AT&T began selling a 3G femtocell called the MicroCell in Charlotte, N.C.--an industry first in the U.S., as rivals Verizon and Sprint have only introduced 2G femtocells.
AT&T is selling the device for $150, and users can obtain a $100 rebate if they sign up for a monthly $20 plan that offers unlimited calling for subscribers within the femtocell's range. But the pricing is not permanent as AT&T characterized the offering as a trial period within which it will study the pricing structure of the offering. Hence, pricing may be different once AT&T sells the MicroCell nationwide. Word is that AT&T will begin introducing the MicroCell via a phased network rollout approach with a potential full national launch in December.
AT&T has good reason for being aggressive with offering a 3G femtocell, which offloads data traffic from the wireless network. The reason behind a femtocell is to have a broadband-connected in-home base station that allows an existing mobile handset to work without any modification. AT&T has acknowledged it is struggling to keep up with the data traffic on its network, thanks in most part to the popularity of the iPhone, which is the reason why it delayed offering MMS on the device and has indefinitely delayed tethering for fear of what impact that application might have on the network.
Still, the right pricing point for femtocells is still relatively unknown. Will subscribers balk at paying for better coverage that they think they should already have?
- take a look at InformationWeek
AT&T reportedly nearing femtocell 'soft launch'
Is there a business case for femtocells?