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No equipment has been purchased, but I plan to do so shortly. I now get no AT&T signal (antenna symbol w/ no bars or SOS only) in most areas of my house, since a house was built behind me in the way of the AT&T signal tower. The signal was weak before, but nonexistant now.
My internet set up is a Scientific Atlanta cable modem to Cisco/linksys wireless router, to which desktop computer uses ethernet. My laptop and current blackberry 9000 phone uses the wireless router for data.
AT&T support suggests I get a MicroCell, to operate like a mini tower in my house. In order to get a network signal (if that's what's needed), it will have to go in the one corner of my house that has any signal at all. Hopefully it will work there.
So my question is because of my situation, must I get 'powerline adapter(s)' to have the MicroCell interact with the wireless router? I've read through the MicroCell User Manual (which only describes wired connection), the troubleshooting document, and many of the other posts trying to learn the answer. That's where I read about the connectivity by powerline adapter.
Obviously, there's no point in buying the MicroCell if it must be activated by ethernet, if I must have an AT&T network signal.
If I'm mistaken and it doesn't need an AT&T network signal, then I may be okay. But I may still have problems if it's a GPS signal that's needed. If it makes any difference, my Garmin navigation system doesn't know where it is in my driveway (which is one of the only areas on my property that I can get 2 bars of cell signal).
This is my last resort w/ AT&T and I don't want to commit to a new contract, though I desperately need a new phone. I've got a great plan w/ AT&T w/ 15,000 banked phone minutes and an unlimited data plan for my phone so I don't want to switch unless I must. Verizon's signal in my house is only marginally better. I've previously had the PCS service with Sprint, then Verizon, but changed because I was told I needed the GSM coverage that Cingular, then AT&T provided - which is the only way I could get service within my house for the past many years.
Sorry to pose such a basic question, but I tried otherwise to find the info and couldn't. Thanks!
Ok. The basic setup would be: modem -> router -> MicroCell. The connection would be with an ethernet cable from the ethernet port on the MicroCell to the ethernet port on the router or modem/router. The connection has to be a wired connection and even though you can connect the MicroCell via the Computer Port on the MicroCell to your laptop I wouldn't recommend it. The fewer the devices the MicroCell has to go thru to get to the internet the better. That brings me to PowerLine Adapters.
They can work but the wiring in your house can give you an unreliable connection. Older homes that were not originally built to relatively modern grounding specs can have issues. The MicroCell apparently has very tight tolerances in regards to current drops or grounding issues and once the connection is lost, you either have to reboot the MicroCell or your phone. The drop may not affect your internet connection but it will affect the MicroCell.
The positioning of the MicroCell in your home is critical. It has to be placed 18" from a window with an unobstructed view of the sky. The unit should be situated so that it is horizontal to the window. IOW, if you are facing the front of the MicroCell where the lights are, the right or left side of the unit should be facing the window. GPS confirmation of your physical address must be confirmed via the GPS coordinates for initial activation to take place. This is usually not a problem unless you are living in a rural area or a new development where the GPS coordinates do not match, or have not yet been put into the AT&T locational database. However, GPS contact must be maintained at all times because AT&T will confirm from time to time the location, and if the location is wrong, your connection to the AT&T servers will be lost. There are GPS extension antennas that can be purchased and plugged into the back of the unit if keeping it next to a window is not possible.
The MicroCell is not a VOIP device so you have to be in range of a local tower. That's why you may have to experiment a bit to find the "sweet spot" in your house. The reason is that when the MicroCell first activates, it searches for the local tower, notes the signal strength, and adjusts its output so that your phone will preferentially connect to it and not the tower. Verizon's femtocell works on the same principle as well.
Most all 3G capable, AT&T phones will work with the MicroCell. Other phones which were jail-broke to work with AT&T services have been reported to work as well but YMMV on that. But there seems to be some variability in how well an individual phone will communicate with the MicroCell and vice versa.
There are also some ISP/router requirements that need to be followed as well but those are in the setup guide.
Bottom line, you need a wired connection and continuous GPS access.
Thank you for the time, Otto Pylot, and trying to help me.
My wiring is 13 years old, so no grounding problems exist there, if that makes a difference with using an alternative setup.
I'm not clear about the distinction between a GPS signal and an AT&T network signal (whether there's any correlation). So it may be that even though I don't have a cell signal, I could have a GPS signal.
The reason need a MicroCell is that I do not have a cell signal within range of my desk/computer/router. So, if I need to place the MicroCell where I can get a cell signal, an ethernet cable to the internet is impossible.
I'd read Avedia53's description mentioning using powerline adapter(s) because the MC was not co-located w/ his router. So that's why I asked about that extra equipment, thinking it could help me. I wouldn't mind the problem that he was having - needing to cycle on the MicroCell upon system updates.
The window that I have available in my office faces northwest, looks out to a covered porch and a precious 60-year old Japanese Maple tree - so it wouldn't have an unobstructed view to sky (even if I got a cell signal there, which I don't). If I must have a hard-wired connection to my computer station area, the MC probably wouldn't work for me.
A 13-year old house would probably be fine for a PowerLine Adapter but that's not a guarantee. All you could do is try.
The GPS confirms your physical location which in turn checks against the AT&T locational database to make sure that you are within an AT&T tower service area. After that, it just periodically checks for location confirmation. Once you initially activate your MicroCell (which confirms that your cell phone number is an active AT&T account and the billing address is the same), you could physically move the unit to say, your vacation home and reactivate it for that location. All you would have to do is change the address on the setup page and AT&T would reactivate it for that location (provided you have a good GPS signal and are within an AT&T service area). Unfortunately moving the MicroCell around your house/property doesn't significantly change your GPS coordinates.
Your northwest facing window may work if you could figure out a way to get an extension antenna outside and maybe away from the covered porch.
Avedis53 was losing connection probably due to grounding issues with his PowerLine Adapters. Rebooting his MicroCell was a temporary fix. However, everytime you reboot, the MicroCell goes thru the initializing process which may or may not change the signal output. AT&T does send out updates from time to time and those are unannounced and usually in the middle of the night. The MicroCell will automatically reboot after the update and you never know it, unless there's an issue, which we don't need to go into right now. But yes, you need a wired connection one way or another.
Thanks again for such prompt assistance.
I'll get the MicroCell and powerline adapter and try it out. It's returnable within 14 days if it doesn't work out.
I just hate to give up my grandfathered plan w/ AT&T if I don't have to. But the last thing I want to do is buy the iPhone 5 w/ a 2-year contract if the signal problems continue. A great plan does nothing for me if I can't use the phone in my work from home.
I certainly understand about the grandfathered plan. We have an old family plan, with a FAN discount, from the old PacBell days (pre-Cingular) that is really sweet. We've even kept the kids on the plan even though they are out of the house and starting on their own. Activating in your case may be a bit difficult with the PowerLine Adapters. Keep in mind that even without the need for PowerLine Adapters, there are still a few hurdles that need to be jumped before you have a successful and robust connection, starting with your ISP. Let us know how it goes. I'm usually around.
I just want to comment on the microcell location in relation to a window and seeing the sky. My microcell is working perfectly. My equipment is in the den which has a south facing window. The microcell is 10 feet from the window sitting on top of a shelf unit along a side wall running in the north-south direction. Height wise, the unit is above the top of the window and pointing across the room and not at the window. Outside the window, there is a 4' covered porch. Beyond the porch is a short magnolia tree, which the leaves are pretty much blocking the outside view of the window. Strange enough the microcell has no problem getting the gps signal with this setup. When I have to power cycle the router and the cable modem, the microcell will sync with the gps signal and get back online within a few minutes (no more than 5 minutes for sure).
18" from a window with an unobstructed view of the sky is the recommended location. That will work for practically everyone. It is by no means the only location that will work but that close to the window is almost 100% guaranteed. It sounds like your MicroCell is close to the ceiling ("above the top of the window") which would position it closer to the "sky" which is not a location that most people would use. Placing the MicroCell that high doesn't work for me, but then I've got a metal roof. The top of my MicroCell is about 2" above the window sill and I get GPS lock and a solid green 3G in about 6 minutes after a reboot.
Hope you've worked out your microcell issue, but just in case you haven't or for someone like me before today, here goes. The information is correct that was given by the one poster except he didn't answer your question. I have worked for the past 30 hours with AT&T to solve the following problem, so have some answers for you. Problem: Microcell has worked in the same spot on desk for past two years and upon disconnecting it and connecting new microcell would no longer lock onto GPS signal. Upon inquiry AT&T told me to find a window with a clear view of the sky. I told them that if I had that I wouldn't need their microcell. However, regardless of how many times AT&T had me reboot the microcell today, it would not lock. Finally, I got exasperated and tossed it out the window (ground floor and connected by electric connector and ethernet cable). After over 26 hours, it finally locked on the GPS, but of course, I couldn't just leave it dangling out the window and it absolutely would not lock inside my office where the router was installed. So, the answer to your question is that if you need to be able to move your microcell to a part of the house other than where you have your router, the HomePlug AV adapter allows you to take your microcell into another room that has better reception and where your ethernet cable doesn't reach from your router. When you get your microcell there, you plug the adapter into an electrical outlet and your ethernet cable from your microcell into the adapter plugged into your electrical outlet and it will extend your signal strength in the room that better reaches the GPS for a lock. It requires two and I don't know what the second one is for yet, but that is the answer to your question. Hope it helped. Don't waste your time asking AT&T because they don't even know the microcell user manual discusses it (page 14).
The MicroCell is a VoIP device that needs a solid GPS signal for E911 and to establish service area location for activation and periodic maintenance verification. You can use an external GPS antenna extension (antenna connector is located on the back of the unit near the top) so that you can move your MicroCell closer to your router. This works very well for a lot of people. The only caveat is that the end of the antenna needs to be on or near a window. PowerLine Adapters can work but can have issues for the MicroCell if there are any fluctuations in the electrical wiring of your home. The MicroCell's are sensitive to power fluctuation, even minor ones, so you may find yourself having to reboot because the 3G light is blinking green due to loss of connectivity to AT&T's servers. A clear view of the sky is necessary for GPS lock but has nothing to do with mobile phone connectivity. That's dependent on macrocell (tower) location. All of this is covered in the Technical Guide (link in my sig).
As I see it, there are essentially three pieces of additional equipment that can be used to make the Mcell work properly if the standard installation does not satisfy the Mcell's requirement to obtain a GPS signal or the Mcell needs to be located in a centralized location to service the entire house.
If your Mcell's location next to your router won't allow you to obtain a GPS signal but is in a good location to service the entire house, an external GPS antenna can be used as Otto has indicated. One could use a long length of Ethernet cable to move the Mcell to a location to get a GPS lock but the external antenna cable is a lot thinner than an Ethernet cable and less obtrusive. The thing is that you'll still have a length of unsightly cable running from the Mcell to the GPS antenna head that has to be located near a window.
So lets say that exposed wires running around your house doesn't appeal to you. There's a second solution. You can place the Mcell in a location to obtain a GPS lock and connect the Mcell to your router by using Powerline Adapters. These allow you to use your home's AC wiring to act as an Ethernet cable between your Mcell and your router. You connect your Mcell to a Powerline Adapter by using a short piece of Ethernet cable and then plug the Poweline Adapter into the nearest AC wall outlet (same outlet that your Mcell's AC adapter is plugged into). This keeps wiring to a minimum. The second Powerline Adapter is plugged into the AC outlet closest to your router and another short piece of Ethernet cable is connected from the Adapter to one of your router's Ethernet ports.
If your home's AC wiring and grounding is adequate, Powerline Adapters will work, however there are numerous issues that can interfere with the Mcell's ability to communicate with your router via your AC wiring and cause the Mcell to drop it's connection. Ground loops, cross-phase communcation, cross-breaker communication and electrical interference from other household appliances can cause the Mcell to drop its internet connection and leave you with the dreaded flashing 3G green light.
What's a person to do if you don't want wires strung around the house and your home's AC wiring won't play nice with Powerline Adapters? You still need to locate your Mcell in another location in the house away from your router to obtain a GPS signal or for complete home coverage.
I tried Powerline Adapters and my 50+ year old home's AC wiring didn't provide the pristine environment necessary for my Mcell to maintain an internet connection. I have a four level home that required the Mcell to be located on the third floor to get a GPS lock and more importantly, provide coverage to the entire house. My router is in the basement in my office. How can I connect my Mcell to my router wirelessly in order to avoid stringing 75 feet of unsightly Ethernet cable up two flights of stairs and through a few rooms?
That brings us to a third solution and that is using a wireless WiFi range extender/repeater. For about the same price as a pair of Powerline Adapters, you can get a repeater. I bought an Amped Wireless High Power Wireless-N 600mW Smart Repeater and Range Extender (SR10000). This is a 600 mW unit and has a lot better coverage than the typical repeater which runs about 50 to 100 mW. My needs were two-fold. Connect my Mcell to my router wirelessly and also provide WiFi coverage to my entire house. You may not need a high powered repeater but I did for my needs.
I placed the repeater about four feet from my Mcell to avoid RF interference (Mcell says 1 foot) and established a connection between my router and the repeater. I then ran an Ethernet cable from the Mcell to the repeater and plugged it into one of the ports on the back of the repeater. Works like a charm! I now have complete WiFi and Mcell coverage over my entire 4 level, 4000 sq. ft. house.
Sorry about the wall of text Otto but I got carried away......
You made this statement is your first reply to this thread:
"The MicroCell is not a VOIP device so you have to be in range of a local tower. That's why you may have to experiment a bit to find the "sweet spot" in your house. The reason is that when the MicroCell first activates, it searches for the local tower, notes the signal strength, and adjusts its output so that your phone will preferentially connect to it and not the tower. Verizon's femtocell works on the same principle as well."
No tower signal is required for a M Cell to work. If fact it works better and has a stronger signal if there is zero signal from a tower. It certainly does require a GPS lock and a external antenna easily does that it if you vcan not locate the M Cell near a window.
I have researched several sources regarding femtocells and I can not find any reference that a femtocell requires the ability to communicate with a cell tower in order to function. Certainly if a femtocell does detect a cell tower it needs to adjust its power output in order to avoid interference with that tower.
Otto, do you have information contrary to this?
Yes, I made that statement back in July. But the more I researched the MicroCell, and made myself a pest with AT&T, I realized that statement was not accurate and misleading. AT&T would never confirm or deny to me the importance of a local macrocell inspite of my repeated attempts, thru the Forum Admins and direct emails. When I posted my Technical Guide in August, I had more accurate information available to me and felt that now was the time to post what I had been putting together for almost a year. Under the GPS section, I state, in bold, that the MicroCell is a VoIP device and under the Initial Activation section I state, again in bold, that the MicroCell does not need a local tower to activate. That is expanded upon a bit further under the Handing Off section. And when I made my initial post with the Technical Guide attached, I mentioned the fact that the VoIP and tower statements were not quite accurate. I don't know if the Admins had to modify that post or not to make it a linkable sticky and left it out. I also had the Admins modify my original post from June 2012, "What is a MicroCell", to state that the MicroCell is a VoIP device. This is why I try to direct posters to the Technical Guide for the most current info that I have. The Technical Guide will also be updated periodically as better information becomes available and AT&T continues to "support" the MicroCell. I hope that's satisfactory.
You reviewed my Technical Guide before it was posted. Was it not clear enough under Initial Activation, GPS, and other sections that a local tower was not required, but helpful for maintenance location confirmation?
My brief research was on femtocells and cell towers in general, not AT&T's Microcell specifically.
My apologies for being so curt I had some major oral surgery yesterday and I don't handle pain medication so well so I've switched to regular ibuprofen and will just tough it out. Your posts and help are always appreciated.
Watching the ALCS game now and I sure wish I could have a beer, but the wife just gave me the look so it will be a beerless series
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