AT&T's 3G MicroCell does unlimited calling, but it ain't cheap

How much would you expect to pay to cover AT&T's dead zone using your own internet bandwidth? We appreciate that these guys can't blanket every nook and cranny with HSPA, but carriers need to understand that femtocells are ultimately tools to help them retain customers who'd otherwise have to leave for greener pastures. AT&T's certainly not treating it that way with the 3G MicroCell. Let's compare:

  • Sprint's Airave runs $4.99 a month, but they'll give it to you for free if the alternative canceling your service. Unlimited use is $10 a month.

  • Verizon charges nothing once you buy the unit, though there's no unlimited calling option available.

  • T-Mobile offers unlimited calling through its WiFi-based HotSpot@Home service for $9.99 a month.

  • AT&T's going to charge $19.99 a month for unlimited use unless you've got internet or landline (ironic) service with them, in which case you'll pay $9.99. If you've got both internet and landline accounts, it's free.

It's nice to have unlimited calling tacked on as an option here, but it should be exactly half as much, end of story -- and in an era where landlines are on life support (and femtocells should be helping to accelerate their demise), the triple play tie-in is wrongheaded. Of course, none of this is official just yet, but with pamphlets already circulating in retail channels, these numbers look like the real deal. A shame, isn't it?

[Thanks, anonymous tipster]