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printed February 14, 2016
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Google to Sit Out Incentive Auction

Friday, 3:35 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google will not participate in next month's spectrum auction, says the company. The deadline to file applications for the auction passed on February 10. "Like all those interested in improved connectivity and equitable access, we'll be following the upcoming spectrum auction closely. That said, we have not filed to participate," explained a spokesperson in a statement provided to Reuters. Carriers AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless have all indicated an interest in the auction, although Sprint will not participate. The reverse auction will see television broadcasters sell their 600 MHz airwaves to wireless network operators. Google did participate in the 700 MHz auction several years ago.

Sprint and Alcatel Debut Ride-Fi for In-Car Hotspot

Friday, 10:14 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sprint and Alcatel today made the Ride-Fi available for purchase. This mobile hotspot, first announced last month, was made specifically for cars and plugs into vehicles' DC power port for in-car connectivity. It can get power from USB-2 ports, as well. The Ride-Fi supports up to eight devices through Sprint's LTE 4G network. The device costs $168, but can be purchased via installment plan for $7 per month, or with a contract at no charge.

Sprint Ups the Ante with $150 Unlimited Family Bundle

Thursday, 11:48 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Thursday, 12:00 PM

Sprint today announced a new promotion that will give a family of four unlimited talk, text, and data for $150 per month. A single line for the unlimited plan costs $75 per month. Two lines cost $120 per month, three lines cost $150, four lines cost $150 (fourth is free), and lines five through 10 cost $30 each. In addition to the calling, messaging, and LTE 4G access, the unlimited plan includes 3 GB of mobile hotspot and Sprint Global Roaming with unlimited 2G data and text messaging in select countries. Sprint's new unlimited pricing will be available beginning February 12 for a limited time. Sprint also extended its 50% rate plan promotion for AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless customers through March 31.

Sprint Offering $200 In Credit for Trade-Ins

Feb 8, 2016, 10:42 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sprint today is kicking off a limited promotion that will reward new and existing customers with $200 in credit towards a new device when they trade in a working smartphone. The credit can be applied to the Samsung Galaxy S6 or Galaxy Note 5. Sprint says the $200 credit drops the monthly lease cost of the GS6 to $9.76 per month and the Note 5 to $16.67 per month. The $200 trade-in credit is available to shoppers at Sprint's retail stores starting today, and will be available online and via phone by the end of the week. Sprint says the device being traded in cannot be a lease, and existing customers must be upgrade-eligible to score the $200 trade-in credit. The offer can be combined with Sprint's current half-off rate plans to customers who switch from AT&T, T-Mobile, or Verizon Wireless.

Sprint Cuts PayLo and Broadband2Go Amidst Virgin Shakeup

Feb 3, 2016, 8:41 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sprint is today discontinuing its PayLo and Broadband2Go sub-brands, which were operated through Virgin Mobile. The move comes mere days after Sprint said it was "de-emphasizing" the Virgin brand. PayLo chiefly offered talk/text plans to feature devices and Broadband2Go mainly sold data-only devices and services. Virgin said the PayLo brand attracted people seeking "burner phones" and it wants to move away from that association. The company is also adjusting the service plans available from Virgin Mobile. Starting today, Virgin will offer three plans. The entry-level plan costs $30 and includes unlimited talk/text and 500 MB of data. Stepping up to the $40 plan boosts data to 4 GB, while the $50 plan includes 6 GB. Sprint doesn't charge overages, but does throttle people who exceed their data limits. "We've kind of transitioned to focusing on those monthly unlimited plans, which are the more engaged, higher-ARPU subscribers," said Angela Rittgers, VP of Sprint's prepaid services, to Fierce Wireless. "I think what we'll find is that the net amount of money we get from customers will be the same, but these are just more attractive price points to subscribers." Sprint said it remains committed to its prepaid brands and customers. Sprint's other prepaid brand, Boost Mobile, recently revised its pricing, too.

Sprint Can Commence WiMax Shutdown

Feb 2, 2016, 8:14 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

A Massachusetts court has given Sprint permission to turn off its WiMax network in stages over the next two months. Sprint will turn WiMax off in 16 cities, including New York, today, with 39 more to follow on February 29, and the remaining 25 cities on March 31. Sprint has been forced to keep the WiMax network running in order to give two non-profits more time to transition away from WiMax. Mobile Citizens and Mobile Beacon, which provide internet service to schools, sued Sprint last year over its planned WiMax shutdown. Sprint has been trying to get the groups to switch from WiMax to LTE, but the groups alleged Sprint is offering unreasonable terms. The groups convinced a court to enforce an injunction, which is being lifted in steps starting today. Sprint wants to refarm the 2.5 GHz WiMax spectrum for LTE.

Sprint Planning Virgin Mobile Revamp

Jan 26, 2016, 11:00 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sprint says it has a new strategy in mind for its prepaid brand Virgin Mobile. During a call with analysts today, Sprint execs said the company is de-emphasizing Virgin at the moment in favor of Boost Mobile, and has gone so far as to pull Virgin advertising ahead of a the new strategy's debut. Sprint did not say what it plans to do with Virgin, though it did admit it is not pursuing the pre-paid space as aggressively as rivals Cricket and MetroPCS. "You've got to figure out where do you want to fight and where do you want to grow," said CEO Marcelo Claure. "We are keeping the customers that matter." Claure also took the opportunity to reassure investors and customers that its network improvement plan will not be disruptive. "This is not a rip-and-replace strategy," said Claure, calling the implementation a "progressive build" that will make changes for the better. The company is expected to relocate some cell towers and make greater use of small/macro cells to densify its network. It may also shift some backhaul operations to microwave in order to cut down the fiber carriage fees it pays to AT&T and Verizon. Claure still believes Sprint can become the No. 1 or No. 2 network in terms of absolute performance in 80% of the country's markets within two years.

Sprint Cuts 2,500 Jobs to Reign In Expenses

Jan 26, 2016, 8:19 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sprint has trimmed some 2,500 employees at various job sites, said the company. The cuts were primarily made at its Kansas headquarters and six customer care centers. Sprint said 574 were let go at its Overland Park facility and it cut some jobs at a Colorado center. The company entirely shuttered call centers in Virginia, New Mexico, Tennessee, and Texas. Sprint representative Michelle Boyd said customers are using the Sprint Zone app in greater numbers to manage their accounts. The move, long in the works, is meant to help the nation's fourth-largest carrier trim costs. Sprint's executives seek to slice $2.5 billion in expenses over the next year, and claim the headcount reduction, among other measures, will allow the company to reach that goal. Sprint recently unveiled a plan to relocate its cell towers in order to save leasing costs.

Sprint Doubles LTE Plus Footprint

Jan 25, 2016, 9:35 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sprint today said it has doubled the availability of its LTE Plus coverage from 77 markets in November to more than 150 markets today. Some of the new markets include Boulder, Colo., West Palm Beach, Fla., Cleveland, Ohio, and Syracuse, N.Y. LTE Plus is the new brand name for what used to be Sprint Spark. LTE Plus is the company's tri-band LTE network, which uses 800MHz, 1.9GHz, and 2.5GHz. Sprint is using carrier aggregation to increase capacity and beamforming to improve connections between cell sites and handsets. Sprint says these techniques have helped improve speeds and performance across its network. Sprint has more than a dozen handsets able to take advantage of these technologies, including the Apple iPhone 6s and Samsung Galaxy S6.

MetroPCS Goes After Sprint Customers with Discounts

Jan 20, 2016, 11:37 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Jan 21, 2016, 12:47 PM

T-Mobile-owned MetroPCS is targeting Sprint customers with new service and handset discounts. Starting January 21, Sprint, Boost Mobile, and Virgin Mobile customers who switch to MetroPCS can save up to 50% off Sprint's Family Share Pack pricing. For example, a single ported line can save between 22% and 48%, while two or more lines can save between 23% and 50%, depending on a number of variables such as existing plan cost, new plan pricing, and local taxes. Customers who switch can keep the low rate plans as long as they remain with MetroPCS. The promotion includes unlimited talk and text, Music Unlimited, Data Maximizer and mobile hotspot. MetroPCS is offering switchers a free LG Leon LTE, Kyocera Hydro Wave, Samsung Core Prime, LG K7, or $50 rebate that can be applied to any phone sold by MetroPCS. Last, MetroPCS is offering its existing customers a $20 discount when adding an extra 5GB line. T-Mobile said the promotion will be available for a limited time, but didn't provide an end date.

FreedomPop Debuts Global Hotspot

Jan 20, 2016, 9:25 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

FreedomPop today announced a global hotspot that will allow customers to roam in more than two dozen countries at low cost. The hotspot itself costs $49 and provides up to 200MB of free wireless access. Customers can add 500MB chunks of data access for $10. FreedomPop already operates in the U.S. (Sprint) and the U.K. (Three). FreedomPop didn't say what other carriers are providing access across its new international footprint. The global hotspot will work in Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland. FreedomPop expects to expand the number of countries to 40 by the end of the year, including some in Asia and others in Latin America. The company also debuted a $10 SIM card for smartphones that provides roaming access across such of Europe.

Sprint to Relocate Cell Sites In Bid to Cut Costs

Jan 15, 2016, 1:52 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sprint hopes moving its radio infrastructure away from privately held companies to government-owned land and/or structures will help shave $1 billion in costs, reports Re/code. Sprint leases cell tower access from Crown Castle and American Tower, and lease rates are a significant part of it operational costs. The government does not charge as much for leases. Sprint is looking at a company called Mobilitie, from which it might lease cell site access, as well. Sprint may begin the effort as soon as June or July. Sprint is also planning to cut backhaul costs. Sprint largely relies on fiber from competitors AT&T and Verizon, says Re/code, and pays each company about $1 billion per year to manage some of its wired network traffic. Sprint is considering a switch to microwave technology for its backhaul needs so it won't have to rely so much on its competitors. Last, the company is expected to announce significant layoffs on January 22. Sprint has spoken of headcount reductions for months, and said the cuts would come by the end of January. Sprint did not comment on Re/code's story.

Boost and Virgin to Sell Samsung Galaxy J3

Jan 15, 2016, 10:17 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Jan 15, 2016, 12:10 PM

Sprint today said its prepaid brands Boost Mobile and Virgin Mobile USA will soon sell the Samsung Galaxy J3. This inexpensive Android handset includes a 5-inch 720p HD screen, a 5-megapixel main camera with LED flash, and a 2-megapixel selfie camera. It is powered by a 1.2 GHz quad-core processor and carries 1.5 GB of RAM and 16 GB of storage. It supports memory cards up to 128 GB. The phone ships with Android 5.1 Lollipop and includes Samsung's Easy Mode for novice users. It packs a 2600mAh battery. The Galaxy J3 reaches Virgin Mobile stores today and Boost Mobile stores next week. It costs $179.99.

Kyocera DuraXTP Is the Latest Rugged Feature Phone for Sprint

Jan 15, 2016, 10:03 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Kyocera and Sprint today announced the DuraXTP, an ultra-rugged feature phone. The DuraXTP is rated mil-spec 810G for durability and IP68 for protection against water and dust. The phone can handle shock, vibrations, blowing rain, temperature extremes, high humidity, and immersion in 6 feet of water for up to 30 minutes. The DuraXTP has dual screens, including a 1.08-inch external monochrome display and a 2.4-inch main color display. The phone runs the BrewMP platform and is powered by a 480 MHz processor, with 256 MB of RAM, 512 MB of storage. It supports memory cards up to 32 GB. The phone includes GPS and Bluetooth. Sprint says the 1500mAh battery provides extended standby time. Sprint is selling the DuraXTP for $9 per month for 24 months.

FCC Says Applications for Incentive Auction Due Today

Jan 12, 2016, 2:18 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Today marks the deadline for companies planning to participate in the upcoming reverse auction to file their applications. The FCC will accept entries until the end of the day. In February, the agency will release a tutorial for participants to learn how to bid in the auction, and the auction itself will begin March 29. Television broadcasters are being encouraged to offer up their 600MHz spectrum, which will in turn be auctioned off to wireless companies. T-Mobile, AT&T, and Verizon are expected to participate, though Sprint will sit the auction out. The National Association of Broadcasters commended the FCC on its hard work. "NAB expects robust broadcaster participation in the reverse auction, and we hope to see similarly robust participation from wireless bidders in the forward auction," said NAB Executive Vice President of Communications Dennis Wharton. The FCC expects the auction will take several months to complete.

AT&T Brings Back Unlimited Data for TV Customers

Jan 11, 2016, 8:24 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

AT&T today said new and existing customers can once again select an unlimited data mobile plan — as long as they are also a customer of AT&T-owned DirecTV or U-Verse. The unlimited plan includes unlimited LTE 4G, unlimited voice, and unlimited messaging. The first line costs $100 per month, with the second and third lines costing $40 each. Adding a fourth line would be free. Other devices may be added to the unlimited plan as well, such as tablets ($40), watches ($10), and feature phones ($25). AT&T says the unlimited plan is "the first of many integrated video and mobility offers the company plans to announce in 2016." AT&T's television customers who aren't yet wireless customers are eligible to receive up to $500 in credits when switching to AT&T with a trade-in. On the flip side, AT&T wireless customers who aren't already television customers can receive discounted service for the first year. AT&T and Verizon Wireless haven't offered unlimited data plans for several years, preferring instead to sell customers buckets of data access. T-Mobile and Sprint still offer unlimited data packages, but have raised prices in recent months. AT&T didn't say if the new unlimited plan is a permanent addition to its offering, or a limited promotion.

Republic Wireless MVNO to Add GSM-Based Service

Jan 9, 2016, 11:27 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Republic Wireless, an MVNO that operates on Sprint's network, says it has signed a deal with a GSM-based carrier and will expand service with a GSM smartphone later this year. Republic's SVP of sales Lon France told Fierce Wireless the device will be a high-end Motorola handset, though he didn't name the exact model nor the new carrier partner (likely T-Mobile). The company will also introduce a new version of its WiFi calling app when GSM-based services become available. The company is targeting March or April for the GSM launch

Sprint Adds 36 Countries to Open World Roaming Program

Jan 9, 2016, 11:20 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Jan 9, 2016, 11:22 AM

Sprint today added a significant number of new countries, cities, and city-states to its Open World global roaming plan. The program kicked off last year with initial support for Canada, Mexico, and a handful of Latin American countries and later added a wide range of islands throughout the Caribbean. This week saw the service expand to 36 new regions, including some in Europe (Austria, Belgium, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Poland); the Pacific Rim (Macau, Malaysia, Philippines, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, Thailand); and Africa (Rwanda, Ghana, Kenya, South Africa). In these countries, texting is free, voice minutes are $0.20, and data is available at $30 per gigabyte. Customers will need to have an international-capable handset to take advantage of the roaming services. Sprint says Open World is now available in 110 countries around the globe. Open World can be added to Sprint plans for free. Interested customers will need to sign up online, in person, in stores, or via the phone. Sprint suggests customers who travel to other areas choose one of its global roaming packages.

Sprint Confirms No More Contracts Starting Today

Jan 8, 2016, 9:10 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sprint said beginning January 8 new customers will not be able to buy handsets at subsidized prices by signing a contract. The company is following the industry trend of moving toward installment-based options for financing handset costs. Sprint first announced plans to drop contracts in August. Today's news marks its follow-through on that promise. "The majority of our customers choose Sprint Lease or Sprint Easy Pay to obtain their new handset. These two options give customers the best value on their monthly rate plan," said Sprint to Phonescoop via email. Sprint will lease handsets, such as the Galaxy S6 and iPhone 6s, to customers at low monthly rates. Customers may still choose to purchase devices in full when upgrading to new hardware.

Sprint Extends 50% Rate Promo Through February 11

Jan 6, 2016, 4:42 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sprint will continue to offer AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless customers a 50% reduction in service plan costs if they switch to Sprint. The promotion, first introduced in November, was set to expire January 8 and now runs through February 11. Sprint is also offering up to $650 per line to reimburse ETFs and other fees for those who port their number to Sprint. Sprint said the promotion has been well received by consumers, which is why it extended the program.

BlackBerry Priv Wins Support from Sprint, T-Mobile, Verizon

Jan 6, 2016, 2:41 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

BlackBerry today said Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless have all agreed to sell the Priv smartphone. T-Mobile's variant launches January 26. Sprint and Verizon haven't yet set sales dates. The Priv is already available from AT&T. The carrier deals are a major win for BlackBerry, which claims demand for the Android-powered device is robust.

WeBoost, SureCall Roll Out In-Home Signal Boosters

Jan 6, 2016, 1:36 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

WeBoost and SureCall both used CES as an opportunity to show off new cell signal boosters. Both products work in a similar fashion: they collect cell signals from nearby cell towers, amplify them, and rebroadcast them within the home to improve coverage and signal strength. Each has two components — an antenna that is aimed at a cell tower and a broadcaster for supplying in-home coverage. WeBoost's product is called the eqo and resembles a WiFi router. WeBoost says the eqo is improved over its older products because the antenna can be kept indoors, rather than installed outside. This makes it more convenient for apartment dwellers. It can improve coverage over an area of about 1,200 square feet and costs $349. The SureCall EZ 4G is similar. Its antenna resembles a radar dish. The SureCall EZ 4G also provides one to two rooms of coverage and costs $399.99. The eqo and EZ 4G support CDMA, GSM, and LTE, and are compatible with AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless.

Text Message Lawsuit Against Yahoo Hits Class Action Status

Jan 4, 2016, 6:03 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

A Chicago judge on Monday said Yahoo must face a class action lawsuit for sending unsolicited text messages to Sprint customers in 2013. The company was sued by customers who felt automated "welcome" messages tied to Yahoo Messenger amounted to unwanted advertising and violated the Telephone Consumer Protection Act. The judge says customers — of which there may be as many as 500,000 — may sue as a group because their complaints are similar enough. Yahoo did not comment on the development. In other Yahoo news, the company shuttered its Yahoo Screen app and service, which focused on delivering video content to mobile devices and web users. The various video programs that participated in Yahoo Screen have been disseminated to other Yahoo properties.

Verizon Returns Fire On Contract Buyouts

Dec 28, 2015, 3:00 PM   by Rich Brome

Verizon today announced a program to buy out the contract and device debt of new customers switching from competitors. Verizon will now pay new customers up to $650 per line to cover competitors' early termination fee (ETF) or outstanding device payments. The program mirrors those already in place at smaller rivals T-Mobile and Sprint. To take advantage, customers need to visit a Verizon store to have their existing device evaluated for trade-in value. After trading in the old phone for a new Verizon 4G LTE phone, customers will receive a prepaid card up to $350 to cover their ETF, or a prepaid card up to $650 to pay off a device payment plan. The new line with Verizon must remain active for six months.

Sprint to Digest $150 Million Charge On Layoff Costs

Dec 22, 2015, 12:23 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sprint will be forced to take a $150 million charge to cover costs associated with laying off staff, according to a filing with the SEC. Sprint announced plans to cut an undisclosed number of staffers earlier this year. The cuts include both managerial and non-managerial employees across Sprint's business units. Sprint has not said how many employees will be affected, but believes the headcount reduction will be complete by the end of January. Sprint is working to trim some $2 billion in costs as it continues turn-around efforts.

Project Fi Now Supports Data-Only Devices

Dec 15, 2015, 2:21 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today said Project Fi subscribers can add a tablet or other data-only device to their plan if they choose. Customers will need to order a data-only SIM card from Google through the Project Fi web site. Google charges $10 per 1GB of data, but only bills customers for what they actually use each month. The offer is available only to existing Project Fi subscribers. Tablets cannot be used as mobile hotspots. The initial batch of tablets compatible with the service include the Nexus 7 and Nexus 9, iPad Air 2 and iPad Mini 4, and the Galaxy Tab S. Project Fi uses a mix of cellular service from Sprint and T-Mobile, and WiFi to provide coverage. Devices that run on Project Fi can dynamically switch to the strongest network to optimize performance.

Sprint Pushing for Quicker Small Cell Site Approvals

Dec 14, 2015, 8:35 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Dec 15, 2015, 4:34 PM

Sprint has asked the FCC to help speed up the process for approving sites for small cells. Sprint CEO Marcelo Claure and SVP of Government Affairs Vonya McCann met with FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai last week to discuss the subject. Sprint hopes to add some 10,000 small cells to its network in what it calls a "densification" project meant to fill in gaps in coverage. Claure complained that some jurisdictions make the process difficult and asked the FCC to step in a devise a nationwide policy for approving small cell sites. The nature of that policy was not revealed. In other Sprint news, the company appointed Roger Solé as chief marketing officer. It also named Kevin Crull as president of the Central Area, John Stevens as president of the Central Texas Region, Michael Miess as president of the North Carolina and South Carolina Region, and Tim Donahue as president of the Kansas and Missouri Region.

Microsoft Adds Carrier Billing to Windows Store

Dec 10, 2015, 6:50 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft has expanded an existing agreement with Boku to bring carrier billing to the Windows Store. Sprint is the first carrier too support the service, which means Sprint customers will be able to charge Microsoft Store purchases to their monthly bill. Customers simply enter their phone number as a payment option. Carrier billing is compatible with Windows 10 on smartphones, tablets, and PCs in the U.S. first, but Microsoft plans to expand carrier billing to other carriers and markets over time. The carrier billing service is provided by Boku. "The Windows Store is designed to be a one-stop shopping experience for free and paid digital content. We believe offering carrier billing is important to giving consumers a convenient payment method and driving developer monetization," said Todd Brix, general manger of the Windows Store, in a statement. Carrier billing covers apps and games, as well as music, movies, and TV content. Carrier billing is generally regarded as a way to reduce barriers for consumers who may be uncomfortable entering credit card data into their phone.

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Free Music Streaming Comes to Boost Mobile

Dec 9, 2015, 12:44 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Boost Mobile today said customers can now stream music from several different services over its cellular network without impacting their monthly data allotment. Unlimited music streaming is available through Pandora, iHeartRadio, 8tracks, Slacker, and Samsung Milk Music. Customers who subscribe to Boost's 2GB, 5GB, and unlimited data plans can stream as much music from these providers as they wish each month. Boost said song downloads, video content, non-audio content, and other data sent via the music services (ads, images) will count against monthly data caps. Virgin Mobile, which has offered free music streaming from several services since October, added 8tracks and Samsung Milk Music to its supported streaming apps. Moreover, Virgin is now selling the LG G Stylo and the Tribute 2. Boost Mobile and Virgin Mobile are both owned and operated by Sprint.

Motorola Pushing Marshmallow to Some Moto X Variants

Dec 9, 2015, 8:29 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Motorola is delivering the Android 6.0 Marshmallow system update to some versions of the Moto X Pure Edition. Motorola's David Schuster said Android 6.0 is headed to the Sprint, Verizon, and U.S. Cellular models of the Moto X. Schuster said Motorola has started the Marshmallow soak test for the 2015 Moto X Play in Brazil/India. Motorola is still working to rollout Marshmallow to other devices in its lineup, and will have more information with respect to timing closer to the release date. 

Sprint to Offer Customers Gifts Each Day this Week

Dec 7, 2015, 3:10 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sprint said existing customers have a chance to win free gifts every day this week by visiting its "Cheers to You" web site (link below). The giveaways range from movies to music and technology. Supplies of each gift are limited and available on a first-come, first-served basis. Sprint is also allowing customers to nominate "heroes" for an opportunity to win an LG G4 smartphone. The program runs through Dec. 11.

Sprint Phones Vanishing from Walmart

Dec 4, 2015, 12:52 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sprint's presence at the nation's largest retailer has dwindled in recent weeks, according to Fierce Wireless. Some 500 Walmart stores across the country continue to sell Spint handsets, but the majority of Walmart's 4,177 brick-and-mortar locations no longer have them in stock. Wave7 Research says T-Mobile prepaid and StraightTalk have replaced Sprint in some Walmart locations, and AT&T and Verizon Wireless are now the only postpaid carriers advertised by Walmart. Sprint declined to comment on Fierce Wireless' story, but it is worth noting that Sprint acquired an equity stake in the majority of RadioShack's retail stores earlier this year, which are now co-branded Sprint/RadioShack. StraightTalk is one of Walmart's two prepaid brands, the other being TracFone.

T-Mobile Offers $200 to Sprint Customers

Nov 25, 2015, 9:47 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

T-Mobile today said Sprint customers can score $200 when porting their lines to T-Mobile during the holidays. T-Mobile will give Sprint, Boost, and Virgin subscribers an extra $200 for every line they switch to a T-Mobile Simple Choice plan, with no trade-in required. T-Mobile is also targeting subscribers to Sprint's unlimited plan. These customers can get access to T-Mobile's unlimited LTE plan for $45 per line for a family of four. These offerings will be available starting Nov. 26.

Sprint Separates Device Leasing Business to Manage Cash

Nov 20, 2015, 8:35 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sprint today sold part of its device financing business to a newly formed entity called Mobile Leasing Solutions for $1.2 billion. The new company is being backed by a group of equity investors, including Sprint's parent company, SoftBank. Mobile Leasing Solutions was conceived with the help of Brightstar, Sprint CEO Marcelo Claure's former company, which will help manage some of the reverse logistics associated with leased devices. The transaction puts the financial risk and cashflow issues associated with leasing phones into Mobile Leasing Solution's hands. By doing so, Sprint will free up money it would otherwise have to spend procuring, leasing, and managing the return of smartphones. "Providing mobile devices to customers is the biggest use of cash in the carrier model and with this new structure we have more closely aligned Sprint’s cash flows with those associated with leasing devices to our customers," said Sprint CFO Tarek Robbiati. Sprint expects the deal to close during the first week of December.

Sprint to Reward Existing Customers with Free Tablet

Nov 18, 2015, 12:28 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sprint today said its current customers can get a free tablet with a free year of service for their loyalty. The offering is meant to offset the 50% rate deal being given to non-customers who switch to Sprint. The free tablet with service will be available while supplies last. Sprint didn't say what tablet will be given to customers.

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Sprint Retires 'Spark' and Launches 'LTE Plus'

Nov 18, 2015, 12:08 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sprint is rebranding its LTE 4G network in an effort to call attention to the technology involved in making the network tick. Sprint LTE Plus replaces the Sprint Spark name for the company's tri-band LTE network, which uses 800MHz, 1.9GHz, and 2.5GHz. Sprint has focused on optimizing the performance of cell sites, as well as on improving the underlying network tech by taking advantage of carrier aggregation and beamforming. Carrier aggregation is the binding of two or more channels to act as one to increase capacity. Beamforming involves focusing wireless signals, particularly in the 2.5GHz band, in order to better reach handsets. Sprint claims these techniques have doubled network capacity and speeds (peaks greater than 100Mbps), increased the range of 2.5GHz spectrum, and improved reliability across all three spectrum bands. Right now, Sprint says 77 markets have access to these network improvements. More importantly, 13 of Sprint's devices, including the iPhone 6s, Galaxy S6, and One A9, support the new wireless technologies. Sprint said it plans to expand Sprint LTE Plus to more markets and more devices over time. The company will also continue to improve its network technology, and is looking to use 3-, 4-, and 5-channel carrier aggregation, advanced beamforming, and higher order MIMO down the road.

Sprint Offering 50% Off Competitors' Rates

Nov 18, 2015, 11:06 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Nov 18, 2015, 11:18 AM

Sprint said beginning November 20, AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon customers who switch their number to Sprint will save 50% off their old rate plan. The 50% savings will be available to switchers through Jan. 8, 2018. Sprint is also offering up to $650 in reimbursement for ETFs and other fees, but requires new customers to trade in their old smartphone. The promotion is limited to a maximum of 10 lines per account. Subsidized devices require an extra $25 per month fee. The half-rate plan does not extend to unlimited music/video streaming, data carryover, tethering, or cloud services. Mobile hotspot consumption is pulled from the shared data plan. The discount does not apply to taxes, surcharges, add-ons, apps, premium content, or international services. Discounts vary based on the rates charged by AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon. Not all competitor rate plans apply. Sprint offered a similar promotion last year.

Verizon to Start Tacking $20 Fee to New Lines

Nov 13, 2015, 12:45 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Verizon Wireless will soon begin charging a $20 activation fee for new customers who sign up for one of its contract-free device payment plans. The fee goes into effect Nov. 15. Previously, Verizon waived activation fees for customers who purchased devices via monthly installment plans. Verizon already charges a $40 activation fee to customers signing contracts. Though Verizon no longer offers contracts, it will still charge that $40 fee to grandfathered contract customers who add a new line of service. Verizon said the new $20 fee covers costs associated with adding a line, such as pairing the customer's phone number with their SIM card. Part of the initial appeal of monthly installment plans was the "$0 down" promise from carriers. Verizon's new fee effectively reneges on that policy. AT&T's installment plan customers now pay a $15 fee, too, when adding a new line. Sprint charges $36 for all new lines of service, and T-Mobile charges $15 for its SIM starter kit.

Transit Wireless Brings Service to 20 Stations In the Bronx

Nov 12, 2015, 1:52 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Nov 12, 2015, 1:52 PM

Transit Wireless today said it has completed Phase 4 of its project to bring cellular and WiFi service to subway stations across New York City. Phase 4 adds coverage to 20 stations in the Bronx, as well as 17 stations in Manhattan. Some of the new stations include 53rd St./Lexington Ave. (6,E,M) and 59th/Lex. (4,5,6,N,Q,R) in Manhattan, and 149th S. Grand Concourse (2,4,5), and 125th St. (4,5,6) in the Bronx. Transit says it provides service to more than 140 stations throughout the New York City subway system. Service is available to AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and now Verizon Wireless customers.

AT&T Seeking 20MHz Block of 600MHz Spectrum

Nov 12, 2015, 12:07 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

AT&T is making plans to participate in next year's incentive auction, according to CFO John Stephens. "Spectrum is a scare asset, and so we would expect to participate," said Stephens, speaking at technology conference. "I won't suggest at what level, but we plan in our business plans to do that, and we'll see how it plays out, what's available. Certainly, getting a nationwide opportunity is what we've talked about in the past. A 2x10 MHz nationwide capability is something that works very well with our network planning and our network team, but we will see how this develops." AT&T already has significant low-band spectrum holdings in the 700MHz range. The incentive auction, planned for the middle of next year, will see television broadcasters turn in their spectrum licenses which will then be auctioned off to wireless broadband providers. AT&T's participation in the auction is somewhat limited thanks to a reserve for smaller carriers put in place by the FCC. T-Mobile has said it will spend up to $10 billion to get the low-band spectrum it needs to better compete with AT&T and Verizon Wireless. Sprint is sitting the auction out. Verizon hasn't discussed its plans in detail.

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