Inside is just about everything you'd expect. There's a standard quick getting started guide if you're reading-challenged, an equally straightforward but more hefty users manual, power supply, and a yellow ethernet cable. Then there's the device itself, bearing Cisco branding and AT&T logos. On its front are five status LEDs: power, ethernet, GPS, computer, and 3G cellular. 
 
3G MicroCell - Cell Tower in a Box 
 
The "computer" status LED is interesting - Cisco suggests connecting the microcell in-line with your internet connection, before your router in what they call a "priority mode" configuration. This makes sense, as it offers an easy connection method for users that either don't know about QoS, NAT, or port forwarding, or aren't competent enough to configure them. I didn't investigate priority mode in much detail, instead using QoS and port forwarding rules of my own, but more on that later.
 
Powered up and running - your very own "cancer box"
 
On the back are two ethernet ports. The yellow one is what we're interested in, as this is the primary connection for internet. The black one is labeled "computer," and as noted earlier and is for connecting another device behind and in line with the microcell - ostensibly a router or your computer if you lack one. There's also an antenna jack for connecting an external GPS antenna if you can't install the device near a window, or if your windows have a coating which attenuates GPS frequencies. AT&T offers absolutely no guidance of any kind about what type of port this is, but from experience it appears to be MMCX or possibly RP-MMCX. There's also a reset pin hole and power adapter. 
 
Backside of the AT&T MicroCell
 
Interestingly, there's also an open source license agreement notice CD and sleeve. I half expected a complete dump of all the relevant code given the CD, but instead of Cisco effectively using the 700 MB of storage, they parked one 591 kilobyte, 281 page long PDF document with all the FOSS licenses for packages used on the MicroCell. No, I'm not even joking, this CD literally has one half megabyte file on it. What's even more hilarious is that the file is actually linked for download during the registration process, which makes a heck of a lot more sense. 
 
Not for installation - for reading during that long activation process
 
Of course, for your amusement, I went through the whole document and extracted all the open source packages cited. There are 24 licensed pieces of software, but the takeaway is that the femtocell is running BusyBox 1.8.2. Ostensibly, most of the code is being used for routing packets through what amounts to a router when you've put the device in "priority mode," but as we'll discover later there's plenty more going on too. 
 
AT&T's Femtocell: Enter the 3G MicroCell Inside The MicroCell: Networking
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  • dkapke - Thursday, April 1, 2010 - link

    I can't speak for what AT&Ts plans are, but I think what a lot of you aren't seeing, at least in terms of Sprint, is I LOVE their femtocell. Not because I can't get service or have crappy coverage, but because it allows UNLIMITED calls. I can get their cheapest plan, eliminate the home phone, and so long as I'm not driving between 6a-6p all of my calls are free. I work from home so this is great.

    So, all of you saying this is AT&Ts method of uncongesting their network - yes, that's true. But you're missing a very valid argument FOR these - unlimited calling. I guess you have to determine how often you're at home and how many minutes you use at home before night/weekend calling kicks in, but for those of us who work from home, these are awesome and well worth the $20. Oh, and when my kids come down for the summer and spend all day on the phone while they're sitting around at the house...yeah...it pays for itself very quickly.
    Reply
  • echtogammut - Thursday, April 1, 2010 - link

    They even collaborated with AT&T on this one : http://www.wireless.att.com/learn/why/3gmicrocell/...

    Seriously, what really gets me about this, is I installed a booster for the last company I worked with because they were not able get calls when more than 5 data phones were in the building. I called AT&T to see if I could work with them about setting up a device similar to the microcell and they transferred me to an engineer that warned me off boosting the signal. Not that long ago they called me and offered this device to fix my reception issues and charge me for another service plan... no thank you, the booster is working fine.
    Reply
  • kamikaze56 - Thursday, April 1, 2010 - link

    I agree with all you guys saying that you wont pay for a monthly cellular bill, buy your own "cell" wich uses YOUR own internet connection.. But just remember a few facts:

    - First of all, this device is aimed to people who have very low to zero coverage on their house/workplace and DONT want to change carrier (Or cant due to contracts), it is not aimed to people who can change their carrier at anytime..

    - Second, most of the "negative" review on this article was found on location 1 (Location in urban area, with a really good coonection, crowded spectrum etc) remember, this device is aimed to locations with Zero to Really bad coverage

    - 3rd and most important: Yes, you are paying your bill, you are paying by your own cell and using your own internet connection but remember, you are just using like 1/50 part of your connection in order to REACH THE CORE NETWORK, what happens in the core network and forward its still being done by the carrier (And this part of the communication process is the one that costs more), so your basically paying for using this core network. If you dont agree with this.. DONT BUY IT
    Reply
  • kidboodah - Thursday, April 1, 2010 - link

    There seems to be a misunderstanding on the pricing of this.

    You pay $20 a month for unlimited minutes while connected to it. This includes up to 4 simultaneous connections.

    So let's say you have a 1400 FamilyTalk plan, with 4 lines. That's $109.99 per month normally. Add the Microcell and you have Unlimited talking from home for $129.99 for all lines.

    Compare this to an Unlimited Family Talk plan for $70+50+50+50....and you're saving $100 a month.

    It's definitely worth the initial cost for alot of customers who are on Family plans and want unlimited service from home -- while ALSO giving them full signal strength.
    Reply
  • taltamir - Thursday, April 1, 2010 - link

    there is no such thing as a radius in square feet.
    Square feet is used to describe the area.
    Since the area of a circle is Pie*r^2 then ((5000 ft^2)/pie)^0.5 = r
    or a radius of 39.89 feet
    Reply
  • Brian Klug - Thursday, April 1, 2010 - link

    Oops, that's a typo! Fixed!

    -Brian Klug
    Reply
  • Ardric - Thursday, April 1, 2010 - link

    The TCP and UDP ports you've listed are only used for provisioning, when the device boots. They don't carry the voice traffic. There's no use in bothering with them. Especially HTTPS -- do you really want to elevate that for your banking site too!?

    The voice traffic is on the IPsec tunnel, and that's carried by the ESP protocol. ESP is IP protocol 50. There's no port number.

    So ignore the TCP and UDP ports and prioritize on ESP, preferably in combination with the particular AT&T IP addresses. That's how you should set up your QoS matching.
    Reply
  • Brian Klug - Thursday, April 1, 2010 - link

    You're totally right about the provisioning ports being used only for initial setup, but the device is using IPsec NAT-T, which is definitely 4500/UDP.

    To be honest, all my QoS rules prioritized the device in general - I'd say doing it with a static DHCP lease IP address or MAC addy makes the most sense.

    Cheers,
    Brian Klug
    Reply
  • SmCaudata - Friday, April 2, 2010 - link

    With T-mobile I have UMA on my phones so I can make calls anywhere I have a wireless signal. I don't need an extra box in my home AND I can use it in the deepest basement of my work.

    AT&T sucks. The iPhone is the ONLY thing they have going for them.
    Reply
  • leexgx - Friday, April 2, 2010 - link

    at any time did you use 2g only (set the Phone to 3g off) as i find 3g/HSDPA mostly unreliable (more so on the Iphones not so much on windows phones with HSDPA off) problem is most phone makers set the Hand over to GSM or 2g for there phones to low and i find 3g has more problems with weaker signal (if should move to 2g when signal is below 20% back to 3g when above 35%, as when 3g gets to less then 10-20% it seems to be unreliable) Reply

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