Image via SlashGear
Late last night our friends at Apple Insider reported that AT&T customers who reside in poor service areas may soon have the option to pay $20 to obtain unlimited calling over 3G using their own Internet access.
AT&T hasn't yet set a retail price on its forthcoming new 3G MicroCell appliance, which connects to your existing Internet to supply local 3G voice, SMS/MMS, and data coverage for nearby AT&T customers. However, a report by Engadget Mobile attributed to an anonymous tipster says that the company plans to offer an unlimited calling plan for users for $20 per month.
Bundled with AT&T-supplied Internet (if available in your area), the monthly fee drops to $10, and with AT&T Internet and landline service (if you also pay to have one of those old plug-in type phones), the monthly fee goes away entirely.
It all points to additional evidence that carriers are opting to rely on femtocells to increase consumer coverage and satisfaction rather than investing further in beefing up already overloaded networks.
The 3G MicroCell does not create a VoIP alternative to AT&T's network; it simply tunnels 3G voice and data over the user's existing broadband Internet service to AT&T's servers, which process it like any other call handled by its existing 3G cell towers.
It's not clear if the monthly fee for unlimited wireless calling through the device will be mandatory in order to obtain the 3G MicroCell device. According to the photo of official looking marketing collateral included in the report, "3G phones connected to the MicroCell without AT&T Unlimited MicroCell Calling continue to use existing plan minutes."