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AT&T Intros MicroCell Femtocell Device

Developed in collaboration with Cisco, the MicroCell supports both 3G data and voice services, and may aid iPhone users plagued by dropped calls.

AT&T's 3G MicroCell femtocell will be available in some markets next month as the telecom provider moves to free up spectrum space. The $150 device could be particularly helpful for iPhone users, many of whom have been plagued by dropped calls caused by AT&T's often congested network.

Developed in collaboration with Cisco, the MicroCell seeks to route wireless phone calls and data across a home network. Users must have a wired broadband connection to use the femtocell. AT&T said it had been testing the MicroCell since September.

AT&T's MicroCell -- and femtocells from other companies -- have been cited by the FCC as an important antidote to the looming spectrum crisis that is growing as more and more smartphones absorb more spectrum. AT&T, which has an exclusive deal with Apple to market the iPhone, has seen much of its network become overloaded because of the popularity of the iPhone and its tens of thousands of applications.

AT&T noted that the MicroCell is likely to benefit customers who have coverage impediments that consistently interrupt wireless spectrum. The telecom giant said the MicroCell is the sole femtocell that supports both 3G data and voice services. AT&T said the device has "easy self-install instructions" and for people who need it, technical support is available.

As many as 10 lines can be defined to access the MicroCell and four may access the device simultaneously, the company said.

In another femtocell announcement this week, AirWalk Communications said it has designed a family of femtocells based on Qualcomm's Femtocell Station Modem. AirWalk said the product family will begin shipping by the end of the year.

Late last year, Qualcomm chief executive Paul Jacobs cited the "looming spectrum crisis" predicted by FCC chairman Julius Genachowski , and indicated Qualcomm's research has shown that a dense wireless network could be managed partially by utilizing femocell networks.

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