HTC has made a system update available to the T-Mobile variant of the One M9, and the phone earns some significant improvements with the new code. To start, it gains the camera enhancents given to the international edition earlier this year, as well as the kill switch required by California law. It also adds battery improvements and new support for Google Wallet. The update is being pushed out over the air.
T-Mobile today announced Advanced Messaging, a refresh of its base messaging service that adds several powerful features. Advanced Messaging is based on Rich Communications Services (RCS), which allows T-Mobile to offer near real-time chatting. Users can see when people are typing responses, see exactly when messages are delivered, and see when messages are read. T-Mobile's Advanced Messaging lets people instantly share photo and video files up to 10MB, as well. Advanced Messaging will first be available on the Samsung Galaxy Core Prime. Owners of the Samsung Galaxy S5 and S6 can enable Advanced Messaging through a simple system update. T-Mobile said more phones will launch with Advanced Messaging throughout the year, and it expects the service to become a standard feature across its product portfolio. T-Mobile Advanced Messaging is built to work across all devices, makers, platforms, and wireless operators. RCS is a standards-based technology and T-Mobile expects to introduce other RCS products in the future. Advanced Messaging will help T-Mobile compete with over-the-top messaging services, such as Facebook, Skype, and WhatsApp, that offer many of the same features.
Kyocera today announced the Hydro Wave, its newest Android handset for T-Mobile and MetroPCS. The Hydro Wave has an IP57 rating for protection against water/dust ingress and meets mil-spec 810G for resistance to abuse. The Wave includes wet screen tracking so the phone can be used when wet. It runs Android 5.1 Lollipop but includes new software from Kyocera called Core Home, which simplifies the user interface for first-time users or those who prefer the look and feel of feature phone UIs. The Hydro Wave features a 5-inch qHD display, 1.2 GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 410 processor, 1 GB of RAM, 8 GB of storage, and supports memory cards up to 32 GB. The main camera has a 5-megapixel sensor with LED flash and can capture 720p HD video, while the user-facing camera has a 2-megapixel sensor. Wireless capabilities include WiFi with WiFi Direct and WiFi Calling, Bluetooth 4.0 Low Energy, and LTE with VoLTE and HD Voice support. The Hydro Wave has a 2,300mAh battery and includes Kyocera's Eco Mode and MaxiMZR to enhance battery life. The Hydro Wave will go on sale in T-Mobile stores July 22, followed by MetroPCS stores July 27. The price is $149.99.
Ubik Mobile today announced the Uno, an affordable flagship smartphone that it is making available via Kickstarter. The handset runs a stock version of Android 5.1 Lollipop and features a 5.5-inch 1080p HD screen protected by Gorilla Glass 3. The display has minimal bezels along the sides, giving it an edge-to-edge look. The Uno is powered by a 2.2 GHz MediaTek octa-core processor with 3 GB of RAM. The main camera has a 20-megapixel sensor with autofocus, f/2.2 aperture, and 4K video capture, while the user-facing camera has an 8-megapixel sensor. The Ubik Uno has 16 GB of storage, Bluetooth 4.0, NFC, WiFi, and support for memory cards up to 64 GB. The Uno is sold for $345 unlocked and it supports GSM-based LTE networks, such as those operated by AT&T and T-Mobile. The device will initially be sold through a Kickstarter campaign. The first 250 backers will get the Uno for $280, with other tiers priced at $299 and $320. The Kickstarter campaign has 44 days left and Ubik said it expects to ship the phone early in the fourth quarter. Ubik said the phone's software is nearly complete and, with production processes in place, it expects to test its manufacturing facilities soon. If Ubik Mobile doesn't hit its Kickstarter goal of $200,000, it may increase the price of the phone slightly and move forward anyway. The company said it will poll users through its web site as to what features it should include in future devices. They'll be able to choose from a bigger battery, thinner profile, and other potential features.
T-Mobile has settled with the FCC regarding two separate 911 outages on its national wireless network that prevented customers from reaching emergency services for a period of three hours. T-Mobile agreed to pay the FCC $17.5 million in fines and take steps to improve the strength of its network and 911 services. The company will follow an action plan to prevent or minimize the impact of similar outages in the future. For example, it will identify risks that could result in disruptions to 911 service, protect against such risks, respond with remedial actions, and recover from such outages swiftly. "The Commission has no higher priority than ensuring the reliability and resilience of our nation's communications networks so that consumers can reach public safety in their time of need," said FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler. "Communications providers that do not take necessary steps to ensure that Americans can call 911 will be held to account." T-Mobile's competitors, including Verizon Wireless, have settled similar complaints with the FCC.
MetroPCS today revealed a new plan for making calls to Mexico. The Mexico Unlimited package borrows a page from T-Mobile's Mobile Without Borders plan and offers unlimited calling and messaging to mobile and landlines in Mexico. Further, the plan allows MetroPCS customers to use their handsets freely in Mexico and make calls to the U.S., as well as Mexican lines without fear of roaming fees. MetroPCS customers can access their mobile data buckets while in Mexico, too. Mexico Unlimited is available beginning today. Customers who sign up for the plan before August 31 will get it at no extra charge for the rest of 2015. Mexico Unlimited costs $5 per month and requires a MetroPCS plan costing at least $40.
HTC today revealed a new family of Desire handsets. The 626 series (pictured) and 526/520 series share many features, though the former is a bit more mid-range and the latter is decidedly entry-level. Traits common to the 626, 626S, 526, and 520 include Qualcomm's 1.1 GHz quad-core Snapdragon 210 processor; 2,000mAh batteries; single-band WiFi, Bluetooth 4.1, and GPS/GLONASS; support for 2 TB memory cards; and Android 5.1 Lollipop with HTC Sense.
- 626/626S: In keeping with prior Desire designs, the 626/626S are formed of polycarbonate and have variable color combinations. These larger Desire handsets have 5-inch 720p HD screens and 8-megapixel main cameras with 720p video capture. The 626 has 16 GB of storage, 1.5GB of RAM, and a 5-megapixel user-facing camera. The 626S has 8 GB of storage, 1 GB of RAM, and a 2-megapixel user-facing camera.
- 526/520:The 526 and 520 share most design features, but differ in some key specs. They have a simple appearance and cheaper materials. The 526, intended for Verizon, has a 4.7-inch qHD screen, 8-megapixel rear camera, 2-megapixel front camera, 8 GB of storage, and 1.5 GB of RAM. The 520, intended for Cricket Wireless, has a 4.5-inch FWVGA screen, 8-megapixel rear camera, 2-megapixel front camera, 8 GB of storage, and 1 GB of RAM.
T-Mobile today announced a new family plan that offers 10GB of data to each line, up to four lines. T-Mobile says $100 buys two lines with unlimited talk and text and 10GB of data per line. A third line with its own 10GB of data costs $20 more, and a fourth line with its own 10GB of data is available for free (limited promotion, taxes and fees still apply). That means a four-person family can have unlimited voice and messaging service, and a total of 40GB of data to use, with 10GB apportioned to each line. The plan includes WiFi calling, Music Freedom, Data Stash, and Mobile without Borders. The new family plan will be available starting July 15.
T-Mobile today announced Mobile Without Borders, a new program that lets customers use their T-Mobile line in Canada and Mexico free of roaming charges. Beginning July 15, all calls to, from, and between the U.S., Mexico, and Canada are included at no extra charge. Any data used when roaming will be pulled from customers' data buckets. Further, customers will be able to access Music Freedom and Wi-Fi calling and texting, too. T-Mobile said customers will be able to tap into their Data Stash data in Mexico and Canada later this year. All new Simple Choice plans (including prepaid) will have access to Mobile Without Borders for free. Existing customers can opt-in online, in stores or by phone.
ROK Mobile, a music-focused MVNO, today said it has significantly expanded coverage by partnering with "the nation's largest 4G LTE network." ROK Mobile didn't name its new partner, but said customers can now enjoy cellular network access in more places. The carrier has already partnered with Sprint and T-Mobile, so the new partner is either AT&T or Verizon Wireless. ROK also announced plans to expand its retail availability across the country this month. ROK Mobile services will be available at "independently owned and operated" mobile phone stores nationwide starting in a few weeks. ROK didn't name its retail partners, but said it plans to be in 10,000 locations by the end of the year. ROK Mobile bundles wireless and music streaming services together for $49.99 per month. For that, users get 5GB of LTE 4G, unlimited calling and messaging, and unlimited access to ROK's 20 million tracks. Consumers interested in ROK Mobile need to supply their own Sprint- or T-Mobile-compatible handset. The service works on Android and iOS devices through ROK's mobile app.
Sony has made the Xperia Z3+ available through Amazon's U.S. web site. The phone is being sold unlocked and is compatible with GSM carriers, such as AT&T and T-Mobile. Verizon Wireless plans to sell a variant of the phone, called the Z3v, later this summer. It has a 5.2-inch full HD screen, 20.7-megapixel main camera, wide-angle 5-megapixel front camera, and a quad-core Snapdragon 810 processor with 3 GB of RAM. Amazon is selling it for about $640.
Sprint CEO Marcelo Claure has had enough of T-Mobile CEO John Legere's brash attitude. Claure had harsh words for Legere after Legere poked fun at Sprint's latest promotion, the All-In calling plan. "I give credit to @sprint for swinging the bat when they do – but #allin is a swing and a miss, guys! #sprintlikehell," said Legere via his personal Twitter account. Claure responded by saying, "I am so tired of your Uncarrier [baloney] when you are worse than the other two carriers together. Your cheap misleading lease imitation is a joke. You trick people to believe that they have a $15 iPhone lease payment when it's not true. You tell them they can upgrade up to 3x but you don't tell them the price goes up to $27 when they do. You say one thing but behave completely different. It's all a fake show. So it's really #Tmobilelikehell." Legere did not respond to Claure's accusations. Legere is known for his direct approach and use of profanity to make fun of T-Mobile's competitors.
Beginning today, most smartphones sold in the U.S. will include anti-theft security tools. July 1 marks the day by which phone makers and network operators agreed to implement free theft deterrents on smartphones. According to the CTIA, most of the industry has responded by placing remote lock/wipe capabilities on consumer devices. The addition of an activation lock on the Apple iPhone, for example, has dramatically reduced iPhone thefts in major cities. The activation lock prevents a stolen device from being activated by another person, thus making it useless to thieves. Remote wipe features allow people to erase the personal data from their handset if lost/stolen to protect their identity. The major participants in today's action include Apple, AT&T, BlackBerry, Google, HTC, Huawei, LG, Motorola, Microsoft, Samsung, Sprint, T-Mobile, U.S. Cellular, Verizon Wireless, and ZTE. "Today's fulfillment of the Smartphone Anti-Theft Voluntary Commitment is another example of the wireless industry proactively working together with policymakers and law enforcement to help protect consumers' smartphones in the event they are ever lost or stolen. We will continue to work with all interested parties to continue to deploy new technologies and tools to improve device theft-deterrence tools. We remind consumers to take a few minutes to use PINs, passwords, apps and other device features to protect their mobile devices and personal information." The industry was coerced into acting "voluntarily" when the FCC threatened to make such protective measures mandatory.
Sprint has settled accusations with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau that it over-billed customers for unwanted services. In May, the FCC fined Sprint $68 million for adding third-party services to customer bills without customer permission — a practice known as cramming. A U.S. judge is allowing Sprint to escape with a $50 million settlement, rather than the full amount. The FCC fined Verizon for $90 million in May also, and this week's settlement marks the end of the ordeal for both companies. Last year, the FCC tagged AT&T for $105 million and T-Mobile for $90 million to settle cramming complaints.
Sprint was found culpable of infringing on two patents held by Prism Technologies. The patents in question pertain to accessing protected computer resources and were used by Sprint in its "Simply Everything" and "Everything Data" plans, according to Prism. Sprint was ordered to pay a fine of $30 million. Sprint rejects the decision and said it will appeal. "We believe the evidence is clear that Sprint does not infringe the patent. Sprint plans to pursue post-trial motions," said Roni Singleton, a spokeswoman for Sprint, in a statement provided to RCR Wireless. Prism has similar cases pending against T-Mobile, Verizon Wireless, and U.S. Cellular.
Documents spotted on the FCC site reveal more information about ZTE's forthcoming Axon phone. The company has been teasing the device on the web for several weeks and plans to reveal it in full at a July 14 event in New York City. The FCC details the Axon Phone's impressive support for wireless networks, especially AT&T and T-Mobile. For example, it supports LTE bands 2, 4, 5, 7, 12, 13, 17, and 30 (AT&T's upcoming WCS 2.3GHz coverage). It also includes WCDMA bands 2, 4, and 5, and quad-band GSM. The FCC also reveals the Axon includes excellent support for hearing aids, and NFC. ZTE has already confirmed that the Axon Phone will have a dual-lens camera, 4K video capture, high-fidelity sound playback and audio recording, a fast processor, 4 GB of memory, and a large battery. The phone will be sold in blue, gold, or silver.
The European Commission today agreed to make cellphone roaming charges illegal beginning in 2017. The change in law means European wireless network operators will not be allowed to charge roaming fees for customers who travel across the 28-country continent. Additionally, the European Commission also adopted some net neutrality regulations to prevent service providers from discriminating between different types of internet traffic. European carriers, such as T-Mobile parent Deutsche Telekom, warn the rules will reduce investment across the region, but regulators see the new laws as a win for consumers, who are often charged high fees when they travel. The new rules are specific to Europeans who go to other European countries. U.S. residents traveling abroad can still expect AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless to charge roaming fees for accessing wireless networks in Europe and elsewhere.
GoSmart Mobile, a prepaid business operated by T-Mobile, introduced a new entry-level plan today that offers unlimited LTE access to Facebook. The plan costs $30 per month and also includes unlimited talk and text and up to 1GB of 3G data. Subscribers to the plan have unlimited tethering, though once they exceed their 1GB limit tethering speeds will be reduced to 2G. The no-contract plan includes all taxes and fees and will be available beginning June 28. GoSmart offers several other plans ranging from $25 to $45 per month.
The FCC today finalized its proposed rules for next year's 600 MHz spectrum auction and kept the reserve for smaller carriers at 30 MHz. T-Mobile and others petitioned the FCC to raise the reserve to 40 MHz, but FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler believes the 30 MHz cap offers plenty of opportunity for those who may bid. "The Incentive Auction offers one of the last opportunities for competitors to acquire significant quantities of low-band spectrum," said Wheeler. "With more than 70% of low-band spectrum in the hands of just two providers, one of the Commission's priorities is to ensure that multiple providers have a meaningful opportunity to acquire these valuable airwaves, which is critical to competition among wireless carriers. This is why the Commission voted to set aside this reserve a year ago. The draft Order concludes that the current reserve size of 30 MHz balances the desire to make low-band spectrum available to parties with limited holdings while facilitating competitive bidding for all auction participants." AT&T and Verizon Wireless will not be allowed to bid on 30 MHz of the airwaves in each market, which will be set aside for companies with less scale and fewer resources. The FCC also proposed changes to how it handles bids from designated entities and will close a loophole exploited by Dish Networks earlier this year to score a discount on spectrum. Dish relied on small companies to bid in its stead during the AWS-3 auction. Because the entities were under a certain size, they earned a 25% discount on the licenses that amounted to $3 billion. Dish's competitors complained and the FCC said it will put new rules in place for the 600 MHz auction to prevent such misuse. "We must also make sure that small businesses receiving credits are exercising independent decision-making authority. We will not allow small businesses to serve as a stalking horse for another party," said Wheeler. The FCC will vote on the rules during its next open meeting, scheduled for July.
Officials at the Justice Department are concerned AT&T and Verizon will dominate the upcoming 600MHz auction if more protections aren't put in place by the FCC. The agency filed a letter with the FCC this week suggesting the FCC give more weight to the concerns of companies such as Sprint and T-Mobile, which seek to limit AT&T and Verizon's participation. "The Department recognizes that the Commission must balance competing policy priorities in setting the appropriate reserve levels," said the officials. "In balancing these priorities, the Department urges the Commission to give considerable weight in determining the amount of spectrum included in the reserve to protecting and promoting competition, and the well-established competition principle that those with market power may be willing to pay the most to reinforce a leading position." Sprint, T-Mobile and others have asked the FCC to set aside 40MHz of spectrum that cannot be bid upon by AT&T and Verizon. So far the FCC has agreed to a 30MHz reserve, though the rules aren't yet final. T-Mobile, in particular, has fired off plenty of rhetoric in opposition of the two larger carriers' participation in the auction. AT&T and Verizon have responded in kind. The Justice Department didn't explicitly state that the FCC should bump the reserve to 40MHz, but it strongly implied that might be the best course for the FCC to take. The FCC hopes to lock down the rules soon, but the auction won't take place until mid 2016.
T-Mobile today kicked off a new program called Jump On Demand, which will allow people to upgrade their phone for free up to three times per year. The Jump On Demand program builds on Uncarrier 2.0, which introduced the idea of early phone upgrades with Jump. Now customers can trade in their phone as many as three times per 12 months for a new handset at no additional cost as long as they continue to make the monthly phone payments. T-Mobile said customers can walk out of the store with no money out-of-pocket with Jump On Demand, though customers with poor credit may have to make a downpayment on their device. The monthly pricing for Jump On Demand will be about the same as before — the price of the phone divided by 24. Jump On Demand does not carry the extra $10 monthly fee that's part of the original Jump program. Phone trade-ins will have to be in good working order to be accepted for a new handset. T-Mobile said only a few flagship devices are eligible for the program: Apple iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, LG G4, and Samsung Galaxy S6, S6 Edge, and Note 4. Customers already enrolled in the Jump program can transition to Jump On Demand the next time they upgrade (as long as the balance of their current phone is paid off) and will no longer have to pay the $10 fee. Customers who join Jump On Demand and make 18 payments on their phone without upgrading will have the option of making one final payment to own the device or trade the device in. Customers can choose to pay the balance of their handset at any time. As part of the launch, T-Mobile is offering the 16GB iPhone 6 for $15 per month with Jump On Demand as long as an old phone is traded in at the same time. Jump On Demand will be available in T-Mobile stores beginning June 28.
T-Mobile has filed a petition with the FCC in an attempt to prevent AT&T from purchasing select 700 MHz spectrum licenses. AT&T filed a request to transfer the licenses, which cover portions of Kentucky, Ohio, and West Virginia, last month. The Lower 700 MHz C Block licenses are owned by East Kentucky Network and cover 20 counties in three Cellular Market Areas. If approved, AT&T stands to hold 113 to 145 MHz of spectrum in total, and 43 to 55 MHz of below-1-GHz spectrum in these three CMAs. T-Mobile wants the FCC to deny AT&T's request on the grounds that it believes AT&T already owns too much low-band spectrum. "The license assignments sought would result in AT&T holding more than one-third of the spectrum below 1 GHz in the Huntington-Ashland and Lexington-Fayette CMAs. Although six entities currently hold low-band spectrum in these Markets, this transaction, if approved, will eliminate one of them entirely," argued T-Mobile. The Uncarrier has about 42,000 customers and ranks last in the areas involved. AT&T responded by saying, "AT&T will not exceed the Commission's spectrum aggregation screen and — because the spectrum at issue currently sits completely fallow and unused — the deal will not reduce any actual competition." AT&T also accused T-Mobile of under-investing in rural markets, including the ones at stake. "T-Mobile has only limited plans to invest in the rural markets covered by these licenses, particularly those in West Virginia. T-Mobile has 20-30 MHz of AWS spectrum in all of these markets that it could use to serve these rural communities if it chose. Finally, if T-Mobile wants low band spectrum for these markets, it could buy the 700 MHz A block spectrum and deploy it. Yet, T-Mobile chooses to do none of these." The FCC hasn't said if it will approve the deal or not, but because the spectrum in question falls below 1 GHz it will apply look more closely at the proposed deal.
T-Mobile is more aggressively transitioning its HSPA+/UMTS service from its 1700 MHz AWS-1 spectrum to its 1900 MHz PCS spectrum. Moving HSPA+ service to 1900 MHz clears up more room in the 1700 MHz band for LTE. "We're continually upgrading our network and have finished building our PCS UMTS network that provides a better LTE experience for all our customers," said T-Mobile to FierceWireless. "Over the next year, all of our AWS UMTS customers will also have access to 4G LTE on the PCS UMTS network." T-Mobile started this process in September 2012, but needed to get its LTE network up and running before it could push forward in earnest. T-Mobile's LTE network now operates in the AWS band as well as in the 700 MHz A Block and 1900 MHz PCS bands. T-Mobile will be shuttering HSPA+ service on AWS on a market-by-by-market basis. Customers should not notice any service interruptions, as most T-Mobile handsets support LTE and HSPA+ in a variety of bands.
MetroPCS plans to switch off its legacy CDMA network on June 21. MetroPCS parent T-Mobile says about 190,000 customers are still using CDMA handsets in the three markets that offer CDMA coverage, down from 300,000 about a month ago. T-Mobile has been transitioning CDMA customers to its GSM-based network aggressively for more than a year. "Any MetroPCS customer using a CDMA handset in a migration market [is] eligible for our HSPA/LTE device Upgrade Program," said T-Mobile to FierceWireless. "In order to take advantage of the new network, all customers need to do is bring their active phone to a participating MetroPCS store, choose a new phone, apply their trade-in credit toward that phone, and start using the new network right away." Some MetroPCS customers will quality for upgrade credits between $32 and $299 depending on their existing CDMA handset. Customers who don't pick up a new phone before June 21 will lose service entirely when MetroPCS shuts down the CDMA network. T-Mobile plans to re-use the CDMA spectrum to supplement its LTE 4G network.
T-Mobile has given its unlimited data customers 2 more gigabytes of data just for mobile hotspot use. The unlimited plan costs $80 per month and had included 5 GB for mobile hotspots; now customers have access to 7 GB of data for mobile hotspots. "We've enabled mobile hotspot benefits on all active data plans," said T-Mobile in a statement provided to Fierce Wireless. "The improvements we've made to our data plans make our rate plans even simpler. Now you can use your paid 4G LTE data however you choose--between your smartphone and for other devices with tethering. When you reach your paid data allotment, your speeds will be reduced, not capped, so you never worry about overages." T-Mobile's $60 plan offers 3 GB of data for mixed smartphone/hotspot use and the $70 plan offers 5 GB of mixed smartphone/hotspot use. Customers of all plans can pay $10 per month for an additional 2 GB of mobile hotspot data.
Panasonic recently made the Lumix Communication Camera CM1 available for purchase from its web site. The CM1 was first shown off at CES in January. The device is more camera than phone. It has a Leica lens and a 1-inch imaging sensor that captures 20 megapixels. The camera can shoot 15 frames per second and capture 4K video. The handset runs Android 4.4 KitKat and has a 4.7-inch full HD screen. It is powered by a 2.3GHz quad-core Snapdragon 801 processor and includes Bluetooth, NFC, WiFi, and LTE for connectivity. The CM1 is being sold as an unlocked GSM handset and is compatible with the networks run by AT&T and T-Mobile. The Lumix CM1 costs $999.99.
T-Mobile has made the Lumia 640 smartphone available via its web site for $130. Customers can pay full price or $5.41 per month for 24 months. This inexpensive Windows Phone has a 5-inch screen, 8-megapixel camera, and LTE.
Deutsche Telekom is discussing with Comcast the possibility of the cable firm buying T-Mobile US. Deutsche Telekom is talking to several other companies, including Dish Networks, but Comcast is seen as the primary contender thanks to its stronger finances. Deutsche Telekom hoped to sell T-Mobile to AT&T several years ago and then to Sprint last year. The company has gone on the record saying it will explore every possibility with respect to its U.S. wireless company. Neither Deutsche Telekom nor Comcast commented on Reuters' report, which cited unnamed sources.
Verizon does not plan to purchase Dish Networks, according to CFO Fran Shammo. When asked by the Wall Street Journal, Shammo responded, "My answer is going to be one word: No." AT&T is near to closing its acquisition of Dish competitor DirecTV. A Verizon-Dish merger would be a roughly equivalent transaction. Dish, however, is more likely interested in a tie-up with T-Mobile and it has already approached banks about funding a deal with he Uncarrier.
Verizon Wireless fired back at T-Mobile CEO John Legere after he entreated Americans to ask the FCC for help. T-Mobile wants 40MHz of spectrum in the upcoming 600MHz spectrum auction to be set aside for smaller carriers. The FCC has agreed to 30MHz. Legere insists 40MHz is the minimum needed to keep the U.S. wireless industry competitive, and he claims AT&T and Verizon are trying to shut it out. Verizon begs to differ. "T-Mobile is more than welcome to participate in any auction the FCC holds. No company can prevent another from participating. The last time large swaths of low-band spectrum came to auction in 2007, for example, T-Mobile could have participated. It chose not to," said Verizon in a post to its public policy blog. Moreover, Verizon points out that it is in fact T-Mobile that has pushed Verizon out of the 600MHz auction and not the other way around. "Some companies can attempt to bake rules into an auction to prevent other companies from participating fairly. Mr. Legere and T-Mobile are" doing exactly that. "For example, T-Mobile — and Sprint and Dish — lobbied for and received from the FCC a set aside of spectrum in the upcoming auction that only they are allowed to bid on. Verizon can't. AT&T can't." Verizon further argues that qualifying Sprint and T-Mobile as "small carriers" is disingenuous at best, given the size and valuation of their parent organizations (SoftBank and Deutsche Telekom, respectively). Verizon also stuck a barb in the side of Dish Networks. "The FCC doesn't need to give additional handouts to global companies with the financial wherewithal to compete. Nor should it be handing out discounted spectrum to companies [Dish] with a track record of not investing in networks or serving consumers. The record of the U.S. wireless marketplace is clear: if one invests in networks, innovates and meets consumer needs, success can follow, with no need for government assistance." The FCC hasn't made a final decision on the 40MHz request, but is leaning on leaving the concession at 30MHz.
Dish Networks is discussing loans of $10 to $15 billion with banks, reports the Wall Street Journal, which it would use to finance a merger with or acquisition of T-Mobile. Dish and T-Mobile are believed to be holding merger talks, though a deal is not imminent. Since T-Mobile is valued at just $3 billion less than Dish, any deal would involve more stock than cash. Both the Journal and Reuters say any talk of the financial structure of the deal suggests the companies are making progress in a potential tie-up. Dish has scored a significant amount of wireless spectrum, mostly around the PCS band, that it has yet to use for any wireless services. That spectrum could help T-Mobile gain more coverage in markets around the country. Neither Dish nor T-Mobile has confirmed that talks are taking place, but T-Mobile parent Deutsche Telekom has repeatedly indicated that it is prepared to sell T-Mobile should a good deal become available.
T-Mobile CEO John Legere wants your help. In a recent blog post, Legere appealed to John Q. Public to aid in T-Mobile's pursuit of 600MHz spectrum. The FCC is set to approve final rules for the auction, which T-Mobile believes don't set aside enough of the valuable low-band spectrum for smaller carriers. T-Mobile has crusaded since last year in an effort to raise the reserved spectrum from 30MHz to 40MHz, which it says is needed to keep the American wireless market competitive. As it stands, AT&T and Verizon own the bulk of the low-band spectrum available with their 700MHz holdings. T-Mobile desperately wants the 600MHz spectrum. Legere is asking consumers to reach directly out to the FCC ahead of the vote in a last-ditch attempt to sway the FCC's decision. "If smaller competitors can't get more spectrum in this auction," said Legere, "it could put an end to all that pro-consumer competitive pressure. Imagine what that would look like! Every consumer in America loses. You'll face higher bills, stifled innovation, crappy customer service — all the usual AT&T and Verizon treatment! It would be a nightmare for American wireless consumers!" Legere is known for his unfiltered approach in leading the Uncarrier. T-Mobile isn't alone. Sprint and other carriers hope to see more of the low-band spectrum kept from AT&T and Verizon. The 600MHz auction won't take place until mid 2016.
ROK Mobile today re-launched in the U.S. as a service available to anyone. The MVNO first got off the ground in July 2014, but required an invitation. ROK says anyone in the U.S. can now join its service. What sets ROK Mobile apart is that it bundles wireless and music streaming services together for $49.99 per month. For that, users get 5GB of LTE 4G, unlimited calling and messaging, and unlimited access to ROK's 20 million tracks. The music service lets users create radio stations, personalize playlists, explore music based on moods and preferences, and streaming is ad-free. The company claims to offer a cost advantage over competing music services such as Spotify and Rdio because the cost is bundled into the wireless plan. For now, users will need to supply their own Sprint or T-Mobile compatible handset. The service works on Android and iOS through ROK's application. ROK Mobile said it will have news regarding its own handset offering in the near future.
T-Mobile today said its wireless network will support the continuity feature that's part of iOS 9. Apple already allows devices (iPhone, iPad, Mac) operating on the same WiFi network to send/receive calls and iMessages. For example, someone using their Mac at home can answer an incoming voice call on their computer rather than iPhone. With iOS 9, this continuity feature is being extended to cellular networks. This means a person who leaves their iPhone at home will still be able to send/receive calls and messages from their other Apple devices as long as they have a cellular network connection. T-Mobile said it will support the feature for those testing iOS 9 beta, and will support it for all users when Apple releases the final version of iOS 9 later this year. T-Mobile's competitors will likely also support the feature, but they haven't yet publicly said so.
T-Mobile and Dish Networks are negotiating a potential merger between the two companies, reports the Wall Street Journal. The companies have agreed to some of the broad strokes of combining, but not the details. For example, the Journal's sources say Dish CEO Charlie Ergen would become the combined company's Chairman, while T-Mobile CEO John Legere would serve as CEO of the joined businesses. The financial aspects of the transaction have yet to be worked out. T-Mobile's valuation stands at about $31 billion and Dish's is about $33 billion. The Journal expects a deal, should one be agreed upon, would be very large. T-Mobile is the country's fourth-largest network operator, while Dish is the country's second-largest satellite TV provider. Dish has acquired vast sums of spectrum over the years, including some in the recent AWS-3 auction, but has yet to put any of it to use. T-Mobile could use those airwaves to expand its coverage and capacity. Dish's Ergen has held merger talks with a handful of companies over the years, but none of the discussions resulted in an acquisition. The possible deal with T-Mobile mirrors that of AT&T's take-over of DirecTV, which is close to being finalized. Neither T-Mobile nor Dish commented on the Journal's story.
T-Mobile CTO Neville Ray filed a letter with the FCC asking it to raise the amount of spectrum set aside for competitive carriers in the forthcoming 600MHz reverse auction. The FCC has already agreed to reserve 30MHz of spectrum for carriers other than AT&T and Verizon. T-Mobile wants the reserve set at 40MHz. The Uncarrier has already made this abundantly clear. Ray's latest comments follow a report suggesting the FCC is leaning toward leaving the reserve set at 30MHz, which T-Mobile argues would favor AT&T and Verizon. "Mobile broadband providers need largely unimpaired, low-band spectrum to compete effectively in the wireless marketplace, but the two dominant providers currently hold more than 73% of all low-band spectrum available for commercial use across the entire industry today," said Ray. "Increasing the reserve to at least 40MHz of largely unimpaired spectrum will give competitive carriers an opportunity to secure the low-band spectrum necessary to provide more extensive and more reliable service in urban and suburban areas, and deploy new competitive services in less populated areas of the country." AT&T and Verizon have vast amounts of 700MHz spectrum, which each has used for its LTE 4G network. T-Mobile has some 700MHz, but not nearly as much as its competitors. The 600MHz auction is seen as the last opportunity for T-Mobile, Sprint, and others to win low-band spectrum, which is highly valued for its propagation characteristics.
Phone subsidies and two-year contracts are on their way out the door, according to Ralph de la Vega, AT&T's CEO of mobile and business solutions. "I think it is one of those options that is going to go away slowly," said de la Vega to Recode, "not because we insist on it but because customers will choose it less often." AT&T has made changes recently to limit the availability of subsidies and contracts. AT&T partners Best Buy and Apple, for example, no longer offer customers AT&T contracts. Instead, they push AT&T Next plans, which break down the payment for phones over time. AT&T says two-thirds of new smartphone sales during the most recent quarter were via its AT&T Next plans, which clearly indicates consumers' preference when it comes to purchasing new hardware. T-Mobile was the first major carrier to break from the subsidy model with its Simple Choice plans, and now most carriers offer lower-cost service plans that are paired with monthly device payments.
T-Mobile today expanded the availability of its Never Settle For Verizon promotion until June 27. The program lets Verizon customers test T-Mobile's service for a period of two weeks with no fear of commitment. The trial requires Verizon customers to port their number to T-Mobile, but they will hold onto their old Verizon phone. If at the end of the two-week period they wish to stay with T-Mobile, T-Mobile will pay off the customer's ETFs and remaining phone payments. At this point the customer will have to turn in their Verizon phone, buy a new phone from T-Mobile, and pair it with a Simple Choice plan. The promo was originally scheduled to expire on May 31.
Soon after announcing its new mobile payment service called Android Pay, Google set about clarifying its position on Google Wallet moving forward. The company is working on a new version of Google Wallet that's set to arrive later this year. According to Google, it intends to let the service live on for making peer-to-peer payments. "The new app will allow anyone with a U.S. debit card to send and receive money for free within minutes — even if the other person doesn't have the app. The money you receive can either be directly sent to your bank account or it can be spent in stores using the Google Wallet card," explained Google in a blog post. Google said the revised Google Wallet app will be made available to Android and iOS devices, and can be accessed from the web. Android Pay, on the other hand, powers tap-and-go mobile payments at 700,000 retail locations around the country. Android Pay began life as Softcard/Isis and was developed by AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless. Google purchased Softcard's assets from the carriers in February. Like Apple Pay on the iPhone, Android Pay requires NFC and an associated credit card in order to make payments. Google said it will have more details regarding Google Wallet in the months ahead.
The FCC is close to making a final decision regarding how much spectrum to set aside for smaller carriers in next year's 600MHz auction and T-Mobile isn't going to be happy. The FCC has already set aside 30MHz of the airwaves in question for smaller carriers, thereby limiting how much spectrum AT&T and Verizon — the nation's two largest carriers — can acquire. T-Mobile has been pushing the FCC to increase the allotment to 40MHz, but Reuters reports the FCC is prepared to move forward with the 30MHz limit in place. AT&T and Verizon already control about two-thirds of the nation's low-band spectrum, which is highly valued for its propagation characteristics. T-Mobile and Sprint would like access to more low-band spectrum, and the 600MHz auction is their best opportunity to acquire it. Reuters' sources suggest the FCC's decision could still change, but T-Mobile's request is likely to be denied. The 600MHz auction is scheduled to begin in mid-2016. The FCC wants the rules locked down before the end of 2015.