Softcard today indicated that the Windows Phone version of the Softcard mobile payment application will be discontinued. "The Softcard for Windows Phone app will be terminated. A specific termination date will be provided soon," said Softcard in a statement on a new FAQ web site published today. Softcard was developed by AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless. Supported devices, including a handful of Windows Phones sold by AT&T and Verizon, can use Softcard to make tap-and-go mobile payments at participating retailers. Google purchased Softcard's assets from AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon earlier this week to bolster its own Google Wallet application. The three carriers have agreed to preload Google Wallet on their Android handsets moving forward. Wallet competed with Softcard. Softcard didn't indicate how soon the Windows Phone app will be deactivated. Without it, Windows Phone handsets won't have the same mobile payment options available to Android and iOS devices.
LG today announced the global launch of the G Flex 2, its second-generation curved handset. LG said major carriers in the U.S., Hong Kong, Singapore, France, Germany, and the U.K are rolling the device out first. Sprint has already said when it will sell the phone, though AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon have remained mum on their G Flex 2 plans. LG said a second wave of operators in North and South America, Europe, and Asia will begin selling the G Flex 2 later in March. LG first revealed the G Flex 2 at the Consumer Electronics Show in January. The G Flex 2 is a curved smartphone that is flexible and has a self-healing rear cover. The phone features a Snapdragon 810 processor, 13-megapixel camera, 5.5-inch screen, and 3,000mAh battery.
Ting, an MVNO that until today only resold access to Sprint's network, has added service from an unnamed GSM network. Anyone may sign up for the service, which Ting is offering as a beta. It requires users to purchase a Ting SIM card to be used with an unlocked, compatible GSM handset. Ting said international roaming and international long distance is unavailable for the moment. Ting's beta service for GSM devices does not require an invitation, it is open to all. Ting offers a la carte service and only charges for what people use. Prices start at $15 per month for 100 minutes, 100 messages, and 100MB of data. Ting did not say which GSM network it is riding on, but the coverage map suggests it is using T-Mobile.
Google today announced that AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless have agreed to preload Google Wallet on their Android smartphones later this year. The mobile wallet will come on all devices running Android 4.4 KitKat and higher. At the same time, Google is purchasing intellectual property from Softcard -- the mobile payment service created by the same three carriers -- to help improve Wallet's performance. Softcard said its users will be able to continue to make tap-and-go payments at supporting retailers for the time being. Both Google and Softcard said more information will be made available in the coming weeks. Google is looking to revive its mobile wallet product after seeing Apple's success with Apple Pay, which is only available to the iPhone. Google Wallet has been around since 2011.
T-Mobile CEO John Legere today teased the forthcoming Samsung Galaxy S6 smart phone in a post to his personal Twitter account. Legere said, "Was there even a question? Of course T-Mobile will carry The Next Big Thing." Legere supplied a link to T-Mobile's web site, which has a sign up page for an unnamed Samsung device with the phrase "Six Appeal" emblazoned across the top. The silhouette on the page shows a phone with a curved display, much like the Galaxy Note Edge. Samsung is expected to reveal the Galaxy S6 in Barcelona on March 1.
Gemalto found itself at the center of a new hacking scandal this week after The Intercept reported the SIM card maker was compromised by the NSA and the UK's Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ). The Intercept claims the U.S. and British spy agencies stole the encryption keys for SIM cards so they would be able to secretly monitor cell phone users around the world. With the keys in hand, the agencies could snoop around completely undetected by the targets or the network operators, and could do so without warrants. SIM cards are used in most mobile phones to identify the customer and allow the device to access the network. They are protected by light encryption, but only to prevent fraud -- not hacking. Possessing the encryption keys to the cards allowed the agencies to bypass the built-in security measures completely. In order to do this, the agencies monitored Gemalto employees and eventually broke into Gemalto's computer systems. The hacks took place in 2010, and Gemalto was completely unaware of the breech until contacted by The Intercept. The company issued a statement today, saying, "Gemalto is especially vigilant against malicious hackers, and has detected, logged and mitigated many types of attempts over the years. At present we cannot prove a link between those past attempts and what was reported yesterday. We take this publication very seriously and will devote all resources necessary to fully investigate and understand the scope of such sophisticated techniques." Gemalto is the world's largest manufacturer of SIM cards and ships about two billion SIM cards per year. The company is headquartered in The Netherlands, but has a large office in Texas and a manufacturing plant in Pennsylvania. AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless all use Gemalto SIM cards in their mobile devices, as do 450 other mobile network operators around the globe. The Intercept's report is based on documents released by NSA leaker Edward Snowden.
T-Mobile has promoted CMO Mike Sievert to the COO position, according to a document the company filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Sievert served as the CMO under CEO John Legere since November 2012 and helped develop the company's Uncarrier strategy. Sievert will be in charge of all customer-facing operations, such as sales, marketing, and customer service. Tom Keys, COO of T-Mobile's MetroPCS business, is now president of T-Mobile's indirect channels. These changes are effective Feb. 13. COO of T-Mobile Business, Jim Ailing, plans to leave the company March 13. CEO John Legere said via his Twitter account, "Some changes at T-Moble HQ. Have to change it up when you have great talent and an uncarrier revolution to run."
T-Mobile CEO John Legere today asked consumers to help guide the FCC's rule-making process for the upcoming 600MHz reverse auction. Legere hopes consumers will write to the FCC and ask the agency to create rules that will lead to more competition. Legere pointed to the recent AWS-3 spectrum auction, which he called "a disaster for American wireless consumers," as proof of the need for action. AT&T and Verizon Wireless, or the "Twin Bells" according to Legere, won the bulk of the AWS-3 spectrum auctioned off by the FCC. Legere says this can't happen with the 600MHz auction, which is for valuable low-band spectrum. "Three companies alone spent an insane $42 billion between them, grabbing a ridiculous 94% of the spectrum sold at [the AWS-3] auction," argued Legere. "This whole thing should scare the hell out of you and every other wireless consumer in the U.S., because there is another important auction coming next year, and the results have to be different if wireless competition is going survive." Legere wants the FCC to reserve 40MHz or at least half the available spectrum for companies other than AT&T and Verizon. Further, he wants the government to mandate that auction winners use the spectrum to provide mobile service rather than allow it "to be collected and traded like financial securities." Legere has always been outspoken about his feelings for T-Mobile's competitors. Today's appeal to the public for support is more direct that his previous efforts.
Dan Mead, who has served as the CEO of Verizon Wireless since 2010, plans to retire according to filings the company made with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Mead will remain on the board of directors and serve as executive vice president and president of strategic initiatives. He'll stay in that role until Verizon Communications finalizes its sale of certain landline and FiOS assets to Frontier Communications. Once that is completed in mid 2016, Mead will retire fully. Mead has been replaced by John Stratton, formerly Verizon's executive vice president and president of Verizon's global enterprise and consumer wireline business. Stratton's new title is executive vice president and president of operations. He'll be in charge of both the wireless and wireline businesses. Both Mead and Stratton report to Verizon Communications CEO Lowell McAdam. AT&T and Sprint have also installed new CEOs in the last six months. Glen Lurie succeeded Ralph de la Vega at AT&T and Marcelo Claure took over for Dan Hesse at Sprint. T-Mobile's John Legere has been serving as CEO since fall 2012.
Wireless network operators are now required to unlock customers' phones once the phones are paid off or no longer under contract. Today's change follows an agreement forged between the FCC, the CTIA Wireless Association and carriers in December 2013. That agreement set a number of provisions, some of which were to be met in May 2014 and the rest by today. AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, U.S. Cellular, and Verizon Wireless all agreed to the unlocking policies. Under the terms of the agreement, carriers are required to post clear details that define which phones can and cannot be unlocked to their web site. Carriers are required to unlock all phones upon request as long as customers have fulfilled their contractual obligations. Prepaid devices will be unlocked no later than one year after their initial activation date. Carriers have to unlock devices within two days after customers request that their phones be unlocked, or initiate a request with the OEM to unlock the device, or explain to consumers why their device cannot be unlocked. The carriers have to notify customers proactively once their devices are eligible to be unlocked. Last, carriers have to unlock the devices of all deployed military personnel who are in good standing. The carriers' individual unlocking policies vary slightly.
Cricket Wireless today announced that all customers on its $50 and $60 plans can now make unlimited calls to Mexico. Cricket's subscribers can call landlines and mobile phones at no extra charge, though Cricket said calls to special or premium services may be blocked. The service also includes unlimited text, picture, and video messaging. The offer is not valid for Cricket's legacy CDMA customers. Cricket's Smart Plan costs $50 per month and includes unlimited calling, messaging, and 5GB of LTE data. The Pro Plan costs $60 and doubles data to 10GB. The Advanced Plan, which is available for a limited time, costs $60 and includes 20GB of LTE data and expands free messaging to 35 more countries. Customers can get a $5 monthly discount if they sign up for auto-pay. Cricket is still offering incentives to T-Mobile, MetroPCS, Sprint, and Boost Mobile customers, who will receive a free month of service for switching. Cricket operates on AT&T's network. AT&T recently acquired Iusacell, a Mexican network operator, and rolled out unlimited calls to Mexico to its own customers for $5 per month.
Univision Mobile, which operates in partnership with T-Mobile, today added no-cost international calling and texting to its service plans. Customers can now send messages to and call mobile and landlines in 200 countries, including much of Latin America, as well as roam in 15 countries. There is a catch. Customers will only have access to a certain amount of no-charge calling per month, and the amount will depend on which service plan they choose. For example, the $30 monthly service plan includes up to $15 worth of charges in international calling and texting. The $35 service plan includes $20 worth of charges, while the $45 and $55 service plans offer $45 and $55 worth of international charges, respectively. Univision said once the no-charge international dollar allotment is used, it will charge standard international rates for the remainder of the billing period. Univision Mobile was designed for Hispanics living in the U.S. and launched last May. It includes a portal with news, sports, and entertainment, as well as Univision apps, ringtones, wallpaper, and more content. Univision Mobile is available in Walmart and T-Mobile's Simply Prepaid stores. The new international calling is available starting today.
The FCC today published a list of companies that placed winning bids for the AWS-3 spectrum auction. The FCC auctioned off 1,600 licenses, for which 70 companies were competing. The 10X10MHz J Block was the most coveted section of airwaves. The G, H, and I blocks are all 5x5MHz channels, but also saw competitive bidding. AT&T and Verizon won many of the J Block segments. For example, AT&T placed a $2.76 billion winning bid for J Block spectrum covering New York City. Verizon, however, won the J Block covering Washington, D.C., and Baltimore with a $966 million bid. Aside from AT&T and Verizon, T-Mobile, Northstar Wireless, Advantage Spectrum, and SNR Wireless LicenseCo (Dish) won the majority of the licenses. The FCC was hoping to raise $10.54 billion and instead raised $41.32 billion. AT&T's bids alone totaled $18.2 billion, while Verizon bid $10.4 billion and T-Mobile bid $1.8 billion. The two bidding entities tied to Dish Networks totaled $13 billion. The $41.3 billion auction total is slightly smaller than the FCC earlier reported due to discounts and incentives.
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel today announced an initiative along with AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless that will see the city's subway system upgraded with LTE 4G. The City of Chicago and Chicago Transit Authority have agreed to fund the project with $32.5 million. The four carriers will undertake the upgrade themselves with a distributed antenna system, or DAS. The existing system has been in place nearly 10 years and is now outdated. Emanuel said the project will deliver continuous 4G coverage along the 22-mile stretch between O-Hare airport through the tunnels and platforms of the Red and Blue Lines. Work on the project actually began earlier this month and will be complete by the end of the year. Los Angeles recently announced a similar initiative. Boston, New York City, and Washington, D.C., also offer underground cell service in their respective transit systems.
The FCC today adopted rules it first proposed last year that will eventually help first responders to locate people who call 911 from their cell phones faster. Specifically, the FCC wants first responders to be able to better locate people within buildings. With today's technology, first responders still have trouble determining from which building wireless 911 calls originate from, let alone the floor and/or apartment or suite. The FCC has laid out clear, measurable goals for carriers to provide X, Y, and Z coordinates to help place callers as accurately as a specific room inside a building. Last fall, the CTIA Wireless Association along with members AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless laid out their own plan to meet the FCC's demands. The FCC said it understands that there's no silver bullet and knows carriers will need to rely on multiple different technologies to reach the benchmarks it has set in place. The FCC said it will allow the operators some leeway in developing their own standards as long as they meet the location accuracy requirements.
T-Mobile plans to make some of its handsets compatible with its 700MHz spectrum through a software update. Today, only the Samsung Galaxy Note 4 and Galaxy Note Edge can use LTE on T-Mobile's 700MHz spectrum. T-Mobile said it will provide the system update to the Motorola Nexus 6 in the early part of 2015, followed by the Sony Xperia Z3 and Samsung Galaxy Avant in May, and the ZTE Max later this year. Two tablets and T-Mobile's Z915 LTE 4G Hotspot also support the 700MHz airwaves. T-Mobile is supplementing its AWS-based LTE network with its 700MHz holdings in select markets around the country. The company is still in the process of deploying LTE to all its 700MHz spectrum.
T-Mobile today unveiled a new program for consumers interested in cheaper handset upgrades called Score. With Score, users will qualify for a free entry-level smartphone after six months or significant discounts on all T-Mobile devices after 12 months. Score costs $5 per month and is open to all T-Mobile customers, whether prepaid or postpaid. After paying $5 per month for six months, for example, customers may choose to get the Alcatel OneTouch Evolve 2 at no additional cost; or, after paying $5 per month for 12 months, take $150 off the price of the Motorola Nexus 6 or $100 off the Samsung Galaxy S5. (Actual handset discounts will vary based on when the customer chooses to upgrade.) Customers who enroll in Score today will be able to upgrade to a new, free phone as soon as July 25 or enjoy a heavily discounted flagship as soon as Jan. 25, 2016.
Sprint today launched an aggressive promotion aimed directly at T-Mobile. Sprint is promising $200 to T-Mobile customers who port their number to Sprint and turn in their working T-Mobile phone. The $200 trade-in offer, which runs from today through April 9, can be combined with Sprint's ETF buyout. In addition to the $200, Sprint will pay up to $350 per line to cover ETFs and other fees when customers cancel their T-Mobile service. With the two promotions combined, T-Mobile customers stand to receive up to $550 if they switch to Sprint, which should cover any costs associated with terminating their old service and acquiring a new handset.
Verizon Wireless will not follow AT&T and T-Mobile's data rollover programs with one of its own. "We're a leader, not a follower," said Verizon CFO Fran Shammo. AT&T and T-Mobile allow customers to roll unused data over to the next month. T-Mobile launched its program in December and AT&T followed it in early January. Shammo said Verizon understands that it will lose some customers over such features, but noted, "We did not go to places where we did not financially want to go to save a customer." Carriers often respond to pricing and service plan changes made by competitors.
T-Mobile CEO John Legere posted a video blog today announcing Smartphone Equality, a new program that will help customers with little or poor credit get the best deals on devices. Legere explains that more than 100 million people in the U.S. have credit scores that prevent them from qualifying for many of the carriers' $0 down and no-interest device payment plans. Beginning next week, any T-Mobile customer (prepaid and post-paid) that has made 12 consecutive payments on time will automatically qualify for T-Mobile's best smartphone sales and prices even if they still have poor credit.
AT&T and Verizon Wireless have challenged a ruling made by the FCC in December regarding data roaming rates. The FCC sided with an argument made by T-Mobile about how reasonable roaming rates are calculated. The FCC is not going to set rates, but will "provide guidance on the application of the commercial reasonableness standard" with respect to data roaming rates. AT&T and Verizon fought the FCC ahead of the ruling and have now filed petitions asking the FCC to reverse its decision. "Responding to a nakedly self-interested plea from T-Mobile for additional leverage in its commercial negotiations with AT&T, the [FCC] issued a declaratory ruling that purports to 'clarify' the Commission's rules, provide 'additional guidance,' and 'lessen ambiguity,' but has in fact thrown the Commission's entire data roaming regime into confusion," argued AT&T. Verizon accuses the FCC of not following the proper protocol when making the ruling. "These changes were unlawful because modifications to the Data Roaming Order must be made through rulemaking--and must be made by the full Commission, not by the Bureau. They also undermine the Commission's policy decision to ensure that its roaming rules do not cause carriers to rely on roaming rather than to expand their coverage and invest in building out facilities." The FCC hasn't responded to AT&T and Verizon. T-Mobile asked the FCC to change the rules because it believes AT&T is overcharging for data roaming.
Deutsche Telekom, majority owner of T-Mobile, believes the Uncarrier's best chances of success are to merge with or be acquired by another large carrier. Deutsche Telekom CEO Tim Hoettges, speaking to Re/code, said T-Mobile lacks the scale enjoyed by rivals AT&T and Verizon Wireless. Without that scale, it will be hard for T-Mobile to compete in the long run. "I was intrigued by the idea of having a combination with Sprint and being the 'super-maverick' in the market," said Hoettges, "I hope that the political environment will change at one point in time." Sprint's parent, SoftBank, abandoned the idea of acquiring T-Mobile last year after regulators said the deal would face major hurdles in scoring approval. While Hoettges praised T-Mobile CEO John Legere for enacting change and turning the company around with aggressive promotions, he said T-Mobile cannot hold its current course indefinitely. "The question is always the economics in the long term," said Hoettges. "You have to earn your money back at one point in time."
T-Mobile today announced a new series of plans called Simply Prepaid. The trio of plans offer unlimited data, text, and talk with scalable access to LTE 4G (the "unlimited data" applies only to 2G access). The entry-level plan costs $40 per month and includes 1GB of LTE; the mid-tier plan costs $50 per month and includes 3GB of LTE; and the high-end plan costs $60 per month and includes 5GB of LTE. Customers who exceed their LTE allotment will be throttled down to 128kbps for the remainder of the billing period. The Simply Prepaid plans are limited to a maximum speed of 8Mbps, even on LTE, and don't include Data Stash, tethering, Music Freedom, or Simple Global features. Taxes and fees are extra. T-Mobile's Simply Prepaid plans will be available beginning Jan. 25.
The Supreme Court sided with T-Mobile in a court case regarding the cell tower approval process. T-Mobile claimed Roswell, Ga., sent it a short letter denying a new tower and then referred T-Mobile to the town's minutes to figure out for itself the rationale behind the denial. The town's response fell short of following 2010 federal regulations regarding such denials. T-Mobile argued that it should have been provided with the reasons for the denial in clearer form and the Supreme Court agreed. Moving forward, towns that reject new cell towers will have to provide the underlying reasons "at essentially the same time" in order to give wireless network operators the opportunity to appeal or take other legal action within the 30-day timeline. Towns are already required to act quickly on tower requests and have to provide "substantial evidence" when denying new towers. "Transparent and fair decision-making by local governments will allow wireless service providers to improve the nation’s wireless networks to meet consumers demand," said T-Mobile's general counsel in response to the ruling. Justice Sonia Sotomayor suggested towns might be best served to provide a brief statement detailing the reasons behind denials.
One of the top four U.S. carriers has agreed to sell the YotaPhone 2, according to YotaPhone executive Matthew Kelly. Kelly would not specify which of the four carriers (AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, Verizon Wireless) plans to sell the phone, but he said it is coming later this year. The YotaPhone 2 is notable because it has two displays: a standard LCD panel on the front and an e-ink display on the back. The e-ink display can be used to conserve battery power, as it draws about one-seventh as much energy as an LCD screen. The YotaPhone 2 is already for sale in Europe. Pricing in the U.S. is as yet unknown.
AT&T today responded to T-Mobile's recently launched Data Stash feature by introducing Rollover Data. According to AT&T, Rollover Data is available to all its Mobile Share Value plan users, which represent the majority of its customers. AT&T's Data Rollover program will carry unused data over for one month. For example, if a customer with a 10GB Mobile Share Value plan uses only 5GB in a month, the unused 5GB portion will roll over to the next month, giving them a total of 15GB of access. If that customer uses 5GB again, they'll carry over only the unused 5GB portion of their original allotment, not the enlarged amount. AT&T says, "Within a given month, you will use your plan allotment first, before you begin using your Rollover Data. Unused Rollover Data does not carry over." The Rolled Over data is available to all the members of Mobile Share Value plans to use. AT&T Mobile Share Value customers will be able to view their Rollover Data balance on the myAT&T app or online. AT&T's Rollover Data program begins January 25. All Mobile Share Value plan subscribers will be automatically enrolled at no additional cost.
Apple has made unlocked versions of the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus available on it web site. Customers can now choose to buy their iPhone without a carrier commitment. The unlocked models support GSM-based networks such as those operated by AT&T and T-Mobile. They can also be used on networks in other countries. The unlocked models cost the same as standard models. The 16GB unlocked iPhone 6 costs $649 and the 16GB unlocked iPhone 6 Plus costs $749. Consumers can opt for higher capacity models if they so wish. The unlocked models are sold without SIM cards.
T-Mobile today said it is working on new technology called Licensed Assisted Access. According to T-Mobile, LAA is an LTE-based technology that helps combine licensed and unlicensed spectrum in order to increase peak and average data speeds while also reducing latency. T-Mobile says LAA pairs LTE's quality of service controls with WiFi in order to improve coverage and throughput. The company has added LAA to its technology roadmap and plans to begin trialling it in some capacity later this year. T-Mobile points out that there's currently about 550MHz of under-used spectrum in the 5GHz range (typically reserved for WiFi) that could be tapped to help with LTE via LAA. T-Mobile didn't say when it expects to begin trials of LAA with consumer-grade equipment.
T-Mobile CEO John Legere took to the company's blog today to shed some light on its plans headed into 2015. To start, the company claims it will cover 300 million POPs with LTE by the end of 2015. It currently covers 264 million. T-Mobile will deploy Wideband LTE to a total of 150 markets around the country, though it is already present in about 120 markets. The company said it will eventually provide LTE to 350 markets via its 700MHz spectrum holdings. T-Mobile only recently began to deploy LTE on 700MHz, and didn't say how long it will take to reach those 350 markets. Legere noted MetroPCS, T-Mobile's prepaid service, will continue to see uncharted growth. The small carrier has already made big gains since T-Mobile acquired it in 2013. Legere also took the opportunity to poke fun at T-Mobile's rivals and make predictions about what's to come over the course of the next 12 months. Among others, Legere believes T-Mobile will overtake Sprint to become the nation's third-largest network operator in the very near future. (He had previously predicted by the end of 2014.) Legere says fourth quarter earnings reports, expected at the end of January, will provide the necessary details to make that determination.
T-Mobile today added the ZTE Zinger to its lineup of prepaid phones. The Zinger, which is the same as the Z667 sold by AT&T, is an affordable Android smartphone with a 3.5-inch screen, 1.2GHz dual-core processor, and 2.0-megapixel camera. The phone supports Bluetooth 4.0 and WiFi, but not LTE 4G. It comes with Android 4.4 KitKat and costs about $50 before adding service.
T-Mobile today agreed to pay the FTC and FCC a total of $90 million to settle accusations that the company was complicit in allowing third-parties to charge customers for unwanted services. An FTC and FCC investigation found T-Mobile guilty of breaking the law by "engaging in an unjust and unreasonable practice of billing consumers for products or services they had not authorized; and failing to provide a brief, clear, non-misleading, plain language description of the third-party charges on the telephone bills sent to consumers." A minimum of $67.5 million of the fine will be set aside to repay customers who claim they were overcharged. T-Mobile will also pay $18 million to all fifty U.S. states and the District of Columbia, in addition to $4.5 million to the U.S. Treasury. As part of the consent decree, T-Mobile is prohibited from charging customers for third-party PSMS products or services. It also requires T-Mobile to create a system so customers can verify third-party service charges before they appear on bills. T-Mobile will have to block third-party charges for free; make it easier for customers to identify possible fraudulent charges; and train customer service staff to properly resolve customer complaints regarding unauthorized charges. "Cramming is a significant problem," said FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler. "For too long, millions of consumers have been scammed -- billed for bogus charges on their phone bills for services they didn’t request. This is unacceptable. Today's settlement is a win for consumers who have been victimized by cramming. It means compensation for T-Mobile customers who were fraudulently billed for third-party services that they did not want or authorize. And it goes one step further. Today’s action will also help protect all of T-Mobile's customers from bogus third-party charges in the future." Sprint was recently sued for similar practices. AT&T settled cramming charges with the FCC for $105 million earlier this year.
The FCC today granted T-Mobile's petition that the agency "provide guidance on the application of the commercial reasonableness standard" with respect to data roaming rates. T-Mobile filed the petition earlier this year in order to help it and other carriers negotiate better roaming rates with larger rivals AT&T and Verizon Wireless. Since 2011, the FCC has mandated that all carriers allow competing devices to roam onto their networks at fair prices. The FCC did not suggest or otherwise imply what those fair prices should be. T-Mobile argued the FCC's 2011 mandate did not provide enough guidance for setting rates and the result has been what T-Mobile calls exorbitant fees charged by AT&T and Verizon to roam onto their networks. Sprint and other members of the Competitive Carriers Association supported T-Mobile's position, while AT&T and Verizon Wireless opposed it vehemently. The two larger carriers argued any such guidance could result in reduced rates over the long term and would serve as unnecessary regulation. After weighing the arguments, the FCC agreed with T-Mobile's position that it should offer guidance on reasonable pricing. Specifically, the FCC will adopt T-Mobile's four proposed benchmarks when assessing the reasonableness standard: 1. retail rates; 2. international roaming rates; 3. MVNO/resale rates; and 4. roaming rates charged by other providers. "In our view, the additional guidance we provide under the standard set forth ... will facilitate the ability of parties to negotiate successful data roaming agreements, which in turn will promote the provision of high quality advanced broadband services by multiple service providers in urban, suburban, and rural areas to the benefit of American consumers," said the FCC.
The FCC is prepared to hit Sprint with a massive fine over alleged cramming practices, according to the Wall Street Journal. The FCC says Sprint played a "willful" role in charging customers for text message alerts, horoscopes, sports scores, ring tones, and other unwanted services. The FCC said Sprint was hit with 35,000 complaints over cramming charges during a three-month window in the middle of 2013. The FCC hasn't finalized the fine against Sprint, but three of the five commissioners are prepared to vote in favor of the penalty. AT&T settled with the FCC for a similar amount over cramming earlier this year, and the FTC is suing T-Mobile for the same practice.
T-Mobile today offered some details about its LTE network. To start, it has expanded its LTE service footprint to cover 260 million POPs -- an increase of 10 million POPs over the last two months. T-Mobile also said it has begun deploying LTE on its 700MHz spectrum holdings. T-Mobile customers in several markets, including Cleveland, Colorado Springs, Minneapolis, and Washington, D.C., can access LTE on 700MHz with properly equipped devices. The 700MHz coverage joins T-Mobile's AWS coverage, and provides better in-building coverage and capacity. T-Mobile says its 700MHz spectrum covers 190 million POPs around the country. T-Mobile didn't say how long it will take to light up LTE covering those 190 million POPs. Further, T-Mobile CEO John Legere said it will replace all its GSM/EDGE coverage with LTE across its AWS and PCS spectrum where it remains. T-Mobile aims to complete replacing GSM/EDGE with LTE by next year.
T-Mobile today announced Data Stash, a way for customers to retain unused data from month-to-month. Rather than allow unused data to expire, T-Mobile will let customers keep access to that data for up to a year. For example, customers who have a plan with 5GB of data access per month, but only use 3GB, will see the unused 2GB added to their monthly allotment for the following month for a total of 7GB. Further, to kickstart the whole service, T-Mobile is putting 10GB of data in each customer's "data bank." T-Mobile is requiring a minimum level of service in order to qualify for Data Stash. Data Stash will be available for free to T-Mobile customers with a postpaid Simple Choice plan who have purchased at least 3GB of phone data or 1GB of tablet data per month. T-Mobile said there's no limit to how much data users can collect and store in Data Stash. The company said "you won’t lose data you don't use."
Apple Pay has garnered more support from banks and retailers around the country, according to the New York Times. SunTrust, Barclaycard, and USAA have already agreed to support Apple Pay with their cards, and 10 more banks, including TD Bank North America and Commerce Bank, are adding support for Apple Pay beginning today. With the new financial institutions on board, a significantly larger percentage of iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus owners can use Apple Pay to make mobile payments at participating retailers. More retailers are interested in Apple Pay, too. Staples will begin accepting Apple Pay at its 1,400 stores beginning today, and Amway Center, where the Orlando Magic basketball team plays, will begin accepting Apple Pay at concessions stands during games. Apple Pay uses an NFC radio embedded in the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus to power tap-and-go payments at more than 220,000 retail outlets around the U.S. iPhone owners use their fingerprint to approve purchases, which are secured thanks to unique codes assigned to each transaction. Apple Pay launched Oct. 20. Competing services, such as Softcard, are available to select Android and Windows Phones sold by AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless.
T-Mobile today said it has expanded the availability of Wideband LTE service to a total of 26 major U.S. cities and 120 small metro areas. The newest additions include all of New York City, Long Island, and northern New Jersey. T-Mobile said central New Jersey and Westchester County, N.Y., will have Wideband LTE coverage very soon. According to T-Mobile, NYC customers are reporting peak download speeds of 100Mbps with average download speeds hovering around 22Mbps. "Wideband LTE" specifically refers to 15x2 or 20x2MHz LTE over T-Mobile's AWS or PCS spectrum, depending on the market in question.
Cricket Wireless is hoping a $100 bill credit will convince customers of Cincinnati Bell, MetroPCS, Boost Mobile, Virgin Mobile, Sprint, and T-Mobile to hop on over to Cricket. New customers must switch from the aforementioned carriers, purchase a new device, and activate a new line of service on a qualifying rate plan in order to receive the credit. The credit will be applied at the end of the first billing cycle. Cricket's service plans cost $40-$60 per month, depending on options. Cricket offered a similar promotion over the summer months, but only targeted Sprint and T-Mobile. The current promotion runs through Dec. 31.
Ting, an MVNO that resells access to Sprint's network, today said it plans to expand its service next year by adding support for GSM devices. Beginning in February, anyone with an unlocked GSM handset will be able to sign up for Ting service. Ting said customers will be able to have both CDMA and GSM handsets active on the same account, even though the phones are running on two different networks. Ting did not name its GSM network partner, but based on the coverage map it is likely T-Mobile.
T-Mobile today brought back several promotions that promise easier-to-manage data plans for families. Beginning Dec. 10, customers can get unlimited talk, text, and 4G LTE data for $100 per month for two lines. A family of four can share unlimited everything for $180 per month ($40 more per line). This promotion will be available for a limited time, but once signed up customers can keep it indefinitely. T-Mobile said it is also offering its 10GB of shared data for four lines (2.5GB per line, plus unlimited voice and messaging) for $100 month plan. This second promotional plan offers the extra data allotment until January 2016, after which the 10GB monthly data plan for four lines will drop to 4GB per month.