The "soft launch," first reported by Unstrung last week, means that AT&T is the first U.S. carrier to launch a 3G femtocell, beating Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S), which had said it would be first. Sprint and Verizon Wireless both have 2G femtocells available. (See Look for AT&T's Femto 'Soft Launch' Soon and Sprint: We'll Beat AT&T to 3G Femto.) Home base stations are tiny cellular radios designed to improve voice capacity and coverage in the home. AT&T's device will do the same for 3G data coverage in a user's humble abode, while adding GPS location capabilites.
As expected, the AT&T MicroCell was produced with Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO). The initial box is a Y-shaped standalone home base station; Cisco has also been said to be working on a home gateway that integrates a femtocell. (See Cisco Femto Spotted at AT&T.)
Here's what AT&T is listing as the main features of its new box:
- Enhanced coverage indoors -- supports both voice and data up to 5000 square feet
- Available unlimited minute plans -- individual or FamilyTalk plans
- 3G handset compatible -- works with any AT&T 3G phone
- Supports up to four voice or data users at once
- Device is secure -- cannot be accessed by unauthorized users, easy and secure online management of device settings
- Seamless call hand-over -- start calls on your 3G MicroCell and continue without interruption, even if you leave the building and your name is Elvis
The carrier is once again using video to promote and explain the femtocell: A cell-savvy mother walks you through how a home base station can be femto-fun for the whole family.
AT&T has started selling the $150 device in Charlotte, N.C. Early adopters can get a $100 rebate if they sign up for a monthly unlimited call plan. Engadget reports that the carrier will charge $19.99 per month for unlimited calls, or $9.99 per month for unlimited calls if a customer already has a fixed line or Internet service with AT&T.
— Dan Jones, Site Editor, Unstrung