Hiroki Totoki, the President and CEO of Sony Mobile, said the company has no plans to exit the smartphone business. Totoki covered a wide range of topics during an interview with Arabian Business. He said the firm is working hard to turn its smartphone business around. By the end of 2016, Sony expects to reduce headcount by 20% and operating expenses by 30% to streamline the business and the product portfolio. Totoki said smartphones remain a vital part of the company. "Smartphones are completely connected to other devices, also connected to people's lives — deeply. And the opportunity for diversification is huge. We're heading to the IoT era and have to produce a number of new categories of products in this world, otherwise we could lose out on a very important business domain. In that sense we will never ever sell or exit from the current mobile business." Totoki said the company plans to respond to fierce competition from Chinese companies by developing new technologies to help its products stand out. Sony will also pay attention to providing a better experience through the software of its devices, too. Sony recently announced the Z3v for Verizon Wireless and the similar Z3+ for other markets.
Helio, an MVNO that shuttered its doors years ago, is back. The company announced its return via Twitter and is once again offering prepaid service. The company operates on Sprint's network. Unlike before, however, Helio has a roaming agreement with Verizon Wireless, too, so customers will have greater network access when out and about. The basic service cost $29 per month, which includes unlimited voice, unlimited messaging (including international text), and unlimited 2G data capped at 128Kbps. Helio's web site does not say if or when it might offer 3G or 4G service. The $29 monthly plan includes all taxes and fees. The company supports a BYOD program, but requires handsets compatible with Sprint's network. It also sells a handful of older smartphones on its web site, including the Samsung Galaxy S3 and S4, for $249 and $299, respectively. Helio said it will sell its own branded handsets soon. Helio is offering the first month of service for free with no commitment. Helio was originally launched in 2006 as a joint venture between SK Telecom and Earthlink. It was folded into Virgin Mobile, another Sprint property, in 2008. Helio ceased all operations in 2010. Helio is now backed by a company called UBI.
Sony has made the Xperia Z3+ available through Amazon's U.S. web site. The phone is being sold unlocked and is compatible with GSM carriers, such as AT&T and T-Mobile. Verizon Wireless plans to sell a variant of the phone, called the Z3v, later this summer. It has a 5.2-inch full HD screen, 20.7-megapixel main camera, wide-angle 5-megapixel front camera, and a quad-core Snapdragon 810 processor with 3 GB of RAM. Amazon is selling it for about $640.
Beginning today, most smartphones sold in the U.S. will include anti-theft security tools. July 1 marks the day by which phone makers and network operators agreed to implement free theft deterrents on smartphones. According to the CTIA, most of the industry has responded by placing remote lock/wipe capabilities on consumer devices. The addition of an activation lock on the Apple iPhone, for example, has dramatically reduced iPhone thefts in major cities. The activation lock prevents a stolen device from being activated by another person, thus making it useless to thieves. Remote wipe features allow people to erase the personal data from their handset if lost/stolen to protect their identity. The major participants in today's action include Apple, AT&T, BlackBerry, Google, HTC, Huawei, LG, Motorola, Microsoft, Samsung, Sprint, T-Mobile, U.S. Cellular, Verizon Wireless, and ZTE. "Today's fulfillment of the Smartphone Anti-Theft Voluntary Commitment is another example of the wireless industry proactively working together with policymakers and law enforcement to help protect consumers' smartphones in the event they are ever lost or stolen. We will continue to work with all interested parties to continue to deploy new technologies and tools to improve device theft-deterrence tools. We remind consumers to take a few minutes to use PINs, passwords, apps and other device features to protect their mobile devices and personal information." The industry was coerced into acting "voluntarily" when the FCC threatened to make such protective measures mandatory.
Sprint has settled accusations with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau that it over-billed customers for unwanted services. In May, the FCC fined Sprint $68 million for adding third-party services to customer bills without customer permission -- a practice known as cramming. A U.S. judge is allowing Sprint to escape with a $50 million settlement, rather than the full amount. The FCC fined Verizon for $90 million in May also, and this week's settlement marks the end of the ordeal for both companies. Last year, the FCC tagged AT&T for $105 million and T-Mobile for $90 million to settle cramming complaints.
Sprint was found culpable of infringing on two patents held by Prism Technologies. The patents in question pertain to accessing protected computer resources and were used by Sprint in its "Simply Everything" and "Everything Data" plans, according to Prism. Sprint was ordered to pay a fine of $30 million. Sprint rejects the decision and said it will appeal. "We believe the evidence is clear that Sprint does not infringe the patent. Sprint plans to pursue post-trial motions," said Roni Singleton, a spokeswoman for Sprint, in a statement provided to RCR Wireless. Prism has similar cases pending against T-Mobile, Verizon Wireless, and U.S. Cellular.
Verizon Wireless said the Motorola Droid Turbo will be updated to Android 5.1 Lollipop beginning the afternoon of Wednesday, July 1. The update will be delivered in phases over a few weeks. Customers will be able to manually update their phones over the air if they wish. The update is free.
The European Commission today agreed to make cellphone roaming charges illegal beginning in 2017. The change in law means European wireless network operators will not be allowed to charge roaming fees for customers who travel across the 28-country continent. Additionally, the European Commission also adopted some net neutrality regulations to prevent service providers from discriminating between different types of internet traffic. European carriers, such as T-Mobile parent Deutsche Telekom, warn the rules will reduce investment across the region, but regulators see the new laws as a win for consumers, who are often charged high fees when they travel. The new rules are specific to Europeans who go to other European countries. U.S. residents traveling abroad can still expect AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless to charge roaming fees for accessing wireless networks in Europe and elsewhere.
The FCC today finalized its proposed rules for next year's 600 MHz spectrum auction and kept the reserve for smaller carriers at 30 MHz. T-Mobile and others petitioned the FCC to raise the reserve to 40 MHz, but FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler believes the 30 MHz cap offers plenty of opportunity for those who may bid. "The Incentive Auction offers one of the last opportunities for competitors to acquire significant quantities of low-band spectrum," said Wheeler. "With more than 70% of low-band spectrum in the hands of just two providers, one of the Commission's priorities is to ensure that multiple providers have a meaningful opportunity to acquire these valuable airwaves, which is critical to competition among wireless carriers. This is why the Commission voted to set aside this reserve a year ago. The draft Order concludes that the current reserve size of 30 MHz balances the desire to make low-band spectrum available to parties with limited holdings while facilitating competitive bidding for all auction participants." AT&T and Verizon Wireless will not be allowed to bid on 30 MHz of the airwaves in each market, which will be set aside for companies with less scale and fewer resources. The FCC also proposed changes to how it handles bids from designated entities and will close a loophole exploited by Dish Networks earlier this year to score a discount on spectrum. Dish relied on small companies to bid in its stead during the AWS-3 auction. Because the entities were under a certain size, they earned a 25% discount on the licenses that amounted to $3 billion. Dish's competitors complained and the FCC said it will put new rules in place for the 600 MHz auction to prevent such misuse. "We must also make sure that small businesses receiving credits are exercising independent decision-making authority. We will not allow small businesses to serve as a stalking horse for another party," said Wheeler. The FCC will vote on the rules during its next open meeting, scheduled for July.
Officials at the Justice Department are concerned AT&T and Verizon will dominate the upcoming 600MHz auction if more protections aren't put in place by the FCC. The agency filed a letter with the FCC this week suggesting the FCC give more weight to the concerns of companies such as Sprint and T-Mobile, which seek to limit AT&T and Verizon's participation. "The Department recognizes that the Commission must balance competing policy priorities in setting the appropriate reserve levels," said the officials. "In balancing these priorities, the Department urges the Commission to give considerable weight in determining the amount of spectrum included in the reserve to protecting and promoting competition, and the well-established competition principle that those with market power may be willing to pay the most to reinforce a leading position." Sprint, T-Mobile and others have asked the FCC to set aside 40MHz of spectrum that cannot be bid upon by AT&T and Verizon. So far the FCC has agreed to a 30MHz reserve, though the rules aren't yet final. T-Mobile, in particular, has fired off plenty of rhetoric in opposition of the two larger carriers' participation in the auction. AT&T and Verizon have responded in kind. The Justice Department didn't explicitly state that the FCC should bump the reserve to 40MHz, but it strongly implied that might be the best course for the FCC to take. The FCC hopes to lock down the rules soon, but the auction won't take place until mid 2016.
Verizon Wireless is preparing to release an over-the-top mobile video service this summer and it will be supported by sponsored data. This means Verizon's wireless customers will be able to enjoy at least some of the programming without it counting against their monthly data bundle. "Ad-sponsored data is part of the product offering," confirmed Verizon EVP Marni Walden. Walden's comments bolster those made by Verizon CFO Fran Shammo last month. Verizon has been relatively quiet about the forthcoming service, but Shammo said that, in essence, advertising will help cover the costs of delivering over-the-air video to its wireless subscribers. It will be available to Verizon and other wireless consumers via WiFi and LTE. The service will feature content from ESPN, CBS, Disney, and other sports channels. Verizon hasn't said when it will officially launch.
Verizon Communications today finalized its acquisition of AOL. AOL now exists as a wholly owned subsidiary of Verizon. AOL is the parent to many media properties, including Engadget and Huffington Post. Verizon intends to use AOL's media brands to expand its own media businesses. AOL CEO Tim Armstrong will remain in charge of the AOL subsidiary and will report to Marni Walden, Verizon's EVP of Product Innovation. Verizon Communications is the parent company of Verizon Wireless.
Sony, as a company, is having a prolonged rough patch in the US phone market these days, but when they do get a phone to market here, they're often quiet gems. Sony is particularly skilled at crafting phones with premium materials and build quality. They're also good at leveraging their own Sony sensors to produce unusually powerful cameras. The Z4v replaces last year's Z3v in Verizon's lineup. It updates the specs in expected areas, but what's it like in person? Read on for our impressions.
Verizon Wireless today announced the Microsoft Lumia 735, a low-cost Windows Phone. The 735 includes a 4.7-inch HD screen, 1.2GHz quad-core processor, and 16 GB of storage. The main camera has a 6.7-megapixel sensor and the user-facing camera has a 5-megapixel sensor. The phone supports memory cards up to 128 GB and includes a 2,220mAh battery. In addition to Windows Phone 8.1 with Cortana and the Lumia Denim update, the Lumia 735 offers owners a free year-long subscription to Office 365 as well as 1 TB of OneDrive cloud storage. The Lumia costs $192 at full retail or $8 per month for 24 months with a Verizon Edge plan. It is available online today, but won't reach stores until July. Verizon also is offering $100 bill credit to customers who port their number.
Verizon does not plan to purchase Dish Networks, according to CFO Fran Shammo. When asked by the Wall Street Journal, Shammo responded, "My answer is going to be one word: No." AT&T is near to closing its acquisition of Dish competitor DirecTV. A Verizon-Dish merger would be a roughly equivalent transaction. Dish, however, is more likely interested in a tie-up with T-Mobile and it has already approached banks about funding a deal with he Uncarrier.
Verizon Wireless and Sony today announced the Xperia Z4v, a modified version of the Xperia Z3+/Z4 that will be exclusive to Verizon Wireless. The device has most of the same specifications, but makes several key changes. To start, the chassis is a bit thicker to accommodate a larger 3,000mAh battery, which supports Qualcomm QuickCharge 2.0, and both Qi and Rezence wireless charging. Verizon also requested that Sony do away with the hatch protecting the USB port, which is now exposed and moved to the bottom of the phone. Despite these changes, the Z4v is still waterproof and dustproof. The Z4v has a 5.2-inch quad HD Triluminos display and runs a 64-bit, octa-core Snapdragon 810 processor with 3 GB of memory, 32 GB of storage, and Adreno 430 graphics. The Z4v supports memory cards up to 128 GB. The main camera relies on Sony's 20.7-megapixel Exmor RS sensor, while the front camera uses a 5.1-megapixel Exmor sensor with shake correction and wide-angle 25mm lens. The main camera can record video up to 4K, while the front camera can record 1080p HD. The Z4v offers a range of connectivity options, including dual-band WiFi, Bluetooth 4.1, NFC, and support for Verizon's LTE 4G network. The device runs Android 5.1 Lollipop and will feature Sony's apps and user interface overlay. Verizon said the phone, sold in black or white, will reach stores this summer. Pricing was not revealed.
Verizon Wireless fired back at T-Mobile CEO John Legere after he entreated Americans to ask the FCC for help. T-Mobile wants 40MHz of spectrum in the upcoming 600MHz spectrum auction to be set aside for smaller carriers. The FCC has agreed to 30MHz. Legere insists 40MHz is the minimum needed to keep the U.S. wireless industry competitive, and he claims AT&T and Verizon are trying to shut it out. Verizon begs to differ. "T-Mobile is more than welcome to participate in any auction the FCC holds. No company can prevent another from participating. The last time large swaths of low-band spectrum came to auction in 2007, for example, T-Mobile could have participated. It chose not to," said Verizon in a post to its public policy blog. Moreover, Verizon points out that it is in fact T-Mobile that has pushed Verizon out of the 600MHz auction and not the other way around. "Some companies can attempt to bake rules into an auction to prevent other companies from participating fairly. Mr. Legere and T-Mobile are" doing exactly that. "For example, T-Mobile -- and Sprint and Dish -- lobbied for and received from the FCC a set aside of spectrum in the upcoming auction that only they are allowed to bid on. Verizon can't. AT&T can't." Verizon further argues that qualifying Sprint and T-Mobile as "small carriers" is disingenuous at best, given the size and valuation of their parent organizations (SoftBank and Deutsche Telekom, respectively). Verizon also stuck a barb in the side of Dish Networks. "The FCC doesn't need to give additional handouts to global companies with the financial wherewithal to compete. Nor should it be handing out discounted spectrum to companies [Dish] with a track record of not investing in networks or serving consumers. The record of the U.S. wireless marketplace is clear: if one invests in networks, innovates and meets consumer needs, success can follow, with no need for government assistance." The FCC hasn't made a final decision on the 40MHz request, but is leaning on leaving the concession at 30MHz.
T-Mobile CEO John Legere wants your help. In a recent blog post, Legere appealed to John Q. Public to aid in T-Mobile's pursuit of 600MHz spectrum. The FCC is set to approve final rules for the auction, which T-Mobile believes don't set aside enough of the valuable low-band spectrum for smaller carriers. T-Mobile has crusaded since last year in an effort to raise the reserved spectrum from 30MHz to 40MHz, which it says is needed to keep the American wireless market competitive. As it stands, AT&T and Verizon own the bulk of the low-band spectrum available with their 700MHz holdings. T-Mobile desperately wants the 600MHz spectrum. Legere is asking consumers to reach directly out to the FCC ahead of the vote in a last-ditch attempt to sway the FCC's decision. "If smaller competitors can't get more spectrum in this auction," said Legere, "it could put an end to all that pro-consumer competitive pressure. Imagine what that would look like! Every consumer in America loses. You'll face higher bills, stifled innovation, crappy customer service -- all the usual AT&T and Verizon treatment! It would be a nightmare for American wireless consumers!" Legere is known for his unfiltered approach in leading the Uncarrier. T-Mobile isn't alone. Sprint and other carriers hope to see more of the low-band spectrum kept from AT&T and Verizon. The 600MHz auction won't take place until mid 2016.
T-Mobile CTO Neville Ray filed a letter with the FCC asking it to raise the amount of spectrum set aside for competitive carriers in the forthcoming 600MHz reverse auction. The FCC has already agreed to reserve 30MHz of spectrum for carriers other than AT&T and Verizon. T-Mobile wants the reserve set at 40MHz. The Uncarrier has already made this abundantly clear. Ray's latest comments follow a report suggesting the FCC is leaning toward leaving the reserve set at 30MHz, which T-Mobile argues would favor AT&T and Verizon. "Mobile broadband providers need largely unimpaired, low-band spectrum to compete effectively in the wireless marketplace, but the two dominant providers currently hold more than 73% of all low-band spectrum available for commercial use across the entire industry today," said Ray. "Increasing the reserve to at least 40MHz of largely unimpaired spectrum will give competitive carriers an opportunity to secure the low-band spectrum necessary to provide more extensive and more reliable service in urban and suburban areas, and deploy new competitive services in less populated areas of the country." AT&T and Verizon have vast amounts of 700MHz spectrum, which each has used for its LTE 4G network. T-Mobile has some 700MHz, but not nearly as much as its competitors. The 600MHz auction is seen as the last opportunity for T-Mobile, Sprint, and others to win low-band spectrum, which is highly valued for its propagation characteristics.
T-Mobile today expanded the availability of its Never Settle For Verizon promotion until June 27. The program lets Verizon customers test T-Mobile's service for a period of two weeks with no fear of commitment. The trial requires Verizon customers to port their number to T-Mobile, but they will hold onto their old Verizon phone. If at the end of the two-week period they wish to stay with T-Mobile, T-Mobile will pay off the customer's ETFs and remaining phone payments. At this point the customer will have to turn in their Verizon phone, buy a new phone from T-Mobile, and pair it with a Simple Choice plan. The promo was originally scheduled to expire on May 31.
Soon after announcing its new mobile payment service called Android Pay, Google set about clarifying its position on Google Wallet moving forward. The company is working on a new version of Google Wallet that's set to arrive later this year. According to Google, it intends to let the service live on for making peer-to-peer payments. "The new app will allow anyone with a U.S. debit card to send and receive money for free within minutes -- even if the other person doesn't have the app. The money you receive can either be directly sent to your bank account or it can be spent in stores using the Google Wallet card," explained Google in a blog post. Google said the revised Google Wallet app will be made available to Android and iOS devices, and can be accessed from the web. Android Pay, on the other hand, powers tap-and-go mobile payments at 700,000 retail locations around the country. Android Pay began life as Softcard/Isis and was developed by AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless. Google purchased Softcard's assets from the carriers in February. Like Apple Pay on the iPhone, Android Pay requires NFC and an associated credit card in order to make payments. Google said it will have more details regarding Google Wallet in the months ahead.
The FCC is close to making a final decision regarding how much spectrum to set aside for smaller carriers in next year's 600MHz auction and T-Mobile isn't going to be happy. The FCC has already set aside 30MHz of the airwaves in question for smaller carriers, thereby limiting how much spectrum AT&T and Verizon -- the nation's two largest carriers -- can acquire. T-Mobile has been pushing the FCC to increase the allotment to 40MHz, but Reuters reports the FCC is prepared to move forward with the 30MHz limit in place. AT&T and Verizon already control about two-thirds of the nation's low-band spectrum, which is highly valued for its propagation characteristics. T-Mobile and Sprint would like access to more low-band spectrum, and the 600MHz auction is their best opportunity to acquire it. Reuters' sources suggest the FCC's decision could still change, but T-Mobile's request is likely to be denied. The 600MHz auction is scheduled to begin in mid-2016. The FCC wants the rules locked down before the end of 2015.
Verizon Wireless said customers can begin placing orders for the LG G4 today. Early orders will likely ship before the G4 reaches stores on June 4. Verizon is offering the G4 via its Edge payment plans for $22.91 per month for 25 months or at the full retail price of $549.99. Verizon is selling the white and gray plastic versions, as well as the black leather model. Like other carriers, Verizon and LG are offering a free 32 GB memory card, free battery, and free battery charger to those place orders early. Verizon is also selling the new LG G Pad X8.3 tablet for $12.49 per month for 24 months or $299.99. Customers who buy the LG G4 can snag the X8.3 for just $49.99, though a two-year contract is required. Last, Verizon is offering a $100 bill credit to customers who port their number to Verizon and activate a new smartphone via its Edge payment plans.
Verizon Wireless recently added the Samsung Galaxy J1 to its lineup of prepaid handsets. The J1 is a compact, entry-level Android smartphone. It includes a 4.3-inch WVGA display, quad-core 1.2 GHz processor, 1 GB of RAM, and 8 GB of storage. The phone supports microSD memory cards up to 128 GB. The main camera sensor captures 5-megapixel images and records 720p HD video, while the selfie camera captures 2-megapixel images. The device supports Verizon's LTE 4G network in addition to WiFi and Bluetooth 4.1 Low Energy. It runs Android 5.0.2 Lollipop with Samsung's user interface elements and applications. Verizon is selling the Galaxy J1 for $99.99.
Verizon Wireless today announced a change to its Edge equipment installment plans. Beginning May 31, Edge customers will need to pay off their device in full before they they can upgrade to a new phone. As always, customers can initiate an Edge payment plan with no money down followed by 24 equal payments to cover the full retail cost of the phone. Customers will be able to upgrade at any time once the device is paid off, and they'll be able to keep the phone. Before this week's change customers were able to upgrade after they paid off just 75% of their old phone, but they had to wait at least 30 days from the time of purchase and had to turn in the old phone. Verizon says customers may donate or recycle their old phone for credit towards a new device if they wish. Edge installment plans are available to Verizon's post- and pre-paid service plans.
Sprint says 16 of the 30 companies who've agreed to participate in its Rural Roaming Preferred Provider program have launched their LTE networks. The Rural Roaming Preferred Provider program is similar to Verizon Wireless' LTE in Rural America initiative. Both programs lease spectrum to small, regional providers who build out coverage in their home market areas. Under the terms of the agreement, the larger carriers' customers can roam onto the regional LTE network and vice versa. The idea is to bring coverage to areas where the larger operators might not necessarily like to commit resources to build out their own network. Sprint would not say which of its partners have launched their LTE networks. Some of the partners include SouthernLINC Wireless, nTelos Wireless, C Spire Wireless, Phoenix Wireless, Bluegrass Cellular, Pine Belt Wireless, Pioneer Cellular, and United Wireless. "Our partners use a variety of LTE bands, including bands 4, 5, 12 and 25," said Sprint's Adrienne Norton. "We're continuing to work with our device OEMs to enable additional LTE bands to expand coverage for our domestic and international roamers." Sprint's LTE footprint covers about 280 million POPs. T-Mobile, which recently disclosed that it too has leased spectrum to regional operators, also covers about 280 million POPs. AT&T and Verizon Wireless both claim to cover about 308 million POPs.
AT&T today said some of its retailer partners are going to offer only AT&T Next plans beginning June 1. These retailers, like Walmart, may have national footprints, but the change is only being made in some locations that AT&T would not name. AT&T itself will continue to offer contracts at company-owned stores, as well as via its web site, telesales, and most other third-party retailers. "We regularly consider any number of offers that might appeal to our customers," said an AT&T spokesperson to Phone Scoop, "but [we] can share that two year contracts remain a part of our portfolio of offerings." AT&T said it believes customers prefer to have choice. While many of its customers are moving to AT&T Next plans -- which break up device payments over time -- some of its customers still want subsidized handsets and don't mind signing contracts to get them. The change being made by some of AT&T's retail partners does not represent a change in strategy for AT&T. AT&T Next plans are the carrier's response to T-Mobile's Simple Choice plans, which forgo contracts and also break up device payments over time. Sprint and Verizon have their own device payment plans, too. The device payment plans have become popular with consumers because they don't require contracts and often allow people to upgrade to new phones at a faster rate.
Verizon Wireless today marked the one-year anniversary of its XLTE service by expanding coverage to six additional markets. XLTE is now available in Marshalltown, Iowa; Madisonville and Owensboro, Ky.; Traverse City, Mich.; Meridian, Miss.; and Martinsville, Va. Verizon's XLTE coverage is available in more than 400 markets. It combines Verizon's 700MHz and AWS spectrum to boost capacity of its LTE 4G network. Verizon says it has more than 40 XLTE-capable devices, including the Apple iPhone 6 and Samsung Galaxy S6.
T-Mobile recently confirmed that it has leased some spectrum licenses to other carriers in order to help expand its LTE 4G coverage. "We're always exploring opportunities to enhance America's fastest 4G LTE network," said T-Mobile in a statement provided to FierceWireless. "Over the years, we've bought, sold and leased spectrum to roaming partners and we'll continue to discuss additional opportunities that will benefit our customers. This includes spectrum swaps, leasing spectrum and roaming agreements." T-Mobile did not provide any information with respect to which carriers it has leased the spectrum, nor in which markets. The strategy is similar to one pursued by Verizon Wireless. Verizon launched its LTE for Rural America program five years ago, wherein it leases spectrum to small regional carriers who build out LTE coverage.
Verizon Wireless today announced the LG Lancet, the first Windows Phone handset to support Verizon's Advanced Calling 1.0 service. Lancet owners will be able to make high-definition voice calls via Verizon's LTE network. The phone runs Windows 8.1, but carries over some features from LG's Android handsets, such as KnockOn for waking the phone and Quick Memo for capturing screen shots. The Lancet features a 4.5-inch screen, 1.2 GHz quad-core processor, 8-megapixel main camera, 8 GB of storage, and support for memory cards up to 128 GB. The Lancet is a budget-friendly phone. The full retail price is $120, though Verizon is offering the phone for $5 per month with a Verizon Edge plan. The LG Lancet is available online starting today, and it will reach Verizon stores May 21.
The FCC today said Sprint and Verizon Wireless have agreed to pay $158 million to settle charges that they fraudulently charged customers for third-party services -- a tactic referred to as cramming. Specifically, Sprint will pay a total of $68 million, $50 million of which will go back to customers, $14 million of which will go to state governments, and $2 million of which will go to the federal government. Verizon will pay $90 million, with $70 million to go to consumers, $16 million to states, and $4 million to the fed. In addition to the fines, Sprint and Verizon agreed to a slew of other enforcement actions. They will no longer be allowed to offer premium SMS services. For all other services, they must: obtain clear consent before initiating charged, clearly mark charges on bills, and make it easy for customers to block such third-party services. The FCC has been on a tear this year, coming down hard on companies that take advantage of consumers.
Verizon Communications today revealed plans to buy AOL for $4.4 billion. In a memo to employees, AOL CEO Tim Armstrong said the deal will strengthen both companies' push into mobile and video content. "The future in front of AOL and the industry requires scale, mobile, and video – and partnerships. In our lifetime, we will see the connection of the world on very large and very fast networks – and to play in that world with our strategy requires us to take the natural steps to secure our ability to shoot for the stars. This deal is aimed at the stars and we are going to pursue the joint vision of building the most significant media platform in the world." Verizon said the acquisition will drive its goal of delivering more video content over LTE. Verizon Communications is the parent company of Verizon Wireless. In addition to running its dial-up internet business, AOL also owns a number of media outlets, including HuffingtonPost, Engadget, and TechCrunch.
Verizon Wireless today announced plans to install Lyft's mobile application on an unknown selection of its future Android handsets. Lyft serves as an alternate to traditional taxi services and is meant to help people find rides quickly and cheaply. The move will benefit Lyft drivers most, who will qualify for a discount on their Verizon Wireless service if they sign up via Lyft's driver reward program. Verizon didn't say which handsets will be preloaded with Lyft, nor did it say if its own customers will be able to delete the app. Network operators often preload third-party applications and services on handsets, which is sometimes referred to as bloatware.
Documents on the FCC website recently revealed an unannounced handset from Microsoft intended for Verizon Wireless. The FCC notes the device supports Verizon's LTE and CDMA networks, but reveals little else. The device appears to be a standard slab handset with a camera and flash visible on the back surface and large screen on the front. The phone has a design similar to previous Lumia devices. Neither Microsoft nor Verizon has announced any such device.
T-Mobile today announced the Never Settle Trial, which is aimed specifically at Verizon Wireless customers. The program will let Verizon customers test T-Mobile's service for a period of two weeks with no fear of commitment. The trial requires Verizon customers to port their number to T-Mobile, but they will hold onto their old Verizon phone. If at the end of the two-week period they wish to stay with T-Mobile, T-Mobile will pay off the customer's ETFs and remaining phone payments. At this point the customer will have to turn in their Verizon phone, buy a new phone from T-Mobile, and pair it with a Simple Choice plan. Verizon customers can sign up for the Never Settle Trial between May 13 and May 31. "With T-Mobile, you don’t have to settle for trickery, gimmicks and carrier [baloney] the way you do with Verizon," said T-Mobile CEO John Legere. "I'm so confident in our [superior] network experience that we're footing the bill so Verizon customers can give T-Mobile a try."
Verizon Wireless is offering its prepaid customers 1 GB of bonus data if they sign up for auto-pay. In order to qualify for the extra data, customers need to have the $45 or $60 prepaid plan. With auto-pay enabled, subscribers to the $45 plan will see their data allotment improve from 1 GB to 2 GB per month, while subscribers to the $60 plan will see their data allotment jump from 2.5 GB to 3.5 GB. Existing customers will see their bonus data appear after their next automatic payment. Verizon said this offer will only be available for a limited time. A handful of other pre-paid providers, including the likes of Boost Mobile and Cricket Wireless, also offer discounts for using auto-pay.
The FCC today approved nine applications submitted for the AWS-3 spectrum auction, two of which belong to Dish designated entities Northstar Wireless and SNR Wireless. The FCC said the applications are in their final form and are complete, but the FCC has not made a final decision about the bidding tactics used by Dish and whether or not the company deserves the 25% discount meant for small businesses. Rather than participate directly, Dish used a trio of small companies to make bids. The small companies should qualify for the discounts, but some think Dish's controlling stake in the companies negates their small stature. AT&T and Verizon have already complained vociferously about Dish's bidding tactics and the small business discount. Dish's total provisional winning bids total $13.3 billion. The discount would deduct $3 billion from that total. The FCC has decided to make the applications available to the public and open for comment. "The applications that seek small business bidding credits are the most complex, given that they detail the nature of the applicant’s ownership and control structure, and require the review of the related corporate agreements that in some cases consist of a highly complex set of rights and obligations, including agreements pertaining to equity ownership, funding, joint bidding, and management services," said Robert Sherman, chief of the FCC's Wireless Telecommunications Bureau. "These are complex and important matters, and we have a long way to go in our review before we reach final conclusions on all of the applications." The public has until May 11 to file petitions to deny Dish the small business discounts.
The FCC today levied fines against AT&T and SNET, a former subsidiary of AT&T's, for violating federal Lifeline regulations. The companies over billed the government program, which helps ensure low income consumers have access to a phone line. AT&T and SNET failed to remove ineligible customers from their records but billed the government for the accounts anyway. In particular, AT&T will pay $6.9 million and SNET will pay $4 million. Both companies will have to adopt vigorous compliance programs to ensure similar mistakes don't happen again. "American consumers trust that the companies who receive federal funds will use that money appropriately," said Travis LeBlanc, Chief of the FCC's Enforcement Bureau. "We expect companies to be vigilant in protecting public funds and complying with FCC rules." The FCC has doled out tens of millions of dollars in fines so far this year through various enforcement actions. It fined AT&T earlier this month over privacy violations and it fined Verizon last month over a 911 outage.
AT&T and Verizon Wireless followed Sprint and T-Mobile today in announcing plans to sell the LG G4 later this year. Neither of the nation's two largest carriers said exactly when the phone will go on sale nor how much they'll charge for the new phone. Verizon did say its variant of the G4 will support VoLTE and HD Voice.
Verizon Wireless today said owners of the Samsung Galaxy S4 can expect to see their devices updated to Android 5.0 Lollipop in the next few days. The over-the-air update is free to install.