Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler today reasserted his belief that AT&T and Verizon need to be restricted from purchasing too much 600MHz spectrum in the reverse auction planned for mid 2015. Wheeler's comments came in the form of a letter in which he responded to Representative John Barrow. "The Incentive Auction offers the opportunity, possibly the last for years to come, to make low-band spectrum available to any mobile wireless provider, in any market, that is willing and able to compete at auction," said Wheeler. "At the same time, a priority of the auction should be to assure that companies that already possess low-band spectrum do not exploit the auction to keep competitors from accessing the spectrum necessary to provide competition." AT&T and Verizon Wireless both hold significant blocks of 700MHz spectrum. Low-band spectrum is coveted for its propagation properties. Wheeler wants to make sure smaller companies, such as Sprint and T-Mobile, get a shot at the 600MHz airwaves. Wheeler's proposal involves reserving 30MHz in each market for companies that control less than one-third of the low-band spectrum in that market. This essentially precludes AT&T and Verizon from participating. AT&T believes the conditions are unfair and amount to the FCC picking the auction's winners and losers before it even starts. The company threatened to not participate, which could hurt the auction's ability to raise capital for a national safety network.
The CTIA Wireless Association today said a number of handset makers and wireless network operators have agreed to a basic framework that will eventually provide consumers with better anti-theft tools for their smartphones. The Smartphone Anti-Theft Voluntary Commitment is meant to deter theft while also giving phone makers and carriers room to innovate. All the companies agreed to implement a baseline anti-theft tool preloaded on (or downloadable to) all wireless smartphones manufactured after July 2015. This tool will let consumers: remotely wipe their data; render the smartphone inoperable to unauthorized users; prevent reactivation without owner's consent; and reverse the inoperability of the device as well as restore the data to the device in the event it is found by the owner. Consumers will also be free to use whatever third-party anti-theft tools they wish in addition to those provided by the phone maker. All signatories will make the baseline anti-theft tool available with all its core features. The initial batch of companies signing the commitment include: Apple; Asurion; AT&T; Google; HTC America; Huawei; Motorola; Microsoft; Nokia; Samsung; Sprint; T-Mobile; U.S. Cellular; and Verizon Wireless. Some of those who haven't signed include Kyocera, LG, Sony, ZTE. A number of lawmakers lauded the commitment, which arrives several months after Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler mandated that wireless companies come up with such a solution or face regulatory intervention.
T-Mobile today announced that it will abolish the practice of charging overage fees beginning in May. The change will apply to all T-Mobile customers, no matter what plan they subscribe to. Overage fees are generally charged when a customer surpasses their monthly limit for voice minutes, messaging, or data use. Further, T-Mobile CEO John Legere challenged AT&T, Sprint, and Verizon to do the same thing. "Charging overage fees is a greedy, predatory practice that needs to go," said Legere. "Today I'm laying down a challenge to AT&T, Verizon, and Sprint to join T-Mobile in ending these outrageous overage penalties for all consumers – because it's the right thing to do." Legere kicked off a Change.org petition and is asking consumers to sign it in order to force change at T-Mobile's competitors.
Sprint today revealed a new handset meant for children called WeGo, which is paired with location tracking and parental controls for Mom and Dad's peace of mind. The WeGo has a simple LCD screen, a single button on the front, and volume buttons on the side that double as scrolling tools for the user interface. The device is rugged and water resistant. Using the online portal, parents have full control over the device and its use. The service plan for WeGo costs $10 per month and it includes 1,000 voice minutes and 1,000 text messages. The WeGo can store up to 20 contacts and parents can determine when those contacts can call or message the WeGo, as well as when the child can make outgoing calls or send one of several pre-determined text messages to those contacts. The WeGo service offers notifications that can be sent to parents if the phone has low battery, is powered down, if the panic button is activated, or if the device exceeds a certain speed. Parents are able to pinpoint the WeGo on a map and track its location at scheduled intervals or continuously. The phone offers easy access to 911 emergency services and a loud alarm that sounds when the ripcord is pulled. WeGo costs $120 with a contract or $5 per month via installment plan. It cannot be added to Framily plans and must be paired with at least one regular line/account. It is available starting today.
Samsung's Download Booster, a feature of the Galaxy S5 meant to improve file download speeds, has been removed from the device by AT&T, Sprint, and Verizon Wireless. The companies did not provide a reason for cutting the app. T-Mobile will be the only major U.S. carrier to support the feature. Download Booster splits file downloads between Wi-Fi and LTE in order to create faster speeds. AnandTech reports that Download Booster only works with files from apps such as the Google Play Store, YouTube, Facebook, and the browser that are larger than 30MB. Download Booster's usefulness will vary depending on local network connections.
HTC said the One (M8) should be available in carrier retail stores (AT&T, Sprint, etc.) around the country beginning today. It was previously only at Verizon stores.
Sprint today said a small software update being pushed to the tri-band Sprint Spark-compatible variant of the Galaxy S4 adds Wi-Fi calling. Wi-Fi calling is a free service and includes voice calls and messaging when connected to Wi-Fi networks. The Spark GS4 is the fourth handset to earn its Wi-Fi calling wings from Sprint. Sprint says it will add Wi-Fi calling to other devices in the coming months.
AT&T and Transit Wireless today announced plans to expand their current project, which is bringing wireless service to New York City's subway stations. Transit and its partners have already lit up service at 30 stations, mostly in midtown Manhattan, with several sprinkled throughout the Chelsea neighborhood, as well. Transit is already working on Phase Two of its project, which will add cell service to 29 underground stations in the borough of Queens and 11 more in Manhattan by the end of summer. AT&T and Transit said they will eventually offer service in an additional 242 stations around the city, though they didn't provide a timeframe for the expansion or details on exactly which stations. Transit also partners with Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon, but they haven't yet announced plans to offer expanded coverage.
Kyocera announced the Verve today, which will be sold by both Sprint and Boost Mobile. The Verve is a feature phone that has a traditional number pad on the front and slides sideways to reveal a full QWERTY keyboard underneath. Some of the hardware features include a 2.4-inch display, 2-megapixel camera, Bluetooth 2.1, speakerphone, and a stereo headset jack. The feature phone operating system is ideal for heavy texters, according to Sprint. The phone is limited to CDMA 1X-Advanced and does not support LTE. Sprint is offering the Kyocera Verve for $0 down and 24 monthly payments of $5.42. Sprint's Framily plans start at $55 per month for the Verve. The Sprint model can be ordered online and via telesales beginning April 11. Boost Mobile will sell the Verve for $50 and offers no-contract plans starting at $50 per month. It will reach Boost stores May 6. Sprint said that the Verve will also be sold by Virgin Mobile's payLo brand, beginning May 13, as the Kyocera Contact. It will cost $40 from payLo.
Sprint has indicated via filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission that it will cease operating its WiMax network by the close of 2015. The company had previously committed to running its first-generation 4G network through 2015 and it is making good on that promise. At one time Sprint's WiMax network had about 17,000 sites operating. It has already repurposed about 5,000 sites for TD-LTE and plans to repurpose another 5,000 - all for its tri-band LTE Sprint Spark service. Sprint has launched Spark in about 20 markets and plans to reach 100 by the end of 2016.
U.S. Cellular today announced several new initiatives it hopes will lure potential customers to the smaller operator. First, it is offering three new service plans. Customers can choose plans that cost $40, $50, or $60 per month. The first plan is for feature phones and includes unlimited voice and messaging, as well as an unspecified amount of simple web browsing. The second and third plans are for smartphones. The $50 option includes 500MB of data before throttling and the $60 option includes 2GB before throttling. U.S. Cellular added a device installment plan, too. Customers can choose to pay full price for their phone or break the device payments up over time. U.S. Cellular is not offering early upgrades, however. Last, U.S. Cellular will, for a temporary time, compensate new customers up to $350 if they switch from another carrier and join its Shared Connect plan with a device installment payment. U.S. Cellular's changes mirror those made by other companies in recent weeks, including Sprint and T-Mobile.
Sprint today announced a new promotion that will offer people big bucks to drop their carrier and switch to Sprint. Customers who bring their number to Sprint are eligible for up to $300 in credit when they trade in their current device. Further, Sprint will offer up to another $350 to customers who break their contract and are hit with early termination fees. Customers will have to submit their final bill from the carrier they are departing in order to receive reimbursement for the ETFs. The promotion, which requires that new customers sign up for a Framily plan, runs from April 4 to May 8. T-Mobile is offering similar dollar amounts to customers who switch, as is C Spire Wireless.
Sprint today confirmed a report that its Spark smartphones cannot make phones calls and surf the web at the same time. The issue, first noticed by Consumer Reports, affects only Sprint Spark LTE smartphones and not normal LTE smartphones. For example, the first version of the Samsung Galaxy S4 released in April 2013 can conduct voice calls and data sessions over LTE at the same time, but the newer Spark version of the GS4 cannot. "Sprint Spark devices leverage eCSFB technology (enhanced Circuit Switch Fall Back) which enables single radio functionality in the handset," said Sprint in an email to Phonescoop.com. "This allows Sprint to leverage the many benefits of Network Vision, including the ability to utilize multiple CDMA and LTE spectrum bands efficiently. Simultaneous voice and LTE is not supported on new Sprint Spark devices." Sprint went on to claim, however, that Spark, which uses a tri-band LTE configuration, does offer much better data service, much better voice service, and better battery life. Phones sold by AT&T, T-Mobile, and other GSM-based operators have long been able to talk and surf at the same time.
Sprint today announced that beginning April 4, customers will be able to sign up for its Framily plans at Best Buy stores. Previously, Framily plans were only available at company stores and through Sprint's web site. In addition to the Framily plans, Best Buy will offer, for a limited time, a $100 Best Buy gift card when customers also sign up for a Sprint Easy Pay device installment plan. The gift card promotion ends April 13.
Sprint today said it will update its Windows Phone smartphones, the HTC 8XT and Samsung ATIV S Neo, to Windows Phone 8.1 this summer. It will provide more specifics closer to the availability date.
Sprint's variant of the LG G2 should begin receiving the Android 4.4 KitKat update beginning today. In addition to KitKat, the update adds cloud printing. The system update is being distributed in waves and may take several days to reach all users.
Sprint plans to add support for 700MHz Band 12 in some of its devices beginning next year. Sprint does not own any 700MHz spectrum, but hopes to use the 700MHz capabilities to forge better roaming agreements with small, regional carriers. It is part of Sprint's larger plan to expand the reach of its network through partnerships with competitors, such as the Competitive Carrier Association's Data Access Hub. Some of the carriers that support 700MHz Band 12 include U.S. Cellular and C Spire Wireless. Additionally, AT&T has agreed to support 700MHz Band 12 thanks to the FCC's interoperability agreement. Separately, Sprint has forged a partnership with NetAmerica and will together launch a project called the Smart Market Alliance for Rural Transformation. The partnership will operate similar to Verizon Wireless's LTE Rural America program in that Sprint will license its unused 800MHz and 1900MHz spectrum to NetAmerica members that want to build LTE networks of their own. Companies that choose this path will also have the option of using Sprint's core network. Regional carriers that build LTE using Sprint's spectrum will be able to provide their own customers with roaming on Sprint's network, and vice versa. The program helps Sprint as much as it does smaller carriers, as Sprint doesn't offer coverage in many rural areas.
The Competitive Carrier Association is expected to announce what it calls the Data Access Hub at an event later this week. The Hub is a collection of roaming agreements between small, rural carriers and larger ones, such as Sprint and T-Mobile. The purpose of the Hub is to give Sprint and T-Mobile access to the rural networks of regional carriers, and give those regional carriers access to Sprint and T-Mobile's metropolitan LTE 4G networks. With expanded coverage, Sprint and T-Mobile will be better able to compete with AT&T and Verizon Wireless. "The hub is all about providing coverage," said CCA president Steve Berry to CNET. "It would take billions of dollars and several years to build the kind of coverage AT&T and Verizon have today. That's why this concept of the hub is so empowering to smaller players and bigger operators like Sprint and T-Mobile. It gives them choices and incentives to invest in the networks they already operate." Carriers need only sign a single agreement with the Hub, and they'll be granted roaming access to all the other carriers that participate in the Hub. The Hub will include all current wireless technologies, including 2G, 3G, and LTE 4G. Berry said devices that can support nearly all U.S. LTE bands are on the way and, together with VoLTE, will give Hub members' customers a much better experience as they move around the country. More details will be revealed on Thursday.
Sprint CEO Dan Hesse said the company is prepared to expand the availability of HD Voice to the entire country on or about July 1. HD Voice provides clearer voice calls between two HD Voice-compatible phones. The service is available in a few markets and on more than a dozen devices, including the Apple iPhone 5s/5c, LG Nexus 5, and Samsung Galaxy S4 and Note 3. Sprint had hoped to expand HD Voice to more markets last year, but is now on track to deliver on that commitment by July.
Sprint's chief network officer, John Saw, said the company plans to deploy carrier aggregation across portions of its Spark network late this year that should improve theoretical maximum download speeds to 120Mbps. Sprint will add a third channel to this planned two-channel configuration by the end of 2015 that it says will boost theoretical download speeds to 180Mbps. Sprint Spark is the company's tri-band LTE network that offers faster speeds than the rest of Sprint's LTE network. The company has launched Spark in 18 markets so far, and plans to cover 100 million POPs with Spark by the end of the year. Saw didn't say which markets might be first to see the speed bump. Sprint Spark currently offers max download speeds of about 50Mbps, with real-world speeds averaging between 12 and 15Mbps.
Ciao, an MVNO that resells Sprint service, kicked off today with low-cost, no-contract plans. Ciao is offering monthly service options that fall in line with other Sprint prepaid properties, such as Virgin Mobile USA and Boost Mobile. The entry-level plan costs $35 per month and includes unlimited voice minutes, unlimited text messaging, and unlimited MMS. The mid-tier plan costs $45 per month and adds 500MB of data. The top-tier plan costs $60 per month and boosts the monthly data allotment to unlimited. Ciao will soon, however, offer an unlimited smartphone plan that costs just $10 per month. The catch is that Ciao will install an app that displays advertisements on the lock screen. Ciao sells a single phone, the HTC EVO, for $199. Ciao Mobile is owned and operated by Ciao Telecom, which is based in Dallas.
The HTC One can be purchased in the U.S. beginning today. The new smartphone from HTC will be available in Verizon Wireless retail stores beginning at approximately 1PM Eastern time. At the same time, the One will go on sale through the web sites of AT&T, Sprint, and HTC itself. T-Mobile is not offering web orders today. The One will not reach AT&T or Sprint retail stores until April 11, but can be ordered online today for delivery within several days. The One will become available from T-Mobile at some point in early April. The device retails for $199/$249, depending on the carrier, and has a full retail price of $649.
Boost Mobile announced the LG Optimus F3 is available beginning today for $129.99. The F3 runs Android 4.1.2 Jelly Bean and has a 4-inch IPS LCD screen with Gorilla Glass; a 1.2GHz dual-core processor; Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and LTE 4G; and a 5-megapixel camera with 1080p HD video capture. It comes with LG apps such as VuTalk, QSlide, QuickMemo, and Q Translator. Sprint and Virgin Mobile have been selling the F3 since last summer. Boost Mobile says LTE plans compatible with the F3 start at $55 per month. Boost does not require contracts.
Sprint announced its plans to sell the Samsung Galaxy S5. It is accepting pre-orders for the phone beginning today. Customers may choose between two different financing options. Customers can pay $199.99 (after rebate) with a new two-year contract, or pay $0 down followed by 24 monthly payments of $27.09 with Sprint's Easy Pay option. The GS5 is compatible with Sprint Spark, its faster LTE service that is available in 18 markets around the country. Customers who choose to sign up for a Sprint Framily Plan with the GS5 are eligible for a free Samsung Galaxy Tab 3. Sprint will also offer the Samsung Gear 2, Gear 2 Neo, and Gear Fit wearables beginning April 11 for $299, $199, and $199, respectively.
Sprint this week revealed that it is cutting more than a thousand jobs across a handful of locations around the country. The company has cut 350 technical consultants and closed the 150 repair facilities in which they worked. It also closed the 55 worst-performing stores. Sprint said these were part of cost-reduction efforts first announced in January. Further, the company is closing several call centers and cutting about 1,550 employees who work at them. The call centers include Ft. Worth, Texas; Temple and Orlando, Fla.; Sacramento, Calif.; Elmsford, N.Y.; and Overland Park, Kansas. A Sprint spokesperson told the Star-Telegram, "We are seeing fewer calls coming into customer care. That's the result, for example, that many customers are on their second or third smartphone so they are well past the learning curve of using their phones. Also, our technology is improving, our customers can use more self-service options to make changes to their account. That's something we've tried to do more as an organization to help customers do more online themselves." Sprint said it is going to do its best to offer some of the employees other positions with the company.
Boost Mobile and Virgin Mobile have begun informing customers that they'll soon further restrict the data speeds of those who exceed 2.5GB of combined 3G/4G data during a single billing period. Neither Boost nor Virgin have data caps, but they have throttled data hogs' speeds to less than 256Kbps since May 2012. Customers can continue to use their data service without being charged extra, but will do so at slower speeds. Beginning May 16 of this year, however, those who use more than 2.5GB of data will see speeds reduced to 128Kbps. Sprint representatives confirmed to Phone Scoop that customers can top up to re-start their month if they need access to faster data. If they don't, 3G/4G speeds will become available once the customer's billing period ends. "This change comes about because of the enormous data usage driven by the increasingly sophisticated smartphones we make available, and the more extensive uses customers are finding for these devices," said Sprint in an email. "We want to be able to serve customers who use our unlimited plans for their daily activity -- email, surfing the Web, social networking, photo uploading, location-based apps, etc. Our goal is to ensure our products perform at the best possible level and that we have the best possible experience for all subscribers."
Sprint today launched LTE 4G in 20 new markets around the U.S. Some of the markets include Hope Springs, Ark.; Bridgeport, Stamford, and Norwalk, Conn.; Sarasota and Bradenton, Fla.; Peoria, Ill.; Ocean City, N.J.; Omaha, Neb.; and Myrtle Beach, S.C. Sprint today also announced the launch of Sprint Spark service in Provo, Utah, and Trenton, N.J., as well as the upcoming availability of HD Voice in those markets. Sprint Spark is now available in 18 markets. Sprint said it is on track to cover 250 million people with 4G LTE by the middle of the year.
Sprint today relaunched its own-branded prepaid service, which used to run under the name Sprint As You Go, but is now called Sprint Prepaid. The initial list of devices being offered by Sprint Prepaid includes the Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini (Spark compatible), Samsung Galaxy S3 (LTE compatible), Motorola Moto G (3G only), and the Apple iPhone 4S (refurbished). According to Sprint, more smartphones will be available soon, and feature phones will launch on Sprint Prepaid next month. Smartphone plans start at $45 per month, which includes unlimited voice minutes and messaging, but only Wi-Fi data. Spending $60 per month gains users unlimited cellular data (speeds throttled after 2.5GB) in addition to unlimited voice/messaging. Sprint Prepaid does not require credit checks or contracts, but it still eligible for the Sprint Buyback program for turning in or recycling old phones for a discount on new devices. Sprint Prepaid is available beginning today. Sprint is still offering its Boost Mobile and Virgin Mobile USA prepaid brands.
Republic Wireless today announced the availability of the Motorola Moto G. The 8GB version costs $149 and the 16GB version costs $179. Both are sold contract-free, though customers can choose from several different financing options if they so wish. Republic Wireless, which is a Sprint MVNO, uses a combination of cellular data and Wi-Fi to pass VoIP-based calls through the internet rather than through traditional voice networks. It offers several plans. The first includes unlimited talk, text, and data on Wi-Fi only for $5 per month. The second includes unlimited talk and text on Wi-Fi and cellular, and unlimited data on Wi-Fi for $10 per month. The third includes unlimited talk, text and data on Wi-Fi, plus 3G cellular for $25 per month. The G has a 4.5-inch 720p HD screen, 5-megapixel camera, and 1.2GHz quad-core Snapdragon 400 processor. It runs a stock version of Android 4.4 KitKat. The Moto G will be available beginning in April.
Ting, an MVNO that uses Sprint's network, is now allowing customers to bring their own iPhone 5 and activate it on Ting. The iPhone 5 must be a Sprint-compatible version. Ting offers refurbished iPhones through its partner, Glyde. Ting does not yet support the iPhone 5s or 5c, but will later this year.
SoftBank CEO and Sprint Chairman Masayoshi Son spoke to lawmakers today about the state of the U.S. wireless market. According to Son, the networks aren't fast enough and consumers are paying too much for them. "American consumers use less data traffic, but pay more. Is that a good situation?" posed Son. Son pitched the idea of entering the home broadband market as an alternative for consumers to companies such as Comcast, Time Warner, AT&T, and Verizon. "We need an alternative. I would like to volunteer, we would like to be the alternative," said Son. "We got the technology, we have to deploy many cells, it requires a lot of capital expenditure, it requires a lot of scale. We are bringing new technology to the States. Speed matters, with better speed we can bring next-generation applications and content." Son hopes his remarks help change the minds of those who might otherwise shoot down Sprint's possible acquisition of T-Mobile.
SoftBank CEO Masayoshi Son is convinced the only way Sprint and T-Mobile can compete against AT&T and Verizon is for the two smaller carriers to merge. Speaking on television with Charlie Rose, Son indicated that even though U.S. regulators have warned such a deal would face stiff opposition, Sprint is going to pursue T-Mobile anyway. "We would like to make the deal happen, but there are steps and details that we have to work out," said Son. "We have to give it a shot." AT&T and Verizon together control two-thirds of the U.S. wireless market. Even combined, Sprint and T-Mobile would be smaller than AT&T and Verizon Wireless by tens of millions of customers. Son said if the deal goes through, he'll launch a price war against the two larger carriers in order to break up the duopoly. Son and his team are actively engaging people in the wireless industry as well as in the government in order to convince them the deal has merit. Only after Son feels he has swayed their opinions will the company make an official bid for T-Mobile.
Sprint today indicated that it has rearranged the executives who manage its network business. Both Steve Elfman, president of network operations, and Bob Azzi, senior vice president of networks, will leave the company. The changes are effective immediately, according to Sprint spokesperson Kelly Schlageter, who confirmed the shakeup to Fierce Wireless. Azzi is retiring effective March 14, while no date was given for Elfman's departure. In their place, Sprint has promoted John Saw, formerly the company's senior vice president of technical architecture, to the position of Chief Network Officer. Before joining Sprint, Saw was CTO at Clearwire, which Sprint acquired last year. Sprint is in the middle of deploying its LTE network across the U.S., including Sprint Spark, which depends on tri-band LTE coverage to improve speeds and service. Sprint has been slow to get its LTE network up and running, and blamed the delay on its network equipment providers.
AT&T has improved its LTE network in Chicago and several other markets by using an LTE-Advanced technique called Carrier Aggregation. GigaOm confirmed the soft launch with AT&T SVP of Network Technologies Kris Rinne. With Carrier Aggregation, AT&T has combined the channels of its existing spectrum to double the capacity. AT&T is running LTE in both the 700MHz and AWS bands in Chicago. By aggregating the channels together, AT&T can deliver theoretical peak download speeds of 110Mbps to devices with the proper radio support. At the moment, AT&T is selling only one device with Carrier Aggregation, the Unite mobile hotspot. The Samsung Galaxy S5 is expected to be the first smartphone to support Carrier Aggregation in the U.S. AT&T did not name the other two markets that have access to Carrier Aggregation, but said that more markets on are on the way. Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless are all in various stages of deploying Carrier Aggregation in their own LTE networks.
Sprint today said it has expanded efforts to help prevent the resale of stolen phones by using Recipero's CheckMend online tool. CheckMend maintains a global database of stolen phone IDs. All Sprint stores will check the ID of used cell phones against CheckMend's database to determine if they are stolen. Devices listed as stolen cannot and will not be activated on Sprint's network. Sprint will also submit the ID of any Sprint device reported lost or stolen by customers to CheckMend to further improve the database's accuracy. Because CheckMend is available online, consumers can use it to check the validity of a used phone's ID before they purchase it. CheckMend can also be used by law enforcement. U.S. carriers all participate in a national registry of stolen device IDs.
Sprint today said it will update a handful of its Samsung smartphones to Android 4.4 KitKat. The company is already pushing KitKat to the Galaxy S4 and Note 3, but will also deliver updates to the Galaxy Note II, GS4 mini, GS III, Galaxy Mega, and Galaxy Tab 3 7.0. According to Sprint, the update includes the standard check list of KitKat goodies, and also adds a new lockscreen shortcut to the camera. The timing of the updates will vary by device.
RadioShack reported its fourth quarter earnings today, and revealed that it plans to close twice as many stores as initially forecast. The company said slow foot traffic, heavy promotions, and weak smartphone sales during the holiday season led to a quarterly loss of $191.4 million. The company had warned it would close about 500 stores to cut costs, but has now doubled that number to 1,100. The closures will leave RadioShack with about 4,000 stores still open in the U.S. 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.
SoftBank CEO and Sprint Chairman Masayoshi Son is prepared to take a new tack in its pursuit of T-Mobile: asking other businesses to approve. Son plans to appeal directly to the U.S. business community and to policy makers in the hope that it can convince them further consolidation in the industry is a good thing, according to sources cited by the Wall Street Journal. Son has already been warned by the U.S. Department of Justice and the Federal Communications Commission that a merger between Sprint and T-Mobile would undergo intense regulatory scrutiny. Son is prepared to speak at the Chamber of Commerce next week regarding competition in the wireless industry. It is possible he will use that stage to make his plea for a combined Sprint/T-Mobile. Son contends that neither Sprint nor T-Mobile can compete on their own against AT&T and Verizon Wireless, which together control two-thirds of the U.S. wireless market.
The U.S. government has filed a lawsuit against Sprint, alleging the company overcharged for wiretapping services by $21 million. Carriers are required to assist the government and must maintain certain types of equipment to do so. Carriers are allowed to bill the government for the upkeep of that equipment. In this particular case, San Francisco U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag is charging Sprint with filing false claims during the period between January 2007 and July 2007, inflating costs by as much as 58%. Carriers are not allowed to use the maintenance money to improve their network or other equipment. "Because Sprint's invoices for intercept charges did not identify the particular expenses for which it sought reimbursement, federal law enforcement agencies were unable to detect that Sprint was requesting reimbursement of these unallowable costs," said the government. Sprint denies the charges and says all its invoices comply with the law. It will defend itself vigorously. Sprint is also facing a separate tax case in New York state, where the state says Sprint failed to collect enough taxes from customers.
Boost Mobile and Virgin Mobile USA today both announced plans to sell the Samsung Galaxy S5 smartphone. Both companies, which are owned and operated by Sprint, said the GS5 will be compatible with Sprint's Spark LTE service. Pricing was not discussed, but the prepaid carriers said the GS5 will arrive during the second quarter with contract-free, flexible service options.