T-Mobile today said Sprint customers can score $200 when porting their lines to T-Mobile during the holidays. T-Mobile will give Sprint, Boost, and Virgin subscribers an extra $200 for every line they switch to a T-Mobile Simple Choice plan, with no trade-in required. T-Mobile is also targeting subscribers to Sprint's unlimited plan. These customers can get access to T-Mobile's unlimited LTE plan for $45 per line for a family of four. These offerings will be available starting Nov. 26.
Sprint today sold part of its device financing business to a newly formed entity called Mobile Leasing Solutions for $1.2 billion. The new company is being backed by a group of equity investors, including Sprint's parent company, SoftBank. Mobile Leasing Solutions was conceived with the help of Brightstar, Sprint CEO Marcelo Claure's former company, which will help manage some of the reverse logistics associated with leased devices. The transaction puts the financial risk and cashflow issues associated with leasing phones into Mobile Leasing Solution's hands. By doing so, Sprint will free up money it would otherwise have to spend procuring, leasing, and managing the return of smartphones. "Providing mobile devices to customers is the biggest use of cash in the carrier model and with this new structure we have more closely aligned Sprint’s cash flows with those associated with leasing devices to our customers," said Sprint CFO Tarek Robbiati. Sprint expects the deal to close during the first week of December.
Sprint today said its current customers can get a free tablet with a free year of service for their loyalty. The offering is meant to offset the 50% rate deal being given to non-customers who switch to Sprint. The free tablet with service will be available while supplies last. Sprint didn't say what tablet will be given to customers.
Sprint is rebranding its LTE 4G network in an effort to call attention to the technology involved in making the network tick. Sprint LTE Plus replaces the Sprint Spark name for the company's tri-band LTE network, which uses 800MHz, 1.9GHz, and 2.5GHz. Sprint has focused on optimizing the performance of cell sites, as well as on improving the underlying network tech by taking advantage of carrier aggregation and beamforming. Carrier aggregation is the binding of two or more channels to act as one to increase capacity. Beamforming involves focusing wireless signals, particularly in the 2.5GHz band, in order to better reach handsets. Sprint claims these techniques have doubled network capacity and speeds (peaks greater than 100Mbps), increased the range of 2.5GHz spectrum, and improved reliability across all three spectrum bands. Right now, Sprint says 77 markets have access to these network improvements. More importantly, 13 of Sprint's devices, including the iPhone 6s, Galaxy S6, and One A9, support the new wireless technologies. Sprint said it plans to expand Sprint LTE Plus to more markets and more devices over time. The company will also continue to improve its network technology, and is looking to use 3-, 4-, and 5-channel carrier aggregation, advanced beamforming, and higher order MIMO down the road.
Sprint said beginning November 20, AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon customers who switch their number to Sprint will save 50% off their old rate plan. The 50% savings will be available to switchers through Jan. 8, 2018. Sprint is also offering up to $650 in reimbursement for ETFs and other fees, but requires new customers to trade in their old smartphone. The promotion is limited to a maximum of 10 lines per account. Subsidized devices require an extra $25 per month fee. The half-rate plan does not extend to unlimited music/video streaming, data carryover, tethering, or cloud services. Mobile hotspot consumption is pulled from the shared data plan. The discount does not apply to taxes, surcharges, add-ons, apps, premium content, or international services. Discounts vary based on the rates charged by AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon. Not all competitor rate plans apply. Sprint offered a similar promotion last year.
Verizon Wireless will soon begin charging a $20 activation fee for new customers who sign up for one of its contract-free device payment plans. The fee goes into effect Nov. 15. Previously, Verizon waived activation fees for customers who purchased devices via monthly installment plans. Verizon already charges a $40 activation fee to customers signing contracts. Though Verizon no longer offers contracts, it will still charge that $40 fee to grandfathered contract customers who add a new line of service. Verizon said the new $20 fee covers costs associated with adding a line, such as pairing the customer's phone number with their SIM card. Part of the initial appeal of monthly installment plans was the "$0 down" promise from carriers. Verizon's new fee effectively reneges on that policy. AT&T's installment plan customers now pay a $15 fee, too, when adding a new line. Sprint charges $36 for all new lines of service, and T-Mobile charges $15 for its SIM starter kit.
Transit Wireless today said it has completed Phase 4 of its project to bring cellular and WiFi service to subway stations across New York City. Phase 4 adds coverage to 20 stations in the Bronx, as well as 17 stations in Manhattan. Some of the new stations include 53rd St./Lexington Ave. (6,E,M) and 59th/Lex. (4,5,6,N,Q,R) in Manhattan, and 149th S. Grand Concourse (2,4,5), and 125th St. (4,5,6) in the Bronx. Transit says it provides service to more than 140 stations throughout the New York City subway system. Service is available to AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and now Verizon Wireless customers.
AT&T is making plans to participate in next year's incentive auction, according to CFO John Stephens. "Spectrum is a scare asset, and so we would expect to participate," said Stephens, speaking at technology conference. "I won't suggest at what level, but we plan in our business plans to do that, and we'll see how it plays out, what's available. Certainly, getting a nationwide opportunity is what we've talked about in the past. A 2x10 MHz nationwide capability is something that works very well with our network planning and our network team, but we will see how this develops." AT&T already has significant low-band spectrum holdings in the 700MHz range. The incentive auction, planned for the middle of next year, will see television broadcasters turn in their spectrum licenses which will then be auctioned off to wireless broadband providers. AT&T's participation in the auction is somewhat limited thanks to a reserve for smaller carriers put in place by the FCC. T-Mobile has said it will spend up to $10 billion to get the low-band spectrum it needs to better compete with AT&T and Verizon Wireless. Sprint is sitting the auction out. Verizon hasn't discussed its plans in detail.
Sprint today unfurled a promotion that will award customers a year of Amazon Prime for free with the purchase of a new Samsung smartphone. Customers need to purchase or lease one of the newer Samsung smartphones, including the Galaxy S6, S6 Edge, S6 Edge+, or Note 5. Sprint will then send a text message with a link to Amazon Prime, which customers may redeem for free. Amazon Prime normally carries a price of $99 per year. Prime includes free two-day shipping, unlimited access to streaming Prime Videos and Prime Music, as well as unlimited storage in Prime Photos. Sprint is also offering to lease the Galaxy S6 for $10 per month with a qualifying trade-in. This offer will be available for a limited time.
AT&T and Sprint stores are now selling the HTC One A9. The phone's introductory price of $399 is no longer available, and HTC and its carrier partners are charging full price for the handset. AT&T is offering the One A9 for $17.34, $21.67, or $26 per month with its Next 24, Next 18, or Next 12 payment plans, respectively. Alternately, customers can pay $99.99 if they are willing to sign a two-year contract. Sprint is leasing the One A9 for $20 per month, financing it for $29 per month, or asking for $199.99 up front with a contract. The One A9 sports a premium metal unibody design with thin profile. Key features include 5-inch full-HD display, 13-megapixel camera, fingerprint reader, NFC, and memory card slot.
Mobile Citizens, a not-for-profit organization that provides free and low-cost internet service to schools, has won an injunction preventing Sprint from shutting down its WiMax network. Sprint had planned to cease operating WiMax on Nov. 6. Mobile Citizens and other groups, however, had existing wholesale contracts with Clearwire, which Sprint acquired in 2013. Sprint says it tried to work the organizations to switch them to LTE, but the organizations allege Sprint is seeking unreasonable new terms. A Massachusetts-based judge believes some at-need consumers may be harmed if the shutdown is allowed to proceed and issued a 90-day stay. "The injunction compels Sprint to honor its professed commitment to closing the digital divide," said Mobile Citizen founder John Schwartz in a statement. "It's unfortunate it took a court order to stop Sprint from shutting off 300,000 children, families, teachers and community members from access to the American dream. But we look forward to moving ahead positively with Sprint and ensuring that everyone in our community can keep the service they rely on to connect to the larger world around them." The injunction gives the organizations more time to move customers from WiMax to LTE. Sprint did not immediately offer comment.
Masayoshi Son, CEO of SoftBank, said the company plans to eliminate thousands of jobs at Sprint in order to reduce costs and aid in the company's turn-around plans. Son made the comments while discussing SoftBank's financial performance, which was impacted negatively by Sprint. SoftBank owns a majority stake in Sprint. The job cuts have been expected since last month, when Sprint's CFO said they are necessary to meet financial goals. Sprint CEO Marcelo Claure recently indicated the cuts would be made by the end of January. Neither SoftBank nor Sprint has said which areas of the company will be affected.
Sprint said it will put cost-cutting measures, including layoffs, in place before the end of January. Sprint CEO Marcelo Claure explained that he wants to be sure to give employees a much severance as possible, even though the company plans to halve the amount given to ex-employees. "I think we had a very generous severance compared to other companies," said Claure to Re/code. "We are bringing it to a more realistic level. Nobody likes to be in a company that is doing layoffs. The way you beat that is being very honest and transparent." Claure didn't detail what departments will see the most job reductions. Sprint has reduced the length of some of its television commercials to control their expense, and has implemented other changes around the company, such as replacing townecars with Ubers, to aid in penny-pinching. Claure believes the layoffs and other cuts can put Sprint on the road to profitability.
FreedomPop plans to launch its first smartphone thanks to a new investment from Intel. The chip-maker is supplying the processor for the handset, which will be made by a "well-known device manufacturer." The device will go on sale next year for less than $200. FreedomPop did not share any details about the handset other than to say it would be customized to work on its service. FreedomPop is a Sprint MVNO that offers some data and voice service for free. It charges low fees for access to Sprint's network, but subscribers are encouraged to use WiFi as much as practical. Intel recently invested $36 million in FreedomPop. FreedomPop expanded to the U.K. earlier this year and plans to reach more markets in 2016.
Sprint today said it has cut a roaming agreement with Telecommunications Company of Cuba (ETECSA). Sprint is the first U.S. carrier to sign such an agreement, which will allow Sprint customers to roam on ETESCA's network when traveling to Cuba. Sprint said roaming rates for voice, messaging, and data will be announced later. Sprint didn't say when the roaming services will become available. In recent months, Sprint has expanded its roaming services to a wide number of countries across North and South America.
Sharp CEO Kozo Takahashi said the company is in talks with several others concerning a sale of its LCD business unit. "I cannot provide any names, but we are currently in negotiations with multiple companies," said Takahashi. Sharp has struggled in recent years, despite receiving several financial rescue packages. The company said in April of this year that it planned to sell or divest its LCD business. This is the first sign from Sharp that is has been able to drum up interest in the unit. Sharp has developed several unique display technologies and devices over the years, including a 4K IGZO panel and the Sharp Aquos Touch, an Android smartphone with an edge-to-edge screen that was sold by Sprint.
Scratch Wireless, a Sprint MVNO, said it can no longer afford to give services away for free and will begin charging for some features. Scratch Wireless has historically offered free WiFi calling and free messaging via cellular and WiFi. Scratch sold unlimited voice minutes on Sprint's network for $15 per month. Moving forward, Scratch will charge $10 per month for unlimited calling on both WiFi and cellular. "As other costs go up, like text 911 and others, it is impossible for us to completely absorb the costs of WiFi calling and cellular text messages," said Scratch founder and CEO Alan Berrey in a statement provided to Fierce Wireless. "Our customers still have access to free unlimited text messaging on WiFi, free unlimited MMS on WiFi, and free unlimited data on WiFi. Again, we are only changing WiFi calling and cellular text messaging." Scratch is now bundling cellular messaging services into its data packages. Scratch's entry-level data plan costs $1.99 for 50MB for 24 hours, and its top-end data plan costs $24.99 for 1GB for 30 days.
LG today marked the official arrival of the V10 smartphone, which has dual-front cameras and a secondary display. The device is on sale in the U.S., as well as China and Hong Kong. Today's launch will be followed in other markets across North America, Europe, Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East throughout the fourth quarter. T-Mobile is the lone U.S. carrier selling the V10 in stores today, though AT&T and Verizon are accepting orders online. AT&T plans to stock the device in stores Nov 6.
Sprint today added a new option to its list of service plans. The Starter Unlimited Data Plan includes 1GB of high-speed data and unlimited 2G data for $20 per month. Sprint says subscribers to this plan will have the option to buy access to more LTE data, but they won't be hit with overage charges. Unlimited talk and text costs another $20. Together, 1GB of LTE data and unlimited talk and text costs $40 per month. Sprint is making a similar alteration to its Sprint Family Share Pack. Subscribers to family plans will have access to unlimited 2G data if they burn through their LTE 4G allotment. They, too, will have the option to buy more high-speed access at $15 per 1GB. Last, Sprint has raised the price of its Unlimited High-Speed Data Plan, which includes 3GB of mobile hotspot data and unlimited talk/text/LTE, to $70 per month. All these options include Sprint Global Roaming and are available starting Oct. 30.
Samsung today said Samsung Pay will soon be supported by more financial institutions. This means a broader range of consumers will be able to add their credit or debit cards to Samsung Pay. Some of the new banks include Chase, PNC Bank, TD Bank, SunTrust, Fifth Third Bank, First Hawaiian, Key Bank, Silicon Valley Bank, Security Service Federal Credit Union, Navy Federal Credit Union, Virginia Credit Union, Associated Bank, Randolph Brooks Federal Credit Union, and People’s United Bank. Each of these card issuers will be added to Samsung Pay over the next few months. The American Express, MasterCard, and Visa payment networks already support Samsung Pay, and Samsung said Discover will join early next year. Moreover, Samsung Pay will soon add support for gift cards, loyalty cards, and store-issued credit cards. Samsung Pay is compatible with NFC- and MST-equipped terminals, unlike Apple Pay and Android Pay, which only work with NFC. Samsung says about three-quarters of payments made so far via Samsung Pay have been at MST-equipped terminals. Samsung Pay is available to the Galaxy S6, S6 Edge, S6 Edge+, and Note 5 on AT&T, Sprint. T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless.
Sprint will pay the Federal Trade Commission a fine of $2.95 million for failing to properly disclose extra monthly fees billed to customers with lower credit scores. Between November 2013 and June 2014, Sprint enrolled customers with inferior credit scores in the Account Spending Limit (ASL) program — and added a $7.99 monthly fee on top of their standard service charges. "Sprint failed to give many consumers required information about why they were placed in a more costly program, and when they did, the notice often came too late for consumers to choose another mobile carrier," said Jessica Rich, director of the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection. "Companies must follow the law when it comes to the way they use consumer credit reports and scores." In addition to its failure to fully disclose the credit-based billing practices, Sprint omitted required information about credit report data. According to the FTC, Sprint would often provide the relevant materials only after customers were beyond the 30-day trial period and unable to change carriers without incurring ETFs. Sprint admitted no wrongdoing in settling the charges, and said, "Sprint puts its customers first and is always working to provide clear and necessary information to customers. We appreciated the dialogue with the FTC and we have already implemented the changes requested."
Sprint today said Apple's iOS 9.1 system update enables single-number calling across Apple devices when connected to WiFi. With iOS 9.1 installed, Sprint's iPhone customers will be able to make/receive calls from their primary number on the iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, Apple Watch, or Mac computer. Sprint says the feature requires several steps to enable. Customers must install the latest OS on each device; sign in with the same Apple ID across devices; initiate WiFi calling on the primary device; and assign secondary devices to the account. Calls made over WiFi don't count against plan minutes or mobile data allotments. The feature is free to use. Apple distributed iOS 9.1, watchOS 2.0.1, and Mac OS 10.11.1 earlier today.
Sprint lost its bid to have a $300 million lawsuit dismissed and will now face the State of New York in court. The office of New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman alleges that Sprint failed to collect about $100 million in taxes from its New York-based customers over a period of seven years. Schneiderman wants triple the $100 million in owed taxes in damages. Sprint hoped to have the lawsuit dismissed based on claims New York's case violated the U.S. Constitution. The Court of Appeals rejected Sprint's claim in a 4-1 decision. New York State may now proceed with its lawsuit. Sprint did not immediately comment on the decision.
Sprint today said it will begin slowing the data speeds of its heaviest users, which amounts to a massive policy change for the carrier. Sprint has long sought to differentiate itself from competitors by maintaining an unlimited plan with no throttling or overage charges. Beginning today, however, customers who exceed 23GB of data in a single billing period will see their data speeds reduced when cell sites are congested or constrained. "This QoS practice is intended to protect against a small minority of unlimited customers who use high volumes of data and unreasonably take up network resources during times when the network is constrained," explained Sprint. "It's important to note that this QoS technique operates in real-time and only applies if a cell site is constrained. Prioritization is applied or removed every 20 milliseconds. And performance for the affected customer returns to normal as soon as traffic on the cell site also returns to normal, or the customer moves to a non-constrained site." Sprint says the new policy will protect the network for the 97% of customers who don't use excessive amounts of data. Sprint claims the 23GB threshold is far more than most customers ever use, and can be used to load 600 photos, stream 60 hours of music, or stream 50 hours of video. T-Mobile has a similar QoS policy in place.
Verizon Wireless updated its Verizon Message+ app for iPhones, adding the ability to make phone calls over WiFi. In order for WiFi calling to work, Verizon iPhone owners will need to switch on the advanced calling function of their phone. WiFi calls can only be completed via the Verizon Message+ app. Using the native iOS dialer still passes calls through Verizon's cellular network. The app also adds electronic gifting, improved media search, and scheduled messaging for sending texts at specific times/dates. WiFi calling is available to the Apple iPhone 6, 6 Plus, 6s, and 6s Plus. Verizon hasn't said if or when it might make WiFi calling available to Android handsets. The Verizon Message+ app is free to download from the iTunes App Store. Verizon's offering trails that of its competitors. AT&T launched WiFi calling last week, while Sprint and T-Mobile have offered the feature for about a year. WiFi calling is useful for making calls when cellular network coverage is poor.
Sprint plans to deactivate its WiMax network on Nov. 6, but some charities say the change will eliminate internet service for some 300,000 Americans altogether. In 2006, Clearwire struck a deal with some charities to provide WiMax service via spectrum owned by the charities. The charities use the WiMax service to offer free or low-cost internet connections to schools, libraries, and other nonprofit organizations. Sprint acquired Clearwire in 2013 and problems crept up quickly. A lawsuit filed this week by two of the charities — Mobile Beacon and Mobile Citizen — alleges that Sprint has established roadblocks that make it infeasible for the charities to switch to Sprint's LTE network. Moreover, the charities claim Sprint has placed unreasonable monthly data limits on their accounts and is throttling speeds down to 256kbps when the limits are exceeded. When WiMax goes dark next month, the charities say they'll no longer be able to offer service at all to their own customers. Sprint confirmed that it is disputing contract terms with the charities. The lawsuit seeks an injunction to prevent Sprint from shutting down its WiMax network, as well as an order that would compel Sprint to offer the charities LTE service at terms similar to those of their original contract with Clearwire.
Sprint today added a couple new countries to its Open World roaming plan. The program kicked off in August with initial support for Canada, Mexico, and a handful of Latin American countries. The new countries include Portugal and Uruguay. In Portugal, texting is free, voice minutes are inexpensive, and data is available at $30 per gigabyte. In Uruguay, texting and calling are free, and Sprint is offering 1GB of high-speed data at to extra cost. Customers will need to have an international-capable handset to take advantage of the roaming services. Open World can be added to Sprint plans for free. Interested customers will need to sign up online, in person, in stores, or via the phone. Sprint says Open World is now available in 72 destinations. Sprint suggests customers who travel to other areas choose one of its global roaming packages.
T-Mobile has dropped one of the promotions it ran for the iPhone 6s, which means the device is now costlier to lease for some customers. When the device first went on sale in September, T-Mobile offered customers the 16GB model for a lease of $20 per month without requiring a trade-in. That offer is no longer available. "The introductory pricing for iPhone 6s without trade-in has ended," said T-Mobile in a statement, "but customers can still take advantage of our other introductory offer and get a new iPhone 6s for just $5 per month with trade-in of iPhone 6 or other newer model phones, or $15 per month with trade-in of iPhone 5, 5c and 5s among others." T-Mobile customers must trade in a newer, functional device to score these low lease payments. Sprint is still offering the iPhone 6s for a lease price of $1 per month. Sprint has not said if/when that promotion might end.
Sprint today expanded its Direct 2 You service to 34 new metropolitan areas around the country. The additions include: Indianapolis, Ind.; Lexington and Bowling Green, Ky.; New Orleans, Baton Rouge, and Lafayette, La.; Las Vegas, Henderson, Paradise, and Spring Valley, Nev.; Charlotte, Raleigh, Greensboro, Durham, Winston-Salem, Fayetteville, and Asheville, N.C.; Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus, Akron, Canton, and Dayton, Ohio; Pittsburgh, Pa.; Nashville, Clarksville, Franklin, and Jackson, Tenn.; and Salt Lake City, Ogden, Sandy, Layton, Provo, and Park City, Utah. Direct 2 You is live in these cities and the surrounding areas. With Direct 2 You, a Sprint technician brings the store experience to the homes of customers who purchase a new phone. Customers still receive the same benefits as buying in stores, such as setting up the phone, transferring content, and teaching tutorials. Sprint's Direct 2 You service is offered free of charge. Sprint said more cities will be added throughout the year.
AT&T today enabled WiFi calling on the iPhone. iPhone owners who've updated to iOS 9 can make and receive voice calls via WiFi rather than cellular networks. The feature is meant to help people remain connected when cellular coverage is poor. WiFi calling can be set up directly from the iPhone and requires several steps. AT&T says customers have to have a post-paid account set-up wth HD Voice in order to activate the feature. WiFi calling works automatically with the subscriber's existing phone number. The service is free to use. Earlier this week, the FCC granted AT&T permission to offer WiFi calling by approving a waiver concerning services for hard-of-hearing customers. Sprint and T-Mobile have offered WiFi calling for the better part of a year with no such waiver from the FCC. AT&T chided the FCC for failing to take any sort of corrective action against them.
Dish Network is evaluating whether or not to participate in the FCC's 600MHz incentive auction next year, according to an executive. The company might bid on airwave licenses even though it was recently denied a $3.3 billion discount on licenses it won in this year's AWS-3 auction. The company did not say what it plans to do with the spectrum. Dish already owns a significant swath of spectrum, but has yet to deploy any sort of wireless network. Sprint recently said it will not participate in the auction, while T-Mobile has been very vocal about its plans to spend up to $10 billion securing country-wide 600MHz airwaves.
The FCC today approved a waiver requested by AT&T that will allow it to launch WiFi calling. The waiver gives AT&T permission to deploy Real-Time Text (RTT) as an alternative to TTY technology, which is relied upon by the hard-of-hearing. AT&T requested the waiver earlier this year. TTY is unreliable when used over WiFi and AT&T required a rule change from the FCC before it could move forward with the substitute. AT&T said it was pleased to receive the waiver, though it is puzzled why the FCC isn't taking action against Sprint and T-Mobile, which both launched WiFi calling services without a waiver. "We're grateful the FCC has granted AT&T's waiver request so we can begin providing WiFi calling. At the same time we are left scratching our heads as to why the FCC still seems intent on excusing the behavior of T-Mobile and Sprint, who have been offering these services without a waiver for quite some time. Instead of initiating enforcement action against them, or at least opening an investigation, the agency has effectively invited them to now apply for similar waivers and implied that their prior flaunting of FCC rules will be ignored." AT&T did not say how quickly it will get WiFi calling up and running.
Verizon today voiced support for Samsung Pay and said the service will be added to compatible phones through a future software update. Samsung Pay initially launched with support from AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile, but Verizon only said it was "consiodering" the mobile payment service. Verizon did not say what delayed its commitment to the app, but now it is on board. Samsung Pay will be added to the Galaxy S6, S6 Edge, Note 5, and S6 Edge+. Verizon didn't say when it plans to deliver the update.
The CTIA today announced that a number of member companies have agreed to take on additional measures to help prevent cellphone thefts. Following recommendations made by the FCC, wireless companies will make anti-theft tools available to all consumers that also respect consumer choice and privacy. All new phones made after July 2016 will "make readily available to the authorized user an option that allows the authorized user to enable or disable the anti-theft solution at any time that the smartphone is connected and is in the authorized user's possession." Beyond this baseline tool, consumers will have the option to use other, third-party solutions to locate, wipe, or reinstate their devices if they so wish. Companies that have agreed to this include Apple, Asurion; AT&T; BlackBerry; Google; HTC; Huawei; LG; Microsoft; Motorola; Samsung; Sprint; T-Mobile USA; U.S. Cellular; Verizon, and ZTE. In response, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said, "CTIA members' ... enhanced voluntary commitment to adopt anti-theft features and educate consumers demonstrates their resolve in combatting it. I am hopeful that this new voluntary commitment will make a meaningful difference for consumer safety. As the enhanced commitment recognizes, these solutions work only if they are adopted widely. The FCC will remain vigilant in this area by pushing for further improvements to the theft-prevention toolbox, and also by monitoring closely whether the efforts of industry and others are producing meaningful results." Apple's iOS and Google's Android already contain features that let device owners find and protect their mobile devices. The FCC hopes allowing people to download and use the protective measure of their choice will help encourage consumers to make broader use of the tool.
AT&T recently filed a complaint with the FCC over WiFi calling services on the iPhone, which it says it cannot offer due to certain regulations. AT&T competitors Sprint and T-Mobile have offered WiFi calling for the better part of a year, and AT&T insists they are doing so against FCC regulations. "AT&T intended to introduce WiFi calling services [on Sept. 25] in competition with ... T-Mobile and Sprint," said AT&T in its filing. "Those carriers have been offering WiFi calling services for a significant period of time. Neither of those carriers has approached the FCC to request a waiver of the TTY rules. Because the commission has not granted AT&T's waiver petition, we are not in a position to provide WiFi calling services to our customers even while our competitors provide those services in defiance of the commission's rules." AT&T requested a waiver from the FCC in June, but is still waiting for approval. AT&T says WiFi calling is not 100% reliable with TTY technology and wants to use RTT technology instead. Technically, AT&T says the FCC has to approve the technology switch before it can offer the service and remain in compliance with the law. In a rebuttal, T-Mobile said RTT technology is not necessary and the company has thus offered WiFi calling since last year. "AT&T urges the commission to seize this opportunity to grant AT&T's waiver request without further delay," said AT&T. "Doing so will enable AT&T to offer its customers Wi-Fi calling capabilities and correct the asymmetry that today exists between AT&T and its mobile services competitors." iOS 9, which Apple recently distributed to iPhone owners, has built-in support for WiFi calling. AT&T customers are unable to use the service, however, until AT&T gets the waiver from the FCC.
Nextbit's Robin smartphone won the financial support of more than 3,600 people who invested $1.36 million in the Kickstarter campaign. Nextbit said it received enough interest in the Robin to move forward with manufacturing. It has closed the Kickstarter campaign and is now working to bring the device to market, expected during the first quarter of 2016. According to Nextbit, most of the investment came from the U.S., Canada, Japan, Hong Kong, the U.K., and Singapore. The Robin is an Android phone that uses the cloud to manage on-board storage availability. It can seamlessly offload and reload content — including applications — when needed to free up space. It was designed by former HTC employees and costs $399. The phone will be available in GSM and CDMA variants, supporting the networks of AT&T and T-Mobile, and Sprint and Verizon.
Sprint is prepared to reduce expenses by as much as $2.5 billion over the next year, reports the Wall Street Journal, and is likely to cut jobs to help it reach that goal. An internal memo sent to staff by CFO Tarek Robbiati obtained by the Journal said the cuts "inevitably will result in job reductions." Sprint had about 31,000 employees as of March. Robbiati said the company is still exploring how best to reduce costs. "The main thing to consider when requesting to spend money is to take an owner's mindset by treating every dollar as if it were your own," he said. Sprint has already trimmed expenses by about $1.5 billion over the last 12 months. The company recently said it will not participate in next year's 600MHz incentive auction, citing its existing spectrum resources and the cost to obtain more spectrum. Sprint has struggled in recent years to compete with AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile.
Sprint today said it will raise the cost of its Unlimited plan from $60 to $70 per month beginning Oct. 16. The company said customers who want to take advantage of the $60 Unlimited plan price point need to sign up by Oct. 15. "At $70 a month, Sprint still beats the competition. Rather than increase the price without warning, we want to give customers one last chance to take advantage of the $60 rate," said Sprint CEO Marcelo Claure. Customers who already enjoy the $60 Unlimited plan will be able to keep their current pricing even when upgrading to new devices. To qualify for the Unlimited plan, customers must purchase their device through iPhone Forever, Sprint Lease, Sprint Easy Pay, full retail, or bring their own. Sprint is still offering to pay the phone/contract balance to new customers who switch.
Following Sprint's decision to skip next year's 600MHz incentive auction, FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai had harsh words for the FCC's plans. "Sprint's decision highlights the folly of the FCC's attempt to pick winners and losers before the auction begins," said Pai, in reference to the rules being assigned to the auction. "It also intensifies doubts about how competitive the bidding will be for set-aside spectrum and whether American taxpayers will receive fair compensation for that scarce public resource," said Pai. The FCC has agreed to set aside 30MHz of spectrum for smaller entities that market leaders AT&T and Verizon Wireless will not be allowed to bid on. "Sprint's announcement only strengthens my belief that the FCC should not have granted a spectrum giveaway in this auction or placed artificial limits on carriers' participation." Pai is part of the Republican minority in the five-person FCC and is often at odds with his Democrat peers. The auction, scheduled to start in March 2016, will see television broadcasters sell their spectrum licenses to the government, which will in turn auction them off to wireless companies.
Samsung today made its mobile payment service, Samsung Pay, available to U.S. consumers. The service is compatible with only a few phones, including the Galaxy Note 5 and the Galaxy S6 Edge+, S6 Edge, and S6. AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and U.S. Cellular support Samsung pay, but Verizon Wireless does not. Consumers can add their American Express, Bank of America, Citibank, or USBank MasterCard or Visa credit/debit card to the service, but it lacks support for Chase at launch. Samsung Pay differs from Apple Pay and Android Pay in one significant respect: it supports both NFC and MST transactions. MST, in particular, is more widely available than NFC and works with most regular credit card terminals used by retailers around the country. Samsung Pay is secured via fingerprint, and credit card information is tokenized so it is protected during transactions. Samsung will reward Note 5 and S6 Edge+ owners who activate Samsung Pay with a free wireless charger or a free wallet flip cover (through Oct. 11). Samsung Pay is free to set up and use.