I used to work in an office. Day after day, I sat in one of those cubicles with three ?walls? in a climate-controlled environment, battling a micro-managing boss, fluorescent lighting and insufferably ancient technology. But that wasn't the worst thing. Having no cell coverage in my little outpost of corporate Siberia meant that I was effectively cut off from friends and family. The options were sending personal messages through the company computer or using the desk phone, which meant four different co-workers within earshot could hear about my personal business. Not exactly attractive alternatives.
Thankfully, I no longer deal with that, but I?m sympathetic to those who do. That's why femtocell ?and for iPhone and other AT&T 3G users, the carrier's MicroCell box ? has grabbed my attention.
Unlike the name would suggest, femtocell is not a hot, women-only cell phone. (We've already seen those.) It's basically a little base station for mobile phones that works through broadband internet, like a personal mini cell tower for voice and data. Sprint and Verizon already offer femtocells, and now it looks like AT&T is getting in on the action.
No one knows yet what AT&T's version, the 3G MicroCell, will cost. Sprint's roll-out last October meant that subscribers nationwide could buy its Samsung Airave for $99 with a $4.99 monthly fee. Verizon's box costs more, at $249, though there are no ongoing fees. But neither of them can touch 3G, which MicroCell reportedly does. It's also supposed to work with any AT&T 3G device, as well as offer a 5,000 square-foot range, secure connection, smooth hand-over (from MicroCell to cell network), and the ability to manage up to 10 voice or data users (up to 4 at the same time).
Pre-launch, AT&T already has a help page explaining the technology (as well as a dedicated section of the site, which is down for ?maintenance?). Apple seems pretty excited about it as well. They even included a tiny tidbit about it in the latest iPhone 2.2.1 update.
What's an ?update to the carrier settings?? Well when MobileCrunch hacked into the package to find out, the only difference they saw were two image files: ?Default_CARRIER_ATT M-Cell.PNG? and ?FSO_CARRIER_ATT M-Cell.PNG,? which show ?AT&T M-Cell? in two different colors.
Turns out, these are carrier name replacements for AT&T's MicroCell. When you?re connected, ?AT&T M-Cell? will show up instead of the default AT&T logos.
MicroCell will require Internet access and GPS for initialization. That might make setting this up in your cubicle tough, depending on the company's hardware/security policy and whether you sit near a window. But in theory, it should work. It definitely should function for home users who live in dead spots. And, if it does, you now have the handy little logo on the phone letting you know that you've hooked in successfully.