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printed September 19, 2014
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Samsung Note 4 Available Oct. 17, Preorders Start Sept. 19

Yesterday, 8:24 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Yesterday, 9:05 AM

Samsung today said it will begin accepting preorders for the Galaxy Note 4 on September 19. The device won't ship, however, until October 17. Samsung said the Note 4 will be available in black and white, and it will be carried by AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, Verizon, and U.S. Cellular. Samsung said the phone will also be available at Samsung Experience Shops in Best Buy stores, as well as from Amazon, Costco, RadioShack, Sam's Club, Target, and Walmart. Individual carriers and retailers will provide their own pricing and availability details in the near future. AT&T was first to announce those details. AT&T said the Note 4 will cost $34.42 per month with AT&T Next 18; $41.30 per month with AT&T Next 12; $299.99 with a two-year agreement; or $826 at full retail. AT&T is offering a $100 bill credit to new/existing customers who activate a new line of service with the Note 4. Verizon is offering the Note 4 for $299 with a new contract and said Verizon Edge installment pricing will also be available. T-Mobile isn't accepting preorders until September 24, and it is asking for $0 down followed by $31.24 a month for 24 months.


Sprint, Boost, and Virgin to Sell the HTC Desire 510

Tuesday, 9:44 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Tuesday, 3:55 PM

Sprint today announced it and its prepaid brands will all soon offer the HTC Desire 510. HTC announced the 510 last month. It is an entry-level handset with LTE 4G on board. It features a 4.7-inch display, a 1.2GHz quad-core Snapdragon 410 processor with 1GB of RAM, and 8GB of built-in storage. The main camera captures 5-megapixel images, and the user-facing camera captures VGA images. Connectivity features include Bluetooth 4.0, Wi-Fi, GPS, and DLNA for sharing media. The 510 runs Android 4.4 KitKat and includes HTC Sense and Blinkfeed. Sprint plans to sell the device with its postpaid service. It will reach Sprint stores on September 19. It will cost $9 per month with Sprint Easy Pay. The full retail price is $216. Sprint didn't spell out the contract price. Boost Mobile will begin selling the Desire 510 on September 22 for $100, and Virgin Mobile will begin selling it on September 23 for $100. Neither Boost nor Virgin Mobile requires contracts. The Desire 510 is also being sold by Cricket Wireless.


AT&T Also to Sell LG G3 Vigor

Monday, 5:35 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

AT&T chimed in today to say it, too, will offer the LG G3 Vigor to subscribers. AT&T didn't specify how much the device will cost, nor when it will go on sale. Sprint also plans to sell the Vigor.


Sprint to Sell LG G3 Vigor

Monday, 2:19 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Tuesday, 3:56 PM

Sprint today announced the LG G3 Vigor, an affordable smartphone that places the volume and screen lock keys on the back, like LG's flagship devices. The phone has a 5-inch 720p HD display and quad-core 1.2GHz Snapdragon 400 processor under the hood to keep costs low. Stand out features include LG's suite of specialized apps, such as Knock Code and Knock On, LG Gate for enterprise security, as well as QSlide Apps, QuickMemo, and LG's Smart Keyboard. The phone runs Android 4.4.2 KitKat and is compatible with Sprint Spark. Sprint services on board include HD Voice and Wi-Fi Calling. The full retail price of the LG G3 Vigor is $312. Sprint also offering the G3 Vigor for $13 a month with Sprint Easy Pay.


Sprint Prepaid Reworks Plan Pricing

Monday, 9:20 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sprint's branded prepaid service, called Sprint Prepaid, today dropped the cost of its service plans. The three new plans mirror those offered by Sprint's Boost Mobile and Virgin Mobile USA brands, but are available under the Sprint name. All three include unlimited talk and text, but vary in the amount of data available each month. The $35 plan includes 1GB of data, the $45 plan includes 3GB, and the $55 plan includes 6GB. The new plans are available to Sprint Prepaid beginning today. Sprint Prepaid does not require contracts.


Sprint to Sit Out AWS-3 Auction

Sep 12, 2014, 11:55 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sprint today confirmed that it will skip an upcoming spectrum auction. "Sprint has decided not to participate in the FCC's AWS-3 auction, but will continue to evaluate the opportunities presented by the upcoming 600MHz incentive auction," said Sprint spokesman Jeffrey Silva to Bloomberg. Auction 97 will see 1,614 spectrum licenses sold by the government to wireless network operators. The auction will start November 13, with a trial auction scheduled for November 10. The spectrum includes 65MHz in the 1695-1710MHz, 1755-1780MHz, and 2155-2180MHz bands. AT&T, Dish Networks, Verizon Wireless, and many smaller companies plan to participate in the auction. The FCC has another auction, for 600MHz spectrum, scheduled for mid 2015. AT&T and Verizon already have significant low-band spectrum holdings, while Sprint does not. Sprint is more interested in the 600MHz spectrum for this reason. Low-band spectrum is valued for its propagation characteristics.


RadioShack Weighing Bankruptcy

Sep 11, 2014, 10:46 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

RadioShack is considering whether or not to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection as its cash reserves dwindle. The company ended its most recent quarter with just $30.5 million in cash on hand, with debts totaling $658 million. It has lost money 10 quarters in a row as electronics buyers shun the chain for larger retailers or the web. Filing for bankruptcy would help protect RadioShack's remaining cash reserves, and could set the stage for a reorganization of the firm. The company is also weighing taking on investments and cited liquidation as a last resort. Earlier this year RadioShack announced plans to close 1,100 stores, but later reduced that number to 200 after investors balked. RadioShack sells wireless service from AT&T, Sprint, and Verizon Wireless, as well as several prepaid brands.


Republic Wireless to Reduce Roaming Availability

Sep 10, 2014, 2:16 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Republic Wireless recently unveiled a change in policy regarding roaming. The company, citing high costs for its customers to roam onto the wireless networks of competing carriers, will reduce the amount of roaming data allowed each customer to just 25MB per month. Further, the company will throttle back the speeds available to customers when they roam. The changes go into effect September 15. In addition to this change, Republic Wireless said it is working to deliver an option to customers that will allow them to roam more than 25MB for an optional fee. Republic is still working out the details of that plan. Republic Wireless is an MVNO that operates on Sprint's network, but it prefers that customers make calls and send messages via Wi-Fi. It offers access to Sprint's network when subscribers are out of range of Wi-Fi hotspots.


Sprint Announces iPhone 6 Leasing Program, Unlimited Data

Sep 9, 2014, 6:34 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sprint today announced a new program that will make it easier for customers to afford the Apple iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus. Sprint's iPhone 6 leasing program allows subscribers to obtain the iPhone 6 for $0 down followed by 24 monthly payments of $20 (16-GB version). The 64-GB model costs $25 per month and the $128-GB model costs $30 per month. After two years, customers can turn the device in and receive the next-generation iPhone under the same terms. The iPhone 6 Plus will cost $5 more per month for each storage variant. Additionally, Sprint said the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus will be eligible for a new Simply Unlimited plan that offers unlimited talk, text, and data for just $50 per month for a single line. Sprint does not throttle data speeds, nor does it charge overages. Sprint's already-announced family plans (four to ten lines) are being offered at the existing rates. Families looking to finance the iPhone 6 can make use of Sprint's Easy Pay program. Last, the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus are Sprint Spark-compatible, which means they operate on Sprint's faster LTE service.

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FCC Dubious On Future Wireless Mergers

Sep 9, 2014, 4:07 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler today suggested the agency will take a long, hard look at any proposed mergers between wireless companies. "We will continue to be skeptical of efforts to achieve scale through the consolidation of major players," said Wheeler at the CTIA trade show in Las Vegas. Sprint and its parent company SoftBank abandoned plans to acquire T-Mobile just last month after meeting with resistance from lawmakers. The FCC also shot down AT&T's attempted purchase of T-Mobile in 2011. The FCC has repeatedly suggested it prefers to have four national wireless network operators for increased competition. Wheeler also warned operators that the FCC may yet take a more active interest in regulating how they manage their networks. "One of the constant themes on the record is how consumers increasingly rely on mobile broadband as an important pathway to access the internet," said Wheeler. According to Wheeler, Microsoft agrees. It said there is "no question that mobile broadband access services must be subject to the same legal framework as fixed broadband access services." The FCC has new net neutrality rules on deck for approval in the months ahead.


Sprint Says Its Trade-In Program Beats T-Mobile's

Sep 9, 2014, 9:25 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sprint today matched T-Mobile's move to increase the appeal of its trade-in program. Beginning immediately, Sprint will meet or beat all AT&T's, T-Mobile's, and Verizon's buyback pricing on all new lines of service to ensure the best trade-in values. T-Mobile on Monday said it would meet or beat competitors' trade-in programs, as well as give customers a $50 credit if they find a better deal. According to Sprint, T-Mobile's program is limited to one trade-in per line. Sprint's program isn't offering $50 in additional credit, but Sprint will accept up to three trade-ins per line and up to five trade-ins per calendar year. Further, Sprint customers can trade in old devices any time. Sprint offers up to $300 for trade-ins, depending on the phone and its condition, which can be put towards new purchases or account credit. Sprint has always been serious about accepting device trade-ins and has a significant recycling program.


Sprint Signs 15 More Rural Carriers to LTE Initiative

Sep 5, 2014, 10:09 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sprint today announced it has forged LTE 4G roaming agreements with 15 more rural network operators. Today's additions boost the number of carriers participating in Sprint's Rural Roaming Preferred Provider program to 27. According to Sprint, the roaming agreements extend across 565,000 square miles in 27 states, covering more than 38 million people. The agreements allow Sprint customers to roam onto the LTE networks of the rural carriers and vice versa. Roaming agreements allow Sprint to gain LTE coverage in areas where it doesn't own spectrum or has not yet deployed LTE. Some of the new participants include Bluegrass Cellular, Blue Wireless, Pine Belt Wireless, Pioneer Cellular, Public Service Wireless, and Syringa Wireless.

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Boost Mobile Drops Prices, Increases Data

Sep 2, 2014, 3:00 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Boost Mobile today announced a new promotion that offers twice as much data across its prepaid plans for less money. Beginning September 3, Boost is dropping the price of its three main plans From $40, $50, and $60, to $35, $45, and $55, respectively. All three plans include unlimited talk and text. The $35 plan jumps from 500MB to 1GB of data; the $45 plan jumps from 2.5GB to 5GB of data; and the $55 plan jumps from 5GB to 10GB of data. The promotion runs through November 3, after which the prices go back up to their normal rates and the data allotments drop back down to their normal limits. Shrinkage does not apply to the promotional rates. Boost Mobile operates on Sprint's network.

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Sprint Selling the HTC One (E8)

Aug 29, 2014, 9:43 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Aug 29, 2014, 11:59 AM

Sprint today added the HTC One (E8) to its roster of Android smartphones. The E8, which was announced earlier this year, is a plastic version of the M8. It carries over many of the same features, such as the 5-inch full HD screen, BoomSound speakers, 2.3GHz quad-core Snapdragon 801 processor, and 2,600mAh battery with Android 4.4.2 KitKat and HTC Sense 6.0. The device trades the M8's 4-ultrapixel camera for a standard 13-megapixel sensor. The Sprint E8 includes Sprint Spark, Wi-Fi calling, and HD Voice. It is being sold in gray or white online and via telesales. With Sprint Easy Pay, the HTC One E8 can be purchased for $0 down followed by 24 monthly payments of $20.84. Alternately, it costs $99 with a new two-year contract or $499 at full retail.


Spint, SoftBank to Sell Sony Xperia Phone

Aug 29, 2014, 7:14 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sprint and SoftBank will for the first time sell a flagship smartphone from Sony, according to Reuters and The Wall Street Journal. Sony is prepared to announce new devices at the IFA trade show in Berlin on September 4. One of the new devices is expected to be a flagship model that will succeed the Xperia Z2. Sprint and SoftBank will sell this as-yet-unnamed device in the U.S. and Japan, respectively. Sony has struggled in the U.S. market for years, and often fails to win distribution agreements with U.S. carriers. It regularly sells devices directly to consumers (at full price) through its own web site. Scoring a distribution agreement with Sprint would be a major win for the company. Neither Sprint nor Sony commented on the reports.


Sprint Gives Samsung GS4 International Wi-Fi Calling

Aug 28, 2014, 10:18 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sprint today said an over-the-air software update to the Samsung Galaxy S4 with Sprint Spark will allow owners to use Sprint's Wi-Fi Calling service when traveling abroad. The service lets people connect calls for free over Wi-Fi networks. Wi-Fi calls don't count against plan minutes.


Sprint Adds Avatars to Visual Voicemail

Aug 28, 2014, 9:43 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sprint today announced a new service that will allow customers to add animations and avatars to their voicemail messages. The service is available to Sprint, Boost Mobile, and Virgin Mobile USA customers with select Android handsets. The base service includes 12 free avatars and 12 free backgrounds that can be paired together in any combination along with voice effects in order to create unique animations. The avatars are lip-synced with the caller's voicemail (up to 20 seconds for free, up to two minutes with premium subscription). According to Sprint, the content library will be updated often, with new free and paid avatars and backgrounds appearing each week. Sprint customers can use their own voice, or an optional voice effect with variable pitch to make the message more fun. The avatar messages can be shared via voicemail, email, SMS, and even posted to Facebook. Further, messages can be sent to any user on any network, and can also be viewed on the web from desktops or tablets. Devices compatible with the service will receive an update to the visual voicemail application beginning this month. The initial list of compatible devices includes the Samsung Galaxy S3, S4, and S5, and Note 2; the HTC EVO 4G LTE and HTC One. Sprint said more devices will be made compatible with the service over time.


AT&T Names Glenn Lurie as CEO of Wireless Unit

Aug 26, 2014, 3:52 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

AT&T today made some changes in its executive ranks and has replaced Ralph de la Vega as the CEO of AT&T Mobility. Taking de la Vega's place is Glenn Lurie, a longtime AT&T vet who was instrumental in bringing the Apple iPhone to AT&T back in 2007. Lurie most recently oversaw AT&T's connect home business. He will head the entire wireless group moving forward, but AT&T also indicated it is merging its wireless and enterprise solutions groups. The new, merged business unit will be managed by de la Vega. His new title is CEO Mobile & Business Solutions. The executive changes are effective immediately. AT&T Mobility's change of CEO follows closely that of Sprint's, which replaced Dan Hesse with Marcelo Claure.


Boost Mobile to Sell Low-Cost ZTE Warp Sync

Aug 26, 2014, 10:16 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Aug 26, 2014, 10:39 AM

Boost Mobile today announced the ZTE Warp Sync, an inexpensive Android handset for Sprint's pre-paid network. The Warp Sync features a 5-inch display with Gorilla Glass 2 and a quad-core 1.2GHz Snapdragon 400 processor from Qualcomm with 2GB of RAM. The Warp Sync includes an 8-megapixel main camera and a 1.6-megapixel user-facing camera. According to Boost Mobile, the Warp Sync is the first handset from ZTE capable of accessing Sprint Spark and offering HD Voice. Other specs include a 2,300mAh battery, mobile hotspot, Mobile ID packs, and Android 4.4 KitKat. The ZTE Warp Sync is available online beginning today for $180. It will reach Boost Mobile stores September 1. Boost Mobile does not require contracts.


Sprint Intros $60 Unlimited Plan with Hardware Hitch

Aug 21, 2014, 11:31 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sprint today announced a new unlimited plan that it says undercuts the competition. The plan, which will be available beginning August 22, provides a single line of service with unlimited talk, text, and data for $60 per month. Sprint claims the offering beats T-Mobile's best price by $20 per month, and that similar options aren't available from AT&T or Verizon Wireless. There is a catch. In order to qualify for the plan, customers need to either bring their own device, pay full retail for a device, or sign up for Sprint's Easy Pay financing plan. The Sprint $60 Unlimited Plan for single lines follows a complete overhaul of Sprint's family share plans, which offer savings to four or more lines of service.


T-Mobile Offers Its Customers a Bounty for Converts

Aug 21, 2014, 8:32 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

T-Mobile today said it will give current customers unlimited LTE data for a full year if they convince an AT&T, Sprint, or Verizon customer to switch to T-Mobile. T-Mobile is likening the program to "throwing a lifeline" to those on competing networks. Not only does the current customer receive unlimited LTE for a year, but so does the new customer. Customers who already pay for unlimited data will receive a $10 monthly credit instead. The referral program kicks off August 29. Customers will then be able to enter their own number and the number of a friend who's ported their service, which must be reported within 30 days of the friend's activation. The referral program runs for a limited time, but T-Mobile didn't immediately indicate an end date. It doesn't apply to pre-paid plans, and is limited to one referral per account.


Hands-On: Sharp Aquos Crystal for Sprint

Aug 19, 2014, 5:34 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Aug 19, 2014, 10:01 PM

Sharp debuted its first phone for the U.S. market in years this week. The Aquos Crystal boasts a nearly bezel-less design in a compact form factor. Here are our initial impressions.

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Sprint Formally Debuts Sharp Aquos Crystal

Aug 19, 2014, 9:21 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Aug 19, 2014, 1:41 PM

Sprint today announced the Sharp Aquos Crystal, a mid-range handset that it will sell later this year. The Sharp Aquos features a nearly bezel-less design, with narrow edges running along the top and sides of the phone. The screen measures 5 inches and offers 720p HD resolution. The device offers a handful of software features developed by Sharp, including Clip Now, which takes screen shots with a swipe and makes them easily sharable via link. Speaktoit Assistant is a natural language assistant that can perform a number of tasks, such as answer questions, open apps, place calls, and send texts. The device comes with Harman Kardon Clari-Fi and LiveStage audio technologies for improved music reproduction, and Direct Wave Receiver technology, which uses the display panel to create sound for phone calls. The device runs Android 4.4.2 KitKat and includes the usual suite of Google services, in addition to OfficeSuite for editing Microsoft documents. Other hardware features include a 1.2GHz quad-core Snapdragon 400 processor with 1.5GB of RAM and 8GB of internal storage. The Aquos supports microSD cards up to 128GB. The camera captures 8-megapixel still images and 1080p HD video. It also has a 1.2-megapixel camera for selfies. The Aquos will cost $240 at full retail, or $0 down and 24 monthly payments of $10 with Sprint. Sprint subsidiaries Boost Mobile and Virgin Mobile USA will also sell the device at the price of $150. Virgin and Boost do not require contracts.


Sprint Doubles Down on Data with Family Share Pack

Aug 18, 2014, 6:17 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sprint today announced new shared data plans that offer twice as much mobile data as comparable plans from AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless. Sprint's Family Share Pack includes four lines with unlimited talk and text and 20GB of shared data for $160 per month. AT&T and Verizon have similarly-priced plans that include only 10GB of data. T-Mobile's shared plan costs $100 per month. Further, Sprint is offering a huge incentive to families that port their numbers from another carrier. Sprint will give families with up to 10 lines unlimited talk/text and 20GB of shared data for only $100 per month through 2015, plus an additional 2GB per line. Under this promotion, a family of four would have up to 28GB of data per month and a family of 10 would have up to 40GB of data per month. The promotional $100 plan pricing will be available from August 22 to September 30. Last, Sprint is offering to cover the ETFs - up to $350 per line - for families that break their contract to sign up with Sprint Family Share Pack. All new devices must be purchased through Sprint Easy Pay. Sprint CEO Marcelo Claure said the company will debut new plans for individuals later this week.


Verizon Quietly Drops Pricing for Single Lines

Aug 18, 2014, 11:15 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Verizon Wireless introduced a new, cheaper plan over the weekend that applies to single lines of service. The plan costs $60 per month and includes unlimited talk/text and 2GB of data. The monthly price drops further to $50 for customers who finance their handset via Verizon Edge. Data overage charges cost $15 per 1GB. The same service offering previously cost $90 per month under the company's More Everything plans, which required a $40 connection charge per line plus $50 for the minutes, messages, and data. The $60 pricing was previously available only to select customers as a loyalty incentive. Sprint may unveil new, cheaper plans as soon as August 19 during a scheduled press conference. Carriers are increasingly looking to service pricing as a way to compete, which benefits customers.


SoftBank and Sprint Working with Sharp on Edgeless Phone

Aug 18, 2014, 7:54 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

SoftBank, which owns Sprint, today said it has chosen Sharp to supply it with low-cost smartphones. The handset deal with Sharp includes Sprint, which will also sell phones made by Sharp. The first such device is a handset called the Sharp Aquos Crystal, which the company revealed today. The Crystal features an edgeless design. SoftBank believes its combined scale with Sprint will allow it to sell the Sharp Aquos Crystal at a low cost. SoftBank's announcement coincides with a Sprint event scheduled for August 19. The event invite reads "Time to take the Edge Off," which could be a reference to the edgeless design of the Aquos Crystal. According to Sharp, the Crystal includes a 5-inch 720p HD screen, Snapdragon 400 processor, and runs Android 4.4.2 KitKat. Sharp has not sold handsets in the U.S. for several years.


Sprint CEO: 'Disruptive' Prices Coming Next Week

Aug 15, 2014, 7:20 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sprint's new CEO, Marcelo Claure, told company employees that it will debut "very disruptive" service prices as soon as next week. Claure made the remarks during a company-wide town hall meeting. Claure's dialog covered a range of topics and was often frank about Sprint's standing in the market. "When you have a great network, you don't have to compete on price," said Claure. "When your network is behind, unfortunately you have to compete on value and price." Claure told employees the company will give them the tools they need to more effectively sell their services, including Framily plans. "We're going to change our plans to make sure they are simple and attractive and make sure every customer in America thinks twice about signing up to a competitor." Claure admitted to employees that the network overhaul has taken too long, but that its spectrum holdings are vast enough to give Sprint plenty of fighting power. Claure didn't elaborate on what the new pricing structure will be, but indicated he wants Sprint to be seen as the incumbent challenger - a role T-Mobile has been all too happy to play for the past year and a half.


Cellular One to Shutter Montana and Wyoming Networks

Aug 13, 2014, 12:16 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Cellular One has indicated it plans to cease offering wireless service in the states of Montana and Wyoming. Cellular One has advised its customers there to find an alternate provider before August 31, which is when it plans to halt operations. Cellular One is endorsing AT&T and waiving ETFs so customers can switch their service. AT&T is offering Cellular One customers a $100 gift card, and will wave activation fees. Cellular One's retail outlets in Montana and Wyoming will be rebranded to AT&T. In a letter sent to customers earlier this summer, Cellular One said its business model "simply did not support the significant capital investment required to upgrade its Montana network to the 4G technology needed to remain competitive with the large national service providers." Sprint has assumed Cellular One's cell tower leasing rights, though it hasn't purchased any of Cellular One's spectrum, equipment, or customers. Small, regional carriers are finding it increasingly hard to compete against the national providers, which have enough revenue to invest in their networks on a country-wide level.


FCC Asking All Carriers to Explain Throttling Policies

Aug 8, 2014, 1:28 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler today indicated the agency has sent letters to AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile with questions pertaining to their network management policies. The issue bubbled to the surface recently when Verizon announced plans to throttle its heaviest unlimited LTE subscribers. In a letter to Verizon, Wheeler called the policy management criteria "deeply troubling." Verizon responded and claimed its policies do not differ from those of its competitors. Wheeler is not convinced. "'All the kids do it' was never something that worked for me when I was growing up," said Wheeler. "My concern in this instance - and it's not just with Verizon, by the way, we've written to all the carriers - is that it is moving from a technology and engineering issue to the business issues ... such as choosing between different subscribers based on your economic relationship with them." AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile have not yet responded publicly to the FCC's query.


FCC Adopts Rules for Text-to-911 for All Messaging Apps

Aug 8, 2014, 11:51 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Aug 8, 2014, 11:57 AM

The FCC today formally adopted rules that will require all providers of messaging services to enable their apps with text-to-911 capabilities. Earlier this year the FCC said industry players outside the four major wireless network operators need to get on board. AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless began accepting text-to-911 in select markets around the country in May. The FCC recognized, however, that not all consumers subscribe to the four major carriers, nor do all consumers make use of traditional SMS messaging services. The new rules apply to nearly all messaging apps and services, including over-the-top apps such as WhatsApp, as well as the remaining wireless network operators. The FCC wants apps and operators to enable text-to-911 by the end of the year. Some messaging services will be exempt, such as those that function within games or social networks. The FCC feels this is an essential service and keeps in step with how consumers prefer to communicate. The CTIA Wireless Association, which represents the wireless network operators, voiced displeasure with the new rules. "While the wireless industry remains committed to collaborating with public safety to make text-to-911 available in the near-term, we are disappointed that the FCC acted today to codify a voluntary agreement to deploy an interim technological solution across all wireless carriers and interconnected 'over the top' text providers. The chilling effect of the Commission's proposed enforcement role is particularly worrisome in situations where, as here, the voluntary agreement involves new services that face challenging obstacles to implementation." Earlier this week, AT&T also took issue with the FCC's plan in a post published to its public policy blog. According to AT&T, the FCC's plan is ill-conceived and presents new challenges to network operators.


FCC Chief Glad Sprint Ditching T-Mobile Bid

Aug 6, 2014, 8:49 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler today voiced his approval of Sprint's decision to halt its attempt to acquire T-Mobile. "Four national wireless providers is good for American consumers. Sprint now has an opportunity to focus their efforts on robust competition," said Wheeler in a statement. The FCC and Justice Department have long contended the U.S. market needs four national carriers. Had Sprint acquired or merged with T-Mobile, that number would have been reduced to three. Wheeler's statement sends a clear signal that the FCC likes things the way they are, with AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless all competing with one another.


Sprint Hangs Up on Dan Hesse, Names New CEO

Aug 6, 2014, 8:09 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Aug 6, 2014, 8:14 AM

Sprint today announced it has named Marcelo Claure as President and CEO of the company, who replaces Dan Hesse. Claure already served on Sprint's board of directors, and is the Founder and CEO of Brightstar Corp. Sprint owner SoftBank also owns a significant portion of Brightstar, which distributes mobile devices. Claure will resign from his CEO position at Brightstar effective August 11, and SoftBank will acquire his remaining shares of the company. Dan Hesse will depart Sprint on August 11 after leading the company since 2007. Hesse oversaw many transformations at Sprint, including its acquisition of Clearwire and acquisition by SoftBank. "I'm proud of the resilience of Sprint's people during a difficult transformation and I'm optimistic about how they will build on a foundation of innovation to succeed in the future," said Hesse. "It's been an honor to have led such dedicated teammates. Marcelo's entrepreneurial background, business savvy, industry experience and strong relationship with Masayoshi Son make Marcelo an excellent choice to lead Sprint going forward." Claure will be based at Sprint headquarters in Overland Park. Claure said he looks forward to leading "the Sprint team as we mobilize to become the wireless carrier of choice in the U.S. In the short-term, we will focus on becoming extremely cost efficient and competing aggressively in the marketplace. While consolidating makes sense in the long-term, for now, we will focus on growing and repositioning Sprint." Sprint has lost customers to rivals during the last few years and has struggled to launch LTE 4G as quickly as its competitors. Separately, Sprint will cease its efforts to acquire T-Mobile and will forge ahead on its own.


Sprint Uninterested In the Uncarrier, Will Abandon Merger

Aug 5, 2014, 6:34 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sprint plans to end its pursuit of T-Mobile. The company and its owner SoftBank have been weighing the idea for nearly a year. They now believe Sprint will not be able to win regulatory approval of an acquisition or merger between Sprint and T-Mobile, according to unnamed sources cited by The Wall Street Journal. The FCC and Justice Department were quick to tell Sprint they prefer a four-carrier market to maintain competition. Sprint and its owner Softbank will pursue a solo strategy moving forward. Sprint may make a formal announcement regarding a change of direction as soon as Wednesday. Separately, Bloomberg also reported that Sprint and T-Mobile have ended merger talks. Bloomberg further noted Sprint may also announce a new CEO to replace Dan Hesse along with its new strategy. Sprint has not made any announcements, nor did it comment on either report.


T-Mobile Said to Reject Iliad Buyout Offer

Aug 5, 2014, 1:08 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

T-Mobile has rejected Iliad's initial offer to buy the company, reports the Wall Street Journal. The $15 billion bid for a 56.6% stake in the company was "not attractive enough" and "dead on arrival" according to a source cited by the Journal. T-Mobile also denied Iliad's request to open its books, which would have been necessary for Iliad to conduct due diligence on T-Mobile. Iliad's bid came as a surprise. The company fills a similar role to that of T-Mobile as a competitive game-changer in its home market of France. Another source cited by the Journal said Iliad is considering its next steps, though it is unclear what those steps might be. Had T-Mobile taken Iliad's offer seriously, it would have thrown a wrench into Sprint's long-term plans to acquire T-Mobile.


Best Buy Scores Electric Blue Galaxy S5

Aug 5, 2014, 12:45 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Aug 5, 2014, 12:48 PM

Best Buy today announced the August 17 availability of an electric blue Samsung Galaxy S5, a color exclusive to the big box retailer. The blue GS5 will be available to AT&T, Sprint, and Verizon Wireless customers for $99 with a new two-year contract, which represents a savings of $100 off the normal contract price. Customers who'd rather use one of the carriers' monthly installment plans will be able to pick up the blue GS5 for $0 down and still receive a $100 Best Buy gift card. The promotional price will be available until August 23.


Sprint Expands Framily Wall to iPhone Customers

Aug 4, 2014, 9:28 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sprint today said its iPhone customers now have access to the Sprint Framily Wall product. Sprint customers can use the Framily Wall to hold single and group chats, share videos and pictures, and collaborate through calendars. The basic service is free and includes 100MB of online storage. A premium version ups storage to 10GB and adds support for HD photos/videos for $3 per month. Sprint Framily Wall is already available to Android devices.


FCC Won't Allow Joint Bids in Spectrum Auction

Aug 1, 2014, 4:09 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

The FCC has shot down the idea of allowing two or more wireless network operators to bid on spectrum jointly. Sprint and T-Mobile hoped to join forces in some bidding and requested permission to do so. FCC bureau chief Roger Sherman said the idea would contradict the FCC's wish to see competitive bidding from a wide range of companies, large and small.


French Firm Makes Surprise Bid for T-Mobile

Jul 31, 2014, 11:41 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Jul 31, 2014, 1:40 PM

Iliad, a telecom business based in France, has made an unsolicited offer to purchase T-Mobile U.S. The company submitted the offer to T-Mobile's board within the last week. It is offering $15 billion in cash for a controlling 56.6% stake in the company. Iliad's role in the French mobile market is similar to T-Mobile's in the U.S. market. It sees T-Mobile as a natural fit and a way to break into the U.S. market. "The U.S. mobile market is vast and attractive," said Iliad in a statement. "T-Mobile has successfully established itself in the market by positioning itself, in many respects, in a similar way to Iliad in France." Iliad's offer complicates Sprint's interest in T-Mobile. Sprint and T-Mobile are believed to have agreed to the broad strokes of an acquisition, but are still hammering out details. Sprint has not made a formal offer for T-Mobile, but may have to accelerate its plans with Iliad's offer now on the table. T-Mobile has not commented publicly on Iliad's offer, but it did report second quarter earnings today. T-Mobile added 1.5 million new customers this quarter and has expanded the availability of VoLTE nationwide as of today.


T-Mobile Drops the Cost of Family Plans to $100

Jul 28, 2014, 8:16 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

T-Mobile today announced a promotional plan that undercuts AT&T, Sprint, and Verizon's offerings dramatically. T-Mobile says a family of four can sign up for a T-Mobile Simple Choice plan with 10GB of LTE data for $100 per month. T-Mobile says each line receives 2.5GB of data in addition to unlimited talk, text, free 2G international data, and unlimited streaming music. The promotional price is good until January 2016 and is available beginning July 30 through September 30. AT&T, Sprint, and Verizon all charge $160 per month for similar four-line plans.


Sprint Adds Wi-Fi Calling to HTC One (M8)

Jul 22, 2014, 11:10 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sprint recently announced that it is rolling out Wi-Fi calling to the HTC One and HTC One Harmon Kardon Edition. The Wi-Fi calling feature makes it possible to connect voice calls and send messages via local Wi-Fi networks rather than through Sprint's cellular network. International Wi-Fi calling will also be available in the coming weeks. It allows customers to make calls and send texts via Wi-Fi in more than 100 countries. Only a handful of Sprint's phones support Wi-Fi calling, but Sprint said more will be updated with the feature throughout the year. HTC One owners will receive the update over the next few weeks.


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