Thinking inside the problem with MicroCell
June 18th, 2010

At the end of May, I moved from New York City to El Paso, Texas. As with most relocations, this one had its chaos, which is why I have not been posting here at the usual pace. Now that I am happily settled in West Texas — where both sides of my family have been since before 1900 — posting resumes.

Something I had looked forward to in the move was being able to use my iPhone at home. My New York apartment, on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, was a dead spot for ATT&T reception. I was not happy to find that my new apartment, in the middle of El Paso’s West Side, is also a dead spot for ATT&T reception. In my new apartment, I barely got half a bar on my iPhone, for which my contract will finally run out the end of July. I returned, reluctantly to using my parallel T-Mobile account at home.

And then MicroCell came into my life. One of my edgy nephews suggested the device, and I now have one installed in my El Paso apartment. My iPhone now always has 5 bars. The AT&T 3G MicroCell page explains what this delightful device does.

Kudos to ATT&T for the brilliant “inside the problem” solution to the woes of us cursed by the dead spots peppering the company’s transmissions. For the years of wireless spread across the planet, the goal has been coverage. Remember the lilypad concept: overlapping circles formed by transmitters in the center of each with their coverage patterns overlapping at the edges? This always left places where the signal could reach spaces at overlaps.

One day — probably soon — the planet will be painted completely with wireless coverage. In the meantime, I have my MicroCell which lets me put the center of the coverage wherever I am. I can take it with me when I travel, and plug it in where I am staying. All it takes to do that is an internet connection or a telephone jack.

The MicroCell has been available for about three months. Mine has the problem that it is an hour fast on the time it displays. The Atlanta engineers reported to a customer service agent I talked with that they are working on a fix for that. I have used a clock with hands for over 70 years to tell time. I surely do not mind doing that while enjoying 5 bars of iPhone access at home for the first time in 2 years.

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