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printed June 26, 2017
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Virgin Mobile USA Relaunches As An iPhone-Only Carrier

Wednesday, 12:45 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Wednesday, 7:41 PM

Virgin Mobile USA, which is owned and operated by Sprint, transformed itself today into new provider much more closely aligned with the Virgin brand. Significantly, Virgin Mobile USA is now an iPhone-only carrier, meaning Apple's iPhones are the only phones Virgin will sell moving forward. Further, shoppers will be able to buy and activate an iPhone on Virgin Mobile USA at Apple Stores. Pricing for Virgin Mobile iPhones starts at $279 for the 32 GB iPhone SE and ranges up to $969 for the 256 GB iPhone 7 Plus. According to the company's web site, Virgin Mobile does not offer financing for iPhones and customers will have to pay full price. The company now offers only a single service plan. For $50 per month, Virgin Mobile USA provides unlimited talk, text, and data in the U.S. International roaming add-ons start at $5 per month. There are limitations on Virgin's plan: video playback is capped at 480p, music is streamed at 500Kbps, and gaming is streamed at 1.5Mbps. Virgin says mobile data speeds will be suppressed when the network is congested. For a limited time, Virgin Mobile is offering up to 12 months of service for just $1. The $1 yearly service offer is only available to customers buying a new iPhone and activating it on Virgin's network. Customers will have to sign up by July 31, 2017 to score the $1 deal. At the end of the 12-month service plan for $1, customers will automatically be moved to the $50 plan. Last, the $1 yearly plan and iPhone purchase buy customers access to the Virgin Inner Circle. The Inner Circle is a promotional program that provides benefits with other Virgin-branded properties. For example, Inner Circle members who buy one plane ticket on Virgin Atlantic will be given a second ticket for free. Inner Circle members who book two nights at a Virgin-owned hotel will be able to cash in on a third night for free. Virgin says these offers will be made available to Inner Circle members every few weeks. Customers interested in this package can pre-order one of Virgin Mobile USA's iPhones starting today. The phones and Inner Circle will become available starting June 27. Last, Virgin said it will offer "pre-loved" iPhones starting in the fall, allowing customers to take advantage of more affordable prices.


Sprint Offering a Free Year of Service to Those Who Switch

Jun 13, 2017, 10:10 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sprint today leveled a huge gun at the competition: it will give a year of free unlimited service to people who switch from other postpaid carriers to Sprint. The deal, detailed on Sprint's web site, requires switchers to jump through a lot of hoops and meet a wide variety of conditions. To start, the promotion will provide one year of free talk, text, and data with 10 GB of mobile hotspot per line. People who exceed the 10 GB mobile hotspot allotment will be throttled. Video can be streamed at up to full HD, music can be streamed at up to 1.5Mbps, and games can be streamed at up to 8Mbps. Sprint says it will throttle people during instances of network congestion, particularly those who exceed 23 GB per month. People who earn free service will still be on the hook for taxes and other monthly fees. In order to quality for the free service, potential switchers need to have compatible, unlocked handsets, and they'll need to purchase and activate Sprint SIM cards before porting their number to Sprint. Sprint says the SIM cards cost $3 each, with $10 shipping and handling. The actual SIM activation will be free. People who take advantage of the deal will not be able to upgrade to new devices for at least four months, and Sprint warns that phone features and network experience will vary depending on the handsets being used. Sprint will allow a total of five free lines per account. Tablets are not supported, nor are other connected devices. The promotion is available through June 30. The free service will expire July 31, 2018, after which Sprint will charge its normal rates for multi-line unlimited accounts. Auto-pay is required.


Sprint to Sell Rubin's Essential Phone As an Exclusive

Jun 12, 2017, 7:14 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Essential Products has found a U.S. carrier to distribute its Essential PH-1 handset, and that carrier is Sprint. Essential still plans to offer the unlocked phone directly to consumers online, but the handset will also enjoy retail presence in Sprint stores, according to USAToday. "We like to bet with where we think the market is going as opposed to where the market was,” said Essential President Niccolo de Masi to USA Today. "I feel like we are a new brand and a new consumer electronics company and we are partnering with the network of the future." This isn't the only reason. Sprint is majority owned by SoftBank, and Andy Rubin, Essential's CEO, has a long history with Masayoshi Son, SoftBank's CEO. As recently as early this year, SoftBank was expected to make a $100 million investment in Essential, though it backed out for unknown reasons. "It's certainly conscious for us to work with partners that can make an investment in supporting our brand ambitions," continued to de Masi, "and it's an approach that obviously Andy Rubin has been very successful with in the past as well as a lot of our management team." The PH-1 has a unique, magnet-based system for accepting modular attachments, such as a 360-degree camera, on the back panel. It includes a 5.7-inch quad HD screen with curved corners, Snapdragon 835 processor, and dual rear cameras. It will run a near-stock version of Android 7 Nougat and ship completely devoid of brand names or logos. The PH-1 is expected to go on sale later this summer for $699.


HTC's U11 Officially Shipping As of Today

Jun 9, 2017, 9:25 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

HTC said its U11 flagship smartphone is now shipping to those who may have preordered the handset. The unlocked model is available from Amazon.com and HTC.com and Sprint stores are stocking the U11 starting today. The phone has what HTC calls a "liquid surface" glass panel, squeezable Edge Sense actions, and customizable USonic headphones with active noise cancellation. The phone has a 5.5-inch quad HD display, Snapdragon 835 processor, 12-megapixel main camera, and Android 7.1 Nougat. It costs $649.


ZTE Debuts Mobile Hotspot, Home Phone on Sprint

Jun 9, 2017, 8:00 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

ZTE today announced two new connected devices for Sprint. The ZTE Warp Connect (pictured) is a mobile hotspot. It supports up to 10 devices via WiFi and has a 2,300mAh battery. Owners can take advantage of the 1.4-inch display to gauge connection strength, battery life, and more. The hotspot costs $144 and supports Sprint's newest LTE technology. The Sprint Phone Connect 4 by ZTE is a home phone replacement device. It lets people add their home phone as another line to their cellular plan. The device connects in the home and makes the landline number available to cellular devices. It costs $122.

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Sprint to Sell ZTE Max XL

Jun 9, 2017, 8:00 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sprint today added the ZTE Max XL to is lineup of big-screened Android handsets. The Max XL, which is already available from Sprint-owned Boost Mobile, features a 6-inch full HD display and 3,990mAh battery. The screen is protected by Gorilla Glass. The Max XL supports HPUE for better LTE speeds at the network edge. HPUE is a network upgrade Sprint is deploying this year. The Max XL's main camera has a 13-megapixel sensor, while the front camera has a 5-megapixel sensor. The device runs Android 7.1.1 Nougat and includes a rear-mounted fingerprint reader. Other specs include an octa-core 1.4 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon processor with 2 GB of RAM and 16 GB of storage, support for memory cards, WiFi, Bluetooth, GPS, and FM radio. Sprint is selling the ZTE Max XL for $192.


Sprint Takes Control of 100 Stores from Dixons Carphone

Jun 9, 2017, 7:27 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sprint today said it will acquire 100 retail stores that it has operated in partnership with Dixons Carphone since last year. The two companies created a joint venture in February 2016 that relied on retail know-how from Dixons Carphone to sell Sprint goods and services. The joint venture saw the two firms open some 500 stores around the country, all of which were funded evenly between the two corporations. Now, Sprint is effectively buying out Dixons Carphone's stake in 100 of those stores in order to take full ownership. Sprint says the transaction will not change or impact the individual stores' operations. Sprint and Dixons Carphone will continue to operate the other 400 stores covered by the joint venture together. Sprint has spent the last two years bulking up its retail presence.


Sprint Gifting Customers with 6-Month Tidal Membership

Jun 8, 2017, 7:23 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sprint today said it is giving new and existing customers free access to the Tidal music streaming service for six months. The service is known for providing exclusive access to music from select artists. Tidal Premium normally costs $10 per month. After the six-month promotion expires, Sprint customers will need to pay the monthly fee. The promotion begins June 9 and is available to Android and iOS devices. Sprint is still offering switchers up to $650 in restitution to cover fees incurred by porting over. Moreover, Sprint is still offering four lines of unlimited talk, text, and data for $90 per month (with autopay), though the cost of that plan will jump to $130 after June 2018. Sprint allows unlimited customers to stream video up to 1080p HD, stream music up to 1.5Mbps, and stream games at up to 8Mbps. Sprint will throttle users when the network is congested.


BlackBerry KEYone Goes On Sale Today for $549

May 31, 2017, 7:11 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

TCL today announced that the BlackBerry KEYone, a smartphone it developed with BlackBerry Mobile, is now available for purchase online. The handset includes a 4.5-inch touch display, full QWERTY keyboard, Snapdragon 625 processor, 12-megpixel camera, LTE, and Android 7.1 Nougat with BlackBerry Hub and BlackBerry Messenger. Both the unlocked GSM and CDMA variants of the phone are available online from BestBuy and Amazon. TCL says a limited number of KEYone's will be at select Best Buy retail stores around the country. Sprint plans to sell its own branded variant of the BlackBerry KEYone later this summer.


Sprint Targeting 2019 Launch for 5G On Its 2.5 GHz Spectrum

May 10, 2017, 7:10 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sprint today said it is working with Qualcomm and SoftBank to develop 5G technologies, including the 3GPP New Radio (NR) standard, for Sprint's 2.5 GHz spectrum (Band 41). Sprint's 2.5 GHz airwaves offer a massive footprint around the country, making it ideal for providing coverage. Similar to T-Mobile's recent announcement, however, Band 41 is not among those being targeted for 5G. The FCC and ITU are looking mostly at high-band wavelengths, such as the 28 GHz, 37 GHz, 39 GHz, and 64-71 GHz bands, for 5G. Sprint didn't say if it will also explore 5G in those bands. Sprint and its partners plan to launch commercial 5G service and devices by late 2019. Sprint's timeline is similar to those of its competitors.


Sprint Intros 2GB Plan for Those Not Interested in Unlimited Data

May 9, 2017, 12:34 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sprint recently added a low-cost 2 GB service plan to its offering. The plan costs $45 per month for a single line ($40 with autopay) and includes unlimited talk and text and 2 GB of data. Sprint says it will throttle users of this plan down to 2G speeds if they exceed the monthly limit. This lower-cost plan may be appealing to people who don't want or need Sprint's $60 unlimited plan, which Sprint claims has attracted more than 90% of its postpaid customers. In a statement provided to Fierce Wireless, Sprint said, "There is a subset of our customers who would like a plan that is a little more affordable and hence we are offering in addition to unlimited, a 2 GB plan for $40 (with autopay). As you’ve probably seen, this plan is not being advertised because our main focus is, and will remain, unlimited. This is what customers really want." The new 2 GB offering is already available from Sprint's web site.


Sprint Likely Switch from Qualcomm to Kodiak for PTT Services

May 5, 2017, 10:47 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sprint is on the verge of offering a new version of its push-to-talk service, according to the company's web site. Direct Connect Plus, when it becomes available, will allow "a wide selection of feature phones, smartphones, and tablets" to make PTT calls via 3G, 4G LTE, and WiFi. The service will support real-time presence, broadcast calling, desktop-based dispatch operations, corporate administration tools, and Land Mobile Radio interoperability. Sprint's web site says Direct Connect Plus is coming soon. Sprint's existing PTT service is powered by Qualcomm technology, but clues suggest Sprint may be switching to Kodiak Networks as its PTT provider. As pointed out by Fierce Wireless, Kodiak lists Sprint as a carrier partner on its own web site. Moreover, Kodiak plainly says Sprint's Direct Connect Plus service "leverages the Kodiak platform." Neither Sprint nor Kodiak has confirmed the change, but the details shared on the companies' public web sites would appear to spill the beans. Earlier this week, Motorola Solutions announced plans to acquire Kodiak Networks for an undisclosed sum. There's no word if the deal will impact the launch of Sprint's new Direct Connect Plus launch.


Sprint's 'Magic Box' Is An In-Home Small Cell to Help Improve Coverage

May 3, 2017, 8:32 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sprint today announced the Magic Box, a tool Sprint hopes consumers and businesses will use to help it densify its LTE network. The Magic Box is similar to a signal booster in that owners place it in a window. Sprint says the Magic Box is a plug-and-play, self-configuring small cell that requires no labor or rental costs. The Magic Box does not connect to an in-home broadband or WiFi network; it is fully cellular. It connects to a nearby Sprint cell site and improves coverage both indoors and outdoors. It can provide up to 30,000 square feet of coverage inside, and extends the signal outdoors up to 100 meters from the small cell. The Magic Box provides coverage in the 2.5 GHz band and relies on Sprint's network for backhaul. The Magic Box is not for just the owner, it provides coverage to everyone in the area. Sprint claims the Magic Box will provide immediate improvement to network access, speed, and capacity. Sprint has been testing the Magic Box in Denver, San Francisco, Indianapolis, New York, Chicago, and Houston, and says wireless speeds have improved significantly in areas where Magic Box is deployed. The Magic Box small cell will allow Sprint to improve coverage without forcing it to seek permission for outdoor, public cell site deployments. Consumers or businesses interested in the Magic Box can apply for one on Sprint's web site. Sprint didn't specify what criteria people will need to meet to qualify for the Magic Box.


Unlocked BlackBerry Keyone Goes On Sale May 31; Sprint Version Arrives This Summer

Apr 27, 2017, 5:05 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

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


Sprint Offering Fifth Unlimited Line for Free

Apr 25, 2017, 12:34 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

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


Inexpensive ZTE Prestige 2 Hits Boost and Virgin Mobile

Apr 25, 2017, 9:53 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

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


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

Apr 25, 2017, 8:00 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

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

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

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

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


Sprint's Roaming Plan Now Includes Free 2G Data

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

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


Sprint Lists Samsung Galaxy J7 Perx for $264

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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


Boost and Virgin Mobile Selling LG Stylo 3 for $180

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

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


Sprint Rolls Out Gigabit LTE In New Orleans

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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Qualcomm Fine Tunes RF Antennas for Snapdragon 835

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

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


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

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

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


Sprint Pitching 5 Lines with Unlimited Everything for $90

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

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


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

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

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


Sprint Touts Unlimited Plan Promo

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

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


Sprint Takes a 33% Stake In Music Service Tidal

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

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


FCC Says Incentive Auction Reaches End Point

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

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


Sprint Planning to Use Virgin Mobile As Market 'Disrupter'

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

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


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

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

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


Sprint Pins Network Strategy On 'HPUE' Technology

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

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

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Sprint Extends Free Data Roaming to Mexico and Caribbean

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

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


Republic Wireless to Become Independent from Parent Corp

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

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


Hands-On with HTC Bolt for Sprint

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

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

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

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

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

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