I just installed one of those AT&T 3G MicroCell units a couple of days ago. What this thing does is basically set up a 3G hotspot at your home, hooked up to your broadband internet. Setup time varies from the different accounts I’ve read, with mine taking about thirty to forty-five minutes. The online part of the setup was really quick, basically just registering the unit with your physical address (for 911 calls) and entering the phone numbers you want to be able to use it (you can enter up to ten, but only four connections can run simultaneously). When it starts up, it takes a few minutes to get a GPS lock and much longer for the 3G to initialize, and it downloaded a firmware update, and restarted the whole process. It was relatively painless. The only pain involved my iPhone not immediately connecting to the thing initially because I’d forgotten that I’d turned off 3G on my phone to save power at some point. As soon as I turned that back on, it connected in a couple seconds.
It’s unfortunate that this thing is necessary, but it really works well. Berkeley is known for being horrible at allowing the installation of cell towers and antennas (there are some few on various buildings, mostly downtown and on campus). The Berkeley people involved are probably the same ones going on and on with conspiracy theories about contrails and whatnot, so that’s not surprising. I am a well-practiced eye-roller. Anyhow, even the UC Berkeley campus isn’t sufficiently saturated. At my work, far uphill from downtown and the campus, reception is terrible, but it’s terrible for everyone. There’s talk of some antennas or repeaters being installed for us, and throughout campus, but it’s so far just talk.
AT&T also unfortunately gets a bad reputation for the state of the network, which I’m sure is only about to get worse, judging from all the people buying new iPhones. They really are great tools, and I’m very happy with mine. And it’d be nice if AT&T could somehow jump ahead of the demand and have some super-network in place that’d work everywhere that I went. And then we can ride to work in chariots of gold pulled by unicorns! People go on about how Verizon is much better in our area, and it certainly is, but I don’t see that lasting at all if they also started carrying the iPhone. It’s immense popularity will be the bane of whatever network carries it. That’s simply the nature of the situation. I read somewhere that they’re expecting the year’s sales of iPhones to be around 40 million units. Nuts! It would certainly be wiser to spread the support over several networks. We’ll see what happens.
Anyhow, I’ve got a great connection at home now. No garbled voices, no dropped calls, and five bars throughout the house. I actually spent a long time talking to a friend on the phone and found it a pleasant thing! I used to hate talking on the phone, because the signal was always so bad and I just couldn’t hear what was being said well enough (yes, that bad!) that I thought I was missing half of what was being said. So this will be a definite improvement in the Ministry of Communications at Palazzo Biblicalia!