Dan Frommer reports for Business Insider that AT&T is making some interesting decisions in regards to customer data plans. This recent decision will probably stir the pot with customers already irate over recent iPhone data plan changes and affects customers that buy AT&T’s new 3G MicroCell product. We don’t think that the report might be fair after speaking to AT&T.
If you consider how poor AT&T’s 3G coverage has been reported in many parts of the U.S. you can understand the strong desire that customers would have for a 3G MicroCell in some areas. The device is used to extend the ranges of 3G devices, like the iPhone, by creating 3G hotspots inside of a customer’s home or business.
The device works by using the customer’s existing internet connection allowing phone calls to be made over the internet. People have complained about the fact that AT&T won’t provide these to people with poor coverage at their location for free and we can understand why they don’t give the equipment away. It’s the service you have to pay for that is hard for most customers to understand. Especially if you have to use your own internet connection you are already paying for along with it. This has already gotten a lot of AT&T customers upset, but now AT&T is counting MicroCell usage against the customer’s existing data caps.
Wow! Really? You must be thinking and asking yourself. Yes it’s true. AT&T is charging customers to make phone calls and use data over internet connections that they are already paying for from their ISP when used in conjunction with a MicroCell. Considering the recent changes in iPhone data plans removing the unlimited option for new customers and replacing it with two plans that have caps of 250MB and 2GB respectively before you see overage charges we don’t think this will be well received by customers. If your ISP has caps you might be facing double trouble to boot.
We contacted AT&T and received some information that makes sense. Regardless of what your using, either your plain old iPhone or your new MicroCell, the traffic does hit AT&T’s network. So it is fair that it goes against your voice and data caps if the voice and data traffic goes over 3G. However, an iPhone is supposed to run data over a Wi-Fi connection whenever there is one present so it is very possible that this problem being reported with data may be something you should not even have to worry about.
The bottom line is this if you have a MicroCell by itself then worry, but if you have the MicroCell and access to Wi-Fi you should not have to worry about your AT&T data cap at all. We’ve asked AT&T to provide a unit for testing so that we can make our own determination about all this. In the meantime this might be much ado about nothing.