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Wednesday, March 24, 2010, 04:05 pm PT (07:05 pm ET)

AT&T 3G MicroCell nationwide rollout begins in mid-April

Dead spots and connectivity issues in the home could be a thing of the past for some U.S. iPhone users next month, when AT&T begins the formal nationwide rollout of its 3G MicroCell service.

AT&T, the exclusive carrier of Apple's iPhone in the U.S., announced Wednesday that it would begin the national rollout of the 3G MicroCell in mid-April. New markets will be activated in cities across the continental U.S. over the next several months, the company said.

The nation's second-largest wireless provider revealed that there will be no additional costs, other than the purchase of the 3G MicroCell device, for using the 3G MicroCell service, as minutes used through the hardware affect the account of the phone making the call. Individual or Family talk subscribers can pay $19.99 per month to make unlimited calls through the special femtocell hardware device.

The 3G MicroCell hardware will cost $149.99, but comes with a $100 mail in rebate for customers who select a MicroCell calling plan. In addition, customers who purchase a new line of broadband service with AT&T are also eligible for a $50 mail-in rebate. Those who select both could receive the hardware for free.

The hardware blankets a 5,000 square foot area, about a 40 foot radius from the device, to provide voice, data and text service coverage in areas that might otherwise be a "dead zone" for cell phone reception. The hardware supports up to four users making simultaneous calls, and up to 10 on 3G standby available for incoming calls and messages.

MicroCell


Last September, Charlotte, North Carolina was the first test market for the femtocell device, which provides 3.2Mbit/sec 3G service from the home. In order to support that bandwidth, the device must be connected to an appropriately fast broadband connection.

It was expected that AT&T would expand its 3G MicroCell service to other markets in 2009, but until this week availability was limited to Charlotte. In that test, the device was said to cost $150 and carried no monthly fees.

In February, AT&T expanded its trial of the 3G MicroCell service to five markets, adding select counties in Georgia, South Carolina, San Diego and Las Vegas.