AT&T has filed paperwork with the FCC hoping to gain permission to purchase three Lower 700MHz C Block licenses from East Kentucky Network. The licenses in question cover 20 counties in three Cellular Market Areas across regions of Kentucky, Ohio, and West Virginia. Because all the licenses fall below the 1GHz threshold, the FCC will used its "enhanced factor" yardstick to measure the transactions. The FCC says AT&T stands to hold 113 to 145MHz of spectrum in total, and 43 to 55MHz of below-1-GHz spectrum, in these three CMAs. The FCC has accepted AT&T's initial batch of paperwork and set a schedule to oversee the transaction. Small spectrum purchases and exchanges are common between license holders.
A Delaware bankruptcy judge approved the sale of RadioShack's name and certain customer data to an affiliate of Standard General for $26.2 million. One of the key issues resolved over the last seven days concerned AT&T and Apple customer data. AT&T, Apple, and several state attorneys general disapproved of the sale of the customer data, and argued RadioShack had agreed to never sell it. Under the terms of the agreement, Standard General agreed to limit its own customers to email data generated over the last two years, as well as to only provide access to seven of 170 fields of data that RadioShack kept on its customers. The sale gives Standard General access to 67 million names and email addresses, rather than the full list of 117 million. Earlier this year Standard General purchased 1,734 RadioShack stores, which it plans to operate in cooperation with Sprint.
Sprint says 16 of the 30 companies who've agreed to participate in its Rural Roaming Preferred Provider program have launched their LTE networks. The Rural Roaming Preferred Provider program is similar to Verizon Wireless' LTE in Rural America initiative. Both programs lease spectrum to small, regional providers who build out coverage in their home market areas. Under the terms of the agreement, the larger carriers' customers can roam onto the regional LTE network and vice versa. The idea is to bring coverage to areas where the larger operators might not necessarily like to commit resources to build out their own network. Sprint would not say which of its partners have launched their LTE networks. Some of the partners include SouthernLINC Wireless, nTelos Wireless, C Spire Wireless, Phoenix Wireless, Bluegrass Cellular, Pine Belt Wireless, Pioneer Cellular, and United Wireless. "Our partners use a variety of LTE bands, including bands 4, 5, 12 and 25," said Sprint's Adrienne Norton. "We're continuing to work with our device OEMs to enable additional LTE bands to expand coverage for our domestic and international roamers." Sprint's LTE footprint covers about 280 million POPs. T-Mobile, which recently disclosed that it too has leased spectrum to regional operators, also covers about 280 million POPs. AT&T and Verizon Wireless both claim to cover about 308 million POPs.
AT&T recently filed paperwork with the FCC seeking permission to buy some Cellular A Block and microwave point-to-point spectrum from Cellular Properties Inc. The spectrum in question covers 11 counties and parts of two Cellular Market Areas in Illinois. Further, CPI's assets and customers would be transferred to AT&T. Because the Cellular A Block spectrum falls under the 1GHz threshold, the FCC will use the "enhanced factor" litmus test in examining the request. The FCC says post-transaction AT&T would hold 45MHz of the available 134MHz low-band spectrum in the named CMAs. Low-band spectrum is valued more than mid- or high-band spectrum and requires extra consideration. The FCC has accepted AT&T's initial filing and slapped a protective order on it to keep some portions of the proceedings secret. AT&T contends the deal will help improve its own network in the area while also opening up its services to CPI's existing customers. A dollar value on the transaction was not disclosed.
AT&T today said some of its retailer partners are going to offer only AT&T Next plans beginning June 1. These retailers, like Walmart, may have national footprints, but the change is only being made in some locations that AT&T would not name. AT&T itself will continue to offer contracts at company-owned stores, as well as via its web site, telesales, and most other third-party retailers. "We regularly consider any number of offers that might appeal to our customers," said an AT&T spokesperson to Phone Scoop, "but [we] can share that two year contracts remain a part of our portfolio of offerings." AT&T said it believes customers prefer to have choice. While many of its customers are moving to AT&T Next plans -- which break up device payments over time -- some of its customers still want subsidized handsets and don't mind signing contracts to get them. The change being made by some of AT&T's retail partners does not represent a change in strategy for AT&T. AT&T Next plans are the carrier's response to T-Mobile's Simple Choice plans, which forgo contracts and also break up device payments over time. Sprint and Verizon have their own device payment plans, too. The device payment plans have become popular with consumers because they don't require contracts and often allow people to upgrade to new phones at a faster rate.
Asus today said it will sell its 2015 flagship smartphone, the Zenfone 2, in the U.S. beginning May 19. Asus first revealed the Zenfone 2 at CES in January. The device has a 5.5-inch full HD screen and relies on a 64-bit Intel processor. The Intel Atom Z3580 chip has four cores clocked at 2.3 GHz, and is paired with a 533 MHz GPU, and 4 GB of dual-channel RAM. The chip includes integrated Cat 4 LTE-Advanced with Carrier Aggregation for compatibility with today's fastest 4G networks. The Zenfone 2 also includes a 13-megapixel camera with an aperture of f/2.0, Toshiba sensor, Super HDR, and dual-tone LED flash. Asus says the fast-charging mode can power the 3,000mAh battery to 60% capacity in 39 minutes. The device runs Android 5.0 Lollipop with Asus' ZenUI. It comes with a range of interchangeable rear covers, which Asus says consumers can use to personalize their handset. Asus is offering 100 GB of Google Drive storage to buyers of the device. The phone costs $299. (A slower version of the phone with 1.8 GHz processor and 2 GB of RAM costs $199.) Asus plans to sell the device unlocked via Amazon.com, Newegg, Groupon, and B&H photo. It is compatible with AT&T's network.
AT&T's web site recently provided details about an unannounced handset from LG called the Escape 2. The Escape 2 has specs similar to the LG Spirit, which was announced earlier this year. The Escape 2 runs Android 5.0 Lollipop with LG's user experience, including Knock On, Knock Code, Quick Memo, and QSlide apps, according to the user manual. The phone has a 1.2 GHz quad-core processor with 1 GB of RAM, and 8 GB of storage. The Escape 2 boasts LG's rear-positioned button array and a slight curve to design. Other specs include a 4.7-inch HD display, front and rear cameras, and 2,100mAh battery. AT&T's web site did not say when the Escape 2 will go on sale, nor how much it might cost.
Apple and AT&T have filed legal objections to RadioShack's planned sale of customer data. RadioShack sold products from both AT&T and Apple and originally agreed to keep customer data private. RadioShack is going through bankruptcy and hopes to use any potential proceeds of selling customer data to third parties in order to pay off creditors. "Not only is AT&T committed to protecting the privacy of its customers -- it is required to do so by federal and state laws and regulations," said AT&T. Several state attorneys general have also filed objections. A judge is expected to rule on the matter May 20. Earlier this year RadioShack sold the bulk of its stores to Sprint, which is in the process of rebranding them.
USTelecom and others filed a petition today asking the U.S. Court of Appeals to stay the FCC's open internet order. The group, which includes USTelecom, AT&T, CTIA, ATA, WISPA, CenturyLink, and NSTA, filed a petition directly with the FCC last week seeking a stay of the rules. The FCC denied their request. At the moment, the open internet rules are scheduled to go into effect on June 12. USTelecom and its co-signees want the court to prevent the FCC from enacting the rules in order to "maintain the status quo" while the organizations fight the rules in court. "We are seeking to stay this ill-conceived order's reclassification of broadband service as a public utility service," said USTelecom President Walter McCormick. "This reclassification does not serve the public interest, but unlawfully paves the way toward expansive government management of the Internet. Once implemented, the order will result in huge burdens on companies of all sizes, and create an open season of regulation and litigation that imposes immediate and unrecoverable costs." USTelecom and its partners request the U.S. Court of Appeals rule on the matter no later than June 11, one day before the rules take effect.
AT&T today struck a deal with Hulu that will see the video streaming service offered across AT&T's range of products and platforms. The service will be available through a dedicated web site online, as well as from a mobile application on smartphones and tablets. AT&T and Hulu also are still exploring whether or not to offer a Hulu app to TV. AT&T said Hulu will become available to its customers later this year, but didn't provide specifics.
The FCC and Department of Justice are wrapping up their review of AT&T's proposed $49 billion acquisition of DirecTV and don't have any real concerns, according to people familiar with the matter. The agencies may still impose conditions on the deal, but aren't likely to block it, says the Wall Street Journal. AT&T plans to use DirecTV to help expand its payTV business into rural markets where it currently has no reach. The deal doesn't warrant the same level of concern the recently squashed Comcast/Time Warner merger created because the AT&T/DirecTV tie-up won't impact home broadband services in the same way. The FCC and Justice Department did not comment on the Journal's story.
AT&T today announced Rollover Data for its $45 and $60 monthly GoPhone plans. Beginning May 15, new GoPhone customers will be able to enroll in the rollover program, while existing customers can enroll on their next renewal after May 15. Data Rollover for GoPhone requires a smartphone, and requires the customer to renew their GoPhone plan on time. Data that is rolled over is only available for 30 days. For example, if a customer has a 3 GB plan, but only uses 2 GB in a 30-day period, the unused 1 GB will be available during the next billing cycle, making for a total of 4 GB for that month.
AT&T and a handful of other carriers today asked the FCC to consider a new way to define designated entities and small businesses in spectrum auctions moving forward. The proposal follows Dish Networks' use of designated entities -- or small companies -- to bid for spectrum in the AWS-3 auction on its behalf. The small companies qualified for a discount of $3 billion on Dish's $13.3 billion in spectrum winnings. AT&T and others are not happy about how Dish participated in the auction. "We envision a designated entity program that redefines 'small business' in a way that is more aligned with the structure of the modern wireless industry and that seeks to benefit true small entities -- many of which operate in rural America." AT&T thinks any incentives offered to small businesses in future auctions should be limited to $10 million, an amount AT&T says "will provide a meaningful benefit to the very types of business the program is designed to benefit while ensuring policymakers that those who seek to abuse the program will not be rewarded." AT&T also wants to be sure auction winners use their spectrum. Dish Networks owns vast troves of spectrum that it has yet to do anything with. AT&T's proposal includes suggestions for an aggressive build-out once spectrum licenses are assigned so auction winners don't sit on their spectrum. The FCC has not responded publicly to AT&T's proposal.
The FCC has denied petitions filed by a wide range of lobbying organizations that sought to stay the FCC's proposed net neutrality regulations. The CTIA Wireless Association, USTelecom, AT&T, Wireless Internet Service Providers Association, CenturyLink, American Cable Association, and the National Cable & Telecommunications Association all filed petitions hoping to prevent the FCC from formally adopting its rules in early June. The groups' request for a stay was in hope of keeping the industry unchanged while they pursue legal action to undo the FCC's proposed rules. The FCC has been sued by a wide range of entities over the regulations, but the FCC believes its goal to reclassify broadband providers under Title II regulations will survive in court. Stays in cases like this are uncommon and there was little chance the FCC would have approved such a measure.
AT&T today altered the wording of its network management policies such that customers with grandfathered-in "unlimited" plans won't be throttled as aggressively. Under the old policy, AT&T throttled the speeds of unlimited LTE 4G customers once they exceeded 5 GB of data in a single month. Those users' speeds were ramped down to 2.5G speeds for the rest of the billing period. Now, unlimited customers who exceed 5 GB of data in a single month will see their data speeds slowed down only at times and locations where AT&T needs to manage network congestion. "All such customers can still use unlimited data without incurring overage charges, and their speeds will be restored with the start of the next billing cycle," explained AT&T. The company is facing a federal lawsuit over these same throttling practices.
AT&T today announced plans to soon sell the Sonim XP5. The XP5 is a fully ruggedized feature phone that carries an IP68 rating for protection against liquid and dust ingress, and a mil-spec 810G rating for protection against drops and other physical abuses. The Sonim XP5 has WiFi and LTE 4G, and is compatible with AT&T's enhanced PTT service. The device has a 3,180mAh battery, which is unusually large for a feature phone, and a speakerphone that creates 104dB of output for overcoming noisy work environments. AT&T claims the screen can easily be read outdoors under sunny skies. AT&T said more details, including price and availability, will be disclosed at a later date.
AT&T today said it has completed its acquisition of Nextel Mexico. Nextel Mexico covers 76 million customers across the country. When first announced in January, AT&T said the acquisition would complement its recent purchase of Iusacell, another Mexican network operator. AT&T plans to create the "first-ever North American Mobile Service area" covering more than 400 million people across Mexico and the U.S. The company has already debuted several new service plans for calling and texting lines in Mexico since acquiring Iusacell. The deal cost AT&T about $1.875 billion.
The FCC today approved nine applications submitted for the AWS-3 spectrum auction, two of which belong to Dish designated entities Northstar Wireless and SNR Wireless. The FCC said the applications are in their final form and are complete, but the FCC has not made a final decision about the bidding tactics used by Dish and whether or not the company deserves the 25% discount meant for small businesses. Rather than participate directly, Dish used a trio of small companies to make bids. The small companies should qualify for the discounts, but some think Dish's controlling stake in the companies negates their small stature. AT&T and Verizon have already complained vociferously about Dish's bidding tactics and the small business discount. Dish's total provisional winning bids total $13.3 billion. The discount would deduct $3 billion from that total. The FCC has decided to make the applications available to the public and open for comment. "The applications that seek small business bidding credits are the most complex, given that they detail the nature of the applicant’s ownership and control structure, and require the review of the related corporate agreements that in some cases consist of a highly complex set of rights and obligations, including agreements pertaining to equity ownership, funding, joint bidding, and management services," said Robert Sherman, chief of the FCC's Wireless Telecommunications Bureau. "These are complex and important matters, and we have a long way to go in our review before we reach final conclusions on all of the applications." The public has until May 11 to file petitions to deny Dish the small business discounts.
The FCC today levied fines against AT&T and SNET, a former subsidiary of AT&T's, for violating federal Lifeline regulations. The companies over billed the government program, which helps ensure low income consumers have access to a phone line. AT&T and SNET failed to remove ineligible customers from their records but billed the government for the accounts anyway. In particular, AT&T will pay $6.9 million and SNET will pay $4 million. Both companies will have to adopt vigorous compliance programs to ensure similar mistakes don't happen again. "American consumers trust that the companies who receive federal funds will use that money appropriately," said Travis LeBlanc, Chief of the FCC's Enforcement Bureau. "We expect companies to be vigilant in protecting public funds and complying with FCC rules." The FCC has doled out tens of millions of dollars in fines so far this year through various enforcement actions. It fined AT&T earlier this month over privacy violations and it fined Verizon last month over a 911 outage.
AT&T and Verizon Wireless followed Sprint and T-Mobile today in announcing plans to sell the LG G4 later this year. Neither of the nation's two largest carriers said exactly when the phone will go on sale nor how much they'll charge for the new phone. Verizon did say its variant of the G4 will support VoLTE and HD Voice.
A handful of wireless companies and public policy groups have formed an alliance meant to pressure the FCC as it drafts rules for the upcoming 600MHz reverse spectrum auction. The alliance is called SaveWirelessChoice.com. Some of the companies include Sprint, T-Mobile, and Dish Networks, and some of the groups include the Competitive Carrier Association, Public Knowledge, Rural Wireless Association, among numerous others. The alliance hopes the FCC will hold the auction in early 2016, rather than mid-2016; and it wants a larger block of spectrum (at least 50%) reserved for smaller carriers. The alliance web site urges consumers to "stop AT&T and Verizon Wireless from controlling your wireless future," which it claims will lead to bad service, higher prices, and less innovation. In the most recent spectrum auction most of the winnings went to AT&T, Dish Networks, and Verizon Wireless. Sprint and T-Mobile have argued for a long time that the two largest carriers have too much market power, necessitating the need for the FCC to provide more opportunities for smaller carriers. "Creating an adequate reserve of quality spectrum for companies who don't already own more than one-third of the low-band spectrum in any given market will go a long way toward leveling the playing field for a competitive market that will benefit consumers for decades to come," said the group.
Verizon Wireless has resumed offering two large data plans for shared lines at a promotional rate. The first costs $80 per month for 10 GB of data and the second costs $100 for 15 GB of data. Verizon first offered these plans in November 2014, but pulled them in February. "We have different offers throughout the year, and right now the $80/$100 plans are available," said a Verizon spokesperson. The plans will be available for a limited time, but Verizon didn't say for how long. The prices don't include device access fees for smartphones, tablets, and hotspots. By way of comparison, AT&T's 10 GB plan costs $100 and its 15 GB plan costs $130.
Defense Mobile, an MVNO that targets military personnel, is coming out of beta status today with more coverage and more devices in its arsenal. During its beta trial, Defense Mobile resold access to AT&T and Sprint's networks. Now, it offers Verizon, too, and is in talks with T-Mobile. The company's service is meant exclusively for members of the U.S. armed forces, their families, and veterans. Defense Mobile is supported by a 100% veteran-staffed Member Care organization and offers perks to active members of the military. Individual plans start at $30 per month and have names such as Alpha, Bravo, and Charlie. Family plans start at $95 per month with names such a squad, platoon, and battalion. The handset selection varies from entry level phones such as the Motorola Moto G up to today's premium handsets such as the Apple iPhone 6 Plus. The company offers bonus services for military members, such as a banking application associated with a pre-paid MasterCard, an app that helps military members and their families find veteran benefits, and a free email service that's associated with their branch of the armed forces. The company sells devices and services directly from its web site, but hopes to reach 25,000 retail distribution points around the country by the end of the year.
HTC is pushing out a system update to AT&T's version of the One M9 that improves performance of the camera. In addition to the camera, the update also fixes bugs and resolves some overheating issues. The new build number is 1.32.502.31. HTC warned that the update will reboot the phone several times and may take up to 20 minutes to complete. HTC has already pushed a similar update to the Sprint and T-Mobile versions of the One M9.
AT&T today announced it will begin selling the LG G Flex 2 on April 24. The handset will be available at a variety of price points. The full retail cost of the phone is $708.99 and the two-year contract price is $299.99. Customers interested in monthly payments can snag the G Flex 2 for $23.64 per month with an AT&T Next 24 plan, $29.55 per month on a Next 18 plan, or $35.45 on a Next 12 plan. The G Flex 2 is a second-generation curved phone. It has a 5.5-inch full HD screen that is semi-flexible. The phone is powered by a Snapdragon 810 processor and has a 13-megapixel camera with optical image stabilization. It runs Android 5.0 Lollipop. Sprint has been selling the G Flex 2 since March.
Alcatel OneTouch today kicked off a limited pre-sale for the Idol 3 smartphone that drops the price by $50. The pre-sale starts immediately and runs through 11:59pm Pacific Time on April 20. Customers who order the phone during this initial pre-sale window will pay only $199.99 for the phone. After the pre-sale ends, Alcatel will begin accepting standard pre-orders on April 21 at the regular price of $249.99. Alcatel said the Idol 3 will ship in mid-May. The phone, which is compatible with the GSM networks operated by AT&T and T-Mobile, is being sold unlocked.
AT&T and Verizon Wireless are limiting Microsoft's attempt to bulk up use of its mobile applications. Last month, Samsung agreed to preload Microsoft's OneDrive, OneNote, and Skype applications on the Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge. Verizon, however, won't pre-load any of the Microsoft apps on its versions of the S6 and S6 Edge. AT&T will include OneNote and Skype, but not OneDrive. The Sprint and T-Mobile versions of the S6 and S6 Edge are shipping with all three Microsoft apps aboard. Neither AT&T nor Verizon commented on their stance against the Microsoft-made apps. Even though the trio of apps won't be pre-loaded, people who buy the S6 and S6 Edge from AT&T or Verizon are free to download the apps, as well as Microsoft's Outlook email and Office productivity apps, from the Google Play Store for free on their own.
AT&T today began updating its versions of the Samsung Galaxy Alpha and Galaxy S5 Active to Android 5.0 Lollipop. Both updates are available for over-the-air download and are rolling out over the next few days. Lollipop includes Google's Material Design language, battery-saving features, Smart Lock, and more. The update is free.
The FCC this week approved a new Huawei phone for North America that bears a striking resemblance to the just-announced P8 global flagship. The phone approved by the FCC has small but distinct differences, such as a flash on the other side of the camera, matching Huawei's description of a more affordable P8 variant coming the U.S. The FCC approval covers a limited set of LTE bands - plus tri-band WCDMA - that makes it compatible with T-Mobile. In some areas, it may also work with AT&T's LTE network. Huawei has indicated that it plans to launch the U.S. variant of the P8 via unlocked channels in May.
AT&T joined a growing number of bodies suing the FCC Tuesday in an attempt to overturn the agency's net neutrality rules. AT&T's lawsuit follows others filed by the American Cable Association, National Cable & Telecommunications Association, United States Telecom Association, and the CTIA Wireless Association. AT&T's move came as a bit of a surprise, as it was expected to participate through lobbying organizations rather than directly. It makes similar claims against the FCC, charging that the agency's decision to reclassify broadband services under Title II represents government overreach. The FCC believes its rules will stand against legal challenges.
Cricket Wireless announced the Samsung Galaxy Grand Prime is available to customers today for $179.99. The phone has a 5-inch qHD display, 1.2GHz quad-core processor, 8-megapixel main camera, 5-megapixel front camera, and a 2,600mAh battery. The phone runs Android 4.4 KitKat and is compatible with Cricket's LTE 4G network. Service plans start at $35. Cricket Wireless is owned and operated by AT&T.
Huawei's newest phone - announced this morning - is an affordable, mass-market Android phone that Huawei is selling unlocked in the U.S. It's compatible with AT&T and T-Mobile, including 4G LTE. It has a 5-inch HD display, but its specs are otherwise fairly low-end. Its name comes from a unique button shortcut that not only launches the camera, but takes a photo, too. How does it stack up for the $180 Huawei is asking? Read on.
Via Licensing today said that Google has added its LTE patents to its broader pool of LTE patents. Via Licensing collects wireless patents from a broad range of companies with the intent of licensing them at fair and reasonable rates. Google is the latest to add its intellectual property to the pool, which already has patents from AT&T, China Mobile, Deutsche Telekom, KDDI, NTT DoCoMo, SK Telecom, Telecom Italia, Telefonica, ZTE, and others. Google gained ownership of some 17,000 patents when it acquired Motorola in 2012. Via Licensing says any patent holder is welcome to contribute patents to its growing collection.
Huawei today announced the SnapTo, an unlocked Android smartphone for sale in the U.S. The phone runs Android 4.4 KitKat and is compatible with the LTE networks operated by AT&T and T-Mobile. Basic features include a 5-inch 720p HD display, quad-core Snapdragon 400 processor, 1 GB of RAM, and 2,200mAh battery. The main camera has a 5-megapixel sensor and can capture 720p HD video. It has a feature called Ultra Snapshot, which will automatically take a picture if the down volume button is pressed twice, even when the phone is locked. The front camera has a 2-megapixel sensor. Huawei said the device is available for pre-order starting today and general availability begins next week. It will be available online from Amazon.com. GetHuawei.com, BestBuy.com, Brandsmart USA, Frys.com and Fry's Electronic retail stores, NewEgg.com and other retailers. The SnapTo costs $179.99.
The FCC today officially granted some winning bidders in the AWS-3 spectrum auction the licenses allowing them to take ownership of the airwaves. The AWS-3 spectrum auction concluded earlier this year, with AT&T, Dish Networks, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless the top four bidders. Bids totaled more than $41 billion for slices of airwaves in the 1695-1710MHz, 1755-1780MHz, and 2155-2180MHz bands. AT&T, Verizon, and FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai complained about the tactics used by Dish to win its bids (Dish bid through smaller companies in order to obtain a significant discount). As a result, the FCC has for the time being withheld Dish's licenses, while granting the licenses to AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon. The three carriers plan to use the spectrum to bolster their LTE 4G networks. Dish owns a great deal of spectrum, but has yet to deploy any sort of wireless service.
AT&T today agreed to pay the FCC a fine of $25 million in order to settle an investigation into consumer privacy violations at its call centers. The data breaches, which took place in early 2014, exposed the personal data of some 280,000 AT&T customers at call centers in Mexico, Colombia, and the Philippines. The FCC found that customers' names, Social Security details, and private account information were accessed by call center workers who turned around and provided those details to unauthorized third parties trafficking in stolen cell phones. In addition to the fine, AT&T agreed to notify the affected customers, provide credit score monitoring services, and improve its privacy and data security practices by appointing a senior compliance manager. "As the nation's expert agency on communications networks, the Commission cannot — and will not — stand idly by when a carrier's lax data security practices expose the personal information of hundreds of thousands of the most vulnerable Americans to identity theft and fraud," said FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler. The FCC said it has fined telecommunications providers some $50 million in the last 12 months over lapses in security and privacy policies.
AT&T today made Android 5.0 Lollipop available to its variants of the HTC One M8 and the Samsung Galaxy S4. Lollipop adds priority mode for managing notifications, battery saving tools, and Smart Lock for protecting devices with nearby Bluetooth accessories, among many other features. Both HTC and Samsung have also revised their Sense and Touchwiz user interface overlays for the One and GS4, respectively. AT&T suggests users download the system updates via WiFi. The updates are free to install.
AT&T and Pine Cellular have asked the FCC for permission to lease one another's spectrum. AT&T wants to snag a leased license in the Lower 700MHz B Block in parts of Arkansas from Pine. At the same time, Pine Cellular wants to lease one partitioned Lower 700MHz B Block license, three partitioned Lower 700MHz C Block licenses, and four partitioned PCS licenses in parts of Oklahoma. AT&T and Pine Cellular contend the leases will help them each improve their coverage and services in the markets involved. The FCC has accepted the application, applied protection orders, and opened up the transaction for comments. Wireless companies regularly buy, sell, and trade spectrum licenses in such transactions.
AT&T today announced Car Connection 2.0, a plug-in module and monthly service for cars that allows users to track their vehicles and myriad other functions. Car Connection 2.0 costs $99 for the module and $10 per month for data service. The device plugs into most cars' data ports. The service lets parents monitor teen driver behavior and can even set geo-fences to contain younger drivers. Car Connection 2.0 can help locate cars, as well as provide notifications for maintenance issues such as the check engine light, battery status, and hundreds of other vehicle functions. Some of the safety features include roadside assistance and automatic crash response, fuel/trip reports, stolen vehicle assistance, and remote access via an accompanying smartphone application. Existing Car Connection owners should be able to add these functions to their unit with a software upgrade. The Car Connection 2.0 device, made by Audiovox, will reach AT&T stores later this month. Verizon has a similar vehicle plug-in that it announced in January.
A federal judge squashed AT&T's attempt to dismiss a lawsuit filed against it by the FTC. The FTC sued AT&T in October over throttling policies for "unlimited data" customers. Despite offering limitless data packages, AT&T throttles users who surpass 3GB - 5GB per month. The FTC believed AT&T deceived customers. AT&T argued in court that it falls under the common carrier definition and is therefore exempt from FTC oversight. The judge disagreed. "Contrary to what AT&T argues, the common carrier exception applies only where the entity has the status of common carrier and is actually engaging in common carrier activity," said Judge Edward Chen. The common carrier argument is legit as far as AT&T's voice services are concerned, but not data services. "When this suit was filed, AT&T's mobile data service was not regulated as common carrier activity by the FCC," wrote Chen. "Once the Reclassification Order of the FCC (which now treats mobile data serve as common carrier activity) goes into effect, that will not deprive the FTC of any jurisdiction over past alleged misconduct as asserted in this pending action." The FTC's case against AT&T can proceed.