Like AT&T, Verizon Wireless is upset with the tactics used by Dish Networks in the recent AWS-3 spectrum auction. It accused the firm of artificially raising prices by creating perceived demand where in fact there was none. Dish used three smaller entities to place bids in the auction, but didn't place any bids itself. Verizon claims Dish closely managed these three entities, two of which ended up winning $13.3 billion in spectrum licenses, beating out Verizon and others. Further, because Dish used to smaller entities to bid for the spectrum, it scored a $3 billion discount on the license costs. Verizon filed a petition with the FCC asking the agency to look into Dish's actions. Dish, however, defended its tactics. "Anyone who's been in auctions knows that's impossible to do," argued Dish Chairman Charlie Ergen. "There was nothing artificial about it. We wanted to win the licenses. We were disappointed we didn't win all the licenses." The FCC hasn't said if it might take any action against Dish.
Softcard today indicated that the Windows Phone version of the Softcard mobile payment application will be discontinued. "The Softcard for Windows Phone app will be terminated. A specific termination date will be provided soon," said Softcard in a statement on a new FAQ web site published today. Softcard was developed by AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless. Supported devices, including a handful of Windows Phones sold by AT&T and Verizon, can use Softcard to make tap-and-go mobile payments at participating retailers. Google purchased Softcard's assets from AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon earlier this week to bolster its own Google Wallet application. The three carriers have agreed to preload Google Wallet on their Android handsets moving forward. Wallet competed with Softcard. Softcard didn't indicate how soon the Windows Phone app will be deactivated. Without it, Windows Phone handsets won't have the same mobile payment options available to Android and iOS devices.
LG today announced the global launch of the G Flex 2, its second-generation curved handset. LG said major carriers in the U.S., Hong Kong, Singapore, France, Germany, and the U.K are rolling the device out first. Sprint has already said when it will sell the phone, though AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon have remained mum on their G Flex 2 plans. LG said a second wave of operators in North and South America, Europe, and Asia will begin selling the G Flex 2 later in March. LG first revealed the G Flex 2 at the Consumer Electronics Show in January. The G Flex 2 is a curved smartphone that is flexible and has a self-healing rear cover. The phone features a Snapdragon 810 processor, 13-megapixel camera, 5.5-inch screen, and 3,000mAh battery.
Verizon Wireless today said it will sell the BlackBerry Classic smartphone beginning Feb. 26. It will be available online first, and is expected to reach stores on March 5. Verizon is charging $100 for the Classic with a two-year contract, and is also offering the Classic through its Edge monthly payment program. The BlackBerry Classic has a touch screen and physical QWERTY keyboard. It supports Verizon's XLTE 4G service and has a 1.5GHz dual-core processor. The Classic runs BlackBerry OS 10.3.
Google today announced that AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless have agreed to preload Google Wallet on their Android smartphones later this year. The mobile wallet will come on all devices running Android 4.4 KitKat and higher. At the same time, Google is purchasing intellectual property from Softcard -- the mobile payment service created by the same three carriers -- to help improve Wallet's performance. Softcard said its users will be able to continue to make tap-and-go payments at supporting retailers for the time being. Both Google and Softcard said more information will be made available in the coming weeks. Google is looking to revive its mobile wallet product after seeing Apple's success with Apple Pay, which is only available to the iPhone. Google Wallet has been around since 2011.
Verizon Wireless today announced plans to sell the Samsung Galaxy Core Prime smartphone beginning on Feb. 26. The device, which is also being sold as the Galaxy Prevail LTE, is a mid-range smartphone that has a 4.5-inch screen, Snapdragon 400 processor, and a 5-megapixel camera. The phone will ship with Verizon's Advanced Calling 1.0 feature for VoLTE, and though it ships with Android 4.4 KitKat, it will be upgraded to Android 5.0 Lollipop shortly after release. Verizon is asking $29.99 with a two-year contract or $8 per month via Verizon Edge.
AT&T today accused rival Dish Networks of creating artificial demand for spectrum and raising prices in the recently concluded auction for AWS-3 spectrum. Dish itself did not bid in the auction and instead had three smaller companies participate on its behalf. "The Dish entities acting in concert triple and double bid licenses in the auction nearly 4,000 times," wrote Joan Marsh, AT&T's vice president of federal regulatory, in a blog post. "During one round of the auction, because of their triple bidding tactics, the Dish entities collectively had close to $30 billion in bids while their actual financial exposure was only one-third of that. None of this suggests independent decision making by either of the DE bidders, which ultimately won over $13.3 billion worth of licenses with a $3.3 billion 'small business' discount. This conduct circumvented auction activity rules, masked actual demand and distorted the auction. As a result, Dish the corporate entity won NO licenses. The Dish DEs, who each enjoyed a 25% discount, won substantial allocations." Earlier this month, FCC commissioner Ajit Pai made similar complaints and said Dish's tactics made a "mockery" of the auction. Pai and AT&T called on the FCC to review Dish's practices. Dish, however, said it complied with the rules and disclosed its bidding plans before the auction took place. AT&T spent $18 billion in the auction, while rival Verizon Wireless spent $10 billion. AT&T is also unhappy Dish holds spectrum that it isn't using to provide wireless services. The auction generated more than $41 billion in wining bids, nearly four times the $10.56 billion reserve set by the FCC.
Gemalto found itself at the center of a new hacking scandal this week after The Intercept reported the SIM card maker was compromised by the NSA and the UK's Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ). The Intercept claims the U.S. and British spy agencies stole the encryption keys for SIM cards so they would be able to secretly monitor cell phone users around the world. With the keys in hand, the agencies could snoop around completely undetected by the targets or the network operators, and could do so without warrants. SIM cards are used in most mobile phones to identify the customer and allow the device to access the network. They are protected by light encryption, but only to prevent fraud -- not hacking. Possessing the encryption keys to the cards allowed the agencies to bypass the built-in security measures completely. In order to do this, the agencies monitored Gemalto employees and eventually broke into Gemalto's computer systems. The hacks took place in 2010, and Gemalto was completely unaware of the breech until contacted by The Intercept. The company issued a statement today, saying, "Gemalto is especially vigilant against malicious hackers, and has detected, logged and mitigated many types of attempts over the years. At present we cannot prove a link between those past attempts and what was reported yesterday. We take this publication very seriously and will devote all resources necessary to fully investigate and understand the scope of such sophisticated techniques." Gemalto is the world's largest manufacturer of SIM cards and ships about two billion SIM cards per year. The company is headquartered in The Netherlands, but has a large office in Texas and a manufacturing plant in Pennsylvania. AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless all use Gemalto SIM cards in their mobile devices, as do 450 other mobile network operators around the globe. The Intercept's report is based on documents released by NSA leaker Edward Snowden.
T-Mobile CEO John Legere today asked consumers to help guide the FCC's rule-making process for the upcoming 600MHz reverse auction. Legere hopes consumers will write to the FCC and ask the agency to create rules that will lead to more competition. Legere pointed to the recent AWS-3 spectrum auction, which he called "a disaster for American wireless consumers," as proof of the need for action. AT&T and Verizon Wireless, or the "Twin Bells" according to Legere, won the bulk of the AWS-3 spectrum auctioned off by the FCC. Legere says this can't happen with the 600MHz auction, which is for valuable low-band spectrum. "Three companies alone spent an insane $42 billion between them, grabbing a ridiculous 94% of the spectrum sold at [the AWS-3] auction," argued Legere. "This whole thing should scare the hell out of you and every other wireless consumer in the U.S., because there is another important auction coming next year, and the results have to be different if wireless competition is going survive." Legere wants the FCC to reserve 40MHz or at least half the available spectrum for companies other than AT&T and Verizon. Further, he wants the government to mandate that auction winners use the spectrum to provide mobile service rather than allow it "to be collected and traded like financial securities." Legere has always been outspoken about his feelings for T-Mobile's competitors. Today's appeal to the public for support is more direct that his previous efforts.
Dan Mead, who has served as the CEO of Verizon Wireless since 2010, plans to retire according to filings the company made with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Mead will remain on the board of directors and serve as executive vice president and president of strategic initiatives. He'll stay in that role until Verizon Communications finalizes its sale of certain landline and FiOS assets to Frontier Communications. Once that is completed in mid 2016, Mead will retire fully. Mead has been replaced by John Stratton, formerly Verizon's executive vice president and president of Verizon's global enterprise and consumer wireline business. Stratton's new title is executive vice president and president of operations. He'll be in charge of both the wireless and wireline businesses. Both Mead and Stratton report to Verizon Communications CEO Lowell McAdam. AT&T and Sprint have also installed new CEOs in the last six months. Glen Lurie succeeded Ralph de la Vega at AT&T and Marcelo Claure took over for Dan Hesse at Sprint. T-Mobile's John Legere has been serving as CEO since fall 2012.
Verizon today said it doesn't believe it will need to make any more large spectrum acquisitions following the results of the recent AWS-3 spectrum auction. Verizon netted 181 spectrum licenses at a cost of $10.4 billion. The licenses cover 192 million POPs, or about 60% of Americans. Post auction, Verizon now has 40MHz of AWS spectrum covering 95% of the country's major markets, and 60MHz of mid-band spectrum covering about 84% of the population. Verizon may, when the opportunity arises, make small spectrum acquisitions or even lease spectrum, such as Sprint's 2.5GHz airwaves. For now, however, the company will focus on making the most-efficient use possible of its existing spectrum resources. Verizon said carrier aggregation will help a lot, and indicated that small cell deployments will further fill in a lot of gaps. Verizon also said it plans to more aggressively refarm its PCS spectrum, converting it from 3G to LTE 4G. Verizon's winnings ranked third in the AWS-3 auction, behind AT&T's massive $18 billion expenditure and Dish Networks' $13 billion. AT&T and Verizon have been forced to sell some assets in order to keep their balance sheets in order. For example, Verizon recently announced plans to sell some of its landline and fiber business assets to Frontier Communications. It is also selling some of its cell towers.
Wireless network operators are now required to unlock customers' phones once the phones are paid off or no longer under contract. Today's change follows an agreement forged between the FCC, the CTIA Wireless Association and carriers in December 2013. That agreement set a number of provisions, some of which were to be met in May 2014 and the rest by today. AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, U.S. Cellular, and Verizon Wireless all agreed to the unlocking policies. Under the terms of the agreement, carriers are required to post clear details that define which phones can and cannot be unlocked to their web site. Carriers are required to unlock all phones upon request as long as customers have fulfilled their contractual obligations. Prepaid devices will be unlocked no later than one year after their initial activation date. Carriers have to unlock devices within two days after customers request that their phones be unlocked, or initiate a request with the OEM to unlock the device, or explain to consumers why their device cannot be unlocked. The carriers have to notify customers proactively once their devices are eligible to be unlocked. Last, carriers have to unlock the devices of all deployed military personnel who are in good standing. The carriers' individual unlocking policies vary slightly.
Microsoft today said the Lumia Denim system update is now available to the Nokia Lumia Icon, which is sold by Verizon Wireless. The update makes numerous changes to the behavior of the camera, including a faster shutter and 4K video capture, and also adds Live Folders and an updated Glance screen. According to Microsoft, Lumia Icon owners need to have 1GB of free internal storage in order to install the update, which can be downloaded and installed via WiFi.
Sprint CTO Stephen Bye says the FCC's move to reclassify broadband under Title II won't stifle telecom companies' investment in building new networks. AT&T and Verizon have warned the FCC that strict regulation of broadband is likely to decrease investment and harm consumers in the long term. Sprint sees things differently. "Our competitors are going to continue to invest so they are representing a situation that won't play out," said Bye in an interview with Reuters. "The notion that some of our competitors are suggesting that they will stop investing if Title II is brought into effect... That's something we've refused." Bye points to the recent FCC spectrum auction as proof. AT&T spent $18 billion to purchase AWS-3 spectrum licenses, Dish spent $13 billion, and Verizon spent $10.3 billion. All three companies made those investments while fully aware of the FCC's plans for regulating broadband. Sprint does not see Title II reclassification as a problem. "It's one of those topics that is highly charged, highly politicized and we took a step back and said it works in the interest of our customers, our consumers and the industry and we frankly found some of the arguments (of our competitors) to be less than compelling."
Democratic senators have sent letters to the FTC and FCC asking them to investigate Verizon's use of supercookies, particularly how they pertain to consumer privacy. The supercookies allow Verizon to track customer behavior, including web browsing history, for advertising purposes and cannot be turned off. Security researchers recently discovered that the supercookies, unique codes assigned to subscribers, could be used by third parties to track consumers and were in fact used to that end by a company called Turn. Once Verizon learned of Turn's use of the supercookies it quickly reversed course and said it will allow consumers to opt out. The senators aren't happy with Verizon's actions and wonder if it violated its customers' privacy. Verizon said it takes its customers' privacy seriously and will respond to the letters.
RadioShack today filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and signed an agreement to sell approximately 1,750 of its stores to Sprint. Under the terms of RadioShack's Chapter 11 filing, RadioShack will sell the stores to Sprint and General Wireless, a subsidiary of one of RadioShack's major investors. Moving forward, these stores will be co-branded Sprint and RadioShack, with Sprint being the primary brand. Sprint will own about 30% of the real estate within each store to sell Sprint, Boost Mobile, and Virgin Mobile USA products. The remaining 70% will be set aside for RadioShack to sell its own branded gear and other electronics. Sprint did not say what will happen to the AT&T, GoPhone, Net10 Wireless, Verizon Wireless and Tracfone phones that are currently offered by RadioShack. Presumably they will be no longer be sold. Sprint currently has more than 1,100 company-owned retail stores, which would more than double if the transaction is approved. RadioShack listed about $1.2 billion in assets and $1.39 billion in debts. A bankruptcy court will have to approve RadioShack's plans before Sprint can make its purchase official.
Verizon Communications today confirmed plans to sell part of its wireline telephone and internet business to Frontier Communications for $10 billion. The deal covers Verizon's consumer and business assets in California, Florida, and Texas. Frontier will pay $9.9 billion in cash and assume another $600 million in debt. The deal is the largest ever for Frontier, though the proposal will require regulatory approval before it can be completed. Verizon also agreed to sell the rights to more than 11,300 of its cell towers to American Tower for $5 billion. American will purchase 165 towers outright. Verizon will lease space on the towers for a period of at least 10 years. Verizon is looking to strengthen its balance sheet after taking on debt to buy Vodafone's stake of Verizon Wireless and to purchase $10.3 billion worth of spectrum in the recent AWS-3 auction. Verizon also plans to buy back about $5 billion in stock. Together, the deals announced today will net Verizon about $15 billion. Verizon expects the tower sale to close during the second quarter of this year, but the asset sale to Frontier likely won't close for a full calendar year.
Verizon Wireless today said it is altering its lineup of More Everything plans beginning Feb. 5. The lower-tier plans will provide for some cost savings, though the higher-tier plans will cost a bit more thanks to a holiday promotion that expires Feb. 4. The new data plans stretch from 500MB for $20 per month to 20GB for $140 per month. Verizon will offer a 1GB plan for $30, a 2GB plan for $40, a 3GB plan for $50, a 4GB plan for $60, a 6GB plan for $70, an 8GB plan for $85, a 10GB plan for $100, a 12GB plan for $110, a 14GB plan for $120, and a 16GB plan for $130. According to Verizon, customers who choose a More Everything plans of 6GB or higher can add smartphones on Verizon Edge for only $15 a month after a $25 access discount per line. Last, new customers who port their wireless number from another carrier and activate a Verizon smartphone on Edge will receive an additional one-time $100 bill credit. The new rates and bill credit offer go into effect Thursday.
AT&T hopes to offset some of its debt by selling certain assets, reports Reuters. In particular, AT&T may offload several data centers worth about $2 billion, according to sources familiar with AT&T's plans. AT&T will need to write the government a check for $18 billion to cover the spectrum licenses it won during the recent AWS-3 auction. AT&T has hired a financial planner to help finalize the sales. AT&T has already sold other assets, including portions of its wireline business and some of its cell towers. AT&T didn't comment on Reuters' story. Verizon Wireless is expected to sell assets, too, in order to strengthen its balance sheet. Verizon spent about $10 billion in the same auction.
Verizon Communications has lined up several deals that will earn it up to $10 billion, reports the Wall Street Journal. The company took on a massive amount of debt to buy Vodafone's portion of Verizon Wireless last year. It will also soon need to pay the government $10.4 billion for licenses it won in the recent AWS-3 spectrum auction. Verizon, which said last month it might explore asset sales, may sell some of its cell towers and a portion of its wireline business in select markets, according to the Journal's sources. Verizon may announce the deals later this week, but the company did not comment on the Journal's article.
Verizon Wireless today said owners of the Samsung Galaxy S5 can expect to see Android 5.0 Lollipop hit their device in the days ahead. The update carries with it Google's Material Design, including improved notifications, as well as some Samsung-made changes. For example, Samsung added a short cut to the phone on the home screen. Samsung added the Material Design floating action button to its own Touch Wiz user interface, too. The update includes new ways to manage incoming interruptions and also makes improvements to multitasking. Android 5.0 Lollipop is free to download and install. The update is being pushed out in phases and may take time to reach all users.
AT&T today said its winnings from the recently concluded FCC AWS-3 spectrum auction give it a near contiguous 10x10MHz block of spectrum across much of the country. The J Block spectrum covers 306 million people, or 96% of the U.S. population and 96 of the top 100 markets. AT&T said it expects to begin deploying LTE service on the spectrum in the 2017-2018 timeframe. It will initially use the spectrum to supplement its downlink services. AT&T needs to work with the FCC, NTIA, DOD, and other federal agencies so it can eventually support uplink capacity. AT&T spent $18.2 billion to acquire the licenses. "Growth in our customers' mobile data usage continues to explode, driven by mobile video traffic. This spectrum investment will be critical to AT&T staying ahead of customer demand and facilitate the next generation of mobile video entertainment," said AT&T's John Stankey, chief strategy officer. AT&T said data traffic on its network has increased 100,000 percent from January 2007 through December 2014. Verizon also commented on its winnings. Verizon scored 181 licenses covering 192 million POPs, or 61% of the U.S. Verizon said it would have more to say about its plans for the spectrum next month.
The FCC today published a list of companies that placed winning bids for the AWS-3 spectrum auction. The FCC auctioned off 1,600 licenses, for which 70 companies were competing. The 10X10MHz J Block was the most coveted section of airwaves. The G, H, and I blocks are all 5x5MHz channels, but also saw competitive bidding. AT&T and Verizon won many of the J Block segments. For example, AT&T placed a $2.76 billion winning bid for J Block spectrum covering New York City. Verizon, however, won the J Block covering Washington, D.C., and Baltimore with a $966 million bid. Aside from AT&T and Verizon, T-Mobile, Northstar Wireless, Advantage Spectrum, and SNR Wireless LicenseCo (Dish) won the majority of the licenses. The FCC was hoping to raise $10.54 billion and instead raised $41.32 billion. AT&T's bids alone totaled $18.2 billion, while Verizon bid $10.4 billion and T-Mobile bid $1.8 billion. The two bidding entities tied to Dish Networks totaled $13 billion. The $41.3 billion auction total is slightly smaller than the FCC earlier reported due to discounts and incentives.
Verizon Wireless today reversed its stance regarding ad-targeting programs and will allow customers to opt out of its "supercookie" tracking tool. The company was under fire from privacy advocates, including the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Consumer Watchdog, as the supercookies track customer behavior, including web browsing history, and cannot be turned off. "Verizon takes customer privacy seriously and it is a central consideration as we develop new products and services. Delivering solutions with best-in-class privacy protections remains our focus," said the company in a statement provided to the New York Times. "We listen to our customers and provide them the ability to opt out of our advertising programs. We have begun working to expand the opt-out to include the identifier referred to as the UIDH, and expect that to be available soon. As a reminder, Verizon never shares customer information with third parties as part of our advertising programs." Verizon didn't say when customers will be able to opt out. AT&T tested a similar program last year, but eventually decided against using it.
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel today announced an initiative along with AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless that will see the city's subway system upgraded with LTE 4G. The City of Chicago and Chicago Transit Authority have agreed to fund the project with $32.5 million. The four carriers will undertake the upgrade themselves with a distributed antenna system, or DAS. The existing system has been in place nearly 10 years and is now outdated. Emanuel said the project will deliver continuous 4G coverage along the 22-mile stretch between O-Hare airport through the tunnels and platforms of the Red and Blue Lines. Work on the project actually began earlier this month and will be complete by the end of the year. Los Angeles recently announced a similar initiative. Boston, New York City, and Washington, D.C., also offer underground cell service in their respective transit systems.
The FCC today adopted rules it first proposed last year that will eventually help first responders to locate people who call 911 from their cell phones faster. Specifically, the FCC wants first responders to be able to better locate people within buildings. With today's technology, first responders still have trouble determining from which building wireless 911 calls originate from, let alone the floor and/or apartment or suite. The FCC has laid out clear, measurable goals for carriers to provide X, Y, and Z coordinates to help place callers as accurately as a specific room inside a building. Last fall, the CTIA Wireless Association along with members AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless laid out their own plan to meet the FCC's demands. The FCC said it understands that there's no silver bullet and knows carriers will need to rely on multiple different technologies to reach the benchmarks it has set in place. The FCC said it will allow the operators some leeway in developing their own standards as long as they meet the location accuracy requirements.
Verizon Wireless plans to increase fees it charges customers when they activate a new line of service or upgrade to a new device. On Feb. 5, Verizon will increase the activation fee from $35 to $40 and increase the upgrade fee from $30 to $40. "These fees are not unique to Verizon and help offset costs associated with upgrades, activations, and other operational costs," said Verizon spokesperson David Samberg in an email to Phone Scoop. "Verizon Wireless is committed to the fees remaining competitive within the wireless industry." According to Verizon, it hasn't increased the activation fee in more than 10 years. It last increased the upgrade fee in 2012.
The FCC today said it has fined Verizon $5 million for failing to investigate claims of low call connection rates in rural areas. According to the FCC, Verizon didn't look into consumer complaints over an eight month period in 2013 regarding failed wireless and wired calls in 26 rural regions. Verizon is to pay $2 million to the U.S. Treasury and set aside $3 million more to improve call connection rates over the next three years. "Rural call completion problems have significant and immediate public interest ramifications," said the FCC. "They cause rural businesses to lose customers, impede medical professionals from reaching patients in rural areas, cut families off from their relatives, and create the potential for dangerous delays in public safety communications." Verizon signed a consent decree admitting its wrongdoing. The decree also lists a number of steps Verizon has agreed to take to resolve the issue, such as appoint an ombudsman to analyze call completion data, monitor call connection rates in rural areas, and investigate when connection rates fall behold a set threshold.
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.
Verizon Wireless will not follow AT&T and T-Mobile's data rollover programs with one of its own. "We're a leader, not a follower," said Verizon CFO Fran Shammo. AT&T and T-Mobile allow customers to roll unused data over to the next month. T-Mobile launched its program in December and AT&T followed it in early January. Shammo said Verizon understands that it will lose some customers over such features, but noted, "We did not go to places where we did not financially want to go to save a customer." Carriers often respond to pricing and service plan changes made by competitors.
AT&T and Verizon Wireless have challenged a ruling made by the FCC in December regarding data roaming rates. The FCC sided with an argument made by T-Mobile about how reasonable roaming rates are calculated. The FCC is not going to set rates, but will "provide guidance on the application of the commercial reasonableness standard" with respect to data roaming rates. AT&T and Verizon fought the FCC ahead of the ruling and have now filed petitions asking the FCC to reverse its decision. "Responding to a nakedly self-interested plea from T-Mobile for additional leverage in its commercial negotiations with AT&T, the [FCC] issued a declaratory ruling that purports to 'clarify' the Commission's rules, provide 'additional guidance,' and 'lessen ambiguity,' but has in fact thrown the Commission's entire data roaming regime into confusion," argued AT&T. Verizon accuses the FCC of not following the proper protocol when making the ruling. "These changes were unlawful because modifications to the Data Roaming Order must be made through rulemaking--and must be made by the full Commission, not by the Bureau. They also undermine the Commission's policy decision to ensure that its roaming rules do not cause carriers to rely on roaming rather than to expand their coverage and invest in building out facilities." The FCC hasn't responded to AT&T and Verizon. T-Mobile asked the FCC to change the rules because it believes AT&T is overcharging for data roaming.
AT&T has padded its balance sheet with cash as the AWS-3 spectrum auction winds down. The company has lined up loans and credit facilities totaling $9.2 billion. The company also made billions of dollars of bonds available to investors late last year. Verizon is weighing whether or not to sell some of its landline assets in select markets to help pay for the new spectrum, though it hasn't made a final determination. Bids for the AWS-3 auction have reached about $45 billion and AT&T and Verizon Wireless are likely leading the bids.
Verizon Wireless today refreshed its prepaid service plan options and gave them more flexibility with data allotments. For example, Verizon doubled the data available to the entry-level $45 plan, which now includes 1GB of data each month instead of 500MB. The $45 plan also includes unlimited voice minutes and texting, and unlimited texting to Mexico and Canada. Data add-ons cost $5, $10, or $20 per month for 500MB, 1GB, or 3GB, respectively, above the standard allotment. Verizon is also offering a 500MB bonus to customers who sign up for auto-pay. Customers can add unlimited calling to Canada and Mexico for $10. The new prepaid rates are available starting today.
Verizon Wireless today said it has completed upgrades to its service along portions of San Francisco's BART public transit system. Verizon has enhanced coverage with XLTE (1700MHz) throughout BART tunnels, stations, and the Transbay Tube. Verizon said the Colma to Millbrae section of BART will see similar service upgrades by the middle of the year. In addition to XLTE, Verizon Wireless' Advanced Calling 1.0 (VoLTE) with HD Voice service is also available throughout the BART system. San Francisco's BART transports 400,000 riders every day.
Deutsche Telekom, majority owner of T-Mobile, believes the Uncarrier's best chances of success are to merge with or be acquired by another large carrier. Deutsche Telekom CEO Tim Hoettges, speaking to Re/code, said T-Mobile lacks the scale enjoyed by rivals AT&T and Verizon Wireless. Without that scale, it will be hard for T-Mobile to compete in the long run. "I was intrigued by the idea of having a combination with Sprint and being the 'super-maverick' in the market," said Hoettges, "I hope that the political environment will change at one point in time." Sprint's parent, SoftBank, abandoned the idea of acquiring T-Mobile last year after regulators said the deal would face major hurdles in scoring approval. While Hoettges praised T-Mobile CEO John Legere for enacting change and turning the company around with aggressive promotions, he said T-Mobile cannot hold its current course indefinitely. "The question is always the economics in the long term," said Hoettges. "You have to earn your money back at one point in time."
Verizon Communications' telematics business today unveiled Verizon Vehicle, a connected module that plugs into cars and provides internet access. Verizon Vehicle is meant to bring online services to older cars that shipped without such connections built in. The module, which plugs into a car's diagnostic port, can diagnose mechanical problems, summon tow trucks or roadside assistance, or allow a live technician to access the car's computer remotely to suggest potential fixes. Jeff Leddy, chief executive officer of Verizon Telematics, told Bloomberg that the company wanted to offer people safety and security services first, which is why the initial batch of features mirror those of OnStar. It may later add turn-by-turn navigation or concierge services. The module is compatible with some 9,000 models released since 1996. Verizon did not say how much the module and associated service will cost, but said it plans to launch Verizon Vehicle during the second quarter.
One of the top four U.S. carriers has agreed to sell the YotaPhone 2, according to YotaPhone executive Matthew Kelly. Kelly would not specify which of the four carriers (AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, Verizon Wireless) plans to sell the phone, but he said it is coming later this year. The YotaPhone 2 is notable because it has two displays: a standard LCD panel on the front and an e-ink display on the back. The e-ink display can be used to conserve battery power, as it draws about one-seventh as much energy as an LCD screen. The YotaPhone 2 is already for sale in Europe. Pricing in the U.S. is as yet unknown.
Verizon Wireless today announced the availability of the Samsung Galaxy Note Edge. Verizon is selling the phone for $399 with a new contract, though it is also available via Verizon's monthly Edge payment plans. The Note Edge has a curved display that shows additional content, such as notifications or news feeds. Otherwise it is similar to the Galaxy Note 4. The Galaxy Note Edge is also the first Verizon smartphone to launch with Advanced Calling 1.0 capabilities preinstalled. Owners can access HD Voice and Video Calling with other compatible Verizon smartphones. Activating this feature also enables simultaneous voice and data use, so owners can talk and surf the web at the same time.
The FCC plans to vote on rules regarding net neutrality in February. The FCC expects to circulate a final proposal of the rules in the early part of the month and vote on them during its scheduled February 26 open meeting. The FCC has been considering how best to craft the laws around broadband and internet regulation for some time. The agency defined net neutrality rules that were put in place in late 2011. Those were ultimately stricken after the FCC lost a lawsuit to Verizon Wireless in January 2014. The FCC has been forging its new proposal since early 2014. At the heart of the matter is whether or not the FCC will define broadband as a utility, as requested by President Obama, which would give the government much greater oversight of the industry. Broadband providers are fighting such a change.
Documents seen on the FCC web site suggest the Samsung Galaxy Core Prime will soon be sold by Sprint and Verizon Wireless in the U.S. The Core Prime, which is already for sale in select markets, goes by the model number SM-G360. The FCC recently approved two devices with the model numbers SM-G360P and SM-G360V, which fall in line with the model numbering schemes employed by Sprint and Verizon. The Core Prime includes a 4.5-inch screen, Snapdragon 410 processor, 5-megapixel camera, and runs Android 4.4 KitKat. Neither Sprint nor Verizon has confirmed plans to sell the device.