I live in a remote location where you can barely get wireless service. I have to place my mobile phone on a window sill in just the right spot, and if I do that I will often get marginal service — enough to receive text messages most of the time, at least. Depending on the weather and atmospheric conditions, I sometimes get no signal at all.
There are two pieces of forthcoming technology that I plan to use to improve my situation as soon as they are available: Google Voice and the AT&T 3G Microcell.
Google Voice was just announced late last week, and is an upgraded version of the services I already use via Grand Central, which Google acquired about a year and a half ago. Grand Central gives you one number and voicemail box for calls, and Google Voice expands in that by enabling SMS messages to the common number, with web and email access to the txt messages. I should note the service is free. The new features will be huge for me, since my ability to send and receive txt messages from home is limited at best, and often unreliable. I already have Grand Central routing voice calls to my home-office and cell phones at the same time, so the SMS addition will be welcome. Google is also adding voice mail transcription (machine transcribed) and some other nice features like built-in conference calling. They started upgrading people who already have Grand Central accounts a couple days ago, but mine has yet to be enabled for an upgrade. So, I am impatiently waiting. They say new users will be able to sign up in the coming weeks. More information about features available on Google Voice can be found here.
On another front, month or so ago, the tech news/rumor world was all excited about the pending AT&T wireless 3G Microcell, which is a device that a user can plug into their broadband connection at home or in an office to create what amounts to a short-range personal wireless tower. I am luck enough to have terrific fast broadband service via a rural wireless transport provider called Cascade Networks, so I’ll be able to take advantage of the new AT&T hardware when it’s available. Unfortunately, there’s been no news recently about availability of the 3G Microcell, but I’m hopeful it will be available soon. Having that available would enable me to consider shutting off my home phone service and possibly saving that monthly cost. The 3G Microcell is rumored to support data and voice for a few devices at a time, and who-knows in the cost department. All I know is it would improve my ability to communicate, which would be a welcome change.