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printed July 30, 2014
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T-Mobile Drops the Cost of Family Plans to $100

Monday, 8:16 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

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

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

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

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

LG G3 Reaches Sprint Stores a Week Early

Jul 11, 2014, 10:05 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sprint said the LG G3 is available in stores and online beginning today. The device was originally expected to reach Sprint stores July 18, but it has arrived a full week early.

Sprint to Sell ZTE's Hotspot Projector

Jul 9, 2014, 9:00 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Jul 9, 2014, 9:06 AM

Sprint today announced it is bringing ZTE's smart projector to its network as the Sprint LivePro. ZTE announced the LivePro at the Consumer Electronics Show in January, which combines a digital projector and LTE mobile hotspot into one device. The LivePro runs Android 4.2 Jelly Bean and has its own 4-inch display. It is powered by a 1.2GHz dual-core Snapdragon processor with 2GB of RAM and runs the complete suite of Google services, such as Gmail, Maps, Drive, and YouTube. The projector can access Sprint's 3G/4G networks, including Sprint Spark, and can serve as a Wi-Fi mobile hotspot for up to eight other devices. The projector has USB and HDMI ports, and supports Miracast for mirroring the screens of nearby smartphones or tablets. The LivePro can display content up to 1080p HD at distances between 10 inches and 10 feet, for a maximum screen size of 120 inches. The bulb is rated at 100 lumens and provides 20,000 hours of of life. The LivePro has a 5,000mAh battery that can be used to charge other devices if need be. The Sprint LivePro will be available via most Sprint sales channels beginning July 11 for about $450, or $18.75 per month for 24 months with Sprint Easy Pay. Data plans start at $$35 per month for 3GB of combined 3G/4G data while on the Sprint network.

Zact to Call It Quits, But Sprint Has an Alternative On Deck

Jul 8, 2014, 12:45 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Zact Mobile, an MVNO that resold access to Sprint's network, plans to shut down at the end of August. Zact launched in 2013 and was notable because it allowed customers to adjust their voice minutes, messaging, and data allotments on the fly to suit their needs. The company stopped signing up new customers on July 4. Customers can keep their device and transition to Sprint if they want, or walk away free and clear. Zact is not going to reimburse customers for their devices. Zact uses a platform called ItsOn. Sprint recently adopted ItsOn and plans to launch a new prepaid service in the coming months that will offer flexibility similar to Zact's. Sprint did not say exactly when the new service will launch, nor what it will be called. Sprint already operates several prepaid brands, including Boost Mobile and Virgin Mobile USA.

Rok Mobile Launches Today, Requires Invite

Jul 4, 2014, 9:23 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Rok Mobile officially launched today, allowing select invitees to try its music-focused wireless service. Rok Mobile is an MVNO that resells access to Sprint and T-Mobile's 3G and LTE 4G networks. Rok doesn't just provide wireless service, it also bundles in its own streaming music service. Rok charges $50 per month for unlimited voice, messaging, and data in addition to music streaming, downloading, and caching. Rok offers customers access to 20 million tracks and lets people create their own playlists, as well as automatically generate playlists based on crowd-sourced favorites. Interested customers can bring their own device, or purchase an iPhone or Android smartphone from Rok. Rok offers iOS and Android apps to provide access to its music service. Anyone wishing to trial Rok Mobile can request an invitation from its web site.

Sprint to Begin Selling LG G3 July 18

Jul 3, 2014, 11:23 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sprint today revealed it will commence sales of the LG G3 on July 18 in stores, online and via telephone. Sprint is offering several different ways to pay for the device. With Sprint Easy Pay, for example, customers can buy the G3 with $0 down followed by 24 monthly payments of $25. Preorders for the device begin July 11. The company is offering award cards for early adopters of the phone. New and existing customers who buy the G3 between July 11 and July 24 will qualify for a $150 gift card, and those who buy the G3 between July 25 and August 14 will qualify for a $100 gift card. T-Mobile plans to sell the G3 beginning July 16. AT&T and Verizon have yet to announced G3 availability.

Sprint Revives 30-Day Risk-Free Trial

Jun 23, 2014, 1:11 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sprint today said customers will once again be able to test drive its network and services for a period of 30 days with no risk. The move appears to be a response to T-Mobile's recently announced one-week trial, which lets potential customers try an Apple iPhone 5s on T-Mobile's network for one week for free. Sprint's guarantee says customers not wholly satisfied with their service during the first 30 days may return their handsets for a full refund. Sprint will also waive any activation or service charges incurred during the initial trial period. Sprint used to offer a 30-day satisfaction guarantee, but shortened it to 14 days back in 2011. The satisfaction guarantee is available beginning June 27 to new consumers, select small business customers, and current customers who add a new line of service.

Hands On with Samsung's Galaxy S5 Sport for Sprint

Jun 23, 2014, 12:58 PM   by Rich Brome   updated Jun 23, 2014, 3:20 PM

Sprint today revealed the Samsung Galaxy S5 Sport. Sitting somewhere between the standard S5 and the Active model, the Sport gives you physical keys and a distinctive design. We take it for a quick spin.

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Sprint Offering Framily Subscribers Private 'Wall'

Jun 23, 2014, 12:45 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sprint today announced the Sprint Framily Wall, a new micro site that allows members of a Framily Plan to communication with one another in private. The Sprint Framily Wall lets plan members share messages, pictures, videos, and audio with one or several members of the Framily plan. Each wall is managed by the person who created it. The Framily Wall can also be used to share calendars, lists, and contacts; create shared albums; and share location data via Fourquare-esque checkins. Sprint Framily Wall is free to Sprint customers and supports up to 100MB of storage. Sprint is also offering a premium version which ups storage to 10GB and allows users to upload and store HD photos/videos, and leave voice/video messages. The premium version costs $3 per month per plan.

Sprint Launches HD Voice Nationwide, Expands LTE

Jun 23, 2014, 12:29 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Jun 23, 2014, 1:01 PM

Sprint today announced several new milestones for its network. To start, HD Voice is now available to Sprint customers nationwide. Sprint first launched HD Voice with the HTC EVO 4G in 2012 and now says 28 of its smartphones are capable of making HD Voice calls. Sprint today announced its LTE network has expanded to 28 new markets, and now reaches a total of 471 cities and 225 million people. Sprint expects to reach 250 million by mid-year. Sprint expanded the reach of Sprint Spark by three markets, including St. Louis, Winston-Salem and Greensboro, N.C. Sprint also announced the forthcoming availability of international Wi-Fi Calling on select smartphones. With Wi-Fi Calling, Sprint customers will be able to make calls and send texts via Wi-Fi in more than 100 countries around the world. Wi-Fi Calling will launch in a few weeks. Last, Sprint is prepared to deploy 8T8R radios in order to boost the coverage and the strength of its 2.5GHz spectrum. The 8T8R radios are being tested and will go live in Spark markets later this summer.

Samsung Galaxy S5 Sport Exclusive to Sprint

Jun 23, 2014, 11:37 AM   by Rich Brome   updated Jun 23, 2014, 11:40 AM

Sprint today announced that it will offer the Galaxy S5 Sport, a variant of the Galaxy S5 with rubber grips and physical front buttons. The Sport includes fitness apps such as MapMyFitness with a free year of MVP service. Sprint is also offering $50 off the Galaxy Gear Fit plus 50% off certain sport headphones. Like the standard Galaxy S5, the Sport is water- and dust-resistant. Other features and specs are the same, including 16-megapixel camera, heart rate monitor, full HD display, and 2.5 GHz processor. The Sport can be pre-ordered today and will ship July 25th. It costs $650, or $0 down and 24 monthly payments of $27.09 each. It's available in both Electric Blue and Cherry Red.

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Liveblog: Sprint's Summer Announcement

Jun 23, 2014, 10:30 AM   by Rich Brome

Sprint has gathered the tech press for a major announcement. We're in Chicago today, ready to bring the news to you live from the Museum of Broadcast History. Tune in to our live blog right here.

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AT&T Doesn't See Sprint/T-Mobile Merger Happening

Jun 18, 2014, 10:53 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Randall Stephenson, CEO of AT&T, thinks any proposed merger or acquisition between Sprint and T-Mobile is likely to be shot down by the U.S. government. "The problem as I see it is the way the government shut our deal down. They wrote a complaint and a very specific complaint. You're consolidating the industry from four to three national competitors," said Stephenson in comments made Tuesday. "If you think of Sprint and T-Mobile combining, I struggle to understand how that’s not four going to three." SoftBank CEO Masayoshi Son, who serves as Sprint's Chairman, has been talking to U.S. regulators about a potential tie-up between Sprint and T-Mobile for months. So far regulators have been unenthusiastic about the deal, though they've not said outright that it will be shot down. Son has gained more loan agreements and may make an official offer in the coming months.

Sprint Makes Neurodiversity ID Pack Available

Jun 18, 2014, 10:40 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sprint today announced the availability of a new Sprint ID pack that aims to help people with cognitive and neurodevelopment disabilities. The ID pack hopes to improve math and reading skills via developmental games for children aged 6 to 18. The ID pack also provides educational tools and offers, and support apps for parents. Sprint ID packs, which typically include a bundle of apps, wallpapers, themes, and other content, are available to select Sprint and Boost Mobile Android smartphones and are free to download.

Sprint Expands LTE Roaming Agreements

Jun 16, 2014, 1:11 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sprint today said it has expanded the reach of its Rural Roaming Preferred Program to include 12 new carriers. The increased footprint covers 34 million POPs across 23 states and 352,000 square miles. The carriers involved include SouthernLINC Wireless, C Spire Wireless, nTelos, Nex-Tech Wireless, Flat Wireless, SI Wireless, Inland Cellular, Illinois Valley Cellular, Carolina West Wireless, James Valley Telecommunications, VTel Wireless, and Phoenix Wireless. According to Sprint, its customers will be able to roam onto the LTE 4G networks operated by these carriers and vice versa. Sprint further said it is working with these carriers to entice them to participate in Sprint's handset ecosystem. If they do, it could help them all reduce development costs and allow the smaller carriers to gain access to leading devices sooner.

CTIA Believes FCC's Power Should Be Kept In Check

Jun 16, 2014, 12:53 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

The CTIA Wireless Association recently recommended to congress that it limit the powers of the Federal Communications Commission to regulate the wireless industry. The comments come in response to a white paper published by the House Committee On Energy and Commerce earlier this year. The CTIA, which represents the wireless industry, including companies such as AT&T and Verizon Wireless, believes congress should recognize that the wireless industry is inherently competitive as-is and only needs a "light touch" by regulators. Further, the CTIA believes the FCC's authority to regulate should be limited to areas where competition isn't perhaps as robust as it should be. The CTIA wants the FCC to regulate all wireless products and services nationally in a uniform matter. When it comes to regulation, CTIA says congress should rely on existing antitrust laws when assessing mergers and acquisitions rather than allow the FCC to create new criteria. Last, the CTIA wants the FCC to make more spectrum available, and to have its powers reassessed every few years. "The explosive growth of the wireless industry and its prominent role in the United States economy have all occurred because the FCC has taken a light regulatory touch in general and with respect to competition policy in particular. Fostering the continued expansion of the wireless industry requires the preservation of policies that recognize the competiveness of the wireless marketplace, the evolution of intermodal competition, and the need for periodic evaluation of the FCC and its regulations." The FCC is assessing the viability of several large deals, such as AT&T's proposed acquisition of DirecTV, as well as managing several forthcoming spectrum auctions. The FCC squashed AT&T's attempt to acquire T-Mobile in 2012, and has so far indicated it doesn't view a potential Sprint/T-Mobile merger as a good idea. The FCC has also come under fire for its net neutrality proposals, which might mitigate how wired and wireless companies manage network traffic.

AT&T Increases Activation Fee to $40

Jun 12, 2014, 10:56 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

AT&T has bumped up the price of activating new equipment on two-year plans from $36 to $40. The change went into effect June 8. The fee doesn't apply to AT&T Next plans, though AT&T told Fierce Wireless that heavy adoption of its early upgrade program played a role in increasing the activation fee for those signing contracts. AT&T spokesperson Mark Siegel claimed "there are administrative and other costs associated with activating or upgrading a device" on two-year plans. Sprint charges a $36 activation fee, Verizon charges a $35 activation fee (waived if customers sign up for Edge within two month), and T-Mobile doesn't charge an activation fee at all for customers who select a Simple Choice plan.

Nation's LTE Networks Ranked, Verizon Tops Competition

Jun 11, 2014, 11:23 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Jun 11, 2014, 1:45 PM

Verizon Wireless has earned the title of America's zippiest LTE network this year from PCMag. The PCMag/Ziff Davis Fastest Mobile Networks 2014 project ranked the speed and reliability of the nation's major wireless network providers in testing that spanned 30 cities and collected tens of thousands of data points across thousands of miles driven by cars. PCMag measured peak and average uploads/downloads, ping times, and web page load times. It used the LG G2, which is sold by all four national carriers. The G2 was placed in cars, and cycled through tests continually using an application developed by Sensorly. According to PCMag's data, Verizon won this year due to the rollout of its XLTE service, which boosted speeds, and its far-reaching coverage in both large cities and rural regions. Nationally, Verizon Wireless saw an average LTE download speed of 19.6Mbps, with peaks surpassing 84Mbps. AT&T saw coverage improve across the country, but LTE speeds actually slowed year-over-year in major markets due to congestion. T-Mobile's LTE network grew significantly in terms of coverage and was often the fastest in major cities. T-Mobile's poor rural coverage, however, hurt its national averages. Sprint's LTE network ranked the slowest of the four and Sprint also suffered from a lack of coverage when compared to Verizon and AT&T. PCMag ranks the major networks each year. The overall scores are weighted 70% on speed and 30% on reliability. In additional to national rankings, PCMag generated regional rankings and city-by-city rankings for the major networks.

Newest Phones Deliver Peak LTE Speeds

Jun 11, 2014, 11:22 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Jun 11, 2014, 11:38 AM

Data collected by PCMag for its Fastest Mobile Networks shows the latest smartphones are best able to take advantage of the country's LTE networks. PCMag received crowd-sourced data from 323 different devices across 822 metro areas in the U.S. The key in attaining the best speeds is support for more LTE bands. Specifically, devices that support Sprint Spark and Verizon XLTE showed significantly better performance than devices that don't. For example, PCMag contends that Spark-compatible phones offer twice the LTE performance of non-Spark phones on Sprint's network. Sprint Spark makes use of three different LTE bands to improve capacity and coverage. Similarly, Verizon's XLTE uses two bands to provide capacity and coverage. Older phones, such as the Apple iPhone 5 and Samsung Galaxy S3, may be available at bargain prices, but they don't match the network prowess of devices such as the iPhone 5s/5c and Galaxy S4/S5.

AT&T, T-Mobile Offer Best 3G Performance

Jun 11, 2014, 11:22 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

The 3G networks operated by AT&T and T-Mobile handily beat those operated by Sprint and Verizon Wireless in PCMag's Fastest Mobile Networks in 2014. AT&T and T-Mobile use HSPA/HSPA for 3G and Sprint and Verizon use CDMA EVDO Rev. A for 3G. For its purposes, PCMag defined 4G/3G based on speed thresholds possible by each network type. It set minimums for average download speeds and then tested the 4G/3G networks accordingly. T-Mobile's 3G network offered the fastest national average download speeds of 8.6Mbps, with a 28.5Mbps peak. T-Mobile's 3G network, for the most part, exceeded the marketing claims made by the company. AT&T's 3G network delivered a national average download speed of 3.8Mbps, with a 15.5Mbps peak. Both Sprint and Verizon saw national average download speeds of just 0.7Mbps, with peaks at 2.5Mbps and 2.7Mbps, respectively. Phones that can't connect to LTE networks fall back to the available 3G networks. PCMag's data clearly shows that AT&T and T-Mobile offer a better 3G experience when their LTE isn't available. Sprint and Verizon's 3G networks are limited by the CDMA EVDO technology used to run them. Though Verizon's 3G network may be slow, its LTE network was ranked the fastest and most reliable by PCMag.

Sprint to Use ItsOn Platform to Offer Custom Plans

Jun 11, 2014, 7:50 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sprint recently agreed to license ItsOn's Smart Services Platform, which lets network operators offer a wider array of customized service plans. ItsOn has run its own MVNO on Sprint's network under the name Zact since last year. With ItsOn's Smart Services Platform, Sprint will be able to develop different combinations of voice minutes, text messages, and data buckets that can be mixed and matched to better fit customer needs. Whether or not Sprint will go as far as Zact does -- which allows customers to change plans at any time and easily share plans with other devices -- is unclear. Sprint will integrate the Smart Services Platform into its existing network architecture and install the software on all new Sprint Android smartphones moving forward.

RadioShack to Close Yet More Stores

Jun 10, 2014, 12:11 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

RadioShack today said it plans to close as many as 200 more stores as its turn-around efforts stall. In March, the company announced it would close 1,100 stores by the end of the year. The closures combined will leave RadioShack with about 3,800 stores operating in the U.S. The company blamed its woes on poor sales of smartphones. RadioShack is in the process of updating both its image and its sales strategy with a focus on electronic entertainment devices. It sells devices from AT&T, Sprint, and Verizon Wireless.

Sprint Offers Open Enrollment for Device Insurance

Jun 3, 2014, 9:14 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sprint today said customers who elected not to sign up for handset insurance when they bought their phone can enroll at any time during the month of June. Sprint offers several insurance programs, including Total Equipment Protection, and Total Equipment Protection Plus. Pricing ranges from $7 to $13 per month, depending on the handset and level of protection purchased. Deductibles range from $25 to $200 depending on the handset. Sprint's device protection plans are available to feature phones, smartphones, Sprint mobile hotspots, tablets, netbooks, and notebooks. Open enrollment is available through June 30.

Transit Wireless Upgrades Earliest NYC Subway Stops

May 28, 2014, 9:02 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Transit Wireless today said that it has upgraded the cell service found in six different subway stations scattered across New York City. The stations were among the first in the city to gain access to wireless services back in 2011. According to Transit Wireless, the company building the underground network, the stations have been updated to the latest 3G and 4G wireless technologies from AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless. The stations include 34th St. / Herald Square (B, D, F, M, Q, N, R lines); 42nd St. / Bryant Park (7, B, D, F, M lines); Grand Central / 42nd St. (4, 5, 6, 7, S lines); 23rd St., 28th St., and 33rd St. (6 line); and 23rd St. (F, M lines). Transit Wireless has lit up service in dozens of other midtown subway stations and plans to provide service to 29 stations in Queens by the end of summer.

Sense 6.0 for Verizon's HTC One (M7) Hits this Week

May 27, 2014, 7:32 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

HTC recently indicated that Verizon Wireless will begin pushing the Sense 6.0 system update to the One (M7) this week. The update brings the M7 in line with the software running on the M8. The unlocked variant, the developer variant, and the T-Mobile variant of the M7 have already been updated to Sense 6.0. AT&T and Sprint are both still in the process of certifying Sense 6.0 for their versions of the M7. According to HTC's update status web site, it is also still working to bring Sense 6.0 to the Verizon HTC One max and the AT&T HTC One mini. The Sense 6.0 update for the Verizon One M7 will be pushed out in waves.

FreedomPop Adds Three LTE Samsung Phones to Lineup

May 22, 2014, 8:55 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

FreedomPop today expanded its smartphone roster to include several high-end Samsung handsets. Beginning today, FreedomPop customers can choose from the Samsung Galaxy Victory, Galaxy S4, and Galaxy S III to access LTE service. FreedomPop, an MVNO that offers free and low-cost service, is marking the availability of these devices as its official jump from Sprint's WiMAX 4G network to Sprint's LTE 4G network. In addition to the new phones, FreedomPop announced a new $20 plan that includes unlimited voice and text, and 1GB of 4G speeds (throttled to 3G speeds thereafter). Last, FreedomPop is making its FreedomPop Free Voice and Text application available to Android-based devices. The app provides any Android device with free voice, text, and voicemail. FreedomPop is pitching the app as a potential source of savings for Android users stuck in contracts with other providers. For example, it suggests Android owners downgrade their contract plan and make use of its app instead. FreedomPop Free Voice and Text is already available to the iPhone. Pricing of the new handsets wasn't immediately available.

Sprint Gets a Gold Galaxy S5, Too

May 21, 2014, 8:47 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated May 21, 2014, 10:04 AM

Sprint, AT&T, and Verizon Wireless followed T-Mobile today by announcing that they, too, will offer the Limited Edition Galaxy S5 Gold beginning May 30.

FCC Dings Sprint $7.5M for Do-Not-Call Violations

May 19, 2014, 12:18 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sprint has agreed to pay the Federal Communications Commission a record fine of $7.5 million for making unwanted calls and sending unwanted text messages to consumers. The FCC says Sprint failed to honor its customers' requests to be left alone. According to the FCC, the fine is the largest ever for such violations. In addition to the financial penalty, the FCC set a consent decree in order to shape Sprint's behavior moving forward. Sprint has agreed to create and enact a plan to ensure the company will comply with the FCC's do-not-call rules. Sprint must name a senior manager to oversee compliance with the rules and implement a training program to ensure that do-not-call requests are honored and added to or stricken from the correct lists. Last Sprint must report any violations of the do-not-call rules to the FCC. The FCC expects to see an initial report from Sprint within 90 days, followed by annual reports for the next two years. Consumers have been able to add their phone numbers to the do-not-call registry since 2003. The idea is to prevent marketers from placing unwanted phone calls to consumers.

Sprint Intros Total Equipment Protection Plus

May 19, 2014, 8:53 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sprint today rolled out an enhanced version of its handset insurance program. The new program, called Total Equipment Protection Plus offers to insure not only the handset, but the contents of the handset as well. The device insurance is provided by Asurion and protects against loss, theft, damage, and device malfunction. The expanded service can be used to automatically backup and secure on-device data, such as photos, contacts, videos, and settings. TEP Plus will also use monitoring and optimization tools to improve battery life and performance, as well as apply antivirus and malware tools to protect against intrusive or harmful apps. The service can remotely find, lock, or erase a missing device, and provide one-click access to a live tech support representative for instant help with problems. Total Equipment Protection Plus is compatible with the iPhone and Android devices (4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich and up). Customers can upgrade to the new service or stay with their existing service. Total Equipment Protection Plus costs $13 per month.

Telenav's Scout App Switches to OpenStreetMaps

May 19, 2014, 7:32 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Telenav today announced that its Scout mobile mapping application will use OpenStreetMaps data moving forward. OpenStreetMaps is crowd-sourced and updated constantly with changes to roads, streets, and avenues in near-real time by 1.6 million contributors. Telenav said Scout for iOS will see OpenStreetMaps integration by the end of the week. Users won't need to perform an app update, the app will simply pull map data from OpenStreetMaps rather than its traditional map source. The Android version of Scout will be updated to OpenStreetMaps by June. To make this possible, Telenav has rebranded the skobbler GPS navigation application (which was the first to make use of OpenStreetMaps data) and integrated it into Scout. Telenav purchased skobbler earlier this year. Scout is free and offers navigation features as well as local points-of-interest search. It is often pre-loaded on Sprint smartphones. Telenav also released a new SDK for Scout Maps, which will let developers to integrate OpenStreetMaps and navigation features into their own applications.

FCC Spells Out Spectrum Screen Policies

May 15, 2014, 1:12 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

The Federal Communications Commission today adopted a Report and Order with respect to spectrum screens and how'll they'll be used in upcoming spectrum auctions and other spectrum transactions. Moving forward the FCC will stick to its one-third rule, meaning the FCC will analyze on a case-by-case basis transactions that might result in a wireless provider owning more than one-third of the available spectrum licenses in a given market. The FCC will scrutinize low-band transactions in more detail, and will consider a breach of the one-third rule an "enhanced factor" in determining if the transaction should be approved. With an eye on the upcoming auctions, the FCC said it will not set any limits for spectrum aggregation in the AWS-3 auction. It believes more than enough spectrum is available to all carriers in the AWS range and limits are not needed. With respect to the Broadcast Television Spectrum Incentive Auction for 600MHz airwaves, it is changing the rules to give small network operators a fighting chance to acquire spectrum licenses. Specifically, the FCC is reserving 30MHz of the spectrum licenses (per market) for those companies that hold less than one-third of the low-band spectrum licenses in that area. Non-national carriers that have less than one-third of the spectrum will be able to bid on all the spectrum that's made available in the 600MHz auction. National carriers that have one-third of the available spectrum or more will not be allowed to bid on the 30MHz reserve, but will be able to bid on the remaining licenses. The FCC believes this promotes competition, though it will limit what AT&T and Verizon can acquire in the 600MHz auction. Together, AT&T and Verizon already own 70% of the country's low-band spectrum. Sprint and T-Mobile combined own only 15%.

AT&T to Scoop Up WCS Spectrum from Sprint

May 13, 2014, 3:42 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

AT&T has agreed to pick up 19 WCS spectrum licenses from Sprint for an undisclosed sum, according to a filing the companies made with the Federal Communications Commission. The WCS licenses cover 2.3GHz spectrum across portions of the south, including Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Louisiana, and Texas. AT&T has already acquired several large blocks of WCS spectrum, though it has not said what it intends to do with the WCS airwaves. AT&T operates its LTE 4G network in the 700MHz band and its HSPA+ network in the 850/1900MHz band.

PayLo Rebrands Kyocera Verve as the Contact

May 13, 2014, 12:02 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Virgin Mobile USA's low-cost arm, payLo, today added the Kyocera Contact (sold as the Verve by Sprint) to its prepaid roster. The device costs $40 online and can be used with payLo's $40 monthly plans. The Contact is a simple messaging phone with a slide-out QWERTY keyboard.

T-Mobile Wants $1B Break-Up Fee If Sprint Deal Fails

May 10, 2014, 9:14 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

T-Mobile and Sprint are weighing several big factors ahead of a potential merger between the two. To start, Deutsche Telekom, a two-thirds owner of T-Mobile, is demanding a break-up fee of at least $1 billion if the merger is shot down by U.S. regulators. Deutsche Telekom scored an important break-up fee with AT&T that ended up giving the smaller operator cash, spectrum, and roaming agreements - all of which have helped it reinvigorate its business. Second, Deutsche Telekom wants top T-Mobile executives to remain in place during and after any sort of regulatory review, and it wants the T-Mobile brand to remain in place. This means the company would prefer to see T-Mobile CEO John Legere head the combined company rather than Sprint CEO Dan Hesse. The companies have not yet agreed to these terms, according to sources cited by The Wall Street Journal. Further, Sprint and T-Mobile are waiting for several outside developments to proceed. For example, the Federal Communications Commission is set to vote on the spectrum screen during its May 15 meeting. If the FCC puts its proposed changes in place - which would add Sprint's 2.5GHz spectrum holdings to the screen - it could impact whether or not T-Mobile and Sprint move forward at all. The two companies may also wait to see how the 2015 spectrum auction shakes out, or wait until there's a new administration overseeing the FCC and U.S. Department of Justice. Regulatory bodies have already indicated they prefer to see four national carriers, rather than three. T-Mobile and Sprint are attempting to work around those concerns.

LG Says F70 with LTE Coming to North America

May 9, 2014, 7:06 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

LG today announced the global launch of the F70 Android smartphone, which it first revealed at Mobile World Congress in February. The F70 is very similar to the F90, which is branded as the Volt for Sprint. The F70 features a 4.5-inch WVGA screen, quad-core 1.2GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 processor with 1GB of RAM and 4GB of internal storage, and a 5-megapixel/VGA camera configuration. The F70 comes with support for HSPA+ and LTE networks, as well as Bluetooth 4.0, Wi-Fi, GPS, and NFC. It features a handful of LG user interface functions, such as Knock Code, Guest Mode, and Quick Window. LG said the F70 will reach Europe in May, followed by Asia, Central and South America, and North America later. No U.S. carriers have formally announced support for the F70.

Sprint Turns to Throttling to Manage Network Congestion

May 8, 2014, 9:23 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Beginning in June, Sprint will slow down the browsing speeds available to the top 5% of its customers in congested regions. The change applies to Sprint's post- and pre-paid customers. Some customers have already received text messages explaining the change. Sprint explained the change will affect the top consumers of mobile data, but only when they are in a congested area. This change "will enable us to provide more customers with a high quality data experience during heavy usage times," said Sprint in a statement provided to FierceWirelessTech. "Once the customer is no longer connected to a congested cell site, or the site is no longer congested, speeds will return to normal." Sprint has long marketed "unlimited data" as a way to differentiate itself from its competitors, all of which sell data but the bucket. Sprint's pre-paid arms, Boost Mobile and Virgin Mobile USA, have long throttled customers who exceed certain usage amounts. This marks the first time Sprint will throttle its own-branded customers. According to Sprint, it developed "fairness algorithms" on both its CDMA and LTE networks to "dynamically allocate available bandwidth in a way that is fair to all users." Sprint further noted that the change isn't being implemented due to sudden spikes in traffic, but instead reflects a continuing increase in usage.

FreedomPop Looking Beyond Sprint for Growth

May 7, 2014, 12:15 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

FreedomPop, an MVNO that resells access to Sprint's network, hopes to increase its reach by partnering with either AT&T or T-Mobile. The company is looking at these two GSM carriers specifically because they use SIM card-based devices, which makes it easier to switch from phone to phone. Such a move would "open up a whole new avenue for us," said FreedomPop CEO Stephen Stoklos in an interview with FierceWireless. FreedomPop sells its own handsets and also offers a stand-alone application called FreedomPop Free Voice and Text. The app can be used by non-FreedomPop customers to make free voice calls and send free messages (which are sent through the phone's data connection). FreedomPop hopes the app will help convince customers of other carriers to eventually make the switch to FreedomPop. FreedomPop said it is holding active discussions with AT&T and T-Mobile and may close on a deal during the second half of the year.

Sprint Discontinues Picture Mail

May 5, 2014, 5:49 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated May 5, 2014, 7:59 PM

Sprint no longer offers Picture Mail to its feature phone subscribers. Picture Mail was a proprietary service that Sprint offered to its feature phone customers beginning in 2002 because, at the time it didn't offer proper MMS service. Sprint launched MMS service officially in 2006, but also offered Picture Mail as an alternative to select handsets that didn't support the OMA MMS standard. According to Sprint, MMS is still available to its feature phones, but, effective April 30, Picture Mail is no longer available.

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Sprint and Virgin to Sell Kyocera Hydro Vibe

May 5, 2014, 9:26 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sprint and Virgin Mobile USA today announced the pending availability of the Hydro Vibe, a new water-resistant Android smartphone from Kyocera. The phone can withstand a 30-minute bath in waters up to 1 meter deep and has a break-resistant 4.5-inch qHD screen. The device is powered by a 1.2GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon processor. The Vibe includes an 8-megapixel main camera with LED flash and HDR/panorama shooting mode, and has a 2-megapixel user-facing camera. The Vibe offers some Kyocera-specific features, including its Smart Sonic Receiver audio technology and Eco-Mode and MaxiMZR power-management apps. The Hydro Vibe also offers NFC, wireless charging, 8GB of internal storage, and support for memory cards up to 32GB. The Kydro Vibe is compatible with Sprint Spark in markets where available. Sprint will begin selling the Kyocera Hydro Vibe May 9 for $0 down and 24 monthly payments of $9.59. Virgin Mobile USA will begin selling the Vibe May 27 for $150.

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