SoftBank CEO Masayoshi Son is convinced the only way Sprint and T-Mobile can compete against AT&T and Verizon is for the two smaller carriers to merge. Speaking on television with Charlie Rose, Son indicated that even though U.S. regulators have warned such a deal would face stiff opposition, Sprint is going to pursue T-Mobile anyway. "We would like to make the deal happen, but there are steps and details that we have to work out," said Son. "We have to give it a shot." AT&T and Verizon together control two-thirds of the U.S. wireless market. Even combined, Sprint and T-Mobile would be smaller than AT&T and Verizon Wireless by tens of millions of customers. Son said if the deal goes through, he'll launch a price war against the two larger carriers in order to break up the duopoly. Son and his team are actively engaging people in the wireless industry as well as in the government in order to convince them the deal has merit. Only after Son feels he has swayed their opinions will the company make an official bid for T-Mobile.
AT&T today announced changes to its Mobile Share Value Plans, which are available to one or two lines. Under the old plan, a single 2GB Mobile Share Value line cost $80 per month ($55 for 2GB bucket plus $25 device access charge). Beginning March 9, the 2GB Mobile Share Value Plan drops to $65 per month ($40 for 2GB bucket plus $25 device access charge) - a savings of $15 per month. Under the new pricing, two lines will cost a total of $90 per month ($40 for 2GB bucket plus $25 access charge for each device). The Mobile Share Value plans include unlimited voice minutes and unlimited national and international messaging. AT&T said that both new and existing customers will be able to take advantage of these new rates, no matter what method used to purchase their device (contract, AT&T Next, etc.). Last, all Mobile Share Value customers can sign up to receive 50GB of free cloud storage using AT&T Locker. AT&T recommends that customers needing three or more lines use its Mobile Share Family Plans, which offer three lines 10GB of data and unlimited voice/messaging for $145.
AT&T recently added the LG A380 to its roster of entry-level flip phones. The A380's features suggest that its target market could be seniors, as it includes an enhanced audio mode to make phone calls louder, and a text-to-speech engine that reads text messages aloud. The A380 also includes a 2.4-inch display, 1.3-megapixel camera, Bluetooth, speakerphone, and support for microSD cards. The A380 costs $20 with a contract or $190 without a contract.
AT&T has improved its LTE network in Chicago and several other markets by using an LTE-Advanced technique called Carrier Aggregation. GigaOm confirmed the soft launch with AT&T SVP of Network Technologies Kris Rinne. With Carrier Aggregation, AT&T has combined the channels of its existing spectrum to double the capacity. AT&T is running LTE in both the 700MHz and AWS bands in Chicago. By aggregating the channels together, AT&T can deliver theoretical peak download speeds of 110Mbps to devices with the proper radio support. At the moment, AT&T is selling only one device with Carrier Aggregation, the Unite mobile hotspot. The Samsung Galaxy S5 is expected to be the first smartphone to support Carrier Aggregation in the U.S. AT&T did not name the other two markets that have access to Carrier Aggregation, but said that more markets on are on the way. Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless are all in various stages of deploying Carrier Aggregation in their own LTE networks.
AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson today said the company expects to close its acquisition of Leap Wireless by the end of the month, and that it will use the pre-paid carrier's brand to shake things up. "We're going to be fairly aggressive [there]," said Stephenson, to "see if we can be a little disruptive down at that end of the market." Stephenson made the remarks at the Morgan Stanley Technology, Media & Telecom Conference. He explained that though Cricket has a strong brand, potential customers often avoid it due to its limited network coverage. Once AT&T acquires Cricket, that story will change. "All of a sudden overnight, Cricket is going to have nationwide coverage," he said. AT&T didn't announce any specific plans regarding Cricket. Stephenson also noted that the AT&T Next program, which lets customers pay for their devices over time, has become very popular. By the end of December, 20% of new device sales were being financed through AT&T Next rather than subsidized with a standard two-year contract.
Isis today announced another promotion with the goal of coaxing smartphone owners into using its tap-and-go mobile payment service. The promotion will give American Express card holders who've registered their card with Isis a statement credit when they use Isis to pay for a ride in a medallioned New York City yellow cab. Isis will credit users back for 50% of the fare up to a maximum of $100. Isis is a joint venture backed by AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless. About two dozen different Android devices are compatible with the system, which requires a secure SIM card, NFC, a credit card from a participating financial firm, and the Isis mobile application. The iPhone requires a separate case, which costs $70, to use Isis. It is free to sign up for Isis.
RadioShack reported its fourth quarter earnings today, and revealed that it plans to close twice as many stores as initially forecast. The company said slow foot traffic, heavy promotions, and weak smartphone sales during the holiday season led to a quarterly loss of $191.4 million. The company had warned it would close about 500 stores to cut costs, but has now doubled that number to 1,100. The closures will leave RadioShack with about 4,000 stores still open in the U.S. RadioShack is in the process of updating both its image and its sales strategy with a focus on electronic entertainment devices. It sells devices from AT&T, Sprint, and Verizon Wireless.
AT&T this week admitted that its planned late 2013 launch of VoLTE has been delayed. "We're in the final stages of optimization," said Kris Rinne, AT&T's SVP of network technologies in an interview with Fierce Wireless. But added, "It's not quite ready." VoLTE passes voice calls over LTE networks as data rather than through the traditional circuit-switched method used by most cell phones. Verizon Wireless has also delayed plans to launch VoLTE. It initially hoped to launch the service by late 2013, but in December pushed the launch back to mid 2014.
AT&T today lit up LTE 4G in a batch of smaller cities and towns around the country. The new markets include Anderson, Ind.; Deridder, La.; Midland, Mich.; Lebanon, Mo; Claremont, N.H.; Lumberton, N.C.; Bismark, N.D.; Bellefontaine and Defiance, Ohio; Greenwood and Seneca, S.C.; and Gainesville, Texas. AT&T customers with LTE-capable devices in these markets should experience improved mobile broadband performance.
Pantech has reached out to its creditors in hopes that they'll allow the ailing firm to restructure its debt. At the moment, Pantech owes creditors more than the entire market capitalization of the company. "Through this [debt] workout, we expect to improve Pantech's financial status and secure a stable flow of liquidity," said Pantech. Pantech's creditors haven't yet agreed to the proposition. Pantech announced reorganization plans last September. It furloughed hundreds of employees, and is no longer selling phones outside of its home market. The last device Pantech brought to the U.S. was the Breeze IV for AT&T.
AT&T today tweaked its calling and messaging rates for reaching out from the U.S. to people in other countries. Beginning February 28, all Mobile Share and Mobile Share Value customers will be able to send unlimited international text messages for free. This feature will be applied automatically. Additionally, AT&T announced the World Connect Value plan, which lets AT&T customers call any number in more than 35 countries for 1¢ per minute. The World Connect Value plan is available to all AT&T customers for a base charge of $5 per month.
AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile each today affirmed that it will off the Samsung Galaxy S5 when it goes on sale in April. Exact sales dates and pricing were not shared by the carriers.
AT&T today announced that customers with LTE 4G handsets will soon be able to roam onto the LTE networks operated by various carriers in 13 new countries. The total number of LTE roaming markets is now 15. The new countries include Spain, South Korea, France, Japan, Australia, Switzerland, Malaysia, the Philippines, Russia, Singapore, Guam, Hong Kong, and Antigua/Barbuda. AT&T is the only U.S. carrier that has announced LTE roaming deals to date.
Transit Wireless today announced that it has begun Phase Two of its project to bring cellular and Wi-Fi wireless service to New York City's subway stations. The first step of Phase Two is to light up service at 11 more midtown Manhattan stations, including those at Grand Central Terminal, 34th St. Herald Square, and Bryant Park. The bulk of Phase Two, however, targets 29 stations in Queens. Transit Wireless is building a hub in Queens to help manage the infrastructure from AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon Wireless. The Queens build out begins in March and should be complete by June. Transit Wireless has not said if or when it will offer subway station service in the boroughs of the Bronx or Brooklyn.
AT&T has filed paperwork with the Federal Communications Commission seeking permission to purchase spectrum licenses from Aloha Partners. The licenses in question pertain to the AWS-1 A, B, and C Blocks. They cover 380 counties across 120 Cellular Market Areas in portions of various states. If the transaction is approved, AT&T will hold 68 to 176MHz of spectrum in the CMAs, includung 10 to 60MHz of AWS-1 spectrum. AT&T contends the transaction will help it improve the performance of its LTE 4G network. AT&T has been scooping up AWS spectrum from a wide range of smaller companies in recent months. It did not place a dollar value on this most recent proposal.
AT&T Mobility and Stelera Wireless have filed paperwork with the Federal Communications Commission seeking consent to transfer spectrum licenses from Stelera to AT&T. According to the FCC, Stelera acquired the licenses in 2006 at auction but later filed for bankruptcy. AT&T believes the transfer is in the public interest because it will put the spectrum to use to bolster its LTE 4G network. If approved, AT&T will gain 10 to 20MHz of AWS-1 A Block spectrum from Stelera in 55 counties in nine Cellular Market Areas across parts of Arkansas, Colorado, New Mexico, and Texas. If the deal goes through, AT&T will hold a total of 56 to 180MHz of spectrum in the CMAs involved, including 20 to 50MHz of AWS-1 spectrum. No dollar value was placed on the spectrum transfer. Verizon Wireless filed a similar request with the FCC regarding Stelera's other spectrum licenses last year.
Sprint is rethinking its intent to make a bid for T-Mobile after the idea was met with skepticism from government officials. Sprint Chairman Masayoshi Son and CEO Dan Hesse met with the U.S. Department of Justice and the Federal Communications Commission in recent weeks. Both agencies indicated a merger between Sprint and T-Mobile would face tough resistance from antitrust regulators. Though Son and Hesse knew the idea would be meet some pushback, they were surprised by the level of skepticism for the deal, according to sources cited by The Wall Street Journal. Sprint and T-Mobile contend that the only way for them to effectively combat AT&T and Verizon Wireless is to join forces. U.S. officials have, however, made it abundantly clear they prefer to have four national carriers and not three. The Journal says Sprint may yet make a play for T-Mobile, but will likely spend weeks or longer to weigh its options.
T-Mobile today announced that it has triumphed over Aio Wireless regarding a trademark infringement lawsuit. T-Mobile believes Aio Wireless's use of a "plum" color in its logo was too close to T-Mobile's own magenta color and branding. It sued Aio Wireless, insisting the company switch colors to avoid consumer confusion. A federal court agreed with T-Mobile's position. Aio has been told to cease using the color in its marketing, advertising, stores, web sites, and social media. Aio Wireless is owned and operated by AT&T.
AT&T has filed paperwork with the Federal Communications Commission seeking permission to purchase AWS-1 spectrum license from Cable One. AT&T argues that the spectrum will help it better serve its customers by enhancing its LTE 4G network. According to the FCC, the spectrum licenses cover 20MHz of AWS-1 A Block spectrum in 119 counties across 24 Cellular Market Areas in various states. If the transaction is approved, AT&T will own a total of 63MHz to 153MHz of spectrum, including 20MHz to 50MHz of AWS-1 spectrum, in the CMAs involved in the transaction. The FCC has accepted AT&T's application and set the preliminary deadlines for opposition to the deal.
Isis is offering Wells Fargo cardholders up to $300 to join Isis and use Isis to make mobile payments. Wells Fargo customers who sign up for Isis will receive a $20 account credit the first time they use Isis to make a payment. Further, between now and April 30, Wells Fargo will offer 20% cash back in statement credits on all Isis purchases, up to $100 per calendar month over the next three months. Isis is a joint venture supported by AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless. The mobile payment system is available to about 50 smartphones and uses NFC and a mobile app for tap-and-go payments at participating retailers. Isis launched on Android devices in November, but only recently became available to the iPhone through an NFC-equipped case.
Aio Wireless today revealed new service plans on its web site. Starting today customers can choose from three plans, each of which includes unlimited voice minutes and messaging. The Basic Plan costs $40 per month and provides 500MB of high-speed data. The Smart Plan costs $50 per month and provides 2.5GB of high-speed data. The Pro Plan costs $60 per month and provides 5GB of high-speed data. Aio doesn't charge overage fees, but does throttle data speeds when users surpass their monthly allotment. Customers who sign up for automatic payments will receive a $5 monthly discount when used with the new plans. Aio Wireless is a no-contract carrier operated by AT&T.
AT&T today altered the cost and structure of its 10GB (and higher) Mobile Share Plan, representing a significant savings for families or small businesses. Starting February 2, two smartphones can get unlimited voice minutes and messaging plus 10GB of data for $130 per month. Each additional smartphone line costs another $15 per month, so three lines will cost $145, four lines will cost $160, and five lines will cost $175. The same rates apply for up to 10 lines. AT&T said this new plan pricing does not apply to GoPhone plans nor machine-to-machine lines. Rather, customers are expected to select an AT&T Next plan.
AT&T today announced the FiLIP wearable device for children is now available both online and in stores. The FiLIP is a watch that includes a cell phone and GPS locator. Parents can use their smartphone to call the FiLIP and locate their kids easily on a map. The device stores up to five phone numbers that can be called by children from the FiLIP. The FiLIP can receive text messages from parents, but cannot return messages. In addition to pinpointing location, parents can also set Safe Zones in which their child is allowed to roam via geofencing. If the child leaves the Safe Zone, the FiLIP will send an alert to the parent. Last, the FiLIP includes an emergency function. If kids press-and-hold the red button on the FiLIP, it will send a text message with the child's location to the five numbers stored on the device; automatically begin recording the ambient sound around the watch; call each of the five numbers successively; and, if there's no answer at the five stored numbers, call emergency services. The FiLIP costs $199.99, but is eligible for a $100 account credit when activated as a new line of service. FiLIP plans cost $10 per month.
The Federal Communications Commission today indicated that it wants more industry players to participate in on-going efforts to enable text-to-911 services. The four largest carriers have already committed to offering such services by May 15 of this year, but the FCC believes this is not enough. It is requesting that the country's smaller, regional carriers get involved in order to fill in the gaps where AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon don't offer service. Further, the FCC wants companies that provide over-the-top (OTT) messaging services, such as WhatsApp or Skype, to enable text-to-911 within their applications. To wit, the FCC issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that would force OTT services to enable text-to-911 by the end of the year. The FCC is accepting comments on the idea and will make a final determination later this year. One of the core components is the ability to send a bounce-back message to senders in areas where 911 can't receive text messages. The FCC feels this is an essential service and keeps in step with how consumers prefer to communicate.
HTC today said it will miss its self-imposed deadline of updating the One within 90 days from the time Google released Android 4.4 KitKat. It originally committed to giving the One the latest version of Android by the end of January. According to HTC, KitKat is now undergoing carrier testing with AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless. Though it will fall short of the 90-day cutoff, HTC expects the update will take only another week or two to complete for each carrier. HTC asked customers for patience as it finalizes the system update. More information should be available soon.
AT&T today announced a promotion that will give new and existing customers an account credit of $100 when they activate a new post-paid line of service. The offer applies to any smartphone, tablet, feature phone, mobile hotspot, or Wireless Home Phone line added to a plan. The promotion runs through March 31 and does not apply to GoPhone or business lines. Customers need to be in good standing for 45 days and will see the credit within three billing cycles.
AT&T today announced the availability of its LTE 4G network in a handful of smaller towns scattered around the country. Some of the new markets include Talladega-Sylacauga, Ala.; Michigan City and La Porte, Ind.; Albert Lea, Minn.; West Plains, Mo.; Pinehurst and Southern Pines, N.C.; Grand Forks, N.D.; Steubenville, Ohio; and Weirton, W.Va. AT&T also expanded the reach of its LTE network in existing markets, including Hanford, Porterville, and Visalia, Calif.; and Plainview, Texas. According to AT&T, its LTE network now covers 280 million Americans, which is up by 10 million since the end of 2013. It will cover 300 million by the middle of the year.
AT&T has officially told U.K. regulators that it is not interested in making a bid for Vodafone at this time. The company was forced to clarify its position after speculation suggested the company was prepared to make an offer for the U.K.-based operator. AT&T cannot make a bid on the company for six months unless Vodafone asks it to, or a third company makes an offer for Vodafone. AT&T has expressed interested in expanding overseas, and Vodafone was seen as a compelling target.
AT&T and Incipio today announced the availability of the Cashwrap, a case for the iPhone that includes a secure NFC chip and can be used to make mobile payments via Isis. The case is compatible with the iPhone 4/4S and 5/5s. It must be used with the Isis application, which can be downloaded for free from the iTunes App Store. Customers register a credit card with the app/service and can then use their iPhone for tap-and-go payments at participating retailers. The case is available from AT&T's web site beginning today, and should reach most AT&T stores January 31. The case comes in black, pink, or white and costs $69. Isis is a joint venture backed by AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless. It launched in November and already works with a handful of Android smartphones that have NFC embedded inside. The Cashwrap case from Incipio is necessary for the iPhone because it does not have NFC.
Aio Wireless recently began offering customers the chance to earn up to $250 per year by referring friends and family to the prepaid service. Existing customers can submit email addresses to Aio Wireless, which will then send a message to the referrals with an offer to join. If they do,, both the customer and the referral are eligible for $25 (provided they each remain customers for a minimum of 60 days). The existing customer receives the $25 in the form of a service credit. Aio Wireless customers can refer up to 10 people annually. Aio Wireless is owned and operated by AT&T. AT&T has said that it will fold Aio Wireless into Cricket Wireless when it finalizes its acquisition of the prepared carrier, expected later this year.
AT&T today launched LTE 4G service in a handful of markets around the country. The new markets include El Centro, Calif.; Jasper and Huntingburg, Ind.; Danville, Richmond, and Somerset, Ky.; Benton Harbor, Buchanan, Cadillac, McBain, and Niles, Mich.; Tunica, Miss.; East Liverpool, Ohio; New Castle, Pa.; Farjado and Ponce, P.R.; Barre and Burlington, Vt.; Wheeling, W.Va.; and La Crosse, Wisc. AT&T's LTE 4G network covers more than 270 million Americans. AT&T will flesh out its coverage to 30 million more POPs by the end of the year until it reaches about 97% of Americans.
The Federal Communications Commission will today begin accepting bids for H Block spectrum. Auction 96 will be used to sell 176 licenses for the H Block spectrum, which falls in the 1915-1920MHz and 1995-2000MHz bands. The FCC held a mock auction to test the bidding process on January 17. Most of the major wireless network operators declined to participate in the auction, though Dish Networks and nearly two dozen other, smaller firms plan to make bids. AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless are expected to participate more aggressively in an auction on deck for mid-2015, which will cover spectrum in the 600MHz band. The FCC has not said how long it expects Auction 96 to take, though it hopes to raise about $1.6 billion from the winners.
AT&T today made it easier for existing customers to get their hands on new hardware. Beginning today, existing customers who've signed 2-year service contracts can upgrade to new devices for $0 down if they want to take advantage of AT&T's Next program and switch to AT&T's Mobile Share Value plans. The program, which went into effect January 18, allows customers who are six months into their contract to upgrade to the AT&T Next program at no extra cost. Customers who join AT&T Next can then grab the latest handsets for $0 down. Customers who choose to finance their device with an AT&T Next plan will enjoy a $15 monthly savings on the cost of their service. Further, customers who sign up for a two-year agreement after January 19, 2014 will notice that the standard upgrade timeframe has been shortened from 24 months back to 20 months.
AT&T today announced that the LG G Flex will be available for preorder beginning January 24. AT&T is asking $299.99 for the G Flex with a new two-year agreement. Customers can also choose to pay for the G Flex over either 12 or 18 months with an AT&T Next plan. The 12-month option asks for monthly payments of $34.75 and the 18-month option asks for monthly payments of $26.74. The G Flex can be pre-ordered online or in stores the 24th, but the actual in-store availability date was not disclosed by AT&T.
HTC today indicated that the One X and One X+ will receive no more software updates. In a statement provided to Phone Scoop, an HTC spokesperson said, "We can confirm that the HTC One X and One X+ will not receive further Android OS updates beyond Android 4.2.2 with Sense 5. We realize this news will be met with disappointment by some, but our customers should feel confident that we have designed both devices to be optimized with our amazing camera and audio experiences." The X and X+ launched in 2012 and were sold by AT&T in the U.S. They were replaced with the HTC One in 2013.
Beats Music today announced the pending launch of an online and mobile streaming music service. Beats Music will be available to Android, iOS, and Windows Phone devices for $9.99 per month. The subscription fee grants users unlimited access to 20 million tracks, including streaming and downloads for offline playback. Beats Music will offer dozens of curated music stations, as well as allow consumers to create their own. The service will offer a Just for You function, which offers a personalized selection of albums and playlists based on user tastes; Right Now, which is a continuous playlist made from the user's location, preferences, surroundings, and mood; Highlights, which is made from current and culturally aware playlists; and Find It, a search function that pulls out playlists and songs. According to Beats, it is paying all artists the same royalties for their music. The service runs on the platform built by MOG, which was bought by Beats Audio in 2012. Single lines can test the service for free for one month, after which the monthly subscription kicks in. Beats Music also announced a collaboration with AT&T. Beats Music for AT&T customers will cost $15 per month and targets families or other groups that use Mobile Share plans. Beats Music for AT&T gives up to five people unlimited streaming and song downloads per month. AT&T is offering families a free 90-day trial, but there is no free, ad-supported version of Beats Music; it's all or nothing. Potential customers do not need to have Beats headphones in order to subscribe to Beats Music. Beats Music will become available January 21.
AT&T has added a 32GB variant of the Nokia Lumia 1520 to its online store. The device was previously only available with 16GB of internal storage. The 32GB version costs $249.99 with a new contract.
The government plans to monitor AT&T's sponsored data service. The service, announced by AT&T earlier this week, will allow companies to pay for the delivery of their goods and services over AT&T's network. Consumers would then be free to use those services in an unlimited capacity without impacting their monthly data limits. Federal Communications Commission chairman Tom Wheeler said the agency will "intervene" if it becomes necessary. Wheeler did not say specifically what might cause the FCC to take action against AT&T, but that it is waiting to see how the service unfolds. AT&T believes it will benefit its customers, but industry watchdogs fear it might upset the idea of net neutrality. AT&T said that it would not favor the delivery of sponsored data over other data.
The Aio brand's days may be numbered - since AT&T plans to replace the brand with Cricket - but for now, they're still around and pumping out new phones. Their latest is the Sonata from ZTE, a basic Android phone.
AT&T today announced that it has agreed to acquire 49 AWS spectrum licenses from Aloha Partners. The licenses cover more than 50 million people across California, Colorado, Connecticut, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Texas. AT&T said it will use the Aloha spectrum to supplement its existing AWS holdings, which will be used for its LTE network. The deal is subject to regulatory approval. Financial terms were not disclosed.