Enter the 3G MicroCell. As I began researching ways to improve my service, I found some blog posts about how AT&T was testing mini cell towers that you could buy and hook up to your internet to make calls. Of course they weren't testing near me so I had to wait until yesterday when I found they were finally available in our area. I went to an AT&T store right after work, purchased the little guy for $149 and rushed home to get it all hooked up.
Here are the basic steps:
1. Log on to att.com and activate your MicroCell.
a. Entering the serial number.
b. Coming up with a clever name for your device.
c. Setting up a street address.
d. Giving specific phone numbers that can use the device.
2. Hook up the hardware
a. Plug in some internet.
b. Plug in some power.
c. Put it near a window so it can connect to GPS for E911.
d. Wait 90 minutes.
It all seemed simple enough right, wrong! I figured the online registration would be the easiest part, but of course I forgot my experiences of two weeks ago when I tried to pre-order an iPhone from AT&T. First of all the website asks you to log in constantly and always puts you back to the beginning of a "wizard"-like page flow. I logged in to activate the 3G MicroCell, verified my address, entered a clever name for the MicroCell and then submitted. After about two minutes giant red text appeared telling me my request timed out and I needed to try again later. I ate some dinner and "tried again later" only to receive the message again. As any user is likely to do I hit it a couple more times for good measure and it changed to some sort of confirmation message. Weird, especially since I didn't receive a text or email as I would expect. I assumed at this point all was good and hooked up the hardware. I came back after fifteen minutes and was happy to see the GPS had locked on (previously this had been my biggest concern). After 90 minutes I returned to see the 3G light was still flashing, so per the troubleshooting instructions I restarted everything and waiting. Thirty minutes later and the light was still flashing. Grrrrrr. I went to bed and left it running hoping I would come down Christmas morning style to a solid 3G light.
As one might expect from AT&T at this point it was not working and my iPhone still had only one bar. I went online and looked at my MicroCell's settings page and noticed that it said "Activation Pending". I wondered if this was completely related to the setup part on the web site or if it was something that would only get set to complete once the damn 3G light stopped flashing. Once I was at work I called AT&T and the guy on the phone claimed the entire network was down. Upon further investigation I think they are just bogged down with activation requests. Either way I can't mess with my router from here so it will have to wait until tonight when I waste yet another evening trying to figure this out.
The best part is going through all of this and paying all of that money just to get my phone to work like it should anyway.