Let us imagine the following scenario: You are in an exclusive coffee shop that charges more than any other coffee shop in the neighborhood, but which is well known for the quality of their product as well as their excellent service. You have come in on this day to get your usual order, which is just a cup of coffee. Instead of this, the person at the counter fills your cup with bitter coffee that is room temperature.

When you return to the counter the person tells you that they have a new policy: Only people with a Hot Coffee membership will be able to get actual hot coffee. Everyone else has to be served the room temperature bitter stuff — just the coffee from the day before stored in a large pot with a spigot. You can join the Hot Coffee club for a mere twenty — five dollars per year.

Once you have gotten over the initial disgust at the idea of such a club, realize that this club actually exists, in the form of the 3G MicroCell Home Booster — sold by at&t to use in your home by subscription to cover areas that should not need covering by you. Details have not been finalized as to the monthly cost of this booster but as far as I see it, the price should be exactly zero.

The idea of the Microcell booster in theory seems solid — by paying a monthly fee for the booster, they offer you unlimited minutes on domestic calls. Now take a quick look at your last few mobile phone bills and realize what a scam this really is. Most people do not spend their entire day at home — far from it.

The few hours that you do spend at home — are you on the phone? If you want to see a really scary figure, take the number of minutes you actually use every month and compare it to how much you pay per month, and see how much you are actually paying per minute. Now add to that an extra set of money for minutes that, most likely, you are not going to use.

The real reason the Microcell Home Booster exists is because at&t was completely unprepared for the amount of data that iPhone users would go through on a regular basis, and so now they need to deploy Boosters to improve service — using your own high speed Internet connection to allow you to use your own phone, and then sticking you with a monthly bill for the luxury of doing so.

I don’t know about you, but I’m not interested in this scam. If at&t and Apple weren’t married at the hip, this most likely wouldn’t be happening — but it is, and so we suffer.


  1. It is disconcerting, Gordon, that AT&T wants to charge us $150 to buy this femtocell device to bump up the quality of their lousy, local, signal.
    Now I understand why Comcast and Verizon are so against Open Net Standards: They don’t want to pay for AT&T’s lousy coverage with this new MicroCell!

  2. It makes a person eager for the day when the iPhone will be available on every phone carrier – distribute the load and make service better for all!

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