Since I’ve lived in this house I’ve had cell reception issues. The house isn’t made out of lead or dense concrete blocks or anything like that, AT&T’s signal strength in this location is sub-optimal — they call it “moderate.” In the afternoons I can sit on my couch and watch the bars rise and drop as the traffic on US 85 moves through a signal-controlled intersection.
At first I didn’t notice it too much. I had missed calls and the voicemail indicator would not come on for a bit. Later, the delay in getting the voicemail indicator would increase to several minutes and eventually over an hour. No ringing on the phone at all. I called AT&T several times to bring this up and I used their Mark The Spot app to indicate when I had little or no data/voice coverage, but it never seemed to improve. And before you ask, I’ve had every model of iPhone released since I have lived here so I suspected it was not a defect with a single phone.
About two years ago my next-door neighbors received a letter from AT&T stating that due to the poor coverage in our area they qualified for a free MicroCell device. They asked me about it and I told them if it was free they should get it even if they had not noticed any poor reception themselves. I anxiously awaited my letter… which never arrived. My neighbors were a bit disappointed since the MicroCell cannot be used on high-latency internet connections as they wanted to install it in their mountain home where they only have satellite internet. They boxed it up and forgot about it until recently when they were cleaning and asked me if I wanted to try to get it working. I did, but it never completely connected. The activation web page never showed it completing the activation steps. I boxed it up and put it away.
Fast-forward several months and I noticed one Saturday that I had not received any text messages from work. While this is not normally a bad thing it made me suspicious. Suddenly at 10:21 AM I received several in a row. I knew they had been delayed since our system embeds a time stamp in the message. A few days later I received an email from a friend asking me if I wanted to grab lunch that day. He emailed because he said he had called but it went straight to voice mail. I called AT&T at that point.
Surprisingly, the rep was very helpful and had me check a few things specific to the iPhone. She even warned me that once I performed one of the steps I would be disconnected and would have to dial a phone number before I would be re-connected to the cellular network. After a relatively short troubleshooting session she said that it appeared my phone was not registering on the network for voice or data, and that the only solution to this issue (short of building a new tower in my neighborhood) was to send me a MicroCell. I told her I had attempted to use my neighbors’ MicroCell previously but could never get it activated. I plugged it back in anyway and waited.
About three hours later she called me back and said she had not yet seen the Microcell activated on their system. I confirmed that and said that I had never actually seen this particular MicroCell operating since my neighbors never used it. The AT&T technical support rep told me she would have a new once shipped to me. What surprised me was that a few hours later I received an email indicating the MicroCell had shipped via overnight FedEx. It arrived the next day and once I connected it it activated immediately and my phone connected to it! Yay for actual technical support that resolved an issue!