The CTIA today announced that a number of member companies have agreed to take on additional measures to help prevent cellphone thefts. Following recommendations made by the FCC, wireless companies will make anti-theft tools available to all consumers that also respect consumer choice and privacy. All new phones made after July 2016 will "make readily available to the authorized user an option that allows the authorized user to enable or disable the anti-theft solution at any time that the smartphone is connected and is in the authorized user's possession." Beyond this baseline tool, consumers will have the option to use other, third-party solutions to locate, wipe, or reinstate their devices if they so wish. Companies that have agreed to this include Apple, Asurion; AT&T; BlackBerry; Google; HTC; Huawei; LG; Microsoft; Motorola; Samsung; Sprint; T-Mobile USA; U.S. Cellular; Verizon, and ZTE. In response, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said, "CTIA members' ... enhanced voluntary commitment to adopt anti-theft features and educate consumers demonstrates their resolve in combatting it. I am hopeful that this new voluntary commitment will make a meaningful difference for consumer safety. As the enhanced commitment recognizes, these solutions work only if they are adopted widely. The FCC will remain vigilant in this area by pushing for further improvements to the theft-prevention toolbox, and also by monitoring closely whether the efforts of industry and others are producing meaningful results." Apple's iOS and Google's Android already contain features that let device owners find and protect their mobile devices. The FCC hopes allowing people to download and use the protective measure of their choice will help encourage consumers to make broader use of the tool.
Nextbit's Robin smartphone won the financial support of more than 3,600 people who invested $1.36 million in the Kickstarter campaign. Nextbit said it received enough interest in the Robin to move forward with manufacturing. It has closed the Kickstarter campaign and is now working to bring the device to market, expected during the first quarter of 2016. According to Nextbit, most of the investment came from the U.S., Canada, Japan, Hong Kong, the U.K., and Singapore. The Robin is an Android phone that uses the cloud to manage on-board storage availability. It can seamlessly offload and reload content — including applications — when needed to free up space. It was designed by former HTC employees and costs $399. The phone will be available in GSM and CDMA variants, supporting the networks of AT&T and T-Mobile, and Sprint and Verizon.
Sprint is prepared to reduce expenses by as much as $2.5 billion over the next year, reports the Wall Street Journal, and is likely to cut jobs to help it reach that goal. An internal memo sent to staff by CFO Tarek Robbiati obtained by the Journal said the cuts "inevitably will result in job reductions." Sprint had about 31,000 employees as of March. Robbiati said the company is still exploring how best to reduce costs. "The main thing to consider when requesting to spend money is to take an owner's mindset by treating every dollar as if it were your own," he said. Sprint has already trimmed expenses by about $1.5 billion over the last 12 months. The company recently said it will not participate in next year's 600MHz incentive auction, citing its existing spectrum resources and the cost to obtain more spectrum. Sprint has struggled in recent years to compete with AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile.
Verizon today made its go90 mobile video service available to anyone who wants to use it. The service had been in only a handful of markets on a trial basis, but is now usable around the country. With go90, video content is supported by advertisements. The free programming comes from providers such as Comedy Central, Food Network, ESPN, Discovery Network, VH1, Maker Studios, Machinima, StyleHaul. Verizon says it has between 100 and 200 hours of exclusive content from online video services such as AwesomenessTV. Verizon hopes the service will score well with younger consumers. It is available to Verizon and non-Verizon customers alike, and is compatible with Android and iOS devices. The apps are free to download from the Play Store and iTunes App Store.
LG today said the V10 will be sold in the U.S. by AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless. Pricing and availability will be announced individually by each carrier. The phone is expected to arrive in the weeks ahead.
Samsung today said its latest set of smartwatches, the Gear S2 and Gear S2 Classic (pictured), will reach U.S. stores on Friday, Oct. 2. The S2 will cost $299.99 and the S2 Classic will cost $349.99. The wearable will first be sold at a select number of retailers, including Samsung.com, Amazon.com, Best Buy, and Macy's. According to Samsung, the cellular variant of the S2 and S2 Classic will be available from AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless later this year. Pricing for the wireless model has not yet been revealed. The second-generation Gear smartwatches run Samsung's Tizen operating system and feature a unique rotating bezel that cycles through the user interface.
Following Sprint's decision to skip next year's 600MHz incentive auction, FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai had harsh words for the FCC's plans. "Sprint's decision highlights the folly of the FCC's attempt to pick winners and losers before the auction begins," said Pai, in reference to the rules being assigned to the auction. "It also intensifies doubts about how competitive the bidding will be for set-aside spectrum and whether American taxpayers will receive fair compensation for that scarce public resource," said Pai. The FCC has agreed to set aside 30MHz of spectrum for smaller entities that market leaders AT&T and Verizon Wireless will not be allowed to bid on. "Sprint's announcement only strengthens my belief that the FCC should not have granted a spectrum giveaway in this auction or placed artificial limits on carriers' participation." Pai is part of the Republican minority in the five-person FCC and is often at odds with his Democrat peers. The auction, scheduled to start in March 2016, will see television broadcasters sell their spectrum licenses to the government, which will in turn auction them off to wireless companies.
Samsung today made its mobile payment service, Samsung Pay, available to U.S. consumers. The service is compatible with only a few phones, including the Galaxy Note 5 and the Galaxy S6 Edge+, S6 Edge, and S6. AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and U.S. Cellular support Samsung pay, but Verizon Wireless does not. Consumers can add their American Express, Bank of America, Citibank, or USBank MasterCard or Visa credit/debit card to the service, but it lacks support for Chase at launch. Samsung Pay differs from Apple Pay and Android Pay in one significant respect: it supports both NFC and MST transactions. MST, in particular, is more widely available than NFC and works with most regular credit card terminals used by retailers around the country. Samsung Pay is secured via fingerprint, and credit card information is tokenized so it is protected during transactions. Samsung will reward Note 5 and S6 Edge+ owners who activate Samsung Pay with a free wireless charger or a free wallet flip cover (through Oct. 11). Samsung Pay is free to set up and use.
Sprint today said it will not participate in the 600MHz reverse auction planned for next year. The company believes its spectrum position is "sufficient to provide its current and future customers great network coverage." Sprint owns significant amounts of spectrum, but much of it is concentrated in the 2.5GHz range. Such spectrum is good for capacity, but not for covering large areas. The 600MHz spectrum up for auction is highly valued for its propagation characteristics. Sprint is set to embark on another network overhaul that it believes will resolve many of the problems its network has faced in recent years. Sprint's finances may have played a role in its decision. The company has not turned a profit since 2007 and has been bleeding cash in recent quarters. A Sprint spokesperson told the Wall Street Journal it is "prioritizing its financial resources to improve network coverage, capacity, speed and reliability now and over the next few years—and we already have the spectrum we need to do so. That is more important for Sprint and its customers than investing in [this] spectrum that wont benefit our subscribers until 2020 at the earliest." T-Mobile plans to participate in the auction, and it is likely AT&T and Verizon will, too. The FCC expects to start the auction in March 2016.
Verizon Wireless today announced a new plan for potential iPhone 6s and 6s Plus customers that will allow them to upgrade every year without incurring penalties or extra fees. With Verizon's new plan, customers may pick up an iPhone 6s or 6s Plus beginning Sept. 25 and make regularly monthly payments. After 12 months, such customers can turn the iPhone in and get a new iPhone while maintaining similar payments. Alternately, customers can make 24 monthly payments and own the device at the end of the 24th month. Verizon claims its deal is better than those of its competitors because customers have the potential to own the phone if they wish, rather than be forced to turn it in. Monthly payments for the 16GB iPhone 6s start at $27 per month and payments for the 16GB iPhone 6s Plus start at $31.50 per month. Last, Verizon is offering new customers $100 to switch, and new and existing customers up to $300 to trade in their old phone.
Nextbit today released the final set of specs for the CDMA variant of its Robin smartphone. The details reveal that the device is compatible with Sprint's CDMA network in addition to Verizon's. The Robin supports CDMA in the 800MHz and 1900MHz bands, in addition to quad-band GSM, HSPA, and LTE. The CDMA version supports LTE in bands 1, 2, 3, 4, 7, 13, 20, 25, 26, and 41. The device, which is based on Android and syncs apps and files seamlessly with the cloud, isn't expected to ship until the first quarter of 2016.
Verizon Wireless today took the time to tout the benefits of Android Pay, the new mobile payment app and service from Google. Android Pay is a relaunch of Softcard, which Google bought from Verizon (and AT&T/T-Mobile) earlier this year. Verizon subscribers who own NFC-equipped Android handsets can download the Android Pay app from the Google Play Store, associate their debit/credit card, and make payments at a number of participating retailers, such as Macy's and Jamba Juice. Verizon said it is still evaluating whether or not it will support Samsung's mobile payment service, called Samsung Pay. Verizon already supports Apple Pay on the iPhone.
Verizon Wireless today added Cuba to the list of countries in which its customers can access network services when traveling. Roaming in Cuba (world phone required) won't be cheap. Through Verizon's Pay-As-You-Go International Travel option, voice calls made in Cuba are $2.99 per minute, and data is $2.05 per megabyte. Text message charges are assessed at standard international rates. Verizon claims it is the first U.S.-based wireless company to offer roaming in Cuba.
Nextbit today said it plans to make a CDMA version of its Robin smartphone available via Kickstarter beginning Sept. 18. The first 300 units will be available for $299, after which the price will jump to $349. Nextbit says the CDMA phone will run on Verizon's network in the U.S. Nextbit also said it will kick off a color contest today at 2p.m. eastern. The contest will allow Kickstarter backers to propose colors for the device. Nextbit will later put the five most popular choices to vote. The Robin is an Android smartphone that manages storage through close ties to the cloud. It is not expected to ship until the first quarter of 2016.
Best Buy has added the Motorola Moto X Pure Edition to its selection of smartphones. Best Buy is offering the 16GB and 32GB variants in several different colors — including bamboo — for $399 to $475, depending on options. The Moto X Pure Edition is sold unlocked and is compatible with AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, U.S. Cellular, and Verizon Wireless.
T-Mobile and the Competitive Carrier Association are asking the FCC to deny AT&T's proposed acquisition of 700 MHz B Block licenses from Club 42. AT&T first filed its request with the FCC last year and now says T-Mobile and the CCA are trying to sink the deal for no good reason. "Without offering any cogent argument or justification, CCA and T-Mobile have opposed the deal, arguing that the Commission should simply prohibit any incremental low-band spectrum aggregation by AT&T and Verizon. Period," said AT&T representative Joan Marsh in a blog post. "They essentially assert that low band spectrum transactions should be deemed presumptively unlawful for any company named AT&T or Verizon." The deal, which AT&T refers to as routine and uncontroversial, will give AT&T a 10x10MHz spectrum configuration in the named markets, which is more spectrally efficient than the current 5x5Mhz arrangement. If approved, AT&T will own more than 45MHz of low-band spectrum in the area. AT&T contends the spectrum is not being used right now and can benefit its customers. T-Mobile and the CCA disagree. "Despite being given every opportunity imaginable, AT&T has yet to meet its burden of proving why it needs so much low-band spectrum in rural markets and how this transaction significantly benefits the public interest," said CCA President Steve Berry in a statement provided to Fierce Wireless. T-Mobile pre Kathleen Ham added, "AT&T simply wants to grab more low-band spectrum to depress competition, reduce investment and stifle innovation." The FCC has yet to step in and say how it will proceed with AT&Ts request.
AT&T today said it has partnered with Best Buy to create a dedicated space inside Best Buy stores that's unique to AT&T. The AT&T-themed section will resemble the store-within-a-store format already used in Best Buy stores by Apple, Microsoft, and Samsung. Customers will be able to shop all AT&T products, whether they be wireless phones, Digital Life home TV services, or connected car gear. The AT&T sections will have dedicated staff trained on AT&T's products who will be able to demonstrate AT&T's portfolio and help customers make more informed purchases. The AT&T space, varying between 90 and 180 square feet, should reach 250 Best Buy stores by the end of the year. Similarly, Verizon is expected to add its own Experience Stores to about 100 Best Buy locations by the end of this month, ramping up to 250 by the end of the year. Verizon's store-within-a-store locations will focus on the company's wireless products, such as smartphones, tablets, and connected accessories.
Google said it is making Android Pay, its reborn mobile payment service, available to Android handsets beginning today. The app will be pushed to small batches of users over the next week, according to Google. The app will let most NFC-equipped Android handsets running Android 4.4 KitKat and up make tap-and-go mobile payments at more than one million participating vendors across the country. Owners of American Express, Discover, MasterCard, and Visa credit/debit cards will be able to add their accounts to Android Pay. Some of the first wave of banks supporting Android Pay include Bank of America, Navy Federal Credit Union, PNC, Regions Bank, USAA, and U.S. Bank. Citi and Wells Fargo will be available in the next few days, says Google, and Capital One is coming soon. A notable exception at launch appears to be Chase, which is one of the nation's largest banks. Some of the participating retailers include American Eagle, Babies'R'Us, Macys, Game Stop, OfficeMax, Subway, BJs, Petco, Sports Authority, and Walgreens. Android Pay uses the same tokenization feature Apple relies on in Apple Pay, which protects transactions. Android Pay is available to AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon subscribers. Google said more banks, more retailers, and more features — including support for loyalty cards — are headed to Android Pay in the months ahead. Google is in the midst of a shift of its mobile payment and money management services. Google's original mobile payment app was called Google Wallet. Just yesterday, Google relaunched Wallet as a simpler money-sending service that lets people deliver cash to anyone with an email address. Google Wallet can also be used to manage the Google Wallet Card, which is a debit card linked to the account. Android Pay is replacing the original Google Wallet app for mobile payments at retailers. Earlier this year, Google bought the Softcard mobile payment platform from AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon. It is the Softcard platform that is behind the new Android Pay service.
Verizon Wireless today announced the Jetpack AC791L, a mobile hotspot that runs all day and supports up to 15 connected devices. The Jetpack AC791L, made by Netgear, is a traditional hotspot that features a full-color LCD screen and includes LTE Advanced functionality. The hotspot's battery lasts a full 24 hours with continuous use, and can remain in standby mode for up to 650 hours. The Jetpack includes universal charging and can be used to rev up mobile devices, such smartphones. Netgear says the AC791L is secure enough for corporate and personal data alike, and it supports VPNs for enterprise users. Management tools allow owners to block unwanted devices, set one-time passwords, and permit guest access via the associated Netgear AirCard app. The AC791L is available online for $49 after rebate with a new contract or $199 at full retail.
Verizon Wireless today debuted a fifth option for data-hungry customers. For a limited time, Verizon is offering an 18GB shared data plan that costs $100 per month. The plan is XX-Large when compared to the Small, Medium, Large, and X-Large plans already available from Verizon. Each data plan comes with unlimited talk and text, and can be shared between up to 10 devices. Extra data is available for $15 per GB. Monthly access charges for smartphones are $20 per month; access charges for tablets and Jetpacks are $10 per month; and access charges for connected devices such as smart watches are $5 per month. Verizon customers can sign up for the new 18GB data plan starting today.
AT&T today announced the ZTE Mobley, a mobile hotspot for cars that connects via the OBD-II port. The Mobley is compatible with most cars model year 1996 and later and turns on automatically whenever the car is on. It can support up to five connected devices in the car via WiFi. The Mobley costs $100 with no commitment, and is also available for $0 down with a two-year commitment. AT&T says it can be added to Mobile Share Value plans for a $10 monthly access charge. Data Connect plans are available, too, which cost $20 for 1GB of LTE 4G data or $30 for 3GB. The Mobley is a simple hotspot and doesn't offer advanced support functions, such as roadside assistance, like those available via the Verizon Hum.
Verizon Wireless wants to stay ahead of the curve and be among the first to launch fifth-generation (or 5G) wireless network technology. The company plans to begin field tests at its Innovation Centers, which are dedicated sandboxes for testing apps and services, located in San Francisco and Waltham, Mass., at some point in 2016. Verizon will use gear supplied by partners Alcatel-Lucent, Ericsson, Cisco, Nokia, Qualcomm, and Samsung to conduct the trials. Moreover, Verizon expects to reach "some level of commercial deployment" as soon as 2017, according to Roger Gurnani, chief information and technology architect for Verizon. Verizon's timeline is ambitious, especially considering 5G hasn't been defined. The International Telecommunications Union only agreed on the basic framework for developing what will eventually become the 5G wireless data specification in June of this year. The 5G roadmap is being referred to as IMT-2020, which the ITU hopes to have finalized by the year 2020. The core definition of 5G will be wireless networks that can transmit data at speeds up to 20Gbps. Most of today's LTE networks are allowing for connections as fast as 50Mbps in real-world conditions. Verizon's Gurnani said the company is targeting real-world speeds that are 30 to 50 times faster than current LTE 4G. Verizon didn't say if it intends to adhere to the ITU's vision for what 5G technology should truly be. Verizon is the first U.S. network operator to put 5G on its public roadmap, but others are sure to follow quickly.
Verizon Communications today plans to launch a trial version of its mobile video service. The trial will be initially offered to existing customers in select, unnamed markets this week, with a full-scale launch planned for later this month or early next month. Video content will be supported by advertisements. Industry watchers expect Verizon to rely on technology it recently acquired with the purchase of AOL to support its ad strategy. Verizon is talking to advertisers about its ad-delivery tools as well as its customer data, which includes location, wealth demographics, and prior purchase history. The trial will offer free programming from providers such as Comedy Central, Food Network, ESPN, Discovery Network, VH1, Maker Studios, Machinima, StyleHaul, and between 100 and 200 hours of exclusive content from online video services such as AwesomenessTV. Verizon hopes the service will score well with millennials. The company didn't immediately provide details about device compatibility or where the trial is available.
The CAT S50 rugged Android phone will be available to Verizon customers in just a few weeks, according to CAT representatives. The special S50c version supports Verizon's LTE bands and CDMA network, and is in the final stages of approval by Verizon. It will be available through business channels and certain indirect retailers, but not in Verizon stores. The S50 has a 4.7-inch 720p HD display, IP67 rating against water and dust, 8-megapixel camera, memory card slot, and a Snapdragon 400 processor.
Verizon today unveiled a new logo and visual identity. The company is keeping its signature red and black colors, while shifting the angled "V" graphic into a smaller symbol after the word "verizon" that is more obviously a "check mark". According to the company, "it’s a cleaner, more human design and the checkmark, the universal symbol for getting things done, uniquely expresses the reliability of Verizon."
Samsung is inviting a select number of people to beta test Samsung Pay in the U.S. In order to trial the mobile payment platform, consumers need to have a Galaxy S6, S6 Edge, S6 Edge+, or Note 5 smartphone. AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint, and U.S. Cellular are supporting Samsung Pay at launch, Verizon Wireless is not. The beta requires users to have an active Samsung account and a MasterCard or Visa credit/debit card from Bank of America, Merrill Lynch, U.S. Trust, or U.S. Bank. Samsung Pay uses both NFC and MST for tap-and-go transactions. Apple Pay and Android Pay, in comparison, use only NFC. Consumers can request an invite to test Samsung Pay from Samsung.com.
Verizon Wireless has made it somewhat easier to activate select non-Verizon smartphones on its network. People who own an iPhone 6 or Nexus 6 can add Verizon service to their handset as long as it meets several key criteria. A new support page on Verizon's web site provides step-by-step instructions that help people determine if their handset is compatible with Verizon's network. If it is, users will be able to insert a Verizon SIM card and initiate service. Verizon said the device has to be unlocked prior to activation. The idea is to make it easier for people to switch to Verizon by allowing them to use their existing equipment. The program also helps Verizon satisfy some regulatory requirements with regard to allowing non-branded devices access its LTE network.
Verizon Communications today made Hum, its connected car product, available in the U.S. The product was first revealed in January as Verizon Vehicle with an intended June launch time. Though a bit late, the device and service are now for sale. Hum 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. Hum may later add turn-by-turn navigation or concierge services. The module is compatible with some 9,000 models released since 1996. The starter kit, which includes an app, module, and Bluetooth speaker, costs $120. Service for the first car costs $14.99 per month. Verizon is waiving the equipment costs for now. People who add the service to three or more cars will be charged at $12.99 per car per month.
Sony took to Twitter to tease a new Xperia-branded handset. "Get ready for a smartphone with greater focus," said the company. Sony has always placed an emphasis on it devices' cameras. "All will become clear on 09.02.2015." Sony is holding a press conference at the IFA trade show in Berlin on that day and is expected to reveal its next-generation flagship smartphone. The company announced the Z4v for the U.S. market earlier this year, but the phone has yet to land on Verizon's shelves despite a promised summer launch frame.
The FCC has officially and unanimously rejected Dish Network's $3.3 billion in AWS-3 spectrum auction discounts. Dish used three smaller companies, in which it owned an 85% stake each, to place bids on its behalf. The smaller companies, known as designated entities, qualified as small businesses and received a significant discount on their $13.1 billion auction tally. Dish competitors AT&T and Verizon Wireless cried foul over Dish's bidding techniques. Dish maintains that it adhered to the auction rules and expressed disappointment over the FCC's decision. Dish owns significant swaths of spectrum, but has yet to deploy any sort of wireless network. Last month, the FCC voted in new rules that prevent such discounts in the future.
Sprint will soon stop asking customers to sign two-year contracts when purchasing new phones, says the Wall Street Journal. The change coincides with moves made by its competitors, including T-Mobile and Verizon Wireless. Sprint CEO Marcelo Claure told the Journal that it will move to a phone-leasing/financing model, such as the one it debuted earlier today for the iPhone, before January. Claure suggested that its parent company, SoftBank, will help it offset some of the costs associated with leasing — rather than selling — handsets to customers. SoftBank last week spoke of plans to create a subsidiary that might help finance some of Sprint's handset-related costs. The wireless industry has been transitioning from the subsidized, contract model to leasing and/or financing programs since T-Mobile announced its first Uncarrier move in 2013. AT&T is the lone national carrier still offering yearly contracts in addition to financing plans.
The majority of U.S. wireless network operators will offer the Samsung Galaxy Note 5 and S6 Edge+. AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, U.S. Cellular, and Verizon Wireless all plan to sell the new handsets from Samsung. The Note 5 and S6 Edge+ will also be sold by Amazon.com, Best Buy, Costco, Sam's Club, Target, and some Walmart stores. Carriers and retailers will confirm specific pricing and availability details.
Verizon Wireless today said the HTC Desire 526 and Desire 626 will reach its store shelves in the near future. The 526, which has a 4.7-inch qHD display and an 8-megapixel camera, will be available online and in stores starting Aug. 13 for $120 or $5 per month for 24 months. The 626, which has a 5-inch display and 8-megapixel/5-megapixel camera combination, will be available in the coming weeks. Verizon didn't say how much the 626 will cost. Both phones run Android 5.1 Lollipop, have 2,000mAh batteries, and support memory cards. They will be sold through Verizon's postpaid and prepaid businesses.
SoftBank's plans for Sprint have not unfolded as CEO Masayoshi Son hoped. Son initially believed a merger with competitor T-Mobile would serve the carrier, but was dismayed when U.S. antitrust regulators shot the idea down. "I was thinking to myself: 'I made one of the biggest mistakes in my life,' which was the misjudgment of the U.S. regulatory environment," said Son. SoftBank closed its equity stake in Sprint just two years ago, and the company has already considered selling Sprint to Comcast in the U.S. or Altice in Europe, according to the Wall Street Journal. Son's plan to sell Sprint went nowhere. Son also considered writing off the acquisition as a total loss. Now, SoftBank is facing the costly prospect of improving Sprint's network to entice back customers it has lost to rivals over the years. Sprint plans to install tens of thousands of small cells to improve the density of its network around the country, but is burning cash at an alarming rate and may go broke by mid 2016 if it doesn't reduce expenditures. For legal reasons, SoftBank's hands are tied; it cannot invest too much more money in Sprint's turnaround. It is considering forming two stand-alone entities to help finance Sprint's network and handset-leasing expenses to keep debt off Sprint's balance sheet. Son replaced Sprint CEO Dan Hesse a year ago with Marcelo Claure, who has made some progress in retaining customers, but the carrier still has a long way to go. It recently fell behind T-Mobile, which now stands as the country's third-largest carrier, behind AT&T and Verizon. Masayoshi Son and Claure hope the network densification plan and more consumer-friendly service plans will help put the carrier on a more positive track.
Verizon Wireless today refreshed its service plans in an attempt to make them easier for consumers to understand. The company is offering four basic plans, each of which includes unlimited talk and text, and varied buckets of shared data. The Small plan costs $30 per month and includes 1GB of data, the Medium plan costs $45 per month and includes 3GB of data, the Large plan costs $60 per month and includes 6GB of data, and the X-Large plan costs $80 per month and includes 12GB of data. These prices don't include access charges or device payments. Each smartphone line costs $20 per month to add to the service plan, while tablets and dongles cost $10, and wearables cost $5. So, a Large plan with two smartphones sharing the 6GB of data would cost $100 per month ($60 + $20 + $20) before taxes, fees, and device payments. Verizon will charge data overage fees of $15 per 1GB. According to Verizon, existing More Everything customers (contract or month-to-month) can stay with their current plan through the end of their contract or switch to the new plans right away. Any customer choosing these refreshed plans must purchase a smartphone using monthly payments — no more subsidies, no more contracts. Verizon is doing away with the "Verizon Edge" branding for device payments moving forward. The new service plans go into effect August 13.
Flat Wireless, a Texas-based company, has filed a complaint with the FCC over roaming rates charged by Verizon Wireless. Flat said Verizon's data rates are "unjust and unreasonable in absolute terms and in relation to charges assessed by Verizon Wireless for similar services to its retail customers, MVNOs, and to international roaming partners. The company said Verizon is violating the FCC's data roaming rules, which are required to be "commercially reasonable." Last year, the FCC said it would intervene in instances where companies could not agree on roaming rates. It has four benchmarks agains which rates are compared, though the FCC does not set the actual rates. Verizon hasn't responded publicly to Flat Wireless' accusations.
The FCC today formally rejected T-Mobile's bid to set aside more low-band spectrum for smaller carriers in next year's 600MHz auction. T-Mobile wanted to see a total of 40MHz of the valuable low-band airwaves set aside for carriers other than AT&T and Verizon Wireless. The FCC said in June it would likely keep the reserve at 30MHz, which it proposed last year, and today voted on the matter officially. The 600MHz auction will see television broadcasters voluntarily give up their spectrum licenses, which will then be bid on by mobile network operators. The FCC is still locking down some of the rules that will govern the auction. The auction is expected to begin in mid-2016.
T-Mobile has lowered the price points of the Samsung Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge a week after Samsung said it would drop the phones' prices. The Galaxy S6 now costs $580, $660, and $660 for the 32 GB, 64 GB, and 128 GB models, respectively. Those reflect price drops of $100 to $200. The Galaxy S6 Edge has similar price cuts, and now costs $680, $760, and $760 for the 32 GB, 64 GB, and 128 GB models, respectively. Samsung reported its second quarter earnings recently and indicated the S6 and S6 Edge were not selling as well as hoped. In response, Samsung said it "plans to firmly maintain its sale of premium smartphones by flexibly adjusting the price of the Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge." T-Mobile's competitors, AT&T, Sprint, and Verizon Wireless, have yet to follow the Uncarrier's lead, but they likely will in the near future.
AT&T said a problem with its wireline network was to blame for spotty cellular coverage in portions of Alabama, Indiana, Kentucky, and Tennessee this evening. AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless customers in those four states reported connectivity issues starting in the late afternoon. They took to social media in droves to complain about the lack of service. AT&T provides backhaul coverage for itself and its competitors in the region. "We've pinpointed the issue in the Southeast and are working to restore service as quickly as possible," said AT&T via its Twitter account. Sprint and Verizon took to their own social media accounts to assure customers that the issue will soon be resolved. "Verizon engineers worked with our vendors to identify and resolve the issue and service was restored by 8pm," said Verizon. AT&T has yet to provide specific details about the hardware issue that caused the problem.
Sprint reported its second quarter earnings today and the numbers reveal it has fallen behind competitor T-Mobile in the total number of customers. T-Mobile, which gained a total of 2 million new customers during the second quarter, reported a total customer base on 58.9 million. Sprint saw net additions of 675,000 customers during the second quarter, but that left it with a total of 57 million. T-Mobile now ranks as the third-largest U.S. carrier in terms of customers, and Sprint ranks fourth. AT&T and Verizon Wireless still hold the top two spots. Sprint reported a financial loss for the quarter of $20 million on revenue of $8 billion. Despite the loss, Sprint reduced churn and ceded just 12,000 postpaid smartphone subscribers, which are considered the most lucrative to hold. The company said it continues to work aggressively to improve its network and cut costs. Sprint is mostly owned by SoftBank, based in Japan. CEO Marcelo Claure has been on board for just about a year. He recently shook up the executive suite and installed a new CFO and COO.