AT&T and Verizon Wireless are limiting Microsoft's attempt to bulk up use of its mobile applications. Last month, Samsung agreed to preload Microsoft's OneDrive, OneNote, and Skype applications on the Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge. Verizon, however, won't pre-load any of the Microsoft apps on its versions of the S6 and S6 Edge. AT&T will include OneNote and Skype, but not OneDrive. The Sprint and T-Mobile versions of the S6 and S6 Edge are shipping with all three Microsoft apps aboard. Neither AT&T nor Verizon commented on their stance against the Microsoft-made apps. Even though the trio of apps won't be pre-loaded, people who buy the S6 and S6 Edge from AT&T or Verizon are free to download the apps, as well as Microsoft's Outlook email and Office productivity apps, from the Google Play Store for free on their own.
Verizon Communications, the parent company of Verizon Wireless, is prepared to launch a mobile video service later this year that will focus on college sports. The company is specifically targeting millennials with the offering, who it says prefer to consume video content on mobile devices rather than televisions or PCs. Verizon struck content deals with a number of college sports providers and will push the service through a "mobile-first solution" for Verizon Wireless data subscribers. The content providers include ACC Digital Network, Campus Insiders, CBS Sports, ESPN, and 120 Sports. While CBS and ESPN will air select live college football and basketball games, the others will offer mostly highlights, commentary, recaps, and some live events. Verizon didn't say when exactly the service will launch, nor what its potential cost might be.
Verizon Wireless said its version of the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 will begin to receive Android 5.0 Lollipop today. The over-the-air update will roll out to all users gradually. According to Verizon, seven of its handsets now run Lollipop, including the Motorola Moto X (2nd gen); Galaxy Note 4, S5, and Note 3; LG G2 and G3; and the HTC One M8.
Verizon Wireless has begun updating its variant of the LG G3 to Android 5.0 Lollipop. Asside from the standard list of new features, the G3 gains a new version of LG Health. The update is rolling out over the air in phases and is free to download.
The FCC today officially granted some winning bidders in the AWS-3 spectrum auction the licenses allowing them to take ownership of the airwaves. The AWS-3 spectrum auction concluded earlier this year, with AT&T, Dish Networks, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless the top four bidders. Bids totaled more than $41 billion for slices of airwaves in the 1695-1710MHz, 1755-1780MHz, and 2155-2180MHz bands. AT&T, Verizon, and FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai complained about the tactics used by Dish to win its bids (Dish bid through smaller companies in order to obtain a significant discount). As a result, the FCC has for the time being withheld Dish's licenses, while granting the licenses to AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon. The three carriers plan to use the spectrum to bolster their LTE 4G networks. Dish owns a great deal of spectrum, but has yet to deploy any sort of wireless service.
The FCC today announced more fines being levied against telecommunications providers who failed to meet their emergency call obligations during the 911 outage of April 2014. CenturyLink settled for a record fine of $16 million and Intrado Communications settled for $1.4 million. In addition to the fines, the companies need to put in place a compliance plan to help prevent future outages, as well as identify risks, protect against such risks, and respond to problems in a more timely fashion. Last month, Verizon reached a similar settlement with the FCC for $3.4 million.
Verizon Wireless has begun allowing subscribers to wipe the supercookie browser-tracking program from their handsets. Verizon has been using the unremovable supercookie for nearly a year, but faced a growing tide of consumer backlash over privacy fears. The company agreed earlier this year to allow customers to opt out and has finally put the mechanism in place. Following the steps on Verizon's support site will remove the supercookie and prevent Verizon from tracking certain handset behaviors/functions. "As the mobile advertising ecosystem evolves, and our advertising business grows, delivering solutions with best-in-class privacy protections remains our focus," said spokesperson Debi Lewis in a statement provided to the New York Times. "We never share information with third parties that identifies our customers as part of our advertising programs."
Verizon Communications CEO Lowell McAdam pleaded with Congress to "re-take responsibility for policymaking in the Internet ecosystem" in a letter sent Friday to the House and Senate Commerce committees. Lowell pointed to the FCC's recently proposed net neutrality rules and Dish Network's "abuse" of the AWS-3 bidding process as indicators that things have gone off the rails. "For the past few weeks, telecom and technology issues have been prominent in the news," wrote Lowell, "but unfortunately for all the wrong reasons." Lowell believes the 1996 Telecommunications Act is now horribly outdated and needs to be re-thought by Congress. "The existing legal regime and its accompanying regulatory processes are outdated and broken. It is time for Congress to re-take responsibility for policymaking in the Internet ecosystem." Lowell asked Congress first to come up with a short-term solution to curb the FCC's net neutrality rules with bipartisan legislation, and then to follow it up with a fully revised set of policies for governing the internet. "Congress [needs] to assert its longstanding role of setting, in a bipartisan fashion, public policies for the communications sector that both protect consumers and provide incentives for investment and innovation in new products and services." The FCC wants to reclassify broadband providers under Title II of the Telecommunications Act of 1934, which would brand them common carriers and allow the FCC to regulate them more stringently.
Verizon was the last of the major carriers today to announce pricing and availability details for its version of the Samsung Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge. The company will begin taking pre-orders for the phones on April 1, but Verizon did not provide a shipping or in-store date. The 32GB Galaxy S6 will cost $199.99 with a two-year contract, $24.99 per month with an Edge plan, or $599 at full retail. The 64GB model will cost $299.99 with a contract, $29.16 per month, or $699. The 128GB model will cost $399.99 with a contract, $33.33 per month, or $799. Verizon is offering the S6 Edge with similar pricing breakdowns. The 32GB model starts at $299.99 with a contract, $29.14 per month, and $699; the 64GB model runs $399.99, $33.33, and $799; and the 128GB model runs $499.99, $37.49, and $899. (All on-contract prices reflect a $50 mail-in rebate.) Both the GS6 and GS6 Edge will include VoLTE and HD Voice, as well as simultaneous voice and data access.
Verizon Wireless today released pricing and availability details of its variant of the HTC One M9. Verizon is opening up pre-orders for the device on April 1. The phone will reach Verizon's retail stores on April 10. Verizon is selling the M9 for $199.99 with a two-year contract or for $25 per month for 24 months with a Verizon Edge plan. The One M9 will launch with Verizon's Advanced Calling 1.0 capabilities, which enables HD Voice and Video Calling to other compatible Verizon smartphones over LTE. Activating this feature also lets Verizon customers talk and surf the web at the same time.
Sprint CEO Marcelo Claure recently suggested the company might participate in the forthcoming auction for 600MHz spectrum if it is allowed to bid jointly with smaller carriers. Claure made the remarks during a roundtable discussion at the Competitive Carrier Association's Global Expo in Atlanta. "Hopefully the rules of the auction will allow us to participate," said Marcelo, noting the incentive auction will be a "great opportunity for us to lobby together to potentially form a coalition to go after this spectrum together." The 600MHz low-band spectrum is valued highly because of its propagation characteristics. Sprint said CCA members operate regional networks in areas it doesn't provide coverage, and vice versa. Allowing them to bid together would be advantageous to all involved and might let them actually win the licenses. The FCC hasn't finalized the rules for the auction yet, but it is scheduled to begin early next year. Surely AT&T and Verizon Wireless, which already own vast sums of low-band spectrum, will oppose any rules that might limit their participation or prevent them from competing for the licenses.
Samsung today announced the general availability details for the Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 Edge. The devices can be pre-ordered beginning Friday, March 27 and should reach most carrier stores on April 10. Samsung said the black, white, and gold models will be sold in the U.S. in 32GB, 64GB, and 128GB configurations. AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, Verizon Wireless, and U.S. Cellular all plan to sell the GS6 and GS6 Edge. Boost Mobile, Cricket Wireless, and MetroPCS will only offer the Galaxy S6. In addition to carrier stores, the two phones will be available at Samsung Experience Shops at Best Buy, as well as Amazon, Costco, Sam's Club, Target, and Walmart. Some carrier stores will have the Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge on display beginning tomorrow, even if sales don't commence until April 10. Samsung said carriers will announce individual pricing details later. The devices include 5.1-inch quad HD screens, 16-megapixel cameras, fingerprint readers, and multi-standard wireless charging.
HTC will make the One M9 available for purchase on its web site beginning Friday, March 27 for $649. Carrier and major retailer sales of the device will kick off on or about April 10. HTC will be offering an unlocked version of the One M9, which supports the LTE networks operated by AT&T and T-Mobile, in addition to major carrier models. The company is offering a 12-month, interest-free payment option for customers who'd rather pay for the device over time. AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon plan to sell the phone and it will also be available from Amazon, Best Buy / Best Buy Mobile, Costco, and Target. The phone will be sold in gunmetal gray or two-tone gold/silver and in 32GB and 64GB models. The One M9 comes with Uh Oh protection, which will let owners get a free replacement device if theirs suffers a broken screen or water damage. The One M9 goes on sale via HTC's web site at 12:01AM Eastern Time. The phone features a 5-inch full HD screen, 20-megapixel main camera, Snapdragon 810 processor, BoomSound stereo speakers, and an all-aluminum chassis.
The FCC plans to alter how companies qualify for discounts in spectrum auctions. The rules came under fire recently after Dish Networks won $13 billion in spectrum by bidding through smaller entities. The smaller entities are eligible for discounts, wiping about $3 billion from the total price Dish will have to shell out. Dish's competitors, including AT&T and Verizon, decried the strategy as unfair because Dish is a large company and the discounts are meant for small companies. In response, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler has floated a public notice with the other commissioners, according to sources cited by Reuters, that will close this loophole. Wheeler asked his colleagues to comment on how best to reform the discount program moving forward. The idea behind the discount program is to encourage smaller, regional companies to participate in spectrum auctions.
AT&T, Verizon Wireless and other mobile network operators won't sue the FCC over its proposed net neutrality plans on their own, but will through a number of trade groups. Sources cited by Reuters suggest the move will allow the carriers to streamline their litigation and prevent them from becoming the targets of backlash. "We believe there will be a lot of litigation, which will probably be led by industry associations," said Verizon Chief Financial Officer Fran Shammo. The CTIA is expected to lead the charge against the FCC and may be joined by the National Cable and Telecommunications Association, and the USTelecom association. The American Cable Association and the National Association of Manufacturers are still deciding whether or not to pursue legal challenges to the FCC's plan. The trade groups involved will likely target the FCC's authority to make the changes it did, and that it didn't properly notify stakeholders of the potential for reclassifying broadband under Title II. The FCC believes its proposal will withstand the impending legal assaults.
The FCC today said Verizon has settled with the agency over an outage that affected 911 operations last year. In April 2014, 750,000 Verizon Wireless customers in nine California counties were unable to reach 911 for a period lasting 6 hours. The outage affected a total of 11 million people across seven states. Verizon agreed to pay the agency a fine of $3.4 million. Verizon also agreed to put in place a compliance plan to help prevent future outages. The company will have to provide strict oversight of its contractors as it upgrades to next-generation 911 services, as well as identify risks, protect against such risks, and respond to problems in a more timely fashion. The FCC is still negotiating with other telecom providers over their respective roles in the 911 outage.
Total Wireless, an MVNO, recently launched exclusively in Walmart stores. The prepaid service provider offers a handful of low-cost, no-contract plans in addition to a limited lineup of smartphones. The entry-level plan, for example, costs $25 per month and offers unlimited calling and messaging, but no data. Adding $10 buys access to 2.5GB of data. The company also offers shared data plans for two, three, or four lines for $60, $85, and $110, respectively. These plans include 5GB, 9GB, and 12GB of shared data, respectively. The company also offers a data rollover add-on for an extra $10 per month. Total Wireless' handsets include entry-level devices from Alcatel OneTouch, Motorola, Samsung, and ZTE. Total Wireless has not named its carrier partner, but based on the coverage map it is likely Verizon Wireless.
Verizon Wireless's prepaid business added the Motorola Moto E to its lineup of devices today. The second-generation handset from Motorola sports a 4.5-inch screen, Snapdragon 410 processor, 5-megapixel camera, and 4G LTE. Verizon is charging $99.99 for the phone, which is available without a contract.
Verizon Wireless today said the Motorola Nexus 6 will be available for preorder March 12 and should reach stores March 19. It will cost $250 with a contract or $27 per month with a Verizon Edge plan. Google, Motorola, and others have been selling the Nexus 6 since last year.
Google today announced a new version of Android that promises to clean up some bugs. Android 5.1 Lollipop improves stability and makes other minor improvements. In addition to the cleaned-up code, Android 5.1 also adds several features. For example, Device Protection prevents a lost or stolen device from accessing mobile networks without the original owner's Google password - even if the device has been reset to factory settings. The update also adds native support for multiple SIM cards, and improves HD voice performance on the Nexus 6 through T-Mobile and Verizon Wireless. Last, Android 5.1 makes it easier to manage Bluetooth and WiFi settings (especially device connections) from the Quick Settings menus. Google expects to roll out Android 5.1 to select devices over the next few days.
Verizon Wireless today indicated via one of its official Twitter accounts that preorders for the Samsung Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge will start April 1. Verizon did not provide pricing nor availabiliy details.
Verizon Wireless today announced Flexible Business Plans, which let companies fine-tune the data allowed each line on the plan. All the Flexible Business Plans include unlimited domestic calls and messaging, as well as unlimited international messaging, mobile hotspot, and corporate email. Businesses can then select the specific data allotment given to each line on the plan, even when in a shared data plan. For example, a five-line plan with 10GB of shared data can be divvied up however the business wants: one line can be given 6GB and the other four can be given only 1GB, and so on. Verizon said businesses can configure the plans to suit their needs. The Flexible Business Plans are also compatible with internet devices, such as tablets and WiFi hotspots. Verizon said the plans will be available later this month.
Softcard, the mobile wallet service developed by AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless, has informed users the application will go offline March 31. Softcard customers can use the app through that date, but afterward their accounts will automatically be closed. Softcard recommends users who wish to be able to make mobile payments in the future download Google Wallet. Google purchased certain Softcard assets in a deal announced last month. Google Wallet will replace Softcard on Android handsets later this year. Softcard never caught on with consumers due to limited handset, credit card, and retail support. General interest in mobile payments has increased after the launch of Apple Pay on the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus. Samsung recently announced plans for its own mobile wallet service, called Samsung Pay. Samsung Pay will first be available to the Galaxy S6.
Verizon Wireless is now pushing Android 5.0 Lollipop to the HTC One M8. In addition to the new operating system, the update enables Band 4 roaming and improves the three-way calling feature. Owners can download and install the update over the air.
Mozilla today announced a number of partnerships that it hopes will hope grow the presence and availability of its Firefox operating system to more markets around the world. Notably, Verizon Wireless in the U.S. has agreed to sell Firefox-powered phones in the future. Mozilla said it is working to create flip phones, sliders, and slates that will be sold by Verizon in early 2016. "Verizon aims to deliver innovative new products to its customers, and this initiative is about creating a modern, simple and smart platform for basic phones," said Rosemary McNally, Vice President, Device Technology at Verizon. According to Mozilla, Firefox OS will allow OEMs to "balance the simplicity of a basic phone with the more advanced features of a smartphone." In other words, they'll have modest support for applications, such as games, navigation, and multimedia. Mozilla and its partners didn't share any details about the future handsets themselves.
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.