Subway today announced it has partnered with Softcard and will begin accepting Softcard-based mobile payments on October 1. Softcard, which launched last year as Isis, is backed by AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless. The service allows smartphone owners to link their credit card to the Softcard app on their phone and use it to make mobile payments at select retailers nationwide. Subway said it will accept Softcard at 26,000 locations around the U.S. Further, the company is offering $1 back on every purchase made with American Express Serve through 12/31. Last, Subway will eventually add its Subway Card Rewards Program to the Softcard app, which will let customers earn rewards points when making mobile payments. Softcard is available to a wide number of Android smartphones through a dedicated application.
AT&T's top exec today said the company won't offer WiFi calling on its devices until next year. WiFi Calling has been around for years, but was highlighted by Apple this week as a new feature in the iPhone 6/6 Plus. Further, T-Mobile announced this week plans to expand WiFi calling to all its smartphones with a new in-home hotspot. T-Mobile's WiFi service goes live soon, but AT&T is in no rush to compete. "We're very focused on making sure it's a great experience for customers, but we see it as a complement, not a replacement," said CEO Ralph de la Vega. "We feel good about a great nationwide network with unlimited talk and text." WiFi calling passes voice calls and text messages over a local WiFi network rather than the macro cellular network.
T-Mobile today said it will make Wi-Fi calling available to all its postpaid customers for free. The move, announced at an event in San Francisco, is meant to help provide improved voice coverage in spaces where T-Mobile's network doesn't reach. Wi-Fi calls can be made from any open network. Even so, T-Mobile also debuted the T-Mobile Personal Cell Spot. This Wi-Fi hotspot, made by Asus, requires a $25 deposit and works with existing in-home internet service. It will permit T-Mobile customers to experience high-quality Wi-Fi calls when at home. It prioritizes voice functionality over data functionality. New phones sold by T-Mobile (including the iPhone 6) will be have this new functionality built in from the get-go, while older devices will receive an update to gain the new Wi-Fi calling features. The Personal Cell Spot will remain private; only those with the Wi-Fi password will be able to use it for calls and messaging. The Wi-Fi calling feature is free to use for all customers. T-Mobile offered a similar service back in 2007, called Hotspot@Home, but discontinued it in 2010. T-Mobile also announced a partnership with GoGo that will let its customers send and receive SMS/MMS messages from GoGo-equipped airplanes, as well as receive visual voicemail. The in-flight messaging service goes live September 17 and is free to all T-Mobile customers. The service will work with select phones at launch, including Samsung Galaxy S5, Apple iPhone 5s, HTC One, and LG G3 among others. More will be added over time.
Alcatel scored a win with T-Mobile, which has agreed to sell the OneTouch Fierce 2 and OneTouch Evolve 2. These low-cost handsets redefine value with their solid build quality and eye-popping price points.
FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler today suggested the agency will take a long, hard look at any proposed mergers between wireless companies. "We will continue to be skeptical of efforts to achieve scale through the consolidation of major players," said Wheeler at the CTIA trade show in Las Vegas. Sprint and its parent company SoftBank abandoned plans to acquire T-Mobile just last month after meeting with resistance from lawmakers. The FCC also shot down AT&T's attempted purchase of T-Mobile in 2011. The FCC has repeatedly suggested it prefers to have four national wireless network operators for increased competition. Wheeler also warned operators that the FCC may yet take a more active interest in regulating how they manage their networks. "One of the constant themes on the record is how consumers increasingly rely on mobile broadband as an important pathway to access the internet," said Wheeler. According to Wheeler, Microsoft agrees. It said there is "no question that mobile broadband access services must be subject to the same legal framework as fixed broadband access services." The FCC has new net neutrality rules on deck for approval in the months ahead.
Softcard, the mobile payment venture backed by AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless, today said it is "actively working with Apple to enable Softcard on the iPhone in 2015," according to CEO Michael Abbott. Softcard said Apple's decision to support NFC is "very significant and sets the stage for rapid scale adoption of mobile commerce." Softcard (the new brand name for Isis) has been available to Android smartphones since November 2013 and the iPhone via a special case since early 2014. Apple today separately announced its own mobile payment service called Apple Pay. Apple Pay will use NFC and properly-equipped retail terminals to power tap-and-go payments. Apple Pay launches in October with support from a number of banks and retailers.
Sprint today matched T-Mobile's move to increase the appeal of its trade-in program. Beginning immediately, Sprint will meet or beat all AT&T's, T-Mobile's, and Verizon's buyback pricing on all new lines of service to ensure the best trade-in values. T-Mobile on Monday said it would meet or beat competitors' trade-in programs, as well as give customers a $50 credit if they find a better deal. According to Sprint, T-Mobile's program is limited to one trade-in per line. Sprint's program isn't offering $50 in additional credit, but Sprint will accept up to three trade-ins per line and up to five trade-ins per calendar year. Further, Sprint customers can trade in old devices any time. Sprint offers up to $300 for trade-ins, depending on the phone and its condition, which can be put towards new purchases or account credit. Sprint has always been serious about accepting device trade-ins and has a significant recycling program.
T-Mobile today indicated it is working with other carriers to offer LTE roaming. T-Mobile competitors Sprint and Verizon Wireless have aggressively pursued rural LTE roaming deals, which has in turn increased their LTE availability. T-Mobile has been slower to make such agreements, and it lacks coverage in many rural locations. T-Mobile's director of business development, Heather Stacey, said the company is weighing the Competitive Carrier Association's data roaming hub and/or making a bilateral roaming arrangement directly with another carrier. Stacey admitted that both technical and business issues (i.e., cost) have slowed T-Mobile's progress on roaming agreements. Nevertheless, T-Mobile expects to have at least some LTE roaming agreements in place before the end of the year. Such agreements will expand the availability of LTE service to T-Mobile's customers.
T-Mobile today announced it will beat the trade-in value offered by any of its competitors. The company explained that it plans to track the market value of most phones and will offer the best possible price for trade-ins. However, if a customer finds a better trade-in price from a national carrier, T-Mobile will match the price, plus cover the difference, and add an additional $50 in credit. The offer starts September 17 and is for a limited time. T-Mobile customers will need to act quickly, as they'll have to contact T-Mobile within seven days of trading in an old device.
T-Mobile today increased the number of markets in which it operates MetroPCS by 10. MetroPCS, which is T-Mobile's prepaid brand, will reach consumers in Chattanooga, Tenn.; Chicago, Ill.; Kansas City and St. Louis, Mo.; Milwaukee, Wisc.; Minneapolis-St.Paul, Minn.; Norfolk-Portsmouth-Newport News, and Richmond-Petersburg, Va.; Salt Lake City, Utah; and Yakima-Pasco-Richland-Kennewick, Wash., over the next few months. According to T-Mobile, MetroPCS is available from 11,000 points of sale across 55 metro areas. T-Mobile today also responded to recent moves by its competitors by increasing the data available to its prepaid customers. Beginning today, subscribers to MetroPCS' $40 plan will see their data limit bumped from 500MB to 1GB. Subscribers to the $50 plan will see their data increase from 2.5GB to 3GB. All customers will automatically be added to the new plans. T-Mobile doesn't charge overages, but does throttle back the speeds of those who surpass their monthly data allotment.
Isis, the mobile payment venture backed by AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless, today said its new name will be Softcard. The service will remain the same, only the name is changing. Isis announced its intent to rebrand earlier this year to avoid any association with ISIS.
T-Mobile today voiced support for the HTC One for Windows on its web site. The company will sell the device in the weeks ahead. It is already sold by Verizon Wireless, and will also soon be sold by AT&T. The One for Windows runs Windows Phone rather than Android.
The FCC today levied an $819,000 fine against T-Mobie for its lack of support for hearing-aid compatible handsets. The FCC originally made its claim against T-Mobile more than two years ago, when it discovered T-Mobile "willfully and repeatedly" failed to comply with rules mandating each carrier offer a certain number of hearing-aid compatible (HAC) handsets. According to the FCC, T-Mobile violated the rules during 2009 and 2010. The requirements make sure consumers with hearing loss have access to advanced telecommunications services. The minimum number of HAC phones required to be offered by Tier 1 carriers has evolved over the years, but at the moment 10 handsets or at least 50% of a carriers' breadth of devices must offer an M3 acoustic coupling, and seven handsets or at least 33% must offer a T3 inductive coupling. T-Mobile attempted to mitigate the fine over the last few years, but its arguments didn't convince the FCC. T-Mobile has 30 days to pay the FCC, or it will face the Department of Justice.
Cricket Wireless, which is owned by AT&T, today announced a new incentive to win over T-Mobile and other customers. Cricket is offering five lines for $100 per month. The plan includes one more line than T-Mobile's current promotion (four lines for $100). Cricket said, "People can sign up for the five lines for $100 up until January 2, and enjoy the promotion long after." It didn't provide an actual end date. Each line gets unlimited talk/text and 500MB of data. The pricing is based on five lines of service with an eligible $40 base plan. Each successive line gains a greater discount. For example, line two receives a $10 monthly discount; line three receives a $20 monthly discount; line four receives a $30 monthly discount; and line five receives a $40 monthly discount. The promotion is available to new and existing customers (in good standing, with two eligible lines of service). Accounts with multiple lines will automatically be enrolled into the new promotion. The $100 monthly cost includes all taxes and fees.
T-Mobile and Alcatel today announced the addition of the Fierce 2 and Evolve 2 to T-Mobile's value handset roster. Both devices run Android 4.4 KitKat. Shared hardware features include 5-megapixel main cameras, VGA user-facing cameras, 4GB of built-in storage, support for microSD cards up to 32GB, and Bluetooth and Wi-Fi.
- Fierce 2: The Fierce 2 (pictured) is the larger of the two phones, boasting a 5-inch qHD display. It is powered by a 1.2GHz quad-core Snapdragon processor and includes 1GB of RAM. The camera includes HDR, panorama, and burst modes. The Fierce 2 has a 2,000mAh battery.
- Evolve 2: This compact phone has a 4-inch WVGA display and it is powered by a 1.3GHz dual-core processor with 512MB of RAM. It has a 1,4000mAh battery. Alcatel is pitching the Fierce 2 as an entry-level smartphone.
T-Mobile today expanded the availability of its Music Freedom program to include six new music services. Music Freedom already allows T-Mobile customers to stream music from iHeartRadio, iTunesRadio, Pandora, Rhapsody, Samsung Milk, Slacker, and Spotify for free. The music streamed across T-Mobile's LTE network doesn't count against customers' data buckets. Beginning today, customers will be able to stream music from AccuRadio, Black Planet, Grooveshark, Radio Paradise, Rdio, and Songza, too. Further, T-Mobile said Google's Play Music service, chosen by T-Mobile customers through a poll, will be available later this year. T-Mobile claims its customers have streamed 7,000 terabytes of music across its network since Music Freedom began in June.
T-Mobile today expanded the flexibility of its family plan from a maximum of five lines per plan to a maximum of 10 lines per plan. T-Mobile Simple Choice subscribers can add new lines to their plan for $10 each after the second subscriber. Beginning August 27, they'll be able to add up to 10 lines. T-Mobile says the increase is in response to demand from large families as well as small business. Each T-Mobile Simple Choice plan provides unlimited talk/text, unlimited 2G data, and up to 1GB of LTE data. Subscribers can add unlimited LTE data for $30 per line if they wish. T-Mobile's Simple Choice plans do not require a contract, don't charge overages, and include 2G data and texting while abroad, in addition to free music streaming in the U.S. In addition to the expanded Simple Choice family plans, T-Mobile is upping the data available to tablets. Beginning September 3, customers can add a tablet to their plan for $10 per month and T-Mobile will match the customers' smartphone data allotment up to 5GB. For example, a Simple Choice subscriber who pays for 3GB of LTE data for their smartphone will receive that same amount of data for their tablet for $10 per month.
T-Mobile today announced a new option for subscribers of its Simple Starter plans. The plan already offers unlimited talk/text and 500MB of data for $40 per month. Starting September 3, subscribers will be able to quadruple their data to 2GB of LTE 4G access per month for $5 more. The Simple Starter plan does not require an annual service contract and does not charge domestic overages.
Cricket Wireless is borrowing a play from T-Mobile by offering a $100 credit to customers who switch from the UNcarrier or MetroPCS to AT&T-owned Cricket. The $100 bill credit offer is available from August 24 to October 19 at Cricket stores nationwide and online. According to Cricket, there is no limit on the number of lines a customer can switch to Cricket. Each line transferred from T-Mobile/MetroPCS is eligible for the $100 bill credit. Cricket's prepaid Basic, Smart, and Pro plans cost $40, $50, and $60, respectively, per month. Each plan offers a $5 monthly reduction when customers choose to use auto-pay.
Sprint today announced a new unlimited plan that it says undercuts the competition. The plan, which will be available beginning August 22, provides a single line of service with unlimited talk, text, and data for $60 per month. Sprint claims the offering beats T-Mobile's best price by $20 per month, and that similar options aren't available from AT&T or Verizon Wireless. There is a catch. In order to qualify for the plan, customers need to either bring their own device, pay full retail for a device, or sign up for Sprint's Easy Pay financing plan. The Sprint $60 Unlimited Plan for single lines follows a complete overhaul of Sprint's family share plans, which offer savings to four or more lines of service.
T-Mobile today said it will give current customers unlimited LTE data for a full year if they convince an AT&T, Sprint, or Verizon customer to switch to T-Mobile. T-Mobile is likening the program to "throwing a lifeline" to those on competing networks. Not only does the current customer receive unlimited LTE for a year, but so does the new customer. Customers who already pay for unlimited data will receive a $10 monthly credit instead. The referral program kicks off August 29. Customers will then be able to enter their own number and the number of a friend who's ported their service, which must be reported within 30 days of the friend's activation. The referral program runs for a limited time, but T-Mobile didn't immediately indicate an end date. It doesn't apply to pre-paid plans, and is limited to one referral per account.
ZTE today announced it is bringing the Nubia 5S mini with LTE to the U.S. The 5S mini is a compact handset that's part of ZTE's premium line of Android smartphones. It has a 4.7-inch 720p HD IGZO display from Sharp, and it is powered by a 1.2GHz quad-core Snapdragon 400 processor with an Adreno 305 GPU. The phone is equipped with a 13-megapixel main camera and a bevy of advanced controls for focus, light metering, and white balance. The five-element f/2.2 lens is protected by sapphire, and the camera has three shooting modes: Fun, Auto, and Pro. The 5S mini has a 5-megapixel user-facing camera, too, and can capture 720p HD video. Other hardware features include 2GB of RAM, 16GB of storage, and a memory card slot; Bluetooth 4.0, Wi-Fi, and support for AT&T/T-Mobile LTE; and a 2,000mAh battery. ZTE is offering the Nubia 5S mini with LTE directly to consumers via Amazon, where the device costs $280 and ships unlocked. The phone is available for order today, and ships starting August 27.
Sprint today announced new shared data plans that offer twice as much mobile data as comparable plans from AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless. Sprint's Family Share Pack includes four lines with unlimited talk and text and 20GB of shared data for $160 per month. AT&T and Verizon have similarly-priced plans that include only 10GB of data. T-Mobile's shared plan costs $100 per month. Further, Sprint is offering a huge incentive to families that port their numbers from another carrier. Sprint will give families with up to 10 lines unlimited talk/text and 20GB of shared data for only $100 per month through 2015, plus an additional 2GB per line. Under this promotion, a family of four would have up to 28GB of data per month and a family of 10 would have up to 40GB of data per month. The promotional $100 plan pricing will be available from August 22 to September 30. Last, Sprint is offering to cover the ETFs - up to $350 per line - for families that break their contract to sign up with Sprint Family Share Pack. All new devices must be purchased through Sprint Easy Pay. Sprint CEO Marcelo Claure said the company will debut new plans for individuals later this week.
T-Mobile has confirmed reports that it may throttle down the data speeds of customers who it says violate the company's terms of service. "A very small number of our customers are misusing their Simple Choice Unlimited data service in violation of their rate plan and terms and conditions by bypassing the default tethering feature or engaging in peer-to-peer (P2P) file-sharing," said T-Mobile in a statement provided to FierceWireless. "This type of usage can negatively impact our ability to offer affordable unlimited data. In order to protect all T-Mobile customers, we will be reaching out to these people to educate them on our terms and conditions of service, but if the misuse continues, they could have their data speeds reduced for the remainder of their billing cycle." Enforcement of the terms of service is set to go into effect August 17 and applies only to customers with T-Mobile's $80 Unlimited Simple Choice plan. T-Mobile's action follows closely that of Verizon Wireless, which recently said it plans to throttle the data speeds of its unlimited LTE customers in certain scenarios. The FCC has queried all the carriers on their network management policies in response.
Two low-cost providers, RadioShack No Contract and Spot Mobile, have decided to call it quits. RadioShack didn't operate a traditional MVNO, but branded and resold Cricket Wireless' service as its own. Now that Cricket is owned by AT&T, and RadioShack No Contract struggled to win over customers, the company will cease selling the service. According to RadioShack, customers who purchased the service will be able to continue using their device and will be transitioned to Cricket Wireless. RadioShack will honor its 30-day return policy so those who recently purchased a RadioShack No Contract device can get a refund. RadioShack's retail business is also hurting and the company plans to close a wide number of stores this year. Separately, Spot Mobile, an MVNO that resold access to T-Mobile's network, also decided to shut down. Spot Mobile has already ceased processing account refills, and will shut down service altogether September 7. Spot Mobile said customers can port their number out to their carrier of choice.
T-Mobile recently asked the FCC for permission to buy spectrum licenses from Actel, a company owned by CenturyLink. The deal includes 13 licenses that cover various small cities in portions of Alabama, Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, New Mexico, and Oklahoma. The total number of POPs contained in the markets is about 6.5 million. T-Mobile told the FCC the purchase will help it improve its service offering to customers in those regions. No terms were disclosed in the FCC filing. T-Mobile also recently agreed to snap up another small sliver of 700MHz spectrum from I-700 A Block. Those licenses cover Evansville, Ind., and Henderson and Paducah, Ky.
T-Mobile today announced a refresh to its Pay as You Go plans. Beginning August 17, T-Mobile's low-cost offering will charge one flat rate of $0.10 per voice minute or per message. The plan will require a monthly minimum spend of $3, providing customers with up to 30 minutes of talk, 30 messages, or a combo thereof. The plan does not require credit checks, deposits, or annual contracts. Customers will also be able to buy LTE day passes. The data passes cost $5 for one day (up to 500MB of LTE) or $10 for seven days (up to 1GB of LTE). The new Pay as You Go plans can be paired with a wide range of devices.
FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler today indicated the agency has sent letters to AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile with questions pertaining to their network management policies. The issue bubbled to the surface recently when Verizon announced plans to throttle its heaviest unlimited LTE subscribers. In a letter to Verizon, Wheeler called the policy management criteria "deeply troubling." Verizon responded and claimed its policies do not differ from those of its competitors. Wheeler is not convinced. "'All the kids do it' was never something that worked for me when I was growing up," said Wheeler. "My concern in this instance - and it's not just with Verizon, by the way, we've written to all the carriers - is that it is moving from a technology and engineering issue to the business issues ... such as choosing between different subscribers based on your economic relationship with them." AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile have not yet responded publicly to the FCC's query.
The FCC today formally adopted rules that will require all providers of messaging services to enable their apps with text-to-911 capabilities. Earlier this year the FCC said industry players outside the four major wireless network operators need to get on board. AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless began accepting text-to-911 in select markets around the country in May. The FCC recognized, however, that not all consumers subscribe to the four major carriers, nor do all consumers make use of traditional SMS messaging services. The new rules apply to nearly all messaging apps and services, including over-the-top apps such as WhatsApp, as well as the remaining wireless network operators. The FCC wants apps and operators to enable text-to-911 by the end of the year. Some messaging services will be exempt, such as those that function within games or social networks. The FCC feels this is an essential service and keeps in step with how consumers prefer to communicate. The CTIA Wireless Association, which represents the wireless network operators, voiced displeasure with the new rules. "While the wireless industry remains committed to collaborating with public safety to make text-to-911 available in the near-term, we are disappointed that the FCC acted today to codify a voluntary agreement to deploy an interim technological solution across all wireless carriers and interconnected 'over the top' text providers. The chilling effect of the Commission's proposed enforcement role is particularly worrisome in situations where, as here, the voluntary agreement involves new services that face challenging obstacles to implementation." Earlier this week, AT&T also took issue with the FCC's plan in a post published to its public policy blog. According to AT&T, the FCC's plan is ill-conceived and presents new challenges to network operators.
FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler today voiced his approval of Sprint's decision to halt its attempt to acquire T-Mobile. "Four national wireless providers is good for American consumers. Sprint now has an opportunity to focus their efforts on robust competition," said Wheeler in a statement. The FCC and Justice Department have long contended the U.S. market needs four national carriers. Had Sprint acquired or merged with T-Mobile, that number would have been reduced to three. Wheeler's statement sends a clear signal that the FCC likes things the way they are, with AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless all competing with one another.
Sprint today announced it has named Marcelo Claure as President and CEO of the company, who replaces Dan Hesse. Claure already served on Sprint's board of directors, and is the Founder and CEO of Brightstar Corp. Sprint owner SoftBank also owns a significant portion of Brightstar, which distributes mobile devices. Claure will resign from his CEO position at Brightstar effective August 11, and SoftBank will acquire his remaining shares of the company. Dan Hesse will depart Sprint on August 11 after leading the company since 2007. Hesse oversaw many transformations at Sprint, including its acquisition of Clearwire and acquisition by SoftBank. "I'm proud of the resilience of Sprint's people during a difficult transformation and I'm optimistic about how they will build on a foundation of innovation to succeed in the future," said Hesse. "It's been an honor to have led such dedicated teammates. Marcelo's entrepreneurial background, business savvy, industry experience and strong relationship with Masayoshi Son make Marcelo an excellent choice to lead Sprint going forward." Claure will be based at Sprint headquarters in Overland Park. Claure said he looks forward to leading "the Sprint team as we mobilize to become the wireless carrier of choice in the U.S. In the short-term, we will focus on becoming extremely cost efficient and competing aggressively in the marketplace. While consolidating makes sense in the long-term, for now, we will focus on growing and repositioning Sprint." Sprint has lost customers to rivals during the last few years and has struggled to launch LTE 4G as quickly as its competitors. Separately, Sprint will cease its efforts to acquire T-Mobile and will forge ahead on its own.
Sprint plans to end its pursuit of T-Mobile. The company and its owner SoftBank have been weighing the idea for nearly a year. They now believe Sprint will not be able to win regulatory approval of an acquisition or merger between Sprint and T-Mobile, according to unnamed sources cited by The Wall Street Journal. The FCC and Justice Department were quick to tell Sprint they prefer a four-carrier market to maintain competition. Sprint and its owner Softbank will pursue a solo strategy moving forward. Sprint may make a formal announcement regarding a change of direction as soon as Wednesday. Separately, Bloomberg also reported that Sprint and T-Mobile have ended merger talks. Bloomberg further noted Sprint may also announce a new CEO to replace Dan Hesse along with its new strategy. Sprint has not made any announcements, nor did it comment on either report.
T-Mobile has rejected Iliad's initial offer to buy the company, reports the Wall Street Journal. The $15 billion bid for a 56.6% stake in the company was "not attractive enough" and "dead on arrival" according to a source cited by the Journal. T-Mobile also denied Iliad's request to open its books, which would have been necessary for Iliad to conduct due diligence on T-Mobile. Iliad's bid came as a surprise. The company fills a similar role to that of T-Mobile as a competitive game-changer in its home market of France. Another source cited by the Journal said Iliad is considering its next steps, though it is unclear what those steps might be. Had T-Mobile taken Iliad's offer seriously, it would have thrown a wrench into Sprint's long-term plans to acquire T-Mobile.
T-Mobile and MetroPCS today announced the Kyocera Hydro Life, a new semi-rugged and waterproof Android smartphone. Like many of Kyocera's handsets, the Hydro Life is for customers who need a robust phone that can survive the trials and tribulations of an active lifestyle. It is certified to mil-spec 810G for protection against drops and shock, and IP57 for protection against dust and water damage (submersion in up to 3 feet of water for up to 30 minutes). The phone has an impact-resistant 4.5-inch qHD display that Kyocera says has a non-slip finish. The Hydro Life is powered by a 1.2GHz quad-core Snapdragon processor with 1.5GB of RAM and 8GB of internal storage. The phone includes a 5-megapixel main camera and a 2-megapixel selfie camera. The Hydro Life packs Kyocera's Smart Sonic receiver for improved phone call audio, as well as Kyocera's EcoMode and MaxiMZR tools for managing the 2,000mAh battery. The phone supports Wi-Fi and T-Mobile's Wi-Fi calling service, as well as Bluetooth 4.0, and T-Mobile's HSPA+ network. The Kyocera Hydro Life runs Android 4.3. It will be available to T-Mobile customers at Walmart stores beginning August 8 for $125. It will reach MetroPCS stores on August 29.
The FCC has shot down the idea of allowing two or more wireless network operators to bid on spectrum jointly. Sprint and T-Mobile hoped to join forces in some bidding and requested permission to do so. FCC bureau chief Roger Sherman said the idea would contradict the FCC's wish to see competitive bidding from a wide range of companies, large and small.
Iliad, a telecom business based in France, has made an unsolicited offer to purchase T-Mobile U.S. The company submitted the offer to T-Mobile's board within the last week. It is offering $15 billion in cash for a controlling 56.6% stake in the company. Iliad's role in the French mobile market is similar to T-Mobile's in the U.S. market. It sees T-Mobile as a natural fit and a way to break into the U.S. market. "The U.S. mobile market is vast and attractive," said Iliad in a statement. "T-Mobile has successfully established itself in the market by positioning itself, in many respects, in a similar way to Iliad in France." Iliad's offer complicates Sprint's interest in T-Mobile. Sprint and T-Mobile are believed to have agreed to the broad strokes of an acquisition, but are still hammering out details. Sprint has not made a formal offer for T-Mobile, but may have to accelerate its plans with Iliad's offer now on the table. T-Mobile has not commented publicly on Iliad's offer, but it did report second quarter earnings today. T-Mobile added 1.5 million new customers this quarter and has expanded the availability of VoLTE nationwide as of today.
Cellphone users in the U.S. have been fraudulently charged hundreds of millions of dollars, says a report released today by the U.S. Senate Commerce Committee. The Senate is scheduled to hold a hearing on cramming and believes small companies that sell ringtones and other premium text messaging services often fraudulently bill customers who never signed up. The money was collected by the wireless network operators, which keep a cut of the revenue. "Some carrier policies allowed vendors to continue billing consumers even when the vendors had several months of consecutively high consumer refund rates," read part of the report. The FTC recently sued T-Mobile for allowing its customers to be crammed, though T-Mobile vehemently denies the accusation. Earlier this month, a California court shut down six companies that raked in more than $100 million via cramming. The Senate has yet to decide what to do about the matter.
T-Mobile today announced the Samsung Galaxy Avant, which is a low-cost Android smartphone. The device features a 4.5-inch qHD screen, quad-core 1.2GHz processor with 1.5GB of RAM, 5-megapixel camera, and 16GB of storage with support for microSD cards up to 64GB. Other features include an FM radio, S Voice, NFC, Easy Mode, and Wi-Fi calling. The Samsung Galaxy Avant is available starting today for $216 or $0 down followed by 24 payments of $9 each.
T-Mobile today announced a promotional plan that undercuts AT&T, Sprint, and Verizon's offerings dramatically. T-Mobile says a family of four can sign up for a T-Mobile Simple Choice plan with 10GB of LTE data for $100 per month. T-Mobile says each line receives 2.5GB of data in addition to unlimited talk, text, free 2G international data, and unlimited streaming music. The promotional price is good until January 2016 and is available beginning July 30 through September 30. AT&T, Sprint, and Verizon all charge $160 per month for similar four-line plans.
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.