The FCC believes zero-rating content can hurt consumers and competition. The agency sent letters to AT&T and Verizon Wireless this week calling them out for exempting their own video services (DirecTV Now and go90, respectively) from customers' data caps. The agency believes the practice gives the carriers' own services an advantage over competing services. "We have therefore reached the preliminary conclusion that these practices inhibit competition, harm consumers, and interfere with the 'virtuous cycle' needed to assure the continuing benefits of the Open Internet," wrote FCC wireless bureau chief Jon Wilkins writes in the letter to AT&T. The FCC has already warned carriers that zero-rating content may be harmful. The regulatory body did not say if it intends to take steps or action against the carriers. The companies have until December 15 to respond to the FCC's letters. AT&T announced DirecTV Now earlier this week. The service is available to anyone who cares to pay for it, but only AT&T Mobility customers can watch via LTE without impacting their monthly data cap.
AT&T's prepaid service, Cricket Wireless, is offering customers a one-month free trial of DirecTV Now, the new internet-based television service from AT&T. Unlike AT&T, however, Cricket is not zero-rating DirecTV Now. This means Cricket customers cannot watch an unlimited amount of DirecTV Now via Cricket's wireless network. Instead, they will be encouraged to seek out WiFi whenever possible. Cricket says customers can use the Cricket WiFi app, which is preloaded on most phones, to find free WiFi hotspots. DirecTV Now includes four pricing tiers that range from $35 to $70 per month. For a limited time, early adopters can score 100 channels of content at the entry-level $35 price. HBO and Cinemax cost $5 extra.
Alongside its new DirecTV Now streaming television service, AT&T announced Fullscreen and FreeView. Fullscreen includes more than 1,500 hours of ad-free content (movies, television) for $6 per month, while FreeView includes ad-supported content for free. Fullscreen is a video-on-demand platform that's compatible with iPhone, iPad, select Android Phones, Chromecast, and Apple TV. For a limited time, AT&T will let new and existing customers access Fullscreen for a year for free. Like DirecTV Now, Fullscreen will not impact AT&T Mobility customers' data buckets. FreeView is a highly-curated, on-demand content platform from Audience. Both Fullscreen and FreeView are available within the DirecTV Now app and will launch November 30.
AT&T today announced an over-the-top television service called DirectTV Now. It includes a range of live, streamed television and on-demand content at a variety of price points. The $35 option includes 60+ channels. Customers will need to opt for the $50 plan for 80+ channels, the $60 plan for 100+ channels, or the $70 plan for 120+ channels. Premium movie channels, such as HBO and Cinemax, cost $5 per month extra. (No CBS/Showtime programming for now.) DirecTV Now will be streamed over internet connections, including both wired and wireless, and is available to most connected devices and platforms. The service launches November 30 and will be available to Amazon Fire TV and Fire TV Stick; Android phones and tablets; iPhone, iPad, and Apple TV; Chromecast; Google Cast-enabled LeEco ecotvs and Vizio SmartCast Displays; as well as the web. AT&T said more platforms and devices will be available starting next year. At launch, early adopters will be able to score the 100+ channel option for $35 per month. This is a limited promotion, but those who sign up early will be grandfathered in. Moreover, AT&T is working with several hardware vendors, including Amazon, Apple, and LeEco, by offering between one and three months of service for free with select purchases. Last, AT&T is zero-rating DirecTV Now for its wireless customers, who won't see their data plans hit when streaming DirecTV Now content.
AT&T says allowing its customers to stream certain content without incurring wireless data fees is beneficial. The comments were made in a letter to the FCC, which, earlier this month, asked AT&T to justify its practice of zero-rating DirecTV content. "These initiatives are precisely the kind of pro-consumer challenges to cable that the Commission heralded in approving AT&T's acquisition of DirecTV," wrote Robert Quinn, AT&T's policy chief. The FCC is wary of zero-rating practices and feels they may be out of step with existing net neutrality laws. In this case, AT&T owns DirecTV and is in effect giving its own service an advantage over competing services that do incur data fees when streamed over AT&T's wireless network. Verizon allows customers to stream its own go90 video service without impacting data allotments, and T-Mobile's Binge On program provides unlimited streaming of lower-resolution content from a handful of video partners. The FCC has been pondering zero-rated content for some time and has yet make any sort of official stance known to the public.
AT&T is preparing to launch a ZTE smartphone called the ZMax 3, say documents found on the FCC web site. The ZMax 3 appears to be a variant of the Grand X 3, which AT&T-owned Cricket Wireless has sold since earlier this year. Most importantly, the AT&T-branded ZMax 3 adds NFC and carrier aggregation for quicker LTE speeds. The FCC documents don't reveal any other obvious changes between the two models. The Grand X 3 includes a 5.5-inch HD screen, Cat. 4 LTE, USB Type-C connector, 3,000 mAh battery, 2 GB of RAM, and 16 GB of storage. It also features an 8-megapixel camera, shoots 720p HD video, and packs a 2-megapixel selfie camera. AT&T hasn't said if or when the ZTE ZMax 3 might go on sale.
The AT&T Send Message Skill, set to be made available on November 19, will let AT&T customers send text messages by asking their Amazon Echo to do it for them. The skill we be added to the Amazon Alexa application (for Android and iOS). AT&T says it is the first carrier to bring messaging to Alexa and the Echo. Alexa is the artificial intelligence that powers the Amazon Echo in-home speaker and assistant. Echo-owning AT&T subscribers will need to enable the skill and can then add up to ten frequent contacts to the skill for messaging via voice command. Messages will appear as though they were sent by the account holder's main AT&T mobile number. The feature will be available to the original Amazon Echo as well as the Echo Dot. Alexa is already able to read news headlines, sports scores, and the weather report, as well as answer general trivia questions, play music, and pay bills. AT&T plans to sell the Amazon Echo and Echo Dot at its stores starting November 18.
AT&T said it is preparing a new service that will allow customers to stream more video content over the wireless network and conserve their data. Stream Saver, set to become available early next year, will downgrade streamed video to 480p so it chews through less wireless data. AT&T said it plans to alert customers when Stream Saver is available, and customers will be able to switch it on or off at will. Once customers activate it, all content Stream Saver can identify as video will be downgraded to DVD quality. Stream Saver does not impact the quality of music streamed from services such as Spotify. Moreover, Stream Saver does not allow for unlimited video watching via LTE; rather, it is a tool designed to help people reduce their data consumption when needed while still allowing them to enjoy video content over the network. By way of comparison, T-Mobile's BingeOn service allows for unlimited video streaming from select providers over LTE without impacting users' monthly data allotment.
The FCC has said to AT&T that it has "serious concerns" about the company's planned streaming mobile video service. Specifically, the agency is worried the $35 price point "may obstruct competition and harm consumers" as other services won't be able to match it in terms of content offerings and delivery costs. The $35 monthly fee will give AT&T customers access to more than 100 channels of DirecTV content. The price of the service includes the cost of streaming the service over the network. The agency also believes the service might violate its net neutrality rules with respect to prioritized content. The FCC gave AT&T until Nov. 21 to respond to its queries.
AT&T today said customers can place orders for the Samsung Gear S3 Frontier smartwatch beginning November 4. The wearable, announced by Samsung earlier this year, supports AT&T's NumberSync service, which allows owners to use their main number to make/receive calls and send/receive messages from the watch. AT&T also says the S3 Frontier is the first wearable to support controls for its DirecTV and Digital Life services. For example, the Gear S3 Frontier can serve as a remote for DirecTV, allowing subscribers to watch and record shows, change channels, and pause/rewind programming. Together with the AT&T Digital Life app, S3 Frontier owners can set alarms, view camera images, and lock doors. The Tizen-based Gear S3 features a 46mm face with 1.3-inch round display, Exynos 7270 processor powers, 768MB of RAM, 4 GB of storage, and a 380mAh battery that Samsung claims can provide three to four days of uptime. The Gear S3 adds full support for Samsung Pay, including NFC and MST for mobile payments. AT&T is offering the watch for $17.50 per month for 20 months when purchased on an AT&T Next plan, or for $49.99 when purchased with a two-year agreement and a Samsung Galaxy smartphone on an AT&T Next plan. AT&T didn't say when the wearable will ship.
AT&T and Verizon Wireless have recently made changes to their respective prepaid services and taken dramatically different approaches in the process. AT&T's GoPhone customers now have more options than ever, while Verizon Wireless Prepaid customers have even fewer options. Specifically, AT&T improved the data add-on plans for GoPhone. For example, the $30 GoPhone plan (which does not include any data) allows customers to buy data access in increments of 250 MB rather than increments of 100 MB. Similarly, the $45 GoPhone plan lets customers buy more access in 1 GB increments rather than 500 MB increments. The prices for the add-ons remain the same. Last, the $60 GoPhone plan now allows people to buy extra data in 1 GB and 3 GB allotments. These changes give GoPhone subscribers more flexibility to manage their plan on a monthly basis. Conversely, Verizon Wireless has removed entirely its entry-level $15 monthly plan for feature phones. Verizon also nixed its $30 prepaid plan for smartphones, which included unlimited talk and text, but no data (WiFi only). The only two Verizon Prepaid options that remain are the $45 and $60 plans. Verizon Wireless CFO Fran Shammo has gone on the record before saying the company does not intend to chase low-profit customers.
H2O Wireless, an MVNO that operates on AT&T's network, rolled out a limited improvement to its service plans. Starting today, all new customers will have access to 1 GB more LTE data across H2O's various plans. The entry level $30 plan now offers 2 GB, while the $40, $50, and $60 plans offer 4 GB, 6 GB, and 7 GB, respectively. The data offer runs through March 31, 2017, after which the extra 1 GB of data will no longer be available and the plans revert to their normal allotments of 1 GB, 3 GB, 5 GB, and 6 GB. H2O Wireless does not charge overages, but will throttle speeds back to 2G once customers use up their data. H2O Wireless offers a 10% discount on monthly plans when customers sign up for auto-pay. H2O sells a variety of older Android handsets, such as the Samsung Galaxy S3, S4, and S5, the Moto X, and a handful of Blu devices. Customers may bring their own unlocked, compatible GSM device if they wish.
BlackBerry today announced the DTEK60, the company's new flagship non-keyboard phone. The DTEK60 is based on the Alcatel Idol 4S and looks similar, but actually has significantly upgraded specs in nearly every respect. (The DTEK50 is essentially a rebranded Alcatel Idol 4.) The DTEK60 sports a fingerprint sensor, Quad-HD 5.5-inch display, 3,000 mAh battery, NFC, and a memory card slot. Unlike the Idol 4S, it also packs a Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 processor, 4 GB of RAM, 21 megapixel camera, and a USB Type-C connector with Quick Charge 3.0. The DTEK60 maintains the same 7mm thin profile as the Idol 4S, although with a larger camera bump for the upgraded sensor. As with all of BlackBerry's new phones, the DTEK60 runs Android with BlackBerry messaging and security software added. The phone supports LTE networks including those of T-Mobile and AT&T (including band 29.) The DTEK60 is available today directly from BlackBerry for $500 unlocked. Customers who order within the next two weeks will receive a free "soft shell" case and rapid charger.
AT&T has agreed to purchase Time Warner for $85.4 billion in a stock-and-cash deal that will merge AT&T's delivery networks with Time Warner's vast catalog of content. AT&T believes the combined companies will be able to save $1 billion per year once fully merged. The company says the acquisition will diversify its revenue mix thanks to the lower-cost, less-regulated content business from Time Warner. This will balance out the high cap-ex model currently run by AT&T and its wired and wireless networks, and DirecTV satellite service, which are all heavily regulated. The merger has been approved unanimously by both boards, but will require regulatory approval from the U.S. Department of Justice and the FCC. The transaction is expected to close before year-end 2017. The combined entity will compete with Verizon-AOL.
Alcatel today said Amazon.com and Best Buy have agreed to sell four of its low-cost Android smartphones from the Pop and Pixi families. The Pop 4S costs $170, the Pop 4 Plus costs $120, the Pixi 4 (6-inch) costs $120, and the Pixi 4 (5-inch) costs $80. All four handsets are being sold unlocked with support for GSM/LTE networks such as those operated by AT&T and T-Mobile. The phones were announced earlier this year.
Under poor network conditions, the iPhone 7 Plus with Intel inside does not perform as well as the iPhone 7 Plus with Qualcomm inside. Apple sourced the iPhone 7 Plus modem from both Intel and Qualcomm. This represents a major change for the company, which has relied solely on Qualcomm modems for years. The Intel modem (XMM7360) is found in the AT&T and T-Mobile variants of the iPhone 7, while the Qualcomm modem (MDM9645M) is found in the Sprint, Verizon, and unlocked variants of the iPhone 7. Cellular Insights conducted extensive signal tests on the iPhone 7 Plus in LTE Bands 12, 7, and 4 to see if any performance differences exist between the two modems. Under optimal network conditions both the Intel- and Qualcomm-equipped iPhones demonstrated an equal level of performance in speed and maintaining a connection. Under weak network conditions, however, the Intel-equipped iPhone 7 Plus posted speeds that were on average 30% slower than those of the Qualcomm-equipped iPhone 7 Plus. The slower speeds at the cell edge mean the Intel-based iPhone 7 Plus may be more likely to experience dropped VoLTE calls and other, similar behaviors. "In all tests, the iPhone 7 Plus with the Qualcomm modem had a significant performance edge over the iPhone 7 Plus with the Intel modem," said Cellular Insights in its report. Apple has not said why it selected modems from two separate suppliers for the iPhone 7 Plus.
AT&T today launched roaming in Cuba. AT&T customers can talk, text, and use data when traveling to Cuba. Roaming in Cuba isn't cheap, however: calls cost $3 per minute, texts cost $0.50 each, MMS messages cost $1.30 each, and data costs $2.05 per megabyte.
The FCC has wrapped up the initial phase of stage two of its incentive auction for 600 MHz airwaves, and drastically lowered the price for that spectrum. The initial clearing cost for all the 600 MHz spectrum was $86.4 billion, but bidders failed to come even close during the first round of bidding. Bidders offered up about $23 billion instead. The FCC was forced to go back to the spectrum license holders — in this case, broadcast television stations — and renegotiate a series of minimum prices for those licenses. The new clearing cost for stage two of the auction is $54.6 billion. Bidding will resume on Oct. 19. Most industry watchers assumed the reverse auction would need several rounds to reach completion. The 600 MHz airwaves are valuable due to their signal propagation characteristics. AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless are participating in the auction, but Sprint is not.
Sprint today followed AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless in discontinuing the Samsung Galaxy Note7. "Given recent issues reported in the media, Sprint is halting sales of replacement Note7 devices pending the conclusion of the investigation by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission and Samsung," said the company in statement provided to media. "If a Sprint customer with a replacement Note7 has any concerns, we will exchange it for any other device." Sprint's competitors halted sales of the Note7 a day earlier. Samsung said it has "adjusted" production of the Note7 as it continues to investigate the device's safety. All consumers who have a Note7 are urged to power it down and return it for a new phone.
T-Mobile this evening joined AT&T in putting a stop to exchanges, replacements, and sales of the Samsung Galaxy Note7. "While Samsung investigates multiple reports of issues, T-Mobile is temporarily suspending all sales of the new Note7 and exchanges for replacement Note7 devices," said the company. Customers can bring their new and/or replacement Note7 (along with any purchased accessories) to a T-Mobile store for a full refund and choose from any device in T-Mobile's inventory. The company said it will waive restocking fees, as well as allow those who preordered the Note7 to keep the free Netflix subscription, Gear FT, or SD card they might have received as a gift with the phone. Last, T-Mobile will give all Note7 customers a one-time $25 bill credit for the hassle. The carrier encourages all customers to stop using the Note7, power it down, and return it to T-Mobile as soon as practical. Sprint and Verizon are still selling the device.
AT&T says it will not swap out the original Note7 for replacement devices. "Based on recent reports, we're no longer exchanging new Note7s at this time, pending further investigation of these reported incidents," said the company in a statement provided to media. "We still encourage customers with a recalled Note7 to visit an AT&T location to exchange that device for another Samsung smartphone or other smartphone of their choice." All four major carriers have said customers may bring their Note7 — original or replacement — to stores for a refund or exchange. The Note7 has vanished from the web sites of AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile, but it is still available from Verizon.com. Verizon hasn't said if or when it might halt sales/exchanges. Anyone with a Note7 should power it down and bring it bak to the point of sale as soon as possible.
AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless followed Sprint's lead today and said customers who have a replacement Samsung Galaxy Note7 can exchange the phone for any other sold in carrier stores. T-Mobile specified that any customer can return any phone within the initial 14-day trial period, and that includes both replacement and new Note7 handsets. AT&T and Verizon will accept any replacement Note7, regardless of replacement/purchase date. Sprint implemented a similar exchange program late Thursday. The latest action is a response to a replacement Note7 that caused a fire aboard an aircraft.
AT&T today revealed its launch plans for the LG V20. Customers can preorder the phone starting Friday, Oct. 7, and it will reach stores on Oct. 28. AT&T didn't disclose the full retail price of the V20, but financing options place the cost at more than $800. For example, customers can purchase the V20 on AT&T Next for $27.67 per month for 30 months ($830 total) or AT&T Next Every Year at $34.59 per month for 24 months ($830 total). Customers willing to sign a two-year agreement can score the LG G Pad 10.1 tablet for $0.99 when purchased with the V20. Last, DirecTV and U-Verse TV customers who port a line to AT&T will be eligible to receive up to $695 in monthly device credits towards the V20.
Asus today announced pricing and availability for its Zenfone 3 family of smartphones. The Zenfone 3 Deluxe 5.7 Special Edition, Deluxe 5.7, Deluxe 5.5, and Laser will all be sold unlocked, directly to consumers via Asus' web site. The phones share nearly identical designs, with aluminum unibody chassis, full HD AMOLED displays, rear-mounted fingerprint readers, dual SIM card and memory card support, USB Type-C, Android 6 Marshmallow, and Asus' ZenUI 3.0. The Zenfone 3 Deluxe 5.7 Special Edition is the most significant of the bunch, as it is one of the first devices to ship with the Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 processor aboard with 256 MB of built-in storage. The Deluxe 5.7 Special Edition and Deluxe 5.7 share most other features, including a Sony Exmor 23-megapixel camera with OIS/EIS, but the Deluxe 5.7 uses a Snapdragon 820 processor. The Deluxe 5.5 steps down the display to 5.5 inches, and includes a Snapdragon 625 processor with 4 GB of RAM and a 16-megapixel camera. The Zenfone 3 Laser is the budget-minded member of the family with a Snapdragon 430 processor, 2 GB of RAM, and 13-megapixel camera. The phones support the GSM/LTE networks operated by AT&T, T-Mobile, Cricket Wireless, and MetroPCS. The Zenfone 3 Deluxe 5.7 Special Edition costs $799, the Zenfone 3 Deluxe 5.7 costs $499, and Zenfone 3 Deluxe 5.5 costs $399. These three phones are available for preorder and will ship later this month. The Zenfone 3 Laser costs $199 and is shipping today.
A Samsung Galaxy Note7 caught fire on a Southwest Airlines flight in Louisville, Ky., this morning, forcing the plane to be evacuated and causing damage to the plane's carpeting. The owner, Brian Green, says the Note7 was a replacement device with a marked box indicating the phone was safe. He swapped out his original Note7 at an AT&T store on Sept. 21. Replacement phones are supposed to have safe batteries and pose no risk of fire. The phone was powered down in Green's pocket when it overheated. Green tossed the phone on the floor where it began to emit smoke and eventually caught fire. The plane was still at the gate and Southwest evacuated the aircraft. No one was injured. Samsung initially expressed doubt about the phone's status as a replacement, but said it will work with authorities to determine the cause of the fire. Samsung was forced to recall the Note7 last month amid instances of it burning owners and igniting fires.
An unannounced Huawei phone for AT&T appeared today on the FCC web site. Slated for AT&T's GoPhone prepaid lineup, the H1611 appears to be an affordable Android phone with a large screen, Snapdragon 615 processor, and sealed-in 3,000 mAh battery. Front and rear cameras are also shown, as well as a memory card slot. The approvals show support for standard AT&T LTE bands, including band 30. The documents reveal few other details. The AT&T web site does not yet list the phone.
The FCC today said AT&T has agreed to pay a fine of $450,000 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 dozens of its microwave stations without filing the proper paperwork with the FCC to account for the variances. The FCC has been investigating this matter for several years and first announced its intent to fine AT&T in January 2015. Today's settlement marks an end to the investigation. In addition to the $450,000 fine, AT&T will also have to implement a compliance plan and conduct regular reviews of its wireless fixed microwave stations.
Sony today discussed pricing and availability details for the Xperia XZ and Xperia X Compact (pictured) smartphones. The XZ will cost $700 and it goes on sale via Amazon and other online retailers October 2. The X Compact will cost $500 and will reach Amazon and others September 25. The XZ is a flagship handset with 5.2-inch screen, Snapdragon 820 processor, and 23-megapixel camera, while the X Compact is a smaller sub-flagship with a 4.6-inch screen, Snapdragon 650 processor, and 23-megapixel camera. Both devices run Android 6 Marshmallow and are sold unlocked with AT&T/T-Mobile LTE compatibility.
Blu today announced the Blu Life One X2, a successor to the Blu Life One X. The Life One X2 features a 5.2-inch full HD display with curved glass, a metal chassis, and a fingerprint reader for biometric security. The phone is powered by a 1.4 GHz octa-core Snapdragon 430 processor with 2 or 4 GB of RAM and 16 or 64 GB of storage. The main camera has a 16-megapixel sensor with phase-detection autofocus and LED flash, and the selfie camera has an 8-megapixel sensor with a forward-facing LED flash. The phone supports Qualcomm's QuickCharge technology for rapid power-ups. The Life One X2 supports LTE Bands 2, 4, 7, 12, and 17 for AT&T, MetroPCS, and T-Mobile. Preorders for the phone kick off today from Amazon.com. Consumers who preorder Sept. 22 or 23 will receive a 10% discount. The 2 GB / 16 GB model costs $150 and the 4 GB / 64 GB model costs $200. Blu didn't say when the Life One X2 will ship.
AT&T today confirmed to Fierce Wireless that, like its competitors, it is deploying three-channel carrier aggregation on its LTE 4G network. "We're currently in the process of deploying three-way carrier aggregation on our network," said AT&T spokesman Steven Schwadron in a statement given to Fierce. "We're also adding spectrum and equipment on an ongoing basis to further boost our network performance." Schwadron says AT&T began deploying LTE-A in 2014 and now the majority of its customers are covered by two-channel carrier aggregation. Three-channel carrier aggregation bundles together three slices of spectrum to boost capacity and speed. AT&T didn't say specifically which markets are getting three-channel aggregation first, but said it is targeting high-density, high-traffic areas. The company didn't say what spectrum bands it is using for three-channel carrier aggregation, either. AT&T lists some 26 devices as LTE-A capable, though it is not clear if these devices support two- and three-channel carrier aggregation. Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless have all talked about three-channel carrier aggregation deployments in recent weeks.
FCC documents indicate that the LG V20 variants for Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile will be the first phones to support LTE in the new band 66. Band 66 includes the AWS-1, AWS-3, and AWS-4 frequencies. Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile all purchased new AWS-3 spectrum in 2015, but have yet to deploy it. When they do, it will require phones that support band 66. AWS-1 — also known as band 4 — is already deployed by all three companies. AWS-4 is owned by Dish Networks, which has yet to announce firm plans for that spectrum.
T-Mobile today said it plans to operate its 2G GSM network through the year 2020. The company has optimized its 2G network to run on less spectrum alongside its LTE 4G network. The vast majority of T-Mobile handsets connect via LTE. T-Mobile is keeping its 2G GSM network alive specifically for Internet of Things and machine-to-machine devices. As such, T-Mobile is attempting to lure away AT&T's IoT and M2M customers by offering free SIM cards and free 2G service through the end of the year to any subscribers that switch. Many IoT and M2M applications require little bandwidth and generally access the network only periodically. T-Mobile is going after AT&T because AT&T plans to shut down its 2G network at the end of this year.
AT&T today expanded the availability of its iPhone trade-in program to all customers. Initially, AT&T said only its DirecTV and U-Verse customers could score a free iPhone 7 ($695 in bill credits) when trading in an iPhone 6, 6 Plus, 6s, or 6s Plus. Today, AT&T decided to extend the trade-in deal to any and all AT&T customers. AT&T customers who own their iPhone 6, 6 Plus, 6s, or 6s Plus can trade it in for a free 32 GB iPhone 7 when paired with an AT&T Next or Next Every Year program. Customers who choose to leave AT&T before all the free monthly device credits are applied will owe the remaining device balance. AT&T says the trade-in offer cannot be combined other offers.
AT&T is giving people the opportunity to get a free phone with a new line of service. Beginning September 9, DirecTV or U-Verse customers who add a new line to their AT&T account will be rewarded with $695 in monthly bill credits towards a new phone. The free smartphone, which can be the new Apple iPhone 7 if that's what customers want, must be added to an AT&T Next or AT&T Next Every Year program when activated. People who are not DirecTV or U-Verse customers can still score a free phone. Consumers who port their number from another carrier to AT&T will be given up to $650 in bill credits when they trade-in their current device and buy a new one on an AT&T Next plan. AT&T says this port-in deal is limited to select phones, but didn't specify which ones. The iPhone 7 and 7 Plus will be available for pre-order starting September 9, but don't reach stores until September 16.
AT&T is allowing its DirecTV customers to access and stream DirecTV video content without impacting their data bucket. Consumers who have both AT&T and DirecTV accounts can stream movies and television shows through the DirecTV over AT&T's wireless network anywhere in the U.S. AT&T warns that some "exclusions apply and may incur data usage." Moreover, free DirecTV video streaming will be subject to network management, including throttling. AT&T didn't specify what content might be excluded from free streaming, nor did it say if the content is streamed in high or standard definition. The app also allows people to watch live and recorded shows. DirecTV customers can download recorded shows from their DVR (via WiFi) to their device for offline watching. Last, the app adds dedicated buttons for live TV and DVR for quicker access to those features. The DirecTV app is free to download from the iTunes App Store. AT&T didn't say when this same functionality will reach its Android app.
The FCC's 600MHz incentive auction is proceeding slowly and may need to be reset. After 27 rounds of bidding, the total amount bid has reached only $23 billion, far short of the $88.4 billion clearing cost set during the reverse part of the auction earlier this year. The FCC will likely end bidding on the licenses that attracted the most interest and then go back to the television broadcasters to reset the clearing costs for the remaining licenses to drive demand. Some analysts believe the auction made need to reset prices several times before it can come to an end. The 600MHz airwaves are the last low-band spectrum that will be made available to wireless carriers. AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless are participating, as is Dish Networks and myriad other entities. The spectrum is being sold by television broadcasters, many of which have had the spectrum for decades.
An appeals court has tossed a lawsuit filed against AT&T over its throttling practices. The U.S. Federal Trade Commission alleged that AT&T deceived customers by throttling their unlimited data plans once those customers exceeded a certain amount of data in a given month. During its investigation, the FTC found AT&T slowed some users' speeds by as much as 90%. AT&T argued that common carriers, such as itself, are to be granted exceptions, and the appeals court agreed. AT&T may still face action over the same issue from the FCC, which believes AT&T may have violated its net neutrality rules.
AT&T today said it has signed an interconnect agreement with Cuba's Empresa De Telecomunicaciones De Cuba (ETECSA). The agreement will eventually allow AT&T customers to roam on ETESCA's network when traveling to Cuba. AT&T hasn't said when it will make such roaming available and will announce pricing at a later date. Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless already have similar agreements in place with ETESCA.
AT&T and dozens of other companies are escalating the war on robocalls with a new Strike Force aimed at disrupting spammers' ability to call and pester consumers. AT&T CEO Randal Stephenson says carriers, device makers, OS developers, network designers, regulators, and lawmakers will all need to work together to create a play book to tackle the problem. "In parallel with technological solutions, we need our regulatory and law enforcement agencies to go after the bad actors. Shutting down the bad guys is a necessary step, and a powerful example to others. Our goal isn't complicated: Stop unwanted robocalls. Easy to say. Hard to do," said Stephenson in remarks made at the FCC's first meeting of the Robocall Strike Force. Industry player are gathering today to discuss initial plans and are expected to report back with more solid short- and long-term plans on October 19. Some of the companies participating in the Strike Force include AT&T, Apple, Blackberry, Comcast, Ericsson, Google, LG, Microsoft, Nokia, Qualcomm, Samsung, Sprint, T-Mobile, U.S. Cellular, and Verizon.
The Samsung Galaxy Note7 reaches U.S. stores today and with it some interesting accessories and companion products from Samsung. The new Gear VR headset, which is compatible with the Note7 and other recent Galaxy phones, has a new look, new color, and expanded field of view. It's available for $100 at carrier stores, as well as Amazon, Best Buy, and Samsung. The Gear 360 camera (pictured), able to shoot 360-degree photos and video, will only be available online for $350. Samsung's Gear IconX wireless earbuds are available, too. These $200 headphones are fully wireless, have built-in memory, and can track workouts. The less expensive Samsung Level Active headphones are sweat proof and can control music/calls for $100. Last, the Samsung Connect auto provides an AT&T-backed in-car hotspot via the OBD II port. The Connect auto can also send alerts to the driver and improve driving safety/efficiency. AT&T will sell the Samsung Connect auto online and in stores. The Galaxy Note7 is Samsung's flagship phablet for the year. It has a 5.7-inch screen, 12-megapixel main camera, Snapdragon 820 processor, 64 GB of storage, and the S Pen stylus. The Note7 is available from AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon.