If you live in an area with terrible reception like I do, you may get a letter from AT&T offering you a device (for free!) to boost the 3G signal in your home. AT&T says, “it’s like having your own mini cell tower in your home or office”. They say it supports up to four voice and data users, for any AT&T phone, for up to 5000 square feet. A pretty enticing claim, for someone who usually gets somewhere in between zero and one bars at home.

Was it too good to be true? I had to find out. I headed right to my local AT&T store to take them up on the offer.

I arrived home with the MicroCell in my hot little hands and got right on my computer and went to their website to register the device. The website and the enclosed instruction booklet walk you through configuration and power-up (3 ft or less from a window, if possible). It took about 15 minutes to register and hook it up.  A flashing green light indicates that the data transfer is in progress. After about 90 minutes, the flashing light is supposed to turn solid green, meaning 3G activation is complete. Of course, after nearly 3 hours, my green light was still flashing, so I tried the first trouble-shooting tip: simply turning the power on and off, which would supposedly get everything going in ½ hour. Thirty minutes later on the dot, I got a text from the MicroCell saying it was ready for use — but more importantly, my iPhone now suddenly had FIVE BARS!!!! After a few hours’ use it became clear that I wouldn’t have five bars every minute, they do go up and down, but I am having no trouble with calls and texts, and I have five bars more often than not. Take this with a grain of salt — recent statements from AT&T say the bars themselves don’t mean much. Also, keep in mind, if you are not on an unlimited plan, the data minutes you use WILL count towards your limit. But, I haven’t seen my old nemeses “Searching” or “No Service” since I hooked up the MicroCell.

Worth the effort? You betcha! If you don’t get a letter offering a freebee like I did, I would call AT&T and simply ask for one. I am so thrilled to be able to use my iPhone as a phone, at home, without having to wave my phone around trying to find that one bar to latch onto. I have my very own little cell tower, with no additional monthly fees. Without the free offer I was given, it retails for $150. There is no monthly fee to use the device, but if you wish to get an unlimited calling plan with it, you can do so for about $20/month, in which case you can get rebates to cover all or part of the $150 price tag.

So, what do you think?