T-Mobile today said its customers will be able to use an unlimited amount of high-speed mobile data across Europe this summer. Specifically, customers can enjoy the highest-possible speed, up to and including LTE 4G, throughout the European Union between July 1 and August 31. T-Mobile customers can already use unlimited 2G data in more than 140 countries. The high-speed summer roaming includes unlimited free texting and $0.20-per-minute voice calls, but not tethering. T-Mobile may terminate or restrict service for misuse or excessive roaming. T-Mobile is also giving every person who flies in the U.S. this weekend (including AT&T, Sprint, and Verizon customers) a free hour of Gogo in-flight WiFi on their smartphone. The free WiFi offer is available from Friday, June 24 through Sunday, June 26 on all domestic flights that offer Gogo WiFi. Last, T-Mobile added Belize to its list of Simple Global countries, which means T-Mobile customers can use 2G data and send messages for free, and make low-cost calls when traveling to Belize. Free roaming in Belize begins July 1.
AT&T today began distributing the Android 6.0 Marshmallow system update to the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge+ and Galaxy Note 5. The update includes the standard list of Marshmallow features, such as Now On Tap, Doze, and improved permissions. It also adds support for AT&T Video Calling. The update resolves bugs and security issues and smoothes out performance, as well. AT&T says the update is being pushed out over the air and should be downloaded via WiFi. It may take a few days to reach all users.
AT&T today unveiled a new roaming offer specifically for customers who plan to travel to Brazil for the 2016 Summer Olympics. The add-on costs $50 and includes 30 voice minutes, unlimited texting, 1 GB of data, and unlimited WiFi access at 1,000 hot spots around Rio de Janeiro (requires AT&T's hot spot app). Customers who exceed the usage limits will be billed on a per-use basis for the remainder of their stay in Rio. AT&T said customers can sign up starting June 22. The package is good for 30 days from initiation and runs through September 18. The package expires automatically.
AT&T today launched WiFi Calling on Android. Starting with the LG G4, AT&T customers will be able to make/receive calls and send/receive text messages via WiFi. AT&T said customers with compatible phones will receive a notification once the feature is available to them. A small software update is required. AT&T said WiFi Calling is available to customers with postpaid accounts set-up for HD Voice service. The phone will automatically make calls via WiFi when it detects limited or no cell coverage. WiFi calls are billed based on the number being called, so AT&T customers can call U.S. numbers via WiFi free of charge when abroad. AT&T said it expects WiFi Calling to be available on more Android devices soon. WiFi Calling has been available to the iPhone since last year.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia today upheld the FCC's 2015 net neutrality rules. The decision, which came from a three-judge panel in a 2-1 vote, is a major victory for the FCC and a blow to internet companies such as AT&T and Verizon. Internet service providers and others argue the FCC doesn't have the authority to establish net neutrality rules, but the appeals court disagreed. The FCC's rules set clear guidelines on how internet providers are allowed to treat the data that flows across their networks. The basics prevent internet providers from blocking apps/services, prevent them from throttling data speeds, and prevent them from initiating paid prioritization schemes to give some companies preferred service. The rules also reclassify broadband services under Title II of the Communications Act of 1934, which will treat them like common carriers. AT&T, an opponent of the rules, said, "We have always expected this issue to be decided by the Supreme Court, and we look forward to participating in that appeal."
The U.S. International Trade Commission today said it plans to investigate allegations made by Immersion that Apple and AT&T are violating its patents. Immersion develops touchscreen and haptic technology and says Apple and its partner AT&T are infringing on those patents. Companies often use the ITC to file patent lawsuits due to the agency's ability to ban products from entry into the country. Apple and AT&T did not respond publicly to the complaint.
Samsung today announced the Galaxy S7 Active, a semi-rugged version of its S7 flagship smartphone. The Active has a sturdier metal frame with rubber-coated corners to help protect it. The S7 Active is certified to mil-spec 810G, which means it can handle shock, vibration, fog/humidity, dirt, and temperature extremes. It also has an IP68 rating for protection against liquids; the Active can sit in a meter of water for up to 30 minutes. Like previous Active-branded handsets from Samsung, the S7 Active carries over most features from the standard S7. It is powered by a Snapdragon 820 processor with 4 GB of RAM and 32 GB of storage, it supports memory cards, and has a hardened, shatter-resistant 5.1-inch quad HD screen. The S7 Active relies on the same 12-megapixel main camera from the S7, as well as the same 5-megapixel user-facing camera. It boasts a large number of radios (Bluetooth, GPS, NFC, WiFi), and includes some 15 LTE bands. At 4,000mAh, the Active has a 33% larger battery than the S7, and it supports adaptive fast charging in addition to wireless charging. The phone runs Android 6.0 Marshmallow with Samsung's TouchWiz user interface customizations and apps. The Samsung Galaxy S7 Active hits AT&T's web site and retail stores beginning June 10. The device will cost $26.50 per month on an AT&T Next plan, or $33.13 per month on an AT&T Next Every Year plan. The full retail price is about $795.
AT&T today announced plans to extend its 5G testing to three more cities. AT&T will continue to test in Austin, Texas, and will also begin testing in Atlanta, Ga., Middletown, N.J., and San Ramon, Calif. AT&T says it recently reached a milestone in testing: it pushed speeds higher than 10Gbps with partner Ericsson. AT&T's tests are all being performed in labs, though the company says its labs are able to simulate real-world environments and scenarios. For example, AT&T can test how its 5G network might react at a sporting event, where a large number of customers might connect at the same time. Aside from speed, latency is an important aspect of 5G. AT&T says its early latency tests are promising, though it declined to share any numbers. Latency needs to be as close to zero as possible for situations such as self-driving cars, so they may react appropriately to unexpected changes in driving conditions. AT&T believes it will move to outdoor testing of fixed locations in Austin and Middletown by the end of the summer. The company hopes its progress will help it contribute to the international 5G standard, which has yet to be defined. Last, AT&T said it has added partner Nokia to the list of vendors helping it with 5G. Nokia is, specifically, researching millimeter wave spectrum use, beamforming, and higher levels of throughput.
AT&T today announced plans to offer subscribers perks and other benefits in a new customer appreciation program called AT&T Thanks. AT&T said customers won't have to enroll to participate and there are no waiting periods or fees. Starting later this summer, AT&T will kick off Ticket Twosdays, which will reward postpaid customers with a free movie ticket when they buy one at full price for a Tuesday showing. Qualifying customers can get a free movie ticket each week. Another promo includes priority pre-sales to Live Nation concerts. AT&T says customers will be able to purchase concert tickets and VIP packages ahead of general availability. AT&T Thanks will also offer unique content to DirecTV subscribers, which will be available to in-home television sets as well as mobile devices. Last, the program will offer customers individualized offers, such as accessory discounts and free data. AT&T didn't say when AT&T Thanks will officially start.
ZTE today announced the Axon 7, its flagship smartphone for 2016. ZTE designed the phone with the help of BMW Group's Designworks studio. The Axon 7 has a unibody aluminum design and clean lines; it comes in gold and silver finishes. The device features a 5.5-inch quad HD display with 2.5D curved glass. The phone is powered by a 2.2 GHz Snapdragon 820 processor with either 4 GB or 6 GB of RAM. The processor and 3,140mAh battery together support Quick Charge 3.0 and can deliver a 50% charge in 30 minutes. The main camera includes a 20-megapixel sensor from Samsung with optical and electronic image stabilization, sapphire lens, and an aperture of f/1.8. The selfie camera has an 8-megapixel camera. The phone can capture video up to 4K. Other standout features include dual AKM HiFi audio chipsets with Dolby Atmos software and stereo speakers, support for Google's Daydream virtual reality platform, support for memory cards, and a quick fingerprint sensor located on the back. The device adopts a USB Type-C connector. The Axon 7 ships with Android 6 Marshmallow and MiFavor 4.0 user interface, portions of which BMW's Designworks helped configure. The phone supports all U.S. LTE bands. It will be compatible with AT&T and T-Mobile and launch, with Sprint and Verizon compatibility coming later in the year. The Axon 7 is sold with Axon Passport 2.0, ZTE's two-year warranty plan that protects consumers from busted screens and other damage. The Axon 7 goes on sale in China today, but will reach the U.S. soon. The phone is priced under $500 and will be sold directly to consumers via ZTEusa.com, Amazon, Best Buy, B&H, ebay, and Newegg.
T-Mobile today said it has agreed to buy 700 MHz spectrum from Leap in order to bring its "extended-range LTE" coverage to the Chicago metropolitan area. Specifically, T-Mobile is snagging A-Block 700 MHz spectrum covering Chicago, Elgin, Joliet, Waukegan, Evanston, Naperville, Aurora, Gary, Rockford, De Kalb, Janesville, Bloomington, Normal, Kankakee, Kenosha, and others. Leap Licenseco, the company that holds the spectrum licenses, is owned by AT&T. T-Mobile will turn on LTE in the low-band spectrum once the transaction is completed. T-Mobile has been using 700 MHz spectrum to supplement its main LTE network for some time. This deal will allow it to offer low-band coverage to 269 million Americans, including the top 10 U.S. markets. T-Mobile already offers LTE in the Chicago area via its AWS spectrum. Financial terms of the transaction were not disclosed. The deal must be reviewed by the FCC.
AT&T today made its GoPhone prepaid service plans more attractive by adding more high-speed data without changing the price points. The $45 plan improves from 2 GB of LTE data each month to 3 GB, and the $60 plan improves from 5 GB to 6 GB. The latter also includes unlimited talk and text from the U.S. to Mexico and Canada, as well as talk, text, and data roaming in the same two countries. The new data allotments will be applied to all accounts automatically. Customers who enroll in auto-pay will receive a $5 service credit each month.
Freetel Wireless today made the Kiwami and Priori3 handsets available for preorder. The Kiwami is a flagship-class device with a 6-inch quad HD screen and 21-megapixel camera. The device costs $350. The Priori3 is more of an entry-level device with a 4.5-inch screen and 8-megapixel camera. The Priori3 costs $89. Both phones support LTE in the 2, 4, 7, and 17 bands, which means they are partially compatible with AT&T and T-Mobile's 4G networks. Freetel said the devices will ship beginning in June. The Freetel Musashi flip phone will be available later this summer.
AT&T today said it intends to reduce the number of handset financing options from four down to two. Beginning June 9, AT&T will offer new and existing customers the AT&T Next Every Year plan and the AT&T Next plan. The first will allow customers to upgrade to a new device every year, as long as 50% of the phone is paid off at the time of upgrade. Device payments are broken up over 24 months, but customers trade in the device at 12 months for a new phone. The second option, AT&T Next, lets customers upgrade every two years as long as 80% of the device is paid off at the time of upgrade. Device payments are broken up over 30 months. AT&T said customers can always choose to trade in old phones for credit toward new devices, and may also choose to make a down payment on new phones to help reduce monthly payment amounts. Customers who cancel service will need to make the balance of device payments. Customers with low credit may need to leave a deposit.
AT&T recently added the Cingular Flip to its lineup of inexpensive feature phones. The phone is made by TeleEpoch and bears the model number M3620, but AT&T named it the Cingular Flip to give it some visibility. The Flip is a basic feature phone with a large keypad, 2.8-inch screen, and 2-megapixel camera with video capture. The phone has user-programmable keys, large text options, and a basic web browser. Other features include Bluetooth 2.1, UMTS 3G, and a single-core MediaTek processor with 64 MB of RAM and 128 MB of storage. The Cingular Flip runs the Nucleas Plus 2.1 operating system and simple apps such as calendar, alarms, address book, and text messaging. The Cingular Flip is available online and in stores for $60.
AT&T today added a handful of new handsets to a buy one, get one free offer the carrier has had in place since February. The extended BOGO promotion now applies to the Samsung Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge, the Microsoft Lumia 950, the HTC One A9, and the Kyocera DuraForce. The other handsets already included in the offer are the Apple iPhone 6s, 6s Plus; Samsung Galaxy S6, S6 Edge, S6 Edge Plus, S6 Active, and Note 5; and LG G5 and V10. The offer lets new and existing customers buy one phone at full price and receive a second one for free. The two handsets must come from the same manufacturer. AT&T says both phones must be purchased via its AT&T Next installment plan. The first phone can be a new line or an upgrade, but the second phone must be a new line purchased with an AT&T Next 24 plan (req's 30 payments). Both phones must be added to a qualified plan, such as Mobile Share Value, which starts at $70 for two lines. Customers will need to pay sales tax on the two phones at the time of purchase and may need to make several monthly payments on both before AT&T credits up to $650 for the second phone spread out over the 30 months. The offer is available through June 30.
AT&T today said some of its customers will soon be able to roam in Mexico and Canada at no extra charge. Customers who subscribe to AT&T's 15 GB Mobile Share plan can text, talk, and surf in Mexico as if they were at home in the U.S. Customers who subscribe to AT&T's Unlimited Mobile Share plan and AT&T TV service can talk, text, and surf in Mexico and Canada. Even though roaming does not cost extra, customers need to add the AT&T Roam North America feature each phone and tablet in their plans before traveling. AT&T said customers who consume more than 50% of their minutes, messages, or data in Mexico two or more billing periods in a row may lose roaming access. People who surpass 22 GB of LTE data in a given billing period will be throttled. The company said other fees and restrictions apply, but did not spell them all out. The AT&T Roam North American feature will be available to regular and business customers starting May 20.
AT&T's GoPhone prepaid service recently made the LG Phoenix 2 available from its web site. This entry-level Android smartphone includes a 5-inch 720p HD screen and is powered by a 1.3 GHz quad-core Snapdragon 210 processor with 1.5 GB of RAM. The Phoenix 2 has an 8-megapixel main camera with LED flash, burst shot and gesture shot, and a 5-megapixel front camera. The phone has 16 GB of storage and supports memory cards up to 32 GB for additional storage. The Phoenix 2 ships with Android 6.0 Marshmallow and LG included some of its core software tools, such as KnockON, Knock Code, Quick Memo, and QSlide apps. It has a removable 2,125mAh battery and features LTE, Bluetooth, GPS, NFC, and WiFi radios. The phone costs $99. GoPhone does not require contracts.
AT&T will begin distributing Android 6.0 Marshmallow to its variants of the HTC One M8 and One M9. HTC's VP of Product, Mo Versi, shared the news via his Twitter account. The update brings the two phones inline with the software seen on the HTC 10. The update will be pushed out over the air, which should be downloaded via WiFi. AT&T customers who own the M8 or M9 can check for the update through the settings menu.
The FCC and FTC today asked carriers and phone manufacturers how they handle security updates for their devices. The FCC sent letters to AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, Verizon Wireless, and other carriers, while the FTC queried Apple, Blackberry, Google, HTC, LG, Microsoft, Motorola, and Samsung. In particular, the agencies want to know: the factors carriers/OEMs consider in deciding whether to patch a vulnerability on a particular phone; data on the specific phones sold in the U.S. since August 2013; the vulnerabilities that have affected those devices; and whether and when the company patched such vulnerabilities. The government said the line of inquiry is to help it further understand how these companies do or do not protect consumers. "Consumers may be left unprotected, for long periods of time or even indefinitely, by any delays in patching vulnerabilities once they are discovered," said the FCC. "To date, operating system providers, original equipment manufacturers, and mobile service providers have responded to address vulnerabilities as they arise. There are, however, significant delays in delivering patches to actual devices — and that older devices may never be patched." Google provides monthly security updates to Nexus-branded Android devices, but individual phone makers lag badly. Apple provides occasional updates.
The FCC today announced it has set an initial spectrum clearing target of 126 MHz during the reverse part of the auction for 600 MHz airwaves. Television broadcasters have agreed to part with this spectrum. The FCC then plans to offer 100 MHz in 10 near-nationwide paired blocks to wireless providers in the forward phase of the auction. The majority of the spectrum being given up by television broadcasters will qualify as Category 1, which means it has no or little interference. Some of the spectrum will fall under Category 2, which has a greater degree of interference but not so much that it can't be managed. The FCC is today notifying all the television broadcasters about the status of their applications to sell spectrum. The FCC plans a mock auction for May 24-25, and will kick off the actual reverse portion of the auction May 31. It's unclear how long the reverse auction will take place before the FCC is able to turn around and re-sell the spectrum to wireless companies. AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless have all said they plan to participate in the hunt for low-band spectrum.
AT&T will shut down its 2G network ahead of schedule. In 2012, AT&T said it would operate 2G into 2017. This week, however, AT&T CFO John Stevens said the 2G network will be decommissioned by the end of 2016. The company has already moved 6 million customers off 2G over the last twelve months. The bulk of the remaining 2G devices (AT&T didn't say how many) in use are internet-of-things connected devices. Nearly all phones that connect to AT&T's network do so via 3G or 4G. "There still is a lot of cost that is left just to operate even a piece of the 2G network," remarked Stevens during a call with investors. "So we are anxious to capture that savings and use it to continue a strong story for our wireless business." Once decommissioned, the spectrum on which the 2G network operates will be refarmed for LTE.
Microsoft is looking to clear inventory of the Lumia 950 XL and Lumia 950 smartphones, which means consumers can buy one at full price and get the second one for free. The deal is available via Microsoft's U.S. web store. Specifically, people who purchase the 950 XL at $649 will receive a Lumia 950, valued at $549, for free. Both devices are being sold unlocked with support for GSM carriers, such as AT&T and T-Mobile. The promotion is available while supplies last through May 2. Microsoft reported shipments of about 2.3 million Lumia phones in its most recent financial documents, which represents a steep drop from the 8.6 million it shipped in the year-ago period. The company admitted it is sitting on a lot of excess inventory of its flagship Windows 10 Mobile devices. Moreover, the company expects "year over year revenue declines to deepen as we work through our Lumia channel position." Cricket Wireless is expected to launch Microsoft's mid-range model, the Lumia 650, early next month. Microsoft has recently pushed a significant update to its Windows 10 Mobile platform and updated core apps such as email, Groove Music, and the Edge browser.
BlackBerry said AT&T has lowered the price of the the Priv smartphone by $100. The phone now costs $640 at full retail, instead of $740, or $199 with a two-year contract, instead of $250. The lowered monthly installment plan prices are $26.67 with AT&T Next 18, $31 with AT&T Next 12, or $16 with AT&T Next 12 with a downpayment of $192. The Priv has been available since late last year. It is a slider with a full QWERTY keyboard. The Priv runs Android rather than BlackBerry's own operating system.
DeWalt recently announced the MD501, a fully rugged Android smartphone aimed at those who work outdoors. DeWalt is not making the device itself; instead, it partnered with Global Mobile Communications to make the device. Global Mobile is licensing the DeWalt name. Cat uses a similar strategy for its rugged smartphones. The MD501 meets mil-spec 810g and IP68 for protection against drops to concrete, dust, water, dirt, fog, humidity, and extreme temperatures. The 5-inch HD screen is extra bright for outdoor visibility and it can be used with gloves. The phone is powered by a MediaTek processor with 2 GB of RAM and 16 GB of storage. It accepts micro SD cards up to 64 GB. The main camera features a 13-megapixel sensor and the user-facing camera features a 5-megapixel sensor. The MD501 includes a 3950mAh battery with Qi wireless charging. The phone does not support U.S. LTE bands, but does support quad-band HSPA that is compatible with AT&T and T-Mobile. It runs Android 5.1 Lollipop. DeWalt hasn't said when the device will go on sale. It is expected to cost about $544.
Cricket Wireless today announced a new service plan that includes unlimited talk, text, and LTE data for $70 per month. That price includes all taxes and fees. Cricket customers who enroll in auto-pay can reduce their monthly cost to $65. Along with the new plan, Cricket Wireless said it will reward T-Mobile subscribers who switch to Cricket with a $100 bill credit. Cricket operates on AT&T's network, but LTE speeds are capped at 8 Mbps. The new plan will be available beginning April 17.
AT&T has increased the cost of its activation fee from $15 to $20. The move follows the establishment of a similar fee by Verizon Wireless in recent days. AT&T's fee applies to people activating or upgrading to a new device through an AT&T Next installment plan and for those who bring their own device. Customers who sign a two year contract are hit with a $45 activation fee. AT&T won't charge a fee for customers who pay for their new device in full.
Microsoft has made the Lumia 650 available for purchase from its U.S. web site. The phone runs Windows 10 Mobile and features a metal-frame design with a 5-inch HD OLED display, 8-megapixel camera, memory card slot, and removable battery. Microsoft is selling the phone unlocked for $199. It is compatible with the networks run by AT&T and T-Mobile.
The FCC on Thursday followed through on plans to tackle consumer privacy. The agency issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to govern the use of consumer data by broadband providers, both wired and wireless. The FCC's goal is to help protect the data generated by millions of people who use internet services every day. The FCC wants broadband providers to obtain permission from customers before sharing their data with others, including advertisers. The rules would apply to companies such as AT&T, Comcast, DirecTV, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon — including each company's wireless units. The FCC also believes consumers should be able to opt-out when they wish. "[This] proposal would give all consumers the tools we need to make informed decisions about how our ISPs use and share our data," said FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, "and confidence that ISPs are keeping their customers' data secure." Internet providers argue the rules would reduce their ability to sell advertisements to consumers. The FCC will continue to shape the policy over the next few months and present it in more final form before fully adopting it.
Walmart today said customers can save big bucks on Apple's iPhone and Samsung's Galaxy phones for the next three months. Walmart has cut the price of all iPhones by $100 (including the new iPhone SE) and all Galaxy phones (including the Galaxy S7) by $150. The rollback begins today and lasts through the end of June. The reduced prices will be available only in Walmart stores, and only to customers of AT&T, Sprint, and Verizon Wireless. T-Mobile is not participating in the rollback program.
FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler today said the agency doesn't intend to investigate Netflix's throttling practices for customers of AT&T and Verizon Wireless. Wheeler said web sites and other edge providers fall outside its purview and didn't violate any regulations. Netflix admitted to throttling the speed of video streamed by AT&T and Verizon customers due to those carriers' data overage policies. Netflix doesn't throttle the speeds of video streamed by Sprint and T-Mobile customers.
Verizon Wireless today confirmed to Phonescoop that it plans to charge customers $20 to upgrade to new devices beginning April 4. The fee will apply to customers who buy handsets with installment plans, or buy phones at full price. Verizon will assess the fee at third-party retailers, too, such as purchases made at the Apple Store or Best Buy. "The upgrade fee helps cover our increased support costs associated with customers switching devices," explained a Verizon spokesperson to Phonescoop via email. "Customers can pay the charge when they upgrade, bill it to their account, or trade in an old device to offset the cost. The fee for upgrading on device payment is still half of the two-year contract upgrade fee." Verizon charges contract customers $40 when upgrading devices. AT&T instituted its own device upgrade fee of $15 last year. Sprint recently lowered its upgrade fee from $36 to $30. T-Mobile charges $20 for a SIM card starter pack, which is widely seen as an upgrade fee. Verizon's new $20 upgrade fee was first uncovered by MacRumors.
AT&T and DirecTV customers who buy a Samsung Galaxy S7 may become eligible for a free Samsung 48-inch TV. Consumers who buy a Galaxy S7 or S7 Edge, and sign up for AT&T and DirecTV are eligible for the free TV, as are existing AT&T customers who join DirectTV, and existing DirecTV customers who join AT&T. Consumers who already subscribe to AT&T and DirecTV are not eligible. The S7 or S7 Edge must be purchased on an AT&T Next plan, and people must have both AT&T and DirecTV to qualify — at least one of which must be new. The free TV offer will be available through April 30.
LG said its G5 smartphone will be available for sale in Korea starting March 31, with the U.S. to follow April 1. The G5 will reach other regions, including Europe, Asia, and the Middle East, over time. LG says more than 200 carriers plan to sell the phone. In the U.S., that includes AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless, all of which will offer the phone on April 1. Along with the G5 itself, LG plans to sell the accompanying modules and accessories, called LG Friends. The two most notable Friends as the CAM Plus and Hi-Fi Plus, which are modules that plug directly into the bottom of the G5. The CAM Plus will be available in the U.S., but LG hasn't said if the Hi-Fi Plus will also be available. Other Friends include the 360 VR headset, 360 CAM, Rolling Bot, Tone Platinum, and H3 by B&O. Pricing for the LG G5 varies by carrier. The phone has a 5.3-inch quad HD display, Snapdragon 820 processor, 16-megapixel camera, and USB Type-C.
The FCC said its incentive auction for 600 MHz airwaves officially gets under way at 6p.m. this evening, when broadcasters will need to commit to participating. The auction will see television broadcasters give up their airwaves, which will then be sold to bidding wireless companies and other companies. "In just a few hours, we mark the beginning of the world's first Incentive Auction," said FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, "which will align the use of the public airwaves to meet America's 21st century spectrum needs. The auction promises to free up more capacity to meet Americans' skyrocketing demand for wireless data while preserving the valuable service that broadcast TV stations provide to their communities." AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless are taking part in the auction along with about 100 other entities. T-Mobile has promised to pursue the low-band spectrum aggressively. The auction is expected to last several months.
AT&T today announced the Unite Explore, a mobile hotspot that's been ruggedized to withstand abuse. The hotspot has earned the mil-spec 810G and IR65 ratings for protection against shock, temperature extremes, vibration, water, and dust. The device boasts dual-band WiFi and some LTE-Advanced features to provide the fastest speeds available. Owners can manage the device thanks to a touchscreen-based user interface. Controls can set up and limit guest access, and parents can set content filters for age-appropriate surfing. AT&T says the battery provides 22 hours of hotspot time for up to 15 devices. The AT&T Unite Explore reaches stores April 1 and costs $49.99 with a two-year agreement.
Netflix today said that it has limited its video speeds on most carriers worldwide for years, including AT&T and Verizon Wireless in the U.S. The issue came to light when T-Mobile accused AT&T and Verizon of throttling Netflix. Mobile video practices have been under a microscope since the December launch of T-Mobile's Binge On program, which zero-rates the video content from some providers. Netflix admitted that it is throttling its own service on purpose to about 600Kbps to "protect consumers from exceeding mobile data caps." Netflix says it has throttled video speeds for as long as five years, but leaves video streamed by Sprint and T-Mobile customers alone due to those carriers' less onerous policies. Netflix, which claims to be a proponent of net neutrality, says it is exploring new ways to stream video in such a way that it consumes less data. AT&T and Verizon were not pleased with the revelation. "We're outraged to learn that Netflix is apparently throttling video for their AT&T customers without their knowledge or consent," said AT&T.
Following AT&T, Verizon Wireless today said customers can place orders for the LG Watch Urbane 2nd Edition with LTE. This wearable, delayed by several months due to manufacturing issues, has its own cellular connection to Verizon's network and can be used fully independent from a smartphone. It can make calls and send messages from the owner's main cell number. The wearable runs Android Wear and costs $499. Verizon will drop the price by $50 for those willing to sign a contract. It costs $5 per month to add the watch to an existing service plan. For a limited time, Verizon will sell the watch for $399 when purchased with the LG G5 or V10 smartphones.
AT&T customers who have newer iPhones can now make WiFi calls when traveling abroad. The company enabled international WiFi calling with the iOS 9.3 update from Apple and refreshed carrier settings. AT&T says international calls made via WiFi will be charged at its standard rates. The feature also allows people to send text messages via WiFi, which are counted the same as regular text messages. WiFi calling, which must be turned on in the system settings, is available to the iPhone 6, 6 Plus, 6s, and 6s Plus. WiFi calling has been available for domestic calls since last year and can provide voice/messaging connectivity in areas with poor cellular coverage.
AT&T customers interested in the LG G5 can preorder the modular smartphone starting today. The device will reach AT&T stores on April 1. AT&T is offering the G5 for $22.97 on an AT&T Next 24 installment plan (30 payments). Customers who want two LG G5 handsets can score the second for free as long as one of the two phones is activated on a new line and both are financed on the AT&T Next 24 plan. AT&T will reimburse the cost of the second phone spread out over the 30 monthly payments. The full retail price is $689. AT&T is also bringing back the LG Watch Urbane 2nd Edition with LTE. This wearable supports AT&T's NumberSync service and can be used with the customer's phone for taking calls and sending messages all from the same wireless number. AT&T will sell the LG smartwatch to customers for $99.99 with a two-year agreement when purchased with an LG G5 on an AT&T Next plan. Alternately, customers can purchase the watch for $0 down with 20 payments of $18. LG halted sales of the watch last year after discovering manufacturing problems. The issues have since been resolved.