Friday, October 2, 2009

Five bars in my house

I'm a big fan of the iPhone, and I've owned one since it appeared--and upgraded each year to that year's bright and shiny new model. As a handheld computing tool, it's the best I've seen so far.

As a phone, though, it sucks. Part of the problem is in the device itself, of course. I've seen more than one example of other AT&T phones having signal in the same place where iPhones do not. Apple clearly needs to improve the quality of the iPhone's antenna.

The real issue, though, is, as every iPhone user knows, AT&T. AT&T's 3G network sucks. I'd leave AT&T in a heartbeat if I could, but the iPhone remains, at least for now, available only for AT&T.

One consequence of the extreme suck that is AT&T's network is something that has caused many of my friends to (correctly and with cause) mock me excessively: Since my first iPhone, my mobile phone has not worked in my house. The moment I turn off my car, my iPhone effectively turns into an iPod Touch. The ways in which this sucks are many, but they certainly include all work and external family attempts to reach me.

I'm happy to announce that this problem is now gone. I have five bars of signal in my upstairs, and three to five bars downstairs.

This seeming miracle comes courtesy of a hundred and fifty bucks and the legal theft of some Time-Warner Cable bandwidth by AT&T. In other words, I bought an AT&T 3G MicroCell. This handy gadget hooks to your local network and basically acts as a cell tower in your house--but a tower that sends your calls to and from your network and thus your own broadband provider. It was a snap to install, it worked the first time, and it performs as advertised. Its big weakness is that it cannot hand off to the cellular network calls that I start in the house, but I can live with that.

Now, you may reasonably ask, Mark, aren't you paying AT&T more money just to do what it should already have been doing?

Absolutely. It is in every way a rip-off and another reason to leave AT&T.

Except that I now have five bars and a cell phone that works in my house, so even though I'm out $150, I'm happy.

Of course, the day Verizon sells a full-featured new iPhone, I am so out of AT&T....


Anonymous said...

we succumbed to the sprint ripoff for much the same reason. sadly, the radius of the femtocell is just slightly smaller than the area of our main floor - so we fall off the edge if we're standing on the far side of the kitchen or the dining room. (it's GPS-bound, so tied to a window - currently in M.'s office since his phone has a weaker antenna than mine.)

overall, i wouldn't get it again. but considering that it does seem to improve coverage in his office, it wasn't worth the hassle involved to try to get sprint to give us a refund for it...

the one major annoyance is that it doesn't carry data signal (sprint is on CDMA, so data and voice are separate and mutually exclusive). which means occasionally i'll be performing some data-related action, drive into the garage, and watch my phone associate to the femtocell and kill my data connection. arrrrgh.

- lisa

Mark said...

I figure we're all helping them build out their infrastructures; I just hate how much we have to pay to do it.


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