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printed June 30, 2015
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Sprint Found In Violation of Prism Patents

Today, 3:17 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sprint was found culpable of infringing on two patents held by Prism Technologies. The patents in question pertain to accessing protected computer resources and were used by Sprint in its "Simply Everything" and "Everything Data" plans, according to Prism. Sprint was ordered to pay a fine of $30 million. Sprint rejects the decision and said it will appeal. "We believe the evidence is clear that Sprint does not infringe the patent. Sprint plans to pursue post-trial motions," said Roni Singleton, a spokeswoman for Sprint, in a statement provided to RCR Wireless. Prism has similar cases pending against T-Mobile, Verizon Wireless, and U.S. Cellular.


Sprint's All-In Plan Includes Phone and Service for $80

Today, 8:48 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sprint today introduced a new plan that combines the cost of a service plan with the cost of a handset in one monthly payment. The Sprint All-In plan costs $80 per month and includes unlimited talk, text, and data, and a Sprint Lease on handsets such as the Apple iPhone 6, Samsung Galaxy S6, and HTC One M9. There are no up-front phone costs aside from a one-time, $36 activation fee. The $80 monthly rate does not include taxes. Sprint believes this is the simplest, most straight-forward plan in the market. Sprint will use soccer star David Beckham to advertise the plan, which is available in Sprint stores beginning today.


European Union to Ban Roaming Charges

Today, 7:47 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

The European Commission today agreed to make cellphone roaming charges illegal beginning in 2017. The change in law means European wireless network operators will not be allowed to charge roaming fees for customers who travel across the 28-country continent. Additionally, the European Commission also adopted some net neutrality regulations to prevent service providers from discriminating between different types of internet traffic. European carriers, such as T-Mobile parent Deutsche Telekom, warn the rules will reduce investment across the region, but regulators see the new laws as a win for consumers, who are often charged high fees when they travel. The new rules are specific to Europeans who go to other European countries. U.S. residents traveling abroad can still expect AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless to charge roaming fees for accessing wireless networks in Europe and elsewhere.


Sprint Debuts Best Buy One Family Plan for $100

Yesterday, 11:32 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sprint today unwrapped a new option for customers looking to save money on family plans. The Best Buy One Family plan costs $100 per month and includes unlimited data, voice minutes, and messaging for two smartphones. Additional lines cost $40 each. Sprint says subscribers to the Best Buy One Family plan can lease handsets for as little as $20 per month, so a two-line plan would cost just $140 per month with the device payments added in (taxes and fees not included). The Best Buy One Family plan is available at Best Buy and Best Buy Mobile stores beginning today. Sprint already offers a Best Buy One plan for single lines.


Sprint's Direct 2 You Launches in More Cities

Yesterday, 10:00 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sprint today made good on its May promise to bring Direct 2 You to New York, Denver, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. The service is now live in these cities and a number of smaller cities and towns in the surrounding metro areas. Sprint said it will expand Direct 2 You to Detroit, Washington, D.C., Tampa, and Dallas in early July. With Direct 2 You, a Sprint technician brings the store experience directly to the homes of customers who purchase a new phone. Customers can still receive the same benefits as buying in stores, such as setting up their phone, transferring content from their old phone, and tutorials to ensure the customer understands how to use their new device. Sprint's Direct 2 You service is offered free of charge.


Justice Dept. Suggests FCC Limit AT&T, Verizon Auction Participation

Jun 25, 2015, 10:06 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Jun 25, 2015, 10:06 AM

Officials at the Justice Department are concerned AT&T and Verizon will dominate the upcoming 600MHz auction if more protections aren't put in place by the FCC. The agency filed a letter with the FCC this week suggesting the FCC give more weight to the concerns of companies such as Sprint and T-Mobile, which seek to limit AT&T and Verizon's participation. "The Department recognizes that the Commission must balance competing policy priorities in setting the appropriate reserve levels," said the officials. "In balancing these priorities, the Department urges the Commission to give considerable weight in determining the amount of spectrum included in the reserve to protecting and promoting competition, and the well-established competition principle that those with market power may be willing to pay the most to reinforce a leading position." Sprint, T-Mobile and others have asked the FCC to set aside 40MHz of spectrum that cannot be bid upon by AT&T and Verizon. So far the FCC has agreed to a 30MHz reserve, though the rules aren't yet final. T-Mobile, in particular, has fired off plenty of rhetoric in opposition of the two larger carriers' participation in the auction. AT&T and Verizon have responded in kind. The Justice Department didn't explicitly state that the FCC should bump the reserve to 40MHz, but it strongly implied that might be the best course for the FCC to take. The FCC hopes to lock down the rules soon, but the auction won't take place until mid 2016.


Boost Offering to Slice MetroPCS, Cricket Bills In Half

Jun 19, 2015, 9:28 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Jun 19, 2015, 12:23 PM

Boost Mobile today introduced a limited promotion aimed at enticing MetroPCS and Cricket Wireless customers to switch. Boost will cut the monthly service fees in half for Metro and Cricket customers that sign up for Boost service between now and July 20. Boost says the halved bills can save Metro and Cricket customers between $20 and $30 per month for up to one full year. For example, MetroPCS is charging $40 a month for unlimited talk/text and 2.5GB of LTE data. Customers who port their number to Boost can get that same service plan for $20 per month. Similarly, Cricket charges customers who have unlimited talk/text and 10GB of data $60 per month. Boost will charge only $30 for that same plan. After the year-long promotion expires, customers will automatically be migrated to the Boost plan with a comparable amount of monthly data. Boost operates on Sprint's network. Sprint is offering a similar promotion to customers who switch from AT&T or Verizon Wireless.


Sprint Stops Throttling Heaviest Users

Jun 18, 2015, 7:11 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sprint is no longer slowing down the wireless speeds of its heaviest users. Sprint altered its policies in the wake of the FCC's net neutrality rules, which went into effect June 12. Sprint had been throttling those customers who consumed the most mobile data in areas where its network was congested. Sprint said it thinks its network management policies should be accepted under the new rules, but made the change just in case. "Sprint doesn't expect users to notice any significant difference in their services now that we no longer engage in the process," said Sprint. Under the FCC's net neutrality rules, network operators are not allowed to slow down internet speeds.


Deutsche Telekom Shopping T-Mobile to Comcast

Jun 17, 2015, 7:12 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Deutsche Telekom is discussing with Comcast the possibility of the cable firm buying T-Mobile US. Deutsche Telekom is talking to several other companies, including Dish Networks, but Comcast is seen as the primary contender thanks to its stronger finances. Deutsche Telekom hoped to sell T-Mobile to AT&T several years ago and then to Sprint last year. The company has gone on the record saying it will explore every possibility with respect to its U.S. wireless company. Neither Deutsche Telekom nor Comcast commented on Reuters' report, which cited unnamed sources.


FreedomPop to Forgo Acquisitions for Now

Jun 17, 2015, 7:07 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

FreedomPop today put to rest months of speculation that the company would be acquired by a larger competitor. FreedomPop says it has declined multiple offers and will instead remain a separate entity. In order to do so, however, it secured $30 million in Series B financing from Partech Ventures. "We ultimately decided it was premature to sell on the cusp of exponential traction," said Stephen Stokols, FreedomPop's founder and CEO. "Following on accelerated growth and our pending global expansion, we are confident we will create massive value within the next 12 to 24 months at which point we could revisit exit options." FreedomPop offers free and low-cost wireless service mostly via WiFi. It also resells access to Sprint's network.

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Sprint Offers Cuba Calling Plan of Its Own

Jun 15, 2015, 12:21 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sprint today announced the availability of Sprint Cuba 20 Plus, a calling plan add-on that provides access to friends and family in Cuba. The Sprint Cuba 20 plan costs $10 per month and includes 20 voice minutes to any line in Cuba. Additional minutes cost 70 cents each. Sprint customers who subscribe to the Sprint Cuba 20 plan can call and send messages to Mexican and Canadian numbers without paying extra international charges. The plan offers discounted rates to 180 other countries, as well. The Sprint Cuba 20 plan can be added to customer accounts starting today. MetroPCS also announced a Cuba plan today, but Metro's is packaged in with an existing international calling plan.


Verizon: T-Mobile's Legere 'Is Simply Wrong'

Jun 12, 2015, 8:32 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Verizon Wireless fired back at T-Mobile CEO John Legere after he entreated Americans to ask the FCC for help. T-Mobile wants 40MHz of spectrum in the upcoming 600MHz spectrum auction to be set aside for smaller carriers. The FCC has agreed to 30MHz. Legere insists 40MHz is the minimum needed to keep the U.S. wireless industry competitive, and he claims AT&T and Verizon are trying to shut it out. Verizon begs to differ. "T-Mobile is more than welcome to participate in any auction the FCC holds. No company can prevent another from participating. The last time large swaths of low-band spectrum came to auction in 2007, for example, T-Mobile could have participated. It chose not to," said Verizon in a post to its public policy blog. Moreover, Verizon points out that it is in fact T-Mobile that has pushed Verizon out of the 600MHz auction and not the other way around. "Some companies can attempt to bake rules into an auction to prevent other companies from participating fairly. Mr. Legere and T-Mobile are" doing exactly that. "For example, T-Mobile -- and Sprint and Dish -- lobbied for and received from the FCC a set aside of spectrum in the upcoming auction that only they are allowed to bid on. Verizon can't. AT&T can't." Verizon further argues that qualifying Sprint and T-Mobile as "small carriers" is disingenuous at best, given the size and valuation of their parent organizations (SoftBank and Deutsche Telekom, respectively). Verizon also stuck a barb in the side of Dish Networks. "The FCC doesn't need to give additional handouts to global companies with the financial wherewithal to compete. Nor should it be handing out discounted spectrum to companies [Dish] with a track record of not investing in networks or serving consumers. The record of the U.S. wireless marketplace is clear: if one invests in networks, innovates and meets consumer needs, success can follow, with no need for government assistance." The FCC hasn't made a final decision on the 40MHz request, but is leaning on leaving the concession at 30MHz.


T-Mobile CEO Takes FCC Auction Fight to the Public

Jun 11, 2015, 11:24 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

T-Mobile CEO John Legere wants your help. In a recent blog post, Legere appealed to John Q. Public to aid in T-Mobile's pursuit of 600MHz spectrum. The FCC is set to approve final rules for the auction, which T-Mobile believes don't set aside enough of the valuable low-band spectrum for smaller carriers. T-Mobile has crusaded since last year in an effort to raise the reserved spectrum from 30MHz to 40MHz, which it says is needed to keep the American wireless market competitive. As it stands, AT&T and Verizon own the bulk of the low-band spectrum available with their 700MHz holdings. T-Mobile desperately wants the 600MHz spectrum. Legere is asking consumers to reach directly out to the FCC ahead of the vote in a last-ditch attempt to sway the FCC's decision. "If smaller competitors can't get more spectrum in this auction," said Legere, "it could put an end to all that pro-consumer competitive pressure. Imagine what that would look like! Every consumer in America loses. You'll face higher bills, stifled innovation, crappy customer service -- all the usual AT&T and Verizon treatment! It would be a nightmare for American wireless consumers!" Legere is known for his unfiltered approach in leading the Uncarrier. T-Mobile isn't alone. Sprint and other carriers hope to see more of the low-band spectrum kept from AT&T and Verizon. The 600MHz auction won't take place until mid 2016.


ROK Mobile Now Available Sans Invite

Jun 11, 2015, 10:32 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

ROK Mobile today re-launched in the U.S. as a service available to anyone. The MVNO first got off the ground in July 2014, but required an invitation. ROK says anyone in the U.S. can now join its service. What sets ROK Mobile apart is that it bundles wireless and music streaming services together for $49.99 per month. For that, users get 5GB of LTE 4G, unlimited calling and messaging, and unlimited access to ROK's 20 million tracks. The music service lets users create radio stations, personalize playlists, explore music based on moods and preferences, and streaming is ad-free. The company claims to offer a cost advantage over competing music services such as Spotify and Rdio because the cost is bundled into the wireless plan. For now, users will need to supply their own Sprint or T-Mobile compatible handset. The service works on Android and iOS through ROK's application. ROK Mobile said it will have news regarding its own handset offering in the near future.


RingPlus To Offer Free Phone Service

Jun 10, 2015, 6:59 PM   by Rich Brome

RingPlus today announced a new mobile phone service plan that is ad-supported, but completely free to the customer. The ads take the form of ringback tones, which RingPlus customers hear on outbound voice calls, after dialing but before the other party picks up. The free monthly plan includes 200 voice minutes, 50 text messages, and 10 MB of 4G LTE data. There are no ads associated with text and data use. RingPlus is also adjusting pricing on its paid plans, which offer larger usage allotments. Plans from $2-10/month offer larger buckets of usage. Plans from $20-50/month offer unlimited voice and text, and data buckets ranging from 1 GB to 5 GB. Overage on all new plans is 2 cents per minute, text message, or MB of data. MMS messages run 4 cents / message, and international texts are 3 cents / message. All RingPlus plans are no-contract and do not carry an activation fee. The new plans will be available from ringplus.net starting June 13th at 3pm. RingPlus is an MVNO using the Sprint network. Customers may use their own Sprint phone, or - starting soon - buy a new phone from RingPlus.

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Alcatel Conquest Coming to Boost

Jun 10, 2015, 2:30 PM   by Rich Brome

The FCC today approved the Alcatel One Touch Conquest for Boost Mobile. FCC documents show an Android phone with a colorful design, tri-band LTE, Qualcomm Snapdragon 410 processor, a camera with flash, and a front camera. Slots on the side accept a memory card and the SIM card. The battery does not appear to be removable. The phone would be Alcatel's second phone for a Sprint brand, and first smartphone. Alcatel has made significant inroads into the U.S. market in recent years, mostly with T-Mobile.


T-Mobile Implores FCC to Set Aside More Low-Band Spectrum

Jun 3, 2015, 12:38 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

T-Mobile CTO Neville Ray filed a letter with the FCC asking it to raise the amount of spectrum set aside for competitive carriers in the forthcoming 600MHz reverse auction. The FCC has already agreed to reserve 30MHz of spectrum for carriers other than AT&T and Verizon. T-Mobile wants the reserve set at 40MHz. The Uncarrier has already made this abundantly clear. Ray's latest comments follow a report suggesting the FCC is leaning toward leaving the reserve set at 30MHz, which T-Mobile argues would favor AT&T and Verizon. "Mobile broadband providers need largely unimpaired, low-band spectrum to compete effectively in the wireless marketplace, but the two dominant providers currently hold more than 73% of all low-band spectrum available for commercial use across the entire industry today," said Ray. "Increasing the reserve to at least 40MHz of largely unimpaired spectrum will give competitive carriers an opportunity to secure the low-band spectrum necessary to provide more extensive and more reliable service in urban and suburban areas, and deploy new competitive services in less populated areas of the country." AT&T and Verizon have vast amounts of 700MHz spectrum, which each has used for its LTE 4G network. T-Mobile has some 700MHz, but not nearly as much as its competitors. The 600MHz auction is seen as the last opportunity for T-Mobile, Sprint, and others to win low-band spectrum, which is highly valued for its propagation characteristics.


Sprint Parent Greenlights Network Plan

Jun 3, 2015, 12:12 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

SoftBank has given Sprint the go-ahead to begin its network improvement plan. The nation's third-largest carrier plans to densify its LTE 4G network to improve coverage and capacity. "Sprint has developed an approved network plan in partnership with SoftBank that will allow for a cost-effective network build on an accelerated timeline," said the company in a statement provided to Fierce Wireless. Last month, Sprint CEO Marcelo Claure predicted the company would have the number one or number two network in the country within two years. Sprint's Next Generation Network plan it to use small cells and macro cells to fill in its coverage gaps. The company is already evaluating proposals from telecommunication gear suppliers. Sprint has not said how many new cells it will install, but it did commit to offering voice over LTE, and said WiFi will also play a key role in its network plan. Sprint's coverage trails that of larger competitors AT&T and Verizon Wireless.


Boost Mobile Scores Live Sports App

Jun 2, 2015, 11:24 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Boost Mobile today announced the launch of BoostTV. BoostTV is a video service that offers limited content for free. The video is streamed over Boost's network. Boost is also offering a premium $10 add-on called BoostTV Live Sports. The sports package provides access to a handful of extra channels, including AyM Sports, Azteca America, BeIN Sports, BeIN Sports en Español, Fightbox, Latin American Sports, and TyC. The package also provides access to live soccer matches, such as the upcoming Copa America. BoostTV is available to the HTC Desire, LG Tribute, Motorola E, and the Samsung Galaxy Prevail LTE, Galaxy S5, and Galaxy S6. Boost Mobile said more handsets will be supported over time. The BoostTV app itself is free to download from the Google Play Store. Sprint is offering the same Live Sports TV service to its regular, postpaid customers, too. It is available to most Android and iOS smartphones sold by Sprint.


Sprint Prepaid Now Offers Rollover Data

Jun 2, 2015, 11:15 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sprint Prepaid today announced the availability of rollover data for its month-to-month service. Customers' unused data will automatically roll over to the next month, and won't expire. Sprint is allowing customers to amass a total of 30GB of rollover data in their account. Sprint Prepaid offers three plans, all of which include unlimited talk and text. The $35 plan has 1GB of monthly data, the $45 plan has 3GB, and the $55 plan has 6GB. In addition to rollover data, Sprint Prepaid is offering customers who make nine on-time payments the option to upgrade to a smartphone lease. Both the rollover data and smartphone lease are only available from Best Buy stores. 


FCC Likely to Side with AT&T and Verizon in Spectrum Fight

May 29, 2015, 7:21 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

The FCC is close to making a final decision regarding how much spectrum to set aside for smaller carriers in next year's 600MHz auction and T-Mobile isn't going to be happy. The FCC has already set aside 30MHz of the airwaves in question for smaller carriers, thereby limiting how much spectrum AT&T and Verizon -- the nation's two largest carriers -- can acquire. T-Mobile has been pushing the FCC to increase the allotment to 40MHz, but Reuters reports the FCC is prepared to move forward with the 30MHz limit in place. AT&T and Verizon already control about two-thirds of the nation's low-band spectrum, which is highly valued for its propagation characteristics. T-Mobile and Sprint would like access to more low-band spectrum, and the 600MHz auction is their best opportunity to acquire it. Reuters' sources suggest the FCC's decision could still change, but T-Mobile's request is likely to be denied. The 600MHz auction is scheduled to begin in mid-2016. The FCC wants the rules locked down before the end of 2015.


Sprint CEO Predicts It'll Have Top Network In Two Years

May 28, 2015, 8:05 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sprint CEO Marcelo Claure believes the company will have the number 1 or number 2 network in the country within 18 to 24 months. Claure made the comments while speaking at the Recode Conference. "I can tell you we're making progress, and I can tell you the area of focus will be the continued building of our network," he said. Many third-party network ranking businesses place Sprint's network in last place when compared to the performance of AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless. Claure says Sprint has already made some improvements and notes the company has deep resources thanks to majority owner SoftBank. He has spent a lot of time with SoftBank Chairman Masayoshi Son in order to craft a viable network improvement plan. Claure has already helped stop customer losses. When he joined Sprint as CEO last year, Sprint was losing close to 700,000 customers per quarter. In the most-recent quarter, Sprint added 1.2 million customers. "I think the patient is doing well now," said Claure said. "The patient is in stable condition." Claure didn't provide specifics about Sprint's plan, but the company does have large spectrum holdings in the 800MHz, 1900MHz and 2.5GHz bands. Many of its devices now access LTE in all three bands, which Sprint markets as Sprint Spark.


Sprint to Launch LG G4 On June 5

May 22, 2015, 8:39 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated May 22, 2015, 8:39 AM

Sprint today announced launch details regarding the LG G4 smartphone, which will be available in stores and online beginning June 5. Sprint is offering a wide range of purchasing options for the phone. First, via the Sprint Lease the G4 will be available for $0 followed by $18 per month for 24 months. At the end of the lease, customers can turn the G4 in for another handset, or buyout the remaining value of the lease. Alternately, customers can use Sprint Easy Pay to finance the device over 24 months. Sprint Easy Pay doesn't require a down payment, but costs $25 per month for 24 months. Sprint will also sell the G4 for $199.99 with a standard two-year contract, or for the full retail price of $599.99 without a contract. Sprint plans to offer the plastic gray back plate or the black leather back plate. The phone has a 5.5-inch quad HD screen, Snapdragon 808 processor, and a 16-megapixel camera. Customers who preorder may receive a second 3,000mAh battery with charging cradle and a 32GB memory card for free. Preorders begin today.


Google Delivering Project Fi Invites Slowly

May 22, 2015, 6:58 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google's Project Fi, its WiFi-and-cellular wireless offering, is moving forward slowly. Google emailed those who signed up for the project and said it won't be able to accommodate everyones' requests for months. "Over the past few weeks, we've been happy to bring the first customers onto Project Fi and the initial feedback has been very positive," said Google in the email. "We're sending invites as quickly as we can, while ensuring a high-quality experience. Given the number of requests we've received, we currently estimate that it will take until mid-summer to get to everyone." Google concluded by saying it will provide a way for people to check the status of their invites in a few weeks. Project Fi requires the Nexus 6 handset and runs on WiFi and the cellular networks of Sprint and T-Mobile, adjusting on the fly in response to the best possible connection. The service is priced at $10 per gigabyte, and Google will refund customers for the unused portion of their data allotment each month.

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RadioShack Finalizes Sale of Name and Customer Data

May 21, 2015, 7:07 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

A Delaware bankruptcy judge approved the sale of RadioShack's name and certain customer data to an affiliate of Standard General for $26.2 million. One of the key issues resolved over the last seven days concerned AT&T and Apple customer data. AT&T, Apple, and several state attorneys general disapproved of the sale of the customer data, and argued RadioShack had agreed to never sell it. Under the terms of the agreement, Standard General agreed to limit its own customers to email data generated over the last two years, as well as to only provide access to seven of 170 fields of data that RadioShack kept on its customers. The sale gives Standard General access to 67 million names and email addresses, rather than the full list of 117 million. Earlier this year Standard General purchased 1,734 RadioShack stores, which it plans to operate in cooperation with Sprint.


Sprint Partners Making Headway in Rural LTE Push

May 21, 2015, 6:56 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sprint says 16 of the 30 companies who've agreed to participate in its Rural Roaming Preferred Provider program have launched their LTE networks. The Rural Roaming Preferred Provider program is similar to Verizon Wireless' LTE in Rural America initiative. Both programs lease spectrum to small, regional providers who build out coverage in their home market areas. Under the terms of the agreement, the larger carriers' customers can roam onto the regional LTE network and vice versa. The idea is to bring coverage to areas where the larger operators might not necessarily like to commit resources to build out their own network. Sprint would not say which of its partners have launched their LTE networks. Some of the partners include SouthernLINC Wireless, nTelos Wireless, C Spire Wireless, Phoenix Wireless, Bluegrass Cellular, Pine Belt Wireless, Pioneer Cellular, and United Wireless. "Our partners use a variety of LTE bands, including bands 4, 5, 12 and 25," said Sprint's Adrienne Norton. "We're continuing to work with our device OEMs to enable additional LTE bands to expand coverage for our domestic and international roamers." Sprint's LTE footprint covers about 280 million POPs. T-Mobile, which recently disclosed that it too has leased spectrum to regional operators, also covers about 280 million POPs. AT&T and Verizon Wireless both claim to cover about 308 million POPs.


Some AT&T Partners to Cease Selling Contracts

May 19, 2015, 4:21 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated May 19, 2015, 4:27 PM

AT&T today said some of its retailer partners are going to offer only AT&T Next plans beginning June 1. These retailers, like Walmart, may have national footprints, but the change is only being made in some locations that AT&T would not name. AT&T itself will continue to offer contracts at company-owned stores, as well as via its web site, telesales, and most other third-party retailers. "We regularly consider any number of offers that might appeal to our customers," said an AT&T spokesperson to Phone Scoop, "but [we] can share that two year contracts remain a part of our portfolio of offerings." AT&T said it believes customers prefer to have choice. While many of its customers are moving to AT&T Next plans -- which break up device payments over time -- some of its customers still want subsidized handsets and don't mind signing contracts to get them. The change being made by some of AT&T's retail partners does not represent a change in strategy for AT&T. AT&T Next plans are the carrier's response to T-Mobile's Simple Choice plans, which forgo contracts and also break up device payments over time. Sprint and Verizon have their own device payment plans, too. The device payment plans have become popular with consumers because they don't require contracts and often allow people to upgrade to new phones at a faster rate.

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Sprint Expands Personal Concierge Service to More Cities

May 18, 2015, 8:31 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sprint today said its Direct 2 You home delivery and setup service is now available to all customers in Kansas City, Chicago, and Miami. Sprint initially launched the service in those markets in April, but it was limited to existing customers. The expansion now means any potential customer in Chicago, Dallas, and Miami can schedule a Sprint house call. Further, Sprint said it is expanding the service to New York City, San Francisco, and Denver in early June, with more markets to follow throughout the year. With Direct 2 You, a Sprint technician will bring the store experience directly to customers who purchase a new phone. Customers can still receive the same benefits as buying in stores, such as setting up the phone, transferring content from the old phone to the new one, and tutorials to ensure the customer understands how to use their new device. Techs will also be able to teach customers how to learn a new operating system if they're switching from an Android device to the iPhone or vice versa. Sprint's Direct 2 You service is offered free of charge.


Sprint Expands Number of Countries in Roaming Program

May 15, 2015, 3:38 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sprint today added seven countries to its International Value Roaming program. The program lets Sprint customers roam on 2G networks in select countries for free and offers reduced-rate voice minute calling for 20 cents per minute. The new countries are Colombia, Denmark, Honduras, Ireland, Italy, Paraguay, and Sweden. These join more than a dozen others, including Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Germany, Guatemala, Japan, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Russia, South Korea, Spain, and the U.K. The 2G roaming may be free, but customers who want 3G speeds or better when abroad will need to purchase a 1-, 7-, or 14-day Speed Pass. The 1-day pass starts at $15. Customers can add International Value Roaming to their service plan for free.


Apple, AT&T Seek to Block RadioShack's Sale of Customer Data

May 15, 2015, 9:24 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Apple and AT&T have filed legal objections to RadioShack's planned sale of customer data. RadioShack sold products from both AT&T and Apple and originally agreed to keep customer data private. RadioShack is going through bankruptcy and hopes to use any potential proceeds of selling customer data to third parties in order to pay off creditors. "Not only is AT&T committed to protecting the privacy of its customers -- it is required to do so by federal and state laws and regulations," said AT&T. Several state attorneys general have also filed objections. A judge is expected to rule on the matter May 20. Earlier this year RadioShack sold the bulk of its stores to Sprint, which is in the process of rebranding them.


T-Mobile Says LTE Footprint Now Matches Sprint

May 14, 2015, 12:25 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

T-Mobile CTO Neville Ray said the company's LTE 4G network now covers 280 million POPS. That's a slight improvement from the 275 million POPs T-Mobile said it covered at the end of April. With 280 million people blanketed by its 4G network, T-Mobile's coverage footprint is on par with that of Sprint, which also coves 280 million. AT&T and Verizon both claim to cover 308 million POPs. Ray offered a few more details about T-Mobile's progress. It is still on track to cover 300 million POPS by the end of the year. It plans to shutter its legacy CDMA MetroPCS network on June 21, and there are fewer than 300,000 customers still using that network in Dallas, Miami, and New York City. T-Mobile said it has 15x15 MHz LTE deployments in 150 markets, which the company will expand to 200 by the end of the year. T-Mobile charted an aggressive path for building its LTE network and has met or exceeded most of its goals over the past two years.


Boost, Sprint to Sell LG G Stylo for $199

May 13, 2015, 9:11 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated May 14, 2015, 3:17 PM

Boost Mobile today announced the immediate availability of the LG G Stylo. The G Stylo, also being sold by T-Mobile, features a 5.7-inch 720p HD display and a stylus. It also carries a 8-megapixel camera main camera, 5-megapixel user-facing camera, quad-core 1.2 GHz Snapdragon 410 processor with 1 GB RAM, and 8 GB of internal storage. The Stylo supports memory cards up to 32 GB and packs a 3,000mAh battery. The phone runs Android 5.0 Lollipop with LG's user interface, which includes Knock Code and QuickMemo. Boost Mobile is selling the phone for $199.99. Sprint Prepaid will also sell the device at $199.99 beginning June 7.


Sprint and Verizon Fined Total of $158M to Settle Cramming Charges

May 12, 2015, 11:16 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

The FCC today said Sprint and Verizon Wireless have agreed to pay $158 million to settle charges that they fraudulently charged customers for third-party services -- a tactic referred to as cramming. Specifically, Sprint will pay a total of $68 million, $50 million of which will go back to customers, $14 million of which will go to state governments, and $2 million of which will go to the federal government. Verizon will pay $90 million, with $70 million to go to consumers, $16 million to states, and $4 million to the fed. In addition to the fines, Sprint and Verizon agreed to a slew of other enforcement actions. They will no longer be allowed to offer premium SMS services. For all other services, they must: obtain clear consent before initiating charged, clearly mark charges on bills, and make it easy for customers to block such third-party services. The FCC has been on a tear this year, coming down hard on companies that take advantage of consumers.


TextNow Offering Unlimited Talk and Text, Plus 500MB for $19

Apr 30, 2015, 1:06 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

TextNow Wireless today announced new pricing for its service plans and added two handsets to its lineup. TextNow Wireless offers all customers unlimited talk and text and up to 500MB of data for $18.99 per month. Similar to Google's recently-announced Project Fi, TextNow runs on Sprint's cellular network but defaults to WiFi connections whenever possible. The service is available to most any device (phone, tablet, PC) for WiFi-based calling and texting, and customers can use their TextNow number no matter which form factor they choose. Customers can upgrade to 1 GB of cellular data for $26.99 per month, 2 GB for $39.99, or 4 GB for $59.99. All plans include taxes and fees. In addition to the reworked plans, TextNow Wireless now sells the Google Nexus 5 ($249) and Motorola Moto X ($149). TextNow Wireless already offers a number of new and refurbished Sprint devices, including the Moto G, LG Optimus F3, Samsung Galaxy S3, and Samsung Galaxy S4.


Sprint Partners with Boingo to Double Down On WiFi

Apr 30, 2015, 9:03 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sprint today announced a new partnership with Boingo that will give its customers free access to Boingo's WiFi hotspots in 35 U.S. airports. Sprint subscribers should be able to connect their WiFi-equipped handsets to Boingo's airport WiFi networks automatically and securely with no log-in required. Sprint says the WiFi connection is secure enough for business customers to use for accessing corporate VPNs. Sprint didn't say which airports are covered. Sprint today also announced the Sprint WiFi Connect, a consumer router that prioritizes Sprint's WiFi Calling service over any other traffic on that particular hotspot. Sprint says the Sprint WiFi Connect includes Smart Connect technology that dynamically manages 2.4GHz and 5GHz WiFi bands for optimal WiFi data performance. Sprint's WiFi Connect is available free of charge to qualified customers. WiFi Calling is available to most of Sprint's Android handsets as well as the Apple iPhone 6, 6 Plus, 5, and 5s.


AT&T, Verizon Pledge Support for LG G4, Too

Apr 28, 2015, 5:26 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

AT&T and Verizon Wireless followed Sprint and T-Mobile today in announcing plans to sell the LG G4 later this year. Neither of the nation's two largest carriers said exactly when the phone will go on sale nor how much they'll charge for the new phone. Verizon did say its variant of the G4 will support VoLTE and HD Voice.


Sprint, T-Mobile Say LG G4 to Ship in June

Apr 28, 2015, 11:21 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sprint and T-Mobile followed LG's debut of the G4 smartphone with details of their own launch plans. Sprint said it will offer the G4 in black leather and metallic gray. T-Mobile didn't specify which colors it will offer, but is kicking off a preview program for the phone that will let consumers try the device for free. The program is officially a sweepstakes being run by T-Mobile, and it will give away a G4 once per day until the phone reaches stores. Neither Sprint nor T-Mobile said how much they'll charge for the LG G4, but said the device isn't expected to reach carrier stores until June.


Wireless Companies Form Alliance to Pressure FCC

Apr 27, 2015, 11:52 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

A handful of wireless companies and public policy groups have formed an alliance meant to pressure the FCC as it drafts rules for the upcoming 600MHz reverse spectrum auction. The alliance is called SaveWirelessChoice.com. Some of the companies include Sprint, T-Mobile, and Dish Networks, and some of the groups include the Competitive Carrier Association, Public Knowledge, Rural Wireless Association, among numerous others. The alliance hopes the FCC will hold the auction in early 2016, rather than mid-2016; and it wants a larger block of spectrum (at least 50%) reserved for smaller carriers. The alliance web site urges consumers to "stop AT&T and Verizon Wireless from controlling your wireless future," which it claims will lead to bad service, higher prices, and less innovation. In the most recent spectrum auction most of the winnings went to AT&T, Dish Networks, and Verizon Wireless. Sprint and T-Mobile have argued for a long time that the two largest carriers have too much market power, necessitating the need for the FCC to provide more opportunities for smaller carriers. "Creating an adequate reserve of quality spectrum for companies who don't already own more than one-third of the low-band spectrum in any given market will go a long way toward leveling the playing field for a competitive market that will benefit consumers for decades to come," said the group.


Defense Mobile Sheds Beta Label, Mission Is Go

Apr 22, 2015, 3:31 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Defense Mobile, an MVNO that targets military personnel, is coming out of beta status today with more coverage and more devices in its arsenal. During its beta trial, Defense Mobile resold access to AT&T and Sprint's networks. Now, it offers Verizon, too, and is in talks with T-Mobile. The company's service is meant exclusively for members of the U.S. armed forces, their families, and veterans. Defense Mobile is supported by a 100% veteran-staffed Member Care organization and offers perks to active members of the military. Individual plans start at $30 per month and have names such as Alpha, Bravo, and Charlie. Family plans start at $95 per month with names such a squad, platoon, and battalion. The handset selection varies from entry level phones such as the Motorola Moto G up to today's premium handsets such as the Apple iPhone 6 Plus. The company offers bonus services for military members, such as a banking application associated with a pre-paid MasterCard, an app that helps military members and their families find veteran benefits, and a free email service that's associated with their branch of the armed forces. The company sells devices and services directly from its web site, but hopes to reach 25,000 retail distribution points around the country by the end of the year.


Google's Project Fi Wireless Service Offers Refunds for Unused Data

Apr 22, 2015, 12:46 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Apr 22, 2015, 12:49 PM

Google today announced Project Fi, which relies on a combination of cellular and WiFi networks to keep users connected wherever they roam. Google partnered with Sprint and T-Mobile to provide the cellular component. Google says Project Fi can automatically connect to over one million verified WiFi hotspots around the U.S, and all connections are encrypted. The goal is to make communicating simple no matter what device or network is being used. Calls made through WiFi connections will seamlessly hand-off to cellular networks with no interruptions. Google says Project Fi users' phone numbers "live in the cloud," so they can talk and text from just about any phone, tablet, or laptop. Project Fi takes a new approach with respect to billing. The basic plan costs $20 per month and includes talk, text, WiFi tethering, and international coverage in 120 countries. Google then charges $10 per gigabyte of cellular data in the U.S. and abroad. So, 1 GB of data costs $10 per month, 2 GB costs $20 per month, and so on. The unique idea here is that Google will refund people for the data they don't use. For example, subscribers who pay $30 for a 3 GB plan, but only use 1.4 GB, will receive a $16 refund from Google for the unused data. Google is offering Project Fi through an early access program. It requires the Nexus 6 smartphone at launch, which Google says was developed with Project Fi in mind. Nexus 6 owners can request invites starting today.


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