calls and the delay we have but I did have to change that stuff around too… thanks for the reminder.

    Mine seems to be working fine, just as AT&T intends anyway, I have a full sat signal and a full cell signal, it just sounds like I am talking to a person through two cups and a string :)

    Reply
  3. OutSourcedMyLife

    After a few back and forth conversations with AT&T support I got my hands on a free AT&T Microcell. I was ecstatic to see 5 bars in my house.

    Well, it wasn’t long until I fell victim to the SUPER LONG delay. It is really really bad. I was talking with my brother and it was such an awkward call. We kept talking right on top of one another, then we’d stop, then we’d both start talking. Horrible experience.

    So, I’m almost tempted to pull the plug on the thing. I hate that I have to choose between very little reception but no delay, or full reception and a terribly long delay.

    Other than that, no problems with echos, drops, or anything… just the world’s longest delay.

    Reply
  4. Chad

    Looking at the pictures above, you should move your microcell away from your router. I had problems with skipping calls, and an echo effect, until I moved my router and microcell about 6 feet apart. It made a world of difference!

    Reply
  5. Scott Fillmer

    @chad yeah that might be an issues I guess, problem is, that area is about the size of the photo taken, there is a wall just on the other side so it is surrounded by a wall and a window… I guess I should try moving it to a different room but would have to hook up a cat5 for it to run from back to my router.

    The call echo seems to come and go, while the micro cell does seem to randomly disconnect from its GPS connection, requiring me to stick it out the window to reacquire. :)

    Reply
  6. Rich

    Im so fed up with AT&T. I’ve had reception problems for a long time. I can see dowtown Dallas from my house but can’t make a call hardly at all. They gave a a microcell free of charge to fix the problem. Since then things have gotten worse. Call get dropped after a nasty onslaught of noises and pops then it takes about 10 mins to reconnect. Also since having this paperweight my wifes iPhone has been going off the charts in data usage but she works from home and I on our wi fi signal provided by AT&T. They have told me the would investigate but have not resolved that issue. I’ve been an AT&T customer for over 20 years and I am sickened by their service.

    Reply
  7. OutSourcedMyLife

    Well, I’ve had my Microcell for 4 months and now have a very fast connection (6 mbps) coming into the house. Even with the fast connection and full bars on my phone, the delay is still a problem and I often can’t connect to calls. Example: I try to place a call and get the “can’t connect, try again” message on my iPhone. Sometimes I have to try to dial out 4-5 times before it finally has the signal to push through.

    Reply
  8. TDG

    When working my signal is fine. However some times it drops the wifi signal and requires a power off re-boot. And of course if you don’t know when it’s out, your battery on the iphone will die shortly ther after. I could not get a GPS signal due to a 3 foot overhang on my porch and AT&T had no soulution, but I noticed the GPS external antenna input and ask them about it. They didn’t know anything about it. So I ordered a $15.00 external antenna with 15feet of cable pluged it in and that fixed that problem. The only bad problem is it looseing the wi-fi.. Any suggestions.

    Reply
  9. Justin

    So, any updates on this? I’m soon to move back with a roommate of mine where no one gets cell reception. He paid the $250 for the Verizon version of this, and anyone that goes over with Verizon has no issue. It sucks for me being AT&T if I manage to receive a call, I have to go running outside the the street to talk. And this has been my main restraint of moving back.

    Reply
    1. Scott Fillmer Post author

      i would say not much has changed since i first posted this, but, i haven’t found any alternatives that are better either… my cell signal comes and goes, and with one bar from the tower about 12 miles away it barely connects, the mcell doesn’t cost anything (per month) and keeps me with a full signal when i am in the house, but the calls are like talking on Skype so i guess it’s as good as i can hope for, other than an actual full signal from a cell tower :)

      Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s