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 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 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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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 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 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 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.
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 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.
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 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 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 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.
Sprint and Boost Mobile today revealed plans to sell the LG X power smartphone. The X power, announced by LG earlier this year, features a 4,100mAh battery that delivers up to two days of battery life. The version sold by Sprint and Boost Mobile differs from other versions of the phone in that it relies on a 1.8 GHz octa-core Helio P10 MediaTek processor, rather than a Snapdragon chip from Qualcomm. The 64-bit MediaTek processor is accompanied by 2 GB of RAM and 16 GB of storage. The X power also includes a 5.3-inch 720p screen and runs Android 6 Marshmallow. Other specs include an 8-megapixel main camera with flash and 5-megapixel front camera with selfie light. The phone accepts memory cards up to 128 GB. The phone reaches Boost Mobile stores today for $130 and will hit Sprint stores September 23 for $150.
The FCC has approved a new Kyocera smartphone with LTE bands unique to Sprint, and a model number indicating it's a variant of the recently-announced DuraForce Pro. The DuraForce Pro is a rugged, washable Android phone with dual rear cameras, a fingerprint reader, NFC, fast charging, and wireless charging. It went on sale with AT&T this week, and another FCC approval indicates it will come to Verizon as well. Past Kyocera models have rarely been offered on more than one or two carriers.
Sprint's prepaid brands, Boost Mobile and Virgin Mobile USA, will sell the Apple iPhone 7 beginning September 23. Boost and Virgin will not be selling the iPhone 7 Plus. The company didn't provide specific release details, but customers should expect to pay full retail price for the handset. The 32 GB iPhone 7 costs $649.
Sprint today unfurled its own offer for a free iPhone 7. New and existing Sprint customers can get a 32 GB iPhone 7 at no cost as long as they trade in a working iPhone 6, iPhone 6s, Samsung Galaxy S7, or Samsung Galaxy S7 edge and sign up for any Sprint rate plan. Sprint didn't provide specifics about any possible differential in the trade-in value of high-capacity devices. Preorders start on Friday, September 9 at 12:01a.m. Pacific Time.
SoftBank has finalized its purchase of ARM Holdings. SoftBank runs one of Japan's largest wireless networks and is the majority parent company of Sprint in the U.S., while ARM designs and licenses the Cortex-branded mobile processors often found in today's smartphones and tablets. SoftBank believes it can help ARM license its technology in new markets and continue to innovate in order to push into new categories, such as the Internet of Things. The deal was valued at $32 billion.
Sprint today moved to appease its video-loving customers with an add-on that provides unlimited HD video streaming. The Unlimited Freedom Premium plan costs $80 per month for a single line or $140 for two lines and includes 1080p HD high-quality video, music streaming at 1.5Mbps, and gaming at up to 8Mbps. The plan supplements the Unlimited Freedom plan, which costs $60 per month but includes only 480p standard-definition video streaming, 500Kbps music streaming, and 2Mbps gaming. Sprint said for a limited time customers who sign up for the Unlimited Freedom plan will be upgraded to the Unlimited Freedom Premium plan (through 10/31) at no extra cost.
Google this week made its WiFi Assistant feature available to all Nexus devices. The tool is a direct carryover from Google's Project Fi. The WiFi Assistant lets Nexus owners automatically and securely connect to more than one million free, open WiFi hotspots that are certified by Google. Users won't be required to sign in or set up accounts to access the WiFi. Moreover, Google manages the connection and ensures it is protected. Google says the tool can help improve average connection speeds and lower monthly data consumption, regardless of which wireless carrier provides cellular service to the phone. The Google WiFi Assistant is available to Nexus devices in the U.S., Canada, Mexico, the U.K. and Nordic countries. Google says it will roll out over the next few weeks. Project Fi relies on WiFi for calling and data, but also hops onto Sprint, T-Mobile, or U.S. Cellular when WiFi is not available.
AT&T today said it has signed an interconnect agreement with Cuba's Empresa De Telecomunicaciones De Cuba (ETECSA). The agreement will eventually allow AT&T customers to roam on ETESCA's network when traveling to Cuba. AT&T hasn't said when it will make such roaming available and will announce pricing at a later date. Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless already have similar agreements in place with ETESCA.
AT&T and dozens of other companies are escalating the war on robocalls with a new Strike Force aimed at disrupting spammers' ability to call and pester consumers. AT&T CEO Randal Stephenson says carriers, device makers, OS developers, network designers, regulators, and lawmakers will all need to work together to create a play book to tackle the problem. "In parallel with technological solutions, we need our regulatory and law enforcement agencies to go after the bad actors. Shutting down the bad guys is a necessary step, and a powerful example to others. Our goal isn't complicated: Stop unwanted robocalls. Easy to say. Hard to do," said Stephenson in remarks made at the FCC's first meeting of the Robocall Strike Force. Industry player are gathering today to discuss initial plans and are expected to report back with more solid short- and long-term plans on October 19. Some of the companies participating in the Strike Force include AT&T, Apple, Blackberry, Comcast, Ericsson, Google, LG, Microsoft, Nokia, Qualcomm, Samsung, Sprint, T-Mobile, U.S. Cellular, and Verizon.
The Samsung Galaxy Note7 reaches U.S. stores today and with it some interesting accessories and companion products from Samsung. The new Gear VR headset, which is compatible with the Note7 and other recent Galaxy phones, has a new look, new color, and expanded field of view. It's available for $100 at carrier stores, as well as Amazon, Best Buy, and Samsung. The Gear 360 camera (pictured), able to shoot 360-degree photos and video, will only be available online for $350. Samsung's Gear IconX wireless earbuds are available, too. These $200 headphones are fully wireless, have built-in memory, and can track workouts. The less expensive Samsung Level Active headphones are sweat proof and can control music/calls for $100. Last, the Samsung Connect auto provides an AT&T-backed in-car hotspot via the OBD II port. The Connect auto can also send alerts to the driver and improve driving safety/efficiency. AT&T will sell the Samsung Connect auto online and in stores. The Galaxy Note7 is Samsung's flagship phablet for the year. It has a 5.7-inch screen, 12-megapixel main camera, Snapdragon 820 processor, 64 GB of storage, and the S Pen stylus. The Note7 is available from AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon.
Sprint today announced Unlimited Freedom, a service plan that provides unlimited talk, text, and data for two lines at $100 per month. Sprint says the Unlimited Freedom plan offers "optimized streaming" for "video, gaming, and music" and "unlimited LTE data for most everything else." Specifically, video resolution is capped at 480p resolution when streamed over the network, while games are capped at 2Mbps, and music is capped at 500Kbps. The first line costs $60 per month, the second line costs $40, and lines three through eight cost $30 each. A family of four costs $160 per month before device payments, taxes, and fees. Further, Sprint's Boost Mobile prepaid brand has a simpler, unlimited offer called Unlimited Unhook'd. For $50 per month, Boost customers get unlimited talk, text, optimized videos/music, and unlimited data for everything else. Additional lines cost $30 per month for lines two through five. Boost is offering a starter line, too, that costs $30 per month and includes unlimited talk, text, and 1 GB of LTE. Both Sprint's and Boost's new unlimited plans will be available starting August 19.
Sprint today said it has achieved peak download speeds of 295Mbps using three-channel carrier aggregation on the HTC 10 smartphone. Carrier aggregation pairs together multiple segments of spectrum to improve speed and capacity. The company has already deployed two-channel carrier aggregation in 237 markets around the country. It markets this service as LTE Plus, offering 100Mbps downloads to nearly two dozen devices. The company plans to offer 200Mbps service once it deploys three-channel carrier aggregation, though it declined to specify when that might be. The HTC 10 is one of several handsets that supports three-channel carrier aggregation, which binds together three spectrum bands. Sprint will enable three-channel carrier aggregation on supported devices (HTC 10, HTC 9, Galaxy S7, S7 Edge, LG G5) through a software update one the technology has launched.
Sprint today said customers who travel to Rio for the 2016 Summer Olympic Games will be able to talk and text for free, as well as use an unlimited amount of high-speed data for free. The Open World program already covers a number of countries across Latin America, but normally only includes unlimited talk, text, and 1 GB of data. Sprint is adding free, unlimited LTE in Brazil specifically for the impending games. The free data offer is valid during the entire month of August. About 100,000 American athletes, coaches, and family members are expected to travel to Rio for the games. Customers can enroll in the Sprint Open World program at any time.
FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler today asked the country's major telephone providers to improve consumer tools for blocking robocalls. The FCC said robocalls continue to be one of the top complaints filed by consumers. Wheeler sent letters to AT&T, Bandwidth Comms, Frontier, Level3, Sprint, T-Mobile, U.S. Cellular, and Verizon asking them to make blocking tools available to consumers as swiftly as possible. "Consumers want and deserve more control over the calls they receive," wrote Wheeler in a blog post. "I am calling on the carriers and standards groups to accelerate the development and deployment of technical standards that would prevent spoofing of caller ID and thus make blocking technologies more effective. All of these companies have been asked to respond within 30 days with their concrete, actionable solutions to address these issues." The FCC said it will continue to investigate consumer complaints against robocalls and prosecute whenever possible.
SoftBank today announced plans to buy ARM Holdings for $32 billion. SoftBank runs one of Japan's largest wireless networks and is the parent company of Sprint in the U.S., while ARM designs and licenses the Cortex-branded mobile processors often found in today's smartphones and tablets. SoftBank's board of directors has fully approved the acquisition, which will be made in all cash. ARM's board and shareholders have yet to approve the deal. SoftBank believes its existing business relationships around the world will expand ARM's ability to license its technology in new markets. SoftBank said it will help ARM to continue to innovate in order to push into new categories, such as the Internet of Things, by increasing investment in ARM's research and development. The company believes SoftBank and ARM share a common culture and long-term vision, and can together create a strong combined entity moving forward. SoftBank said it is committed to ARM's U.K. operations, where it will double the number of employees over the next five years. "ARM will be an excellent strategic fit within the SoftBank group as we invest to capture the very significant opportunities provided by the Internet of Things," said SoftBank CEO Masayoshi Son. The deal is expected to close by the end of the third quarter.
The FCC has approved an unannounced handset from Samsung that is most likely the Galaxy Note 7. The device, model name SM-N930U, is banded identically to Samsung's Galaxy S7 smartphone, which marks the N930U as a probable flagship or other high-end phone. The device supports LTE 4G in the various bands used by AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless, as well as the corresponding carrier bands for WCDMA/CDMA 3G. Other technical features confirmed by the FCC include Bluetooth, GPS, NFC, and WiFi radios. The FCC did not post images, user manuals, or any other details regarding the Samsung N930U, nor do the documents refer to the device as the Note 7. Samsung has scheduled an event on August 2 in New York where it is expected to announce the Galaxy Note 7 in full. The timing of the N930U's FCC approval falls in line with a potential August launch.
Google today said Project Fi subscribers now have access to faster wireless speeds when traveling around the world. Google partnered with mobile network operator Three to increase the number of countries in which Fi is available to 135, as well as improve mobile data speeds by a factor of 10 to 20. Project Fi customers were perviously only able to roam at 2G speeds when abroad, but now have access to faster 3G/4G service. Google does not charge Fi subscribers any extra access fees when traveling; the data rates are the same at $10 per 1 GB whether at home or abroad. Google said new Project Fi customers can buy a Nexus 6P for $349 ($150 off) for the next week. Project Fi requires a Nexus smartphone. The service uses a mix of WiFi and cellular service from Sprint, T-Mobile, and U.S. Cellular to maintain a strong, fast connection.
Sprint has discontinued its Galaxy Forever lease program after just four months. Similar to its iPhone Forever program, the Galaxy Forever program allowed customers to lease a Galaxy S smartphone, make 12 payments, and then trade in the device for a new Galaxy S handset. The Galaxy Forever program applied to the Galaxy S7 and S7 edge and was pitched as a simpler way to upgrade to new equipment each year. Sprint customers can still lease the S7 and S7 edge, but won't be able to enjoy the annual no-cost upgrade. The Galaxy Forever program is no longer available from Sprint's web site, and Sprint stores confirmed to Fierce Wireless than the program has in fact been cancelled. Sprint did not provide a reason for the change. The iPhone Forever program is still available.
Sprint today said customers who add Amazon Prime to their account during the month of July will be eligible to receive 60 days of Prime benefits for free. Sprint charges $10.99 per month for Amazon Prime, which is added to wireless bills as a subscription. New subscribers will receive the first two months (60 days) at no charge. After the 60-day period ends, Sprint will begin to charge the $10.99 monthly subscription fee, or customers can cancel the Prime subscription. Existing customers who already subscribe to Prime via Sprint do not qualify for the free 60 day promo. Amazon Prime includes Prime Video and Prime Music streaming services, Prime Photo online storage, video games, early access to deals, and free two-day shipping. Amazon charges $99 per year for Amazon Prime. Sprint customers who add it to their subscription will end up paying $132 for Prime over the course of a year.