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printed April 27, 2017
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Unlocked BlackBerry Keyone Goes On Sale May 31; Sprint Version Arrives This Summer

Today, 5:05 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

TCL today announced that the BlackBerry Keyone, a smartphone it developed with BlackBerry Mobile, will be available to U.S. buyers starting May 31. The handset includes a 4.5-inch touch display and full QWERTY keyboard. Other features include a Snapdragon 625 processor, 12-megpixel camera, LTE, and Android 7.1 Nougat with BlackBerry Hub and BlackBerry Messenger. TCL plans to sell both the unlocked GSM and CDMA variants of the phone directly to consumers online for $549. The company noted that Sprint will sell the phone with service plans later this summer. TCL said more details about the Sprint version will be shared towards the end of May.


Sprint Offering Fifth Unlimited Line for Free

Tuesday, 12:34 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sprint today made it more affordable for large families to enjoy its Unlimited Freedom service. Moving forward, the fifth line added to an Unlimited Freedom plan will be free. Sprint charges $50 per month for a single line of unlimited data, talk and text. Two lines cost $80 per month, four lines cost $120 per month, and now five lines also cost $120 per month. Sprint's Unlimited Freedom plans to face some serious caveats. To start, these monthly prices are only available through June 30, 2018. After that time subscribers will see monthly prices jump to $60 for a single line, $100 for two lines, and $130 for three-five lines. Further, these prices all reflect a $5 discount per line when the subscriber enrolls in AutoPay. Sprint's Unlimited Freedom plan allows for full HD video streaming, 1.5 Mbps music streaming, and gaming at up to 8 Mbps, but customers will see their speeds slowed when the network is congested.


Inexpensive ZTE Prestige 2 Hits Boost and Virgin Mobile

Tuesday, 9:53 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sprint's prepaid brands Boost Mobile and Virgin Mobile today launched the ZTE Prestige 2, an entry-level Android handset. The Prestige 2 has a 5-inch FWVGA display and it is powered by a 1.1 GHz quad-core processor with 2 GB of RAM and 16 GB of storage. The phone has two 5-megapixel cameras, one on the front and one on the back. The main camera has a flash. Other specs include a 2,035mAh battery, memory card support, HD voice, roaming in Mexico, mobile hotspot, and LTE 4G. The phone costs $80, but Boost Mobile is selling it online for $52. Virgin Mobile is offering the ZTE Prestige 2 for $50. It runs Android 6 Marshmallow.


ZTE Max XL Packs 6-Inch Full HD Screen for $130

Tuesday, 8:00 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

ZTE today announced the Max XL, a big-screened Android smartphone headed to Boost Mobile. The Max XL's defining features are the 6-inch full HD display and massive 3,990mAh battery. The screen is protected by Gorilla Glass. ZTE says the Max XL is also the first for Boost Mobile to include support for HPUE for better LTE speeds at the network edge. HPUE is a technology Boost Mobile parent company Sprint is working to deploy this year. The Max XL's main camera has a 13-megapixel sensor, while the front camera has a 5-megapixel sensor. The device runs Android 7.1.1 Nougat and includes a rear-mounted fingerprint reader. Other specs include an octa-core 1.4 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon processor with 2 GB of RAM and 16 GB of storage, support for memory cards, WiFi, Bluetooth, GPS, and FM radio. The ZTE MAX XL smartphone is available online today at Boost Mobile for $129.99.

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Sprint Offering Two-For-One Lease On Samsung Galaxy S8

Apr 20, 2017, 11:32 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sprint today finalized its retail plans for the Samsung Galaxy S8 and there's good news for consumers. The company is offering a two-for-one lease deal on the S8 with a new line activation and one upgrade, or two new line activations. New and existing customers can lease the S8 for $31.25 per month and receive a second leased phone at no additinal cost. The second monthly lease payment will be credited to the account each billing period. The Sprint Galaxy Forever lease program allows people to trade the phone in for the newest Galaxy handset after making 12 lease payments. The S8 and S8+ are both compatible with Sprint's new HPUE technology, which makes them perform much better on the company's 2.5 GHz spectrum. Sprint says this two-for-one lease deal for the Galaxy S8 is good only from April 21 through April 27.


Sprint's Roaming Plan Now Includes Free 2G Data

Apr 18, 2017, 12:42 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sprint today improved its international roaming plan, making it cheaper and more appealing to customers. Sprint customers can now enjoy free 2G data, free text messaging, and $0.20-per-minute voice calls in some 165 countries. Customers who want or need faster mobile data can pay for it on a daily basis directly from their phone. In Canada and Mexico, for example, LTE roaming costs $2 per day or $10 per week, while in most other countries LTE roaming cost $5 per day or $25 per week. Sprint says customers that subscribe to its Unlimited Freedom plan will receive free LTE high-speed data roaming, voice calling, and text messaging while traveling in Canada and Mexico. Sprint customers don't need to do anything ahead of time to take advantage of the free roaming services when traveling.


Sprint Lists Samsung Galaxy J7 Perx for $264

Apr 10, 2017, 11:45 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sprint recently added the Samsung Galaxy J7 Perx to its lineup of inexpensive Android handset. The Perx appears to be a minor refresh of last year's J7. It carries over the 5.5-inch 720p HD display, but upgrades to a Snapdragon 625 processor and a 3,300mAh battery. The phone features an 8-megapixel main camera and a 5-megapixel front camera. It loses the J7's NFC radio, but includes an FM radio. Other specs include 2 GB of RAM, 16 GB of storage, and support for memory cards up to 256 GB; and Bluetooth 4.2, GPS, WiFi, and support for Sprint's LTE Plus network. The phone runs Android 7 Nougat and is capable of VoLTE and WiFi calling. The phone costs $264 at full retail or $11 per month for 24 months. The Samsung Galaxy J7 Perx is available from Sprint's web site. The FCC has recently approved variants of this phone for all four major carriers, though it has yet to appear elsewhere.


Sprint to Let Customers Manage Movistar Prepaid Accounts in Mexico and El Salvador

Mar 30, 2017, 9:31 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sprint today announced a new program that will allow customers to help pay for wireless service for relatives and friends in Mexico and El Salvador. The new Plan Conectados, which is built into the Sprint World Top-Up app, makes it possible for Sprint customers to provide wireless access for $25 per month through a partnership with Movistar. Sprint customers who sign up for the plan will be billed each month and the money will be applied to their family’s or friend’s Movistar prepaid account in Mexico and El Salvador. Those who use the Movistar service in Mexico will have access to unlimited in-country calls, unlimited calls to the U.S., unlimited text messages, and 7 GB of data. Those who use the Movistar service in El Salvador will have access to unlimited in-country calls, 400 minutes of calls to the U.S., unlimited in-country text messages but no text messages to the U.S., and 4 GB of data. The Sprint Top-Up App also allows Sprint subscribers to add money to prepaid accounts in 23 other Latin American and Caribbean countries. The new Plan Conectados is available beginning today.


Galaxy S8 to Cost $750, S8+ to Cost $850: Carriers Share Launch Details

Mar 29, 2017, 11:11 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Mar 29, 2017, 3:29 PM

Samsung's new Galaxy S8 and S8+ smartphones will cost $750 and $850, respectively. The phones share almost all features other than size and both ship with 64 GB of internal storage. All carriers are bundling in the new Gear VR with controller at no added cost ($129 value), and will upgrade the bundle to include a 256 GB memory card and Harmon Kardon headphones for $99. The Galaxy S8 and S8+ will be available for preorder starting March 30 and should reach stores April 21.

  • AT&T: AT&T is offering a buy-one, get-one deal with the S8 and S8+. Monthly prices range from $28 to $36, depending on the length of the installment plan. Further, AT&T is selling the Gear S3 for $50 with an S8/S8+ purchase, provided the customer signs a two-year agreement. Last, AT&T is offering either the Galaxy Tab E or Gear S2 for 99 cents with a service agreement.
  • T-Mobile: The S8 will cost $30 month on a T-Mobile installment plan, and the S8+ will cost $30 per month, too, with a $130 down payment. T-Mobile says MetroPCS customers will have access to the Galaxy S8 when it reaches stores April 21.
  • Sprint: Sprint plans to lease the phones. The S8 will cost $31.25 per month for 18 months while the S8+ will cost $35.42 per month for 18 months. Customers will be able to upgrade to a newer Samsung phone after making 12 payments. People who preorder the phones from Sprint will be entered into a sweepstakes that includes prizes such as television sets. Sprint says Boost Mobile and Virgin Mobile will offer the phone on April 21.
  • Verizon Wireless: Verizon is offering the S8/S8+ for as low as $15 per month with an eligible (flagship-level) trade-in. Without a trade-in, the S8 will cost $30 per month and the S8+ will cost $35 per month for 24 months.
The Galaxy S8 and S8+ have 5.8- and 6.2-inch screens, respectively, Snapdragon 835 processors, 12-megapixel cameras, and Samsung's Bixby voice interface.


Boost and Virgin Mobile Selling LG Stylo 3 for $180

Mar 14, 2017, 1:43 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sprint-owned Boost Mobile and Virgin Mobile USA today both kicked off sales of the LG Stylo 3. The device, first announced late last year, features a 5.7-inch 720p display. It is powered by a 1.4 GHz octa-core processor from MediaTek with 3 GB RAM, 16 GB of storage, and support for memory cards up to 2 TB. The main camera has a 13-megapixel sensor and the front camera has an 8-megapixel sensor. Other features include a removable 3,200mAh battery, FM radio, and fingerprint sensor. The Stylo 3 includes a new stylus. LG said it improved screen feedback for a more natural feel. The revised pen-based software includes PenPop 2.0 (memos are never out of sight), Pen Keeper (warning system to prevent stylus loss), and Screen-Off Memo (note-taking even when the screen is off). Both prepaid carriers are asking $180 for the phone, which is available online and in stores.


Sprint Rolls Out Gigabit LTE In New Orleans

Mar 9, 2017, 9:46 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sprint today said it has debuted gigabit-class LTE in New Orleans. The gigabit LTE requires 3-channel carrier aggregation using 60 MHz of Sprint's 2.5 GHz spectrum (Band 41) with 4x4 MIMO and 256 QAM modulation. This is what delivers Category 16 LTE download speeds via TDD-LTE. Sprint showcased the technology in New Orleans on an unannounced flagship smartphone from Motorola that uses the Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor and Snapdragon X16 modem. Sprint plans to rely on its 2.5 GHz spectrum to add capacity and speed to its network around the country. The rollout of gigabit class LTE goes further than what Sprint's LTE Plus service already delivers (which reaches 100Mbps downloads). The gigabit LTE requires a series of incremental upgrades, says Sprint, that rely on the Cat 16 modem, 4x4 MIMO and 256 QAM. Sprint later plans to use massive MIMO and HPUE to boost performance at the cell edge, eventually pushing speeds beyond 1 Gbps. Sprint and Motorola did not say when the yet-to-be-named gigabit class LTE handset will be made available to consumers. The Snapdragon 835 processor and X16 modem aren't expected to be available in volume until April.


More Carriers and Phone Makers Agree to Adopt Google's RCS-Based 'Android Messages' Service

Feb 24, 2017, 7:40 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today said more wireless network operators and handset manufacturers will use Android Messages, its RCS-based messaging service, as the default SMS/MMS tool on their phones. (Android Messages was previously known as Google Messenger.) Some of the features of RCS, which is a global standard, include group chat, high-resolution photo sharing, advanced calling features, and read receipts. It has been improved lately with more interactive tools, such as the ability to check into flights. Google says a number of brands plan to use RCS in order to enhance their own services and help spur adoption. Some of the brands include Walgreens, Baskin-Robbins, FICO, Gamestop, Sonic, Subway, and Time. Moving forward, the Android Messages app with RCS will be preloaded by LG, Motorola, Sony, HTC, ZTE, Micromax, HMD Global, Archos, BQ, Cherry Mobile, Condor, Fly, General Mobile, Lanix, LeEco, Lava, Kyocera, MyPhone, QMobile, Symphony, and Wiko, along with Google's own Pixel and Android One devices. Further, Google was already working with carriers Sprint, Rogers, and Telenor, and today added Vodafone, Orange, Deutsche Telekom, and Globe. Notably absent fro the list of phone makers is Samsung, while AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon have also yet to commit. Phones with Android Messages on board will still be able to interact with Samsung handsets and those running on non-Sprint networks of course, but will lose the advanced features available via RCS. Samsung, AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon haven't said if or when they might adopt Google's Android Messages, though T-Mobile and Verizon already use their own RCS-like messaging platforms.


Verizon to Test 5G In 11 Cities By Mid-Year

Feb 22, 2017, 9:13 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Verizon Wireless today said it plans to trial 5G technology in 11 U.S. markets later this year. This "pre-commercial service" will be offered to a very limited number of customers and not necessarily made available to consumers. The tests will involve the 5GTF spec Verizon developed past year. The trial markets include Ann Arbor, Atlanta, Bernardsville, Brockton, Dallas, Denver, Houston, Miami, Sacramento, Seattle, and Washington, D.C. Verizon competitors AT&T, T-Mobile, and Sprint are each testing their own variants of potential 5G technologies. The actual 5G spec has yet to be defined by the International Telecommunications Union, but carriers and telecom equipment makers around the world are hoping their technologies will be included in the final standard.

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Qualcomm Fine Tunes RF Antennas for Snapdragon 835

Feb 21, 2017, 8:57 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Qualcomm today introduced a new range of RF front-end products that will complement advanced processors such as the Snapdragon 835. The new family of radios are the first gallium arsenide (GaAs) power amplifier modules to come from Qualcomm. The company says the QPA546x and QPA436x are multimode, multiband power amplifier (MMPA) modules that are designed for superior cell-edge performance, which also makes them the first MMPA modules optimized for High Power User Equipment (HPUE) operation. Sprint plans to use HPUE later this year to improve the performance of its 2.5GHz spectrum to boost speed and capacity at the cell edge. The module family supports a range of other technologies, including Qualcomm TruSignal antenna performance. Qualcomm says its newest TruSignal design is better able to support carrier aggregation while also maximizing power efficiency over LTE. Consumers should see more consistent voice and data performance both indoors and out. The QAT35xx antenna is ready for the Snapdragon 835, while the QPA546x and QPA436x are sampling now with the expectation that they'll reach consumer devices later this year.


Sprint Tweaks Unlimited Plan to Compete with T-Mobile, Verizon

Feb 16, 2017, 11:56 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sprint today announced an updated version of its unlimited plan that improves video quality and includes up to 10 GB of mobile hotspot data. Sprint says the new plan allows customers to stream video at up to 1080p HD rather than 480p; stream music at 1.5 Mbps rather than 512 Kbps; and stream games at up to 8 Mbps rather than 2 Mbps. These represent significant improvements over Sprint's previous unlimited plan, but subscribers will still be subject to data deprioritization when the network is congested. The deal is only available to new customers and they must sign up for Unlimited Talk, Text and Data with Sprint AutoPay. The first line costs $50 for unlimited everything. The second line costs $40, and lines three and four are free, leaving the total monthly cost for up to four lines at $90 (plus taxes and fees). This rate, however, is only good through March 31, 2018. After that date, subscribers to this promotion will see the first line jump to $60 per month, the second line stays at $40, and lines three and four increase to $30 each. Moreover, after March 31, 2018, streamed video, music, and games will be capped at the lower bit rates. Accompanying the revised plan, Sprint is further tempting consumers with a free phone lease. Customers who switch to Sprint and port their number can lease the 32 GB iPhone 7 at no cost for 18 months with a qualifying trade-in. Eligible trade-in devices include the iPhone 7, iPhone 7 Plus, iPhone 6s, iPhone 6s Plus, Samsung GS7, GS7 edge, GS6, GS6 edge, Note 5, LG V20, G5, and Moto Droid 2. T-Mobile and Verizon Wireless have trotted out similar changes to their unlimited plans over the course of the last week.


Sprint Pitching 5 Lines with Unlimited Everything for $90

Feb 10, 2017, 11:21 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sprint today announced a new promotion that will give customers unlimited talk, text, and data on up to five lines for $90 per month total. The promo has a handful of requirements and a big limitation. First, the deal is only available to new customers and they must enroll in AutoPay. The first line costs $50 for unlimited everything. The second line costs $40, and lines three through five are free, leaving the total monthly cost for up to five lines at $90 (plus taxes and fees). This rate, however, is only good through March 31, 2018. After that date, subscribers to this promotion will see the first line jump to $60 per month, the second line stays at $40, and lines three through five increase to $30 each. All five lines will be subject to data deprioritization when the network is congested. Moreover, streamed video, music, and games bit rates are capped. Sprint said this promotion will only be available for a limited time.


Sprint Flips On 3-Channel Carrier Aggregation for iPhones and Galaxies

Feb 3, 2017, 8:22 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sprint gave some of its high-end smartphones a speed boost this week. The company added 3-channel carrier aggregation to the Apple iPhone 7 and 7 Plus, Samsung Galaxy S7 and S7 edge, and the LG V20 and G5. The HTC Bolt already supports 3xCA, and Sprint plans to update a half dozen more phones soon. The update, which binds together three spectrum bands, boosts potential top download speeds from 100 Mbps to more than 200 Mbps. Sprint says 2xCA is already available in some 250 markets and that it has added 3xCA to about 100 markets. The 3xCA technology will serve as the base for Sprint's forthcoming HPUE network technology. Combining HPUE, 3xCA, 256 QAM, and MIMO can deliver 1 Gbps speeds, according to Sprint. Sprint will begin deploying HPUE in its 2.5 GHz spectrum (Band 41) later this year. The company said 55% of its post-paid phones will support HPUE by the end of this year, with the rest to follow in 2018.


Sprint Touts Unlimited Plan Promo

Jan 27, 2017, 11:31 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sprint today rolled out a new promotion meant to compete with recent offerings from its competitors. The promo is for new customers only and includes unlimited data, talk, and text for $55 per month for a single line. Customers who subscribe to auto-pay can receive a $5-per-month discount, which drops the plan cost to $50. (Sprint is advertising the plan as "unlimited data, talk and text for just $50 per month.") Sprint says customers can score unlimited data, talk, and text for two lines for $90, with additional lines thereafter costing $30 each. According to the fine print, the $55 price is available through March 31, 2018, after which it will increase to $60. Moreover, Sprint says video will be optimized at 480p resolution, music will be capped at 500 Kbps, and gaming will be limited to streams of 2 Mbps. Customers on this plan may be throttled when the network is congested. Electronic billing is required. The plan cost does not include taxes and fees, which are extra. The offer is available from today, Jan. 27, through Monday, Jan. 30.


Sprint Takes a 33% Stake In Music Service Tidal

Jan 23, 2017, 8:30 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sprint today said it has acquired a 33% stake in Tidal, a music and entertainment platform. Sprint plans to make Tidal's service available to its 45 million retail customers. Tidal is known for music and video exclusives from select artists. Sprint says Jay Z and Tidal's other artist-owners will continue to operate the business, though Sprint CEO Marcelo Claure will join Tidal's board of directors. "Sprint shares our view of revolutionizing the creative industry to allow artists to connect directly with their fans and reach their fullest, shared potential," said Jay Z. "Marcelo understood our goal right away and together we are excited to bring Sprint's 45 million customers an unmatched entertainment experience." Tidal was created with fans in mind and claims to offer a better experience than competing music products. Much of the platform and content is created directly by the artists involved. Tidal is already available in 52 countries and has a catalog of more than 42 million songs and 140,000 videos. Sprint said more details about its Tidal offering will be unveiled soon.


FCC Says Incentive Auction Reaches End Point

Jan 18, 2017, 6:33 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

The FCC today said the close of the fourth stage will mark the end of bidding in the auction for 600 MHz airwaves. The auction has been in progress since last May and worked its way through several stages. Television broadcasters agreed to give up portions of their spectrum holdings, which were then sold to wireless carriers. The repurposed airwaves will eventually be used for mobile broadband services and the TV stations relocated. FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler called the auction a success, but it fell far short of initial projections as far as generating revenue is concerned. "The world's first spectrum incentive auction has delivered on its ambitious promise. Reaching the Final Stage Rule means the benefits of the auction are indisputable," said Wheeler. "We will repurpose 70 MHz of high-value, completely clear low-band spectrum for mobile broadband on a nationwide basis. On top of that, 14 MHz of new unlicensed spectrum — the test bed for wireless innovation — will be available for consumer devices and new services. The auction will provide $10.05 billion to broadcast television licensees who participated and billions towards deficit reduction." Broadcasters had expected to see as much as $86 billion for 126 MHz of licenses. When bidding in rounds two and three bottomed out, the amount of spectrum offered by broadcasters was reduced accordingly. "There is still a long road ahead to successfully implement the post-auction transition of broadcast stations to their new channels and bring the new wireless and unlicensed spectrum to market," noted Wheeler. "This will be an extremely important task for my successor and the new Commission; I wish them well." Wheeler is leaving his post at the FCC as President-Elect Donald Trumps takes office. T-Mobile, AT&T, and Verizon Wireless all participated, but Sprint did not. The FCC hasn't said what new spectrum licenses the carriers and other bidders have won.


Sprint Planning to Use Virgin Mobile As Market 'Disrupter'

Jan 7, 2017, 11:30 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sprint intends to relaunch its Virgin Mobile brand later this year and will use the prepaid service to shake things up. "We've put most of our attention in the postpaid handset business, which is where 80% of the profit in this industry comes from," said CEO Marcelo Claure. "Now that that business is stable, we're putting a lot of energy into Boost and Virgin." Claure has spent the last 18 months trimming costs at Sprint and getting its network strategy under control. With these tasks largely on track, the company is now focusing on its prepaid brands, which it has de-emphasized for a while. "I envision Virgin as being our disruptive brand," said Claure. "You're going to see us test different models. One model we're testing that we like is, rather than subsidizing handsets, actually providing free airtime with no subsidy on the handset. So you're going to see Virgin be our disrupter brand. And you're going to see Boost be a very strong brand that can give good competition to both Cricket and Metro." Claure didn't say when it might actually unveil the new, "disruptive" Virgin Mobile.


Sprint Says It Will Bring Back or Create 5,000 US Jobs

Dec 29, 2016, 8:36 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sprint this week committed to creating 5,000 new jobs in the U.S. Some of the positions will be new, and some will be brought back from locations abroad. Sprint believes the jobs will cover a range of needs throughout the company, such as sales and customer care. Sprint intends to speak with business partners and state/local governments about the best locations for any new facilities. Sprint expects the fill the open 5,000 jobs by the end of 2017. "We are excited to do our part to drive economic growth and create jobs in the U.S.," said Sprint CEO Marcelo Claure. "We believe it is critical for business and government to partner together to create more job opportunities in the U.S. and ensure prosperity for all Americans." In January 2016, Sprint announced 2,500 job cuts in an effort to lower costs. The company has been trimming expenses aggressively since Claure came on board. The reversal appears to be linked to parent company SoftBank, which recently announced a massive business investment fund of $50 billion that it hopes will create some 50,000 new jobs in a variety of industries.


Sprint Pins Network Strategy On 'HPUE' Technology

Dec 13, 2016, 3:00 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sprint today detailed a new technology called High Performance User Equipment that promises to improve the behavior of its 2.5 GHz spectrum in terms of capacity, speed, and range. HPUE is a modem-level technology that ushers in a new power class for mobile phones, called Power Class 2. In its simplest form, HPUE-capable phones can speak louder from the cell edge so the cell tower hears them. Despite the higher broadcasting output, Sprint says there are power efficiencies involved that allow HPUE to work without killing device batteries. It involves the modem, power amplifier, filter, software, and processor all working together to manage power output in the appropriate spectrum. The 3GPP approved the HPUE standard on Dec. 6. Sprint already has a wide range of partners helping it with the technology, including Qualcomm and MediaTek on the processor side, Broadcom and Skyworks on the amplifier side, and Samsung, ZTE, LG, HTC, Motorola, and Alcatel on the consumer device side. HPUE is independent from 3xCA (which Sprint is deploying now), but plays well with carrier aggregation and other technologies such as MIMO to improve capacity and speed. Combining HPUE, 3xCA, 256 QAM, and MIMO can deliver 1 Gbps speeds, according to Sprint, though that package won't be available for some time. HPUE relies on attributes of TDD-LTE and is specific to Band 41 spectrum. Other carriers with and 41, including China Mobile and Sprint parent SoftBank, are looking at the technology, too. Once deployed, Sprint expects a single HPUE-enabled 2.5 GHz cell tower will be able to cover approximately the same geographical area as a 1.9 GHz cell tower with similar speed characteristics. The actual improvement in geographical coverage is about 30% more than a 2.5 GHz cell tower could cover on its own without HPUE. Sprint will begin deploying HPUE cell sites and devices (including an unannounced Galaxy flagship handset from Samsung) in 2016, and expects 55% of its handsets to support HPUE by the end of 2017. In the meantime, Sprint will continue to expand the availability of 3xCA devices and markets.

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Sprint Extends Free Data Roaming to Mexico and Caribbean

Dec 9, 2016, 12:35 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sprint today said customers who subscribe to its Unlimited Freedom and Sprint Open World programs can take advantage of free, unlimited high-speed data when traveling to Mexico and select Caribbean destinations for the next few months. The program applies to vacation destinations including Bermuda, Bahamas, Jamaica, Grand Cayman, the Virgin Islands, and most other islands in the Caribbean. The "Sprint South" free, unlimiting roaming promotion runs through March 31, 2017.


Republic Wireless to Become Independent from Parent Corp

Dec 1, 2016, 8:47 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Bandwidth.com today said it will divest its Republic Wireless business, spinning the company off into a separate business. Republic Wireless has been selling low-cost service since 2011. It relies mostly on WiFi, but when WiFi is not available its customers are able to connect via the networks of Sprint and T-Mobile. Bandwidth.com also powers Alphabet's Fi service and Microsoft's Skype service. Bandwidth.com's leadership feel Republic has grown enough thanks to its 300,000 subscribers and $100 million in annual revenue, and its time the company stood on its own. Moreover, Republic competes with Bandwidth.com properties such as Fi and it no longer makes sense to house competing products under the same roof. Once the spin-off is complete, Bandwidth.com chief operating officer Chris Chuang will be named CEO of Republic Wireless. Republic does not intend to make any immediate chances to its existing service plans.


Hands-On with HTC Bolt for Sprint

Nov 11, 2016, 1:01 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

The HTC Bolt is a mishmash of HTC's two best phones with a handful of unique features tossed in to give it some additional appeal. Under-the-hood specs such as three-channel carrier aggregation and a Snapdragon 810 push this unibody handset faster than many others. Here are our first impressions of this one-off for Sprint.

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HTC Bolt, with 3-Channel CA, Is a Sprint Exclusive

Nov 11, 2016, 1:01 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

HTC and Sprint today announced the Bolt, the first smartphone to ship with support for three-channel carrier aggregation (3xCA) for Sprint's LTE Plus network. The HTC Bolt can aggregate three 20MHz LTE channels to improve wireless performance. Sprint claims theoretical max downloads via 3xCA can reach 450Mbps, but expects real-world speeds to be under 300Mbps. While the Bolt will be the first handset to ship with 3xCA active out of the box, Sprint said earlier this year the HTC 10 and 9, LG G5, and Samsung Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 Edge are all 3xCA-capable — they need only a software update to turn the functionality on. The HTC Bolt is a unibody metal handset that boasts IP57 for protection against water and dust. It includes a 5.5-inch quad HD screen with curved glass, Snapdragon 810 processor with 3 GB of RAM, 32 GB of storage, and support for microSD cards up to 2 TB. The main camera has a 16-megapixel sensor with an aperture of f/2.0. It has phase-detection autofocus, optical image stabilization, dual-LED flash, and 4K video recording. The user-facing camera has an 8-megapixel sensor and a selfie light. HTC gave the phone a 3,200mAh battery and the USB-C port supports Quick Charge 2.0 for rapid power-ups. The phone does not include HTC's trademarked BoomSound stereo speakers, but it does ship with BoomSound Adaptive Audio headphones. The headphones include microphones and work together with on-board software to fine-tune the EQ based on the owner's ear and surrounding environment for the best-possible sound. The phone ships with Android 7 Nougat and the latest version of Sense UI from HTC. The HTC Bolt reaches Sprint stores today (Nov. 11) for $25 per month for 24 months with an installment plan.

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Samsung Rolls Out Nougat Test Program for Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge

Nov 10, 2016, 8:11 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Samsung is allowing owners of the Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge to experience an early look at its Nougat builds through the Galaxy Beta Program. The program is meant more for Samsung's benefit than that of end users, as it will use feedback generated by beta users to improve the experience and reliability for all users. Samsung says beta testers will have an opportunity to see its latest user experience elements based on Android 7.0 Nougat. The company hopes for direct feedback about the betas' performance, stability, and usability as it prepares the software for general release next year. Samsung warns that beta software is not official and may cause unexpected errors or malfunction. It may also not have the full feature set when compared to the final version. People will be able to leave the beta program and return their devices to official, functional builds of Android 6. The program is open to the Sprint-, T-Mobile-, and Verizon-branded variants of the Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge only. People will be required to download the Galaxy Beta Program application from the Galaxy Apps store and apply via the registration menu. A Samsung account (free) is required. Samsung expects to ship test builds of Nougat between now and the end of December.


Google, Sprint Deploy RCS on Android Phones

Nov 4, 2016, 8:13 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google and Sprint today said some of Sprint's Android phones now have access to RCS-based messaging features. Google added Rich Communication Services, powered by its Jibe cloud platform, to its own Messenger SMS application. Some of the features of RCS include group chat, high-resolution photo sharing, advanced calling features, and read receipts. According to Sprint, select LG handsets and all Nexus handsets will automatically receive the new RCS-based Messenger app later today. Sprint customers who own other Android devices should be able to download the app directly from the Google Play Store. The RCS-enriched Messenger app will be installed on all Sprint phones beginning in 2017. Earlier this year, the GSMA and a large number of global network operators agreed to deploy RCS with Google. Sprint was one of the initial supporters of the GSMA's plans, though so far AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless have remained silent on potential adoption of the Google-made RCS app.


iPhone 7 Plus Intel Modem Not Equal to Qualcomm Modem

Oct 20, 2016, 11:35 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Under poor network conditions, the iPhone 7 Plus with Intel inside does not perform as well as the iPhone 7 Plus with Qualcomm inside. Apple sourced the iPhone 7 Plus modem from both Intel and Qualcomm. This represents a major change for the company, which has relied solely on Qualcomm modems for years. The Intel modem (XMM7360) is found in the AT&T and T-Mobile variants of the iPhone 7, while the Qualcomm modem (MDM9645M) is found in the Sprint, Verizon, and unlocked variants of the iPhone 7. Cellular Insights conducted extensive signal tests on the iPhone 7 Plus in LTE Bands 12, 7, and 4 to see if any performance differences exist between the two modems. Under optimal network conditions both the Intel- and Qualcomm-equipped iPhones demonstrated an equal level of performance in speed and maintaining a connection. Under weak network conditions, however, the Intel-equipped iPhone 7 Plus posted speeds that were on average 30% slower than those of the Qualcomm-equipped iPhone 7 Plus. The slower speeds at the cell edge mean the Intel-based iPhone 7 Plus may be more likely to experience dropped VoLTE calls and other, similar behaviors. "In all tests, the iPhone 7 Plus with the Qualcomm modem had a significant performance edge over the iPhone 7 Plus with the Intel modem," said Cellular Insights in its report. Apple has not said why it selected modems from two separate suppliers for the iPhone 7 Plus.


FCC Reverse Auction Drops Clearing Price to $54.6B

Oct 14, 2016, 7:46 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

The FCC has wrapped up the initial phase of stage two of its incentive auction for 600 MHz airwaves, and drastically lowered the price for that spectrum. The initial clearing cost for all the 600 MHz spectrum was $86.4 billion, but bidders failed to come even close during the first round of bidding. Bidders offered up about $23 billion instead. The FCC was forced to go back to the spectrum license holders — in this case, broadcast television stations — and renegotiate a series of minimum prices for those licenses. The new clearing cost for stage two of the auction is $54.6 billion. Bidding will resume on Oct. 19. Most industry watchers assumed the reverse auction would need several rounds to reach completion. The 600 MHz airwaves are valuable due to their signal propagation characteristics. AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless are participating in the auction, but Sprint is not.


Google's Project Fi Gains Family Discounts

Oct 11, 2016, 11:22 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Oct 11, 2016, 11:49 AM

Google today made it less costly for users of its Project Fi wireless service to add multiple lines to their accounts. The first line still carries a $20 access charge, with data costing a flat $10 per GB. Moving forward, additional lines carry a $15 access charge (rather than $20) and they can be lumped into the shared data plan with the first line. Google charges per megabyte each month, so people who don't use their entire data allotment receive a refund at the end of the month. Project Fi doesn't throttle speeds for those who use more than their allotment, but those people will be billed for their additional usage. Project Fi, which relies on the wireless services of Sprint, T-Mobile, U.S. Cellular, and open WiFi hotspots, is available to the Pixel and Pixel XL, as well as the Nexus 6P and Nexus 5X. Google is now offering discounts on the latter two when people choose to buy and activate them via Project Fi. Project Fi’s group plan is available starting today.


Sprint to Give 1M Free Devices, Service to Low-Income Students

Oct 11, 2016, 10:42 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sprint today said it plans to give away 1 million free devices with up to four years of service to low-income and/or disadvantaged high school students around the country. The program will provide a free smartphone, tablet, laptop, or hotspot device with 3 GB of high-speed LTE data per month. High school students who receive a phone will be able to use it as a mobile hotspot as well as make unlimited calls and send unlimited text messages. Sprint believes the 1Million Project will help create opportunities that students without internet access might otherwise not have. "Education is the foundation for our society to prosper, and the internet is an incredibly powerful tool for learning," explained Sprint CEO Marcelo Claure. The 5 million households that lack internet connections are at "a huge disadvantage and we are failing them. All of us at Sprint are committed to changing this by providing 1 million students in need with free devices and free wireless connections." Sprint is partnering with non-profits EveryoneOn and My Brother's Keeper Alliance to help identify eligible students as well as distribute the devices. Sprint didn't say what devices might be provided.


Sprint Is Last Major Carrier to Cease Note7 Sales

Oct 10, 2016, 2:40 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sprint today followed AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless in discontinuing the Samsung Galaxy Note7. "Given recent issues reported in the media, Sprint is halting sales of replacement Note7 devices pending the conclusion of the investigation by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission and Samsung," said the company in statement provided to media. "If a Sprint customer with a replacement Note7 has any concerns, we will exchange it for any other device." Sprint's competitors halted sales of the Note7 a day earlier. Samsung said it has "adjusted" production of the Note7 as it continues to investigate the device's safety. All consumers who have a Note7 are urged to power it down and return it for a new phone.

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T-Mobile, Too, Halts Note7 Replacements

Oct 9, 2016, 7:51 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

T-Mobile this evening joined AT&T in putting a stop to exchanges, replacements, and sales of the Samsung Galaxy Note7. "While Samsung investigates multiple reports of issues, T-Mobile is temporarily suspending all sales of the new Note7 and exchanges for replacement Note7 devices," said the company. Customers can bring their new and/or replacement Note7 (along with any purchased accessories) to a T-Mobile store for a full refund and choose from any device in T-Mobile's inventory. The company said it will waive restocking fees, as well as allow those who preordered the Note7 to keep the free Netflix subscription, Gear FT, or SD card they might have received as a gift with the phone. Last, T-Mobile will give all Note7 customers a one-time $25 bill credit for the hassle. The carrier encourages all customers to stop using the Note7, power it down, and return it to T-Mobile as soon as practical. Sprint and Verizon are still selling the device.


AT&T Stops Exchanging the Galaxy Note7

Oct 9, 2016, 2:55 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

AT&T says it will not swap out the original Note7 for replacement devices. "Based on recent reports, we're no longer exchanging new Note7s at this time, pending further investigation of these reported incidents," said the company in a statement provided to media. "We still encourage customers with a recalled Note7 to visit an AT&T location to exchange that device for another Samsung smartphone or other smartphone of their choice." All four major carriers have said customers may bring their Note7 — original or replacement — to stores for a refund or exchange. The Note7 has vanished from the web sites of AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile, but it is still available from Verizon.com. Verizon hasn't said if or when it might halt sales/exchanges. Anyone with a Note7 should power it down and bring it bak to the point of sale as soon as possible.

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AT&T, T-Mo, Verizon to Allow Note7 Replacement Exchanges, Too

Oct 7, 2016, 1:41 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless followed Sprint's lead today and said customers who have a replacement Samsung Galaxy Note7 can exchange the phone for any other sold in carrier stores. T-Mobile specified that any customer can return any phone within the initial 14-day trial period, and that includes both replacement and new Note7 handsets. AT&T and Verizon will accept any replacement Note7, regardless of replacement/purchase date. Sprint implemented a similar exchange program late Thursday. The latest action is a response to a replacement Note7 that caused a fire aboard an aircraft.


Sprint to Allow Replacement Note7 Owners to Swap Phones

Oct 7, 2016, 7:13 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sprint said on Thursday that customers who have a replacement Samsung Galaxy Note7, and harbor lingering doubts about its actual safety, can turn it in for any other device sold by Sprint. Sprint made the decision after a device deemed safe by Samsung burned up on an airplane, forcing passengers to evacuate and the airline to cancel the flight. "[Sprint] is working collaboratively with Samsung to better understand the most recent concerns regarding replacement Samsung Galaxy Note7 smartphones," said the company in a statement provided to Recode. "If a Sprint customer with a replacement Note7 has any concerns regarding their device, we will exchange it for any other device at any Sprint retail store during the investigation window." Sprint did not say how long that window might be open. T-Mobile, AT&T, and Verizon Wireless are still selling the replacement phones, despite the most recent setback for Samsung. Consumers who still have the the original Note7 are urged to exchange it at their local carrier store. Samsung recalled the device in early September after reports of burns and fires due to a faulty battery.


Sprint and Verizon Resume Sales of Galaxy Note7

Sep 21, 2016, 9:03 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sprint and Verizon Wireless are once again selling the Samsung Galaxy Note7. Both companies' web sites list the device for sale and also reveal where the phone can be found at local stores. Supply of the device is limited, but determined consumers can buy the phone. Samsung and its carrier partners halted sales of the device early this month after Samsung discovered a quality issue with some batteries. About 2.5 million devices in total were recalled due to the possibility of fire risk, though the actual number of impacted devices isn't clear. Incidences of burns, fires, and explosions blamed on the phone have been reported in the media. On Tuesday, Samsung said about 500,000 replacement units are now available to original Note7 buyers who have yet to exchange their phones. Samsung and its carrier partners are pushing a software update to the Note7 so owners know whether or not their device is safe. Recalled devices will display an alert stating such, while safe devices will display a green power indicator in the status bar.


Sprint Says It Has Improved NYC Network Performance

Sep 20, 2016, 9:28 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sprint today talked up coverage improvements it has made across New York City. For example, using two-channel carrier aggregation Sprint has doubled the download speeds and capacity of its 2.5 GHz cell sites around the metropolitan area. Sprint said it is already working to bring three-channel carrier aggregation to NYC, which will eventually deliver download speeds in excess of 200 Mbps on compatible devices. The company has also stepped up coverage in transportation hubs, such as the Oculus, the Port Authority Bus Terminal, and Queens Midtown Tunnel. Sprint expects to add coverage to the Lincoln and Holland tunnels in the months ahead, as well as complete its deployment of LTE within the entire New York City subway system. Sprint is kicking off a major marketing campaign in the metro area today to call attention to its improved service.


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