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  • Some1ne - Thursday, April 01, 2010 - link

    So let me get this straight. I'm supposed to pay AT&T for access to a device that uses my own Internet connection to patch up holes in their network? That's just ridiculous. It's AT&T's inadequate network coverage that makes these devices necessary in the first place, and now they're actually trying to profit off of having poor network coverage. Pretty much removes any incentive for them to improve their network, now doesn't it?

    These devices should be provided free of charge, as a "sorry you can't actually use the network that you paid to access" kind of token. Anyone who pays for one of these is just giving AT&T one more reason not to fix their coverage issues.
    Reply
  • Alexstarfire - Thursday, April 01, 2010 - link

    I rather agree. Makes you wonder what they actually do with all the money they receive monthly. Also means that if you purchase one, much like how it should be if you use an unlocked phone, that your monthly bill should drop in price. Except in this case if they are using your broadband connection then it should practically be free since it provides next to no burden on them, though I don't know what happens after it goes through the connection. Reply
  • therealnickdanger - Thursday, April 01, 2010 - link

    How do you know that the actual cost of the device and the technology driving it isn't already subsidized by your bill? Perhaps you're only paying 10% of what it really costs. Reply
  • vol7ron - Thursday, April 01, 2010 - link

    Even if a subsidy were included, which would only cover some (not all) of the costs, the fact that people have to pay anything more for it is ridiculous given the nature of what a cell company is: a service. Cell phone companies are in business for one reason and by making you pay anything more to receive the core product is truely sad.

    There are other companies, like Cisco, that have built their own repeaters and Mobile-to-VOIP products, which I commend, because they are a technology company not providing the service. They're taking something bad, that they don't have control of, and making it bearable. Cell phone providers are at the other end, they have full control but are making you pay more, even though you aren't getting the initial benefit of what you're paying for in the first place.
    Reply
  • zinfamous - Thursday, April 01, 2010 - link

    This is kind of where I sit with the argument. a one-time ~$150 cost to the customer *may* be cheaper in the end, than having a network-wide upgrade that increases costs across all customers, paying more and more per month.

    Perhaps it also improves access to those willing, and needing increased network performance, paying a bit more for the premium, while those customers with little need for the bandwidth go on about their normal use, paying what they always have. It's like...a single-payer network structure! :D
    Reply
  • DoeBoy - Thursday, April 01, 2010 - link

    IT seems to me some people forget that companies are in business to make money. This is a great way for ATT to make a lot of extra money. I live in a rural area and i complain all the time in an area they say has coverage that does not at all. While this would aid me in getting better service it also would require me to pay for an inet connection which is not covered by att. Clearly they aren't a moral company when your service is so bad you have to have a product that uses some other technology(a la internet) and then charge the person not only for that product that gets you service but not even lower your bill since you technically arent using their towers really at all under this sucker. Clearly Verizon and ATT are both big 500lb gorillas. In europe its much easier to get a cheap cell phone deal and coverage. Clark Howard seems to think ATT and Verizon are going to end up being more corporate and smaller companies like t-mobile, cricket, metropcs and what not will fill in the void for the regular consumer. Reply
  • Some1ne - Thursday, April 01, 2010 - link

    The problem is that when you look at the pricing matrix, not only is there a fixed upfront cost, there are also recurring monthly fees. It doesn't matter how much the up front cost is subsidized. The monthly fees mean that sooner or later, AT&T will be turning a profit on these devices.

    And even worse, the fees are higher if you're not already using AT&T as your ISP and/or land-line provider. That makes the least sense out of anything, since if you have a different ISP, then by running the femtocell you are completely unburdening AT&T's network, and dumping all the work onto someone else. The get to sell your bandwidth to someone else, and charge you more while doing it.
    Reply
  • taltamir - Thursday, April 01, 2010 - link

    in computers, the technology is made mostly of sand... it costs practically nothing.
    It is the technology you are paying for...

    However there is one major component here, AT&T themselves look at it as a "cost cutting method"... in other words it is intended to cost them LESS, aka, they are making MORE of a profit on you if you get one of those then without.

    The whole thing is absurd. You pay hundreds of dollars for a black box device with tamper protection and absolutely horrid performance (compared to wifi), then you pay a monthly fee for the privilege of using said device...

    they should just put wifi in every device and have wifi be free (but they usually charge a monthly fee for that privilege as well)
    Reply
  • ant1pathy - Friday, April 02, 2010 - link

    You are, of course, welcome to change carriers. If you feel the service you are recieving is subpar and another carrier would be better for you, the termination fee is probably less than the cost of the box. If you're continuing to pay for a service that does not meet your needs and you can't really use, then you are the pefect consumer. Reply
  • Wolfpup - Wednesday, April 21, 2010 - link

    I completely agree. It's absolutely nuts IMO. Reply
  • atiller - Thursday, April 01, 2010 - link

    Thanks for the excellent and detailed report. One comment - your view of picocells is rather out of date. Just like femtocells, today's picocells use IP backhaul and can be installed without any specialist skills. Some people call them 'enterprise femtocells', but they have a larger capacity and range than a femto. Reply
  • Brian Klug - Thursday, April 01, 2010 - link

    Awesome tip, thanks, I definitely didn't know about these. Do you know what kind of carrier interaction is required for installing one of those? I mean, are they carrier agnostic, some common brand, and can anyone just buy them?

    I think there's definitely a market for malls and large shopping centers that want to improve coverage indoors - it seems to be a systemic problems for large buildings with high population density inside.

    -Brian Klug
    Reply
  • Paulman - Thursday, April 01, 2010 - link

    Except that I was reading an 4/1/2010 post on a friend's blog which made me wonder when the tech sites would start posting their crazy stories, and then I realized... wait a second...

    Before realizing this, I had read up to page 4 (Inside the Networking), at which point I was like, "I'm done with this article - I was just really curious to see if this was a 3G signal repeater, or if it got the data through a broadband connection and then just broadcast it locally over 3G". Lol.
    Reply
  • TGressus - Thursday, April 01, 2010 - link

    ...by failed handovers on AT&T.

    In southern California we as a community drive a lot (serious understatement), and many careers involve driving throughout the work day. Certain devices and occupations have moved my colleagues and family to AT&T at times, including the present. Everyone I know is regularly affected by the worst case handover scenarios you were surprised about in your article.

    It so predominant that I estimate 1/4 of my calls with AT&T I answer, "sorry, dropped call" rather than, "hello". It is the consensus of the mobile professionals with whom I interact through AT&T that one can not afford to make important phone calls on the road. I know that must seem like the most obvious statement ever, but try and empathize here; the nature of many businesses in massive urban sprawl lends itself to perpetual mobile telephony.

    People regularly attribute these issues to the coverage maps and, more recently, smart-phone burden. I'm no cellular techncian, but I suspect it's something more fundamental with GSM and/or AT&T technology. I'm not surprised you noticed this issue. In fact, I'm surprised you are surprised.
    Reply
  • Brian Klug - Thursday, April 01, 2010 - link

    I can't speak for the load in that area, but migrating calls and handing them over if the adjacent cell sites are overloaded is generally what causes soft handovers to fail. So imagine that you're on a node, being serviced perfectly fine, but migrate (while driving, say) into an adjacent cell that's completely overtaxed. The phone will try to migrate its session, but if it's so overloaded that it can't, the call will fail.

    It's a sad state of things, but that's probably what's going on if you see that you have good signal but still encounter problems. In fact, I'd say if you don't hear distortion or blocking, but rather just have the call fail (and you're moving) this is probably the case. Of course, that market is one that AT&T is particularly stressed about and focusing on now, hopefully it improves.

    Both CDMA2000, GSM, and UMTS are equally robust in the soft handover arena, and it *usually* works flawlessly - this is a technology that's rolled out pretty much everywhere. The technology is robust, but it's entirely carriers prerogative to install it properly and watch out for these load issues. Nothing is going to overcome the laws of physics. ;)

    Cheers,
    Brian Klug
    Reply
  • slyck - Thursday, April 01, 2010 - link

    Comments so far are right on. This should be a choice of last resort only for those who are connected to their cell number. If you need internet to make your call there is always VOIP which costs far, far less. Reply
  • sxr7171 - Thursday, April 01, 2010 - link

    Firstly pardon my language here. But this is bullshit.

    These stupid wireless carriers have a lot of nerve trying to extend their wireless coverage off of the customer's dime. On top of the ridiculous prices they charge for voice and data and most importantly: SMS. They have a lot of nerve asking customers to pay for the device and to pay for calls on it.

    The only advantage this has over a VOIP solution is basically seamless hand-offs - WHICH THIS CRAP PRODUCT DOES NOT DO.

    For GSM users this functionality was built into the standard and has been around for years and was mentioned in the article: SIP. T-mobile uses it but they restrict the devices.

    SIP is a feature built into many open unlocked phones like Symbian phones from Nokia and others, but our US carriers don't like such open phones so they would never allow a carrier sponsored phone to have the SIP software intact in the FW/OS. The whole technology was designed around having a choice of cell phone provider and SIP provider - you know choice as in the kind that creates competition. But our carriers will never allow that, and our consumers will always get sucked into carrier contracts and locked phones. This sort of thing is what makes it impossible to launch a phone or technology without the carrier's blessing and it is what makes us indentured to carriers.

    That iPhone is not $200 always remember the $1680 of overpriced service that is part of it. An unlocked iPhone costs $999. Think about why that is. It's because with the carriers control the device prices since they control who can buy it and what services must be purchased and how much that service costs. Will wireless ever be a free market in the US?
    Reply
  • HotFoot - Thursday, April 01, 2010 - link

    Have to agree with you. This is just silly.

    Where I live, there are two good solutions for the problem this device/service is trying to solve.

    1) Rogers has wifi capable cell phones that will switch to using your home 802.11 (or other hotspots) for making calls. When you're on wifi with these phones, you get different rates for calls much more in line with VoIP.

    2) Smart phone that will Skype over wifi. I pay $15/mo for my cell phone service plus another $3 to Skype for unlimited calling in North America. That's $18/mo, no contracts. I did pay $600 for my N900, so if that lasts me 3 years add another $18/mo to the total so I pay $36/mo to have basic cell phone service while I'm out and about and unlimited calling while at home, work, or coffee shop/anywhere there's free wifi.

    Anyone feeling like this AT&T offer is a load of steaming crap in comparison?
    Reply
  • sxr7171 - Thursday, April 01, 2010 - link

    But the 2 are open technologies that were supposed to enable seamless hand-offs and choice of service provider. Reply
  • Wayne86 - Thursday, April 01, 2010 - link

    I was hoping this article was an April Fools joke. Alas, after Topekaing, it is not. :) Reply
  • A beautiful mind - Thursday, April 01, 2010 - link

    My Nokia N900 already uses the home/office wifi connection to access the internet, with the possibility to receive/make calls from/to skype.

    There is absolutely no extra functionality that is provided by the femtocell approach.
    Reply
  • softdrinkviking - Thursday, April 01, 2010 - link

    For you and me, this is true.
    But not for everyone.

    That's the really sad thing about this device. It's designed as a way to nickel and dime poor souls whose homes are in a dead zone and absolutely have to answer their phone for business.

    Reply
  • nafhan - Thursday, April 01, 2010 - link

    Great article, and you did an excellent job of diving into the tech behind the femtocell.

    An interesting follow up to this article might be to see what kind of results you get from purchasing an antenna and repeater. I've seen antenna/repeater setups online in the $350 and up range, and wondered how they would do. If they work OK, it might be a viable alternative, especially for people without good internet connections.
    Reply
  • gwolfman - Thursday, April 01, 2010 - link

    Where is the print article feature on the new site? Reply
  • Maroon - Thursday, April 01, 2010 - link

    They've been sneaking these things in Apple stores. No wonder the iPhone feelgood only lasts untill you get out of the store and have to rely on the "standard" AT&T network. LOL.

    Reply
  • soccerharms - Thursday, April 01, 2010 - link

    Are you kiddin' me? I am going to approach this from two angles. The first being that this article is completely fake. ITS APRIL 1st people! The tech community should have an uproar for such a device. We buy internet and it is usually our responsibility to distribute it around the house with a router for wireless and whatnot. HOWEVER, we do not buy a wireless......phone plan with the intention on increasing a carriers crappy signal in our own house out of our pocket. That's ludacris! There is another much cheaper solution...........its called a LAN line with a cordless phone HA!

    The only company that could profit from a device like this would be Apple. But they would have to make it a little more shiney and put that quarter eaten logo on the side :)

    Let the battles begin....
    Reply
  • Jaybus - Thursday, April 01, 2010 - link

    This is like buying an airline ticket only to find there is no flight. Since they don't have a flight, the airline offers to sell you your own airplane. You have to provide your own pilot, fuel, and maintenance, but you still have to pay them the full price for a ticket whenever you fly your own airplane. So my idea is to start a car rental business that has no cars. Anyone willing to pay AT&T for a microcell that uses their own Internet connection would surely be willing to pay me a rental fee for driving their own car. Reply
  • HotFoot - Thursday, April 01, 2010 - link

    Eh... much of this market is iPhone users - people already willing to accept the concept of ecosystem lock-in. By a similar analogy to your car rental company, they're already willing to buy a car from a company that requires that they drive only on roads built or approved by that company, buy gas only at that company's stations, and buy car insurance from that company.

    Why not charge them for the roadside delivery of a jerry can of gas when the customer finds out the station filled their tank with water instead of fuel?
    Reply
  • yacoub - Thursday, April 01, 2010 - link

    I give it a year or two before the first cancer danger report comes out. ;) Reply
  • loydcase - Thursday, April 01, 2010 - link

    AT&T cell reception at my house is weak in spots. OTOH, if a femtocell allows me to rip out my landlines, it might be worth it. So I'd like to know if a femtocell would be viable for that purpose. Reply
  • dkapke - Thursday, April 01, 2010 - link

    I can't speak for what AT&Ts plans are, but I think what a lot of you aren't seeing, at least in terms of Sprint, is I LOVE their femtocell. Not because I can't get service or have crappy coverage, but because it allows UNLIMITED calls. I can get their cheapest plan, eliminate the home phone, and so long as I'm not driving between 6a-6p all of my calls are free. I work from home so this is great.

    So, all of you saying this is AT&Ts method of uncongesting their network - yes, that's true. But you're missing a very valid argument FOR these - unlimited calling. I guess you have to determine how often you're at home and how many minutes you use at home before night/weekend calling kicks in, but for those of us who work from home, these are awesome and well worth the $20. Oh, and when my kids come down for the summer and spend all day on the phone while they're sitting around at the house...yeah...it pays for itself very quickly.
    Reply
  • echtogammut - Thursday, April 01, 2010 - link

    They even collaborated with AT&T on this one : http://www.wireless.att.com/learn/why/3gmicrocell/...

    Seriously, what really gets me about this, is I installed a booster for the last company I worked with because they were not able get calls when more than 5 data phones were in the building. I called AT&T to see if I could work with them about setting up a device similar to the microcell and they transferred me to an engineer that warned me off boosting the signal. Not that long ago they called me and offered this device to fix my reception issues and charge me for another service plan... no thank you, the booster is working fine.
    Reply
  • kamikaze56 - Thursday, April 01, 2010 - link

    I agree with all you guys saying that you wont pay for a monthly cellular bill, buy your own "cell" wich uses YOUR own internet connection.. But just remember a few facts:

    - First of all, this device is aimed to people who have very low to zero coverage on their house/workplace and DONT want to change carrier (Or cant due to contracts), it is not aimed to people who can change their carrier at anytime..

    - Second, most of the "negative" review on this article was found on location 1 (Location in urban area, with a really good coonection, crowded spectrum etc) remember, this device is aimed to locations with Zero to Really bad coverage

    - 3rd and most important: Yes, you are paying your bill, you are paying by your own cell and using your own internet connection but remember, you are just using like 1/50 part of your connection in order to REACH THE CORE NETWORK, what happens in the core network and forward its still being done by the carrier (And this part of the communication process is the one that costs more), so your basically paying for using this core network. If you dont agree with this.. DONT BUY IT
    Reply
  • kidboodah - Thursday, April 01, 2010 - link

    There seems to be a misunderstanding on the pricing of this.

    You pay $20 a month for unlimited minutes while connected to it. This includes up to 4 simultaneous connections.

    So let's say you have a 1400 FamilyTalk plan, with 4 lines. That's $109.99 per month normally. Add the Microcell and you have Unlimited talking from home for $129.99 for all lines.

    Compare this to an Unlimited Family Talk plan for $70+50+50+50....and you're saving $100 a month.

    It's definitely worth the initial cost for alot of customers who are on Family plans and want unlimited service from home -- while ALSO giving them full signal strength.
    Reply
  • taltamir - Thursday, April 01, 2010 - link

    there is no such thing as a radius in square feet.
    Square feet is used to describe the area.
    Since the area of a circle is Pie*r^2 then ((5000 ft^2)/pie)^0.5 = r
    or a radius of 39.89 feet
    Reply
  • Brian Klug - Thursday, April 01, 2010 - link

    Oops, that's a typo! Fixed!

    -Brian Klug
    Reply
  • Ardric - Thursday, April 01, 2010 - link

    The TCP and UDP ports you've listed are only used for provisioning, when the device boots. They don't carry the voice traffic. There's no use in bothering with them. Especially HTTPS -- do you really want to elevate that for your banking site too!?

    The voice traffic is on the IPsec tunnel, and that's carried by the ESP protocol. ESP is IP protocol 50. There's no port number.

    So ignore the TCP and UDP ports and prioritize on ESP, preferably in combination with the particular AT&T IP addresses. That's how you should set up your QoS matching.
    Reply
  • Brian Klug - Thursday, April 01, 2010 - link

    You're totally right about the provisioning ports being used only for initial setup, but the device is using IPsec NAT-T, which is definitely 4500/UDP.

    To be honest, all my QoS rules prioritized the device in general - I'd say doing it with a static DHCP lease IP address or MAC addy makes the most sense.

    Cheers,
    Brian Klug
    Reply
  • SmCaudata - Friday, April 02, 2010 - link

    With T-mobile I have UMA on my phones so I can make calls anywhere I have a wireless signal. I don't need an extra box in my home AND I can use it in the deepest basement of my work.

    AT&T sucks. The iPhone is the ONLY thing they have going for them.
    Reply
  • leexgx - Friday, April 02, 2010 - link

    at any time did you use 2g only (set the Phone to 3g off) as i find 3g/HSDPA mostly unreliable (more so on the Iphones not so much on windows phones with HSDPA off) problem is most phone makers set the Hand over to GSM or 2g for there phones to low and i find 3g has more problems with weaker signal (if should move to 2g when signal is below 20% back to 3g when above 35%, as when 3g gets to less then 10-20% it seems to be unreliable) Reply
  • leexgx - Friday, April 02, 2010 - link

    the UMA thing looks good idea, seems Way more piratical then these base stations ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Generic_Access_Networ... ) only ever seen it on blackberry phones thought, only issue i could see with them is if it doe snot work with the wireless router correctly or intermittently out of range of router Reply
  • julioromano - Friday, April 02, 2010 - link

    Very nice and geeky review.
    Thanks for all the infos!
    Reply
  • Simozene - Friday, April 02, 2010 - link

    1. These units need to be very cheap or free for consumers.
    2. Any minutes or data usage that is routed over this instead of AT&Ts regular network should not be counted towards the limits on your data plan. It's not their network so you should not have to pay for using it.

    If those two conditions are met I can see how this could be a very useful product.
    Reply
  • sxr7171 - Friday, April 02, 2010 - link

    But it's not. It can't even hand off properly. Reply
  • Chrisg331 - Friday, April 02, 2010 - link

    1st off, great article. Good methodology as well. Will you be able to test different handsets (Primarily different chipsets/antenna designs to eliminate bias on the dropped calls), possibly test a repeater (as mentioned before) and possibly test data usage pattern(s) for those that may be bandwidth capped on their broadband? Great job. Could really be useful to those looking to ditch landlines. Reply
  • GregHH - Friday, April 02, 2010 - link

    In your haste to slam AT&T you neglect to notice that the other cell carriers offer the same type of device. That implies their coverage must not be perfect and all encompassing. Everyone seems to think cell coverage should be ubiquitous whether in a metro area or in the wilderness. I feel good that my area finally got 3G coverage in December of 2010. Reply
  • JKflipflop98 - Saturday, April 03, 2010 - link

    So, we're in the future looking back on the past then? Or we're in the past looking towards the current? Oh God, my head's going to explode. Reply
  • ivwshane - Friday, April 02, 2010 - link

    There is no required monthly cost. Buy just the microcell and use your existing minutes and data plan. Buy a microcell with a $20 feature and you can have unlimited minutes while using it and you also get a $100 rebate.

    No one is forcing anyone to buy these, at&t is simply giving it's users a choice, if you want to improve your in home coverage then buy one, otherwise don't.
    Reply
  • mikeshady - Saturday, April 03, 2010 - link

    So if I understand it correctly the price,$20/month unlimited calling

    $10/month with AT&T DSL

    $0 with AT&T landline.
    Will i be able to use it for the unlimited free since i have att landline
    Reply
  • mrSHEiK124 - Tuesday, April 06, 2010 - link

    Those failed handover videos; that happens ALL OF THE TIME on at&t in the Tampa, FL area. If you're on a highway or main-road and venture off into the boonies, as you get booted off 3G all you can hear is distortion (the handover is successful and the call doesn't drop, but good luck continuing the phone call...) and weird audio artifacts. at&t...more bars in more places. Reply
  • MyTechLife2 - Tuesday, April 06, 2010 - link

    Thanks for the in-depth review! I got my MicroCell yesterday and have been testing it thoroughly. I've also experienced problems on the opposite side of the house from the MicroCell with deteriorating call quality, dropped calls during hand-off and even after hand-off. I call 611 so my test calls are free (I didn't get a MicroCell calling plan). There's an extensive thread on the AT&T forums about dropped calls http://forums.wireless.att.com/t5/AT-T-3G-MicroCel...

    A few initial observations:

    • It runs on 1900Mhz, even though AT&T also has 850Mhz spectrum here. I use the SignalLoc BlackBerry app to check this and other call stats.

    • In my 2-story 2100 ft. house, the MIcroCell is located on the northernmost upstairs end of the house. Sometimes on the southernmost downstairs end of the house it will often switch from the MicroCell to the cell network. Locking my phone to 3G only seems to have minimized that.

    • I had a situation where I was on the MicroCell, but it was showing "SOS only". Putting the MicroCell in the DMZ on the router and power-cycling the MicroCell seems to have fixed that for now.

    • 2 of our 3 phones had to be power-cycled before they would recognize and switch over to using the MicroCell.

    • In the far side of my house while while standing still, signal strength will fluctuate from -110 (worst) to -70 (best) on my BlackBerry Bold 9700. About every 1/2 second It fluctuates down about 1 bar until it reaches 1 bar, then right back up to 5 bars. Seems like some power shifting going on.

    • The 3G antenna seems to be somewhat directional. I seem to get the best coverage on the far end of the house when the front of the device is pointed in that direction. I tried laying the unit horizontally with the top of it facing the far end of the house and that killed signal strength there. I was hoping to get some down-tilt in the antenna pattern to reach the far end downstairs, but that wasn't the way to do it.

    Did you experiment with placement of the device?
    Reply
  • mobius147 - Sunday, April 25, 2010 - link

    My unit covers one or two rooms at the most. In attempting to purchase additional units in our area ATT will refuse to sell more than one unit per household. Reason given is that the units will not
    handoff to one another. Still looking for a way to cover more of the house.
    Does anyone have information on the units mentioned in the review that are used in the
    Apple stores.
    My uplink data rate seems capped at 50 Kb or so and downlink about 1.5 Mb. Adequate for phone
    but "light" for data compared to a standard cell site.
    Im sure more folks have come up against the limited coverage. Interested to hear possible
    remedies.
    Reply
  • Raajah - Saturday, December 11, 2010 - link

    Wonder if anyone has noted the fact that Microcell looses the wireless connection each time a phone call is received or made from a landline conneted. To be sure, I need to mention that we have dsl from Bellsouth as well as the land line from the same company. There seems to be a conflict that occurs probably because voice calls are carried on the same line connected to dsl service. In this situation it is not worth buying the Microcell. Reply
  • SonarTech - Monday, December 20, 2010 - link

    There are actually two tamper traps inside the AT&T Microcell - one on the front of the PCB, and once on the back. The FCC pictures don't show the full tamper mechanism installed on the board, only the empty headers. The top-side tamper trap is located to the upper-right of the Ralink chip, U37, and consists of three jumper headers sitting side-by-side. During assembly, a gray plastic frame sits over this header. After that frame has been installed, three jumpers are installed on top of the frame. One or two of those jumpers aren't actually jumpers, however - they're just chunks of plastic that looks like jumpers. When the case is installed, two long plastic hooks built into the sides of the case "lock" into the sides of that gray plastic frame. Once locked in place, there's no easy way to remove them. If you attempt to open the case, you'll pull either the front-side or back-side tamper jumpers off the headers and you won't know what order to replace them. The odds of you getting them back in the same order they came off is very low. Once the unit is powered up, the jumpers get checked. If the pattern doesn't match what the unit expects, it goes into a tamper lock-down which, as far as I can tell, is a permanent condition requiring factory JTAG to clear.

    The rear (bottom) tamper header is located about 3 inches away from the top-side tamper header, near the unpopulated pads of D25. Again, it's a set of three 2-pin jumpers sitting side-by-side. It's also the only jumpers on the bottom-side of the board.

    Although very tedious, it IS possible to ascertain the correct positioning of the top-side jumpers (and blanks) with the case installed, but you have to know exactly where to look and what to look for.

    The bottom-side jumpers, however, are nearly impossible to see through the installed case, and I haven't yet found an easy way to record their values before opening the case.

    If you have no intentions of returning the unit for warranty service, the easiest way to get inside this case without bricking the unit would be to cut the case open, taking extra care around the clips that lock into the gray plastic tamper traps.

    Besides - you'll do significant (and very obvious) damage to the case just trying to get it open. You'll break at least 4 clips (that are designed to break, by the way) and you'll likely distort the plastic so it won't go together the right way again anyway.

    If you need nice hi-res pictures of the board, top and bottom, I have them - with the tamper traps installed.

    SonarTech
    Reply
  • SonarTech - Monday, December 20, 2010 - link

    One last update: The top-side tamper header is screened as J15, and the bottom-side header is J16. Both have traces that feed right into the Ralink RT2150F chip (U37). Reply
  • ivioo - Monday, April 11, 2011 - link

    I was wondering if you can show me where the tamper jumpers go. I'm pretty sure I know where 1 jumper goes but I have 2 jumpers left that I don't know where they go and then the 2 dummy ones Reply
  • vsa1977 - Thursday, March 03, 2011 - link

    This article seems to be well written based on facts. I however am an end user and have little knowledge on how this stuff works.

    This article states that "GPS is critical for getting very precise and accurate timing signals for the radio without expensive clock hardware". Would it make any difference in terms of performance if I get an external GPS antenna and connect to this Microcell? I have the microcell placed in a closet since my networking components are deployed there and the GPS at that location is pretty weak.

    Calls using the microcell is not often clear and I lose the signal all together maybe once in two weeks. I then have to resync-lock with GPS by taking it closer to the window and then back into the closet again.

    Is there any way to increase the range of the microcell by using any kind of external boosters or gain antennas? I do not see any options to connect any external antennas.

    I would appreciate if I get an answer on the external GPS antenna's effect on performance.
    Reply
  • akaken - Wednesday, July 20, 2011 - link

    you dont have to pay that 19.99 charge for unlimited microcell calling but what it does is give you UNLIMITED MINUTES WHILE YOU ARE ON YOUR MICROCELL your plan minutes are not used while on your microcell. Reply
  • MSSS - Monday, September 26, 2011 - link

    In an urban area near UC Berkeley (20min from SF) we are in a "dead zone" with irregular tower access.

    With the Microcell, we get constantly dropped calls and cannot be heard by the person on the other end of the line, often after a minute or two.

    Apparently, the microcell keeps handing off the calls to a mystery tower nearby, and cutting off calls.

    here’s what ATT says:

    In researching your issue we are not finding any network issues and see that the issue is with the micro cell handing off to towers in the area which will often cause the call to disconnect.

    They offer NO solution - they will replace the microcell, just in case it's the problem. But we are frustrated.

    One forum suggests moving the microcell to a room with bad reception:

    http://forums.att.com/t5/3G-MicroCell/add-option-t...
    Re: add option to disable handoffs completely to prevent dropped calls
    Options
    07:42:21 AM - 05-17-2010
    I've stumbled upon an option - put the MicroCell in a room with poor signal from the macro network.
    Over the past 6 weeks I've tried the MicroCell in 5 different rooms in my home in an attempt to keep it from handing off the the macro network prematurely. Placing it in the room with the worst signal from the macro network has solved the problem.
    The only drawback is that now the MicroCell will not in-call handoff to the macro network when leaving my home, moving down the street. The call always drops now. When it was in other rooms in my home it would successfully hand-off to a nearby cell about 1/2 the time. While a drawback, I've rarely found the need to continue a conversation while leaving my home.
    Reply
  • PointTechScottsdale - Wednesday, March 07, 2012 - link

    Just wanted to post a note to thank you for this great dissection of the microcell. Your work and writings are by far the best that I have been able to find on the web over the last six months.

    You had just the right amount of detail about just the issue I was looking for. Thanks and keep up the good work!

    Elliott

    --
    Point Technologists
    Scottsdale, AZ
    (480) 744-6464
    Reply
  • nimck - Thursday, October 18, 2012 - link

    Does anyone know how to configure the Microcell so that it's in a 'Disabled Mode' during certain hours of the day?? I'd like to lessen the radiation emission. Reply
  • lorace - Thursday, June 19, 2014 - link

    We got the Microcell from AT&T because of poor signal strength. After it started working we were pleasantly surprised to see that our service bars had increased substantially. Now a new problem. We can't get our phones to transmit or received any picture messages. Anyone have an idea how to solve this problem? We called AT&T tech and they were clueless. lorace1@yahoo.com Reply

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