The FCC has approved AT&T's proposed acquisition of several spectrum licenses from KanOkla Telephone Association. The transfer includes one Lower 700 MHz C Block license and the partial assignment of a second Lower 700 MHz C Block license, for a total of 12 megahertz, covering parts of two local market areas in Kansas and Oklahoma. Similar to a transaction the FCC approved earlier this week, the KanOkla spectrum buy will give AT&T control of more than one-third of the low-band spectrum in the stated ares. Even so, the FCC determined the transfer does not pose any competitive harm and will likely result in some benefits for consumers. AT&T and KanOkla Telephone Association did not place a dollar value on the spectrum sale. Such transactions are common in the industry.
Sprint rolled out a promotion today that takes direct aim at rival AT&T. The company is offering DirecTV customers who switch to Sprint 12 months of free service. The offer includes unlimited talk and text and up to 2GB of LTE 4G data. Sprint said it will pay the ETFs for those who switch, as well as any remaining equipment payments up to $300. Customers will be responsible for a $36 activation charge and monthly taxes and fees. Once the 12-month promotion ends, users will be moved to a $50 monthly service plan (for a single line). The free year of service does not include Sprint's international services, and data overages are charged at $0.015 per MB. The promotion will be available from Aug. 28 through Sept. 30. DirecT was recently acquired by AT&T.
Samsung is inviting a select number of people to beta test Samsung Pay in the U.S. In order to trial the mobile payment platform, consumers need to have a Galaxy S6, S6 Edge, S6 Edge+, or Note 5 smartphone. AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint, and U.S. Cellular are supporting Samsung Pay at launch, Verizon Wireless is not. The beta requires users to have an active Samsung account and a MasterCard or Visa credit/debit card from Bank of America, Merrill Lynch, U.S. Trust, or U.S. Bank. Samsung Pay uses both NFC and MST for tap-and-go transactions. Apple Pay and Android Pay, in comparison, use only NFC. Consumers can request an invite to test Samsung Pay from Samsung.com.
The FCC has given Kaplan Telephone Inc. permission to sell several spectrum licenses to AT&T. The two Lower 700 MHz C Block licenses and a Cellular B Block license cover parts of two local market areas in Louisiana. The transaction will give AT&T control of more than one-third of the low-band spectrum in the region, but the FCC determined that the transfer does not pose any competitive harm and will likely result in some benefits for consumers. AT&T and Kaplan did not place a dollar value on the spectrum sale.
AT&T has begun rebranding its Iusacell and Nextel properties in Mexico under the AT&T name. Moving forward, people who visit Iusacell and Nextel stores will be buying AT&T Unidos service plans (Unidos con Todo and Unidos a tu Manera, respectively). Authorized resellers in Mexico will offer the same plans. AT&T said stores will begin rebranding by late this year and they should all be converted by late 2016. AT&T plans to invest in Iusacell and Nextel, starting with more advanced LTE 4G networks. With the new plans, new stores, and new network, AT&T believes it can better serve consumers in Mexico.
Oppo today announced two new handsets, the R7 Plus and the R5s (pictured). Both share thin and premium designs with internal specs such as 1.5GHz octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 615 processors, 3GB of RAM, 32GB of storage, and 13-megapixel Sony cameras.
- R7 Plus: The larger of the two phones has a 6-inch, full HD AMOLED screen protected by Gorilla Glass 3, a 4,100mAh battery, and an 8-megapixel user-facing camera. The R7 Plus runs ColorOS 2.1, which is based on Android 5.1 Lollipop.
- R5s: The smaller of the two handsets is an update to the R5 and has a 5.2-inch full HD screen, 2,000mAh battery, and a 5-megapixel user-facing camera. The R5s runs ColorOS 2.0, which is based on Android 4.4 KitKat.
The FCC has officially and unanimously rejected Dish Network's $3.3 billion in AWS-3 spectrum auction discounts. Dish used three smaller companies, in which it owned an 85% stake each, to place bids on its behalf. The smaller companies, known as designated entities, qualified as small businesses and received a significant discount on their $13.1 billion auction tally. Dish competitors AT&T and Verizon Wireless cried foul over Dish's bidding techniques. Dish maintains that it adhered to the auction rules and expressed disappointment over the FCC's decision. Dish owns significant swaths of spectrum, but has yet to deploy any sort of wireless network. Last month, the FCC voted in new rules that prevent such discounts in the future.
Sprint will soon stop asking customers to sign two-year contracts when purchasing new phones, says the Wall Street Journal. The change coincides with moves made by its competitors, including T-Mobile and Verizon Wireless. Sprint CEO Marcelo Claure told the Journal that it will move to a phone-leasing/financing model, such as the one it debuted earlier today for the iPhone, before January. Claure suggested that its parent company, SoftBank, will help it offset some of the costs associated with leasing — rather than selling — handsets to customers. SoftBank last week spoke of plans to create a subsidiary that might help finance some of Sprint's handset-related costs. The wireless industry has been transitioning from the subsidized, contract model to leasing and/or financing programs since T-Mobile announced its first Uncarrier move in 2013. AT&T is the lone national carrier still offering yearly contracts in addition to financing plans.
AT&T is being called a "highly collaborative" partner of the NSA, and showed the government agency an "extreme willingness to help" spy on Americans, suggests a new report published by the New York Times. The Times based its report on documents supplied by Edward Snowden, the former NSA contractor who first revealed the government's mass-scale spying efforts two years ago. AT&T has allowed the government to snoop on its customers for well more than a decade. It has been handing the government customer emails and call records since 2001 or 2002. In 2011, AT&T stepped up and began handing the NSA more than 1.1 billion cell phone call records per day. The NSA documents do not call AT&T by name, but descriptions of the company, its size, facilities, and customers more or less confirm its identity. "We don't comment on matters of national security," said an AT&T spokesperson in response to the report. In June, Congress passed the USA Freedom Act, which put an end to the bulk phone data collection. However, there was a provision in the act that allowed the program to be extended for a period of six months to give the government time to transition to another method of spying. The NSA resumed collecting call records July 1.
T-Mobile CEO John Legere announced today on Twitter that the company will "push" its phone manufacturers partners to include and enable FM radio features on T-Mobile phones. The move comes two weeks after AT&T announced a similar initiative. Most phones include some FM radio circuitry in the main chipset, but may not include all of the necessary connections to enable the feature. It is considered a relatively cheap and easy feature to include. Most phones with the feature use the cord of connected wired headphones as the FM radio antenna. The makers of the third-party FM radio app NextRadio have been campaigning recently for more phones to include the necessary hardware support. FM radio uses less battery and data than streaming music services, and of course the broadcasts are free to anyone in range.
AT&T today adjusted the monthly data allotments available in its Mobile Share Value plans. The least-expensive plan costs $20 per month and includes 300MB. Stepping up to $30 buys 2GB, $50 buys 5GB, $100 buys 15GB, and $140 buys 20GB. These new amounts/prices are a slightly better value than they were before. The first three options require $25 monthly access fees per line, while the latter two only require $15. The latter two also get unlimited calling and messaging to Mexico and Canada as a bonus feature. AT&T said customers who need more than 20GB can talk to sales reps about its 25GB, 30GB, 40GB, and 50GB plans. All plans continue to offer unlimited voice minutes and messaging both in the U.S. and to international numbers. They also include Data Rollover. The new AT&T Mobile Share Value plans will be available starting Aug. 14.
The majority of U.S. wireless network operators will offer the Samsung Galaxy Note 5 and S6 Edge+. AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, U.S. Cellular, and Verizon Wireless all plan to sell the new handsets from Samsung. The Note 5 and S6 Edge+ will also be sold by Amazon.com, Best Buy, Costco, Sam's Club, Target, and some Walmart stores. Carriers and retailers will confirm specific pricing and availability details.
SoftBank's plans for Sprint have not unfolded as CEO Masayoshi Son hoped. Son initially believed a merger with competitor T-Mobile would serve the carrier, but was dismayed when U.S. antitrust regulators shot the idea down. "I was thinking to myself: 'I made one of the biggest mistakes in my life,' which was the misjudgment of the U.S. regulatory environment," said Son. SoftBank closed its equity stake in Sprint just two years ago, and the company has already considered selling Sprint to Comcast in the U.S. or Altice in Europe, according to the Wall Street Journal. Son's plan to sell Sprint went nowhere. Son also considered writing off the acquisition as a total loss. Now, SoftBank is facing the costly prospect of improving Sprint's network to entice back customers it has lost to rivals over the years. Sprint plans to install tens of thousands of small cells to improve the density of its network around the country, but is burning cash at an alarming rate and may go broke by mid 2016 if it doesn't reduce expenditures. For legal reasons, SoftBank's hands are tied; it cannot invest too much more money in Sprint's turnaround. It is considering forming two stand-alone entities to help finance Sprint's network and handset-leasing expenses to keep debt off Sprint's balance sheet. Son replaced Sprint CEO Dan Hesse a year ago with Marcelo Claure, who has made some progress in retaining customers, but the carrier still has a long way to go. It recently fell behind T-Mobile, which now stands as the country's third-largest carrier, behind AT&T and Verizon. Masayoshi Son and Claure hope the network densification plan and more consumer-friendly service plans will help put the carrier on a more positive track.
Pure TalkUSA today announced a major retail expansion. Consumers can now find its phones and SIM card packs in 1,600 Sears and Kmart stores around the country. Pure TalkUSA is a low-cost MVNO that operates on AT&T's network. Its prepaid plans range in cost from $5 to $29 per month. It sells a range of handsets, from entry-level flip phones to today's latest flagships. Customers can bring their own device and purchase only a SIM card if they prefer. The company is targeting seniors, teens, college students, and cost-conscious families.
Alcatel OneTouch today announced that it will soon sell the 4.7-inch version of its Idol 3 flagship in the U.S. and Canada. The Idol 3 4.7 shares virtually all features with the larger 5.5-inch model, which has been available since May. As the name implies, the screen measures 4.7 inches across the diagonal and it has 720p HD resolution. The phone is powered by a 1.2GHz quad-core Snapdragon 400 processor with 1GB of RAM and 16GB of internal storage. The Idol 3 4.7 has stereo JBL speakers with Clarify processing, and each speaker has its own dedicated 1.2W amplifier for full sound. The phone is reversible, meaning it can be held in any orientation and the user interface will rotate accordingly. The main camera uses a Sony sensor that rates 13 megapixels. It includes a variety of modes and video-capture options. The user-facing camera captures 5-megapixel images. Wireless radios include LTE for AT&T and T-Mobile, Bluetooth 4.1, FM radio, GPS, and WiFi. The Idol 3 4.7 supports microSD cards up to 128GB. The Alcatel OneTouch Idol 3 4.7 will be available unlocked from Alcatel's web site and Amazon.com on Friday, Aug. 14. The retail price is $179.99.
DirecTV today rolled out a new promotion that will reward customers who switch wireless carriers to AT&T with $500. The deal is available to existing DirecTV and AT&T U-verse television customers. Any customer that changes carriers will receive a $300 bill credit for each line ported to AT&T. Further, customers who also trade in an eligible smartphone will receive an additional $200 in credits. For example, DirecTV said a family of four that switches to AT&T and trades in four smartphones can receive up to $2,000 in bill credits. This promotion is available on top of the existing deal that reduces the bill of customers who combine DirecTV/U-verse television service with AT&T wireless service by $10 per month. The $500 bill credit promotion will only be available for a limited time.
The FCC today formally rejected T-Mobile's bid to set aside more low-band spectrum for smaller carriers in next year's 600MHz auction. T-Mobile wanted to see a total of 40MHz of the valuable low-band airwaves set aside for carriers other than AT&T and Verizon Wireless. The FCC said in June it would likely keep the reserve at 30MHz, which it proposed last year, and today voted on the matter officially. The 600MHz auction will see television broadcasters voluntarily give up their spectrum licenses, which will then be bid on by mobile network operators. The FCC is still locking down some of the rules that will govern the auction. The auction is expected to begin in mid-2016.
T-Mobile has lowered the price points of the Samsung Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge a week after Samsung said it would drop the phones' prices. The Galaxy S6 now costs $580, $660, and $660 for the 32 GB, 64 GB, and 128 GB models, respectively. Those reflect price drops of $100 to $200. The Galaxy S6 Edge has similar price cuts, and now costs $680, $760, and $760 for the 32 GB, 64 GB, and 128 GB models, respectively. Samsung reported its second quarter earnings recently and indicated the S6 and S6 Edge were not selling as well as hoped. In response, Samsung said it "plans to firmly maintain its sale of premium smartphones by flexibly adjusting the price of the Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge." T-Mobile's competitors, AT&T, Sprint, and Verizon Wireless, have yet to follow the Uncarrier's lead, but they likely will in the near future.
AT&T said a problem with its wireline network was to blame for spotty cellular coverage in portions of Alabama, Indiana, Kentucky, and Tennessee this evening. AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless customers in those four states reported connectivity issues starting in the late afternoon. They took to social media in droves to complain about the lack of service. AT&T provides backhaul coverage for itself and its competitors in the region. "We've pinpointed the issue in the Southeast and are working to restore service as quickly as possible," said AT&T via its Twitter account. Sprint and Verizon took to their own social media accounts to assure customers that the issue will soon be resolved. "Verizon engineers worked with our vendors to identify and resolve the issue and service was restored by 8pm," said Verizon. AT&T has yet to provide specific details about the hardware issue that caused the problem.
Sprint reported its second quarter earnings today and the numbers reveal it has fallen behind competitor T-Mobile in the total number of customers. T-Mobile, which gained a total of 2 million new customers during the second quarter, reported a total customer base on 58.9 million. Sprint saw net additions of 675,000 customers during the second quarter, but that left it with a total of 57 million. T-Mobile now ranks as the third-largest U.S. carrier in terms of customers, and Sprint ranks fourth. AT&T and Verizon Wireless still hold the top two spots. Sprint reported a financial loss for the quarter of $20 million on revenue of $8 billion. Despite the loss, Sprint reduced churn and ceded just 12,000 postpaid smartphone subscribers, which are considered the most lucrative to hold. The company said it continues to work aggressively to improve its network and cut costs. Sprint is mostly owned by SoftBank, based in Japan. CEO Marcelo Claure has been on board for just about a year. He recently shook up the executive suite and installed a new CFO and COO.
AT&T today rolled out combined wireless and television packages that rely on its recent acquisition of DirecTV. The basic package includes four wireless lines with unlimited talk and text with 10 GB of shared data and HD television service with up to four receivers (DirecTV or U-verse) for a combined price of $200 per month. AT&T is offering four different TV packages, including DirecTV Select or U-verse U-Family for $50 per month; DirecTV Xtra or U-verse U-200 for $70; DirecTV Ultimate or U-verse U-300 for $75; and DirecTV Premiere or U-verse U-450 for $125. The $200 combined price includes the entry-level $50 TV plan and AT&T's $160 four-line wireless family plan. Customers who choose one of the other DirecTV packages will still see a $10 monthly discount when wireless and television services are combined on a single bill. Customers may also choose to add AT&T's home broadband internet services on top of the wireless and television packages. AT&T customers who sign up for DirecTV will be given access to DirecTV's mobile video apps before the DirecTV service is even installed. Existing DirecTV customers who switch to AT&T will be given a $300 bill credit. AT&T is now selling DirecTV services at 2,000 stores around the country. The bundled wireless/TV packages will be available August 10.
Cricket Wireless today improved its international offering by adding the ability to make calls and send text messages from Canada and Mexico to the U.S. The change means Cricket customers who travel to Canada and Mexico will be able to stay in touch with family and friends in the U.S. while they are away. Cricket customers are already able to make unlimited calls and send unlimited messages from the U.S. to Canada and Mexico. Cricket said the "roundtrip" feature will be available to its Smart and Pro plans ($50 and $60 per month, respectively) for at no extra cost. The unlimited calling/SMS feature goes into effect for Mexico on August 2 and will go into effect for Canada later in August. Cricket's move follows similar calling plan changes made by parent company AT&T, as well as competitors T-Mobile and MetroPCS.
Google today said support for its Android for Work program has swelled to 40 companies thanks to the addition of new carriers, phone makers, app developers, and management providers. AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, and Sprint in the U.S., and Rogers, Bell Canada, and Telus Mobility in Canada have thrown their weight behind Android for Work, marking the first time carriers have joined the program. This means people/businesses will be able to ask their carriers to provide the security, device management, and productivity tools included in Android for Work. Samsung is working with Android for Work, too, in conjunction with its own KNOX services. Silent Circle's forthcoming Blackphone 2 is another handset that will support Android for Work. Google says more than 10,000 businesses are testing, deploying, or using Android for Work. The program is meant to help offer secure connections to corporate information, the ability for IT to manage devices remotely, and access to Google's productivity apps.
AT&T has requested that all its handset manufacturer partners include functional FM radios in their Android smartphones by 2016. Further, the company is asking its OEM partners to enable any FM radios that may be dormant inside existing handsets. FM radios are often included on modules that bundle other radios, such as Bluetooth, WiFi, and cellular. The move means AT&T's Android customers will be able to listen to local FM radio via their smartphones through apps, such as NextRadio. The National Association of Broadcasters applauded the move, saying, "[This] marks a new beginning in mobile technology with the agreement by a global iconic brand, AT&T, to light up the FM receiver chips in all of its future Android smartphones." NextRadio, which makes it easy to find an listen to local FM radio stations, competes with myriad other third-party music services on smartphones.
AT&T has filed a waiver with the FCC asking the agency to alter some of the rules governing how AT&T serves deaf and hard-of-hearing customers so it can deploy WiFi calling sooner. AT&T plans to use WiFi to supplement its cellular network in some areas. According to AT&T, however, the TTY technology used to provide telephony services to the deaf is outdated and unreliable when pushed over WiFi. AT&T has a replacement technology, called Real-Time Text, or RTT, under development. "RTT is designed to provide better functionality than TTY, working over WiFi calling and other new IP-based networks," explained AT&T in a blog post. "Once we implement RTT, it will be backwards compatible with TTY so our customers using RTT can still communicate with TTY users, including 911 centers." AT&T can't use RTT, however, until the FCC gives it permission to make the switch. Once AT&T is allowed to jump to RTT, it will be able to move forward with its WiFi network and WiFi-based calling services. The FCC has not publicly responded to AT&T's request.
AT&T is not happy about the FCC's proposed $100 million fine levied against the carrier regarding its throttling practices. The FCC last month alleged that AT&T did not properly inform grandfathered unlimited customers about its network management techniques, which included slowing their internet speeds. In a filing, AT&T called the FCC's actions unprecedented and indefensible. "It is absurd to suggest that AT&T intended to or actually did mislead the relevant Unlimited Data Plan customers. Those customers were repeatedly advised of AT&T's congestion management practices, and, for nearly four years, they chose to keep their service," argued AT&T. "While the [FCC] speaks of AT&T's 'culpability' and 'clear knowledge' that it was misleading customers, the evidence is to the contrary. AT&T made multiple disclosures by email, bill message, text message, and online posting, precisely so that potentially affected customers would be informed about the policy." AT&T has requested the FCC to withdraw the fine. The FCC said it will weigh AT&T's request before making a final judgment in the matter.
AT&T today said it has completed its acquisition of DirecTV. The FCC approved the acquisition earlier today, and AT&T was quick to finalize the paperwork. "Combining DirecTV with AT&T is all about giving customers more choices for great video entertainment integrated with mobile and high-speed Internet service," said Randall Stephenson, AT&T chairman and CEO. "This transaction allows us to significantly expand our high-speed internet service to reach millions more households, which is a perfect complement to our coast-to-coast TV and mobile coverage, We're now a fundamentally different company with a diversified set of capabilities and businesses that set us apart from the competition." AT&T said current customers will not need to take any action now that the deal is complete. It will take several months to fully merge the operations of both companies. AT&T said it will roll out new television, internet, and wireless packages in the months ahead.
The FCC today gave formal approval to AT&T's proposed acquisition of satellite TV provider DirecTV. The FCC believes that as long as AT&T adheres to the conditions of the deal, it will serve the broader public interest. Specifically, AT&T will be required to expand its deployment of fiber-optic broadband service to 12.5 million customer locations, as well as to eligible schools and libraries. Further, AT&T will be prohibited from using discriminatory practices to disadvantage online video distribution services. Last, it will be required to offer broadband services to low-income consumers at discounted rates. The merger improves the reach of AT&T's cable television business. FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler had floated a draft approval of the acquisition earlier this week. Today's decision, following a vote of the remaining commissioners, makes it final.
Asus today announced the ZenFone 2E for AT&T's GoPhone prepaid service. This entry-level handset features a 5-inch 720p HD screen, and relies on a dual-core Intel Atom Z2560 processor with 1 GB of RAM and 8 GB of storage. Asus says the Atom chip works hand-in-hand with the PowerVR SGX544 MP2 GPU for smooth gaming performance. The ZenFone 2E has an 8-megapixel camera with f/2.0 aperture and a 2-megapixel front camera. The 2,500mAh battery is good for more than 19 hours of talk time. It includes Bluetooth 4.0, WiFi, GPS, and support for LTE. The phone runs Android 5.0 Lollipop with Asus' Zen UI skin on top. The ZenFone 2E is available today at Target and Walmart stores, and reaches AT&T stores on July 24 and Best Buy on August 2. The phone costs $119.99.
FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler has recommended to his fellow commissioners that the agency approve AT&T's proposed acquisition of DirecTV. The Chairman said AT&T will have to meet several net neutrality-based conditions in order to garner final approval. For example, AT&T will not be allowed to exclude affiliated video services from data caps on its fixed broadband connections. This is meant to prevent discrimination against competing video providers. Further, AT&T will have to submit all completed interconnection agreements to the FCC, along with regular reports about the performance of its network. The FCC said an independent officer will be appointed to assure AT&T lives by the conditions. "The proposed order outlines a number of conditions that will directly benefit consumers by bringing more competition to the broadband marketplace," said Wheeler. "If the conditions are approved by my colleagues, 12.5 million customer locations will have access to a competitive high-speed fiber connection. This additional build-out is about 10 times the size of AT&T's current fiber-to-the-premise deployment, increases the entire nation's residential fiber build by more than 40%, and more than triples the number of metropolitan areas AT&T has announced plans to serve." Wheeler did not say how the other commissioners intend to vote on the matter.
AT&T today confirmed to Phone Scoop that it plans to raise some fees beginning August 1. Moving forward, the activation fee for one- and two-year plans will increase from $40 to $45. AT&T raised the fee from $35 to $40 a year ago. Moreover, AT&T is for the first time adding an activation fee to its AT&T Next plans. The AT&T Next plans have always featured a $0 down initiation cost. Starting August 1, AT&T Next plans will charge a $15 activation fee with new lines. The $15 activation fee applies to new customers who bring their own handset, as well. "We are making a few adjustments to our activation and upgrade fee structures. Any lines already on a Next plan before August 1 are not affected at this time," said an AT&T spokesperson via email. Verizon raised its activation fee from $35 to $40 in January.
Ubik Mobile today announced the Uno, an affordable flagship smartphone that it is making available via Kickstarter. The handset runs a stock version of Android 5.1 Lollipop and features a 5.5-inch 1080p HD screen protected by Gorilla Glass 3. The display has minimal bezels along the sides, giving it an edge-to-edge look. The Uno is powered by a 2.2 GHz MediaTek octa-core processor with 3 GB of RAM. The main camera has a 20-megapixel sensor with autofocus, f/2.2 aperture, and 4K video capture, while the user-facing camera has an 8-megapixel sensor. The Ubik Uno has 16 GB of storage, Bluetooth 4.0, NFC, WiFi, and support for memory cards up to 64 GB. The Uno is sold for $345 unlocked and it supports GSM-based LTE networks, such as those operated by AT&T and T-Mobile. The device will initially be sold through a Kickstarter campaign. The first 250 backers will get the Uno for $280, with other tiers priced at $299 and $320. The Kickstarter campaign has 44 days left and Ubik said it expects to ship the phone early in the fourth quarter. Ubik said the phone's software is nearly complete and, with production processes in place, it expects to test its manufacturing facilities soon. If Ubik Mobile doesn't hit its Kickstarter goal of $200,000, it may increase the price of the phone slightly and move forward anyway. The company said it will poll users through its web site as to what features it should include in future devices. They'll be able to choose from a bigger battery, thinner profile, and other potential features.
The FCC is prepared to reject Dish Network's $3.3 billion in auction discounts, reports the Wall Street Journal. Dish used three smaller companies to place bids on its behalf. The smaller companies, known as designated entities, qualified as small businesses and received a significant discount on their $13.1 billion auction tally. Dish competitors AT&T and Verizon Wireless, which placed first and third in the auction, respectively, cried foul over Dish's bidding techniques. Dish maintains that it adhered to the auction rules. Dish owns lots of spectrum and won big in the AWS-3 auction, but has yet to deploy any sort of wireless network. Dish did not comment on the Journal's story, which was not confirmed by the FCC. Earlier today, the FCC voted in new rules that prevent such actions in the future.
The GSMA said it is in advanced talks with Apple and Samsung to adopt the nearly-finalized electronic SIM card standard moving forward. The GSMA has been working with the industry on electronic SIMs for some time and is close to announcing a final standard. "We have got everyone back on one point, with Apple and Samsung agreeing to be part of that specification," said GSMA CEO Anne Bouverot. "We have been working with them and others to create an industry solution for machines and will agree on a solution for consumer electronics." Electronic SIMs would replace the plastic SIM cards used in today's cellphones. Electronic SIMs will make it far easier for consumers to change carriers and service plans without futzing with the physical SIMs. AT&T, Deutsche Telekom, Etisalat, Hutchison Whampoa, Orange, Telefónica, and Vodafone have already voiced support for the forthcoming standard. "With the majority of operators on board, the plan is to finalize the technical architecture that will be used in the development of an end-to-end remote SIM solution for consumer devices, with delivery anticipated by 2016," said the GSMA. Apple developed is own universal SIM card last year, but it was not widely adopted. The new electronic SIM will not appear in the new iPhones expected in September, according to the Financial Times. Apple and Samsung did not comment on the GSMA's statements.
U.S. Cellular is targeting AT&T and Verizon Wireless customers by promising to offer a lower monthly bill. It is inviting AT&T and Verizon subscribers to bring their bills into U.S. Cellular retail stores for a comparison. If U.S. Cellular can't beat the prices charged by AT&T and Verizon with a comparable plan of its own, it will offer a $50 promotional gift card to the prospective customer. Consumers who port their AT&T/Verizon number to U.S. Cellular will receive a guarantee of lower-cost service as long as they choose a Shared Connect plan. The price guarantee applies only to monthly service and not the device. U.S. Cellular also said it will pay off customers' ETFs and remaining device payments — no matter the total — if they port their number to a Shared Connect plan with installment pricing and Device Protection+. U.S. Cellular didn't say how long it is offering the promotion.
HTC today revealed a new family of Desire handsets. The 626 series (pictured) and 526/520 series share many features, though the former is a bit more mid-range and the latter is decidedly entry-level. Traits common to the 626, 626S, 526, and 520 include Qualcomm's 1.1 GHz quad-core Snapdragon 210 processor; 2,000mAh batteries; single-band WiFi, Bluetooth 4.1, and GPS/GLONASS; support for 2 TB memory cards; and Android 5.1 Lollipop with HTC Sense.
- 626/626S: In keeping with prior Desire designs, the 626/626S are formed of polycarbonate and have variable color combinations. These larger Desire handsets have 5-inch 720p HD screens and 8-megapixel main cameras with 720p video capture. The 626 has 16 GB of storage, 1.5GB of RAM, and a 5-megapixel user-facing camera. The 626S has 8 GB of storage, 1 GB of RAM, and a 2-megapixel user-facing camera.
- 526/520:The 526 and 520 share most design features, but differ in some key specs. They have a simple appearance and cheaper materials. The 526, intended for Verizon, has a 4.7-inch qHD screen, 8-megapixel rear camera, 2-megapixel front camera, 8 GB of storage, and 1.5 GB of RAM. The 520, intended for Cricket Wireless, has a 4.5-inch FWVGA screen, 8-megapixel rear camera, 2-megapixel front camera, 8 GB of storage, and 1 GB of RAM.
AT&T will begin updating the HTC One M9 to Android 5.1 Lollipop on July 15, according to HTC rep Mo Versi. Notably, the system update includes improvements for the camera. The update will be available over-the-air.
ROK Mobile, a music-focused MVNO, today said it has significantly expanded coverage by partnering with "the nation's largest 4G LTE network." ROK Mobile didn't name its new partner, but said customers can now enjoy cellular network access in more places. The carrier has already partnered with Sprint and T-Mobile, so the new partner is either AT&T or Verizon Wireless. ROK also announced plans to expand its retail availability across the country this month. ROK Mobile services will be available at "independently owned and operated" mobile phone stores nationwide starting in a few weeks. ROK didn't name its retail partners, but said it plans to be in 10,000 locations by the end of the year. ROK Mobile bundles wireless and music streaming services together for $49.99 per month. For that, users get 5GB of LTE 4G, unlimited calling and messaging, and unlimited access to ROK's 20 million tracks. Consumers interested in ROK Mobile need to supply their own Sprint- or T-Mobile-compatible handset. The service works on Android and iOS devices through ROK's mobile app.
Sony has made the Xperia Z3+ available through Amazon's U.S. web site. The phone is being sold unlocked and is compatible with GSM carriers, such as AT&T and T-Mobile. Verizon Wireless plans to sell a variant of the phone, called the Z3v, later this summer. It has a 5.2-inch full HD screen, 20.7-megapixel main camera, wide-angle 5-megapixel front camera, and a quad-core Snapdragon 810 processor with 3 GB of RAM. Amazon is selling it for about $640.
Beginning today, most smartphones sold in the U.S. will include anti-theft security tools. July 1 marks the day by which phone makers and network operators agreed to implement free theft deterrents on smartphones. According to the CTIA, most of the industry has responded by placing remote lock/wipe capabilities on consumer devices. The addition of an activation lock on the Apple iPhone, for example, has dramatically reduced iPhone thefts in major cities. The activation lock prevents a stolen device from being activated by another person, thus making it useless to thieves. Remote wipe features allow people to erase the personal data from their handset if lost/stolen to protect their identity. The major participants in today's action include Apple, AT&T, BlackBerry, Google, HTC, Huawei, LG, Motorola, Microsoft, Samsung, Sprint, T-Mobile, U.S. Cellular, Verizon Wireless, and ZTE. "Today's fulfillment of the Smartphone Anti-Theft Voluntary Commitment is another example of the wireless industry proactively working together with policymakers and law enforcement to help protect consumers' smartphones in the event they are ever lost or stolen. We will continue to work with all interested parties to continue to deploy new technologies and tools to improve device theft-deterrence tools. We remind consumers to take a few minutes to use PINs, passwords, apps and other device features to protect their mobile devices and personal information." The industry was coerced into acting "voluntarily" when the FCC threatened to make such protective measures mandatory.