AT&T Enforces Data Cap on Femtos

Think you can get around AT&T's data caps by using your Microcell? Think again because that data counts towards your monthly cap

Michelle Donegan

June 17, 2010

2 Min Read
AT&T Enforces Data Cap on Femtos

In the aftermath of AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T)'s announcement of new mobile data price plans, the operator reveals that data used on its Microcell femtocell will be included in subscribers' newly capped monthly data allowance. (See AT&T Intros Mobile Data Caps, Capping the Data Gusher, 5 Mobile Apps That Bust Data Caps, and BillShrink: AT&T Data Caps Mean Paying Twice.)

First spotted by Current Analysis research director Peter Jarich, the news that 3G data traffic running over the AT&T Microcell will count towards a user's monthly data limits, just as making voice calls over the Microcell counts towards a user's monthly bucket of minutes, was confirmed by an AT&T spokeswoman. (See Femto Watch: Vodafone Means Business in Spain and AT&T's 3G Femtocells Now in More US Cities.)

It is possible to get unlimited calling on the Microcell for $19.99 per month, but this is only for voice calls, not data.

In contrast, WiFi usage does not count towards a subscriber's monthly data limit.

A pricing policy that includes femto usage in the data caps and not WiFi shows AT&T's preference for WiFi access. And in terms of offloading mobile data traffic from its busy 3G network, this policy also shows that AT&T's femtos take a back seat to WiFi. (See Deutsche Telekom Joins Rush to WiFi Offload and MWC Preview: Data Offload to the Rescue.)

Here is AT&T's position on the Microcell:

"The 3G MicroCell complements Wi-Fi by providing enhanced in-home voice coverage and reliable data when Wi-Fi may not be available -- but it is primarily intended for voice calls," said the AT&T spokeswoman in an email to Light Reading Mobile.

For consumers, the femto price model means that they will pay AT&T for the Microcell to get better indoor 3G coverage, pay for the backhaul connection to AT&T's core network, and pay AT&T to use that indoor 3G base station.

AT&T isn't alone here. Vodafone UK also counts voice and data traffic from its Sure Signal femtocell towards a subscribers' monthly voice plan and data limit. (See Vodafone Revs Femto Engine and Brits Get Femtos From July 1 .)

— Michelle Donegan, European Editor, Light Reading Mobile

About the Author(s)

Michelle Donegan

Michelle Donegan is an independent technology writer who has covered the communications industry for the last 20 years on both sides of the Pond. Her career began in Chicago in 1993 when Telephony magazine launched an international title, aptly named Global Telephony. Since then, she has upped sticks (as they say) to the UK and has written for various publications including Communications Week International, Total Telecom and, most recently, Light Reading.  

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