The FCC today published a list of companies that placed winning bids for the AWS-3 spectrum auction. The FCC auctioned off 1,600 licenses, for which 70 companies were competing. The 10X10MHz J Block was the most coveted section of airwaves. The G, H, and I blocks are all 5x5MHz channels, but also saw competitive bidding. AT&T and Verizon won many of the J Block segments. For example, AT&T placed a $2.76 billion winning bid for J Block spectrum covering New York City. Verizon, however, won the J Block covering Washington, D.C., and Baltimore with a $966 million bid. Aside from AT&T and Verizon, T-Mobile, Northstar Wireless, Advantage Spectrum, and SNR Wireless LicenseCo (Dish) won the majority of the licenses. The FCC was hoping to raise $10.54 billion and instead raised $41.32 billion. AT&T's bids alone totaled $18.2 billion, while Verizon bid $10.4 billion and T-Mobile bid $1.8 billion. The two bidding entities tied to Dish Networks totaled $13 billion. The $41.3 billion auction total is slightly smaller than the FCC earlier reported due to discounts and incentives.
Verizon Wireless today reversed its stance regarding ad-targeting programs and will allow customers to opt out of its "supercookie" tracking tool. The company was under fire from privacy advocates, including the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Consumer Watchdog, as the supercookies track customer behavior, including web browsing history, and cannot be turned off. "Verizon takes customer privacy seriously and it is a central consideration as we develop new products and services. Delivering solutions with best-in-class privacy protections remains our focus," said the company in a statement provided to the New York Times. "We listen to our customers and provide them the ability to opt out of our advertising programs. We have begun working to expand the opt-out to include the identifier referred to as the UIDH, and expect that to be available soon. As a reminder, Verizon never shares customer information with third parties as part of our advertising programs." Verizon didn't say when customers will be able to opt out. AT&T tested a similar program last year, but eventually decided against using it.
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel today announced an initiative along with AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless that will see the city's subway system upgraded with LTE 4G. The City of Chicago and Chicago Transit Authority have agreed to fund the project with $32.5 million. The four carriers will undertake the upgrade themselves with a distributed antenna system, or DAS. The existing system has been in place nearly 10 years and is now outdated. Emanuel said the project will deliver continuous 4G coverage along the 22-mile stretch between O-Hare airport through the tunnels and platforms of the Red and Blue Lines. Work on the project actually began earlier this month and will be complete by the end of the year. Los Angeles recently announced a similar initiative. Boston, New York City, and Washington, D.C., also offer underground cell service in their respective transit systems.
Cricket Wireless today added more data to its bottom two prepaid service plans in a bid to keep up with similar offers from Boost Mobile and MetroPCS. With Cricket's auto-pay discount, the Basic plan costs $35 per month and now includes unlimited talk, text, and 2.5GB of high-speed data per month (up from 1GB). Cricket's Smart plan costs $45 per month and includes 5GB of high-speed data (up from 3GB), and the Pro plan costs $55 per month and includes 10GB of high-speed data. Existing customers will automatically receive the upgraded data allotments. Last, Cricket added an Advanced plan that includes 20GB of data for $55 per month. The Advanced plan will only be available for a limited time and requires an LTE-capable handset. Cricket will provide one month of free service to new customers who sign up for its Smart, Pro, or Advanced plans. The new rates go into effect today. Cricket is owned and operated by AT&T. LTE speeds are limited to 8Mbps. Customers who exceed their monthly limit will be throttled for the remainder of the billing period.
The FCC today said it plans to fine AT&T $640,000 for operating microwave stations outside the parameters of its licenses to do so. Microwave stations are generally set up in point-to-point configurations to beam signals across terrain where it is uneconomical to run copper or fiber wires. Companies use them to serve as backbone connections on the telephone network, to connect cellular base stations to the larger network, or to relay television signals. According to the FCC, AT&T altered 26 of its microwave stations without filing the proper paperwork with the FCC to account for the variances. AT&T ran afoul of the FCC in 2013 for similar infractions related to its wireless network.
The FCC today adopted rules it first proposed last year that will eventually help first responders to locate people who call 911 from their cell phones faster. Specifically, the FCC wants first responders to be able to better locate people within buildings. With today's technology, first responders still have trouble determining from which building wireless 911 calls originate from, let alone the floor and/or apartment or suite. The FCC has laid out clear, measurable goals for carriers to provide X, Y, and Z coordinates to help place callers as accurately as a specific room inside a building. Last fall, the CTIA Wireless Association along with members AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless laid out their own plan to meet the FCC's demands. The FCC said it understands that there's no silver bullet and knows carriers will need to rely on multiple different technologies to reach the benchmarks it has set in place. The FCC said it will allow the operators some leeway in developing their own standards as long as they meet the location accuracy requirements.
AT&T today announced its intent to purchase Nextel Mexico, which covers 76 million customers across the country. Nextel Mexico is owned by NII Holdings and AT&T will pay it $1.875 billion. NII Holdings is currently in bankruptcy and AT&T's offer is less than NII Holdings' outstanding debt. AT&T will acquire all of NII's spectrum licenses, network assets, retail stores, and about 3 million customers. According to AT&T, the proposed acquisition complements its recent purchase of Iusacell, another Mexican network operator. AT&T said it plans to create the "first-ever North American Mobile Service area" covering more than 400 million people across Mexico and the U.S. The deal will need to be approved by both bankruptcy courts and Mexican regulators. AT&T expects the deal to close by mid-2015.
AT&T has expanded the use of carrier aggregation to its LTE network in New York City, San Francisco, and Dallas. Tom Keathley, AT&T's SVP of network and product planning, told Fierce Wireless that AT&T has deployed carrier aggregation "in a significant way." The company plans to further expand carrier aggregation across its network over the course of the year. Carrier aggregation allows two separate spectrum bands to act as one, which improves data speeds and throughput. Keathley also noted that about 20 of AT&T's handsets support LTE Advanced (Cat 4), which allows them to make use of carrier aggregation.
Verizon Wireless will not follow AT&T and T-Mobile's data rollover programs with one of its own. "We're a leader, not a follower," said Verizon CFO Fran Shammo. AT&T and T-Mobile allow customers to roll unused data over to the next month. T-Mobile launched its program in December and AT&T followed it in early January. Shammo said Verizon understands that it will lose some customers over such features, but noted, "We did not go to places where we did not financially want to go to save a customer." Carriers often respond to pricing and service plan changes made by competitors.
AT&T and Verizon Wireless have challenged a ruling made by the FCC in December regarding data roaming rates. The FCC sided with an argument made by T-Mobile about how reasonable roaming rates are calculated. The FCC is not going to set rates, but will "provide guidance on the application of the commercial reasonableness standard" with respect to data roaming rates. AT&T and Verizon fought the FCC ahead of the ruling and have now filed petitions asking the FCC to reverse its decision. "Responding to a nakedly self-interested plea from T-Mobile for additional leverage in its commercial negotiations with AT&T, the [FCC] issued a declaratory ruling that purports to 'clarify' the Commission's rules, provide 'additional guidance,' and 'lessen ambiguity,' but has in fact thrown the Commission's entire data roaming regime into confusion," argued AT&T. Verizon accuses the FCC of not following the proper protocol when making the ruling. "These changes were unlawful because modifications to the Data Roaming Order must be made through rulemaking--and must be made by the full Commission, not by the Bureau. They also undermine the Commission's policy decision to ensure that its roaming rules do not cause carriers to rely on roaming rather than to expand their coverage and invest in building out facilities." The FCC hasn't responded to AT&T and Verizon. T-Mobile asked the FCC to change the rules because it believes AT&T is overcharging for data roaming.
AT&T has padded its balance sheet with cash as the AWS-3 spectrum auction winds down. The company has lined up loans and credit facilities totaling $9.2 billion. The company also made billions of dollars of bonds available to investors late last year. Verizon is weighing whether or not to sell some of its landline assets in select markets to help pay for the new spectrum, though it hasn't made a final determination. Bids for the AWS-3 auction have reached about $45 billion and AT&T and Verizon Wireless are likely leading the bids.
LG said it will begin selling the G Flex 2 in its home market of Korea on Jan. 30. The phone will reach other markets in the "coming months." Several U.S. carriers, including AT&T, Sprint, and U.S. Cellular, have said they'll sell the phone but none has said when or for how much. The G Flex 2 will cost Koreans approximately $830 when it goes on sale next week. Separately, an LG executive refuted reports that the Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 processor overheats. Bloomberg on Wednesday reported that Samsung plans to drop the Snapdragon 810 chip from its forthcoming Galaxy S6 smartphone due to overheating issues. "I am very much aware of the various concerns in the market about the (Snapdragon) 810, but the chip's performance is quite satisfactory," said Woo Ram-chan, vice president for mobile product planning at LG. Woo said the chip emits less heat than other devices. "I don't understand why there is a issue over heat." LG uses the Snapdragon 810 in the G Flex 2.
AT&T today added unlimited calling from wireless handsets to Mexico to its World Connect Value plan. For $5 per month, AT&T customers can make limitless calls to landlines and cell phones in Mexico. Customers who already subscribe to the World Connect Value plan will receive the upgraded free calling to Mexico at no additional charge. The World Connect Value plan, which is available to AT&T's postpaid wireless and AT&T Home customers, already offers low-rate calls to 225 countries around the world. The new plan arrives mere days after AT&T finalized its acquisition of Iusacell, Mexico's third-largest wireless network operator.
AT&T today released a minor system update for the HTC One (M8). The software, which can be downloaded and installed over the air, updates the phone to Android 4.4.4 KitKat and makes a handful of improvements. For example, the software enables HD Voice, adds copy-and-paste the camera, and adds AT&T's usage manager application. The update improves security, Bluetooth, and battery performance, and updates the AT&T Ready2Go and Visual Voicemail services. The software update is free. AT&T recommends users download the update via WiFi.
Deutsche Telekom, majority owner of T-Mobile, believes the Uncarrier's best chances of success are to merge with or be acquired by another large carrier. Deutsche Telekom CEO Tim Hoettges, speaking to Re/code, said T-Mobile lacks the scale enjoyed by rivals AT&T and Verizon Wireless. Without that scale, it will be hard for T-Mobile to compete in the long run. "I was intrigued by the idea of having a combination with Sprint and being the 'super-maverick' in the market," said Hoettges, "I hope that the political environment will change at one point in time." Sprint's parent, SoftBank, abandoned the idea of acquiring T-Mobile last year after regulators said the deal would face major hurdles in scoring approval. While Hoettges praised T-Mobile CEO John Legere for enacting change and turning the company around with aggressive promotions, he said T-Mobile cannot hold its current course indefinitely. "The question is always the economics in the long term," said Hoettges. "You have to earn your money back at one point in time."
AT&T today said it has finalized its purchase of Iusacell, Mexico's third-largest wireless network operator. Mexico's regulatory bodies approved the deal in December. Iusacell offers wireless service under its own name and the Unefon brand name. It has 9.2 million subscribers, but covers about 70% of Mexico's population of 120 million. AT&T has gained the subscribers, spectrum licenses, network assets, and retail operations of Iusacell as part of the deal. AT&T said it plans to expand Iusacell's network to cover more Mexicans and sees the acquisition as a long-term growth opportunity. AT&T has a leadership team ready to lead Iusacell's operations in Mexico City.
Sonim is hitting its stride in its quest to make the best rugged phones for demanding industries. The XP6 and XP7 are the company's best efforts to date, and represent much more than just two phones, with support for a whole ecosystem of software and specialized accessories. We check them out in our hands-on.
AT&T recently announced plans to test its LTE Broadcast technology at the forthcoming college football championship game on Jan. 12 in Arlington, Texas. LTE Broadcast allows network operators to transmit a video signal (or other content) that can be accessed by all compatible devices in a given area at the same time without impacting network performance. AT&T said it will distribute select content from the game, such as helmet cam and other footage, via LTE Broadcast. "This trial demonstration signifies the early stages of our foray into LTE Broadcast, but we see a promising future with this technology," said AT&T in a blog post. "It could offer a variety of valuable future uses such as the ability to deliver software updates to not just smartphones, but also to the Internet of Things like connected cars and other devices, as well as new one-to-many commercial services for businesses." AT&T is testing the technology with a select group of invitees. It didn't say what equipment will be involved.
One of the top four U.S. carriers has agreed to sell the YotaPhone 2, according to YotaPhone executive Matthew Kelly. Kelly would not specify which of the four carriers (AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, Verizon Wireless) plans to sell the phone, but he said it is coming later this year. The YotaPhone 2 is notable because it has two displays: a standard LCD panel on the front and an e-ink display on the back. The e-ink display can be used to conserve battery power, as it draws about one-seventh as much energy as an LCD screen. The YotaPhone 2 is already for sale in Europe. Pricing in the U.S. is as yet unknown.
AT&T today published pricing details for the BlackBerry Classic and its unique model of the BlackBerry Passport. The Classic will cost $50 with a two-year contract or $420 with no commitment. Customers may also choose AT&T's Next plans, which will cost $14 per month, $17.50 per month, or $21 per month with the Next 24, Next 18, or Next 12 plans, respectively. AT&T also showed off a new version of the Passport with rounded edges and a slightly changed back surface. The Passport will cost $200 with a two-year contract or $650 with no commitment. Customers may also buy the Passport via AT&T's Next plans, which will cost $21.67 per month, $27.03 per month, or $32.50 per month with the Next 24, Next 18, or Next 12 plans, respectively. AT&T said both devices will be available soon.
AT&T today responded to T-Mobile's recently launched Data Stash feature by introducing Rollover Data. According to AT&T, Rollover Data is available to all its Mobile Share Value plan users, which represent the majority of its customers. AT&T's Data Rollover program will carry unused data over for one month. For example, if a customer with a 10GB Mobile Share Value plan uses only 5GB in a month, the unused 5GB portion will roll over to the next month, giving them a total of 15GB of access. If that customer uses 5GB again, they'll carry over only the unused 5GB portion of their original allotment, not the enlarged amount. AT&T says, "Within a given month, you will use your plan allotment first, before you begin using your Rollover Data. Unused Rollover Data does not carry over." The Rolled Over data is available to all the members of Mobile Share Value plans to use. AT&T Mobile Share Value customers will be able to view their Rollover Data balance on the myAT&T app or online. AT&T's Rollover Data program begins January 25. All Mobile Share Value plan subscribers will be automatically enrolled at no additional cost.
Apple has made unlocked versions of the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus available on it web site. Customers can now choose to buy their iPhone without a carrier commitment. The unlocked models support GSM-based networks such as those operated by AT&T and T-Mobile. They can also be used on networks in other countries. The unlocked models cost the same as standard models. The 16GB unlocked iPhone 6 costs $649 and the 16GB unlocked iPhone 6 Plus costs $749. Consumers can opt for higher capacity models if they so wish. The unlocked models are sold without SIM cards.
AT&T today announced it will soon offer Modio Smartcases to the Apple iPad Mini and Apple iPad Air tablets. The case serves as a mobile hotspot for WiFi-only versions of the iPad and allows them to connect to AT&T's LTE 4G network when out of WiFi range. The case includes a large battery that provides for 10 hours of continuous LTE 4G web browsing and provides addition storage through a microSD memory card slot. AT&T said the LTE 4G service can be added to existing Mobile Share plans. AT&T typically charges $10 per month to add tablet access to accounts, but didn't specify if that rate will be available to case owners. The case will first be available for the iPad Mini, Mini 2, and Mini 3, followed by the iPad Air and Air 2. AT&T didn't say how much the case will cost. Apple sells LTE-equipped iPads for $130 more than the WiFi-only models.
In addition to AT&T and Sprint, U.S. Cellular plans to carry the LG G Flex 2 "this spring", according to spokesperson Katie Frey. No further details were revealed.
Asus today announced the Zenfone Zoom, an Android phone with top-end camera features. The 13-megapixel camera has a 10-element lens with 3x optical zoom, laser focusing, optical image stabilization, and a macro mode. It also sports a full manual mode with control over white balance, focus, and exposure. The front camera is 5 megapixels. The Zenfone Zoom has a 5.5-inch full HD display and runs Android 5.0 Lollipop. It supports LTE bands compatible with AT&T and has a 3000 mAh battery. It will be available in Q2 for $399 unlocked. Specific US release plans were not announced.
Subaru today said it has selected AT&T to power its connected cars. Specifically, Subaru will use AT&T's LTE network to power its Starlink in-vehicle connectivity system, which delivers personal safety and security services to its cars. Subaru plans to add LTE to select 2016 models later this year.
AT&T today announced commercial support for Web Real-Time Communications (WebRTC), a client that will allow browsers to make voice/video calls across the internet without the need for additional plugins. According to AT&T, it will support WebRTC on both desktop and mobile browsers. What's key is that when smartphone owners make a call from their mobile browser, the recipient will see the user's mobile number, not a generic ID tag. Moreover, user's can assign their AT&T mobile number to their laptop browser for caller ID purposes, too. AT&T's new support for WebRTC also comes with APIs for developers. AT&T expects developers to use the APIs to add WebRTC-based voice and video calling services to their apps and web sites over time.
AT&T will carry the 32 GB version of the G Flex 2 that LG just announced at CES. Sprint will also offer the phone. Pricing and availability date for both carriers will be announced at a later date.
T-Mobile today added the ZTE Zinger to its lineup of prepaid phones. The Zinger, which is the same as the Z667 sold by AT&T, is an affordable Android smartphone with a 3.5-inch screen, 1.2GHz dual-core processor, and 2.0-megapixel camera. The phone supports Bluetooth 4.0 and WiFi, but not LTE 4G. It comes with Android 4.4 KitKat and costs about $50 before adding service.
Mexico's equivalent of the FTC today approved AT&T's proposed acquisition of provider Iusacell with unknown specifications, reports Reuters. AT&T first proposed the deal last month. Iusacell offers wireless service under its own name and the Unefon brand name. It has 8.6 million subscribers, but covers about 70% of Mexico's population of 120 million. AT&T will gain the subscribers, spectrum licenses, network assets, and retail operations of Iusacell, once the purchase is completed. The Mexican watchdog also gave Grupo Salinas, which owns 50% of Iusacell, permission to buy out its partner. With 100% ownership, Grupo Salinas is able to sell Iusacell in its entirety to AT&T. AT&T said it plans to expand Iusacell's network to cover more Mexicans and sees the acquisition as a long-term growth opportunity. Iusacell will remain headquartered in Mexico City. The FCC and FTC still need to approve the deal from the U.S. side of the border.
T-Mobile today agreed to pay the FTC and FCC a total of $90 million to settle accusations that the company was complicit in allowing third-parties to charge customers for unwanted services. An FTC and FCC investigation found T-Mobile guilty of breaking the law by "engaging in an unjust and unreasonable practice of billing consumers for products or services they had not authorized; and failing to provide a brief, clear, non-misleading, plain language description of the third-party charges on the telephone bills sent to consumers." A minimum of $67.5 million of the fine will be set aside to repay customers who claim they were overcharged. T-Mobile will also pay $18 million to all fifty U.S. states and the District of Columbia, in addition to $4.5 million to the U.S. Treasury. As part of the consent decree, T-Mobile is prohibited from charging customers for third-party PSMS products or services. It also requires T-Mobile to create a system so customers can verify third-party service charges before they appear on bills. T-Mobile will have to block third-party charges for free; make it easier for customers to identify possible fraudulent charges; and train customer service staff to properly resolve customer complaints regarding unauthorized charges. "Cramming is a significant problem," said FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler. "For too long, millions of consumers have been scammed -- billed for bogus charges on their phone bills for services they didn’t request. This is unacceptable. Today's settlement is a win for consumers who have been victimized by cramming. It means compensation for T-Mobile customers who were fraudulently billed for third-party services that they did not want or authorize. And it goes one step further. Today’s action will also help protect all of T-Mobile's customers from bogus third-party charges in the future." Sprint was recently sued for similar practices. AT&T settled cramming charges with the FCC for $105 million earlier this year.
The FCC today granted T-Mobile's petition that the agency "provide guidance on the application of the commercial reasonableness standard" with respect to data roaming rates. T-Mobile filed the petition earlier this year in order to help it and other carriers negotiate better roaming rates with larger rivals AT&T and Verizon Wireless. Since 2011, the FCC has mandated that all carriers allow competing devices to roam onto their networks at fair prices. The FCC did not suggest or otherwise imply what those fair prices should be. T-Mobile argued the FCC's 2011 mandate did not provide enough guidance for setting rates and the result has been what T-Mobile calls exorbitant fees charged by AT&T and Verizon to roam onto their networks. Sprint and other members of the Competitive Carriers Association supported T-Mobile's position, while AT&T and Verizon Wireless opposed it vehemently. The two larger carriers argued any such guidance could result in reduced rates over the long term and would serve as unnecessary regulation. After weighing the arguments, the FCC agreed with T-Mobile's position that it should offer guidance on reasonable pricing. Specifically, the FCC will adopt T-Mobile's four proposed benchmarks when assessing the reasonableness standard: 1. retail rates; 2. international roaming rates; 3. MVNO/resale rates; and 4. roaming rates charged by other providers. "In our view, the additional guidance we provide under the standard set forth ... will facilitate the ability of parties to negotiate successful data roaming agreements, which in turn will promote the provision of high quality advanced broadband services by multiple service providers in urban, suburban, and rural areas to the benefit of American consumers," said the FCC.
AT&T today said it will support the BlackBerry Classic, though pricing and availability aren't yet available. BlackBerry is already selling the phone directly to consumers for $449.
AT&T recently pushed out a system update to the Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini. The primary new feature added to the phone is support for AT&T's VoLTE service. The update must be downloaded and installed via WiFi, but it is free. AT&T expanded the availability of its VoLTE service earlier this week. It is now available in select regions across 18 states.
The FCC is prepared to hit Sprint with a massive fine over alleged cramming practices, according to the Wall Street Journal. The FCC says Sprint played a "willful" role in charging customers for text message alerts, horoscopes, sports scores, ring tones, and other unwanted services. The FCC said Sprint was hit with 35,000 complaints over cramming charges during a three-month window in the middle of 2013. The FCC hasn't finalized the fine against Sprint, but three of the five commissioners are prepared to vote in favor of the penalty. AT&T settled with the FCC for a similar amount over cramming earlier this year, and the FTC is suing T-Mobile for the same practice.
Apple Pay has garnered more support from banks and retailers around the country, according to the New York Times. SunTrust, Barclaycard, and USAA have already agreed to support Apple Pay with their cards, and 10 more banks, including TD Bank North America and Commerce Bank, are adding support for Apple Pay beginning today. With the new financial institutions on board, a significantly larger percentage of iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus owners can use Apple Pay to make mobile payments at participating retailers. More retailers are interested in Apple Pay, too. Staples will begin accepting Apple Pay at its 1,400 stores beginning today, and Amway Center, where the Orlando Magic basketball team plays, will begin accepting Apple Pay at concessions stands during games. Apple Pay uses an NFC radio embedded in the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus to power tap-and-go payments at more than 220,000 retail outlets around the U.S. iPhone owners use their fingerprint to approve purchases, which are secured thanks to unique codes assigned to each transaction. Apple Pay launched Oct. 20. Competing services, such as Softcard, are available to select Android and Windows Phones sold by AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless.
AT&T today said its VoLTE service is now available in a wider number of markets around the country. AT&T first deployed VoLTE in a limited number of midwestern cities earlier this year. Since then, it has been testing VoLTE and believes the service is performing well. Today, AT&T expanded VoLTE and HD Voice to select areas in the District of Columbia, as well as portions of Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin. Customers can use a coverage map to find out if VoLTE and HD Voice are available where they live. VoLTE does not cost extra to use, but requires compatible handsets and LTE coverage for both parties on the call. AT&T reiterated that it is working to expand VoLTE to new markets, and expects to eventually offer inter-carrier VoLTE service with Verizon Wireless and other network operators next year.
AT&T and U.S. Cellular have asked the FCC for permission to exchange spectrum licenses in select areas around the country. The proposed transaction includes 122 counties across 39 Cellular Market Areas. If approved, AT&T would receive PCS spectrum in 104 counties in 32 CMAs, while U.S. Cellular would receive PCS spectrum in 18 counties in seven CMAs. AT&T expects to hold 76 to 185MHz in the areas covered post transaction, and U.S. Cellular expects to hold 34 to 91MHz. AT&T says the transaction will allow it to "increase its system capacity to enhance existing services, better accommodate its overall growth, and facilitate the provision of additional products and services." As for U.S. Cellular, it believes the transaction will let it "carry out its current business and operational plans while divesting spectrum that is not strategic to its long term success." The companies will not exchange customers or networking assets. The FCC has accepted the initial applications for review. Companies routinely propose such spectrum swaps.
AT&T today said beginning Dec. 10 all Alltel stores and services across Georgia will be rebranded under the AT&T name. Further, AT&T says more than 100,000 former Alltel wireless customers in Georgia will begin using new devices that work on AT&T's network early next year. AT&T completed its acquisition of Alltel in late 2013. Alltel ran a CDMA network, but AT&T has been transitioning Alltel customers to its own GSM-based network. In order to gain FCC approval of the Alltel acquisition last year, AT&T agreed to launch LTE to Alltel customers within 15 months of completing the sale. It also agreed to run Alltel's CDMA network through June 15, 2015. AT&T didn't say how many Georgia customers are still using the old CDMA network. AT&T is encouraging any remaining Alltel customers to visit the new AT&T stores and switch to AT&T's handsets and services.
AT&T and Samsung today announced the availability of the Gear VR Innovator Edition, a virtual reality headset that works with the Galaxy Note 4 smartphone. Samsung, which worked with Oculus, announced the Gear VR earlier this year. It is a headset that encompasses the Galaxy Note 4 and uses it to create a 3D, 360-degree environment that can be explored. The sample content that ships with the Gear VR was made by Oculus and additional content can be downloaded from Oculus' platform. Samsung and Oculus hope early adopters will buy the Gear VR and use the available SDK to create their own apps and experiences for the headset. AT&T and Samsung are both selling the Gear VR online for $199 ($249 with recommended Bluetooth controller). It won't be sold in stores. The Galaxy Note 4 (required) is sold separately.