The FCC today said it plans to fine AT&T $640,000 for operating microwave stations outside the parameters of its licenses to do so. Microwave stations are generally set up in point-to-point configurations to beam signals across terrain where it is uneconomical to run copper or fiber wires. Companies use them to serve as backbone connections on the telephone network, to connect cellular base stations to the larger network, or to relay television signals. According to the FCC, AT&T altered 26 of its microwave stations without filing the proper paperwork with the FCC to account for the variances. AT&T ran afoul of the FCC in 2013 for similar infractions related to its wireless network.
Verizon Wireless recently added the Kyocera DuraXV to its lineup of rugged handsets. The DuraXV, a successor to Kyocera's DuraXT, is a flip phone that meets mil-spec standards for protection against temperature extremes, dust, and shock. It is also waterproof in depths up to six feet for 30 minutes. The DuraXV features Kyocera's Smart Sonic Receiver technology for clear phone calls, and includes dual front-facing speakers. It has two screens with the main color display measuring 2.4 inches with 320 x 240 pixels. The phone has a 5-megapixel camera, but Verizon also sells a variant with no camera. The phone runs the Brew MP operating system. The Kyocera DuraXV costs $199 at full price, $99 with a two-year contract, or $8.33 per month with a Verizon Edge plan. U.S. Cellular is also selling the phone as the Kyocera DuraXA. It is charging $199, but is offering a $50 mail-in rebate to cut the total cost to $149.
LG said it will begin selling the G Flex 2 in its home market of Korea on Jan. 30. The phone will reach other markets in the "coming months." Several U.S. carriers, including AT&T, Sprint, and U.S. Cellular, have said they'll sell the phone but none has said when or for how much. The G Flex 2 will cost Koreans approximately $830 when it goes on sale next week. Separately, an LG executive refuted reports that the Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 processor overheats. Bloomberg on Wednesday reported that Samsung plans to drop the Snapdragon 810 chip from its forthcoming Galaxy S6 smartphone due to overheating issues. "I am very much aware of the various concerns in the market about the (Snapdragon) 810, but the chip's performance is quite satisfactory," said Woo Ram-chan, vice president for mobile product planning at LG. Woo said the chip emits less heat than other devices. "I don't understand why there is a issue over heat." LG uses the Snapdragon 810 in the G Flex 2.
U.S. Cellular said it will begin testing VoLTE in a handful of markets later this year. The company is focusing on completing its LTE deployment, but will trial the service in two or three unnamed markets. U.S. Cellular said it wants to ensure a high level of service is available before a full commercial launch to its entire LTE footprint. The company has previously committed to offering LTE to 93% of its customers by the end of the first quarter of this year. U.S. Cellular did not say which devices will be involved with its VoLTE trials, nor exactly when they will begin.
In addition to AT&T and Sprint, U.S. Cellular plans to carry the LG G Flex 2 "this spring", according to spokesperson Katie Frey. No further details were revealed.
U.S. Cellular today said it has agreed to sell 595 of its cell towers to Vertical Bridge Holdings for $159 million. U.S. Cellular called the cell towers "non-strategic assets" and said it will use the proceeds of the sale to invest in future growth opportunities. The company expects to complete the sale during the first quarter of 2015. U.S. Cellular didn't indicate what portion of its cell towers are included in the sale or how many it will still own once the sale is finalized.
AT&T and U.S. Cellular have asked the FCC for permission to exchange spectrum licenses in select areas around the country. The proposed transaction includes 122 counties across 39 Cellular Market Areas. If approved, AT&T would receive PCS spectrum in 104 counties in 32 CMAs, while U.S. Cellular would receive PCS spectrum in 18 counties in seven CMAs. AT&T expects to hold 76 to 185MHz in the areas covered post transaction, and U.S. Cellular expects to hold 34 to 91MHz. AT&T says the transaction will allow it to "increase its system capacity to enhance existing services, better accommodate its overall growth, and facilitate the provision of additional products and services." As for U.S. Cellular, it believes the transaction will let it "carry out its current business and operational plans while divesting spectrum that is not strategic to its long term success." The companies will not exchange customers or networking assets. The FCC has accepted the initial applications for review. Companies routinely propose such spectrum swaps.
Samsung today announced that the five largest wireless network operators in the U.S. will sell the Galaxy Note Edge beginning this month. The Note Edge is a variant of the Note 4 that has a unique, curved display that provides extra screen space for controls and shortcuts. Samsung said AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, Verizon Wireless, and U.S. Cellular will carry the Galaxy Note Edge in both black and white. The Note Edge goes on sale November 14. Carriers have yet to reveal their individual pricing plans.
Samsung and its carrier partners announced availability and pricing details for the Gear S smartwatch today. AT&T and Sprint will offer the device starting November 7, but T-Mobile won't sell it until November 9. Pricing for the wearable varies by carrier. The full retail price is $350. AT&T is offering it for $200 with a two-year contract and $10 monthly service charge. Sprint says customers can get the Gear S with $0 down followed by 24 monthly payments of $16. Sprint's Gear S plan also costs $10 per month. T-Mobile is selling the Gear S for $0 down followed by payments of $14.58 for 24 months. T-Mobile's Gear S service plan costs $5 per month. Verizon has yet to announce its pricing and service plan details. The Gear S requires a service plan because it can access 3G networks and make voice calls independent of a smartphone. The Gear S is based on Samsung's Tizen platform and features a 2-inch, curved Super AMOLED display with 360 x 480 pixels. In addition to 3G, the Gear S includes Bluetooth and Wi-Fi. Samsung says it can transition between cellular and Bluetooth connections seamlessly. It includes Samsung's S Voice service for voice commands, and has an on-screen keyboard for composing messages. Other features include Samsung's S Health and fitness apps, music player and gallery apps, and the ability to receive notifications from a variety of services. The Gear S is powered by a dual-core 1.0GHz processor with 512MB of RAM and 4GB of storage. It has a 300mAh battery, which Samsung claims provides for two days of usage per charge.
Transit Wireless and the New York City Metropolitan Transit Authority today said more New York City residents will gain access to cellular service when using the subway. To start, Transit Wireless has completed Phase 2 of the project, which means 11 new stations in Manhattan and 29 stations in Queens are now connected with cellular and Wi-Fi service. Phase 3 will add service to Flushing Main Street Station in Queens, as well as stations in Lower Manhattan, West Harlem, and Washington Heights throughout 2015. Transit Wireless' project has seven phases in total, which will eventually bring connectivity to all 277 subway stations in New York by 2017. Wireless service is available from AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless.
Google today announced Android 5.0 Lollipop and with it the first few devices to run the new operating system, the Nexus 6 and the Nexus 9. The Nexus 6 is a large-screened smartphone made by Motorola. It has an aluminum frame and a 6-inch quad HD display with a 13-megapixel main camera. The camera includes optical image stabilization and HDR+ for improved low-light shots. The device has stereo-speakers with high-fidelity sound and comes with a turbo charger for fast charging. Google claims the device can get up to six hours of battery time after plugging it in for just 15 minutes. The Nexus 6 will be available for pre-order in late October and in stores in November. Google will sell an unlocked version through the Play Store, and the Nexus 6 will also be sold by AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, U.S. Cellular, and Verizon Wireless. The device costs $649 at full retail, which is $200 more than the Nexus 5. The Nexus 9 tablet is made by HTC and features an 8.9-inch 2048 x 1536 screen with a brushed aluminum design. It is run by a dual-core Tegra K1 64-bit processor with each core clocked at 2.3GHz. Other features include an 8.0-/1.6-megapixel camera configuration; BoomSound speakers; dual-band Wi-Fi, NFC, Bluetooth 4.0, and LTE; and a 6,700mAh battery. The Nexus 9 will be available for pre-order on October 17 and in stores starting November 3. The Wi-Fi model starts at $399.
U.S. Cellular today said it will soon offer the LG G3. The flagship device, which boasts a 5.5-inch quad HD display and 13-megapixel camera, will go on sale in October, though U.S. Cellular didn't say exactly when. U.S. Cellular said the phone will be available for $0 down followed by 24 monthly payments for well-qualified customers. The company didn't disclose the full retail price of the G3. The G3 has been available from other carriers for several months.
Consumer Cellular today said it plans to offer the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus beginning September 26. Consumer Cellular is asking for a down payment of $150 for the 16-GB iPhone 6, followed by 20 monthly payments of $25. The 64-GB and 128-GB models require down payments of $250 and $350, respectively, but keep the same $25 monthly payment. The 16-GB iPhone 6 Plus requires a down payment of $200 followed by 22 monthly payments of $25. The The 64-GB and 128-GB 6 Plus models require down payments of $300 and $400, respectively, but also keep the $25 monthly payment. Consumer Cellular said it will continue to sell the iPhone 5s and 5c, as well.
Samsung today said it will begin accepting preorders for the Galaxy Note 4 on September 19. The device won't ship, however, until October 17. Samsung said the Note 4 will be available in black and white, and it will be carried by AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, Verizon, and U.S. Cellular. Samsung said the phone will also be available at Samsung Experience Shops in Best Buy stores, as well as from Amazon, Costco, RadioShack, Sam's Club, Target, and Walmart. Individual carriers and retailers will provide their own pricing and availability details in the near future. AT&T was first to announce those details. AT&T said the Note 4 will cost $34.42 per month with AT&T Next 18; $41.30 per month with AT&T Next 12; $299.99 with a two-year agreement; or $826 at full retail. AT&T is offering a $100 bill credit to new/existing customers who activate a new line of service with the Note 4. Verizon is offering the Note 4 for $299 with a new contract and said Verizon Edge installment pricing will also be available. T-Mobile isn't accepting preorders until September 24, and it is asking for $0 down followed by $31.24 a month for 24 months.
AT&T's top exec today said the company won't offer WiFi calling on its devices until next year. WiFi Calling has been around for years, but was highlighted by Apple this week as a new feature in the iPhone 6/6 Plus. Further, T-Mobile announced this week plans to expand WiFi calling to all its smartphones with a new in-home hotspot. T-Mobile's WiFi service goes live soon, but AT&T is in no rush to compete. "We're very focused on making sure it's a great experience for customers, but we see it as a complement, not a replacement," said CEO Ralph de la Vega. "We feel good about a great nationwide network with unlimited talk and text." WiFi calling passes voice calls and text messages over a local WiFi network rather than the macro cellular network.
Samsung debuted a new smartwatch that can make and receive voice calls, as well as send and receive messages thanks to built-in 3G radios. The Gear S is based on Samsung's Tizen platform and features a 2-inch, curved Super AMOLED display with 360 x 480 pixels. In addition to 3G, the Gear S includes Bluetooth and Wi-Fi. Samsung says it can transition between cellular and Bluetooth connections seamlessly so it can function with and without a nearby smartphone. It includes Samsung's S Voice service for voice commands, and has an on-screen keyboard for composing messages. Other features include Samsung's S Health and fitness apps, music player and gallery apps, and the ability to receive notifications from a variety of services. The Gear S is powered by a dual-core 1.0GHz processor with 512MB of RAM and 4GB of storage. It has a 300mAh battery, which Samsung claims provides for two days of usage per charge. Samsung said the Gear S will be available in global markets beginning in October. Samsung didn't say how much the Gear S will cost.
Cellular One has indicated it plans to cease offering wireless service in the states of Montana and Wyoming. Cellular One has advised its customers there to find an alternate provider before August 31, which is when it plans to halt operations. Cellular One is endorsing AT&T and waiving ETFs so customers can switch their service. AT&T is offering Cellular One customers a $100 gift card, and will wave activation fees. Cellular One's retail outlets in Montana and Wyoming will be rebranded to AT&T. In a letter sent to customers earlier this summer, Cellular One said its business model "simply did not support the significant capital investment required to upgrade its Montana network to the 4G technology needed to remain competitive with the large national service providers." Sprint has assumed Cellular One's cell tower leasing rights, though it hasn't purchased any of Cellular One's spectrum, equipment, or customers. Small, regional carriers are finding it increasingly hard to compete against the national providers, which have enough revenue to invest in their networks on a country-wide level.
Radioshack and U.S. Cellular today announced a new distribution agreement that puts U.S. Cellular's devices on shelves in select Radioshack stores. U.S Cellular products and services can be purchased at 83 Radioshack locations across 12 states, including California, Illinois, Kansas, Maine, Missouri, North Carolina, Nebraska, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, Virginia, Wisconsin, and West Virginia. Radioshack is offering U.S. Cellular's postpaid plans, which include unlimited voice minutes and messaging, and various buckets of data. Radioshack also sells AT&T, Sprint, and Verizon Wireless postpaid service, as well as some prepaid services, including Sprint's Boost Mobile brand.
U.S. Cellular and ZTE today announced the Grand S Pro, a high-end Android smartphone that costs $99 with a two-year contract. The Grand S Pro features a 5-inch 720p display protected by Dragontrail Glass, and it is powered by a quad-core 2.3GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon processor with 2GB of RAM. The Grand S Pro includes a 13-megapixel main camera with LED flash, autofocus, 1080p HD video capture and Pro Mode, as well as a 2-megapixel user-facing camera for video chats and selfies. The phone had 8GB of built-in storage and supports microSD cards up to 32GB for added capacity. The Grand S Pro can access and use U.S. Cellular's LTE 4G network, and it includes dual-band Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0, NFC, MHL, and GPS. It runs Android 4.3 Jelly Bean and includes a 2,300mAh battery. The ZTE Grand S Pro is available starting today for $99 with a contract or $249 at full retail price.
The CTIA Wireless Association today said a number of handset makers and wireless network operators have agreed to a basic framework that will eventually provide consumers with better anti-theft tools for their smartphones. The Smartphone Anti-Theft Voluntary Commitment is meant to deter theft while also giving phone makers and carriers room to innovate. All the companies agreed to implement a baseline anti-theft tool preloaded on (or downloadable to) all wireless smartphones manufactured after July 2015. This tool will let consumers: remotely wipe their data; render the smartphone inoperable to unauthorized users; prevent reactivation without owner's consent; and reverse the inoperability of the device as well as restore the data to the device in the event it is found by the owner. Consumers will also be free to use whatever third-party anti-theft tools they wish in addition to those provided by the phone maker. All signatories will make the baseline anti-theft tool available with all its core features. The initial batch of companies signing the commitment include: Apple; Asurion; AT&T; Google; HTC America; Huawei; Motorola; Microsoft; Nokia; Samsung; Sprint; T-Mobile; U.S. Cellular; and Verizon Wireless. Some of those who haven't signed include Kyocera, LG, Sony, ZTE. A number of lawmakers lauded the commitment, which arrives several months after Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler mandated that wireless companies come up with such a solution or face regulatory intervention.
U.S. Cellular today announced several new initiatives it hopes will lure potential customers to the smaller operator. First, it is offering three new service plans. Customers can choose plans that cost $40, $50, or $60 per month. The first plan is for feature phones and includes unlimited voice and messaging, as well as an unspecified amount of simple web browsing. The second and third plans are for smartphones. The $50 option includes 500MB of data before throttling and the $60 option includes 2GB before throttling. U.S. Cellular added a device installment plan, too. Customers can choose to pay full price for their phone or break the device payments up over time. U.S. Cellular is not offering early upgrades, however. Last, U.S. Cellular will, for a temporary time, compensate new customers up to $350 if they switch from another carrier and join its Shared Connect plan with a device installment payment. U.S. Cellular's changes mirror those made by other companies in recent weeks, including Sprint and T-Mobile.
Sprint plans to add support for 700MHz Band 12 in some of its devices beginning next year. Sprint does not own any 700MHz spectrum, but hopes to use the 700MHz capabilities to forge better roaming agreements with small, regional carriers. It is part of Sprint's larger plan to expand the reach of its network through partnerships with competitors, such as the Competitive Carrier Association's Data Access Hub. Some of the carriers that support 700MHz Band 12 include U.S. Cellular and C Spire Wireless. Additionally, AT&T has agreed to support 700MHz Band 12 thanks to the FCC's interoperability agreement. Separately, Sprint has forged a partnership with NetAmerica and will together launch a project called the Smart Market Alliance for Rural Transformation. The partnership will operate similar to Verizon Wireless's LTE Rural America program in that Sprint will license its unused 800MHz and 1900MHz spectrum to NetAmerica members that want to build LTE networks of their own. Companies that choose this path will also have the option of using Sprint's core network. Regional carriers that build LTE using Sprint's spectrum will be able to provide their own customers with roaming on Sprint's network, and vice versa. The program helps Sprint as much as it does smaller carriers, as Sprint doesn't offer coverage in many rural areas.
U.S. Cellular today announced that its variant of the Samsung Galaxy S5 will be available for preorder beginning March 21. The device will reach stores April 11. It will cost $199.99 with a two-year contract. U.S. Cellular is offering $50 in Google Play Store credit to those who preorder the phone. The Gear 2 and Gear Fit wearable devices will also go on sale April 11.
A German court today dismissed a lawsuit filed by IPCom against Apple over smartphone patents. The patent in question covered technology that prioritized emergency calls even when cellular networks were overloaded. IPCom was seeking more than $2 billion in damages against Apple. Courts in Germany have dismissed similar claims made by IPCom, which is a patent holding company. The court did not provide a reason for today's dismissal.
Transit Wireless today announced that it has begun Phase Two of its project to bring cellular and Wi-Fi wireless service to New York City's subway stations. The first step of Phase Two is to light up service at 11 more midtown Manhattan stations, including those at Grand Central Terminal, 34th St. Herald Square, and Bryant Park. The bulk of Phase Two, however, targets 29 stations in Queens. Transit Wireless is building a hub in Queens to help manage the infrastructure from AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon Wireless. The Queens build out begins in March and should be complete by June. Transit Wireless has not said if or when it will offer subway station service in the boroughs of the Bronx or Brooklyn.
Motorola today released Android 4.4.2 KitKat for the U.S. Cellular variant of the Moto X. The update adds cloud printing, improves battery life, and resolves an email sync issue. The OS boost also includes several bug fixes. The update is free to download and install.
AT&T Mobility and Stelera Wireless have filed paperwork with the Federal Communications Commission seeking consent to transfer spectrum licenses from Stelera to AT&T. According to the FCC, Stelera acquired the licenses in 2006 at auction but later filed for bankruptcy. AT&T believes the transfer is in the public interest because it will put the spectrum to use to bolster its LTE 4G network. If approved, AT&T will gain 10 to 20MHz of AWS-1 A Block spectrum from Stelera in 55 counties in nine Cellular Market Areas across parts of Arkansas, Colorado, New Mexico, and Texas. If the deal goes through, AT&T will hold a total of 56 to 180MHz of spectrum in the CMAs involved, including 20 to 50MHz of AWS-1 spectrum. No dollar value was placed on the spectrum transfer. Verizon Wireless filed a similar request with the FCC regarding Stelera's other spectrum licenses last year.
U.S. Cellular today unveiled a new no-contract plan that offers unlimited voice, unlimited messaging, and 500MB of 3G/4G data for $50 per month. Users who exceed 500MB of data in a single billing period will see their speeds throttled for the remainder of the billing period. Alternately, customers can choose a plan that includes unlimited talk and text plus 2GB of data for $65 per month. The new plans can be paired with smartphones and don't require customers to sign two-year agreements.
T-Mobile is expanding the availability of its ETF-reimbursement program to the customers of other, smaller carriers. Speaking to Re/Code, T-Mobile marketing chief Mike Sievert said the company will reimburse subscribers early termination fees if they come from regional carriers, such as U.S. Cellular and others, that require contracts. The deal provides potential customers with up to $350 per line to cover ETFs, and up to another $300 for device trade-ins. Additionally, T-Mobile expanded the number of handsets that it will accept as trade-ins to increase the appeal for consumers considering the jump. The program was first unveiled by T-Mobile during the recent Consumer Electronics Show.
U.S. Cellular today announced that it has made progress in repairing the damage done to its billing system when it switched to a new system last year. The company made significant changes to its billing processes in July 2013 and was immediately beset with billing issues. The problems led to a backlash from customers, who besieged the company's social media and support sites. U.S. Cellular claims that nearly all the erroneous bills generated by the system have been resolved. "Notwithstanding the progress our teams have been making in commercializing this new system, the experience we delivered to our customers was below our standards," said CEO Kenneth R. Meyers. "Individual customers have experienced delays in activation and billing backlogs, which have created customer confusion. As a token of our appreciation for our customers' patience, we issued reward points to every account in the program. This almost $50 million investment, which will impact profitability in the fourth quarter, is our way of showing customers they can and should expect more from us."
U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar has written a letter to the CEOs of the country's five largest wireless network operators requesting that they do more to help curb cell phone theft. Klobuchar points out that nearly one-third of all robberies involves a cell phone, and stolen mobile devices take a $30 billion toll on consumers each year. Lawmakers in California and New York recently attempted to convince the carriers (AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, U.S. Cellular, and Verizon Wireless) to add kill switches to their devices. The tool would allow consumers whose devices are lost or stolen to permanently deactivate their phone. Lawmakers believe that this will help curb the illegal resale of cell phones and eventually reduce robberies. Samsung developed such a kill switch, but carriers shot the idea down over fears of lost insurance revenue. "Your five companies [serve] more than 90 percent of the nation's wireless subscribers," wrote Klobuchar. "With that market share comes an obligation to do all you can to utilize technologies available to protect consumers. While I understand your companies are continuing to work with law enforcement on the stolen cell phone database, it is clear that consumers want and deserve a comprehensive strategy to prevent mobile device thefts." Klobuchar asked the carriers to send her information about any offers made by handset makers to add kill switches, and why they didn't adopt them; information on whether or not the carriers have considered devices with features similar to Apple's activation lock; and details on how each company will include kill switches on future products at no cost to consumers. Klobuchar gave the carriers until January 9 to respond.
Verizon Wireless today completed its planned acquisition of select assets from U.S. Cellular. Specifically, Verizon is snagging some of U.S. Cellular's spectrum, networking gear, and customers in the St. Louis, Mo., metropolitan area. The spectrum licenses cover approximately 110,000 POPs in an area greater than 1,700 square miles. U.S. Cellular customers in the affected region will receive a welcome letter from Verizon in the coming weeks. Verizon will continue to operate the assets as U.S. Cellular until Verizon completes its LTE build-out in the region, which is expected by mid-2014. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
Facebook pushed out an update to its iOS application that enables auto-play for videos embedded in newsfeed posts. The videos will play silently until the user taps the screen to turn on sound. The update is free.
The Federal Communications Commission today approved changes today that will eventually lead to interoperability in the Lower 700MHz spectrum band. The order addresses interference concerns by modifying the technical terms governing the power used in the D and E Blocks. Further, the FCC believes Channel 51 will not disturb B and C Block, and wants to modify AT&T's existing B and C Block licenses to account for changes proposed by AT&T earlier this year. The FCC said, "The terms of the voluntary agreement serve the public interest by encouraging efficient use of spectrum and enabling consumers to enjoy the benefits of greater competition. The standards developed by several wireless providers, along with the Competitive Carriers Association, will also give consumers more choice in using their devices with large and small carriers alike and will promote widespread deployment of mobile broadband services, especially in rural areas." AT&T and Verizon Wireless operated their LTE 4G networks in the 700MHz spectrum band, as do several smaller carriers. The smaller network operators petitioned the FCC to create these interoperability changes so that their devices will work on their own networks, as well as those of their competitors. AT&T responded by saying, "We are pleased to see the FCC moving swiftly to address these interference issues consistent with the negotiated solution. The action the Commission takes today, under continued leadership by Chairwoman Clyburn, is a critical step to achieving 700Mhz interoperability that will in turn foster industry investment and deployment in the 700MHz band to the benefit of U.S. wireless consumers."
Verizon Wireless hopes to purchase some B Block AWS spectrum from U.S. Cellular, according to paperwork filed with the Federal Communications Commission. Specifically, Verizon is eyeing 20MHz of AWS-1 spectrum in 53 counties in 14 Cellular Market Areas (CMAs) across parts of Illinois and Missouri near the St. Louis region. According to the FCC, if the transaction is approved, Verizon would own 62-117MHz of spectrum across these CMAs, 40MHz of which would be AWS-1. Verizon said it wants the spectrum to supplement its LTE network in the region. Verizon is using AWS spectrum (1700MHz) in addition to 700MHz for its 4G network. It has already begun deploying LTE in the AWS band in some markets. The companies did not place a dollar value on the transaction. The FCC has accepted the paperwork and will begin the review process.
Samsung today announced that the Galaxy S4 Mini will become available from the top U.S. network operators beginning in November. The GS4 Mini was first announced in May. AT&T, Sprint, U.S. Cellular, and Verizon Wireless have all agreed to sell the phone. The Mini swaps out the S4's 5-inch FHD display for a qHD 4.3-inch display; it drops the 13-megapixel camera down to 8 megapixels; and changes out the quad-core processor in favor of a 1.7GHz dual-core processor. The user-facing camera rates 1.9 megapixels and the Mini includes many of the same imaging features found in its larger stablemate. The Mini also carries over the GS4's multitude of apps, such as S Translator, S Health, WatchOn, Samsung Hub, and others. The Galaxy S4 Mini has 8GB of internal memory (5GB accessible by users), 1.5GB of RAM, and supports microSD cards up to 64GB. It includes GPS and GLONASS, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0, and an IR blaster for the remote control app. Availability and pricing will be carrier dependent.
U.S. Cellular today announced that it will offer the Apple iPhone 5s and iPhone 5c beginning November 8. U.S. Cellular didn't announce pricing details. It is already for sale from most other U.S. carriers.
U.S. Cellular today announced new service plans that allow both consumer and business customers to share data between devices. U.S. Cellular's plans support up to 10 devices (25 for business customers), which can be made from a mix of basic phones, smartphones, tablets, and modems/hotspots. Smartphones have a monthly device connection charge of $40, basic phones cost $30, hotspots/modems cost $20, and tablets cost $10. Shared data packages start at 1GB for $50 per month and range up to 10GB for $100. All the plans include unlimited voice minutes and messaging. Data-only plans are available for tablets and hotspots/modems that start at $10 per month for 1GB of data. The same monthly device connection charges apply. U.S. Cellular still offers basic phone users its Talk and Text Only Plans, which include 450 minutes and unlimited messaging for $50. U.S. Cellular's new shared data plans are available beginning today.
U.S. Cellular has yet to properly rectify problems with its billing system that began earlier this year. In July, the company switched billing systems and immediately ran into trouble. Customers flooded the company with complaints. According to the Milwaukee-Wisconsin Journal Sentinel, the issues haven't been resolved and are leading to double billing, erroneous billing, and other problems for customers. U.S. Cellular's Facebook page is full of customers lashing out at the company's inability to properly process billing and payments. In a letter sent to customers, U.S. Cellular said, "We are working to resume normal billing. However, these billing delays may cause you to receive multiple bills in a shorter period of time over the next few months. We have changed your due dates to allow you additional time to pay. We also are working individually with customers to handle account-specific issues." The company indicated that the issues may not be resolved until November. The problem has prompted Wisconsin consumer protection officials to launch an investigation.
AT&T today announced its commitment to supporting band 12 with its LTE network and devices in the 700 MHz range. The move will make it much easier for smaller carriers such as U.S. Cellular and Cricket to move forward with their LTE networks in the Lower 700 MHz band. AT&T has previously only supported band 17 and offered band 17 devices, which do not support the lower-frequency blocks of the 700 MHz band licensed by the smaller carriers. Band 12 is a superset of band 17, covering both the lower frequencies used by the smaller carriers and the higher frequencies used by AT&T. Manufacturers have tended to focus more effort toward phones for larger carriers such as AT&T (with band 17), leaving smaller carriers with few band 12 phones that work with their LTE networks. Now that AT&T has committed to offering band 12 devices, more devices should be available to the smaller carriers. AT&T previously objected to supporting band 12, citing interference concerns. The FCC has been re-examining the issue of 700 MHz band interoperability recently, putting pressure on AT&T.