Five Bars At Last

The saga for setting up my AT&T 3G MicroCell has come to an end.  Today I gave the support line another call and spoke to Adam.  I told him my story and he said they had fixed the activation in the middle of the week and I shouldn’t have any problems related to activation after last Thursday.  I also asked him about whether or not activation involves the device because the previous guy told me it did not.  Again he corrected what the other tech had said and told me it would only be activated once the device connected.

I went through the exercise of submitting removing the existing device from my account and re-added it under a different name.  I reset it, but still I just got “Activation Pending”. I had read online about problems people were having with their router causing trouble so I connected the MicroCell directly into the cable modem.  I restarted the cable modem and MicroCell and within twenty minutes the 3G light, which had been flashing for days was finally solid.  I ran for my phone and within a few seconds it detected the MicroCell and displayed five bars.  It wasn’t long before a text message and email came through from AT&T telling me the MicroCell had been activated. The activation process definitely involved the hardware connection to complete.  Hallelujah!!!!

The battle was still not over, I now had to figure out how to include my Apple AirPort Extreme router in the mix.  I unplugged everything and connected cable modem->router->MicroCell.  Upon restart and lots of waiting, no dice.  I tried an alternate installation suggested in the documentation cable modem->MicroCell->router.  Restarted everything and voila everything worked.

I made my first call and despite having a “Call Failure” message on the first attempted dial I was able to call my dad and had a good test call.  The call quality was better than before, but still sounded a bit choppy at times.  Of course I don’t know if that was my end or his end.

So for now I will begin testing this crazy AT&T MicroCell device and will put together a review in the coming weeks.
2 Things I Learned While Setting Up My AT&T 3G MicroCell:
1. The activation process will only be complete once the hardware successfully connects to the AT&T network.  Until that happens you will see Activation Pending when looking online.
2. You may need to tweak the settings on your router to make the MicroCell work.  My current setup of modem->MicroCell->router is considered a last ditch effort by AT&T.  I did find an Apple Support Discussion with possible AirPort Extreme settings changes to make it work in the modem->router->MicroCell setup.

Rant Friday

I feel it is my duty to update on the current status of my MicroCell.  Status: Nothing has changed.  My account online continues to say “Activation Pending” and the little green 3G light continues to flash on the device.  I am guessing this will not get fixed by the end of the weekend.  It would be one thing if the device had a subtle design, but instead it is this giant white plastic upside down Y shaped thing.  It doesn’t help that it has to sit next to the router and cable modem, which already sit in our kitchen and the 50 feet of cable total that Apple and the modem company thought people would need (we only need about 2 feet).  The worst part is paying $150 for something to get a signal on my phone and now I still have no service, but AT&T has my money.  Ahhhhh!!!

Now onto my friends at Apple.  I am going to write off this antenna thing for the time being as a lot of media hype and besides I don’t currently get service in most cases anyway (see above), so it isn’t a big deal for me.  However, I do have a new gripe with the fruit company. What is the point of having a store if you can’t buy anything?  The two most showcased items in the Apple Store right now are the iPhone 4 and the iPad.  They probably have 30 of each for demonstration purposes, the problem is if you actually want to buy one, well frankly you can’t.  Now I understand not being able to keep the iPhone 4 in stock, its only been out for a week, but the iPad as of tomorrow will have been out for three months. Ridiculous!!  Maybe I should sell my AAPL stock now before people realize the number of sales of the iPhone and iPad each day at least in the Apple Store in the Burlington Mall are 0.0.  Maybe they should march the neglected Macintosh computers out into the spotlight and get people to buy some of those instead of just teasing people into liking a smartphone or tablet they can’t even buy.  On the bright side maybe those people will be turned on to touch screen smartphones and go buy a Droid X on July 15th, leaving the next shipment of iPhone 4’s all to me.  Until then I am sticking it out with this super slow iPhone 3G with iOS 4.

The AT&T 3G MicroCell Installation

Ever since I brought home the iPhone 3G back in 2008 I have been living with little to no service at my house. At first this seemed odd to me considering I could see a tower from my house, but apparently AT&T doesn’t use that tower. Instead it appears the nearest tower is behind a hill or somewhere that makes me live in a dead spot.

Enter the 3G MicroCell. As I began researching ways to improve my service, I found some blog posts about how AT&T was testing mini cell towers that you could buy and hook up to your internet to make calls. Of course they weren’t testing near me so I had to wait until yesterday when I found they were finally available in our area. I went to an AT&T store right after work, purchased the little guy for $149 and rushed home to get it all hooked up.

Here are the basic steps:
1. Log on to and activate your MicroCell.
a. Entering the serial number.
b. Coming up with a clever name for your device.
c. Setting up a street address.
d. Giving specific phone numbers that can use the device.
2. Hook up the hardware
a. Plug in some internet.
b. Plug in some power.
c. Put it near a window so it can connect to GPS for E911.
d. Wait 90 minutes.

It all seemed simple enough right, wrong! I figured the online registration would be the easiest part, but of course I forgot my experiences of two weeks ago when I tried to pre-order an iPhone from AT&T. First of all the website asks you to log in constantly and always puts you back to the beginning of a “wizard”-like page flow. I logged in to activate the 3G MicroCell, verified my address, entered a clever name for the MicroCell and then submitted. After about two minutes giant red text appeared telling me my request timed out and I needed to try again later. I ate some dinner and “tried again later” only to receive the message again. As any user is likely to do I hit it a couple more times for good measure and it changed to some sort of confirmation message. Weird, especially since I didn’t receive a text or email as I would expect. I assumed at this point all was good and hooked up the hardware. I came back after fifteen minutes and was happy to see the GPS had locked on (previously this had been my biggest concern). After 90 minutes I returned to see the 3G light was still flashing, so per the troubleshooting instructions I restarted everything and waiting. Thirty minutes later and the light was still flashing. Grrrrrr. I went to bed and left it running hoping I would come down Christmas morning style to a solid 3G light.

As one might expect from AT&T at this point it was not working and my iPhone still had only one bar. I went online and looked at my MicroCell’s settings page and noticed that it said “Activation Pending”. I wondered if this was completely related to the setup part on the web site or if it was something that would only get set to complete once the damn 3G light stopped flashing. Once I was at work I called AT&T and the guy on the phone claimed the entire network was down. Upon further investigation I think they are just bogged down with activation requests. Either way I can’t mess with my router from here so it will have to wait until tonight when I waste yet another evening trying to figure this out.

The best part is going through all of this and paying all of that money just to get my phone to work like it should anyway.