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printed July 24, 2014
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FCC Lays Out Rules for AWS-3 Spectrum Auction

Today, 12:17 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

The FCC has published the rules regarding Auction 97, which will see 1,614 spectrum licenses sold by the government to wireless network operators. The auction will start November 13, with a trial auction scheduled for November 10. The spectrum includes 65MHz in the 1695-1710MHz, 1755-1780MHz, and 2155-2180MHz -- or AWS-3 -- bands. The lower of the three blocks will be sold unpaired in 5MHz blocks, while the upper two bands will be sold in 10MHz paired blocks (with a couple of exceptions). The collective reserve price for the lower block is $580 million and the collective reserve price for the upper blocks is $10.07 billion. Of the 1,614 licenses offered in Auction 97, 880 will be Economic Area (EA) licenses and 734 will be Cellular Market Area (CMA) licenses. Dish Networks and T-Mobile wanted the unpaired and paired licenses to be auctioned separately, but the FCC decided against splitting the bidding process in favor of efficiency for all parties involved. The FCC has another auction, for 600MHz spectrum, scheduled for mid 2015.


Microsoft Intros Entry-Level Lumia 530

Yesterday, 7:04 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Yesterday, 7:48 AM

Microsoft today revealed the Lumia 530, a new entry-level Windows Phone that succeeds last year's 520. The device features the same colorful design language common to Lumia models and includes interchangeable rear shells for personalization. The Lumia 530 runs Windows Phone 8.1 with Cortana, MixRadio, and HERE Maps. The 530 features a 4-inch 854 x 480 display, is powered by a quad-core 1.2GHz Snapdragon 200 processor, and includes a 5-megapixel camera. Connectivity is limited to HSPA at 21Mbps, but it includes Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0, and aGPS. System memory is limited to 512MB and storage is limited to 4GB. The Lumia 530 supports microSD cards up to 128GB and will be sold in a dual-SIM variant in select markets. The Lumia 530 will be available globally and begins shipping in August. The target price point is about $130. T-Mobile is the only U.S. carrier to voice support for the 530, which it said will go on sale later this year.


Sony Lists Xperia Z2 for Sale On US Web Site

Monday, 7:09 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sony recently made the Xperia Z2 available to U.S. buyers via its web store. The Z2, which was announced in January, costs $699 and is being sold unlocked. The Z2 has a 5.2-inch full HD display, 20.7-megapixel camera with 4K video capture, quad-core Snapdragon 800 processor with 3GB of RAM, and various sensors/radios. It is also water and dust resistant. The Z2 is compatible with the LTE networks of both AT&T and T-Mobile. Sony typically offers its smartphones through its web store when they aren't sold by wireless network operators.


AT&T and T-Mobile Agree to Swap Some Spectrum

Jul 10, 2014, 12:01 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

AT&T and T-Mobile recently filed paperwork with the FCC seeking permission to swap spectrum assets. The companies are looking at PCS and AWS spectrum in a handful of markets. First, AT&T was required to divest spectrum in 12 markets, mostly in Nevada and Texas, in order to win FCC approval of its Cricket Wireless acquisition. These assets will be transferred to T-Mobile. Second, the companies want to exchange assets scattered around California, Florida, Georgia, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Washington. In their filings with the FCC, AT&T and T-Mobile said the swap will "enable more efficient operations resulting from larger blocks of contiguous spectrum and/or the alignment of spectrum blocks held in adjacent markets." Such spectrum swaps are common in the secondary market for airwaves. The two companies didn't place a dollar value on the proposal, which requires FCC approval.


Microsoft Commits Anew to Creating Great Mobile Devices

Jul 10, 2014, 9:52 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella today sent an email to employees outlining his thoughts on the company's future. Much of the email centered on what Nadella believes should be a renewed focus on improving productivity through software and services. Nadella did spare a few words, however, to discuss the company's hardware strategy. "Our Windows device OS and first-party hardware will set the bar for productivity experiences. Windows will deliver the most rich and consistent user experience for digital work and life scenarios on screens of all sizes – from phones, tablets and laptops to TVs and giant 82-inch PPI boards," said Nadella. He suggested the company continue to invest in new technologies, such as speech, gesture, and pen input, as well as entice developers with greater opportunities across is range of products. "Our first-party devices will light up digital work and life. In addition, we will build first-party hardware to stimulate more demand for the entire Windows ecosystem. It also means we will responsibly make the market for Windows Phone, which is our goal with the Nokia devices and services acquisition." Microsoft closed its purchase of Nokia's cell phone business earlier this year. The company's latest Windows Phone device is the Lumia 635, which reaches T-Mobile later this month. Further, Windows Phone 8.1, the company's latest operating system, will begin to see widespread distribution to existing devices in the weeks ahead. Nadella didn't announce any specific new hardware or features for Windows Phone.


Dish Says It Will Bid On 600MHz Spectrum

Jul 9, 2014, 4:13 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Dish Networks has told the FCC it intends to "meaningfully participate" in the reverse auction for 600MHz airwaves scheduled for next year. "The incentive auction offers opportunities for competitive providers and new entrants to bid on and win much-needed lowband spectrum, which will facilitate the deployment of mobile broadband services," said Dish Senior Vice President Jeffrey Blum in the filing with the agency. The FCC is still in the process of finalizing rules for the incentive auction, but expects to have them in place by September. The process will involve television stations giving up their 600MHz spectrum holdings, which the FCC will then auction to companies such as Dish, AT&T, and T-Mobile. Dish has long wanted to become a wireless provider of sorts. Earlier this year Dish won at auction PCS spectrum that abuts some spectrum it already owns. Dish also took the opportunity to tell the FCC it should block the proposed merger between Comcast and Time Warner.


T-Mobile Offering $100 Off iPhone/iPad Purchases

Jul 9, 2014, 11:55 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

T-Mobile today said it will cut $100 from the combined price of any iPhone and any iPad when purchased together at its stores. T-Mobile offers tablets 1.2GB of free data each month.


Sony Now Selling Xperia Z1 Compact in US

Jul 9, 2014, 7:25 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Jul 9, 2014, 7:31 AM

Sony recently added the Xperia Z1 Compact to its U.S. web store. Sony is selling the phone unlocked for the full retail price of $549. It is compatible with both AT&T and T-Mobile's HSPA+/LTE networks. The Z1 Compact, which was introduced in January, has many features found on the Z1S flagship device, including a 20.7-megapixel Exmor camera sensor with G Lens, IP58 rating for protection from water immersion, and Sony applications and services, such as Video and Music Unlimited. The Z1 Compact has a 4.3-inch 720p HD TriLuminos display with Sony's mobile Bravia Engine, and a 2.2GHz quad-core Snapdragon processor with 2GB of RAM. The Xperia Z1 Compact runs Android 4.4 KitKat.


Isis Mobile Payment Venture to Change Branding

Jul 7, 2014, 2:14 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Jul 7, 2014, 3:29 PM

Isis, the mobile payment venture backed by AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless, has decided to rebrand its service. Isis is making the change after the rise of ISIS, a militant group based in the Middle East, has gained worldwide notoriety. "However coincidental, we have no interest in sharing a name with a group whose name has become synonymous with violence and our hearts go out to those who are suffering," said Isis. "As a company, we have made the decision to rebrand." Isis said it is still weighing what the new brand name will be. Whatever the name is, the change won't affect the company's product or services. Isis said it will share new details as soon as they are available. Isis launched in November last year. It is available on many Android smartphones and enables tap-and-go mobile payments at select retailers nationwide.


Rok Mobile Launches Today, Requires Invite

Jul 4, 2014, 9:23 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Rok Mobile officially launched today, allowing select invitees to try its music-focused wireless service. Rok Mobile is an MVNO that resells access to Sprint and T-Mobile's 3G and LTE 4G networks. Rok doesn't just provide wireless service, it also bundles in its own streaming music service. Rok charges $50 per month for unlimited voice, messaging, and data in addition to music streaming, downloading, and caching. Rok offers customers access to 20 million tracks and lets people create their own playlists, as well as automatically generate playlists based on crowd-sourced favorites. Interested customers can bring their own device, or purchase an iPhone or Android smartphone from Rok. Rok offers iOS and Android apps to provide access to its music service. Anyone wishing to trial Rok Mobile can request an invitation from its web site.


Sprint to Begin Selling LG G3 July 18

Jul 3, 2014, 11:23 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sprint today revealed it will commence sales of the LG G3 on July 18 in stores, online and via telephone. Sprint is offering several different ways to pay for the device. With Sprint Easy Pay, for example, customers can buy the G3 with $0 down followed by 24 monthly payments of $25. Preorders for the device begin July 11. The company is offering award cards for early adopters of the phone. New and existing customers who buy the G3 between July 11 and July 24 will qualify for a $150 gift card, and those who buy the G3 between July 25 and August 14 will qualify for a $100 gift card. T-Mobile plans to sell the G3 beginning July 16. AT&T and Verizon have yet to announced G3 availability.


T-Mobile Says FTC Charges 'Without Merit'

Jul 1, 2014, 3:42 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

T-Mobile CEO John Legere responded publicly to complaints filed against it by both the Federal Trade Commission and Federal Communications Commission today. Legere called the allegations "unfounded and without merit." Legere countered that T-Mobile has worked proactively to stop third-party companies from fraudulently charging its customers. He further explained how the company ceased allowing premium SMS services altogether, and set up the refund program last year. "We believe [the third-party] providers should be held accountable, and the FTC's lawsuit seeking to hold T-Mobile responsible for their acts is not only factually and legally unfounded, but also misdirected." The FTC and FCC allege T-Mobile allowed the unwanted premium service charges to continue for months despite evidence customers didn't subscribe to them. The government believes T-Mobile knowingly bilked consumers out of tens of millions of dollars.


FCC Also Investigating T-Mobile

Jul 1, 2014, 3:17 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

The FCC today said it, too, is investigating claims that T-Mobile fraudulently charged its customers for premium services they did not want. The FCC will work with the FTC to consolidate their cases. The FCC said it will "use our independent enforcement authority to ensure a thorough, swift, and just resolution of the numerous complaints against T-Mobile."


FTC Drops Cram-Hammer On T-Mobile

Jul 1, 2014, 1:39 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Jul 1, 2014, 1:50 PM

The Federal Trade Commission today filed a complaint regarding T-Mobile's billing practices for premium third-party services. The FTC alleges that T-Mobile made millions of dollars by allowing companies to tack high monthly fees onto its customers' bills, while often pocketing 30% to 40% of those fees. The practice is often referred to as cramming. The FTC alleges that T-Mobile knew about potential fraudulent charges made against its customers in 2012, but didn't begin to take action until 2013. The complaint suggests T-Mobile often hid third-party charges in lengthy and difficult-to-understand monthly bills. The FTC also believes T-Mobile didn't provide customers with full refunds, flat-out refused to refund some customers, and in some cases told customers to recoup the charges directly from the scammers - without providing the pertinent contact details. "It's wrong for a company like T-Mobile to profit from scams against its customers when there were clear warning signs the charges it was imposing were fraudulent" said FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez. "The FTC's goal is to ensure that T-Mobile repays all its customers for these crammed charges." The FTC wants a court order to permanently prevent T-Mobile from engaging in mobile cramming, to obtain refunds for consumers, and to relieve T-Mobile of its ill-gotten gains. The FTC's story differs significant from the one told by T-Mobile. Late last year, the company said it tried to police premium SMS services, but too many of its partners were breaking the rules. T-Mobile discontinued premium SMS services across its network in late 2013, and agreed to refund some customers. T-Mobile recently reminded customers to check their eligibility for those refunds. T-Mobile's efforts on behalf of its customers appear not to have dissuaded the FTC from taking its own action.


T-Mobile and MetroPCS to Roll Out Lumia 635 Gradually

Jul 1, 2014, 11:09 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

T-Mobile and MetroPCS today announced the pending availability of the Nokia Lumia 635. The device will see a gradual rollout that takes place over the course of several weeks. The Lumia 635 will first be available to T-Mobile's prepaid customers starting July 5 via the Home Shopping Network. T-Mobile's web site will then offer the 635 beginning July 9, followed by T-Mobile retail stores July 16. Finally, the Lumia 635 will reach MetroPCS' web site and select stores July 18. T-Mobile customers can purchase the Nokia Lumia 635 for $0 down followed by $7 per month for 24 months with a Simple Choice plan. MetroPCS customers can purchase the device for a promotional price of $99. The 635 is an entry-level Windows Phone handset that replaces last year's 521. It runs Windows Phone 8.1 and includes a 4.5-inch screen.


Ultra Mobile Now Offering LTE

Jun 30, 2014, 3:39 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Ultra Mobile, an MVNO that resells access to T-Mobile's network, recently begun offering customers access to LTE data. Ultra Mobile doesn't sell handsets and instead only sells SIM cards. Ultra Mobile has no plans to change this arrangement, but customers who provide their own LTE-equipped hardware will now be able to use the faster wireless networking technology. They were previously limited to HSPA+. Further, Ultra Mobile has tweaked its service plans. Customers who subscribe to its $29, $39, and $49 plans now have unlimited free calling to more than 40 countries, such as Canada, China, France, Germany, Mexico, and others. Last, the $29 plan now provides customers with $2.50 in credit towards global international calling in addition to 500MB of LTE data per month.


T-Mobile Now Accepting Preorders for LG G3

Jun 30, 2014, 8:21 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

T-Mobile announced that customers can preorder the LG G3 beginning today. The device reaches stores July 16. The full retail price is $599. T-Mobile didn't immediately say what monthly pricing will be for Simple Choice Plans.


T-Mobile Allowing Customers to Pair iPhone with Prepaid Plans

Jun 26, 2014, 2:21 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Jun 30, 2014, 4:28 PM

T-Mobile today announced customers can now purchase an Apple iPhone at Apple retail stores and use it with T-Mobile's prepaid, no-contract plans. T-Mobile is offering iPhone buyers a $50 discount off the price of the phone when paired with a prepaid plan. Customers who buy an iPhone and use it with T-Mobile's Simple Choice plans will receive a $50 iTunes gift card. T-Mobile also announced today it is selling the iPhone 5s, iPad Air, and iPad Mini with Retina Display (with T-Mobile LTE) at Costco locations around the U.S. T-Mobile says Costco is offering the devices at "competitive out-of-pocket prices." Today's announcements come on the heels of T-Mobile's free, week-long iPhone trial, which was revealed at its UNCarrier announcement in Seattle. All three promotions are meant to help T-Mobile sell more iPhones.


GIV Mobile Offering Free Phone to Customers

Jun 26, 2014, 12:17 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

GIV Mobile today said it is offering potential customers a free Android smartphone when they prepay for two months of service. GIV is an MVNO that operates on T-Mobile's network. Its plans cost $40 and $50, and include unlimited talk and text and up to either 250MB or 2.5GB of 3G/4G data per month, respectively. GIV is giving away the Alcatel OneTouch for free, but also sells older flagships such as the Samsung Galaxy S4 and the LG G2 at reduced prices. GIV is unique in that it earmarks 8% of customers' bills for donation to various charities. Customers are able to select up to three charities to which their donations can be sent. GIV launched in May 2013.


Microsoft Now Taking Preorders for Lumia 635

Jun 23, 2014, 12:16 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft recently began accepting preorders in the U.S. for the Lumia 635. Microsoft is asking $99 for the AT&T model and $129 for the T-Mobile model, both off contract. The 635 is an entry-level Windows Phone 8.1 handset.


T-Mobile Wants FCC to Weigh In On Data Roaming

Jun 20, 2014, 1:11 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

T-Mobile has filed a petition with the Federal Communications Commission with the hope that it will help define "commercially reasonable" data roaming rates. T-Mobile does not want the FCC to set or regulate roaming rates for mobile data, but it does want the FCC to offer some guidance on what is acceptable. In its request, T-Mobile called out AT&T for setting what it believes are unreasonable rates. "T-Mobile has been forced to throttle and cap its customers' ability to roam on AT&T's data network due to AT&T's unreasonably high data roaming rates. This is precisely the type of impact on consumers that the 'commercially reasonable' standard should be interpreted to prevent. Data roaming traffic carried by the substantial majority of roaming partners other than AT&T is generally offered at rates that do not require throttling or capping." T-Mobile asked the FCC to act quickly, as some of its "most critical roaming agreements" are set to expire at the end of the year. T-Mobile was given a generous roaming agreement from AT&T in the wake of the larger carrier's failed attempt to purchase T-Mobile, but the exact scale of that agreement is unknown. The FCC mandated in 2011 that carriers allow competing devices to roam on their data networks at fair prices.


T-Mobile Intros Music Freedom

Jun 18, 2014, 8:47 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Jun 18, 2014, 8:49 PM

T-Mobile today announced Music Freedom, a new service that allows customers to stream an unlimited amount of music across its network from most of the major providers. Customers on T-Mobile's Simple Choice plans will be able to stream music without it counting against their data plans. The offer includes Spotify, Pandora, iHeartRadio, Rhapsody, Slacker, Milk, iTunes Radio, and BeatPort. Customers who hit their data limit for the month will still be able to stream music thanks to Music Freedom. It is available starting June 19.


T-Mobile Talks VoLTE and HD Voice

Jun 18, 2014, 8:17 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

T-Mobile today said its LTE network rollout continues to move forward at a steady clip. As of today, T-Mobile's LTE network covers 227 million POPs. It will reach 230 million POPs by the end of the month, 250 million by the end of the year, and T-Mobile will finalize its LTE build-out across its entire footprint moving into 2015. Further, T-Mobile has expanded the number of markets that offer VoLTE to 16, including major metro areas New York City, Los Angeles, and Chicago. T-Mobile says VoLTE is available to more than 100 million of its customers with this rollout on a total of four devices. (The Samsung Galaxy S5 will be made VoLTE-capable with an over-the-air download expected this week.) VoLTE supports clear HD Voice, which T-Mobile has boosted to a codex of 24Kbps. Last, T-Mobile has expanded the reach of its wide-band LTE network, which uses 15+15MHz and 20+20MHz channels to improve capacity. T-Mobile claims its wide-band LTE is capable of delivering theoretical download speeds of 150Mbps.


T-Mobile to Let Customers Test Drive Network for Free

Jun 18, 2014, 8:17 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

T-Mobile today announced a new program called Test Drive that will allow potential customers to use its network for seven days at no cost. Customers will be able to sign up beginning June 23, and will receive an Apple iPhone 5s in the mail with unlimited T-Mobile service for a period of seven days. At the end of the seven-day period, the Test Drive customers can return the iPhone to any T-Mobile store with no commitment to sign up for service. T-Mobile said it expects about one million customers to test its network via Test Drive in the first year it is offered. It is offering the program in a bid to convince more consumers to switch from their carrier to T-Mobile.


Liveblog of T-Mobile Un-Carrier 5.0

Jun 18, 2014, 7:56 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Jun 19, 2014, 5:52 PM

T-Mobile CEO John Legere takes the stage in Seattle tonight to make more big announcements. Legere is always entertaining, and past "Un-Carrier" events have brought big news such as the end of contracts, the end of phone subsidies, and paying other companies' ETFs. Tune in!

continued ›


AT&T Doesn't See Sprint/T-Mobile Merger Happening

Jun 18, 2014, 10:53 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Randall Stephenson, CEO of AT&T, thinks any proposed merger or acquisition between Sprint and T-Mobile is likely to be shot down by the U.S. government. "The problem as I see it is the way the government shut our deal down. They wrote a complaint and a very specific complaint. You're consolidating the industry from four to three national competitors," said Stephenson in comments made Tuesday. "If you think of Sprint and T-Mobile combining, I struggle to understand how that’s not four going to three." SoftBank CEO Masayoshi Son, who serves as Sprint's Chairman, has been talking to U.S. regulators about a potential tie-up between Sprint and T-Mobile for months. So far regulators have been unenthusiastic about the deal, though they've not said outright that it will be shot down. Son has gained more loan agreements and may make an official offer in the coming months.


CTIA Believes FCC's Power Should Be Kept In Check

Jun 16, 2014, 12:53 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

The CTIA Wireless Association recently recommended to congress that it limit the powers of the Federal Communications Commission to regulate the wireless industry. The comments come in response to a white paper published by the House Committee On Energy and Commerce earlier this year. The CTIA, which represents the wireless industry, including companies such as AT&T and Verizon Wireless, believes congress should recognize that the wireless industry is inherently competitive as-is and only needs a "light touch" by regulators. Further, the CTIA believes the FCC's authority to regulate should be limited to areas where competition isn't perhaps as robust as it should be. The CTIA wants the FCC to regulate all wireless products and services nationally in a uniform matter. When it comes to regulation, CTIA says congress should rely on existing antitrust laws when assessing mergers and acquisitions rather than allow the FCC to create new criteria. Last, the CTIA wants the FCC to make more spectrum available, and to have its powers reassessed every few years. "The explosive growth of the wireless industry and its prominent role in the United States economy have all occurred because the FCC has taken a light regulatory touch in general and with respect to competition policy in particular. Fostering the continued expansion of the wireless industry requires the preservation of policies that recognize the competiveness of the wireless marketplace, the evolution of intermodal competition, and the need for periodic evaluation of the FCC and its regulations." The FCC is assessing the viability of several large deals, such as AT&T's proposed acquisition of DirecTV, as well as managing several forthcoming spectrum auctions. The FCC squashed AT&T's attempt to acquire T-Mobile in 2012, and has so far indicated it doesn't view a potential Sprint/T-Mobile merger as a good idea. The FCC has also come under fire for its net neutrality proposals, which might mitigate how wired and wireless companies manage network traffic.


AT&T Increases Activation Fee to $40

Jun 12, 2014, 10:56 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

AT&T has bumped up the price of activating new equipment on two-year plans from $36 to $40. The change went into effect June 8. The fee doesn't apply to AT&T Next plans, though AT&T told Fierce Wireless that heavy adoption of its early upgrade program played a role in increasing the activation fee for those signing contracts. AT&T spokesperson Mark Siegel claimed "there are administrative and other costs associated with activating or upgrading a device" on two-year plans. Sprint charges a $36 activation fee, Verizon charges a $35 activation fee (waived if customers sign up for Edge within two month), and T-Mobile doesn't charge an activation fee at all for customers who select a Simple Choice plan.


Huawei Now Taking Preorders for Ascend Mate2

Jun 12, 2014, 8:29 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Huawei today said the Ascend Mate2 is available to U.S. consumers through a new web site, GetHuawei.com. Huawei initially announced the Ascend Mate2 in January, and later said it would sell the device directly to consumers rather than through a wireless network operator. Key features of the Mate2 include a 6.1-inch 720p HD display, 1.6GHz quad-core Snapdragon 400 processor, 4,050mAh battery, 13-megapixel main camera, 5-megapixel user-facing camera, and support for the LTE networks run by AT&T and T-Mobile. It runs Android 4.3 Jelly Bean with Huawei's Emotion UI 2.0, which supports mini-apps that float above other apps, and a driving mode with a simplified interface. Huawei is asking $300 for the Ascend Mate2, which ships unlocked.


Nation's LTE Networks Ranked, Verizon Tops Competition

Jun 11, 2014, 11:23 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Jun 11, 2014, 1:45 PM

Verizon Wireless has earned the title of America's zippiest LTE network this year from PCMag. The PCMag/Ziff Davis Fastest Mobile Networks 2014 project ranked the speed and reliability of the nation's major wireless network providers in testing that spanned 30 cities and collected tens of thousands of data points across thousands of miles driven by cars. PCMag measured peak and average uploads/downloads, ping times, and web page load times. It used the LG G2, which is sold by all four national carriers. The G2 was placed in cars, and cycled through tests continually using an application developed by Sensorly. According to PCMag's data, Verizon won this year due to the rollout of its XLTE service, which boosted speeds, and its far-reaching coverage in both large cities and rural regions. Nationally, Verizon Wireless saw an average LTE download speed of 19.6Mbps, with peaks surpassing 84Mbps. AT&T saw coverage improve across the country, but LTE speeds actually slowed year-over-year in major markets due to congestion. T-Mobile's LTE network grew significantly in terms of coverage and was often the fastest in major cities. T-Mobile's poor rural coverage, however, hurt its national averages. Sprint's LTE network ranked the slowest of the four and Sprint also suffered from a lack of coverage when compared to Verizon and AT&T. PCMag ranks the major networks each year. The overall scores are weighted 70% on speed and 30% on reliability. In additional to national rankings, PCMag generated regional rankings and city-by-city rankings for the major networks.


AT&T, T-Mobile Offer Best 3G Performance

Jun 11, 2014, 11:22 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

The 3G networks operated by AT&T and T-Mobile handily beat those operated by Sprint and Verizon Wireless in PCMag's Fastest Mobile Networks in 2014. AT&T and T-Mobile use HSPA/HSPA for 3G and Sprint and Verizon use CDMA EVDO Rev. A for 3G. For its purposes, PCMag defined 4G/3G based on speed thresholds possible by each network type. It set minimums for average download speeds and then tested the 4G/3G networks accordingly. T-Mobile's 3G network offered the fastest national average download speeds of 8.6Mbps, with a 28.5Mbps peak. T-Mobile's 3G network, for the most part, exceeded the marketing claims made by the company. AT&T's 3G network delivered a national average download speed of 3.8Mbps, with a 15.5Mbps peak. Both Sprint and Verizon saw national average download speeds of just 0.7Mbps, with peaks at 2.5Mbps and 2.7Mbps, respectively. Phones that can't connect to LTE networks fall back to the available 3G networks. PCMag's data clearly shows that AT&T and T-Mobile offer a better 3G experience when their LTE isn't available. Sprint and Verizon's 3G networks are limited by the CDMA EVDO technology used to run them. Though Verizon's 3G network may be slow, its LTE network was ranked the fastest and most reliable by PCMag.


FCC Outs Alcatel OneTouch Evolve 2 for T-Mobile

Jun 11, 2014, 9:31 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Documents seen on the Federal Communications Commission web site reveal details about an unannounced handset from Alcatel. The Alcatel OneTouch Evolve 2 is an Android smartphone with support for T-Mobile's network, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth, according to the FCC. Images posted to the FCC's web site show a slab-style device with a touch screen, capacitive buttons, a main camera, a user-facing camera, and speakerphone. The draft user manual, which doesn't confirm final features, suggests the device supports microSD cards and lists a number of T-Mobile-branded services, such as Wi-Fi calling. Neither Alcatel nor T-Mobile have announced the OneTouch Evolve 2. Pricing and availability details are unknown.


T-Mobile Makes It Easy to Get Premium SMS Refunds

Jun 10, 2014, 5:59 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Jun 10, 2014, 6:13 PM

T-Mobile today said it will reach out to customers who it believes were charged for unwanted premium SMS services so that they might request a refund. T-Mobile ceased offering premium SMS services last year when it ascertained some providers were charging customers even though the customers never requested the service in question. T-Mobile plans to proactively contact current and former customers who were billed for such services and explain how they can seek a refund from T-Mobile. The notification program will run from July through September. T-Mobile said it will set up a special web site to provide more information about the refund program.


T-Mobile Drops GoSmart Pricing, Ups Data Allotments

Jun 10, 2014, 12:22 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Jun 10, 2014, 6:01 PM

T-Mobile recently lowered the monthly prices of its prepaid GoSmart service. There are now three different GoSmart plans. The first offers unlimited voice and text for $25 per month. The second offers unlimited voice and text, and up to 500MB of 3G data for $35 per month. The third offers unlimited voice and text, and up to 3GB of 3G data for $40 per month. Users who exceed their monthly data allotment will be throttled for the remainder of the billing period. According to T-Mobile, GoSmart customers may supply their own device. However, 4G-equipped phones will only be able to browse GoSmart at 3G data speeds. GoSmart is T-Mobile's own prepaid brand. It is separate from MetroPCS, which T-Mobile also owns.


T-Mobile Debuts 'Underground' Store

Jun 6, 2014, 7:31 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

T-Mobile recently pulled back the velvet curtain to reveal Underground, a new storefront for those seeking hard-to-get devices. T-Mobile Underground is a web site where "true enthusiasts" will find limited-stock devices and accessories. In addition to exclusive and performance-centric devices, T-Mobile Underground will offer "news and reviews from the tech literati." At launch, the only device available through T-Mobile Underground is the limited-edition Samsung Galaxy S5 Gold. T-Mobile didn't say if or when other devices will be added to the Underground roster.


Moto X, Moto G, and Moto E to Get Android 4.4.3 from Motorola

Jun 3, 2014, 3:44 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Motorola today announced that the Moto X, G, and E handsets can all expect to receive the Android 4.4.3 KitKat update in the days ahead. According to Motorola, the update brings a new dialer, several new theme colors, as well as stability, framework, security fixes, and enhancements to the power profile capabilities. The update also improves camera image quality for the Moto X, gives the Moto X and G the ability to pause/resume video capture, and gives the Moto X and Moto G access to the Moto Alert app. The system update is only available to the T-Mobile variant of the Moto X to start. Motorola didn't say when it will reach other vesions of the Moto X. The update is free to download and install.


T-Mobile Says Wi-Fi Calling Coming to iPhone

Jun 2, 2014, 4:57 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

T-Mobile today said that, with the arrival of iOS 8, its iPhone subscribers will have access to Wi-Fi calling. T-Mobile has offered other smartphone platforms Wi-Fi calling for years as an alternative for making voice calls in poor cellular coverage areas. Apple introduced iOS 8 earlier today and one of the many new features is support for voice calls over Wi-Fi. iOS 8 won't be available to most people until the fall, but Wi-Fi calling will be available to T-Mobile's iPhone customers as soon as the new operating system from Apple arrives.


Transit Wireless Upgrades Earliest NYC Subway Stops

May 28, 2014, 9:02 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Transit Wireless today said that it has upgraded the cell service found in six different subway stations scattered across New York City. The stations were among the first in the city to gain access to wireless services back in 2011. According to Transit Wireless, the company building the underground network, the stations have been updated to the latest 3G and 4G wireless technologies from AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless. The stations include 34th St. / Herald Square (B, D, F, M, Q, N, R lines); 42nd St. / Bryant Park (7, B, D, F, M lines); Grand Central / 42nd St. (4, 5, 6, 7, S lines); 23rd St., 28th St., and 33rd St. (6 line); and 23rd St. (F, M lines). Transit Wireless has lit up service in dozens of other midtown subway stations and plans to provide service to 29 stations in Queens by the end of summer.


Sense 6.0 for Verizon's HTC One (M7) Hits this Week

May 27, 2014, 7:32 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

HTC recently indicated that Verizon Wireless will begin pushing the Sense 6.0 system update to the One (M7) this week. The update brings the M7 in line with the software running on the M8. The unlocked variant, the developer variant, and the T-Mobile variant of the M7 have already been updated to Sense 6.0. AT&T and Sprint are both still in the process of certifying Sense 6.0 for their versions of the M7. According to HTC's update status web site, it is also still working to bring Sense 6.0 to the Verizon HTC One max and the AT&T HTC One mini. The Sense 6.0 update for the Verizon One M7 will be pushed out in waves.


T-Mobile Debuts VoLTE in Seattle

May 22, 2014, 11:44 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated May 22, 2014, 11:48 AM

T-Mobile today announced that it has launched VoLTE service in its home market of Seattle. T-Mobile claims that VoLTE service offers both voice and data in the same radio layer and offers call set-up times that are twice as quick. T-Mobile's VoLTE service includes HD Voice, though T-Mobile has offered HD Voice separately since last year. In order for HD Voice to work, both handsets need to be HD Voice-capable. According to T-Mobile, its VoLTE service uses Enhanced Single Radio Voice Call Continuity (eSRVCC) to make sure calls don't drop when leaving LTE coverage regions. This is an LTE Advanced feature that assures seamless voice service no matter the technology used to connect the call. VoLTE will first be available to the LG G Flex, Samsung Galaxy Note 3, and Galaxy Light handsets. Owners of these devices will need to update the software of their phone in order to make use of VoLTE. T-Mobile said its VoLTE service will expand to new regions and devices over the months ahead. AT&T is launching VoLTE this week, and Verizon plans to launch VoLTE later this year.


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