Yes you can have an AT&T Microcell but no you can’t

AT&T Microcell

Here's the picture of the AT&T Microcell that Cisco (the manufacturer) has on their website. It's supposed to improve service inside the house.

I’ve been using AT&T cell service for nigh onto ten years. In the seven years we’ve been in the Ridgway area, our AT&T service works fine. Well, maybe not always fine. Sometimes we get four bars; sometimes we get none. The signal level seems completely uncorrelated with anything. It’s usually okay. So we dropped our Qwest landline—the landline (with all the taxes, surcharges, and taxes on surcharges) actually cost more than what my wife and I spend on our cell phones combined!
 
Of late, the zero-bar situation has gotten rather worse, so I looked into the AT&T 3G MicroCell, a device that connects to our Internet connection and will carry calls from home over the Internet rather than the rather variable cell tower, thus giving us four bars at home all the time. The AT&T MicroCell page says “Congratulations,” and that my zip code (physical address is 81403) qualifies for using one. Great! So we got one up at the Grand Junction AT&T store. But then the trouble began. Step 1 is to register the device. To do that, one goes to the web site and enters the serial number. It confirms the address and then… But we never found out what then, because the pre-populated address (which was correct) didn’t qualify for the service! So, I called for help and after a loooooong time with several different AT&T reps, was told that our address was indeed outside their coverage area. They said their system wouldn’t be able to pick up the GPS from the MicroCell.
 
Huh? I’m an electrical engineer (not to mention ham radio operator) and I know how GPSs work. (I also know how cell phones work.) For one, GPS units are receivers only, so AT&T can’t pick up “our” GPS. Second, the microcell works through the Internet, not over the air, so what’s the issue? Our cell phones pick up the local tower (most of the time) and the service is genuine AT&T. Every technical question I asked of the “network expert” elicited a response I knew wasn’t sound engineering.
 
So here’s my beef:

  • We live in an area covered by AT&T and have for seven years
  • Most of the time our service works fine
  • Their own web page says our zip code qualifies for the MicroCell
  • But we don’t qualify for the MicroCell because of GPS issues

I don’t get it. If they could give me a reason that made sense I’d be okay. That’s the problem with being an engineer: I actually understand the technology involved and can spot a faulty answer a mile away. What really makes my blood simmer is that they won’t give me a straight answer except “no” for no good reason. I told them this makes me want to look at alternative carriers. I’ll have to check things out.

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4 Responses to Yes you can have an AT&T Microcell but no you can’t

  1. Larry Snyder says:

    When I first got a microcell, it would not work because my GPS position did not match my address, even though that’s where I was! After talking to many clueless idiots I finally talked to a guy who actually understood what I was talking about. He had me locate the he lat/long of my house and he updated the database and it now works fine. You have to call repeatedly until you find someone who knows something. You wouldn’t believe some of the stupid answers I got. One person said it wouldn’t work because it couldn’t see a cell tower – the exact reason I got the stupid thing to begin with !!!

  2. Kris Viehe says:

    I agree – this GPS crap is so stupid. I work in IT and we have an IP phone system. I have many users that i have setup phones for use at home. All we do is enter the address of where the phone will reside. The user takes is home, plugs into their home network.. done. Why the hell ATT needs to keep checking the location over and over is so stupid. You WANT to be a customer and they wont let you.

  3. Todd Branstetter says:

    Have just spent one week trying to get the Microcell to work, and got the same results as above. AT&T shows this works for my zip code, I get a strong GPS lock, but the Microcell won’t work because I do not have a 911 address. My county has not implemented 911 in the rural areas. Here is a doozy from the local store as I was preparing to return it. They said to activate it in town, then take it home and it will work. I had my doubts, but took the Microcell to town, registered it to that location, and it worked great there. Then I took it home, hooked it back up, got the GPS lock, and then got an error message saying the address had changed. Tried to set it back to my rural address; no go, wouldn’t recognize it. I would think there is some AT&T tech somewhere who could access the Microcell remotely through the serial number and instruct it to work without the 911 address. This is crazy programming — making operation contingent on both a GPS signal and the location having a 911 address. Why is that so important to AT&T? I don’t think it is because they are concerned with our health and well-being. During the product development cycle, apparently no one asked, “What about the people without 911 addresses?” This is shoddy work.

  4. Nettie says:

    [Note: slightly edited.] Yeah I hear you!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I’m so […] mad !!! We keep contacting our DSL server thinking it’s them! They say everything is running to it’s performance! Our Mcell blinks on and off on our iphones and then the Mcell disappears and so does our 4 bars of service. And to make a phone call almost impossible, the call fails again and again then it might dial and connect but then you get disconnected! And we were told our microcell was registered to a different zip code than our actual zip code> It took them 8 months to get the correct zipcode registered>>>> And all i can say also is that […] yeah you can have a Mcell but that doesn’t mean its going to work nor can anyone from AT&T help or assist you with their product! ” The rich get richer” and I feel helpless> So you’re not alone and neither am I. Sincerely Nettie / really really disturbed with AT&T

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