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printed August 18, 2017
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DirecTV Now Adds CBS, The CW, Other Channels

Aug 7, 2017, 11:11 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

AT&T today improved its DirecTV Now television service with the addition of CBS and other channels. DirecTV Now has offered content from ABC, FOX, and NBC since launch, but not CBS. Today's news means DirecTV Now subscribers in 25 metro regions will have access to live CBS and The CW programming. The initial batch of markets includes New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia, Dallas – Ft. Worth San Francisco-Oakland-San Jose, Boston, Detroit, and others. In addition to CBS, DirecTV Now also gains CBS Sports Network, Showtime, and Pop. AT&T said it plans to add 30 more live ABC, FOX, and NBC channels to markets around the country. The new content rollouts to DirecTV Now are scheduled to begin this week. AT&T allows its wireless customers to stream an unlimited amount of DirecTV Now over the mobile network without impacting their monthly data limit.


Samsung's Galaxy S8 Active Boasts Tougher, Less-Refined Design

Aug 7, 2017, 8:51 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Aug 7, 2017, 11:01 AM

Samsung today announced the Galaxy S8 Active, a rugged version of the S8 that will initially be sold by AT&T. The phone does away with the attractive, curved design of the S8 in favor of a more rugged metal frame with bumpers that are able to withstand drops up to 5 feet. Samsung says the phone meets mil-spec 810G for protection against abuse. The S8 Active offers the same protection from water and dust as the standard S8 thanks to an IP68 rating. The phone carries over the S8's 5.8-inch quad HD+ display with 18.5:9 aspect ratio, but relies on a flat piece of hardened glass. Other features unique to the S8 Active include a larger 4,000mAh battery, and Samsung's Activity Zone software for tracking workouts and other activities. The S8 Active carries over the S8's Snapdragon 835 processor, 12-megapixel main camera, 8-megapixel front camera, and dedicated Bixby key. The Samsung Galaxy S8 Active will be available for preorder from AT&T starting August 11. AT&T is offering a range of promotions and deals along with the S8 Active. It includes discounts on DirecTV service, as well as myriad AT&T apps and services, such as NumberSync, Advanced Calling, Advanced Messaging, and push-to-talk. The phone costs $28.34 per month for 30 months, or about $850.


AT&T Boosts DirecTV Now Live Channel Lineup

Jul 27, 2017, 9:43 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

AT&T today said its DirecTV Now television service offers more than 100 live local channels. Local affiliates of ABC, NBC, and FOX (but not CBS) are available in markets including Chicago, Dallas-Ft. Worth, Los Angeles, New York, Philadelphia, San Francisco, and Washington D.C. AT&T says it will soon triple the number of live channels available compared to when the service launched in November 2016. Nationwide, DirecTV Now subscribers have access to up to 120 channels, more than 25,000 on-demand titles, as well as premium channels. DirecTV Now starts at $35 per month and ramps up to $70 depending on the package. AT&T offers a $25 monthly discount to its mobile customers, who can stream DirecTV Now live television to their mobile devices without impacting their monthly data limit.


Moto Z2 Force Drops 'Droid' Branding On Verizon

Jul 25, 2017, 11:50 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Motorola announced the Z2 Force today, which replaces both the Z and Z Force from last year. The phone will be sold by most U.S. carriers, including AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, U.S. Cellular, and Verizon Wireless. Motorola said the Verizon variant will not include the "Droid" branding that was found on last year's phones. Motorola is sticking with a single device name across carriers. Verizon did not provide comment on the name change. Motorola plans to sell the phone unlocked from Motorola.com, but there is no single unlocked model, according to Rudi Kalil, vice president and general manager at Motorola. Kalil said Motorola will offer unlocked variants for each carrier due to the specific cellular radio requirements for forthcoming 1 Gbps service that's under development from the carriers. The Moto Z2 Force is available for preorder today and will ship starting August 10.


Samsung Makes the Galaxy J7 and Galaxy J3 Available Unlocked

Jul 24, 2017, 3:06 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Samsung today added the Galaxy J7 and Galaxy J3 to its list of unlocked smartphones. The two inexpensive handsets will be available to purchase directly from Samsung's web site as well as select retailers starting July 28. The J7 (pictured) is the larger, costlier of the two with a 5.5-inch 720p HD screen and $220 price tag. It also has a 3,300mAh battery, 8-megapixel main camera, and 5-megapixel front camera with flash. The smaller J3 has a 5-inch 720p HD display and a $150 price point. The J3 also has a 2,600mAh battery, 5-megapixel main camera, and 2-megapixel front camera. Both phones support expandable memory cards, support U.S. 3G/4G networks, and run Android 7 Nougat. They have been available from several U.S. carriers (AT&T/Cricket, T-Mobile/MetroPCS) for several months.


Coral Blue Galaxy S8 and S8+ Go On Sale In US July 21

Jul 19, 2017, 9:00 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Samsung today said the Coral Blue variant of the Galaxy S8 and S8+ handsets will become available to U.S. buyers starting July 21. According to Samsung, carrier-specific versions for AT&T, Sprint, and Verizon will be available at Best Buy stores, while the unlocked version will be available at Best Buy and Samsung.com. Customers looking to save some money can take advantage of a promotion at Best Buy stores between July 21 and July 29 that offers up to $400 off the cost of the handset with a carrier activation. Samsung said consumers can save up to $150 of the price of either handset when purchasing the phone directly from Samsung, as well as take advantage of Samsung's trade-on promo. Details concerning the promotions are available from Samsung's web site. The Galaxy S8 and S8+ are already available in black, silver, and gray.


AT&T Says Edge Computing to Power 5G Experiences

Jul 18, 2017, 11:37 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

AT&T hopes taking advantage of numerous, local data centers will enable the low-latency, high-speed features of 5G. The company is exploring a model called edge computing in order to balance the power needs of mobile devices with those of data center number crunching. AT&T points out that future applications such as autonomous cars and augmented/virtual reality will need incredible amounts of real-time computing. Much of this computing is too much for mobile devices to handle, and is often off-loaded to data centers. The issue is the time it takes data to travel from a car or handset to the data center (often hundreds of miles away) and back. In order to reduce latency while also powering rapid calculations, AT&T plans to deploy tens of thousands of central offices, macro towers, and small cells all over the country — many of which will be within a few miles of customers. The shorter distance from the car or phone to the data center means faster turnaround times for data, or lower latency. AT&T calls these small installations edge computing facilities. AT&T is already testing edge computing with some of its business customers and plans to bake the computing model into its 5G network. AT&T and other carriers are expected to begin deploying 5G technologies as soon as 2018 or 2019.


ZTE Blade Spark Lands On AT&T Prepaid for $99

Jul 14, 2017, 8:00 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

ZTE today announced the Blade Spark, an inexpensive Android handset for AT&T Prepaid. The Blade Spark boasts a 5.5-inch 720p HD display with Gorilla Glass 3, and it is powered by a Snapdragon 425 processor with 2 GB of RAM and 16 GB of storage. Standout features include a rear-mounted fingerprint reader and Dolby Audio. The phone also offers a 13-megapixel main camera with flash and full HD video capture, and a 5-megapixel front camera with a dedicated shortcut for selfies. Other specs include Bluetooth 4.2, GPS, WiFi, expandable storage, and a 3,140mAh battery. The ZTE Blade Spark ships with Android 7.1 Nougat. It is available online for $99. AT&T Prepaid was recently rebranded from GoPhone.


AT&T's DirecTV Now Service Testing a Cloud DVR

Jul 13, 2017, 11:54 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

AT&T today said it plans to roll out its next-generation video platform later this year, though DirecTV Now customers can get an early taste of some of the best features. DirecTV Now allows people to stream live TV to their mobile device, PC, or TV over the internet. AT&T mobile customers can stream DirecTV Now shows to their handset without impacting their data plan. AT&T's new television platform will, like DirecTV Now, be software based rather than hardware based, and that means it will be more accessible across devices. AT&T says the cloud DVR will be available to select DirecTV Now customers later this summer. It will let people record shows and watch 4K and HD shows from virtually anywhere. AT&T says its service has up to 30,000 on-demand titles. Other features on the way include live TV pausing and parental controls. AT&T expects to debut its new television platform before the end of the year. Looking ahead, AT&T will add user profiles, downloadable content, and 4K HDR in 2018.


AT&T Rebrands GoPhone as 'AT&T Prepaid'

Jul 12, 2017, 8:48 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

AT&T today relaunched its GoPhone prepaid service under the brand name AT&T Prepaid. AT&T Prepaid does not require contracts, activation fees, or credit checks, and allows customers to take advantage of month-to-month service. As part of the rebrand, AT&T is offering two months of free service to those who activate and keep a new line of service for a year. AT&T says the 3rd and 12th months of service will be free for those who sign up for the new prepaid brand. The two basic service offerings include an unlimited plan for $65 per month and a 6 GB plan for $45 per month. Both are eligible for a $5-per-month discount when customers enroll in autopay, though AT&T says taxes are extra. The plans include service in Canada and Mexico. Data speeds are capped at 3 Mbps, video streaming is limited to 1.5 Mbps at standard definition, and tethering is not permitted. Unlimited customers who use more than 22 GB of data per billing period may be throttled, while 6 GB customers who exceed their data bucket will be throttled. AT&T says its prepaid service has a selection of handsets for less than $50.


FCC Approves What Is Likely the Samsung Galaxy S8 Active

Jul 3, 2017, 7:03 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

The FCC recently approved a Samsung handset that has all the basic markings of an "Active" variant of the Galaxy S8. The SM-G892A supports AT&T's LTE bands, in addition to Bluetooth and WiFi. The documentation concerning the FCC label location depicts a drawing of the device in question, and the shape clearly resembles that of previous Active-branded handsets from Samsung. The drawing also includes the AT&T logo. Samsung's Galaxy S Active handsets are typically AT&T exclusives. The FCC documents don't reveal any other details about the phone, such as the screen size, processor type, or even the operating system. Samsung and AT&T have over the past few years bought an Active variant of the Galaxy S series to market several months after the regular model arrives. The timing is about right for the S8 Active to make its debut, but so far AT&T and Samsung have remained quiet about the phone.

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AT&T Says More Local Channels Coming to DirecTV Now

Jun 30, 2017, 9:26 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

AT&T today said more major broadcasters around the country are supporting DirecTV Now, it's mobile- and internet-based television service. According to AT&T, ABC is available in 30 new markets, NBC is available in 4 new markets, and FOX has expanded to one new market. The company claims that DirecTV Now provides local coverage to almost 70% of U.S. households. Further, AT&T says by the end of August it will have tripled the number of local live ABC, NBC, and FOX channels available since the service launched in November 2016. Pricing for DirecTV Now starts at $35 per month. AT&T's wireless customers can stream DirecTV via LTE without impacting their mobile data plans.


AT&T Testing Millimeter Wave 5G Tech in Austin

Jun 27, 2017, 12:16 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

AT&T today said it has kicked off a second trial of mmWave technology in Austin, providing fixed wireless broadband to consumers and businesses alike with speeds up to 1 Gbps. AT&T is testing a handful of applications and services. For example, AT&T is allowing DirecTV Now customers to stream live television over this "5G" connection using Ericsson's 5G RAN and Intel's 5G Mobile Trial Platform. AT&T had previously made it possible to stream DirecTV Now via mmWave in its Middletown, N.J., laboratory. AT&T expects the trial will last for several months. AT&T didn't say what spectrum it is using to conduct this trial, nor what consumer equipment. The mmWave technology is just one of many candidate 5G technologies being considered by the 3GPP and ITU. The 5G standard has not yet been technically defined by the international community, but that hasn't stopped carriers and telecom equipment manufacturers from forging ahead. The goal with tests such as this is to make enough technical progress so AT&T can contribute to the final 5G spec and get a jump on deployment. AT&T says it expects to "deliver 5G speeds as early as late 2018."


Alcatel's A30 Plus Bumps Up the Screen, Processor, Camera and Battery

Jun 27, 2017, 9:03 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Alcatel today announced the A30 Plus, an improved version of the A30 we saw earlier this year. This entry-level Android handset includes a 5.5-inch 720p HD screen (up from 5.0 inches) and a 1.5 GHz quad-core MediaTek processor (up from 1.1 GHz) with 2 GB of RAM and 16 GB of storage. The phone supports memory cards up to 32 GB. The main camera has a 13-megapixel sensor (up from 8mp) with time-lapse recording while the front camera has a 5-megapixel sensor. Alcatel says the phone's larger 3,000mAh battery (up from 2,460mAh) provides all-day life. The phone runs Android 7 Nougat and is sold with LTE for AT&T and T-Mobile via Bands 2, 4, 5, 7, 12, 13, and 17. Alcatel is selling the phone for $130, but it is also available via Amazon's Prime Exclusive program for $80. The Prime version requires owners to view ads on the lock screen. The Alcatel A30 Plus ships July 10.


Alcatel's Modular A50 Parties with Light Up LED Accessory

Jun 27, 2017, 8:53 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Alcatel today followed through on its promise to bring the A5 LED to the U.S., though it has changed the phone's name to simply the Alcatel A50. The phone, first revealed in February, is compatible with a handful of modular accessories, the most significant of which features an LED-covere panel that can blink a few dozen LEDs with color. The LEDs can be used to serve as notifications for incoming calls, messages, or alarms. The included Color Catching 2.0 app lets owners create unique LED patterns and themes. Last, the LEDs can provide a light show when listening to music. Other modular accessories include a snap-on stereo speaker and a snap-on battery pack. These are sold separately. The A50 has a quad-core MediaTek processor with 2 GB of RAM, 5.2-inch HD screen, 13-megapixel main camera, and a 5-megapixel selfie camera with Face Beauty software. Other specs include Bluetooth, FM, GPS, and WiFi radios, and a 2,800mAh battery. It runs Android 7. LTE support is limited to Bands 2, 4, 5, 7, and 12, which makes it moderately compatible with AT&T and T-Mobile. The phone costs $150, or $190 with the LED rear cover. The phone is being distributed through the Amazon Prime Exclusive program for $100, or $130 with the LED rear cover. The Prime Exclusive program requires owners to view ads on the lock screen. The Alcatel A50 ships July 10.


Alcatel Announces the Idol 5S with Stereo Speakers

Jun 27, 2017, 8:36 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Alcatel today marked the debut of the Idol 5S, the latest in its flagship series. Like its predecessors, the 5S features an aluminum frame, curved glass front and rear surfaces, powerful stereo speakers, and a rear-mounted fingerprint reader. The phone has a 5.2-inch full HD screen and it is powered by the Snapdragon 625 processor with 3 GB of RAM and 32 GB of storage. As for photography, the Idol 5S includes a 12-megapixel main camera with two-tone flash, and f/2.0 aperture. The front camera has an 8-megapixel sensor and f/2.0 aperture. Both cameras can shoot full HD video. The stereo speakers are backed by 3.6W amplifiers and the Idol 5S includes dual microphones to help reduce noise when capturing audio. Other features include Bluetooth, GPS, and WiFi; USB-C and a 3.5mm headphone jack; and a 2,620mAh battery. LTE support for U.S. carriers is very good, as it includes Bands 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 12, 13, 17, 25, 26, 66, and 41. Alcatel said the phone will be compatible with AT&T/Cricket and T-Mobile/MetroPCS at launch, with Sprint and Verizon to follow later this summer through a software update. The Alcatel Idol 5S runs Android 7.1 Nougat and includes the Google Assistant. The device costs $280 when purchased from Alcatel, but can be picked up for $200 through Amazon Prime Exclusives. The Amazon price requires users to view ads on the lock screen. The phone ships July 10.


AT&T Says Its LTE-LAA Trials Breach 650 Mbps

Jun 26, 2017, 2:23 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

AT&T today said it and partner Ericsson have reached LTE-LAA download speeds in excess of 650 Mbps in live field trials. The trials were conducted in downtown San Francisco. LTE-LAA is an advanced wireless technology that combines licensed and unlicensed spectrum via carrier aggregation. It will play a key role in bridging today's 4G networks with the 5G networks of the future. AT&T expects its LTE-LAA technology to reach speeds near 1 Gbps and it will deploy the tech in some small cells by the end of the year.


Nokia 6 to Be Available from Amazon Next Month

Jun 26, 2017, 8:18 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Jun 26, 2017, 8:24 AM

HMD Global, the company that makes Nokia-branded handsets, today said it will sell the Nokia 6 smartphone in the U.S. via Amazon. The 6 is the best of the three Nokia Android phones currently available, though it still falls in the entry-level segment. The Nokia 6 runs Android 7 Nougat, has a 5.5-inch full HD screen, includes stereo speakers with Dolby Atmos sound, relies on a Snapdragon 430 processor with 3 GB of RAM, and a boasts a 16-megapixel main camera with an 8-megapixel front camera. It packs a 3,000mAh battery, as well as Bluetooth, GPS, NFC, WiFi, fingerprint sensor, 3.5mm headphone jack, and microUSB. LTE 4G support for U.S. networks is limited at best. It supports LTE Bands 2, 3, 4, 7, 12/17, 28, 38. It is only partially compatible with AT&T's 4G network because it is missing LTE Bands 29 and 30. The Nokia 6 is more compatible with T-Mobile's LTE 4G network. The matte black and silver color options are expected to go on sale in July for $229, with the blue and copper colors arriving later.


AT&T's Throttled Unlimited Plan Scores a DirecTV Discount

Jun 1, 2017, 7:17 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

AT&T today announced a new promotion that gives its Unlimited Choice subscribers DirecTV Now for $10 per month. AT&T Unlimited Choice, which provides unlimited data at speeds up to 3Mbps and video streamed at standard definition, costs $60 per month with autopay and paperless billing. Starting today, those customers can add DirecTV Now's Live a Little package for $10 more, or a total of $70. The Live a Little package, which includes more than 60 channels, typically costs $35 per month. AT&T's Unlimited Plus customers, who have access to full-speed mobile data and high-definition video streaming, can apply a similar $25 video credit toward DirecTV Now, regular DirecTV service, or AT&T's U-Verse TV service. Unlimited Plus customers also gain access to HBO for free. The Unlimited Plus plan cots $90 after autopay and paperless billing. In addition to unlimited data, Unlimited Plus includes 10 GB of mobile hotspot or tethering.


Kodak Ektra Improves Camera and Lowers Price As It Makes US Debut

May 26, 2017, 7:20 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Eastman Kodak and Bullitt Group this week launched the Ektra smartphone in the U.S. The handset was first announced in October 2016. Bullitt Group, which manufactures the Ektra, is the company behind other brand-name handsets, such as CAT. The Kodak Ektra is a camera-first smartphone and features a retro design. The Ektra has a 21-megapixel Sony IMX230 sensor with an aperture of f/2.0 and dual LED flash. It includes optical image stabilization, phase-detection autofocus, and can capture 4K video. The front-facing camera has a 13-megapixel sensor. The phone includes a 5-inch full HD screen, MediaTek Helio X20 processor with 3 GB of RAM and 32 GB of storage, and a 3,000mAh battery. Kodak and Bullitt have improved the phone since it was first announced, particularly where the camera is concerned. The phone now includes support for RAW image capture, and has improved auto-focus, white balance, and color performance. Perhaps more importantly, Kodak and Bullitt have reduced the price significantly. In January, the companies said the phone would go on sale in April for $549. This week, the phone reached Kodak's web site for just $399, which makes it a much more compelling and affordable option. The Kodak Ektra is sold unlocked with support for the LTE networks of AT&T, T-Mobile, and their prepaid brands.


LG X Venture Delivers Inexpensive, Rugged Performance

May 22, 2017, 9:38 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated May 22, 2017, 9:57 AM

LG today announced the X venture, an affordable Android smartphone that can take a beating. The phone has an IP68 rating for protection against water and dust, and a mil-spec 810g rating for durability against drops, bumps, scrapes, and other abuse. The phone features a 5.2-inch full HD screen with glove mode. The phone is powered by a Snapdragon 435 processor with 2 GB of RAM and 32 GB of storage. LG says the main camera has a 16-megapixel sensor with a standard field of view, while the front camera has a 5-megapixel sensor with a wide-angle lens. The phone packs a massive 4,100mAh battery with Quick Charge 2.0 for all-day battery life. Other specs include barometer with outdoorsy software, as well as Bluetooth 4.2, GPS, WiFi, FM radio, and NFC. The phone supports memory cards up to 2 TB and it charges via microUSB. The X venture runs Android 7 Nougat. AT&T plans to sell the LG X venture starting May 26, with support for its ePTT service, for $11 per month for 30 months, or about $330.


Verizon Outbids AT&T for Straight Path

May 11, 2017, 7:12 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Verizon Communications has won a bidding war for Straight Path Communications. AT&T announced plans to acquire Straight path for $1.6 billion last month. Straight Path has significant spectrum holdings in the 28 GHz and 39 GHz millimeter wave bands, which will be put to use by some 5G technologies down the road. Once the AT&T deal was announced, Verizon entered its own offer for the spectrum company. Verizon and AT&T have traded bids over the last few weeks. Straight Path this week said it has received an offer of $3.1 billion from a large communications company. While it didn't name Verizon specifically, Straight Path said it will terminate the agreement it had with AT&T. Verizon will pay AT&T a $38 million cancellation fee on behalf of Straight Path. Straight Path didn't indicate when it expects the new agreement to close.


FTC Gets Second Shot Against AT&T Over Throttling Case

May 10, 2017, 7:54 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

The FTC has earned another chance to prove AT&T illegally throttled customers' data speeds. An appeals court this week reinstated the FTC's case against AT&T, which was originally dismissed last summer. The case was dismissed on grounds that the FTC didn't have jurisdiction over internet providers due to their common carrier status. The reversal, if successfully argued by the FTC, could give the agency more control over broadband providers. In the original 2014 case the FTC claimed that AT&T slowed down the data speeds of customers on unlimited plans without proper notice or warning. The original case may have been dismissed, but AT&T still changed its behavior and began warning customers that they might experience slower speeds once they surpass certain usage thresholds. AT&T said it looks forward to arguing the case in court.


Asus ZenFone 3 Zoom Goes On Sale for $329

May 9, 2017, 3:03 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Asus today made the ZenFone 3 Zoom available from its web site for $329. The phone was first announced in January. The device relies on two cameras much like the iPhone 7 Plus to create a zooming effect. Both the standard and 25mm and 59mm lenses have 12-megapixel Sony IMX362 sensors. The main lens has an aperture of f/1.7. Other camera features include portrait mode, OIS, laser focusing, PDAF, RAW support, and a dedicated color sensor for improved white balance. The phone's user-facing camera has a 13-megapixel Sony IMX214 sensor with a 140-degree panorama mode. The 3 Zoom includes a 5,000 mAh battery that can be used to charge other devices via USB-C. Specs include a Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 processor, 5.5-in full-HD display with Gorilla Glass 5, fingerprint sensor, memory card slot, and 3.5mm audio jack. It ships with Android 6 Marshmallow, but Asus indicated that Android 7 will reach the phone via update soon. The ZenFone 3 Zoom supports GSM/LTE networks, including AT&T/Cricket and T-Mobile/MetroPCS. The phone is sold unlocked.


Nougat Reaches Smattering of AT&T's Galaxy S6 Variants

May 5, 2017, 8:04 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

AT&T this week began distributing Android 7 Nougat to the Samsung Galaxy S6, S6 edge, and S6 Active. Along with the new version of Android, the update introduces Samsung Cloud, Samsung Pass, and a wide range of bug fixes and performance improvements. According to AT&T, the update will remove the AT&T Address Book and MobiTV apps, while it brings the security patch level up to April 1, 2017. The new operating system is rolling out to these phones already. AT&T updated the Galaxy S6 edge+ to Nougat earlier this year.


Motorola Solutions Acquires PTT Provider Kodiak Networks

May 1, 2017, 12:36 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Motorola Solutions today said it has agreed to acquire Kodiak Networks for an undisclosed sum. Motorola Solutions is the not the Lenovo-owned company behind Motorola smartphones; rather, Motorola Solutions is a separate corporation that handles first-responder and push-to-talk hardware, and wireless networking equipment. Kodiak Networks is a privately-owned company that developed PTT-over-cellular (3G, 4G) technology. Kodiak's tech has been adopted by network operators such as AT&T, allowing modern smartphones to include PTT functionality without requiring the old iDEN-based technology used by Nextel a decade ago. Motorola Solutions said the acquisition is a good fit for its networking business and will help improve its own technology offerings. The deal is subject to traditional regulatory and closing conditions.


AT&T Says '5G Evolution' to Reach 20 Markets This Year

Apr 25, 2017, 10:51 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Apr 25, 2017, 10:56 AM

AT&T said customers who own the Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8+ will have access to enhanced wireless service in Austin starting today. Austin serves as the first market for what AT&T is calling "5G Evolution" service, an effort to modernize and improve its network ahead of the official adoption of the 5G specification by international standards bodies. AT&T plans to take advantage of improved LTE 4G network technologies such as small cells, network densification, carrier aggregation, 4x4 MIMO, and 256 QAM to provide real-world speed and latency improvements. The company didn't provide any guidance on what sort of speeds S8 and S8+ owners in Austin will actually experience other than to indicate 5G Evolution will be up to twice as fast as its existing LTE 4G service. AT&T will light up 5G Evolution in Indianapolis this summer with markets including Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, Nashville, San Francisco, and others to go live by the end of the year. Further, AT&T said it will have "numerous other" 5G Evolution-capable devices available by the end of the year. All four major carriers are moving forward with 5G technology trials despite the fact that the final standard has not been ratified. AT&T's so-called 5G Evolution is "5G" in name only.


AT&T to Acquire Straight Path for 5G Spectrum

Apr 10, 2017, 8:07 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

AT&T has agreed to acquire Straight Path in an all-stock deal worth about $1.6 billion. Straight Path has significant spectrum holdings in the 28 GHz and 39 GHz millimeter wave bands, which will be put to use by some 5G technologies down the road. The transaction has been approved by both companies, but it will require a thumbs up from the FCC. AT&T and Straight Path expect the deal to close in about 12 months.


AT&T Giving HBO to Unlimited Plus Customers for Free

Apr 5, 2017, 8:29 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

AT&T today said customers who subscribe to its Unlimited Plus wireless plan will be given free access to HBO. There are three ways to watch HBO for free. First, customers who already subscribe to HBO through an AT&T video service (DirecTV, U-Verse) will now get HBO at no cost as long as they also subscribe to Unlimited Plus. HBO will refund the monthly fee directly on customers' bills. Second, AT&T video and wireless customers who don't already subscribe to HBO will automatically receive access to HBO's premium channels through that video service for free. Last, customers who have the AT&T Unlimited Plan, but don't use an AT&T-branded video service, will be able to access HBO via DirecTV Now or the HBO Go apps at no cost. The AT&T Unlimited Plus plan includes a $25 monthly video credit that can be applied to any AT&T video service, such as DirecTV Now, in addition to unlimited data, talk, text, and 10GB of Wi-Fi tethering. Free HBO will be available to Unlimited Plus customers starting April 6.


Gov Taps AT&T to Build Dedicated First Responder Network

Mar 30, 2017, 9:19 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

AT&T will build a nationwide wireless network explicitly for the use of first responders and emergency personnel, the company said today. The U.S. Department of Commerce awarded AT&T with the FirstNet project, which was first recommended not long after the 9/11 attacks when disparate, incompatible systems impacted first responders' ability to communicate. The government will give AT&T 20 MHz of spectrum and billions of dollars to build the network. AT&T will operate the network for at least 25 years, and it expects to spend some $40 billion over that time developing, maintaining, and improving the network. FirstNet will be reserved for emergency medical personnel, firefighters, police officers, and other people who need to communicate during attacks, weather-related disasters, and other events. The intent is to improve rescue and recovery operations, better connect first responders to vital information, improve IoT solutions, support wearables, and deploy the most advanced technology possible. AT&T is working with Motorola Solutions, General Dynamics, Sapient Consulting, and Inmarsat Government. It expects to begin work on the FirstNet network later this year.


Galaxy S8 to Cost $750, S8+ to Cost $850: Carriers Share Launch Details

Mar 29, 2017, 11:11 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Mar 29, 2017, 3:29 PM

Samsung's new Galaxy S8 and S8+ smartphones will cost $750 and $850, respectively. The phones share almost all features other than size and both ship with 64 GB of internal storage. All carriers are bundling in the new Gear VR with controller at no added cost ($129 value), and will upgrade the bundle to include a 256 GB memory card and Harmon Kardon headphones for $99. The Galaxy S8 and S8+ will be available for preorder starting March 30 and should reach stores April 21.

  • AT&T: AT&T is offering a buy-one, get-one deal with the S8 and S8+. Monthly prices range from $28 to $36, depending on the length of the installment plan. Further, AT&T is selling the Gear S3 for $50 with an S8/S8+ purchase, provided the customer signs a two-year agreement. Last, AT&T is offering either the Galaxy Tab E or Gear S2 for 99 cents with a service agreement.
  • T-Mobile: The S8 will cost $30 month on a T-Mobile installment plan, and the S8+ will cost $30 per month, too, with a $130 down payment. T-Mobile says MetroPCS customers will have access to the Galaxy S8 when it reaches stores April 21.
  • Sprint: Sprint plans to lease the phones. The S8 will cost $31.25 per month for 18 months while the S8+ will cost $35.42 per month for 18 months. Customers will be able to upgrade to a newer Samsung phone after making 12 payments. People who preorder the phones from Sprint will be entered into a sweepstakes that includes prizes such as television sets. Sprint says Boost Mobile and Virgin Mobile will offer the phone on April 21.
  • Verizon Wireless: Verizon is offering the S8/S8+ for as low as $15 per month with an eligible (flagship-level) trade-in. Without a trade-in, the S8 will cost $30 per month and the S8+ will cost $35 per month for 24 months.
The Galaxy S8 and S8+ have 5.8- and 6.2-inch screens, respectively, Snapdragon 835 processors, 12-megapixel cameras, and Samsung's Bixby voice interface.


Samsung Galaxy S8 to Be First Gigabit LTE Phone

Mar 29, 2017, 10:54 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Mar 29, 2017, 3:23 PM

Samsung and Qualcomm today said the Galaxy S8 and S8+ will be the first handsets to ship with Gigabit LTE capabilities. The high-speed data connection is possible thanks in part to the Snapdragon 835 processor and accompanying X16 LTE modem. Together with Qualcomm's TruSignal adaptive antenna tuning technology, 4x4 MIMO, carrier aggregation and 256 QAM, the S8 and S8+ will feature the fastest-possible cellular data speeds. AT&T and T-Mobile said the S8 will be able to take advantage of these higher speeds on their pre-5G networks later this year. Sprint, also indicated that its variant of the phone will support HPUE for better 2.5 GHz LTE performance.


Alcatel A30 Reaches Amazon Prime​ for Just $60

Mar 25, 2017, 9:44 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Mar 25, 2017, 9:56 AM

Amazon recently added the Alcatel A30 to its roster of Prime Exclusives. This entry-level Android handset includes a 5-inch HD screen and a 1.1 GHz Snapdragon 210 processor with 2 GB of RAM and 16 GB of storage. The phone supports memory cards up to 32 GB. The main camera has an 8-megapixel sensor with time-lapse recording while the front camera has a 5-megapixel sensor. Alcatel says the phone's 2,460mAh battery provides all-day life. The phone runs Android 7 Nougat and is sold in both CDMA and GSM variants, with LTE for AT&T and T-Mobile. Amazon is selling the phone for $60 with lock screen ads or for $100 without ads. It goes on sale April 19.


FCC Relaxes Rules Governing 800 MHz Spectrum

Mar 24, 2017, 9:24 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

The FCC this week made it easier for carriers to add LTE to their 800 MHz spectrum holdings. Rules concerning the 800 MHz band (CDMA Band Class 0, LTE Band 5) have been in place since 1981 and limit how much power carriers can use to transmit wireless signals across those airwaves. The effect has stymied wide-scale LTE deployments in the 800 MHz band. By relaxing the outdated regulations, the FCC is essentially making it possible for companies that have 800 MHz spectrum to repurpose it for LTE. Specifically, the Commission plans to allow 800 MHz licensees to transmit the same amount of power across the spectrum band, putting it in line with how other, similar spectrum bands are treated. The FCC will demand that carriers take care to prevent interference with public safety's use of 800 MHz spectrum, but the Commission will also eliminate what it calls unnecessary rules and burdens related to application filings and other red tape. Verizon Wireless, which will benefit most from the change, lauded the decision. "The FCC's unanimous adoption today of Cellular Service Reform rules is a big win for wireless consumers," said the company. "Today's order enables Verizon to accelerate the conversion of 850 MHz spectrum from 3G and put it to use for 4G LTE. The upside for consumers is big: Verizon Wireless will be able to provide 4G LTE coverage on cellular spectrum to 20%-30% more of the US geography and also increase peak 4G LTE speeds by as much as 40%." The change also benefits AT&T, though to a lesser degree.


AT&T to Give DirecTV Now Subscribers Free Year of HBO

Mar 20, 2017, 12:15 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

AT&T today sweetened the deal for some subscribers to its DirecTV Now streaming television service. New customers who subscribe to either the Go Big or Gotta Have It packages will be given a free year of HBO. The Go Big plan costs $60 per month and includes more than 100 channels, while the Gotta Have It plan costs $70 per month and includes more than 120 channels. Normally, HBO costs an extra $5 per month. Further, AT&T is offering new customers a free Apple TV when they pre-pay for three months of any DirecTV Now package. Both the free HBO and free Apple TV offers end March 30.


AT&T Launching LG G6 with 2-for-1 Offer

Mar 16, 2017, 9:10 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

AT&T today announced its plans to sell the LG G6 and the company is going a step further than competitor T-Mobile. For a limited time, people who purchase an LG G6 can score a second LG G6 when adding a new line. AT&T is asking for $24 per month for 30 months to cover the cost of the phone, or about $720 in total. The offer requires both lines use an AT&T Next installment plan, and the cost of the second device will be covered on a month-to-month basis. In addition to the two-for-one offer, customers who buy the LG G6 before April 30 will be given a free Google Home by LG. Last, AT&T customers who buy an LG G6 can get the LG Watch Sport for $50 with a two-year service agreement on the wearable. AT&T will start taking preorders for the LG G6 on March 17, with orders shipping on April 7.


AT&T's GoPhone Intros Unlimited Slow Plan

Mar 10, 2017, 1:07 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

AT&T today made one of its postpaid plans available via its GoPhone prepaid brand. The new AT&T GoPhone Unlimited service plan costs $60 per month and offers unlimited everything at reduced speeds. The plan includes maximum download data rates of just 3Mbps, with video capped at 480p standard resolution and limited to streams of 1.5Mbps. This is similar to the Unlimited Choice plan AT&T rolled out to its postpaid customers last month. AT&T said GoPhone Unlimited customers who exceed 22 GB of data in a given billing period may see their data speeds reduced when the network is congested. Alternately, GoPhone customers can select a new offer that includes unlimited talk and text with 6 GB of high-speed data for $40 per month. Customers who exceed the 6 GB limit in a 30-day period will have their speeds reduced to 128kbps for the remainder of the billing cycle. Both plans include free roaming in Canada and Mexico. AutoPay and paperless billing are required to get these $60 and $40 plan prices. The new GoPhone plans are available starting today. Last, GoPhone is offering $20 off select smartphones through April 20.


FCC to Investigate AT&T 911 Outage

Mar 9, 2017, 12:50 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said the agency will investigate a recent issue on AT&T's mobile network that prevented some 911 calls from going through. The issue occurred Wednesday evening over a period of several hours. "Every call to 911 must go through," said Pai. "So when I first learned of yesterday's outage, I immediately directed FCC staff to contact AT&T about it and the company's efforts to restore access to emergency services to the American public. I have directed Commission staff to track down the root cause of this outage." AT&T has not yet said what happened, though it apologized to those who were impacted by the outage.


AT&T Says LG Phoenix 3 to Reach GoPhone March 10

Mar 8, 2017, 8:32 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Mar 8, 2017, 9:02 AM

AT&T recently announced the LG Phoenix 3, a low-cost Android handset intended for its GoPhone prepaid service. The device includes a 5-inch FWVGA display, and it is powered by a quad-core processor with 16 GB of storage. Both the front and rear cameras have 5-megapixel sensors, and the user-facing cam includes a selfie light. Other features include a slim design, 2,500mAh battery, and Android 6 Marshmallow. The LG Phoenix 3 goes on sale online and in stores March 10 for $80.


AT&T Bundling HBO for Free with Some DirecTV Now Plans

Mar 8, 2017, 8:14 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

AT&T is rewarding what it calls "loyal" customers of its DirecTV Now service with free HBO. People who subscribe to the Go Big and Gotta Have It packages will receive HBO for free for 12 months. People who subscribe to the less expensive Live a Little and Just Right packages will receive a $5 discount on HBO for up to six months. Those who've already added HBO to their DirecTV Now service will see their bills adjusted accordingly. AT&T says subscribers will be able to use their DirecTV Now login credentials to access HBOGo, as well.The loyalty reward is available to any DirecTV Now customer with an account active as of March 6. AT&T launched DirecTV Now in November 2016. The service offers four packages that range from $35 to $70 per month with up to 120 channels. It is available to Android and iOS devices, as well as the web.


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