We’ve all been in those buildings that seemingly shut down our wireless devices to the outside world. The kind that you walk out of hours later, only to receive dozens of texts, app notifications, and missed calls. I like to call these “bunkers,” since they’re so impenetrable to the cellular signals we rely on, they might as well be built to withstand mortar attacks, as well.

While some only have to enter these structures every once in a while, others live in them on a daily basis. Not being able to use your cell phone in your own home can be extremely frustrating, especially when you’re paying almost $100 a month. Home Wi-Fi networks can at least keep you connected to your data, but you’re still out of luck for voice calls.

That is, unless you invest in a home femtocell.

Both AT&T and Verizon Wireless provide such devices, which use your broadband Internet connection to boost the cellular signal inside your home. AT&T’ offers the 3G MicroCell, while Verizon Wireless brings its Network Extender to the table. Both essentially make the same claim — the MicroCell or Network Extender will help you get cell service indoors, where your home’s construction (or perhaps where your home is located) makes getting a reliable signal a chore, if not downright impossible. We’ve actually covered AT&T’s 3G MicroCell in the past, where our own Jeff Weisbein received a free MicroCell and praised its ability to provide a consistent 5 bars inside his home. We can’t speak for Verizon’s offering, but if you find yourself without signal more times than not, it can’t be any worse.

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So, what will one of these devices cost you? The AT&T 3G MicroCell runs for $150. On the Verizon Wireless side of things, the Network Extender rings up at $250. AT&T’s product is not only cheaper, but also comes with the option to add a $10 Unlimited MicroCell Calling feature to your plan. With the plan activated, you can make unlimited calls from your MicroCell network without using your cell minutes. Not only that, but if you start a call on your MicroCell and leave home, your call still uses no cell minutes; even if your phone jumps onto the main AT&T network. Verizon Wireless offers no such plan, unfortunately.

With that in mind, AT&T clearly provides the better deal with its 3G MicroCell. However, if you’re a Verizon Wireless customer, you may feel that ponying up $250 is a necessary evil in order to use your cell phone at home. Neither product is particularly useful for those who rarely make phone calls; you can always use your home Wi-Fi for data, after all, and there are numerous VoIP options for those who need to make or receive the occasional call. If you make a lot of calls, or if you just want to get your money’s worth for that wireless bill you pay every month, consider picking up the 3G MicroCell or the Network Extender.

  • I used an AT&T MicroCell for awhile before I got decent reception at my house. For the most part it was better than no signal, but If I was doing any heavy downloading or streaming any video, my calls would have an “under water robotic” sound.

  • I want to make a correction on the price for the AT&T Microcell, it’s listed almost everywhere as $150. However, in August AT&T officially raised the in-store price to $199.99.

    Unfortunately I’m one of the many AT&T customers who’s home is in a dead-zone of cell phone coverage. So after spending a few months dealing with dropped calls I finally went out and bought one. The device itself serves it’s purpose and does an excellent job providing cell phone reception in my home.

    My only cons are that I “pay” (it uses the cell plan minutes) for AT&T to use MY internet to provide me with something I should receive regardless. Second, I still can’t seem to wrap my head around why AT&T counts data usage on the microcell towards the monthly data allotment of the line.

    Otherwise the device does exactly as advertised. I only hope someday I wont have to use it.


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