dead zone

iPhone: An update to the carrier settings? MicroCells?

Tuesday, February 10th, 2009 | Personal | No Comments

I just popped my iPhone into the dock to sync, and got the following message:

An update to the carrier settings for your iPhone is available.  Would you like to download it now?

From a little bit of research, it seems to be linked to AT&T’s upcoming 3G MicroCell technology.  

It’s a smart idea, and it looks like they’re charging people for it!  

The only information I can put together about these MicroCells is:

  • An AT&T 3G MicroCell acts like a mini cellular tower supporting voice and data
  • It uses an existing broadband connection
  • Supports up to 10 3G handsets
  • Works with any AT&T 3G phone
  • Seamless call hand-over
  • Uses GPS somehow (probably for the cellular GPS information we take for granted, maybe associated with “e911” issues, also to verify the network is used where AT&T is licensed to operate — some lines will be blurred here)
  • There is an associated fee (comparable offerings by Sprint $99 and $4.99 monthly, Verizon $249 and no monthly fee)
  • Unlimited plans will be available

Wow!  This is interesting!

If your gripe was ever “I don’t get service where I live”, then you just pay AT&T to extend their network to your home.  Your cell phone will act like your landline. 

I have to say, I didn’t see this coming, and I believe it’s brilliant.  With so many issues on some 3G phones, just buying this device should eliminate those problems.  Of course, it sucks to have to pay to fix service coverage.  We all know some of us will do it.

This has to be great for some small businesses too.  Setup a MicroCell in your office, pay for a basic cellular plan for your employees, and they can use the cell at the office for free.  

Plus — Apple Stores won’t ever have those embarrassing moments when you unbox your iPhone (do they still do that?) and you have no service in the store!

I’m not sure whether this is for any 3G device in the area, or if it’s specifically for your 3G devices in the area.  Most descriptions say it is secure, and that you can modify these settings.  I’d love to be able to share my 3G service with my neighbor’s phones if I could.  

Wonder if this is going to result in grumbling fro ISPs — now they’re supporting cellular calls.  

Some relevant links:

What is an AT&T 3G MicroCell?

AT&T’s 3G MicroCell to patch iPhone dead zones

AT&T 3G Microcell, a femtocell, coming sooner than we think?

Apple Issues Update Signaling iPhone Compatibility With AT&T’s MicroCell

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