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printed October 25, 2014
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T-Mobile to Explore Settlement with FTC Over Cramming

Wednesday, 10:06 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

T-Mobile has signaled to the Federal Trade Commission it is interested in reaching a settlement regarding accusations it unfairly profited from bogus charges foisted onto customers' bills. The FTC sued T-Mobile over its cramming practices, despite T-Mobile's attempts to preempt such legal action by banning premium content and offering refunds to customers. The company vehemently denied the FTC's accusations at first, but has since altered its stance. T-Mobile and the FTC have asked the lawsuit to be put on hold for a 90-day period while they discuss possible settlement terms. "Our top priority is doing what's right for our customers," said a T-Mobile spokesperson in a statement. "T-Mobile and the FTC jointly filed for a continuance as a matter of ordinary course. We are actively processing refunds through our proactive refund program." AT&T recently settled with the FTC over similar charges for a total of $105 million.


AT&T to Sell Samsung Galaxy Mega 2 on Oct. 24

Oct 20, 2014, 9:54 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

AT&T today announced the pending launch of the Galaxy Mega 2, a new version of Samsung's low-cost phablet. The Mega 2 features a 6-inch HD screen with a reduced bezel to help keep the footprint as small as possible. The phone adopts the design language of Samsung's Note series, to a certain degree, as well as the Note's split-screen multitasking, but the Mega 2 doesn't include a stylus. The phone has an 8-megapixel main camera with flash, a user-facing camera, Samsung's Private Mode, and Samsung's battery management software. The device has a quad-core processor and a 2,880mAh battery. The Mega 2 runs Android with Samsung's TouchWiz user interface. The Galaxy Mega 2 costs $475 at full retail, or can be purchased for $19.80 per month with AT&T Next 18, $23.75 per month with Next 12, or $150 with a new two-year contract. AT&T is still offering a $100 bill credit when customers activate a new or existing line with its AT&T Next plans. The device reaches stores October 24.


Transit Wireless to Start Phase 3 of NYC Subway Project

Oct 16, 2014, 2:49 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Oct 16, 2014, 2:51 PM

Transit Wireless and the New York City Metropolitan Transit Authority today said more New York City residents will gain access to cellular service when using the subway. To start, Transit Wireless has completed Phase 2 of the project, which means 11 new stations in Manhattan and 29 stations in Queens are now connected with cellular and Wi-Fi service. Phase 3 will add service to Flushing Main Street Station in Queens, as well as stations in Lower Manhattan, West Harlem, and Washington Heights throughout 2015. Transit Wireless' project has seven phases in total, which will eventually bring connectivity to all 277 subway stations in New York by 2017. Wireless service is available from AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless.


Apple Debuts New Multi-Carrier SIM Card in iPad Air 2

Oct 16, 2014, 2:31 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Oct 16, 2014, 2:35 PM

Apple today revealed the iPad Air 2, and along with it a new way to handle SIM cards. According to Apple, the new Apple SIM gives iPad Air 2 owners unprecedented flexibility when it comes to choosing an LTE service provider. "Whenever you need it, you can choose the plan that works best for you -- with no long-term commitment," explained Apple. "And when you travel, you may also be able to choose a data plan from a local carrier for the duration of your trip." The multi-carrier SIM is compatible with AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile in the U.S., as well as EE in the U.K. The iPad Air 2 supports 20 different LTE bands, similar to the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus. The carriers named by Apple have not yet discussed the particulars regarding no-contract data plans. There's no word on why Verizon Wireless isn't included in the list of U.S. carriers. It's possible that the Apple SIM will find its way to future Apple products, including its iPhones.


AT&T Quietly Hits Stop on Beats Music Promo

Oct 16, 2014, 12:04 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

AT&T has ceased offering a discount on the Beats Music subscription service. Since early this year, the carrier offered access to the streaming service for $15 per month for families with up to five lines and 10 devices. The discounted price is no longer available through AT&T. "There haven't been any changes for AT&T customers who currently have the Beats Music family plan or who are within the free trial period," said AT&T spokesman Mark Siegel to FierceWireless. "New subscribers can still get Beats Music through their app store or at beatsmusic.com." Apple closed its acquisition of Beats Music earlier this year and the service's fate has been undefined since then. The $10 monthly subscription to the service is still available.


Google Shows Off Nexus 6 Smartphone, Nexus 9 Tablet

Oct 15, 2014, 11:10 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Oct 15, 2014, 11:28 AM

Google today announced Android 5.0 Lollipop and with it the first few devices to run the new operating system, the Nexus 6 and the Nexus 9. The Nexus 6 is a large-screened smartphone made by Motorola. It has an aluminum frame and a 6-inch quad HD display with a 13-megapixel main camera. The camera includes optical image stabilization and HDR+ for improved low-light shots. The device has stereo-speakers with high-fidelity sound and comes with a turbo charger for fast charging. Google claims the device can get up to six hours of battery time after plugging it in for just 15 minutes. The Nexus 6 will be available for pre-order in late October and in stores in November. Google will sell an unlocked version through the Play Store, and the Nexus 6 will also be sold by AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, U.S. Cellular, and Verizon Wireless. The device costs $649 at full retail, which is $200 more than the Nexus 5. The Nexus 9 tablet is made by HTC and features an 8.9-inch 2048 x 1536 screen with a brushed aluminum design. It is run by a dual-core Tegra K1 64-bit processor with each core clocked at 2.3GHz. Other features include an 8.0-/1.6-megapixel camera configuration; BoomSound speakers; dual-band Wi-Fi, NFC, Bluetooth 4.0, and LTE; and a 6,700mAh battery. The Nexus 9 will be available for pre-order on October 17 and in stores starting November 3. The Wi-Fi model starts at $399.


Asus PadFone X Mini Arrives on GoPhone with Intel Inside

Oct 15, 2014, 6:53 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

AT&T today announced the pending availability of the Asus PadFone X Mini -- a smaller version of Asus' smartphone-and-tablet combo device. The PadFone X Mini features a 4.5-inch smartphone that transforms into a 7-inch tablet with a dock. It is notable as being one of the first smartphones to be sold in the U.S. with an Intel processor. It features a dual-core 1.6GHz Atom Z2560 with 1GB of RAM and built-in LTE 4G. Other features of the PadFone X Mini include a 5-megapixel main camera and 1-megapixel user-facing camera; Bluetooth 4.0, Wi-Fi, and GPS; a removable 2,060mAh battery in the smartphone and a non-removable 2,200mAh battery in the tablet; and a stereo headphone jack and support for microSD cards up to 64GB. It runs Android 4.4 KitKat with Asus' ZenUI. The PadFone X Mini will be sold by AT&T's GoPhone prepaid brand beginning later this month. The device costs $200, with plans starting as low as $40 per month. GoPhone doesn't require contracts. AT&T has sold the larger PadFone X since earlier this year.


Sony Selling Xperia Z3 Compact Off-Contract for $530

Oct 13, 2014, 10:16 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sony recently added the Xperia Z3 Compact to its U.S. web site and made it available for purchase. The phone, which comes in black, white, orange, or green, costs $530 and is being sold unlocked and without a carrier contract. It is compatible with the GSM networks operated by AT&T and T-Mobile, though exact LTE support is unclear. The Z3 Compact has a smaller 4.6-inch 720p HD display and overall footprint when compared to the Xperia Z3, but carries over the same processor, camera, and waterproof design.


AT&T Improves International Plans

Oct 13, 2014, 9:10 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

AT&T today rolled out new service plans for use when traveling abroad. Under the new AT&T Passport plans, customers pay a one-time monthly fee for 30 days of access to international voice minutes, messaging, and data. The plans automatically expire. Each includes unlimited messaging and unlimited access to AT&T's Wi-Fi hotspots. The least expensive option costs $30 and includes 120MB of data and $1-per-minute voice calls. The $60 option improves the data allotment to 300MB and drops the per-minute cost of voice calls to $0.50. The $120 option boosts data to 800MB and drops the per-minute cost of voice calls to $0.35. Before today, AT&T required customers to select separate voice, messaging, and data plans when traveling abroad. The new plans combine all three services in a less-expensive package. AT&T said its month-to-month AT&T Global rates are still available to those who travel frequently and need access beyond 30 days. Data-only Passport and Global packages are also available for tablets, laptops, and other data-only devices.


Sprint, T-Mobile Want FCC to Eye AT&T's Spectrum Spree

Oct 10, 2014, 7:45 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sprint, T-Mobile, and others want the FCC to "carefully scrutinize" a number of AT&T's proposed low-band spectrum acquisitions. AT&T has asked the FCC for permission to purchase 700MHz spectrum from a range of small companies around the country. AT&T's competitors argue its low-band spectrum purchases should trigger the FCC's spectrum screen and require extra examination for their effects on competition. Low-band spectrum is highly valued for its propagation characteristics, and AT&T and Verizon Wireless already control a significant amount of low-band spectrum around the country. Sprint and T-Mobile claim the FCC has yet to fully define what triggers the spectrum screen with small-scale deals. They believe AT&T is taking advantage of the FCC's lack of clarity on the issue. AT&T responded by saying, "AT&T is confident that after a careful, enhanced factor review, the Bureau will conclude that both of these small deals will cause no harm to competition and will result in significant public interest benefits."


HTC Desire EYE is a High-End Selfie Phone

Oct 8, 2014, 3:15 PM   by Rich Brome   updated Oct 8, 2014, 3:45 PM

HTC today announced the Desire EYE, a phone with full 13-megapixel cameras on both the front and back, and also HTC's most high-end Desire phone to date. Both cameras have warm dual-LED flashes. New EYE software features enhance the camera with several new selfie modes, enhancements that HTC will push to existing models as well. The Desire EYE's other high-end specs include a Snapdragon 801 processor and 5.2-inch, full-HD display. The two-tone unibody plastic shell has a smooth matte finish and comes in either white/red and navy/blue. The Desire EYE is waterproof up to 1 meter, for 30 minutes. The headset and micro-USB jacks are open, while the SIM and memory cards fit into trays with rubber gaskets. The body includes a dedicated camera button and HTC BoomSound stereo speakers hidden in slots at the edge of the display. On the software side, the camera software can automatically capture selfies when the user smiles or simply holds still. It also responds to voice commands to snap photos and videos. A dual-camera mode lets users snap using both the front and back camera in one photo, either at the same time or one and then the other, to get better angles. Another mode will automatically cut out the selfie background and insert your face into the scene in front of you. New video conferencing features track and crop up to four faces at once or allow screen-sharing. These work at a low driver level to work with most third-party software. Most of the new imaging features (the "HTC EYE Experience") will be added to most existing One models and plus Desire 816 via software update. The Desire EYE will initially be exclusive to AT&T in the U.S. Exact pricing and timing was not announced.

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AT&T Agrees to $105M Settlement in Cramming Case

Oct 8, 2014, 12:15 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

AT&T and the U.S. Federal Trade Commission today announced AT&T has agreed to pay fines totalling $105 million in order to settle allegations that it profited from cramming. The FTC alleged AT&T made millions of dollars by allowing third-party companies to fraudulently bill customers for premium SMS and other services. AT&T typically kept 35% of the billed amount each month. AT&T customers who believe they were inappropriately charged for services they did not authorize can seek a refund. A portion of the settlement has been set aside for customer reparations. "While we had rigorous protections in place to guard consumers against unauthorized billing from [premium SMS] companies, last year we discontinued third-party billing for PSMS services. Today, we reached a broad settlement to resolve claims that some of our wireless customers were billed for charges from third-parties that the customers did not authorize," said AT&T. The FTC has made similar allegations against T-Mobile, which vehemently denies the government's claims.


AT&T Admits Employee Accessed Customer Data

Oct 7, 2014, 7:48 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

AT&T recently informed about 1,600 customers of a breach in their personal data. An unauthorized AT&T employee may have obtained driver's license numbers, Social Security numbers, and information about the AT&T services to which those customers subscribed. "Unfortunately, we recently learned that one of our employees did not follow our strict privacy rules and inappropriately obtained some customer information. This individual no longer works at AT&T and we are directly contacting the limited number of affected customers," said an AT&T spokesperson. AT&T said it informed the federal government, but stopped short of saying whether or not there's an investigation into the matter. The breach occurred in August.


Google Voice Now Supports MMS on Select Networks

Oct 7, 2014, 7:33 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google has enabled MMS within Google Voice on more than 100 networks in North America, including AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile in the U.S. Google Voice was previously limited to sending and receiving only SMS messages. For the moment, Verizon has not enabled MMS via Google Voice, and Google didn't say whether or not it intends to. Some of Google Voice's features have recently been ported to Google's Hangouts app/service, such as the ability to make voice calls.


Samsung Rugby 4 Available from AT&T on Oct. 10

Oct 6, 2014, 10:14 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

AT&T today said it will sell the Samsung Rugby 4 beginning October 4. Samsung's Rugby series devices are ruggedized flip phones that include push-to-talk via AT&T's Enhanced PTT service. The Rugby 4, which was first announced in August, builds on the Rugby series' basics by adding Wi-Fi and noise suppression, and improving the speaker. The Rugby 4 boasts a mil-spec rating for toughness and GPS for navigation. The Rugby 4 will cost $100 with a two-year contract or $270 with no commitment. However, AT&T said new activations and eligible upgrades can snag the phone for $0.99 through December 31 when paired with an EPTT rate plan.


AT&T to Sell Moto G with LTE for $180 On Oct. 10

Oct 6, 2014, 9:15 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Oct 6, 2014, 10:37 AM

AT&T today said the Moto G with LTE will be available online and in stores on October 10. The device will cost $180 with no contract, $7.50 per month with AT&T Next 18, $9 per month with AT&T Next 12, or $80 with a one-year contract. The Moto G with LTE is last-year's G with an LTE radio added for faster wireless networking. It has a 4.5-inch 720p HD screen, quad-core Snapdragon 400 processor, and 5-megapixel camera.


AT&T Bringing Affordable Alcatel OneTouch C1 to GoPhone

Oct 2, 2014, 8:28 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

AT&T's GoPhone prepaid service today added the Alcatel OneTouch C1 to its roster of inexpensive smartphones. The C1 is an entry-level device with a 3.5-inch HVGA screen, 2-megapixel camera, dual-core 1.0GHz processor with 512MB of RAM, and 1,400mAh battery. It includes 4GB of internal storage and supports microSD cards up to 32GB. The C1 runs Android 4.2 Jelly Bean. The Alcatel OneTouch C1 costs $60 and will be available at select national retailers beginning this month.


List of Spectrum Bidders Holds No Surprises

Oct 2, 2014, 7:45 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

The FCC revealed on Wednesday that AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless - three of the nation's top four carriers - plan to participate in the upcoming AWS-3 spectrum auction. Dish Networks also plans to bid for airwaves, alongside myriad smaller entities. According to the FCC, 80 companies plan to make bids for AWS-3 spectrum, though 47 of the applications were deemed incomplete. The auction begins November 13, but completed applications and down payments are due from all bidders by October 15. Sprint does not plan to participate in this auction. The AWS-3 spectrum includes 65MHz in the 1695-1710MHz, 1755-1780MHz, and 2155-2180MHz bands. The collective reserve price for the lower block is $580 million and the collective reserve price for the upper blocks is $10.07 billion.


AT&T Offering Double Data on Select Mobile Share Value Plans

Sep 28, 2014, 8:33 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

AT&T today launched a limited promotion that doubles the amount of monthly data available to certain plans for no extra charge. Customers who subscribe to one of AT&T's Mobile Share Value plans with 15, 20, 30, 40, or 50GB of data can upgrade their data to 30, 40, 60, 80, or 100GB, respectively, for free. The upgrade works with plans that include between two and 10 lines and already subscribe to a minimum of 15GB ($160 per month). The promotion, which is available to new and existing customers, runs between today and October 31. AT&T said the promotional data allotments will not expire, and customers can keep them as long as they subscribe to a Mobile Share Value plan.

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RadioShack May Gain Second Life Thanks to Shareholders

Sep 26, 2014, 3:13 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

A major RadioShack shareholder plans to invest more cash in the business in order to improve its liquidity. RadioShack is facing a cash crisis. As of last month it had just $30.5 million in the cash and owed creditors $658 million. Standard General is still discussing the particulars with RadioShack and its other creditors. The hedge fund, along with new, unnamed investors, believe they can buy out RadioShack's loans and get the company back on its feet. Standard General raised its stake in RadioShack from 7.08% to 9.8%, making it the single largest shareholder. The investors hope to shore up RadioShack ahead of the crucial holiday shopping season. RadioShack sells cell phones and wireless service from AT&T, Sprint, and Verizon Wireless alongside other consumer electronics.


DirecTV Shareholders Approve AT&T Merger

Sep 25, 2014, 10:13 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

DirecTV's shareholders today voted overwhelmingly in favor of merging with AT&T. The vote of confidence from DirecTV's shareholders is just one of several the deal faces. It is still undergoing review from both the FCC and the Department of Justice. DirecTV says it expects the deal to close during the first half of 2015. AT&T and DirecTV believe together they can offer more competitive content delivery services.


BlackBerry Shows Off the Passport for Mobile Pros

Sep 24, 2014, 9:04 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

BlackBerry today fully revealed the Passport, its first smartphone to debut since February. The Passport has a unique shape, providing a large, square screen with a full, physical QWERTY keyboard below. The phone has a steel frame that BlackBerry claims lends it great strength. The screen measures 4.5 inches across the diagonal and has 1,440 x 1,440 pixels. BlackBerry says the square aspect ratio helps fit more content across the screen when compared to 16:9 displays. The company took special care to develop the keyboard, which it claims is faster and more reliable than software keyboards. The keyboard is touch-enabled and lets users brush their fingers over the keys to scroll through information on the screen. Users can also flick up on the keyboard to use next-word suggestions, and swipe from right to left on the keyboard to delete the full last word. Under the hood, the Passport has a 2.2GHz Snapdragon processor with 3GB of RAM and 32GB of internal storage. It supports microSD memory cards and has a 3,450mAh battery. The phone comes with a 13-megapixel camera with optical image stabilization. The device runs BlackBerry OS 10.3 with support the Amazon App Store for applications. Alongside the Passport, BlackBerry also introduced BlackBerry Assistant, a voice-activated tool similar to Siri, Google Now, and Cortana that can perform select actions on the Passport. BlackBerry claims Assistant is more powerful than rivals because it can access information behind corporate firewalls. BlackBerry is selling the Passport directly to U.S. consumers from its web site. The phone costs $599 and is being sold without a contract. It is compatible with HSPA/LTE networks, such as those operated by AT&T and T-Mobile.


Big Four Carriers to Sell Samsung's Connected Gear S

Sep 24, 2014, 7:12 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Samsung recently said AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless will all offer its Gear S smartwatch "this fall." Samsung didn't say when the device will actually go on sale. The Gear S differs from Samsung's other wearables in that it has a cellular radio inside and can make/receive phone calls and messages. Pricing has yet to be revealed for the device itself, as well as for the plans connecting it to cellular networks. In an email, T-Mobile said the Gear S will be available for purchase on its Equipment Installment Plan, which breaks down payments over time.


LG G3 Vigor Reaches AT&T Stores Sept. 26

Sep 22, 2014, 1:50 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

AT&T today confirmed it will begin to sell the LG G3 Vigor on September 26. AT&T is asking for $335 for the G3 Vigor with no contract, $13.96 a month with Next 18, $16.75 a month with Next 12, or $50 with a new two-year contract. The Vigor has a 5-inch 720p HD screen, 8-megapixel camera, and LG's customized apps and software.


Samsung Galaxy Alpha Reaches AT&T Stores Sept. 26

Sep 22, 2014, 9:24 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

AT&T today said it will offer the Samsung Galaxy Alpha beginning September 26. The device, which was announced earlier this year, features a metal frame and 4.7-inch 720p HD display. AT&T is asking $199 with a new contract, $25.55 per month with AT&T Next 18, $30.65 per month with AT&T Next 12, or $613 at full retail.


Samsung Note 4 Available Oct. 17, Preorders Start Sept. 19

Sep 18, 2014, 8:24 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Sep 18, 2014, 9:05 AM

Samsung today said it will begin accepting preorders for the Galaxy Note 4 on September 19. The device won't ship, however, until October 17. Samsung said the Note 4 will be available in black and white, and it will be carried by AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, Verizon, and U.S. Cellular. Samsung said the phone will also be available at Samsung Experience Shops in Best Buy stores, as well as from Amazon, Costco, RadioShack, Sam's Club, Target, and Walmart. Individual carriers and retailers will provide their own pricing and availability details in the near future. AT&T was first to announce those details. AT&T said the Note 4 will cost $34.42 per month with AT&T Next 18; $41.30 per month with AT&T Next 12; $299.99 with a two-year agreement; or $826 at full retail. AT&T is offering a $100 bill credit to new/existing customers who activate a new line of service with the Note 4. Verizon is offering the Note 4 for $299 with a new contract and said Verizon Edge installment pricing will also be available. T-Mobile isn't accepting preorders until September 24, and it is asking for $0 down followed by $31.24 a month for 24 months.


Subway to Accept Softcard Starting October 1

Sep 16, 2014, 8:28 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Subway today announced it has partnered with Softcard and will begin accepting Softcard-based mobile payments on October 1. Softcard, which launched last year as Isis, is backed by AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless. The service allows smartphone owners to link their credit card to the Softcard app on their phone and use it to make mobile payments at select retailers nationwide. Subway said it will accept Softcard at 26,000 locations around the U.S. Further, the company is offering $1 back on every purchase made with American Express Serve through 12/31. Last, Subway will eventually add its Subway Card Rewards Program to the Softcard app, which will let customers earn rewards points when making mobile payments. Softcard is available to a wide number of Android smartphones through a dedicated application.


AT&T Also to Sell LG G3 Vigor

Sep 15, 2014, 5:35 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

AT&T chimed in today to say it, too, will offer the LG G3 Vigor to subscribers. AT&T didn't specify how much the device will cost, nor when it will go on sale. Sprint also plans to sell the Vigor.


Preorders for Moto X Begin Sept. 16, Moto 360 Back in Stock

Sep 14, 2014, 11:14 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Motorola today said consumers can order some of its new products beginning September 16. The Moto X for AT&T and the Moto X Pure Edition will both be available for ordering on Tuesday. The AT&T Moto X costs $99 with a new contract, and the Moto X Pure Edition - which runs stock Android 4.4 KitKat and features an unlocked bootloader - costs $499. Other carriers plan to announce availability soon. In addition to these handsets, the Moto Hint wireless earbud and the Moto Turbo Charger will also be available. The Hint costs $149 and the Turbo Charger costs $35. Last, Motorola said the Moto 360 smart watch will be back in stock on Tuesday, though quantities are limited.


Sprint to Sit Out AWS-3 Auction

Sep 12, 2014, 11:55 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sprint today confirmed that it will skip an upcoming spectrum auction. "Sprint has decided not to participate in the FCC's AWS-3 auction, but will continue to evaluate the opportunities presented by the upcoming 600MHz incentive auction," said Sprint spokesman Jeffrey Silva to Bloomberg. Auction 97 will see 1,614 spectrum licenses sold by the government to wireless network operators. The auction will start November 13, with a trial auction scheduled for November 10. The spectrum includes 65MHz in the 1695-1710MHz, 1755-1780MHz, and 2155-2180MHz bands. AT&T, Dish Networks, Verizon Wireless, and many smaller companies plan to participate in the auction. The FCC has another auction, for 600MHz spectrum, scheduled for mid 2015. AT&T and Verizon already have significant low-band spectrum holdings, while Sprint does not. Sprint is more interested in the 600MHz spectrum for this reason. Low-band spectrum is valued for its propagation characteristics.


AT&T to Wait Until 2015 to Launch WiFi Calling

Sep 12, 2014, 11:03 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

AT&T's top exec today said the company won't offer WiFi calling on its devices until next year. WiFi Calling has been around for years, but was highlighted by Apple this week as a new feature in the iPhone 6/6 Plus. Further, T-Mobile announced this week plans to expand WiFi calling to all its smartphones with a new in-home hotspot. T-Mobile's WiFi service goes live soon, but AT&T is in no rush to compete. "We're very focused on making sure it's a great experience for customers, but we see it as a complement, not a replacement," said CEO Ralph de la Vega. "We feel good about a great nationwide network with unlimited talk and text." WiFi calling passes voice calls and text messages over a local WiFi network rather than the macro cellular network.


RadioShack Weighing Bankruptcy

Sep 11, 2014, 10:46 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

RadioShack is considering whether or not to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection as its cash reserves dwindle. The company ended its most recent quarter with just $30.5 million in cash on hand, with debts totaling $658 million. It has lost money 10 quarters in a row as electronics buyers shun the chain for larger retailers or the web. Filing for bankruptcy would help protect RadioShack's remaining cash reserves, and could set the stage for a reorganization of the firm. The company is also weighing taking on investments and cited liquidation as a last resort. Earlier this year RadioShack announced plans to close 1,100 stores, but later reduced that number to 200 after investors balked. RadioShack sells wireless service from AT&T, Sprint, and Verizon Wireless, as well as several prepaid brands.


AT&T Commits to Nokia Lumia 830

Sep 9, 2014, 7:19 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

AT&T today confirmed it will sell the Nokia Lumia 830 later this year. The device, announced in Berlin last week, is a mid-range smartphone that includes compelling camera software. AT&T didn't say when it will go on sale, nor how much it will cost.


FCC Dubious On Future Wireless Mergers

Sep 9, 2014, 4:07 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler today suggested the agency will take a long, hard look at any proposed mergers between wireless companies. "We will continue to be skeptical of efforts to achieve scale through the consolidation of major players," said Wheeler at the CTIA trade show in Las Vegas. Sprint and its parent company SoftBank abandoned plans to acquire T-Mobile just last month after meeting with resistance from lawmakers. The FCC also shot down AT&T's attempted purchase of T-Mobile in 2011. The FCC has repeatedly suggested it prefers to have four national wireless network operators for increased competition. Wheeler also warned operators that the FCC may yet take a more active interest in regulating how they manage their networks. "One of the constant themes on the record is how consumers increasingly rely on mobile broadband as an important pathway to access the internet," said Wheeler. According to Wheeler, Microsoft agrees. It said there is "no question that mobile broadband access services must be subject to the same legal framework as fixed broadband access services." The FCC has new net neutrality rules on deck for approval in the months ahead.


Softcard 'Working with Apple' to Work on iPhone 6

Sep 9, 2014, 3:58 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Softcard, the mobile payment venture backed by AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless, today said it is "actively working with Apple to enable Softcard on the iPhone in 2015," according to CEO Michael Abbott. Softcard said Apple's decision to support NFC is "very significant and sets the stage for rapid scale adoption of mobile commerce." Softcard (the new brand name for Isis) has been available to Android smartphones since November 2013 and the iPhone via a special case since early 2014. Apple today separately announced its own mobile payment service called Apple Pay. Apple Pay will use NFC and properly-equipped retail terminals to power tap-and-go payments. Apple Pay launches in October with support from a number of banks and retailers.


Sprint Says Its Trade-In Program Beats T-Mobile's

Sep 9, 2014, 9:25 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sprint today matched T-Mobile's move to increase the appeal of its trade-in program. Beginning immediately, Sprint will meet or beat all AT&T's, T-Mobile's, and Verizon's buyback pricing on all new lines of service to ensure the best trade-in values. T-Mobile on Monday said it would meet or beat competitors' trade-in programs, as well as give customers a $50 credit if they find a better deal. According to Sprint, T-Mobile's program is limited to one trade-in per line. Sprint's program isn't offering $50 in additional credit, but Sprint will accept up to three trade-ins per line and up to five trade-ins per calendar year. Further, Sprint customers can trade in old devices any time. Sprint offers up to $300 for trade-ins, depending on the phone and its condition, which can be put towards new purchases or account credit. Sprint has always been serious about accepting device trade-ins and has a significant recycling program.


AT&T Partners with Telefonica for Digital Life Initiative

Sep 8, 2014, 6:46 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

AT&T today announced that it has teamed up with Telefonica to expand the reach of its Digital Life platform. Digital Life is the home automation program AT&T has been pitching for several years. Telefonica is licensing Digital Life platform on a trial basis. Whether or not Telefonica will contribute to the platform is unclear, and the companies wouldn't say if the platform will be available to others. Part of the Digital Life program also includes a new goal of helping take care of the elderly. Digital Life Care's intent is to enable caregivers to better provide for their aging relatives, friends, or charges. It will incorporate new mobile tools accessible from smartphones, all powered by the Digital Life platform. The company is starting in-house trials this year with a launch planned for next year.

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AT&T Offering Low-Cost Data Service to Timex Watch

Sep 8, 2014, 2:49 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

AT&T today said owners of the Timex Ironman One GPS+ watch will receive one year of data connectivity for free with the purchase of the watch. Thereafter, AT&T will charge $40 per year to keep the device running (messaging and data) on AT&T's network. The Timex Ironman One GPS+ goes on sale later this year for $399. It is available for preorder directly from Timex.


GameStop to Sell Cricket Wireless Devices

Sep 8, 2014, 2:44 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Cricket Wireless today said it has reached a distribution agreement with GameStop. The gaming retailer will sell Cricket phones and service in more than 2,800 stores around the U.S. The two companies trailed the service in 10 markets over the last few months and will begin to expand to more stores in the weeks ahead. Cricket, which offers prepaid, no-contract wireless service, is owned and operated by AT&T.


Amazon Slashes Fire Phone's Price to $1

Sep 8, 2014, 2:32 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Amazon and AT&T today announced the Fire Phone is now available for the price of $0.99 with a new two-year contract. The Fire Phone was sold for $200 on contract when it launched just two months ago. Alternately, consumers can pick it up for $0 down and $18.75 per month (for 24 months) with AT&T Next 18. The Fire Phone runs FireOS, a forked version of Android, and uses Amazon's services rather than Google's. It has several distinctive features, such as FireFly for searching/shopping; Dynamic Perspective, which provides a 3D-like user interface; and a free year of Amazon Prime.


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