Look for AT&T's Femto 'Soft Launch' Soon
CHICAGO -- AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) could "soft launch" its 3G Microcell, a femtocell product, in several markets next week, a source here at 4G World tells Unstrung. The boxes are expected to become available in a few cities, possibly including Atlanta, San Antonio, Seattle, and at least one city in North Carolina.
Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) has been linked with an AT&T femtocell for over a year now. Neither company has yet officially confirmed the partnership. (See Cisco Femto Spotted at AT&T.)
AT&T's Kris Rinne, SVP of architecture and planning, said in her keynote this week in Chicago that the operator is testing the femtocells, which are expected -- according to recent comments from AT&T's executive director for radio access network delivery, Gordon Mansfield -- to be launched before the end of the year. (See AT&T on Track for Femto Launch.) Rinne added that AT&T is working on a "location piece" for the boxes. (See 4G World: AT&T – an LTE Tortoise.)
An AT&T spokeswoman that Unstrung reached Thursday wouldn't offer any further comment. "We'll have more news closer to launch," she said.
AT&T employees on the ground, however, are finding it more difficult to contain their excitement about this tiny home radio. For instance, Gerald Turney, an AT&T retail connections manager out of Burlington, N.C., has been Twittering this week about the coming box:
"AT&T 3G Microcell launching soon in a few locations in NC & GA," he wrote yesterday, having posted about attending a training session about the "mini cell tower in your house" earlier.
AT&T would be the last of the big three carriers in the U.S. to launch a femtocell. Both Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S) and Verizon Wireless already have 2G CDMA boxes designed to improve voice call quality and coverage in the home. The AT&T box would do this and also improve data links, something that could help appease iPhonistas angry at the carrier about call and data issues on 3G networks.
There is no word yet, however, on how much AT&T customers might have to pay for the pleasure of bringing the microcell home.
— Dan Jones, Site Editor, Unstrung