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printed September 26, 2016
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AT&T Settles with FCC Over Microwave License Violations

Friday, 10:30 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

The FCC today said AT&T has agreed to pay a fine of $450,000 for operating microwave stations outside the parameters of its licenses to do so. Microwave stations are generally set up in point-to-point configurations to beam signals across terrain where it is uneconomical to run copper or fiber wires. Companies use them to serve as backbone connections on the telephone network, to connect cellular base stations to the larger network, or to relay television signals. According to the FCC, AT&T altered dozens of its microwave stations without filing the proper paperwork with the FCC to account for the variances. The FCC has been investigating this matter for several years and first announced its intent to fine AT&T in January 2015. Today's settlement marks an end to the investigation. In addition to the $450,000 fine, AT&T will also have to implement a compliance plan and conduct regular reviews of its wireless fixed microwave stations.


Sony Reveals Xperia XZ and X Compact Pricing

Thursday, 10:46 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sony today discussed pricing and availability details for the Xperia XZ and Xperia X Compact (pictured) smartphones. The XZ will cost $700 and it goes on sale via Amazon and other online retailers October 2. The X Compact will cost $500 and will reach Amazon and others September 25. The XZ is a flagship handset with 5.2-inch screen, Snapdragon 820 processor, and 23-megapixel camera, while the X Compact is a smaller sub-flagship with a 4.6-inch screen, Snapdragon 650 processor, and 23-megapixel camera. Both devices run Android 6 Marshmallow and are sold unlocked with AT&T/T-Mobile LTE compatibility.


Blu Shows Off the Life One X2

Thursday, 7:00 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Blu today announced the Blu Life One X2, a successor to the Blu Life One X. The Life One X2 features a 5.2-inch full HD display with curved glass, a metal chassis, and a fingerprint reader for biometric security. The phone is powered by a 1.4 GHz octa-core Snapdragon 430 processor with 2 or 4 GB of RAM and 16 or 64 GB of storage. The main camera has a 16-megapixel sensor with phase-detection autofocus and LED flash, and the selfie camera has an 8-megapixel sensor with a forward-facing LED flash. The phone supports Qualcomm's QuickCharge technology for rapid power-ups. The Life One X2 supports LTE Bands 2, 4, 7, 12, and 17 for AT&T, MetroPCS, and T-Mobile. Preorders for the phone kick off today from Amazon.com. Consumers who preorder Sept. 22 or 23 will receive a 10% discount. The 2 GB / 16 GB model costs $150 and the 4 GB / 64 GB model costs $200. Blu didn't say when the Life One X2 will ship.


AT&T Stepping Up Three-Channel Carrier Aggregation

Sep 14, 2016, 3:43 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

AT&T today confirmed to Fierce Wireless that, like its competitors, it is deploying three-channel carrier aggregation on its LTE 4G network. "We're currently in the process of deploying three-way carrier aggregation on our network," said AT&T spokesman Steven Schwadron in a statement given to Fierce. "We're also adding spectrum and equipment on an ongoing basis to further boost our network performance." Schwadron says AT&T began deploying LTE-A in 2014 and now the majority of its customers are covered by two-channel carrier aggregation. Three-channel carrier aggregation bundles together three slices of spectrum to boost capacity and speed. AT&T didn't say specifically which markets are getting three-channel aggregation first, but said it is targeting high-density, high-traffic areas. The company didn't say what spectrum bands it is using for three-channel carrier aggregation, either. AT&T lists some 26 devices as LTE-A capable, though it is not clear if these devices support two- and three-channel carrier aggregation. Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless have all talked about three-channel carrier aggregation deployments in recent weeks.


LG V20: First Phone To Support Band 66

Sep 14, 2016, 1:36 PM   by Rich Brome

FCC documents indicate that the LG V20 variants for Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile will be the first phones to support LTE in the new band 66. Band 66 includes the AWS-1, AWS-3, and AWS-4 frequencies. Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile all purchased new AWS-3 spectrum in 2015, but have yet to deploy it. When they do, it will require phones that support band 66. AWS-1 — also known as band 4 — is already deployed by all three companies. AWS-4 is owned by Dish Networks, which has yet to announce firm plans for that spectrum.


T-Mobile to Operate 2G Network Through 2020

Sep 14, 2016, 1:03 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

T-Mobile today said it plans to operate its 2G GSM network through the year 2020. The company has optimized its 2G network to run on less spectrum alongside its LTE 4G network. The vast majority of T-Mobile handsets connect via LTE. T-Mobile is keeping its 2G GSM network alive specifically for Internet of Things and machine-to-machine devices. As such, T-Mobile is attempting to lure away AT&T's IoT and M2M customers by offering free SIM cards and free 2G service through the end of the year to any subscribers that switch. Many IoT and M2M applications require little bandwidth and generally access the network only periodically. T-Mobile is going after AT&T because AT&T plans to shut down its 2G network at the end of this year.


AT&T Extends Free iPhone 7 Trade-In Deal to All Customers

Sep 9, 2016, 12:46 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

AT&T today expanded the availability of its iPhone trade-in program to all customers. Initially, AT&T said only its DirecTV and U-Verse customers could score a free iPhone 7 ($695 in bill credits) when trading in an iPhone 6, 6 Plus, 6s, or 6s Plus. Today, AT&T decided to extend the trade-in deal to any and all AT&T customers. AT&T customers who own their iPhone 6, 6 Plus, 6s, or 6s Plus can trade it in for a free 32 GB iPhone 7 when paired with an AT&T Next or Next Every Year program. Customers who choose to leave AT&T before all the free monthly device credits are applied will owe the remaining device balance. AT&T says the trade-in offer cannot be combined other offers.


AT&T Waves Around Free Phone Offer

Sep 8, 2016, 7:57 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

AT&T is giving people the opportunity to get a free phone with a new line of service. Beginning September 9, DirecTV or U-Verse customers who add a new line to their AT&T account will be rewarded with $695 in monthly bill credits towards a new phone. The free smartphone, which can be the new Apple iPhone 7 if that's what customers want, must be added to an AT&T Next or AT&T Next Every Year program when activated. People who are not DirecTV or U-Verse customers can still score a free phone. Consumers who port their number from another carrier to AT&T will be given up to $650 in bill credits when they trade-in their current device and buy a new one on an AT&T Next plan. AT&T says this port-in deal is limited to select phones, but didn't specify which ones. The iPhone 7 and 7 Plus will be available for pre-order starting September 9, but don't reach stores until September 16.


AT&T Zero-Rates DirecTV Video Streaming

Sep 7, 2016, 7:21 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

AT&T is allowing its DirecTV customers to access and stream DirecTV video content without impacting their data bucket. Consumers who have both AT&T and DirecTV accounts can stream movies and television shows through the DirecTV over AT&T's wireless network anywhere in the U.S. AT&T warns that some "exclusions apply and may incur data usage." Moreover, free DirecTV video streaming will be subject to network management, including throttling. AT&T didn't specify what content might be excluded from free streaming, nor did it say if the content is streamed in high or standard definition. The app also allows people to watch live and recorded shows. DirecTV customers can download recorded shows from their DVR (via WiFi) to their device for offline watching. Last, the app adds dedicated buttons for live TV and DVR for quicker access to those features. The DirecTV app is free to download from the iTunes App Store. AT&T didn't say when this same functionality will reach its Android app.


Incentive Auction Fails to Attract Big Spenders

Aug 31, 2016, 5:41 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

The FCC's 600MHz incentive auction is proceeding slowly and may need to be reset. After 27 rounds of bidding, the total amount bid has reached only $23 billion, far short of the $88.4 billion clearing cost set during the reverse part of the auction earlier this year. The FCC will likely end bidding on the licenses that attracted the most interest and then go back to the television broadcasters to reset the clearing costs for the remaining licenses to drive demand. Some analysts believe the auction made need to reset prices several times before it can come to an end. The 600MHz airwaves are the last low-band spectrum that will be made available to wireless carriers. AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless are participating, as is Dish Networks and myriad other entities. The spectrum is being sold by television broadcasters, many of which have had the spectrum for decades.


FTC Loses Lawsuit Against AT&T

Aug 30, 2016, 12:43 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

An appeals court has tossed a lawsuit filed against AT&T over its throttling practices. The U.S. Federal Trade Commission alleged that AT&T deceived customers by throttling their unlimited data plans once those customers exceeded a certain amount of data in a given month. During its investigation, the FTC found AT&T slowed some users' speeds by as much as 90%. AT&T argued that common carriers, such as itself, are to be granted exceptions, and the appeals court agreed. AT&T may still face action over the same issue from the FCC, which believes AT&T may have violated its net neutrality rules.


AT&T Signs Interconnect Agreement with Cuba Carrier

Aug 22, 2016, 9:23 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

AT&T today said it has signed an interconnect agreement with Cuba's Empresa De Telecomunicaciones De Cuba (ETECSA). The agreement will eventually allow AT&T customers to roam on ETESCA's network when traveling to Cuba. AT&T hasn't said when it will make such roaming available and will announce pricing at a later date. Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless already have similar agreements in place with ETESCA.


AT&T Spearheading Robocall 'Strike Force'

Aug 19, 2016, 9:11 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

AT&T and dozens of other companies are escalating the war on robocalls with a new Strike Force aimed at disrupting spammers' ability to call and pester consumers. AT&T CEO Randal Stephenson says carriers, device makers, OS developers, network designers, regulators, and lawmakers will all need to work together to create a play book to tackle the problem. "In parallel with technological solutions, we need our regulatory and law enforcement agencies to go after the bad actors. Shutting down the bad guys is a necessary step, and a powerful example to others. Our goal isn't complicated: Stop unwanted robocalls. Easy to say. Hard to do," said Stephenson in remarks made at the FCC's first meeting of the Robocall Strike Force. Industry player are gathering today to discuss initial plans and are expected to report back with more solid short- and long-term plans on October 19. Some of the companies participating in the Strike Force include AT&T, Apple, Blackberry, Comcast, Ericsson, Google, LG, Microsoft, Nokia, Qualcomm, Samsung, Sprint, T-Mobile, U.S. Cellular, and Verizon.


Samsung Accessories Land Alongside Note7

Aug 19, 2016, 8:00 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

The Samsung Galaxy Note7 reaches U.S. stores today and with it some interesting accessories and companion products from Samsung. The new Gear VR headset, which is compatible with the Note7 and other recent Galaxy phones, has a new look, new color, and expanded field of view. It's available for $100 at carrier stores, as well as Amazon, Best Buy, and Samsung. The Gear 360 camera (pictured), able to shoot 360-degree photos and video, will only be available online for $350. Samsung's Gear IconX wireless earbuds are available, too. These $200 headphones are fully wireless, have built-in memory, and can track workouts. The less expensive Samsung Level Active headphones are sweat proof and can control music/calls for $100. Last, the Samsung Connect auto provides an AT&T-backed in-car hotspot via the OBD II port. The Connect auto can also send alerts to the driver and improve driving safety/efficiency. AT&T will sell the Samsung Connect auto online and in stores. The Galaxy Note7 is Samsung's flagship phablet for the year. It has a 5.7-inch screen, 12-megapixel main camera, Snapdragon 820 processor, 64 GB of storage, and the S Pen stylus. The Note7 is available from AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon.


AT&T's Mobile Share Advantage Plans Drop Overages

Aug 17, 2016, 12:20 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Aug 17, 2016, 12:27 PM

AT&T today announced new service plans for multiple lines that do away with overage charges. The Mobile Share Advantage program includes unlimited talk and text in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico, rollover data, sharable data, mobile hotspot, and unlimited texting to more than 120 other countries. Rather than charge customers overage fees for exceeding their monthly data allotments, AT&T will throttle users back to 2G, or about 128 Kbps, for the remainder of the billing cycle. This is in line with what competitors do. Data plans now start at 1 GB and range up to 100 GB for families, and from 25 GB to 200 GB for businesses. AT&T said new options make the plans more flexible, such as the addition of 6 GB and 10 GB data buckets. Smartphone access charges are now a flat fee of $20 per device. Device payments are extra. The new Mobile Share Advantage plans will be available starting August 21.


AT&T and Cricket Launch the Alcatel Ideal

Aug 17, 2016, 12:08 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

AT&T and Cricket Wireless today announced a low-cost Android handset from Alcatel. The device is the same hardware as the Alcatel Dawn sold by Boost and Virgin, but has been rebadged as the Ideal by AT&T and Streak by Cricket. The phone features a 4.5-inch screen with 854 by 480 resolution, 1.1 GHz quad-core processor, and 1 GB of RAM. The Ideal/Streak includes a 5-megapixel main camera, VGA front camera, 8 GB of storage, 1,780mAh battery, support for LTE, and a memory card slot for microSD cards up to 32 GB. The AT&T Ideal runs Android 5.1 Lollipop, but the Cricket Streak runs Android 6.0 Marshmallow. Cricket is selling the Streak for $30.

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AT&T Offers Discounts to Multi-Line GoPhone Plans

Aug 12, 2016, 11:53 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

AT&T plans to offer small discounts to GoPhone plans with multiple lines. In order to score a discount, customers will need to chose either the $45 plan with 3 GB of data or the $60 plan with 6 GB of data. A second line added to the first will cost $5 less per month, with the third, fourth, and fifth lines costing $10, $15, and $20 less, respectively. Customers must chose a "Multi-Line Account" to receive the per-line discounts. The family-friendly offer kicks off August 19. Further, AT&T says now through September 22, customers can buy one AT&T GoPhone and get one free when activated with a new line of service on a $45 or $60 monthly plan. GoPhone does not charge overages, but does throttle users who exceed their monthly data allotment.


Kyocera DuraForce Pro for Verizon Approved by FCC

Aug 11, 2016, 2:54 PM   by Rich Brome

The FCC today approved new Kyocera phones that seem to match the just-announced DuraForce Pro. One supports both CDMA and LTE 2/4/5/13, a combination unique to Verizon. A separate version compatible with AT&T and T-Mobile networks was also approved today.


Kyocera's New Flagship Rugged Android Phone is the DuraForce Pro

Aug 10, 2016, 8:00 AM   by Rich Brome   updated Aug 10, 2016, 12:43 PM

Kyocera today announced the DuraForce Pro, its new rugged Android phone. The DuraForce is positioned as a significantly upgraded replacement for both the DuraForce and the Brigadier models, and comes in versions both with and without CDMA. That implies the phone may come to both AT&T and Verizon, although Kyocera is not announcing carrier partners at this time, just that it will be released "in the coming months." Most specs have been upgraded compared to the DuraForce/Brigadier. The main camera steps up to 13 megapixels, and is accompanied by a wide-angle "action camera" with 135-degree lens and 5 megapixels, plus 5-megapixel front camera. A fingerprint reader has been added to the side, which works with NFC. It's just as rugged and waterproof, but also fully washable (unaffected by soap). The screen can be used while wet and the camera has an underwater mode. The screen is larger (5 inches) and higher-resolution (full HD). The processor is a faster Snapdragon 617. It also has a larger 3,240 mAh battery and both fast charging and wireless charging. Other features a 3.5mm audio jack, memory card slot, PTT, dual front speakers, and barometer. For business users, it supports enhanced MDM, enterprise Wi-Fi, and advanced VPN capability. Its rugged specs include IP68 and U.S. Military rating for dust, shock, vibration, temperature extremes, temperature shock, blowing rain, low pressure, sun, salt fog, humidity, water immersion (up to 2 meters for 30 minutes), and icing freezing rain. The DuraForce Pro runs Android 6.0 (Marshmallow).


AT&T Touts Galaxy Note7 Offers

Aug 2, 2016, 3:25 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

AT&T today shared information about several promotions associated with the launch of the Samsung Galaxy Note7 smartphone. AT&T is selling the phone for $29.34 per month (for 30 months) with an AT&T Next plan, or for $36.67 per month (for 24 months) with an AT&T Next Every Year plan. Customers who buy a Note7 will be eligible for up to $695 in credit towards the purchase of a second Note7 with a new line of service. The credits will be applied monthly for 30 months. The customer is responsible for the remaining $155 difference, when taking into account the Note7's $849 sale price. Alternately, customers can buy a Note7 and get a free Samsung Gear S2 smartwatch with a two-year agreement, or buy a Note7 and get a Galaxy Tab E for $0.99. AT&T will make the Note7 available for preorder beginning August 3. It will reach AT&T stores August 19.


GameStop Buys More than 500 AT&T Retail Stores

Aug 2, 2016, 2:46 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

GameStop today said it has finalized the acquisition of three AT&T retailers, giving it some 507 authorized AT&T shops. The company completed its purchase of Cellular World Corp., Midwest Cellular, Inc., and Red Skye Wireless, Inc. Together, the three businesses increase GameStop's wireless retail footprint significantly. GameStop already sells Cricket Wireless products and services at 3,400 of its stores, and operates another 1,400 AT&T stores. Terms of the recent acquisitions were not disclosed.


AT&T's Galaxy S7, S7 Edge Gain Security Patch

Jul 28, 2016, 7:53 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

AT&T is sending out the July 1 Android security patch to its variants of the Samsung Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 Edge smartphones. Google made the security patch available earlier this month. It plugs a number of holes in the code, including some that could lead to remote code execution. In addition to the security update, the phones gain access to AT&T's WiFi Calling service. The update for the S7 and S7 Edge can be downloaded and installed over the air.


FCC Wants Carriers to Step Up Anti-Robocall Efforts

Jul 22, 2016, 1:49 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler today asked the country's major telephone providers to improve consumer tools for blocking robocalls. The FCC said robocalls continue to be one of the top complaints filed by consumers. Wheeler sent letters to AT&T, Bandwidth Comms, Frontier, Level3, Sprint, T-Mobile, U.S. Cellular, and Verizon asking them to make blocking tools available to consumers as swiftly as possible. "Consumers want and deserve more control over the calls they receive," wrote Wheeler in a blog post. "I am calling on the carriers and standards groups to accelerate the development and deployment of technical standards that would prevent spoofing of caller ID and thus make blocking technologies more effective. All of these companies have been asked to respond within 30 days with their concrete, actionable solutions to address these issues." The FCC said it will continue to investigate consumer complaints against robocalls and prosecute whenever possible.


T-Mobile Gives Away Free Service in Brazil for Olympics

Jul 21, 2016, 8:17 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

T-Mobile today said its postpaid customers will have access to free mobile data and calling in Brazil for the entire month of August in honor of the 2016 Rio Summer Olympic Games. T-Mobile customers will not have to take any action to enjoy free roaming in Brazil. Those who travel to Brazil will have unlimited high-seed data, unlimited calling to the U.S., and unlimited texting worldwide during their visit. T-Mobile said it is supplying the families of Olympic athletes with free T-Mobile service and a Galaxy S7 Olympic Edition handset through October. AT&T debuted its own roaming plan for Brazil earlier this summer, but it costs $50 to add to an existing service plan. About 100,000 Americans are expected to make the trip to Brazil to watch and participate in the games.


AT&T's Galaxy Note 5 Wins A Security Patch

Jul 19, 2016, 7:39 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

AT&T is sending out the July 1 Android security patch to its variant of the Samsung Galaxy Note 5 smartphone. Google made the security patch available earlier this month. It plugs a number of holes in the code, including some that could lead to remote code execution. The security update for the Note 5 can be downloaded and installed over the air.


AT&T Rolls Out Bogo for GoPhones

Jul 18, 2016, 11:36 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

AT&T today announced that its GoPhone prepaid customers can buy one eligible phone and receive a second for free. The buy one, get one deal goes into effect July 22 and includes phones such as the Samsung Galaxy Express Prime or LG Phoenix 2. The handsets must each cost at least $59.99 in order to be eligible for the buy one, get one deal. Customers must activate both devices on either the $45 or $60 monthly GoPhone plan. The promotion runs through September 22. GoPhone does not require credit checks or contracts.


LG's K10 Hits AT&T Stores July 22

Jul 18, 2016, 11:04 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

AT&T today said it plans to launch the low-cost LG K10 on July 22. The K10, announced earlier this year, features rear-mounted volume controls and home screen button. It has a 5.3-inch HD screen with 2.5D arc glass, a 1.27 GHz quad-core processor, 8-megapixel main camera, and 5-megapixel selfie camera with flash. The K10 has 16 GB of storage and ships with a 2,300mAh battery. It runs Android 6.0 Marshmallow. The K10 will cost $6 per month for 30 months on an on AT&T Next plan. The full retail price is $179.99.


FCC Names Final Set of Reverse Auction Bidders

Jul 15, 2016, 2:01 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

The FCC today published a list of the 62 bidders who've made upfront payments and qualified to bid in the reverse auction for low-band TV spectrum. As expected, the list contains familiar names, such as AT&T, T-Mobile, U.S. Cellular, and Verizon Wireless. A significant number of small companies plan to bid, as well, such as Alaska Wireless and Cellular South. Collectively, bidders will need to cough up more than $86 billion to purchase the 126 MHz of 600 MHz airwaves up for auction. The forward portion of the auction begins August 16.


Kyocera Hydro Shore Washes Up On GoPhone

Jul 15, 2016, 11:46 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

AT&T's prepaid brand, GoPhone, plans to sell the Kyocera Hydro Shore through Walmart stores beginning July 16. The Hydro Shore is water and dust proof, and the 5-inch qHD display supports wet finger tracking. It is powered by a 1.1 GHz quad-core Snapdragon processor and comes with 1 GB of RAM and 8 GB of storage. The main camera has a 5-megapixel sensor and the user-facing camera has a 2-megapixel sensor. The device includes a 2,160mAh battery and runs Android 5.1 Lollipop. Walmart has priced the Kyocera Hydro Shore for GoPhone at $80. (AT&T-owned Cricket Wireless is selling the Hydro Shore as the Hydro View for $50, or as low as $30 with a new account.)


Samsung Flagship Phone, Likely Note 7, Clears FCC

Jul 14, 2016, 1:30 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

The FCC has approved an unannounced handset from Samsung that is most likely the Galaxy Note 7. The device, model name SM-N930U, is banded identically to Samsung's Galaxy S7 smartphone, which marks the N930U as a probable flagship or other high-end phone. The device supports LTE 4G in the various bands used by AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless, as well as the corresponding carrier bands for WCDMA/CDMA 3G. Other technical features confirmed by the FCC include Bluetooth, GPS, NFC, and WiFi radios. The FCC did not post images, user manuals, or any other details regarding the Samsung N930U, nor do the documents refer to the device as the Note 7. Samsung has scheduled an event on August 2 in New York where it is expected to announce the Galaxy Note 7 in full. The timing of the N930U's FCC approval falls in line with a potential August launch.


FCC Sets Framework for 5G Airwaves

Jul 14, 2016, 12:00 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

The FCC today adopted a new set of rules that will govern next-generation 5G networks and technologies. Specifically, the FCC defined and opened up nearly 11 GHz of high-frequency spectrum above the 28 GHz band. The "Upper Microwave Flexible Use" service will exist in the 28 GHz, 37 GHz, 39 GHz, and 64-71 GHz bands for 5G in the U.S. Under the terms set forth by the FCC, the airwaves will be divided into exclusive use licensing, shared access, and unlicensed access to help meet the variety of potential 5G use cases. Opening up this set of airwaves completes what the FCC says is a balanced set of spectrum for wireless broadband in the low, mid, and high frequencies. Wireless companies are still developing the technologies that will eventually become 5G. AT&T and Verizon Wireless have been pushing their tech aggressively and expect to begin real-world trials as soon as late this year.


AT&T Pushing Marshmallow to BlackBerry Priv

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

AT&T is rolling out the Android 6.0 Marshmallow update to its variant of the BlackBerry Priv smartphone. The update includes core Marshmallow features, such as Doze and Now On Tap, as well as the June security update from Google. BlackBerry made its own security improvements, updated the keyboard and notifications, and refined battery life. The update is free download over the air.


AT&T Exploring Use of Drones to Boost Coverage

Jul 13, 2016, 12:40 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

AT&T today said it is testing how best to use drones within its business and went so far as to suggest using them to enhance coverage at live events such as concerts. AT&T is already using drones to inspect cell towers, but it imagines them doing much more. "Connecting drones to our nationwide LTE network lets us capture data and feed it directly to our systems," wrote AT&T's John Donovan in a blog post. "In turn, this can allow us to make changes to our network in real time. By using drones to inspect a cell site, we're able to conduct inspections more quickly and safely — and even access parts of a tower that a human simply could not." Since AT&T's drones are already connected to its network, it sees a future wherein the drones become part of the network itself. "Possible uses include Flying COWs (Cell on Wings) providing LTE coverage at large events or even rapid disaster response," continued Donovan. "A Flying COW may even be able to provide coverage when a vehicle is unable to drive to a designated area." AT&T plans to demonstrate these and other capabilities this week at a technology conference in San Francisco. AT&T did not say if or when it might actually provide LTE coverage via drone.


Cricket Jumps Into Sam's Club Stores In Retail Push

Jul 11, 2016, 9:46 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Cricket Wireless today announced another expansion of its retail footprint with the addition of 400 Sam's Club Stores. Cricket says its phones and services are now available at more than 13,500 retail points around the country. Cricket's plans range from $40 to $70 per month. Cricket is owned and operated by AT&T.


AT&T and Verizon Kick Off Interoperable VoLTE Calling

Jul 6, 2016, 9:38 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

AT&T and Verizon Wireless have begun allowing some customers to place VoLTE calls to one another. The carriers' deployment of interoperable VoLTE is woefully behind schedule. AT&T and Verizon first promised to launch the improved calling by the end of 2015, but only got as far as limited trials. "Currently, we are working with Verizon to allow our customers to enjoy that clear audio quality and video calling features when placing VoLTE calls to Verizon customers and vice versa," said an AT&T spokesperson to Fierce Wireless. "In December, we saw the first VoLTE exchange between our customers and Verizon's in limited, select areas. We're working with others on this same feature, too." AT&T didn't say which markets support interoperable VoLTE, and Verizon did not comment on the deployment at all. There's no word if or when interoperable VoLTE will expand to a greater number of AT&T and Verizon customers. VoLTE requires both the caller and recipient to have compatible handsets and LTE coverage in order to function properly. VoLTE paves the way for HD voice calling, as well as RCS-based services, such as rich messaging and video calls.


AT&T Adds Touch ID Support to MyATT App

Jul 6, 2016, 9:06 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Jul 6, 2016, 9:40 AM

AT&T today made it possible for iPhone owners to use their fingerprint to sign into the myATT app. The personal account tool now supports Touch ID for quick, secure logins. Touch ID is available to the iPhone 5s, 6, 6 Plus, 6s, 6s Plus, and SE. AT&T's myATT app is free to download from the iTunes App Store.


H2O Wireless Improves Data Offerings

Jul 6, 2016, 7:19 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

H2O Wireless, an MVNO that operates on AT&T's network, has increased the data available on its prepaid service plans. The company offers plans that range from $30 to $60, all of which include unlimited talk and text in the US and unlimited text to more than 50 international destinations. The $30 plan includes 500 MB of 3G data and the $35 plan includes 500 MB of LTE data per month. The data improvements impact H2O's more costly plans. The $40 plan jumps from 1 GB to 3 GB, the $50 plan jumps from 2 GB to 4 GB, and the $60 plan jumps from 3 GB to 4.5 GB. The company offers a 10% discount on monthly plans when customers sign up for auto-pay, so the $60 plan, for example, would cost $54. H2O sells a variety of older Android handsets, such as the Samsung Galaxy S5, the original Moto X, and others. Customers may bring their own unlocked, compatible GSM device if they wish.


'AT&T Thanks' Program Rolls Out First Offer

Jun 30, 2016, 8:52 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

AT&T today said its customer appreciation program, called AT&T Thanks, is ready to offer its first perk: Ticket Twosdays. Postpaid customers can score a free movie ticket when they buy one at full price for a Tuesday showing. Qualifying customers can get a free ticket each week by visiting AT&T's web site, where they have to verify their number/account in order to receive a coupon code. AT&T said AMC Theatres and Regal Entertainment Group are participating in Ticket Twosdays. Another promo includes priority pre-sales to Live Nation concerts. AT&T says customers will be able to purchase concert tickets and VIP packages ahead of general availability. The Live Nation ticket program doesn't kick off until the fall. There is no cost to take advantage of AT&T Thanks, nor is there an app to download. T-Mobile launched its own customer appreciation program earlier this month.


FCC Incentive Auction Racks Up $86B In Clearing Costs

Jun 29, 2016, 11:57 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Jun 29, 2016, 12:11 PM

The FCC today said that the reverse portion of its incentive auction is now complete. Bidding for 600 MHz television airwaves is over, and the cost to clear the 126 MHz spectrum target exceeded $86.4 billion. The FCC expects to begin the forward portion of the auction soon, which will see wireless companies bid on the spectrum blocks. Carriers AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless are participating, but Sprint is sitting out. The auction drew lots of interest from individual bidders, too. It's not clear how much the FCC expects to make from auctioning off the airwaves moving forward, but bidders will need to meet or exceed the $86.4 billion at a minimum. The airwaves are vital low-band spectrum to be used for mobile broadband. "Today, bidding concluded in the reverse auction, establishing the cost for clearing 126 MHz in the TV band for wireless use," said the FCC's Gary Epstein in a prepared statement. "Strong participation from broadcast stations made this initial clearing target possible. Now the action shifts to the forward auction, which will give wireless bidders the opportunity to compete for this beachfront spectrum to meet America's growing mobile data needs."


Blu R1 HD Revealed In Full

Jun 29, 2016, 8:44 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Amazon today announced the Blu R1 HD, an inexpensive Android smartphone that will be sold unlocked starting July 12. The R1 HD boasts curved Gorilla Glass 3, a metal frame, and soft-touch paint job on the rear cover to give it a premium feel. The screen measures 5 inches with 720p HD resolution and the phone is powered by a 1.3 GHz quad-core MediaTek 6735 processor with 8 GB of storage and 1 GB of RAM. The R1 HD includes an 8-megapixel main camera with f/2.0 aperture and LED flash, while the selfie camera — which has an LED flash of its own — captures 5-megapixel images. The phone can record video up to 1080p HD. The Blu R1 HD runs Android 6.0 Marshmallow and comes with support for two SIM cards and microSD cards up to 64 GB. The phone is sold unlocked and is compatible with the networks run by AT&T and T-Mobile (LTE in Bands 2, 4, 7, 17). The device costs $100, but will be sold exclusively by Amazon for $50 with ads and promotions appearing on the lock screen. A second variant includes 16 GB of storage and 2 GB of RAM for $10 more.


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