AT&T today announced a new promotion that gives its Unlimited Choice subscribers DirecTV Now for $10 per month. AT&T Unlimited Choice, which provides unlimited data at speeds up to 3Mbps and video streamed at standard definition, costs $60 per month with autopay and paperless billing. Starting today, those customers can add DirecTV Now's Live a Little package for $10 more, or a total of $70. The Live a Little package, which includes more than 60 channels, typically costs $35 per month. AT&T's Unlimited Plus customers, who have access to full-speed mobile data and high-definition video streaming, can apply a similar $25 video credit toward DirecTV Now, regular DirecTV service, or AT&T's U-Verse TV service. Unlimited Plus customers also gain access to HBO for free. The Unlimited Plus plan cots $90 after autopay and paperless billing. In addition to unlimited data, Unlimited Plus includes 10 GB of mobile hotspot or tethering.
Eastman Kodak and Bullitt Group this week launched the Ektra smartphone in the U.S. The handset was first announced in October 2016. Bullitt Group, which manufactures the Ektra, is the company behind other brand-name handsets, such as CAT. The Kodak Ektra is a camera-first smartphone and features a retro design. The Ektra has a 21-megapixel Sony IMX230 sensor with an aperture of f/2.0 and dual LED flash. It includes optical image stabilization, phase-detection autofocus, and can capture 4K video. The front-facing camera has a 13-megapixel sensor. The phone includes a 5-inch full HD screen, MediaTek Helio X20 processor with 3 GB of RAM and 32 GB of storage, and a 3,000mAh battery. Kodak and Bullitt have improved the phone since it was first announced, particularly where the camera is concerned. The phone now includes support for RAW image capture, and has improved auto-focus, white balance, and color performance. Perhaps more importantly, Kodak and Bullitt have reduced the price significantly. In January, the companies said the phone would go on sale in April for $549. This week, the phone reached Kodak's web site for just $399, which makes it a much more compelling and affordable option. The Kodak Ektra is sold unlocked with support for the LTE networks of AT&T, T-Mobile, and their prepaid brands.
LG today announced the X venture, an affordable Android smartphone that can take a beating. The phone has an IP68 rating for protection against water and dust, and a mil-spec 810g rating for durability against drops, bumps, scrapes, and other abuse. The phone features a 5.2-inch full HD screen with glove mode. The phone is powered by a Snapdragon 435 processor with 2 GB of RAM and 32 GB of storage. LG says the main camera has a 16-megapixel sensor with a standard field of view, while the front camera has a 5-megapixel sensor with a wide-angle lens. The phone packs a massive 4,100mAh battery with Quick Charge 2.0 for all-day battery life. Other specs include barometer with outdoorsy software, as well as Bluetooth 4.2, GPS, WiFi, FM radio, and NFC. The phone supports memory cards up to 2 TB and it charges via microUSB. The X venture runs Android 7 Nougat. AT&T plans to sell the LG X venture starting May 26, with support for its ePTT service, for $11 per month for 30 months, or about $330.
Verizon Communications has won a bidding war for Straight Path Communications. AT&T announced plans to acquire Straight path for $1.6 billion last month. Straight Path has significant spectrum holdings in the 28 GHz and 39 GHz millimeter wave bands, which will be put to use by some 5G technologies down the road. Once the AT&T deal was announced, Verizon entered its own offer for the spectrum company. Verizon and AT&T have traded bids over the last few weeks. Straight Path this week said it has received an offer of $3.1 billion from a large communications company. While it didn't name Verizon specifically, Straight Path said it will terminate the agreement it had with AT&T. Verizon will pay AT&T a $38 million cancellation fee on behalf of Straight Path. Straight Path didn't indicate when it expects the new agreement to close.
The FTC has earned another chance to prove AT&T illegally throttled customers' data speeds. An appeals court this week reinstated the FTC's case against AT&T, which was originally dismissed last summer. The case was dismissed on grounds that the FTC didn't have jurisdiction over internet providers due to their common carrier status. The reversal, if successfully argued by the FTC, could give the agency more control over broadband providers. In the original 2014 case the FTC claimed that AT&T slowed down the data speeds of customers on unlimited plans without proper notice or warning. The original case may have been dismissed, but AT&T still changed its behavior and began warning customers that they might experience slower speeds once they surpass certain usage thresholds. AT&T said it looks forward to arguing the case in court.
Asus today made the ZenFone 3 Zoom available from its web site for $329. The phone was first announced in January. The device relies on two cameras much like the iPhone 7 Plus to create a zooming effect. Both the standard and 25mm and 59mm lenses have 12-megapixel Sony IMX362 sensors. The main lens has an aperture of f/1.7. Other camera features include portrait mode, OIS, laser focusing, PDAF, RAW support, and a dedicated color sensor for improved white balance. The phone's user-facing camera has a 13-megapixel Sony IMX214 sensor with a 140-degree panorama mode. The 3 Zoom includes a 5,000 mAh battery that can be used to charge other devices via USB-C. Specs include a Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 processor, 5.5-in full-HD display with Gorilla Glass 5, fingerprint sensor, memory card slot, and 3.5mm audio jack. It ships with Android 6 Marshmallow, but Asus indicated that Android 7 will reach the phone via update soon. The ZenFone 3 Zoom supports GSM/LTE networks, including AT&T/Cricket and T-Mobile/MetroPCS. The phone is sold unlocked.
AT&T this week began distributing Android 7 Nougat to the Samsung Galaxy S6, S6 edge, and S6 Active. Along with the new version of Android, the update introduces Samsung Cloud, Samsung Pass, and a wide range of bug fixes and performance improvements. According to AT&T, the update will remove the AT&T Address Book and MobiTV apps, while it brings the security patch level up to April 1, 2017. The new operating system is rolling out to these phones already. AT&T updated the Galaxy S6 edge+ to Nougat earlier this year.
Motorola Solutions today said it has agreed to acquire Kodiak Networks for an undisclosed sum. Motorola Solutions is the not the Lenovo-owned company behind Motorola smartphones; rather, Motorola Solutions is a separate corporation that handles first-responder and push-to-talk hardware, and wireless networking equipment. Kodiak Networks is a privately-owned company that developed PTT-over-cellular (3G, 4G) technology. Kodiak's tech has been adopted by network operators such as AT&T, allowing modern smartphones to include PTT functionality without requiring the old iDEN-based technology used by Nextel a decade ago. Motorola Solutions said the acquisition is a good fit for its networking business and will help improve its own technology offerings. The deal is subject to traditional regulatory and closing conditions.
AT&T said customers who own the Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8+ will have access to enhanced wireless service in Austin starting today. Austin serves as the first market for what AT&T is calling "5G Evolution" service, an effort to modernize and improve its network ahead of the official adoption of the 5G specification by international standards bodies. AT&T plans to take advantage of improved LTE 4G network technologies such as small cells, network densification, carrier aggregation, 4x4 MIMO, and 256 QAM to provide real-world speed and latency improvements. The company didn't provide any guidance on what sort of speeds S8 and S8+ owners in Austin will actually experience other than to indicate 5G Evolution will be up to twice as fast as its existing LTE 4G service. AT&T will light up 5G Evolution in Indianapolis this summer with markets including Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, Nashville, San Francisco, and others to go live by the end of the year. Further, AT&T said it will have "numerous other" 5G Evolution-capable devices available by the end of the year. All four major carriers are moving forward with 5G technology trials despite the fact that the final standard has not been ratified. AT&T's so-called 5G Evolution is "5G" in name only.
AT&T has agreed to acquire Straight Path in an all-stock deal worth about $1.6 billion. Straight Path has significant spectrum holdings in the 28 GHz and 39 GHz millimeter wave bands, which will be put to use by some 5G technologies down the road. The transaction has been approved by both companies, but it will require a thumbs up from the FCC. AT&T and Straight Path expect the deal to close in about 12 months.
AT&T today said customers who subscribe to its Unlimited Plus wireless plan will be given free access to HBO. There are three ways to watch HBO for free. First, customers who already subscribe to HBO through an AT&T video service (DirecTV, U-Verse) will now get HBO at no cost as long as they also subscribe to Unlimited Plus. HBO will refund the monthly fee directly on customers' bills. Second, AT&T video and wireless customers who don't already subscribe to HBO will automatically receive access to HBO's premium channels through that video service for free. Last, customers who have the AT&T Unlimited Plan, but don't use an AT&T-branded video service, will be able to access HBO via DirecTV Now or the HBO Go apps at no cost. The AT&T Unlimited Plus plan includes a $25 monthly video credit that can be applied to any AT&T video service, such as DirecTV Now, in addition to unlimited data, talk, text, and 10GB of Wi-Fi tethering. Free HBO will be available to Unlimited Plus customers starting April 6.
AT&T will build a nationwide wireless network explicitly for the use of first responders and emergency personnel, the company said today. The U.S. Department of Commerce awarded AT&T with the FirstNet project, which was first recommended not long after the 9/11 attacks when disparate, incompatible systems impacted first responders' ability to communicate. The government will give AT&T 20 MHz of spectrum and billions of dollars to build the network. AT&T will operate the network for at least 25 years, and it expects to spend some $40 billion over that time developing, maintaining, and improving the network. FirstNet will be reserved for emergency medical personnel, firefighters, police officers, and other people who need to communicate during attacks, weather-related disasters, and other events. The intent is to improve rescue and recovery operations, better connect first responders to vital information, improve IoT solutions, support wearables, and deploy the most advanced technology possible. AT&T is working with Motorola Solutions, General Dynamics, Sapient Consulting, and Inmarsat Government. It expects to begin work on the FirstNet network later this year.
Samsung's new Galaxy S8 and S8+ smartphones will cost $750 and $850, respectively. The phones share almost all features other than size and both ship with 64 GB of internal storage. All carriers are bundling in the new Gear VR with controller at no added cost ($129 value), and will upgrade the bundle to include a 256 GB memory card and Harmon Kardon headphones for $99. The Galaxy S8 and S8+ will be available for preorder starting March 30 and should reach stores April 21.
- AT&T: AT&T is offering a buy-one, get-one deal with the S8 and S8+. Monthly prices range from $28 to $36, depending on the length of the installment plan. Further, AT&T is selling the Gear S3 for $50 with an S8/S8+ purchase, provided the customer signs a two-year agreement. Last, AT&T is offering either the Galaxy Tab E or Gear S2 for 99 cents with a service agreement.
- T-Mobile: The S8 will cost $30 month on a T-Mobile installment plan, and the S8+ will cost $30 per month, too, with a $130 down payment. T-Mobile says MetroPCS customers will have access to the Galaxy S8 when it reaches stores April 21.
- Sprint: Sprint plans to lease the phones. The S8 will cost $31.25 per month for 18 months while the S8+ will cost $35.42 per month for 18 months. Customers will be able to upgrade to a newer Samsung phone after making 12 payments. People who preorder the phones from Sprint will be entered into a sweepstakes that includes prizes such as television sets. Sprint says Boost Mobile and Virgin Mobile will offer the phone on April 21.
- Verizon Wireless: Verizon is offering the S8/S8+ for as low as $15 per month with an eligible (flagship-level) trade-in. Without a trade-in, the S8 will cost $30 per month and the S8+ will cost $35 per month for 24 months.
Samsung and Qualcomm today said the Galaxy S8 and S8+ will be the first handsets to ship with Gigabit LTE capabilities. The high-speed data connection is possible thanks in part to the Snapdragon 835 processor and accompanying X16 LTE modem. Together with Qualcomm's TruSignal adaptive antenna tuning technology, 4x4 MIMO, carrier aggregation and 256 QAM, the S8 and S8+ will feature the fastest-possible cellular data speeds. AT&T and T-Mobile said the S8 will be able to take advantage of these higher speeds on their pre-5G networks later this year. Sprint, also indicated that its variant of the phone will support HPUE for better 2.5 GHz LTE performance.
Amazon recently added the Alcatel A30 to its roster of Prime Exclusives. This entry-level Android handset includes a 5-inch HD screen and a 1.1 GHz Snapdragon 210 processor with 2 GB of RAM and 16 GB of storage. The phone supports memory cards up to 32 GB. The main camera has an 8-megapixel sensor with time-lapse recording while the front camera has a 5-megapixel sensor. Alcatel says the phone's 2,460mAh battery provides all-day life. The phone runs Android 7 Nougat and is sold in both CDMA and GSM variants, with LTE for AT&T and T-Mobile. Amazon is selling the phone for $60 with lock screen ads or for $100 without ads. It goes on sale April 19.
The FCC this week made it easier for carriers to add LTE to their 800 MHz spectrum holdings. Rules concerning the 800 MHz band (CDMA Band Class 0, LTE Band 5) have been in place since 1981 and limit how much power carriers can use to transmit wireless signals across those airwaves. The effect has stymied wide-scale LTE deployments in the 800 MHz band. By relaxing the outdated regulations, the FCC is essentially making it possible for companies that have 800 MHz spectrum to repurpose it for LTE. Specifically, the Commission plans to allow 800 MHz licensees to transmit the same amount of power across the spectrum band, putting it in line with how other, similar spectrum bands are treated. The FCC will demand that carriers take care to prevent interference with public safety's use of 800 MHz spectrum, but the Commission will also eliminate what it calls unnecessary rules and burdens related to application filings and other red tape. Verizon Wireless, which will benefit most from the change, lauded the decision. "The FCC's unanimous adoption today of Cellular Service Reform rules is a big win for wireless consumers," said the company. "Today's order enables Verizon to accelerate the conversion of 850 MHz spectrum from 3G and put it to use for 4G LTE. The upside for consumers is big: Verizon Wireless will be able to provide 4G LTE coverage on cellular spectrum to 20%-30% more of the US geography and also increase peak 4G LTE speeds by as much as 40%." The change also benefits AT&T, though to a lesser degree.
AT&T today sweetened the deal for some subscribers to its DirecTV Now streaming television service. New customers who subscribe to either the Go Big or Gotta Have It packages will be given a free year of HBO. The Go Big plan costs $60 per month and includes more than 100 channels, while the Gotta Have It plan costs $70 per month and includes more than 120 channels. Normally, HBO costs an extra $5 per month. Further, AT&T is offering new customers a free Apple TV when they pre-pay for three months of any DirecTV Now package. Both the free HBO and free Apple TV offers end March 30.
AT&T today announced its plans to sell the LG G6 and the company is going a step further than competitor T-Mobile. For a limited time, people who purchase an LG G6 can score a second LG G6 when adding a new line. AT&T is asking for $24 per month for 30 months to cover the cost of the phone, or about $720 in total. The offer requires both lines use an AT&T Next installment plan, and the cost of the second device will be covered on a month-to-month basis. In addition to the two-for-one offer, customers who buy the LG G6 before April 30 will be given a free Google Home by LG. Last, AT&T customers who buy an LG G6 can get the LG Watch Sport for $50 with a two-year service agreement on the wearable. AT&T will start taking preorders for the LG G6 on March 17, with orders shipping on April 7.
AT&T today made one of its postpaid plans available via its GoPhone prepaid brand. The new AT&T GoPhone Unlimited service plan costs $60 per month and offers unlimited everything at reduced speeds. The plan includes maximum download data rates of just 3Mbps, with video capped at 480p standard resolution and limited to streams of 1.5Mbps. This is similar to the Unlimited Choice plan AT&T rolled out to its postpaid customers last month. AT&T said GoPhone Unlimited customers who exceed 22 GB of data in a given billing period may see their data speeds reduced when the network is congested. Alternately, GoPhone customers can select a new offer that includes unlimited talk and text with 6 GB of high-speed data for $40 per month. Customers who exceed the 6 GB limit in a 30-day period will have their speeds reduced to 128kbps for the remainder of the billing cycle. Both plans include free roaming in Canada and Mexico. AutoPay and paperless billing are required to get these $60 and $40 plan prices. The new GoPhone plans are available starting today. Last, GoPhone is offering $20 off select smartphones through April 20.
FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said the agency will investigate a recent issue on AT&T's mobile network that prevented some 911 calls from going through. The issue occurred Wednesday evening over a period of several hours. "Every call to 911 must go through," said Pai. "So when I first learned of yesterday's outage, I immediately directed FCC staff to contact AT&T about it and the company's efforts to restore access to emergency services to the American public. I have directed Commission staff to track down the root cause of this outage." AT&T has not yet said what happened, though it apologized to those who were impacted by the outage.
AT&T recently announced the LG Phoenix 3, a low-cost Android handset intended for its GoPhone prepaid service. The device includes a 5-inch FWVGA display, and it is powered by a quad-core processor with 16 GB of storage. Both the front and rear cameras have 5-megapixel sensors, and the user-facing cam includes a selfie light. Other features include a slim design, 2,500mAh battery, and Android 6 Marshmallow. The LG Phoenix 3 goes on sale online and in stores March 10 for $80.
AT&T is rewarding what it calls "loyal" customers of its DirecTV Now service with free HBO. People who subscribe to the Go Big and Gotta Have It packages will receive HBO for free for 12 months. People who subscribe to the less expensive Live a Little and Just Right packages will receive a $5 discount on HBO for up to six months. Those who've already added HBO to their DirecTV Now service will see their bills adjusted accordingly. AT&T says subscribers will be able to use their DirecTV Now login credentials to access HBOGo, as well.The loyalty reward is available to any DirecTV Now customer with an account active as of March 6. AT&T launched DirecTV Now in November 2016. The service offers four packages that range from $35 to $70 per month with up to 120 channels. It is available to Android and iOS devices, as well as the web.
President Donald Trump today renominated Ajit Pai to the Federal Communications Commission. Pai has been running the agency since the January departure of former FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, even though Pai's official tenure at the FCC ended in the middle of 2016. Today's renomination cements Pai's position at the helm of the FCC through the end of Trump's term as president. "I am deeply honored to have been nominated by President Trump to serve a second term on the Federal Communications Commission. If I am fortunate to be confirmed by the Senate, I will continue to work with my colleagues to connect all Americans with digital opportunity, foster innovation, protect consumers, promote public safety, and make the FCC more open and transparent to the American people," said Pai in a statement. Since taking over, Pai has worked quickly to dismantle many of the regulations put in place by Wheeler. Notably, he reduced some transparency rules for small broadband providers, closed investigations into carriers' prioritization schemes, and set his sights on net neutrality. Pai is a Republican along with Commissioner Michael O'Rielly, while Commissioner Mignon Clyburn is a Democrat. The agency is short two Commissioners and Pai has yet to nominate anyone to fill the vacancies. Telecom industry companies such as AT&T were quick to congratulate Pai, who they see as an ally on the Commission.
AT&T today announced the AT&T Unlimited Choice service plan, which offers unlimited everything at reduced speeds. For example, Unlimited Choice includes maximum download speeds of just 3Mbps, with video capped at 480p standard resolution and limited to streams of 1.5Mbps. To put these speeds in perspective, AT&T's LTE network often supports speeds in excess of 50Mbps. Further, AT&T-owned Cricket Wireless offers speeds of up to 8Mbps. The 3Mbps limit on this new plan will allow for web browsing and social networking, but will likely impact app downloads and other data-intensive actions. The Unlimited Choice plan starts at $60 for a single line or $155 for four lines. AutoPay and paperless billing are required to get these prices. The AT&T Unlimited Choice plan will be available starting March 2.
AT&T today responded to consumer feedback concerning its new unlimited plan by overhauling the offer. The new AT&T Unlimited Plus plan for a single line provides unlimited talk, text, and data, and 10 GB of tethering for $90 per month. When first announced on Feb. 16, the plan cost $100 and did not include tethering at all. AT&T says four lines on the new Unlimited Plus plan will cost $185 per month. AT&T is tossing a $25 video credit into the mix that applies to both its wireless customers and those customers who subscribe to both AT&T for wireless service and DirecTV for television service. AT&T wireless-only customers can add DirecTV Now (the mobile TV offering) for just $10 per month after the $25 bill credit. That makes the Unlimited Plan with DirecTV Now $100 in total single line and $195 for four lines). AT&T and DirecTV customers will see their DirecTV bill dropped from $50 to $25 with the credit, making the Unlimited Plan with DirecTV $115. AT&T says the new plans are open to all customers, including those who recently jumped to the unlimited option. Customers who exceed 10 GB of tethering will see tethering speeds capped at 128Kbps for the remainder of the billing period. Tablets cost $20 extra to add to the Unlimited Plan. AutopPay and paperless billing is required. The new Unlimited Plan will be available starting March 2.
Google today said more wireless network operators and handset manufacturers will use Android Messages, its RCS-based messaging service, as the default SMS/MMS tool on their phones. (Android Messages was previously known as Google Messenger.) Some of the features of RCS, which is a global standard, include group chat, high-resolution photo sharing, advanced calling features, and read receipts. It has been improved lately with more interactive tools, such as the ability to check into flights. Google says a number of brands plan to use RCS in order to enhance their own services and help spur adoption. Some of the brands include Walgreens, Baskin-Robbins, FICO, Gamestop, Sonic, Subway, and Time. Moving forward, the Android Messages app with RCS will be preloaded by LG, Motorola, Sony, HTC, ZTE, Micromax, HMD Global, Archos, BQ, Cherry Mobile, Condor, Fly, General Mobile, Lanix, LeEco, Lava, Kyocera, MyPhone, QMobile, Symphony, and Wiko, along with Google's own Pixel and Android One devices. Further, Google was already working with carriers Sprint, Rogers, and Telenor, and today added Vodafone, Orange, Deutsche Telekom, and Globe. Notably absent fro the list of phone makers is Samsung, while AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon have also yet to commit. Phones with Android Messages on board will still be able to interact with Samsung handsets and those running on non-Sprint networks of course, but will lose the advanced features available via RCS. Samsung, AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon haven't said if or when they might adopt Google's Android Messages, though T-Mobile and Verizon already use their own RCS-like messaging platforms.
Verizon Wireless today said it plans to trial 5G technology in 11 U.S. markets later this year. This "pre-commercial service" will be offered to a very limited number of customers and not necessarily made available to consumers. The tests will involve the 5GTF spec Verizon developed past year. The trial markets include Ann Arbor, Atlanta, Bernardsville, Brockton, Dallas, Denver, Houston, Miami, Sacramento, Seattle, and Washington, D.C. Verizon competitors AT&T, T-Mobile, and Sprint are each testing their own variants of potential 5G technologies. The actual 5G spec has yet to be defined by the International Telecommunications Union, but carriers and telecom equipment makers around the world are hoping their technologies will be included in the final standard.
Intel today announced the XMM 7560 LTE modem, a fifth-generation wireless radio that can produce broadband-like speeds in a variety of mobile devices. The XMM 7560 is manufactured using Intel's 14nm process and supports LTE Advanced Category 16 for downloads up to 1 Gbps and Category 13 for uploads up to 225 Mbps. The Intel XMM 7560 modem supports 5x carrier aggregation for up to 100 MHz combined bandwidth on the downlink, and 3xCA for up to 60 MHz on the uplink. It also supports 4x4 MIMO and 256QAM. Intel says the XMM 7560 works well with its SMARTi 7 RF transceiver, which supports up to 35 LTE bands and 230 carrier aggregation combinations for worldwide compatibility. The XMM 7560 also packs envelope tracking and other power optimization features to improve battery life in smartphones, tablets, and PCs. The Intel XMM 7560 will sample during the first half of the year and Intel expects to see it in consumer devices shortly thereafter. Separately, Intel this week announced new efforts in its push toward 5G. It is working with Nokia, AT&T, Telefonica, 5TONIC, Ericsson, and others to define, prototype, and deliver early 5G products.
AT&T today announced its own unlimited family plan meant to compete with the likes of those introduced by Verizon Wireless, T-Mobile, and Sprint earlier this week. Beginning Feb. 17, customers will be able to sign up for a wireless-only AT&T Unlimited Plan that AT&T says will cost $180 for a family of four. The package includes four lines with unlimited data, talk, and text. The first line costs $100 and each additional line costs $40. The four-person plan will start at the cost of $220 per month ($100 + 3x$40). The $180 monthly price reflects a $40 credit for the fourth line, which won't be applied to the account for several months. Critically, the new AT&T Unlimited Plan does not include tethering or mobile hotspot at all. AT&T says customers who wish to use those features should select is Mobile Share Advantage plan instead. The Unlimited Plan includes its Stream Saver by default, which downgrades video quality to 480p resolution to cut down on data use. Customers can turn Stream Saver off at no additional cost to stream HD video. Further, AT&T may throttle data speeds once customers exceed 22 GB of data usage in a given month. The AT&T Unlimited Plan also allows customers to make unlimited calls from the U.S. to Canada and Mexico, roam at no extra cost in Canada and Mexico, and send unlimited texts to more than 120 other countries. AT&T's plan costs the same as Verizon's for four lines at $180 per month, but Verizon permits up to 10 GB of mobile hotspot use. AT&T's separate unlimited plan for its DirecTV customers remains in place.
AT&T today said customers can access VoLTE services when traveling to Japan. Specifically, the carrier has struck a VoLTE roaming agreement with NTT DoCoMo, Japan's largest carrier. AT&T customers who travel to Japan will be able to use VoLTE-based services, including HD voice and simultaneous talking and surfing via LTE. AT&T claims it is the first U.S. carrier to strike such a roaming agreement.
The FCC today said it will drop its review of sponsored data programs from the likes of AT&T and Verizon Wireless. Under former Chairman Tom Wheeler, the FCC determined the nation's two largest carriers were likely violating net neutrality rules by zero-rating some video services. Now, under the leadership of Chairman Ajit Pai, the agency has reversed course and will drop the investigations. "The Commission finally puts an end to the past Commission’s zero-rating inquiries and recommits to permissionless innovation," said Commissioner Michael O'Rielly in a statement. "While this is just a first step, these companies, and others, can now safely invest in and introduce highly popular products and services without fear of Commission intervention based on newly invented legal theories."
AT&T today said it plans to test some of its 5G network technologies, with peak speeds of 400 Mbps, in Austin and Indianapolis beginning later this year. The company has been testing a handful of next-generation network technologies for several year snow. AT&T said it will continue to densify its network and deploy technologies like carrier aggregation and LTE-License Assisted Access to boost speeds to 1 Gbps. AT&T is calling its evolving 5G platform AT&T Network 3.0 Indigo, or Indigo for short. "We see Indigo as the third generation of modern networking," said John Donovan, chief strategy officer and group president, Technology and Operations. "Indigo is our term for a world where it isn't just your connection speeds that are accelerating, but every element of the network becomes more seamless, efficient and capable. It is a living, evolving, upgradeable platform. Think of Indigo like the operating system on your phone. We’re taking that model to the network." Indigo will rely on a handful of elements, including Big Data, artificial intelligence and machine learning, cybersecurity, and software-defined networking. Earlier this week, AT&T said it plans to test Centralized RAN, AirGig, G.fast, and Fixed Wireless Internet technologies using mmWave spectrum.
AT&T today said it plans to test a wide variety of potential 5G technologies throughout the year as it evolves from 4G LTE to next-generation mobile broadband. For example, the company intends to kick off field trials of AirGig later this year. AirGig relies on transporting mmWaves over powerlines. AT&T engineers have invented low-cost plastic antennas, a Radio Distributed Antenna System (RDAS), mmWave surface wave launchers, and inductive power devices. These technologies push broadband signals along or near power lines, not through them, and deliver multi-gigabit wired and wireless broadband. AT&T believes this approach will pay dividends, as it can be deployed on existing power deliver infrastructure with no need to build new towers or bury new cable. The field trials aim to determine how inclement weather might affect signal delivery as well as asses real-world costs. AT&T is also testing small cells throughout San Francisco. AT&T is testing a Centralized RAN (C-RAN) architecture, which pulls the individual basebands normally associated with each cell site and consolidates them in a single location. The small cells themselves can be installed on light posts and other existing infrastructure around the city. AT&T says this approach reduces the amount of gear needed at each small cell site and lets technicians easily update lots of sites at once due to the centralized basebands. The C-RAN tests also rely on mmWave technology. Other technologies on AT&T's testing roadmap this year include G.fast and Fixed Wireless Internet. G.fast boosts the capacity of existing copper lines to that of fiber, while FWI will target some 400,000 rural areas by the end of the year. The International Telecommunications Union has yet to technically define what 5G will be, but that hasn't stoped carriers such as AT&T and others from exploring a number of potential 5G technologies.
T-Mobile today further sweetened the pie for former AT&T customers by offering a free year of Hulu. The offer is a consolation prize of sorts. In December, AT&T kicked off a promotion wherein it gave AT&T customers a free year of DirecTV Now when they switched to T-Mobile. DirecTV Now has experienced a bumpy launch, collecting numerous complaints from customers who say the service doesn't work as advertised. T-Mobile said it wants to protect customers who took advantage of the initial offer. "To make things right for those new T-Mobile customers, the Un-carrier is giving everyone who participated in this deal a free year of Hulu — an awesome streaming service that actually works — on top of their free year of DirecTV Now," said the company in a statement. T-Mobile says all former AT&T customers who signed up for a free year of DirecTV will be eligible for the free year of Hulu Limited Commercials service. The switchers will be notified with a promo code in the weeks ahead.
AT&T today made it less expensive and less confusing to use your AT&T phone overseas. The company introduced the AT&T International Day Pass, which provides travelers with unlimited talk and text in over 100 countries. Moreover, the International Day Pass doesn't charge extra for data; travelers will have access to their domestic data plan when overseas. AT&T will no longer charge by the minute, message, or megabyte. The International Day Pass costs $10 and unlocks access to roaming for a 24-hour period. AT&T says most popular destinations across Europe, Asia, and Central/South America are included. Under AT&T's old Passport-branded plans, travelers were required to buy access in large chunks that still required per-minute voice fees and placed limits on data. AT&T's new International Day Pass, which now closely mirrors Verizon's roaming plan, will be available starting Friday, Jan. 26.
AT&T confirmed to Phonescoop that it has raised the cost of activating a new line of service and upgrading an existing line from $20 to $25. The increase is effective today, according to AT&T. The increase was first reported by Droid-Life. AT&T's move follows closely a similar increase made by Verizon, which bumped activation fees from $20 to $30. Activation fees are largely seen as a way for carriers to pad profits.
The FCC today said the close of the fourth stage will mark the end of bidding in the auction for 600 MHz airwaves. The auction has been in progress since last May and worked its way through several stages. Television broadcasters agreed to give up portions of their spectrum holdings, which were then sold to wireless carriers. The repurposed airwaves will eventually be used for mobile broadband services and the TV stations relocated. FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler called the auction a success, but it fell far short of initial projections as far as generating revenue is concerned. "The world's first spectrum incentive auction has delivered on its ambitious promise. Reaching the Final Stage Rule means the benefits of the auction are indisputable," said Wheeler. "We will repurpose 70 MHz of high-value, completely clear low-band spectrum for mobile broadband on a nationwide basis. On top of that, 14 MHz of new unlicensed spectrum — the test bed for wireless innovation — will be available for consumer devices and new services. The auction will provide $10.05 billion to broadcast television licensees who participated and billions towards deficit reduction." Broadcasters had expected to see as much as $86 billion for 126 MHz of licenses. When bidding in rounds two and three bottomed out, the amount of spectrum offered by broadcasters was reduced accordingly. "There is still a long road ahead to successfully implement the post-auction transition of broadcast stations to their new channels and bring the new wireless and unlicensed spectrum to market," noted Wheeler. "This will be an extremely important task for my successor and the new Commission; I wish them well." Wheeler is leaving his post at the FCC as President-Elect Donald Trumps takes office. T-Mobile, AT&T, and Verizon Wireless all participated, but Sprint did not. The FCC hasn't said what new spectrum licenses the carriers and other bidders have won.
AT&T confirmed in a blog post that it has fully retired its 2G network. The move had been in the works for years. AT&T said it helped move people with 2G equipment over to 3G/4G devices with discounts and, in some cases, free phones. "By shutting down our 2G network, this frees up more spectrum for future network technologies, including 5G," said AT&T Chief Strategy Officer John Donovan. "In the next few months, we plan to repurpose that spectrum for LTE." AT&T says the 2G shutdown will also help pave the way for the evolution of 5G.
ZTE today shared more information about its Project CSX handset, called Hawkeye. ZTE created a public campaign for Project CSX in 2016, which saw hundreds of entries. The final design, a self-adhesive handset that can track eye movement, was selected last fall. The device is a large Android slab that boasts a 5.5-inch full HD display. The phone will be powered by an octa-core Snapdragon 625 processor with 3 GB of RAM and 32 GB of storage. The phone features two cameras on the rear, one with a 12-megapixel sensor and one with a 13-megapixel sensor with optical zoom. The user-facing camera has an 8-megapixel sensor. A 3,000mAh battery will provide power, and the USB-C port will allow for rapid charging via Quick Charge 2.0. Other features include a fingerprint reader, Dolby sound, NFC, and support for memory cards. ZTE says the Hawkeye includes LTE bands 2, 4, 5, 7, 12, 13, and 66 for AT&T/T-Mobile. The Hawkeye, currently available for preorder on Kickstarter, costs $199 and will ship with Android 7 Nougat when it goes on sale in the fall. Right now, the fundraising campaign has generated a bit more than $31,000 out of $500,000.
Alcatel today made its Idol 4S with Windows 10 smartphone available unlocked from the Microsoft Store. The Windows Idol 4S has a 5.5-inch full HD display, Snapdragon 820 processor, 21-megapixel camera, and USB Type-C. Other features include a wide-angle 8-megapixel selfie camera, 3,000mAh battery, 4 GB of RAM, 64 GB of storage, stereo speakers, and a rear-mounted fingerprint sensor. The Idol 4S with Windows is compatible with Continuum, which enables it to act like a full PC with the proper accessories. The phone is compatible with the networks run by AT&T and T-Mobile. The Idol 4S with Windows 10 costs $470.