Google today said the company will announce Google-branded wireless service at some point in the coming months. The comments were made by Google's Sundar Pichai, who was speaking at the Mobile World Congress trade show in Barcelona. Pichai says Google hopes to use the service to highlight newer technologies, not compete with incumbent companies. Google will work with wireless carrier partners to offer the service, rather than create a network of its own. Various reports have suggested that Google is prepared to partner with Sprint and T-Mobile, but Google still hasn't confirmed any details.
Sprint recently announced the Best Buy One Plan, a plan that includes a smartphone and service for a single monthly price. According to Sprint, Best Buy shoppers (who have good credit) can lease an iPhone 6 16GB with unlimited talk, text, and data for no money down for $65 per month. The lease program lasts two years. Best Buy customers may also lease an Android smartphone with unlimited talk, text, and data for $75 per month. Prices don't include taxes and fees, and final price will vary depending on the phone leased. Customers interested in leasing for a period of only one year can do so for an extra $10 per month. Customers who activate a new line of service before March 28 will also receive a $200 Best Buy gift card. The Best Buy One Plan is only available at Best Buy stores.
LG today announced the global launch of the G Flex 2, its second-generation curved handset. LG said major carriers in the U.S., Hong Kong, Singapore, France, Germany, and the U.K are rolling the device out first. Sprint has already said when it will sell the phone, though AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon have remained mum on their G Flex 2 plans. LG said a second wave of operators in North and South America, Europe, and Asia will begin selling the G Flex 2 later in March. LG first revealed the G Flex 2 at the Consumer Electronics Show in January. The G Flex 2 is a curved smartphone that is flexible and has a self-healing rear cover. The phone features a Snapdragon 810 processor, 13-megapixel camera, 5.5-inch screen, and 3,000mAh battery.
Ting, an MVNO that until today only resold access to Sprint's network, has added service from an unnamed GSM network. Anyone may sign up for the service, which Ting is offering as a beta. It requires users to purchase a Ting SIM card to be used with an unlocked, compatible GSM handset. Ting said international roaming and international long distance is unavailable for the moment. Ting's beta service for GSM devices does not require an invitation, it is open to all. Ting offers a la carte service and only charges for what people use. Prices start at $15 per month for 100 minutes, 100 messages, and 100MB of data. Ting did not say which GSM network it is riding on, but the coverage map suggests it is using T-Mobile.
Sprint today announced a new option within its range of Family Share Pack plans. Customers can get up to 10 lines with unlimited talk, text, and 12GB of high-speed data to share for $90 per month. Sprint has dropped per-line smartphone access charges from $25 per month to $15 per month, but will waive access charges completely (for a period of one year) for customers who port their number from another carrier. Tablets cost $10 per line and mobile broadband devices cost $20 per line. Sprint is also still offering to pay the ETFs for customers who break their contract to switch to Sprint (up to $350 per line, four lines max). All devices must be purchased through Sprint Easy Pay or the Sprint iPhone for Life Plan.
Gemalto found itself at the center of a new hacking scandal this week after The Intercept reported the SIM card maker was compromised by the NSA and the UK's Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ). The Intercept claims the U.S. and British spy agencies stole the encryption keys for SIM cards so they would be able to secretly monitor cell phone users around the world. With the keys in hand, the agencies could snoop around completely undetected by the targets or the network operators, and could do so without warrants. SIM cards are used in most mobile phones to identify the customer and allow the device to access the network. They are protected by light encryption, but only to prevent fraud -- not hacking. Possessing the encryption keys to the cards allowed the agencies to bypass the built-in security measures completely. In order to do this, the agencies monitored Gemalto employees and eventually broke into Gemalto's computer systems. The hacks took place in 2010, and Gemalto was completely unaware of the breech until contacted by The Intercept. The company issued a statement today, saying, "Gemalto is especially vigilant against malicious hackers, and has detected, logged and mitigated many types of attempts over the years. At present we cannot prove a link between those past attempts and what was reported yesterday. We take this publication very seriously and will devote all resources necessary to fully investigate and understand the scope of such sophisticated techniques." Gemalto is the world's largest manufacturer of SIM cards and ships about two billion SIM cards per year. The company is headquartered in The Netherlands, but has a large office in Texas and a manufacturing plant in Pennsylvania. AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless all use Gemalto SIM cards in their mobile devices, as do 450 other mobile network operators around the globe. The Intercept's report is based on documents released by NSA leaker Edward Snowden.
Sprint is looking to raise more cash for covering a variety of expenses. To that end, the company today kicked off a sale of $1 billion in senior notes. The company said proceeds from the note sale will be used for general corporate purposes, debt maintenance, and network expansion and modernization. The company has held numerous such sales over the last few years to keep up with the costs of building and deploying its LTE 4G network.
Sprint today said it will sell the LG G Flex 2 beginning March 13. Preorders for the device commence Feb. 20. The G Flex 2 will be available via Sprint Easy pay, which costs $21 per month for 24 months. The suggested retail price is $504. Sprint didn't say how much the phone will cost with a two-year contract. The G Flex 2 is a curved smartphone that is flexible and has a self-healing rear cover. The phone features a Snapdragon 810 processor, 13-megapixel camera, 5.5-inch screen, and 3,000mAh battery.
Sprint today launched LTE service in 24 new markets and Spark service in an additional 24 markets. The company's LTE footprint now reaches 270 million POPs, while its Spark footprint reaches 125 million POPs. Some of the new LTE markets include Flagstaff, Ariz.; Maui and the Big Island, Hawaii; Terra Haute, Ind.; Thousand Oaks, Ventura, Santa Barbara, and Santa Maria, Calif.; and Washington, D.C., Arlington, and Alexandra, Va. Some of the new Spark markets include Camden, N.J.; Nashua, N.H.; New Haven and Milford, Conn.; Norfolk, Virginia Beach, and Newport News, Va.; Peoria, Ill., Providence, R.I.; and Spokane, Wash. Sprint said it will add Spark coverage to Atlanta, Boston, Las Vegas, Nashville, Portland, San Francisco, San Jose, and Washington, D.C. later this month.
Dan Mead, who has served as the CEO of Verizon Wireless since 2010, plans to retire according to filings the company made with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Mead will remain on the board of directors and serve as executive vice president and president of strategic initiatives. He'll stay in that role until Verizon Communications finalizes its sale of certain landline and FiOS assets to Frontier Communications. Once that is completed in mid 2016, Mead will retire fully. Mead has been replaced by John Stratton, formerly Verizon's executive vice president and president of Verizon's global enterprise and consumer wireline business. Stratton's new title is executive vice president and president of operations. He'll be in charge of both the wireless and wireline businesses. Both Mead and Stratton report to Verizon Communications CEO Lowell McAdam. AT&T and Sprint have also installed new CEOs in the last six months. Glen Lurie succeeded Ralph de la Vega at AT&T and Marcelo Claure took over for Dan Hesse at Sprint. T-Mobile's John Legere has been serving as CEO since fall 2012.
Verizon today said it doesn't believe it will need to make any more large spectrum acquisitions following the results of the recent AWS-3 spectrum auction. Verizon netted 181 spectrum licenses at a cost of $10.4 billion. The licenses cover 192 million POPs, or about 60% of Americans. Post auction, Verizon now has 40MHz of AWS spectrum covering 95% of the country's major markets, and 60MHz of mid-band spectrum covering about 84% of the population. Verizon may, when the opportunity arises, make small spectrum acquisitions or even lease spectrum, such as Sprint's 2.5GHz airwaves. For now, however, the company will focus on making the most-efficient use possible of its existing spectrum resources. Verizon said carrier aggregation will help a lot, and indicated that small cell deployments will further fill in a lot of gaps. Verizon also said it plans to more aggressively refarm its PCS spectrum, converting it from 3G to LTE 4G. Verizon's winnings ranked third in the AWS-3 auction, behind AT&T's massive $18 billion expenditure and Dish Networks' $13 billion. AT&T and Verizon have been forced to sell some assets in order to keep their balance sheets in order. For example, Verizon recently announced plans to sell some of its landline and fiber business assets to Frontier Communications. It is also selling some of its cell towers.
Sprint today said owners of the LG G3 should be able to update their devices to Android 5.0 Lollipop beginning today. Lollipop adds a wide range of new features, including Material Design, improved notifications, updated lock screen, upgraded Google Services, integrated messaging, and support for Google TV. The update also improves battery performance. Users can download and install the update over the air.
Wireless network operators are now required to unlock customers' phones once the phones are paid off or no longer under contract. Today's change follows an agreement forged between the FCC, the CTIA Wireless Association and carriers in December 2013. That agreement set a number of provisions, some of which were to be met in May 2014 and the rest by today. AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, U.S. Cellular, and Verizon Wireless all agreed to the unlocking policies. Under the terms of the agreement, carriers are required to post clear details that define which phones can and cannot be unlocked to their web site. Carriers are required to unlock all phones upon request as long as customers have fulfilled their contractual obligations. Prepaid devices will be unlocked no later than one year after their initial activation date. Carriers have to unlock devices within two days after customers request that their phones be unlocked, or initiate a request with the OEM to unlock the device, or explain to consumers why their device cannot be unlocked. The carriers have to notify customers proactively once their devices are eligible to be unlocked. Last, carriers have to unlock the devices of all deployed military personnel who are in good standing. The carriers' individual unlocking policies vary slightly.
Sprint CTO Stephen Bye says the FCC's move to reclassify broadband under Title II won't stifle telecom companies' investment in building new networks. AT&T and Verizon have warned the FCC that strict regulation of broadband is likely to decrease investment and harm consumers in the long term. Sprint sees things differently. "Our competitors are going to continue to invest so they are representing a situation that won't play out," said Bye in an interview with Reuters. "The notion that some of our competitors are suggesting that they will stop investing if Title II is brought into effect... That's something we've refused." Bye points to the recent FCC spectrum auction as proof. AT&T spent $18 billion to purchase AWS-3 spectrum licenses, Dish spent $13 billion, and Verizon spent $10.3 billion. All three companies made those investments while fully aware of the FCC's plans for regulating broadband. Sprint does not see Title II reclassification as a problem. "It's one of those topics that is highly charged, highly politicized and we took a step back and said it works in the interest of our customers, our consumers and the industry and we frankly found some of the arguments (of our competitors) to be less than compelling."
Cricket Wireless today announced that all customers on its $50 and $60 plans can now make unlimited calls to Mexico. Cricket's subscribers can call landlines and mobile phones at no extra charge, though Cricket said calls to special or premium services may be blocked. The service also includes unlimited text, picture, and video messaging. The offer is not valid for Cricket's legacy CDMA customers. Cricket's Smart Plan costs $50 per month and includes unlimited calling, messaging, and 5GB of LTE data. The Pro Plan costs $60 and doubles data to 10GB. The Advanced Plan, which is available for a limited time, costs $60 and includes 20GB of LTE data and expands free messaging to 35 more countries. Customers can get a $5 monthly discount if they sign up for auto-pay. Cricket is still offering incentives to T-Mobile, MetroPCS, Sprint, and Boost Mobile customers, who will receive a free month of service for switching. Cricket operates on AT&T's network. AT&T recently acquired Iusacell, a Mexican network operator, and rolled out unlimited calls to Mexico to its own customers for $5 per month.
SoftBank CEO and Sprint Chairman Masayoshi Son indicated he'd be willing to sell some of the company's 2.5GHz spectrum assets to keep Sprint funded. Sprint gained a massive amount of 2.5GHz spectrum holdings when it purchased Clearwire. The value of that spectrum has increased tremendously over the last year and is worth more than Sprint itself. The company has received offers for the airwaves. "Sprint has a lot of spectrum compared to other companies," said Son. "In 2.5GHz, it has the biggest bandwidth in the world. Suddenly, what was undervalued in people's view has become very precious." There are no immediate deals in the works, however, and Sprint CEO Marcelo Claure said Sprint's interests come first. "We are open minded to business arrangements that could generate long-term shareholder value," said Claure. "But, first and foremost, spectrum is to be used for Sprint, and then we will look at extra spectrum to see if there's any interest." Sprint is currently deploying LTE on its 2.5GHz spectrum. Analysts cited by Bloomberg believe Sprint is burning through cash too quickly and may be forced to sell the spectrum eventually.
RadioShack today filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and signed an agreement to sell approximately 1,750 of its stores to Sprint. Under the terms of RadioShack's Chapter 11 filing, RadioShack will sell the stores to Sprint and General Wireless, a subsidiary of one of RadioShack's major investors. Moving forward, these stores will be co-branded Sprint and RadioShack, with Sprint being the primary brand. Sprint will own about 30% of the real estate within each store to sell Sprint, Boost Mobile, and Virgin Mobile USA products. The remaining 70% will be set aside for RadioShack to sell its own branded gear and other electronics. Sprint did not say what will happen to the AT&T, GoPhone, Net10 Wireless, Verizon Wireless and Tracfone phones that are currently offered by RadioShack. Presumably they will be no longer be sold. Sprint currently has more than 1,100 company-owned retail stores, which would more than double if the transaction is approved. RadioShack listed about $1.2 billion in assets and $1.39 billion in debts. A bankruptcy court will have to approve RadioShack's plans before Sprint can make its purchase official.
Sprint today began delivering the Android 5.0 Lollipop system update to the HTC One (M7) and Samsung Galaxy S5. The One gained new lock screen tools, a larger view of recent apps, and a search function within the settings menu. In addition to Lollipop, the GS5 was given a new user interface for the VoWiFi application. Sprint also removed the Lumen Toolbar application. The Android operating system update is free to download over WiFi.
Sprint today offered a snapshot of the progress it has made deploying LTE around the country. According to its fourth quarter earnings, Sprint's LTE network now reaches 270 million POPs, up from 260 million in the previous quarter. Further, Sprint covers 125 million POPs with LTE over its 2.5GHz spectrum. Last, Sprint has finished deploying voice services across its 800MHz spectrum, and has deployed LTE across 60% of its 800MHz spectrum. It plans to cover the remaining 40% by the end of the year. Speaking to media, Sprint CEO Marcelo Claure said the company is working on VoLTE and carrier aggregation, but it doesn't yet have a timeframe for deploying these technologies. Sprint lost $2.38 billion during the quarter. It had a total net gain of 842,000 customers (pre- and postpaid), making for a total subscriber base of 55.9 million.
RadioShack and its creditors might sell half the company's stores to Sprint and close the remaining locations, reports Bloomberg. Sources familiar with the companies' plans suggest Sprint would rebrand the RadioShack stores, which would cease to exist as stand-alone electronics stores. Bloomberg's sources said, however, that the deal is not final and may change. Further, a third party may make a bid for the ailing electronics company. RadioShack has been in bankruptcy for months and is seeking a way out of debt. Selling some stores, closing the rest, and selling off assets would help lenders recover some of the money they've lent RadioShack over the last year to keep it afloat. Neither Sprint nor RadioShack commented on Bloomberg's report.
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel today announced an initiative along with AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless that will see the city's subway system upgraded with LTE 4G. The City of Chicago and Chicago Transit Authority have agreed to fund the project with $32.5 million. The four carriers will undertake the upgrade themselves with a distributed antenna system, or DAS. The existing system has been in place nearly 10 years and is now outdated. Emanuel said the project will deliver continuous 4G coverage along the 22-mile stretch between O-Hare airport through the tunnels and platforms of the Red and Blue Lines. Work on the project actually began earlier this month and will be complete by the end of the year. Los Angeles recently announced a similar initiative. Boston, New York City, and Washington, D.C., also offer underground cell service in their respective transit systems.
The FCC today adopted rules it first proposed last year that will eventually help first responders to locate people who call 911 from their cell phones faster. Specifically, the FCC wants first responders to be able to better locate people within buildings. With today's technology, first responders still have trouble determining from which building wireless 911 calls originate from, let alone the floor and/or apartment or suite. The FCC has laid out clear, measurable goals for carriers to provide X, Y, and Z coordinates to help place callers as accurately as a specific room inside a building. Last fall, the CTIA Wireless Association along with members AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless laid out their own plan to meet the FCC's demands. The FCC said it understands that there's no silver bullet and knows carriers will need to rely on multiple different technologies to reach the benchmarks it has set in place. The FCC said it will allow the operators some leeway in developing their own standards as long as they meet the location accuracy requirements.
Sprint today launched an aggressive promotion aimed directly at T-Mobile. Sprint is promising $200 to T-Mobile customers who port their number to Sprint and turn in their working T-Mobile phone. The $200 trade-in offer, which runs from today through April 9, can be combined with Sprint's ETF buyout. In addition to the $200, Sprint will pay up to $350 per line to cover ETFs and other fees when customers cancel their T-Mobile service. With the two promotions combined, T-Mobile customers stand to receive up to $550 if they switch to Sprint, which should cover any costs associated with terminating their old service and acquiring a new handset.
LG said it will begin selling the G Flex 2 in its home market of Korea on Jan. 30. The phone will reach other markets in the "coming months." Several U.S. carriers, including AT&T, Sprint, and U.S. Cellular, have said they'll sell the phone but none has said when or for how much. The G Flex 2 will cost Koreans approximately $830 when it goes on sale next week. Separately, an LG executive refuted reports that the Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 processor overheats. Bloomberg on Wednesday reported that Samsung plans to drop the Snapdragon 810 chip from its forthcoming Galaxy S6 smartphone due to overheating issues. "I am very much aware of the various concerns in the market about the (Snapdragon) 810, but the chip's performance is quite satisfactory," said Woo Ram-chan, vice president for mobile product planning at LG. Woo said the chip emits less heat than other devices. "I don't understand why there is a issue over heat." LG uses the Snapdragon 810 in the G Flex 2.
FreedomPop today announced the launch of a WiFi-only wireless service plan that costs just $5 per month. The plan includes unlimited voice minutes (via VoIP), messaging, and data use across 10 million WiFi hotspots around the country. FreedomPop is an MVNO that resells access to Sprint's network. In order to make this new service work, FreedomPop partnered with an unknown number of WiFi aggregators so its WiFi network will be available in public places such as Burger King, McDonalds, Panera, and Starbucks in addition to shopping centers and other outdoor public spaces that offer WiFi. FreedomPop began selling a WiFi-only phablet last year that is compatible with this WiFi service, but the company hopes consumers will connect old phones or tablets to its $5 WiFi plan, too. The service requires an Android device for now. FreedomPop created an Android app that automatically locates and connects to available WiFi hotspots. The new WiFi-only service is available starting today.
Deutsche Telekom, majority owner of T-Mobile, believes the Uncarrier's best chances of success are to merge with or be acquired by another large carrier. Deutsche Telekom CEO Tim Hoettges, speaking to Re/code, said T-Mobile lacks the scale enjoyed by rivals AT&T and Verizon Wireless. Without that scale, it will be hard for T-Mobile to compete in the long run. "I was intrigued by the idea of having a combination with Sprint and being the 'super-maverick' in the market," said Hoettges, "I hope that the political environment will change at one point in time." Sprint's parent, SoftBank, abandoned the idea of acquiring T-Mobile last year after regulators said the deal would face major hurdles in scoring approval. While Hoettges praised T-Mobile CEO John Legere for enacting change and turning the company around with aggressive promotions, he said T-Mobile cannot hold its current course indefinitely. "The question is always the economics in the long term," said Hoettges. "You have to earn your money back at one point in time."
Sprint today said it is not worried about the FCC's potential reclassification of broadband to a public utility or Title II Telecommunications Service. "Sprint does not believe that a light touch application of Title II, including appropriate forbearance, would harm the continued investment in, and deployment of, mobile broadband services," wrote Sprint CTO Stephen Bye. Sprint's position is not shared by its competitors, which have spoken out against such a reclassification. The FCC is expected to reveal its plans regarding the regulation of broadband on Feb. 5. The plan has been a year in the making since the FCC's previous net neutrality rules were struck down in court.
Sprint today increased the number of devices eligible for its leasing program by adding the LG G3 and the Samsung Galaxy Note 4. Sprint said new and existing customers can lease the G3 for $15 per month for 24 months or the Note 4 for $25 per month for 24 months. Customers can take the devices home for $0 down. At the end of the lease, customers can turn the device in and lease another or return the device (as long as it is in working order) and terminate their service. Sprint already offers leases on the Apple iPhone and Samsung Galaxy S5.
One of the top four U.S. carriers has agreed to sell the YotaPhone 2, according to YotaPhone executive Matthew Kelly. Kelly would not specify which of the four carriers (AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, Verizon Wireless) plans to sell the phone, but he said it is coming later this year. The YotaPhone 2 is notable because it has two displays: a standard LCD panel on the front and an e-ink display on the back. The e-ink display can be used to conserve battery power, as it draws about one-seventh as much energy as an LCD screen. The YotaPhone 2 is already for sale in Europe. Pricing in the U.S. is as yet unknown.
Boost Mobile today announced that a new version of the Samsung Galaxy Prevail will reach its stores on Jan. 19. The Galaxy Prevail LTE adds LTE 4G connectivity; improves the screen from 4 inches to 4.5 inches; increases the size of the battery from 1750mAh to 2000mAh; and updates the operating system from Android 4.1 to Android 4.4. Other features include a 5-megapixel main camera and 2-megapixel user-facing camera, 1.2GHz quad-core Snapdragon 410 processor with 1GB of RAM and 8GB of storage, and support for Sprint's HD Voice service. The Samsung Galaxy Prevail LTE will cost $130. Boost Mobile does not require contracts and service plans start at $35 per month.
AT&T will carry the 32 GB version of the G Flex 2 that LG just announced at CES. Sprint will also offer the phone. Pricing and availability date for both carriers will be announced at a later date.
Documents seen on the FCC web site suggest the Samsung Galaxy Core Prime will soon be sold by Sprint and Verizon Wireless in the U.S. The Core Prime, which is already for sale in select markets, goes by the model number SM-G360. The FCC recently approved two devices with the model numbers SM-G360P and SM-G360V, which fall in line with the model numbering schemes employed by Sprint and Verizon. The Core Prime includes a 4.5-inch screen, Snapdragon 410 processor, 5-megapixel camera, and runs Android 4.4 KitKat. Neither Sprint nor Verizon has confirmed plans to sell the device.
T-Mobile CEO John Legere took to the company's blog today to shed some light on its plans headed into 2015. To start, the company claims it will cover 300 million POPs with LTE by the end of 2015. It currently covers 264 million. T-Mobile will deploy Wideband LTE to a total of 150 markets around the country, though it is already present in about 120 markets. The company said it will eventually provide LTE to 350 markets via its 700MHz spectrum holdings. T-Mobile only recently began to deploy LTE on 700MHz, and didn't say how long it will take to reach those 350 markets. Legere noted MetroPCS, T-Mobile's prepaid service, will continue to see uncharted growth. The small carrier has already made big gains since T-Mobile acquired it in 2013. Legere also took the opportunity to poke fun at T-Mobile's rivals and make predictions about what's to come over the course of the next 12 months. Among others, Legere believes T-Mobile will overtake Sprint to become the nation's third-largest network operator in the very near future. (He had previously predicted by the end of 2014.) Legere says fourth quarter earnings reports, expected at the end of January, will provide the necessary details to make that determination.
T-Mobile today agreed to pay the FTC and FCC a total of $90 million to settle accusations that the company was complicit in allowing third-parties to charge customers for unwanted services. An FTC and FCC investigation found T-Mobile guilty of breaking the law by "engaging in an unjust and unreasonable practice of billing consumers for products or services they had not authorized; and failing to provide a brief, clear, non-misleading, plain language description of the third-party charges on the telephone bills sent to consumers." A minimum of $67.5 million of the fine will be set aside to repay customers who claim they were overcharged. T-Mobile will also pay $18 million to all fifty U.S. states and the District of Columbia, in addition to $4.5 million to the U.S. Treasury. As part of the consent decree, T-Mobile is prohibited from charging customers for third-party PSMS products or services. It also requires T-Mobile to create a system so customers can verify third-party service charges before they appear on bills. T-Mobile will have to block third-party charges for free; make it easier for customers to identify possible fraudulent charges; and train customer service staff to properly resolve customer complaints regarding unauthorized charges. "Cramming is a significant problem," said FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler. "For too long, millions of consumers have been scammed -- billed for bogus charges on their phone bills for services they didn’t request. This is unacceptable. Today's settlement is a win for consumers who have been victimized by cramming. It means compensation for T-Mobile customers who were fraudulently billed for third-party services that they did not want or authorize. And it goes one step further. Today’s action will also help protect all of T-Mobile's customers from bogus third-party charges in the future." Sprint was recently sued for similar practices. AT&T settled cramming charges with the FCC for $105 million earlier this year.
The FCC today granted T-Mobile's petition that the agency "provide guidance on the application of the commercial reasonableness standard" with respect to data roaming rates. T-Mobile filed the petition earlier this year in order to help it and other carriers negotiate better roaming rates with larger rivals AT&T and Verizon Wireless. Since 2011, the FCC has mandated that all carriers allow competing devices to roam onto their networks at fair prices. The FCC did not suggest or otherwise imply what those fair prices should be. T-Mobile argued the FCC's 2011 mandate did not provide enough guidance for setting rates and the result has been what T-Mobile calls exorbitant fees charged by AT&T and Verizon to roam onto their networks. Sprint and other members of the Competitive Carriers Association supported T-Mobile's position, while AT&T and Verizon Wireless opposed it vehemently. The two larger carriers argued any such guidance could result in reduced rates over the long term and would serve as unnecessary regulation. After weighing the arguments, the FCC agreed with T-Mobile's position that it should offer guidance on reasonable pricing. Specifically, the FCC will adopt T-Mobile's four proposed benchmarks when assessing the reasonableness standard: 1. retail rates; 2. international roaming rates; 3. MVNO/resale rates; and 4. roaming rates charged by other providers. "In our view, the additional guidance we provide under the standard set forth ... will facilitate the ability of parties to negotiate successful data roaming agreements, which in turn will promote the provision of high quality advanced broadband services by multiple service providers in urban, suburban, and rural areas to the benefit of American consumers," said the FCC.
The FCC is prepared to hit Sprint with a massive fine over alleged cramming practices, according to the Wall Street Journal. The FCC says Sprint played a "willful" role in charging customers for text message alerts, horoscopes, sports scores, ring tones, and other unwanted services. The FCC said Sprint was hit with 35,000 complaints over cramming charges during a three-month window in the middle of 2013. The FCC hasn't finalized the fine against Sprint, but three of the five commissioners are prepared to vote in favor of the penalty. AT&T settled with the FCC for a similar amount over cramming earlier this year, and the FTC is suing T-Mobile for the same practice.
Sprint today said fans of Windows Phone will soon have the option to buy the Lumia 635 through several different Sprint brands. Boost Mobile and Virgin Mobile USA will begin selling the Lumia 635 online on Dec. 23 and in stores Jan. 9 for $99. Sprint postpaid customers will have a shot at the Lumia 635 starting on Jan. 16, though pricing for the postpaid version has yet to be determined. Sprint says the Lumia 635 is the first Windows Phone 8.1 handset to grace its retail shelves. Moreover, it's the first Lumia Windows Phone to be sold by Sprint's prepaid brands. Microsoft first announced the Lumia 635 in April. It features a ClearBlack 4.5-inch LCD screen, interchangeable back panels, 5-megapixel shooter, and Nokia's two camera apps. There is no user-facing camera. It is powered by a quad-core 1.2GHz Snapdragon 400 processor and includes 512MB of RAM, 8GB of internal storage, and support microSD cards up to 128GB.
T-Mobile today said it has expanded the availability of Wideband LTE service to a total of 26 major U.S. cities and 120 small metro areas. The newest additions include all of New York City, Long Island, and northern New Jersey. T-Mobile said central New Jersey and Westchester County, N.Y., will have Wideband LTE coverage very soon. According to T-Mobile, NYC customers are reporting peak download speeds of 100Mbps with average download speeds hovering around 22Mbps. "Wideband LTE" specifically refers to 15x2 or 20x2MHz LTE over T-Mobile's AWS or PCS spectrum, depending on the market in question.
Cricket Wireless is hoping a $100 bill credit will convince customers of Cincinnati Bell, MetroPCS, Boost Mobile, Virgin Mobile, Sprint, and T-Mobile to hop on over to Cricket. New customers must switch from the aforementioned carriers, purchase a new device, and activate a new line of service on a qualifying rate plan in order to receive the credit. The credit will be applied at the end of the first billing cycle. Cricket's service plans cost $40-$60 per month, depending on options. Cricket offered a similar promotion over the summer months, but only targeted Sprint and T-Mobile. The current promotion runs through Dec. 31.
Sprint today said it plans to install the Uber application on most of its Android smartphones moving forward. Uber is a ride-seeking app that lets people discover and request rides. Sprint and Uber are offering new customers $20 toward their first ride when they create a new Uber account. Uber requires payment via credit card, but customers can use the app to keep track of their driver as he/she approaches, as well as see estimated costs for their ride. Sprint customers who don't have Uber preinstalled on their device are still eligible to receive the discount. Uber is available from the Google Play Store, the iTunes App Store, and the Windows Phone Store.