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printed May 2, 2016
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FCC Sets 126 MHz Clearing Target for Reverse Auction

Friday, 10:48 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

The FCC today announced it has set an initial spectrum clearing target of 126 MHz during the reverse part of the auction for 600 MHz airwaves. Television broadcasters have agreed to part with this spectrum. The FCC then plans to offer 100 MHz in 10 near-nationwide paired blocks to wireless providers in the forward phase of the auction. The majority of the spectrum being given up by television broadcasters will qualify as Category 1, which means it has no or little interference. Some of the spectrum will fall under Category 2, which has a greater degree of interference but not so much that it can't be managed. The FCC is today notifying all the television broadcasters about the status of their applications to sell spectrum. The FCC plans a mock auction for May 24-25, and will kick off the actual reverse portion of the auction May 31. It's unclear how long the reverse auction will take place before the FCC is able to turn around and re-sell the spectrum to wireless companies. AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless have all said they plan to participate in the hunt for low-band spectrum.


AT&T to Turn Off 2G Network By End of 2016

Wednesday, 3:48 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

AT&T will shut down its 2G network ahead of schedule. In 2012, AT&T said it would operate 2G into 2017. This week, however, AT&T CFO John Stevens said the 2G network will be decommissioned by the end of 2016. The company has already moved 6 million customers off 2G over the last twelve months. The bulk of the remaining 2G devices (AT&T didn't say how many) in use are internet-of-things connected devices. Nearly all phones that connect to AT&T's network do so via 3G or 4G. "There still is a lot of cost that is left just to operate even a piece of the 2G network," remarked Stevens during a call with investors. "So we are anxious to capture that savings and use it to continue a strong story for our wireless business." Once decommissioned, the spectrum on which the 2G network operates will be refarmed for LTE.


Microsoft Rolls Out Lumia 950 BOGO Offer

Apr 25, 2016, 12:15 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft is looking to clear inventory of the Lumia 950 XL and Lumia 950 smartphones, which means consumers can buy one at full price and get the second one for free. The deal is available via Microsoft's U.S. web store. Specifically, people who purchase the 950 XL at $649 will receive a Lumia 950, valued at $549, for free. Both devices are being sold unlocked with support for GSM carriers, such as AT&T and T-Mobile. The promotion is available while supplies last through May 2. Microsoft reported shipments of about 2.3 million Lumia phones in its most recent financial documents, which represents a steep drop from the 8.6 million it shipped in the year-ago period. The company admitted it is sitting on a lot of excess inventory of its flagship Windows 10 Mobile devices. Moreover, the company expects "year over year revenue declines to deepen as we work through our Lumia channel position." Cricket Wireless is expected to launch Microsoft's mid-range model, the Lumia 650, early next month. Microsoft has recently pushed a significant update to its Windows 10 Mobile platform and updated core apps such as email, Groove Music, and the Edge browser.


AT&T Drops BlackBerry Priv Price to $640

Apr 22, 2016, 8:41 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

BlackBerry said AT&T has lowered the price of the the Priv smartphone by $100. The phone now costs $640 at full retail, instead of $740, or $199 with a two-year contract, instead of $250. The lowered monthly installment plan prices are $26.67 with AT&T Next 18, $31 with AT&T Next 12, or $16 with AT&T Next 12 with a downpayment of $192. The Priv has been available since late last year. It is a slider with a full QWERTY keyboard. The Priv runs Android rather than BlackBerry's own operating system.


DeWalt Debuts MD501 Rugged Smartphone

Apr 22, 2016, 7:23 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

DeWalt recently announced the MD501, a fully rugged Android smartphone aimed at those who work outdoors. DeWalt is not making the device itself; instead, it partnered with Global Mobile Communications to make the device. Global Mobile is licensing the DeWalt name. Cat uses a similar strategy for its rugged smartphones. The MD501 meets mil-spec 810g and IP68 for protection against drops to concrete, dust, water, dirt, fog, humidity, and extreme temperatures. The 5-inch HD screen is extra bright for outdoor visibility and it can be used with gloves. The phone is powered by a MediaTek processor with 2 GB of RAM and 16 GB of storage. It accepts micro SD cards up to 64 GB. The main camera features a 13-megapixel sensor and the user-facing camera features a 5-megapixel sensor. The MD501 includes a 3950mAh battery with Qi wireless charging. The phone does not support U.S. LTE bands, but does support quad-band HSPA that is compatible with AT&T and T-Mobile. It runs Android 5.1 Lollipop. DeWalt hasn't said when the device will go on sale. It is expected to cost about $544.


Review: WeBoost Eqo In-Home Signal Booster

Apr 20, 2016, 2:00 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

WeBoost's Eqo signal booster promises to improve cellular coverage in your home or apartment. Consisting of a booster and antenna, the whole system fits most average dwellings. If you need a few more bars to connect calls, the WeBoost may be what you need. Here is Phonescoop's in-depth report.

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Cricket Debuts Unlimited Plan for $70

Apr 15, 2016, 9:10 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Cricket Wireless today announced a new service plan that includes unlimited talk, text, and LTE data for $70 per month. That price includes all taxes and fees. Cricket customers who enroll in auto-pay can reduce their monthly cost to $65. Along with the new plan, Cricket Wireless said it will reward T-Mobile subscribers who switch to Cricket with a $100 bill credit. Cricket operates on AT&T's network, but LTE speeds are capped at 8 Mbps. The new plan will be available beginning April 17.


AT&T Bumps Activation Fee By $5 to Match Verizon

Apr 7, 2016, 3:25 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

AT&T has increased the cost of its activation fee from $15 to $20. The move follows the establishment of a similar fee by Verizon Wireless in recent days. AT&T's fee applies to people activating or upgrading to a new device through an AT&T Next installment plan and for those who bring their own device. Customers who sign a two year contract are hit with a $45 activation fee. AT&T won't charge a fee for customers who pay for their new device in full.


Microsoft Now Selling the Lumia 650

Apr 1, 2016, 10:18 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft has made the Lumia 650 available for purchase from its U.S. web site. The phone runs Windows 10 Mobile and features a metal-frame design with a 5-inch HD OLED display, 8-megapixel camera, memory card slot, and removable battery. Microsoft is selling the phone unlocked for $199. It is compatible with the networks run by AT&T and T-Mobile.


FCC Pushes Privacy Rules Forward

Apr 1, 2016, 7:43 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

The FCC on Thursday followed through on plans to tackle consumer privacy. The agency issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to govern the use of consumer data by broadband providers, both wired and wireless. The FCC's goal is to help protect the data generated by millions of people who use internet services every day. The FCC wants broadband providers to obtain permission from customers before sharing their data with others, including advertisers. The rules would apply to companies such as AT&T, Comcast, DirecTV, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon — including each company's wireless units. The FCC also believes consumers should be able to opt-out when they wish. "[This] proposal would give all consumers the tools we need to make informed decisions about how our ISPs use and share our data," said FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, "and confidence that ISPs are keeping their customers' data secure." Internet providers argue the rules would reduce their ability to sell advertisements to consumers. The FCC will continue to shape the policy over the next few months and present it in more final form before fully adopting it.


Walmart Slashes Price of iPhone By $100, Galaxy By $150

Apr 1, 2016, 7:22 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Walmart today said customers can save big bucks on Apple's iPhone and Samsung's Galaxy phones for the next three months. Walmart has cut the price of all iPhones by $100 (including the new iPhone SE) and all Galaxy phones (including the Galaxy S7) by $150. The rollback begins today and lasts through the end of June. The reduced prices will be available only in Walmart stores, and only to customers of AT&T, Sprint, and Verizon Wireless. T-Mobile is not participating in the rollback program.

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FCC Says Netflix Throttling Actions Aren't Its Concern

Mar 31, 2016, 4:20 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler today said the agency doesn't intend to investigate Netflix's throttling practices for customers of AT&T and Verizon Wireless. Wheeler said web sites and other edge providers fall outside its purview and didn't violate any regulations. Netflix admitted to throttling the speed of video streamed by AT&T and Verizon customers due to those carriers' data overage policies. Netflix doesn't throttle the speeds of video streamed by Sprint and T-Mobile customers.


Verizon Confirms Pending $20 Upgrade Fee

Mar 31, 2016, 12:19 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Verizon Wireless today confirmed to Phonescoop that it plans to charge customers $20 to upgrade to new devices beginning April 4. The fee will apply to customers who buy handsets with installment plans, or buy phones at full price. Verizon will assess the fee at third-party retailers, too, such as purchases made at the Apple Store or Best Buy. "The upgrade fee helps cover our increased support costs associated with customers switching devices," explained a Verizon spokesperson to Phonescoop via email. "Customers can pay the charge when they upgrade, bill it to their account, or trade in an old device to offset the cost. The fee for upgrading on device payment is still half of the two-year contract upgrade fee." Verizon charges contract customers $40 when upgrading devices. AT&T instituted its own device upgrade fee of $15 last year. Sprint recently lowered its upgrade fee from $36 to $30. T-Mobile charges $20 for a SIM card starter pack, which is widely seen as an upgrade fee. Verizon's new $20 upgrade fee was first uncovered by MacRumors.

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AT&T, DirecTV to Reward Galaxy S7 Buyers with Free TV

Mar 31, 2016, 9:03 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

AT&T and DirecTV customers who buy a Samsung Galaxy S7 may become eligible for a free Samsung 48-inch TV. Consumers who buy a Galaxy S7 or S7 Edge, and sign up for AT&T and DirecTV are eligible for the free TV, as are existing AT&T customers who join DirectTV, and existing DirecTV customers who join AT&T. Consumers who already subscribe to AT&T and DirecTV are not eligible. The S7 or S7 Edge must be purchased on an AT&T Next plan, and people must have both AT&T and DirecTV to qualify — at least one of which must be new. The free TV offer will be available through April 30.


LG G5 Officially Goes On Sale March 31

Mar 30, 2016, 7:26 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

LG said its G5 smartphone will be available for sale in Korea starting March 31, with the U.S. to follow April 1. The G5 will reach other regions, including Europe, Asia, and the Middle East, over time. LG says more than 200 carriers plan to sell the phone. In the U.S., that includes AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless, all of which will offer the phone on April 1. Along with the G5 itself, LG plans to sell the accompanying modules and accessories, called LG Friends. The two most notable Friends as the CAM Plus and Hi-Fi Plus, which are modules that plug directly into the bottom of the G5. The CAM Plus will be available in the U.S., but LG hasn't said if the Hi-Fi Plus will also be available. Other Friends include the 360 VR headset, 360 CAM, Rolling Bot, Tone Platinum, and H3 by B&O. Pricing for the LG G5 varies by carrier. The phone has a 5.3-inch quad HD display, Snapdragon 820 processor, 16-megapixel camera, and USB Type-C.


FCC's Incentive Auction Starts Tonight

Mar 29, 2016, 2:54 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

The FCC said its incentive auction for 600 MHz airwaves officially gets under way at 6p.m. this evening, when broadcasters will need to commit to participating. The auction will see television broadcasters give up their airwaves, which will then be sold to bidding wireless companies and other companies. "In just a few hours, we mark the beginning of the world's first Incentive Auction," said FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, "which will align the use of the public airwaves to meet America's 21st century spectrum needs. The auction promises to free up more capacity to meet Americans' skyrocketing demand for wireless data while preserving the valuable service that broadcast TV stations provide to their communities." AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless are taking part in the auction along with about 100 other entities. T-Mobile has promised to pursue the low-band spectrum aggressively. The auction is expected to last several months.


AT&T Debuts Rugged Mobile Hotspot

Mar 28, 2016, 11:39 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Mar 28, 2016, 11:42 AM

AT&T today announced the Unite Explore, a mobile hotspot that's been ruggedized to withstand abuse. The hotspot has earned the mil-spec 810G and IR65 ratings for protection against shock, temperature extremes, vibration, water, and dust. The device boasts dual-band WiFi and some LTE-Advanced features to provide the fastest speeds available. Owners can manage the device thanks to a touchscreen-based user interface. Controls can set up and limit guest access, and parents can set content filters for age-appropriate surfing. AT&T says the battery provides 22 hours of hotspot time for up to 15 devices. The AT&T Unite Explore reaches stores April 1 and costs $49.99 with a two-year agreement.


Netflix Says It Throttles Video on AT&T and Verizon

Mar 24, 2016, 6:35 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Netflix today said that it has limited its video speeds on most carriers worldwide for years, including AT&T and Verizon Wireless in the U.S. The issue came to light when T-Mobile accused AT&T and Verizon of throttling Netflix. Mobile video practices have been under a microscope since the December launch of T-Mobile's Binge On program, which zero-rates the video content from some providers. Netflix admitted that it is throttling its own service on purpose to about 600Kbps to "protect consumers from exceeding mobile data caps." Netflix says it has throttled video speeds for as long as five years, but leaves video streamed by Sprint and T-Mobile customers alone due to those carriers' less onerous policies. Netflix, which claims to be a proponent of net neutrality, says it is exploring new ways to stream video in such a way that it consumes less data. AT&T and Verizon were not pleased with the revelation. "We're outraged to learn that Netflix is apparently throttling video for their AT&T customers without their knowledge or consent," said AT&T.


Verizon Taking Preorders for LG Watch Urbane 2nd Ed.

Mar 24, 2016, 8:57 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Following AT&T, Verizon Wireless today said customers can place orders for the LG Watch Urbane 2nd Edition with LTE. This wearable, delayed by several months due to manufacturing issues, has its own cellular connection to Verizon's network and can be used fully independent from a smartphone. It can make calls and send messages from the owner's main cell number. The wearable runs Android Wear and costs $499. Verizon will drop the price by $50 for those willing to sign a contract. It costs $5 per month to add the watch to an existing service plan. For a limited time, Verizon will sell the watch for $399 when purchased with the LG G5 or V10 smartphones.


AT&T iPhones Gain International WiFi Calling Via iOS 9.3

Mar 23, 2016, 9:45 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

AT&T customers who have newer iPhones can now make WiFi calls when traveling abroad. The company enabled international WiFi calling with the iOS 9.3 update from Apple and refreshed carrier settings. AT&T says international calls made via WiFi will be charged at its standard rates. The feature also allows people to send text messages via WiFi, which are counted the same as regular text messages. WiFi calling, which must be turned on in the system settings, is available to the iPhone 6, 6 Plus, 6s, and 6s Plus. WiFi calling has been available for domestic calls since last year and can provide voice/messaging connectivity in areas with poor cellular coverage.


AT&T Taking Preorders for LG G5 with BOGO Deal; Brings Back LG Watch Urbane

Mar 21, 2016, 7:16 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

AT&T customers interested in the LG G5 can preorder the modular smartphone starting today. The device will reach AT&T stores on April 1. AT&T is offering the G5 for $22.97 on an AT&T Next 24 installment plan (30 payments). Customers who want two LG G5 handsets can score the second for free as long as one of the two phones is activated on a new line and both are financed on the AT&T Next 24 plan. AT&T will reimburse the cost of the second phone spread out over the 30 monthly payments. The full retail price is $689. AT&T is also bringing back the LG Watch Urbane 2nd Edition with LTE. This wearable supports AT&T's NumberSync service and can be used with the customer's phone for taking calls and sending messages all from the same wireless number. AT&T will sell the LG smartwatch to customers for $99.99 with a two-year agreement when purchased with an LG G5 on an AT&T Next plan. Alternately, customers can purchase the watch for $0 down with 20 payments of $18. LG halted sales of the watch last year after discovering manufacturing problems. The issues have since been resolved.


Verizon Rolls Out Galaxy S7 BOGO Offer

Mar 18, 2016, 7:53 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Verizon Wireless has made a Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge buy-one, get-one deal of its own available to smartphone shoppers. Beginning today, customers who buy one Galaxy S7 or S7 Edge can receive a second one for free as long as the second one is activated on a new line. Both phones must be purchased through an installment plan. Verizon will give buyers a prepaid card for the value of the phone. Verizon customers who've already bought a Galaxy S7 or S7 Edge are also eligible for a free phone if they choose to activate a new line. AT&T and T-Mobile have similar promotions running right now.

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Nextbit Shelves CDMA Variant of Its Robin Phone

Mar 17, 2016, 8:26 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Nextbit has canceled plans to bring a version of its Robin smartphone to Sprint and Verizon Wireless. The company cited the slow carrier approval process and ballooning expenses as reasons behind its decision. "What people at the carriers, in good faith given our need for quick answers, thought would take 'weeks' has turned into 'months'," explained Nextbit CEO Tom Moss. "What they thought would cost 'hundreds of thousands of dollars' has turned into 'millions'. And we're still not there." The company is refunding those who pre-ordered the CDMA version of the Robin, and is also offering those customers 25% off the GSM version of the Robin should they want it. The Robin runs Android and proactively offloads apps and files to the cloud in order to conserve storage. It is sold unlocked and works with AT&T and T-Mobile.


AT&T Sidesteps Class-Action Suit Over Throttling

Mar 14, 2016, 7:22 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

A federal judge sided with AT&T and said consumers suing the carrier over its throttling practices cannot work together as a group. Instead, customers must pursue individual arbitration with the carrier, per their signed user agreements. AT&T stands accused of throttling customers who paid for unlimited data plans once they consumed a certain amount of data each month. Some customers were throttled after they reached 3 GB per month, while others were throttled after they reached 5 GB. AT&T is believed to have throttled the speeds of some 3.5 million customers between 2011 and 2015. AT&T now allows customers with unlimited plans to use 22 GB of data per month before throttling them, and only does so when the network is congested. A class-action lawsuit would have been costly for AT&T. The majority of consumers likely won't pursue individual arbitration due to the related expenses. AT&T may have dodged the class-action lawsuit, but it is still facing legal action from the Federal Trade Commission over the same issue. The FTC case is winding its way through federal courts and is due for another round in June.


FCC Girds for Privacy Battle with Internet Firms

Mar 10, 2016, 6:05 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

The FCC is prepared to propose new rules governing the use of consumer data by broadband providers, both wired and wireless. The proposal is meant to help protect the data generated by millions of people who use internet services every day. The FCC wants broadband providers to obtain permission from customers before sharing their data with others, including advertisers. "Consumers should have effective control over how their personal information is used and shared," said an FCC official. The rules would apply to companies such as AT&T, Comcast, DirecTV, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon — including each company's wireless units. Firms such as Alphabet (neé, Google) and Facebook would be exempt, which instead fall under the purview of the FTC. The FCC is expected to propose the rules later this month, when they'll be provisionally approved. Internet providers argue the rules would reduce their ability to sell advertisements to consumers. The FCC's next meeting is tentatively scheduled for March 31.


LG G5 to Make US Debut In Early April

Mar 10, 2016, 9:13 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

LG today said U.S. consumers can expect to see the G5 smartphone reach stores in early April. The modular smartphone will be available via AT&T, Best Buy, B&H, Sprint, T-Mobile, U.S. Cellular, and Verizon Wireless. LG said carriers will be responsible for announcing their own release dates and pricing. The G5 has a removable bottom hatch that allows users to access the battery as well as add modules called LG Friends. The first two modules are a camera grip and stereo DAC. The phone also boasts dual rear cameras and a Snapdragon 820 processor. It runs Android 6.0 Marshmallow.


AT&T Extends BOGO Offer to Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge

Mar 8, 2016, 3:54 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

AT&T today said the Samsung Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge, which reach stores March 11, will be eligible for a buy one, get one promotion the carrier has been running since last month. Both phones must be purchased via an AT&T Next installment plan. The first phone can be a new line or an upgrade, but the second phone must be a new line purchased with an AT&T Next 24 plan (req's 30 payments). Both phones must be added to a qualified plan, such as Mobile Share Value, which starts at $70 for two lines. Customers will need to pay sales tax on the two phones at the time of purchase and may need to make several monthly payments on both before AT&T credits up to $650 for the second phone spread out over the 30 month AT&T Next 24 plan. Subscribers who leave AT&T before they've made the 30 payments will need to pay for the remaining balance of the phone. AT&T didn't say how long the BOGO offer will be available.


Alcatel's Go Play Handset Available for Sale Starting Today

Mar 4, 2016, 2:41 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Alcatel today made the Go Play available for sale on its web site for $199.99. The phone is being sold unlocked and is compatible with AT&T and T-Mobile's LTE networks. The Go Play has a 5-inch 720p HD screen and 1.2GHz quad-core processor with 1GB of RAM and 8GB of storage. The Go Play has an 8-megapixel main camera, a 5-megapixel front camera, and can record full HD video. The phone features an IP67 rating for protection against water and dust, and can be used to take underwater images. Other features include GPS, an FM radio, and 2,500mAh battery. The Go Play runs Android Lollipop. Alcatel is including a free rugged case with the phone through the end of the month.


Boost Mobile Rolls Out Offer for AT&T, T-Mo, Verizon Customers

Mar 3, 2016, 10:11 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Boost Mobile today announced its own promotion aimed at converting customers from competing carriers to Boost. Boost says AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless customers who port their numbers to a Boost Mobile family plan can see monthly savings up to 50%. Boost is offering 10 GB of high-speed data per line starting at $60 for two lines, $85 for three lines, and $110 for four lines. Further, Boost says it will provide a free phone (or $50 discount) for every line ported to Boost Mobile from AT&T, T-Mobile, or Verizon. Customers can get up to four free phones when activated with a new family plan. Boost Mobile said this offers will be available for a limited time, but didn't set a specific end date. Boost Mobile's parent company, Sprint, has offered a similar promotion for several months.


AT&T Plans to Offer DirecTV to Most Connected Devices

Mar 1, 2016, 2:59 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

AT&T today said it will allow anyone to stream DirecTV content to the device of their choice, including smartphones, tablets, PCs, and smart TVs, beginning later this year. AT&T said each of the three planned services with permit several simultaneous sessions and won't ask consumers to sign contracts or purchase additional equipment. The first option is called DirecTV Now and will come with a range of content packages for wired and wireless internet devices. The DirecTV Mobile option targets smartphones and tablets and will work on most mobile devices no matter the wireless network. Consumers will simply need to download an app, sign in, and start watching. These two options will require monthly fees. The third viewing package, called DirecTV Preview, will be ad-based and offer a more limited selection of content. AT&T didn't spell out how much the DirecTV video services will cost, but said it plans to launch during the fourth quarter of the year. DirecTV's existing, satellite-based television subscription services will remain intact.


AT&T, Verizon Intercarrier VoLTE Launch Target Comes and Goes

Feb 29, 2016, 4:36 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

AT&T and Verizon Wireless are still working to launch support for intercarrier VoLTE, despite missing the initial target. The companies expected to allow one another's customers to connect VoLTE calls between them before the end of 2015. Adam Koeppe, vice president of network planning and technology at Verizon, said the trials are going well and the two carriers plan to offer the service at some point later this year. AT&T and Verizon each offers its own customers VoLTE, which requires both the caller and recipient to have compatible handsets and LTE coverage. VoLTE paves the way for HD voice calling, as well as RCS-based services, such as rich messaging and video calls.


T-Mobile to Begin Testing 5G Later This Year

Feb 23, 2016, 2:16 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

T-Mobile will commence trials of 5G technologies with partners Nokia and Ericsson during the second half of the year, says Nokia. The companies plan to use the 28GHz band for testing, which is one of the bands proposed for 5G usage. Their goal is to "support massive bandwidth capacity and virtual zero latency." The tests will allow T-Mobile to evaluate 5G technologies and help it plan for its future network upgrades. Unlike AT&T and Verizon Wireless, T-Mobile doesn't expect to deliver 5G to its customers until 2020 or later. AT&T and Verizon have said they'll have some 5G service available as soon as 2017 and 2018. The ITU has not yet defined what 5G will be, but the focus is as much on minimizing latency as it is on allowing devices to reach the internet at blistering speeds. Verizon is pushing forward with testing aggressively as it hopes to play a role in defining the 5G standard. T-Mobile is treading into the 5G waters more cautiously. "We're looking forward to working with Nokia to bring 5G capabilities out of the lab and into field trials with LTE technology and spectrum we already have today," said T-Mobile CTO Neville Ray. "Building on investments we've made to deliver America's fastest 4G LTE, this puts us on the path to real 5G use cases once 5G consumer smartphones are available in the 2020+ timeframe."


Google and Global Operators Agree on RCS for Android

Feb 22, 2016, 6:53 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google, the GSMA, and a collection of wireless network operators around the world today said they'll work together to bring Rich Communication Services to Android devices around the globe. Google will create an Android RCS client that all the participating carriers will adopt. The GSMA said the universal RCS client will let mobile operators offer a consistent messaging experience to devices no matter where they are. Operators can use Google's Jibe platform to handle the client, or provide their own. Some of the features of RCS include group chat, high-resolution photo sharing, advanced calling features, and read receipts. These enriched tools will become default characteristics of messaging services offered by Sprint in the U.S., as well as América Móvil, Bharti Airtel, Deutsche Telekom, Etisalat, Globe Telecom, KPN, Millicom, MTN, Orange, PLAY, Smart Communications, Telenor Group, TeliaSonera, Telstra, TIM, Turkcell, VimpelCom, and Vodafone. Notably absent from the list of participants are AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless. The GSMA also says the interoperable messaging service will aid operators when it comes to testing, and the messaging profile will eventually be made available to other platforms. The GSMA did not provide a timeline for deploying RCS.


Samsung Giving Gear VR Headset to Early GS7 Adopters

Feb 21, 2016, 2:50 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Samsung today said consumers in select countries, including the U.S., who preorder the Galaxy S7 or S7 Edge will receive a free Gear VR headset. Samsung didn't say how long the promotion will be available. Many U.S. carriers have also announced pricing for the pair of phones. The Galaxy S7 costs approximately $670 to $700, depending on carrier, while the larger S7 Edge has a much higher price point between $780 and $800, depending on carrier. Monthly payments for the phones range from about $30 to more than $40, depending on the terms. So far, AT&T, Cricket Wireless, Sprint, T-Mobile, U.S. Cellular, and Verizon Wireless have all said they'll sell the new handsets from Samsung. The device goes on sale March 11, but preorders start February 23.

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Samsung's Cellular-Equipped Watches Go On Sale March 11

Feb 18, 2016, 3:01 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Feb 18, 2016, 4:25 PM

Samsung said the cellular variants of the Gears S2 Classic smartwatch will reach AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless on March 11. The Gear S2 supports 3G and HSPA 4G for connectivity. The Gear S2 can make/receive calls on its own, send and receive messages, as well as sync apps without a nearby smartphone. The wearable has a 1.2-inch screen with rotating bezel to control the Tizen operating system. Pricing is being set by the individual carriers.


AT&T Targets Sprint, T-Mobile, Verizon with Switching Offer

Feb 15, 2016, 8:47 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

AT&T today said it will pay customers of competing networks up to $650 per line to switch to AT&T. The latest tactic hopes to woo Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless customers by offering to cover their fees. In order to be eligible for the credit, people need to purchase a new device through AT&T's Next installment plan, activate a new line of post-paid service, and port their number from Sprint, T-Mobile, or Verizon. The program also requires people to trade-in their old phone. The trade-in will garner in-store credit towards the new device or an AT&T Promotion Card. Once customers receive the final statement from their previous carrier, they can submit the bill to AT&T, which will send an AT&T Promotion Card or Visa pre-paid card to cover the unpaid balance. The total amount of credit awarded between the trade-in and ETF is $650. AT&T says the deal can be combined with it current buy-one, get-one offer, as well as the AT&T Unlimited plan available to DirecTV and AT&T U-verse TV subscribers.


Google to Sit Out Incentive Auction

Feb 12, 2016, 3:35 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google will not participate in next month's spectrum auction, says the company. The deadline to file applications for the auction passed on February 10. "Like all those interested in improved connectivity and equitable access, we'll be following the upcoming spectrum auction closely. That said, we have not filed to participate," explained a spokesperson in a statement provided to Reuters. Carriers AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless have all indicated an interest in the auction, although Sprint will not participate. The reverse auction will see television broadcasters sell their 600 MHz airwaves to wireless network operators. Google did participate in the 700 MHz auction several years ago.


AT&T Rolls Out Smartphone BOGO Offer

Feb 12, 2016, 9:02 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Feb 12, 2016, 9:17 AM

AT&T is allowing new and existing customers to buy one phone at full price and receive a second one for free. The two handsets must come from the same manufacturer. Qualifying devices include: Apple iPhone 6, 6s Plus; Samsung Galaxy S6, S6 Edge, S6 Edge Plus, S6 Active, and Note 5; and LG G4 and V10. AT&T says both phones must be purchased via its AT&T Next installment plan. The first phone can be a new line or an upgrade, but the second phone must be a new line purchased with an AT&T Next 24 plan (req's 30 payments). Both phones must be added to a qualified plan, such as Mobile Share Value, which starts at $70 for two lines. Customers will need to pay sales tax on the two phones at the time of purchase and may need to make several monthly payments on both before AT&T credits up to $650 for the second phone spread out over the 30 month AT&T Next 24 plan. Subscribers who leave AT&T before they've made the 30 payments will need to pay for the remaining balance of the phone. The iPhone BOGO deal is running for a limited time, but AT&T didn't provide an end date.


Immersion Hits Apple with 3D Touch Lawsuit

Feb 12, 2016, 8:40 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Immersion has filed multiple lawsuits against Apple and AT&T, claiming the two violate its haptic feedback patents. Specifically, Immersion believes the Apple iPhone 6/6 Plus, iPhone 6s/6s Plus, Apple Watch, Watch Sport, and Watch Edition make use to two patents pertaining to "haptic feedback system with stored effects" and "method and apparatus for providing tactile sensations." The iPhone 6s and 6s Plus are further accused of infringing a third patent for "interactivity model for shared feedback on mobile devices" — or 3D Touch, the defining feature of the two phones. Immersion didn't immediately make clear AT&T's role in the complaint. The company filed lawsuits with the U.S. International Trade Commission seeking a ban on the devices, as well as a lawsuit with the U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware seeking monetary damages. Immersion develops and makes touch-based feedback systems for mobile devices.


AT&T: Our 5G Network Will Be 100 Times Quicker than LTE

Feb 12, 2016, 8:27 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

AT&T today revealed its plans to test and eventually deploy 5G wireless technology, which it says will offer performance 10 to 100 times faster than today's LTE. AT&T is working with Ericsson and Intel to test 5G in its labs during the second quarter of the year, with field tests to follow over the summer months. AT&T and its partners hope to offer some level of 5G service to "fixed locations" in Austin before 2016 comes to a close. They will use technologies including millimeter waves, network function virtualization (NFV), and software-defined networking (SDN) to guide their path. AT&T claims 5G will deliver speeds measured in gigabits per second, not megabits, and latency will drop to 1 to 5 milliseconds. AT&T says 5G will be ideal for bandwidth-hungry applications, as it will support multiple radio interfaces and make better use of spectrum via SDN and NFV. The International Telecommunications Union and 3GPP have not defined what 5G will actually be, and AT&T said it expects the trials will help guide its recommendations to the ITU and set what may become part of the standard. The standards bodies aren't expected to complete the basic spec for 5G until 2018, with the standard reaching final form in 2020. AT&T believes its work on 5G now will allow it to deploy 5G in large scale when the technology is ready. In the mean time, AT&T will continue to evolve its LTE 4G network to meet the growing demands of customers.


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