AT&T Tries to Trick Customers into Paying More to Use Less

att tries to trick customers into paying more use less microcell

AT&T has made little secret of the fact that iPhone users’ voracious appetite for Internet bandwidth has loaded down its 3G network to its breaking point. But rather than upgrading its 3G network like T-Mobile, or going full throttle on 4G deployment like Sprint and Verizon, AT&T plans to fix the problem by… asking consumers to bear the load for them, and charging them money for the privilege.

The company’s new 3G MicroCell acts like a miniature cell phone tower, routing calls through your home Internet connection – the one you probably pay at least $30 a month to access – rather than burdening AT&T’s 3G network with your traffic – which you will continue to pay at least $30 a month for.

How nice of you.

In exchange for taking your weight off its creaking, overburdened network, AT&T will happily charge you $150 for the 3G MicroCell, and continue to deduct minutes from your plan when you use it, even though you’re paying another company to handle your traffic, and paid out of pocket for the device to do it. If you want to reap any benefits, AT&T will stop deducting minutes from your plan whenever you’re in range of the MicroCell – in exchange for slapping another $20 bill in its hand every month.

The story of Tom Sawyer tricking another boy into whitewashing a fence for him and collecting an apple in payment comes to mind, but I can do one better.

Imagine a bus company that charges you $100 a month for a bus pass, but the busses get so crowded you can barely use them. The bus company’s solution: Offer to sell you a bicycle for $150, so you can help free up room on its busses by not using them all the time, even though you’ll continue to pay $100 a month as if you did.

att tries to trick customers into paying more use less 3g microcell wht right sIt almost offends me that AT&T thinks we’re dumb enough to fall for this, but I know many consumers will be. By promising better reception around the house with the 3G MicroCell, as the company is bound to do in advertising it, many cell customers will happily shell out $150 for one, unaware of the traffic they’re moving to their home Internet connections, or the favor they’re doing to AT&T. Just like Tom Sawyer’s pal.

In AT&T’s defense, it’s no guiltier than any other carrier in attempting to dupe us with the 3G MicroCell, which is part of a larger class of electronics known as femtocell devices. Verizon’s Wireless Network Extender, launched last year, costs a whopping $250, doesn’t provide 3G, and won’t even let you stop others – like neighbors with Verizon plans – from leeching off your service for better reception. Sprint’s Airave pulls similar shenanigans.

I don’t mean to vilify femtocell technology. It’s actually marvelous stuff that could help uncongest airwaves and speed up mobile Internet access, but AT&T and others haven taken a completely backwards approach to implementing it. Ultimately, these devices should be free to anyone who agrees to actually use it – subsidized by carriers in exchange for the lightened load on their networks. And because you cost carriers less, not more, when you use them, unlimited calling with no minute allotment should be a given on any femtocell device as an incentive to use it as much as possible, not an extra you pay monthly for.

As long as evil geniuses with big marketing budgets get their way, that won’t happen. In the mean time, the best you can do is stay as far away from Tom Sawyer’s whitewashing scheme as possible, and wait until he offers a real incentive to pick up the brush.

Maybe I’ll flick off the Wi-Fi on my iPhone in protest and soak up even more of AT&T’s precious 3G while at home. Just kidding. No act of protest is worth voluntarily subjecting myself to that network more than necessary.

If you would like to leverage your home Wi-Fi connection to make cheap calls without scratching AT&T’s back while you’re at it, make sure to check out our list of iPhone VoIP apps that can help you pay for fewer minutes and get more.

The views expressed here are solely those of the author and do not reflect the beliefs of Digital Trends.

Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: 1-handed drone control, a pot that stirs itself

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!
Mobile

Google, Samsung, OnePlus, and Huawei face off in an Android battle royale

The good news is that there are some great options in the Android smartphone market right now. The bad news is that too much choice makes it tough to decide. We compare the Pixel 3 XL, the Galaxy Note 9, the OnePlus 6T, and the Mate 20 Pro.
Deals

The best iPhone deals for November 2018

Apple devices can get expensive, but if you just can't live without iOS, don't despair: We've curated an up-to-date list of all of the absolute best iPhone deals available for November 2018.
Mobile

The new iPad Pro is now available in stores -- here's where to get it

Apple has introduced its new lineup of iPad Pro models. If you're wondering how to get your hands on one, we have you covered. Here's everything you need to know about pricing and availability for the new iPad Pro models.
Mobile

Verizon discounts prepaid plan to $65 for unlimited data with autopay

Verizon offers lots of plans for individuals, your family, and folks who want prepaid service. Here is everything you need to know about Verizon's plans, from data packages and smartphones to Big Red's prepaid plans.
Mobile

Our favorite ebook reader is not a Kindle. Here are all the best options

If you're a bookworm, an ebook reader can be an important part of your life, one that allows you to read your books whenever and wherever you like. But which should you get? Here are five of the best ebook readers available.
Product Review

It's so fast it has a clip-on fan. But the Asus ROG phone isn't just for gamers

Is a gaming smartphone only something a mobile gamer should consider buying? In the case of the Asus ROG Phone, the good news is the device is so capable, and a genuinely impressive all-rounder, that everyone should take a closer look…
Mobile

Samsung made a $2,700 flip phone with the brains of a smartphone

The Samsung W2019 is a high-end flip phone that comes with flagship specifications such as 6GB of RAM and Qualcomm's Snapdragon 845. The device features a pair of S-AMOLED displays, a dual rear camera setup, and an eye-popping price tag.
Mobile

Apple to boost its Amazon presence with listings for iPhones, iPads, and more

Apple is about to start offering more of its kit on Amazon. The tech giant currently only has very limited listings on the shopping site, but the deal will see the arrival of the latest iPhones, iPads, MacBooks, and more.
Mobile

Get your gaming on the go with this list of the 25 best Android games

The Google Play Store is loaded with both terrific and terrible gaming titles. We vetted the store to bring you some of the best Android games available, whether you're into puzzles, shooters, racing games, or something else.
Mobile

Google’s Gboard now uses A.I. to recommend GIFs based on your conversation

Google is bringing a new feature to Gboard that should make it better for those that regularly use GIFs and stickers. The feature essentially uses A.I. to recommend GIFs and stickers based on your conversation.
Computing

Cloudflare’s privacy-enhancing 1.1.1.1 DNS service comes to iOS and Android

Cloudflare's 1.1.1.1 DNS resolver service has been ported to mobile devices, and now anyone with an Android or iOS device can download it for free to take advantage of its speed and privacy-boosting features.
Deals

The LG V30+ gets a huge price cut on Amazon, today only

Though Amazon early Black Friday deals began at the start of November, the discounts are only just now starting to get good. Today only, Amazon is offering a whopping 40 percent off the unlocked LG V30+.
Mobile

These 100 best iPhone apps will turn your phone into a jack-of-all-trades

The iPhone is the most popular smartphone in the world, and we want to bring out the best in yours. Behold our comprehensive list of the best iPhone apps, from time-saving productivity tools to fun apps you won’t be able to put down.