Samsung today announced the Galaxy Grand, a new Android smartphone that has a 5-inch display. Unlike the Galaxy Note II or Galaxy S III, both of which have 720p HD displays, the Grand's screen has a lower resolution of 800 x 480 pixels. The Grand has a dual-core 1.2GHz processor, an 8-megapixel camera with 1080p HD video capture, 2-megapixel user-facing camera, as well as Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0, and GPS. The Grand comes in several wireless variants, including one that supports HSPA+ at 21Mbps in the 850/1900/2100MHz bands, which makes it compatible with AT&T's 3G network. One version has two SIM card slots and supports two numbers. The Grand includes 8GB of onboard storage and supports microSD cards. Samsung did not say when or where the Galaxy Grand would go on sale, nor how much it will cost. No U.S. carriers have announced plans to carry it.
The Federal Communications Commission today moved to toss an appeal filed by Verizon Wireless regarding the FCC's statutory authority to mandate that wireless network operators provide roaming agreements to competitors. The FCC adopted rules last year that requires the nation's largest wireless network operators (primarily AT&T and Verizon Wireless) to forge voice and data roaming agreements with smaller rivals in regions where the smaller rival doesn't provide its own coverage. The FCC believes this to be the best action for American consumers, who, theoretically, will have more seamless access to voice and mobile broadband services. Verizon believes that the FCC overstepped its authority to make such rulings, and wants the regulations vacated. In today's filing, the FCC argues that Verizon's case is invalid and asks for it to be dismissed.
AT&T recently begun suggeting to some customers in the New York City metropolitan area that they upgrade from their existing 2G phones to more current 3G phones. In a letter sent to these customers, AT&T said, "Your current, older-model 2G phone might not be able to make or receive calls and you may experience degradation of your wireless service in certain areas." According to AT&T representative Mark Siegel, who spoke to MarketWatch, AT&T eventually plans to cease offering 2G services on its 1900MHz spectrum so that it can use that spectrum for other services. For the moment, Siegel said the program is voluntary. AT&T did not say exactly when it will stop offering 2G services in the 1900MHz band, but said that it is supporting the 2G network for the time being and that the majority of its customers will be unaffected by this eventual chage. AT&T recently lost its $39.5 billion bid to acquire rival T-Mobile USA, whose spectrum it planned to use to augment its LTE 4G network. AT&T has since begun seeking spectrum from alternate sources.
Isis today announced that VeriFone, Ingenico, ViVOtech and Equinox Payments have agreed to use the Isis mobile commerce platform in their point-of-sale retail terminals. Isis is a joint venture supported by AT&T, T-Mobile USA, and Verizon Wireless. Isis's goal is to bring NFC-based mobile payments to mobile phones and retail locations around the country. The venture recently signed a number of financial institutions, including Chase, Capital One, and BarclayCard. With the point-of-sale terminal makers on board, retailers will be able to update their existing equipment or purchase new equipment for their stores that will be able to accept Isis mobile payments.
AT&T today reacted to customer dissatisfaction regarding its network management and data usage policies by changing the threshold at which it will throttle customers. Last year, AT&T said that it would throttle the data of its heaviest 5% of users. The amount of monthly data consumed by those users is approximately 2GB. Customers who have unlimited data plans were seeing their data speeds throttled once they reached that threshold. Now, AT&T said it will not throttle the data of its 3G unlimited data plan customers until they reach 3GB of data usage in one billing cycle. They will be warned when they approach the limit, and throttled for the remainder of the billing cycle if they exceed it. The next time customers exceed 3GB in a month, their speeds will be reduced without a text message warning. For customers with LTE 4G phones, the throttling threshold is 5GB, and the same terms apply.
T-Mobile USA CTO Neville Ray said that a key factor in the company's network migration to LTE 4G will be the use of integrated radios in its base stations. Integrated radios include both the antenna and the radio on a single unit. This set-up requires less space than traditional equipment, and use less power. Using integrated radios will help T-Mobile build out its LTE network much faster than it otherwise could. Ray said that the company came up with its network roadmap in just eight weeks, and is moving as fast as possible. T-Mobile told Phone Scoop that the company has already made a number of changes to its network in the past year (as it expected to be folded into AT&T) that will help it accomplish its LTE network build out faster.
AT&T is facing a customer backlash now that it is enforcing certain network management policies. Last year, the company announced plans to throttle data speeds of the top 5% of customers. Though it varies market-to-market, many customers have reported being throttled once they reach approximately 2GB of data per month. One customer in California successfully sued AT&T in small claims court over the throttling and won an $850 judgement (AT&T is appealing that case). Now, another customer has started a campaign on Change.org in an attempt to get AT&T to alter its data policies. The customer complains that her account was throttled once she reached 2GB of data usage per month, even though AT&T offers 3GB plans. So far, 9,500 other AT&T customers have signed the petition. An AT&T spokesperson said the company had already throttled data speeds for about 200,000 of its customers who were using about 2GB of data per month. AT&T has some 17 million customers with unlimited plans who could be affected by the throttling policy.
The GSMA today announced that AT&T, Bell Mobility, Sprint, T-Mobile USA, and Verizon Wireless have adopted the GSMA Spam Reporting Service (SRS). Though the U.S. has one of the world's lowest rates of SMS-based spam, the measure will help U.S. operators protect its customers from spam attacks. The GSMA's SRS allows operators to "share attack intelligence in real time" so that proper measures can be taken to prevent or slow down the spread of attacks. Consumers will be able to report spam messages to their operators through a short code service. The data will then be pooled with global data on spam.
Visa today announced plans for a new mobile payment service that would make use of NFC-equipped smartphones, though not necessarily those for the company's Isis joint venture with AT&T, T-Mobile USA, and Verizon Wireless. According to Visa, the program works thus: Consumers buy a Visa-certified, NFC-equipped phone; they contact their Visa provider and ask to activate mobile payments; Visa links the user's bank account to the phone securely and requires a passcode that unlocks the NFC chip on the phone; Visa then downloads the payment application and account details to the handset. Consumers would then be able to make mobile payments anywhere Visa's payWave system is accepted. Visa said that the platform could also allow vendors to offer their own mobile payments apps that tie into the Visa-approved payment service.
AT&T today announced that it will offer ratings for its phones that provide consumers with a basic level of information about how ecological the product is. The eco-rating system will cover items such as materials used, energy efficiency, manufacturing processes, and end-of-life treatment for the device. Manufacturers will have to measure their devices against 15 criteria developed by AT&T for the eco-rating system. The criteria note things such as what percentage of recycled materials were used in the device's manufacture, and information on how much lead, cadmium, mercury, nickel and antimony trioxide/antimony compounds are used in the device. AT&T will then assign a score and make the ratings visible within its stores and on its web site. The idea is to provide its customers with the information they need to make decisions that suit their lifestyle. The program will launch later this year.
T-Mobile USA today reported its 2011 fourth quarter and full year earnings and said that it will launch an LTE 4G network starting in 2013. The company said it will use a combination of new spectrum gained from AT&T in addition to new spectrum purchases, and will refarm some of its existing spectrum assets to support the new 4G network. It also said that it will revitalize its role as a challenger to larger rivals with competitive device and service offerings. T-Mobile saw its revenue drop 3.3% during the quarter to $20.6 billion. Total churn increased from 3.5% to 4.0% and the company lost a total of 802,000 customers during the fourth quarter. Its total customer base at the end of 2011 -- including both post/pre-paid -- was 33.2 million.
AT&T has cut CEO Randall Stephenson's payment package by a total of $2.08 million in the wake of the company's failed bid to purchase T-Mobile USA. AT&T's board cut both his cash bonus for 2011 as well as reduced his stock. Stephenson still earned $18.7 million for the year. AT&T was forced to eat $4.2 billion charge for the year on the failed take-over bid due to a break-up fee (mixture of spectrum assets and cash) to which it had agreed. The government blocked the acquisition, citing potential harm to American consumers.
AT&T today announced a new push-to-talk service that it is trialing with select business customers. The service makes use of Kodiak Network's technology on AT&T's HSPA and LTE networks to deliver walkie-talkie conversations to smartphones, rugged phones, and feature phones. It will work with smartphone apps, support large contact databases, and offer fast call connection times. It is also compatible with existing mobile radio systems, such as Land Mobile Radio (LMR) and Private Mobile Radio (PMR). AT&T made it clear that this program is being used to test the effectiveness of the new service and will rely on user-feedback to tweak the final product offering.
The Federal Communications Commission today approved AT&T's request to acquire 700MHz spectrum licenses in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. The New Jersey spectrum is owned by BTA Ventures, and is a sliver of lower 700MHz B Block covering portions of the New Jersey shoreline. The FCC also said that AT&T can acquire several 700MHz licenses covering six markets in Pennsylvania from D&E Investments, which is owned by Windstream Corporation. The FCC denied the Rural Cellular Association and Rural Telecommunications Groups' requests to deny the acquisitions, stating that it believes the reassignment of the spectrum licenses won't cause any competitive harms to the public. AT&T said the acquisitions will allow it to increase its system capacity, enhance existing services, better accommodate its overall growth, and make room for future products and services.
Intellectual Ventures, a patent-holding firm based in Bellevue, Wash., has filed lawsuits against AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile USA. In the lawsuit, Intellectual Ventures alleges that the three wireless network operators are infringing on 12 patents. "The wireless communications networks of AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile use a variety of important technologies covered by Intellectual Ventures' patents. We previously attempted to discuss licensing options with each of these companies, but none were responsive, said Intellectual Ventures' litigation counsel Melissa Finocchio in a statement. It is seeking unspecified damages.
AT&T has not let the government's denial of its proposed T-Mobile USA acquisition stop its hunt for additional spectrum resources. AT&T is having discussions with Dish Network, Leap Wireless, and MetroPCS about potential deals, reports the Wall Street Journal. Citing sources familiar with AT&T's plans, the Journal says despite the active discussions, no firm deals are in place and it would be months before any such deals might be announced or come to pass. AT&T is said to be leaning towards acquiring Leap Wireless, though, because the two companies have had favorable relations in the past. None of the companies involved commented on the Journal's story.
AT&T today announced that it has launched its Long Term Evolution 4G network in the Tampa Bay - St. Petersburg metropolitan area, including Hillsborough, Pinellas, and Pasco counties. With today's launch, AT&T said its LTE network is now live in 28 markets across the U.S. AT&T said that it will expand its LTE coverage in the Tampa Bay area over the coming months. AT&T also announced that it has expanded its LTE coverage in North Carolina to include Durham. AT&T 4G LTE coverage now includes parts of Raleigh, Chapel Hill, and Durham.
The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission today decided that telecommunications companies such as AT&T, Sprint, and Verizon Wireless must allow shareholders to vote in net neutrality policies. The decision was made in part thanks to the efforts of AT&T investors, who have been trying to add net neutrality policies to AT&T's shareholder ballot for years. "In view of the sustained public debate over the last several years concerning net neutrality and the Internet and the increasing recognition that the issue raises significant policy considerations, we do not believe that AT&T may omit the proposal from its proxy materials," said the SEC. The companies must "publicly commit to operate [their] wireless broadband networks consistent with network neutrality principles," and not discriminate on traffic based on source, content, or destination. AT&T argued that such proposals would interfere with their ability to manage their networks.
U.S. Cellular recently petitioned the Federal Communications Commission for permission to purchase a handful of 700MHz spectrum licenses in Nebraska/Kansas and North Carolina. According to FCC filings, U.S. Cellular hopes to snag two 700MHz spectrum licenses from USA Communications in Nebraska/Kansas, and three licenses from Cavalier Wireless in North Carolina. The spectrum in question falls in the lower A, B, and C Blocks, and "will allow USCC to improve and enhance its voice and data service offerings in those markets." U.S. Cellular, like AT&T and Verizon Wireless, is using 700MHz on which to operate a Long Term Evolution network. Terms were not disclosed.
AT&T is prepared to double its device upgrade fee from $18 to $36. This fee is generally paid when customers choose to purchase new equipment and add it to their plan. In a statement sent to media today, AT&T said, "Wireless devices today are more sophisticated than ever before. And because of that, the costs associated with upgrading to a new device have increased and is reflected in our new upgrade fee. This fee isn't unique to AT&T and this is the first time we're changing it in nearly 10 years." The change goes into effect starting Sunday, February 12.
AT&T today responded to reports of throttling from users who have unlimited data plans. The company announced in July of last year that it would throttle the data speeds of its top 5% of users -- even those who have unlimited data plans. "Smartphone customers with unlimited data plans may experience reduced speeds once their usage puts them in the top 5% of our heaviest data users," said AT&T spokesperson Seth Bloom in an email to Phone Scoop. "We will continue to send reminders and communicate with these customers ahead of time as their usage approaches the top 5%. For 95% of our smartphone customers this continues to present no impact." According to AT&T, the actual amount of data used by the top 5% changes each month. Customers who are throttled during a portion of their billing period due t heavy use will be restored to full-speed service at the start of the next billing cycle.
AT&T has requested that the Federal Communications Commission set a number of requirements in place before Dish Network can build out its planned LTE-Advanced 4G network. AT&T wants Dish beholden to similar requirements levied on LightSquared. It would be required to cover 100 million POPs within 33 months and reach 260 million POPs within 69 months. AT&T also noted that it has "concerns" over Dish's use of 700MHz spectrum (which AT&T is also using for LTE). Dish responded this week to AT&T's request, saying such conditions would thwart its plans. Dish argues that LTE-Advanced will require much longer to deploy, as no other operator has deployed it yet. It also believes the differences between its commercial network (which will be sold directly to consumers) is different from LightSquared's wholesale approach, and requires more back-end systems be put into place. Last, Dish said its LTE-Advanced network will be deployed on its 2GHz spectrum holdings, not 700MHz. The FCC has not yet ruled on the matter.
Motorola has provided a system update for the Atrix 2, which is sold by AT&T. The software update, which must be downloaded via Wi-Fi, makes a number of adjustments to the Atrix 2. According to Motorola, the update improves the performance of the camera; adds the Google Music application; patches security holes; adds emergency alerts from government agencies; and improves the keyboard, device stability, and performance of the Webtop application. The update is free to download and install.
AT&T today made Android 2.3.6 Gingerbread available to the Samsung Infuse 4G. The update brings a wide range of new features to the Infuse 4G, including a new touch keyboard, notification shade controls, new widgets and fonts, and improved power management. According to AT&T, the update can only be installed via a Windows PC. It cannot be downloaded over the air, or through Apple computers.
AT&T has made a number of changes to its senior management team in the wake of its failed attempt to acquire T-Mobile USA. Ralph de la Vega has been named president and CEO of AT&T Mobility where he will focus on growing the company's smartphone business. Forrest Miller, a 30-year veteran of AT&T and the company's head of corporate strategy and mergers and acquisitions, is retiring. John Stankey was named Group President & Chief Strategy Officer, and has been given the responsibility to "develop the roadmap to maximize future growth opportunities." Andy Geisse, who has been with AT&T for 32 years, was named Senior Executive Vice President-AT&T Business and Home Solutions. Last, John Donovan was named Senior Executive Vice President-AT&T Technology and Network Operations. All these positions report directly to AT&T Chairman and CEO Randall Stephenson.
T-Mobile USA today announced that it will support the Square mobile payment service for its small business customers. With Square, small businesses can accept credit card payments nearly anywhere in the U.S. at any time. Square will allow small businesses to avoid setting up and/or paying for standard credit card payment systems and services. They need only be subscribed to one of T-Mobile USA's small business plans. T-Mobile believes that by supporting Square, it will give its customers a chance to grow their businesses by keeping operating costs low. T-Mobile USA is also part of the Isis joint venture with AT&T and Verizon Wireless, which will eventually bring near-field communications mobile payments to cell phones.
AT&T has accused Sprint of taking advantage of changes to the Home Market Rule to avoid building out its network in markets where it owns spectrum and instead roam on the networks of its competitors. The Home Market Rule was put in place to enable rural carriers to compete on a more level playing field. The rule says, as explained by AT&T, "If a carrier owned spectrum, it was good public policy to require them to build out that spectrum and therefore they should not be able to demand roaming from other carriers in those home markets." The FCC abolished the rule in 2010. Sprint recently announced that it will rely on roaming agreements to cover large portions of Kansas and Oklahoma rather than invest money building its own network in those regions, even though it owns spectrum there. Sprint responded to AT&T, claiming that its Network Vision program has doubled the amount of investment it is making in its network. In an email, Sprint spokesperson John Taylor said, "It's disappointing, but not surprising, that AT&T wants to challenge a consumer's right to access email, the Internet and other mobile broadband services wherever they may travel in the U.S. Along with Verizon Wireless, AT&T is the only other wireless carrier in America which opposes the FCC's pro-consumer data roaming decision from last year." The rules are going to be reviewed by the Washington, D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals later this year.
AT&T and T-Mobile USA today filed paperwork with the Federal Communications Commission seeking approval to transfer spectrum from AT&T to T-Mobile USA. AT&T had promised T-Mobile USA some of its spectrum if AT&T's proposed acquisition of the smaller company fell through. The deal fell apart in December. T-Mobile USA will be given AWS mobile spectrum in 128 markets, including 12 of the top 20 markets in the U.S. (Los Angeles, Dallas, Houston, Atlanta, Washington, Boston, San Francisco, Phoenix, San Diego, Denver, Baltimore and Seattle). In addition to the spectrum, AT&T signed a seven-year UMTS roaming agreement that gives T-Mobile USA a coverage boost from 230 million POPs to 280 million POPs. The roaming agreement gives T-Mobile a significantly larger service footprint for UMTS-based voice and data. The FCC has yet to comment on the spectrum transfer.
AT&T today announced that it will change its data plan allotments and pricing starting Sunday, January 22. The new smartphone plans include 300MB for $20 per month; 3GB for $30 per month; or 5GB with tethering/hotspot for $50 per month. All three reflect a $5 increase in monthly prices, but also add more data. AT&T is also adjusting the data plans available to tablets, which include 3GB for $30 per month; or 5GB for $50 per month. AT&T said that costumers may choose to stay with their existing plans, and that the $15 plan for 250MB per month will remain available.
AT&T today introduced new voice options for customers who travel to Canada or Mexico for vacations or other short stays. The AT&T Canada and Mexico Travel Minutes plan offers 50 minutes of talk time for $24.99 per month; 125 minutes for $49.99 per month; 275 minutes for $99.99 per month; or 800 minutes for $199.99 per month. These plans offer per-minute voice rates ranging between $0.39 to $0.79, which are significantly lower than AT&T's normal roaming rates. The plans will be available starting January 22.
Motorola CEO Sanjay Jha today indicated that the company hopes to make fewer phones during 2012 in order to conserve marketing resources. In an interview with The Verge, Jha also said that Motorola needs to be able to differentiate the Motorola experience when compared to the competition. "Verizon and AT&T don't want seven stock ICS devices on their shelves. The vast majority of the changes we make to the OS are to meet the requirements that carriers have." In short, Motorola will continue to offer its own user experience on Android devices, but there will be fewer of them this year.
Lenovo today indicated that it wants to sell smartphones in the U.S., according to an interview with Reuters. David Schmoock, Lenovo's North American chief, said, "I will spend time over the next couple of years building out the relationship with the mobile providers -- AT&T, Sprint, Verizon, etc. You have to build out that network first, then that allows you to put products on the shelf." Schmook doesn't see Lenovo hitting U.S. retail stores imminently, but he is working to make it happen. Lenovo recently announced a new Android-based smartphone called LePhone 2 that will be sold in its home market of China.
Nokia want to sell an exclusive Windows Phone device with each of the major U.S. network operators, said Nokia's U.S. chief Chris Weber in an interview with Fierce Wireless. "The most important thing we can do in the U.S. market is bring exclusive devices and opportunities to each of the carriers. Doing that exclusivity and giving them something unique allows us to get great carrier support. I think it's critical for us to be successful in the U.S. That's the way you get great carrier support." Weber did not indicate that Nokia has concrete plans to offer such devices beyond those already for sale with AT&T and T-Mobile USA. Nokia hopes to win over first-time smartphone buyers, too, with inexpensive WP7 smartphones to get them hooked on the WP7 experience and the Nokia brand. Nokia plans to market its U.S. devices heavily in the coming months.
T-Mobile USA CEO Philip Humm today said that there are no new acquisition deals on the table and that the company is prepared to move forward without merging or being acquired by a competitor. Speaking to AllThingsD, Humm said, "There is no second AT&T deal around. Now it's really a question about restarting the business. We will give you more details probably by the end of the quarter. We are right now finalizing our plans." T-Mobile USA recently lost its bid to sell itself to AT&T. T-Mobile USA gained valuable spectrum and a roaming deal with AT&T has part of the break-up, but the company still needs to raise capital. Parent company Deutsche Telekom scored $3 billion in cash from AT&T, but it's not clear if it will reinvest that money in developing T-Mobile USA further.
Nokia today announced the Lumia 900 Windows Phone device for AT&T at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. The Lumia 900's stand-out feature is its support for AT&T's LTE 4G network. Other features of the Lumia 900 include a 4.3-inch AMOLED ClearBlack display, 1830 mAh battery, 1.4GHz processor, front-facing camera for video chats, and Carl Zeiss optics for the 8-megapixel main camera, and 512MB of RAM. The Lumia 900s design is based on the N9 and the Lumia 800, and is carved from solid polycarbonate. It will be an exclusive device for AT&T. Pricing and availability were not revealed.
T-Mobile USA parent company Deutsche Telekom is looking for ways to fund the fourth-place U.S. carrier now that its sale to AT&T has fallen through. One avenue the company is pursuing is a sale of T-Mobile's cell towers. Deutsche Telekom believes it can gain $1 to $2 billion dollars from such a sale. It is also looking into raising additional funding through the sale of bonds. Capital expenditures to run T-Mobile USA cost Deutsche Telekom about $3 billion annually. Deutsche Telekom will provide more information about the future of T-Mobile USA when it reports its quarterly earnings in February.
Nokia on Monday will is reveal the Lumia 900, a Windows Phone device for the AT&T network, reports The New York Times. Citing unnamed sources, the Times says the company is going to show off the "sleek, metallic" phone at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Nokia and AT&T both have press conferences scheduled for Monday, January 9. The Times' sources didn't provide more details about the handset.
AT&T today announced that its Long Term Evolution 4G network is now live in 11 new markets, bringing its total 4G coverage to 26 markets and 74 million Americans. The new markets include: New York City (portions of the metro area), Austin, Chapel Hill, Los Angeles, Oakland, Orlando, Phoenix, Raleigh, San Diego, San Francisco, and San Jose. Customes with LTE-capable devices in these markets will be able to access the faster network, as well as AT&T's HSPA+ network. AT&T said it expects its LTE roll-out to be complete by the end of 2013.
The Federal Communications Commission today voted 3-1 in favor of allowing AT&T to purchase spectrum licenses from Qualcomm. The spectrum in question covers 700MHz airwaves that were once used for Qualcomm's failed MediaFLO live television network. The spectrum block covers 300 million people across the country, including most major metropolitan markets. The deal was first proposed more than a year ago, and AT&T will pay Qualcomm $1.9 billion for the airwaves. It will use the additional capacity to help support the downlink portion of its nascent Long Term Evolution 4G network, which launched earlier this year and covers just 15 markets and 70 million POPs. Of note, the FCC is requiring AT&T to offer roaming deals to its competitors, but it is not requiring AT&T to make sure its LTE network is interoperable with other 700MHz handsets. The FCC did say, however, that it will examine the interoperability issue between 4G networks and handsets next year.
AT&T today announced that it is offering its wireless and wireline customers free phone calls to Japan until the end of the month (effective starting March 11). AT&T is also waiving charges for text messages sent to Japan. AT&T is providing this service so that its customers may reach out to loved ones in the earthquake and tsunami-stricken country.