Faced with withering criticism for its spotty iPhone service, AT&T blames in part a shortage of cellphone towers near homes and businesses. But it has a solution: put a miniature cell tower in your living room.
There???s a catch, though. You have to pay for it. And that is making some customers angry.
Reports today say AT&T is planning to solve their iPhone service troubles by allowing customers to route their cell phone calls onto their own internet connections. That might give people better access, but how many people will do it when they will have to pay not only for the mini-tower device (a “femtocell”), but also for the minutes on their mobile phone account? Not to mention their internet connection.
Here’s an idea for a way to structure this market in a way that benefits everybody: AT&T provides the mini-tower devices to customers for free, or even pay them a small amount (or give them a discount on their mobile bills). In exchange, the mini-towers route not only that customer’s mobile phone calls but also any other AT&T mobile phones.
The incentive this would create to install a mini-tower would mean that more people would opt to get the devices. In areas with spotty coverage, all customers would benefit from improved coverage. In areas that already have good coverage, AT&T may even be able to save costs by decommissioning some of their own infrastructure.
It would be the decentralization of mobile phone infrastructure. Think it wouldn’t be reliable? Think again — with enough people operating mini-towers, there would be a very robust smart grid for mobile phones to connect to.
So, what do you think? Has AT&T missed an opportunity to try restructuring part of their infrastructure? Will mini-towers be successful even with costs associated with them? Or is nobody honestly expecting these devices to catch on?