T-Mobile today unveiled a new coverage map that it claims is far more accurate than the maps offered by its competitors. T-Mobile is populating the map with data generated by its own customers. The map shows coverage that's been verified by real customers and shows exactly where LTE, 4G, and 3G coverage is available. T-Mobile is using "Verified Coverage" icons to show where the data has been provided by its customers versus third-party companies. It is using a company called Inrix to verify and backup the customer data. T-Mobile said all coverage map data is updated twice per month, based on on-going customer usage. The map also details speed test data from third-party apps so customers can see what sort of speeds to expect in any given location. The new coverage map is live on T-Mobile's web site. T-Mobile said its LTE network covers 265 million Americans. It expects to cover 300 million Americans by the end of the year.
T-Mobile was the first carrier today to reveal pricing information for its variants of the Samsung Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 Edge. T-Mobile listed the full retail prices at $679.92 and $779.76, respectively, for the two handsets. The Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge share nearly all specs and features, but the S6 Edge has a display that's curved on two sides. Customers can pre-order the phones beginning at 7:00 AM Pacific on March 27. The S6 will go for $0 down followed by 24 monthly payments of $28.33, while the S6 Edge will require 24 monthly payments of $32.49. T-Mobile customers who order before April 12th can also receive a one-year Netflix subscription at no cost.
Samsung today announced the general availability details for the Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 Edge. The devices can be pre-ordered beginning Friday, March 27 and should reach most carrier stores on April 10. Samsung said the black, white, and gold models will be sold in the U.S. in 32GB, 64GB, and 128GB configurations. AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, Verizon Wireless, and U.S. Cellular all plan to sell the GS6 and GS6 Edge. Boost Mobile, Cricket Wireless, and MetroPCS will only offer the Galaxy S6. In addition to carrier stores, the two phones will be available at Samsung Experience Shops at Best Buy, as well as Amazon, Costco, Sam's Club, Target, and Walmart. Some carrier stores will have the Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge on display beginning tomorrow, even if sales don't commence until April 10. Samsung said carriers will announce individual pricing details later. The devices include 5.1-inch quad HD screens, 16-megapixel cameras, fingerprint readers, and multi-standard wireless charging.
AT&T and T-Mobile today followed up HTC's announcement concerning One M9 pricing and availability with their own. AT&T will begin accepting pre-orders for the M9 at 12:01 AM tonight and will sell the device in stores April 10. The device will cost $199.99 with a two-year contract or $708.99 at full retail. Customers looking to pay over time can get the One M9 for $23.64 per month with Next 24, $29.55 with Next 18, or $35.45 with Next 12. AT&T is selling the 32GB model in silver or gray. T-Mobile plans to begin accepting pre-orders for the M9 at 6:00 AM Pacific Time on March 27 and will sell it in stores April 10. T-Mobile is offering it for $0 down followed by $27.08 per month for 24 months. T-Mobile will also sell the device at the full retail cost of $649.92. T-Mobile's version of the device will have WiFi calling. Both AT&T and T-Mobile will ship the One M9 as customers place orders, which means they'll likely arrive before the April 10 in-store availability date.
HTC will make the One M9 available for purchase on its web site beginning Friday, March 27 for $649. Carrier and major retailer sales of the device will kick off on or about April 10. HTC will be offering an unlocked version of the One M9, which supports the LTE networks operated by AT&T and T-Mobile, in addition to major carrier models. The company is offering a 12-month, interest-free payment option for customers who'd rather pay for the device over time. AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon plan to sell the phone and it will also be available from Amazon, Best Buy / Best Buy Mobile, Costco, and Target. The phone will be sold in gunmetal gray or two-tone gold/silver and in 32GB and 64GB models. The One M9 comes with Uh Oh protection, which will let owners get a free replacement device if theirs suffers a broken screen or water damage. The One M9 goes on sale via HTC's web site at 12:01AM Eastern Time. The phone features a 5-inch full HD screen, 20-megapixel main camera, Snapdragon 810 processor, BoomSound stereo speakers, and an all-aluminum chassis.
T-Mobile recently added the Microsoft Lumia 640 to its web site and described the device as "coming soon." Microsoft revealed the Lumia 640 at Mobile World Congress earlier this month. The phone has a 5-inch HD screen, 8-megapixel camera, LTE, Bluetooth, WiFi, GPS, and Microsoft's productivity apps. The Lumia 640 will ship with Windows 8.1, but can be upgraded to the full version of Windows 10 later this year. T-Mobile didn't disclose exact availability or pricing, but Microsoft said the phone will reach stores in April for about $180. AT&T and MetroPCS also plan to sell the Lumia 640.
T-Mobile today revealed via Twitter that customers who buy the Samsung Galaxy S6 or S6 Edge will receive a year-long subscription to on-demand video service Netflix. T-Mobile didn't provide any other details about the promotion, nor has the company said when the latest smartphones from Samsung will go on sale.
AT&T recently told the FCC where it stands with respect to interoperability in the 700MHz band and said it is making good progress. At issue is phones' abilities to roam between several different bands within the 700MHz A Block slice of airwaves, specifically Band 17 and Band 12. AT&T at first argued against the idea of adding support for Band 12, citing expenses and interference. It later reversed course and has recently finalized lab tests of its network multi-frequency band indicator (MFBI) capabilities. The carrier said it is "well into our field testing for all of our macro-cellular vendors and progressing well." AT&T is working with several of its competitors to fully test the interoperability between bands. Support for Band 12 is important mainly for smaller carriers, such as C Spire Wireless, but it is also important for T-Mobile, which plans to deploy LTE in the 700MHz band later this year. Phones that support more bands can be used across a greater range of carriers. "With recent 3GPP specification changes, it is now possible to build Band 17 devices that are upgradeable to Band 12 MFBI using software," said AT&T. "These devices require different filters/hardware than the legacy Band 17 devices. This requirement has been added to AT&Ts device requirements and RFP guidance." AT&T has committed to releasing Band 12-capable handsets later this year. Beginning Sept. 30, half of all new devices released by the carrier will be compliant.
T-Mobile's Uncarrier 9.0 event focused on businesses, but still had a few benefits aimed at consumers, too. First, T-Mobile promised to keep all its current promotional rates/plans in place permanently. Promotions that had end or expiration dates no longer do. Further, T-Mobile announced the Un-contract, wherein it agrees to keep customers' prices at the same level for at least two years. It promised it won't raise prices. Last, T-Mobile expanded its "Carrier Freedom" program. It will pay all ETFs, outgoing expenses, leases, and phone payments (up to total of $650 per line) for customers who switch to T-Mobile.
T-Mobile today announced its Uncarrier 9.0 initiative, which promises to make things less expensive for businesses. The company is aiming at small to mid-sized businesses with attractive price points for unlimited talk, text and 1GB of data. Businesses with more than 20 lines will pay $16 per line. Businesses with more than 100 lines will pay $15 per line. Businesses with more than 1,000 lines will pay $10 per line. T-Mobile is also offering free mobile web site hosting and free Microsoft Office 365 business email to its small business customers.
T-Mobile's Un-Carrier events with colorful CEO John Legere are always entertaining. Legere has made a string of bold moves at the helm of the magenta maverick, each introduced at dramatic launch events. These Un-Carrier moves are typically customer-friendly, and the events are filled with jabs at competitors, laced with a healthy dose of profanity. Tune in as we bring you the news and hijinks in real time. It's sure to be fun.
T-Mobile today said its prepaid customers will be able to enjoy the benefits of its Data Stash program beginning March 22. T-Mobile first announced Data Stash for its postpaid customers in December. Data Stash allows customers to roll forward any unused data they have each month, rather than allow the data to expire. T-Mobile said it will give all its T-Mobile Simple Choice prepaid customers a 10GB pool of LTE 4G data with which to start. Once they've consumed that data, they'll begin to roll forward their unused monthly data for a period of up to one year. T-Mobile's prepaid customers will receive this benefit automatically and at no extra charge. The news arrives just days ahead of an Uncarrier event T-Mobile has planned in New York City on March 18.
Cricket Wireless today announced plans to sell the second-generation Motorola Moto E starting on March 13. The phone features LTE 4G, a 4.5-inch display, 5-megapixel camera, quad-core 1.2GHz processor and runs Android 5.0 Lollipop. The phone costs $129.99 and does not require a contract. Service plans start at $35 per month. Cricket is offering a free month of service to customers who switch from T-Mobile, MetroPCS, Sprint, and Boost.
Google today announced a new version of Android that promises to clean up some bugs. Android 5.1 Lollipop improves stability and makes other minor improvements. In addition to the cleaned-up code, Android 5.1 also adds several features. For example, Device Protection prevents a lost or stolen device from accessing mobile networks without the original owner's Google password - even if the device has been reset to factory settings. The update also adds native support for multiple SIM cards, and improves HD voice performance on the Nexus 6 through T-Mobile and Verizon Wireless. Last, Android 5.1 makes it easier to manage Bluetooth and WiFi settings (especially device connections) from the Quick Settings menus. Google expects to roll out Android 5.1 to select devices over the next few days.
Google's forthcoming wireless service will only be available to the Nexus 6 handset at launch, reports the Wall Street Journal. Citing sources familiar with Google's plans, the Journal says Google's wireless service will "weave together" access from T-Mobile and Sprint's cellular services, in addition to WiFi. The service won't be available to older Nexus handsets, such as the LG-made Nexus 5 and Nexus 4. The Nexus 6, made by Google's former Motorola unit, went on sale last year and is available directly from Google online. At the Mobile World Congress trade show this week, Google's Sundar Pichai confirmed plans to offer wireless service on an experimental basis. He likened it to the Nexus device program, about which he said, "Our goal here is to drive a set of innovations which we think the system should adopt." Android 5.0 Lollipop is able to automatically pick the best wireless service (cellular or WiFi) based on a given app's needs. Google did not comment on the Journal's report.
Softcard, the mobile wallet service developed by AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless, has informed users the application will go offline March 31. Softcard customers can use the app through that date, but afterward their accounts will automatically be closed. Softcard recommends users who wish to be able to make mobile payments in the future download Google Wallet. Google purchased certain Softcard assets in a deal announced last month. Google Wallet will replace Softcard on Android handsets later this year. Softcard never caught on with consumers due to limited handset, credit card, and retail support. General interest in mobile payments has increased after the launch of Apple Pay on the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus. Samsung recently announced plans for its own mobile wallet service, called Samsung Pay. Samsung Pay will first be available to the Galaxy S6.
Google today said the company will announce Google-branded wireless service at some point in the coming months. The comments were made by Google's Sundar Pichai, who was speaking at the Mobile World Congress trade show in Barcelona. Pichai says Google hopes to use the service to highlight newer technologies, not compete with incumbent companies. Google will work with wireless carrier partners to offer the service, rather than create a network of its own. Various reports have suggested that Google is prepared to partner with Sprint and T-Mobile, but Google still hasn't confirmed any details.
Microsoft today announced the Lumia 640 XL, a larger version of the Lumia 640. The screen is stretched to 5.7 inches, the camera is improved to 13 megapixels, and the battery is slightly bigger, as well. It includes Microsoft's standard set of productivity apps and supports LTE 4G. It will ship with Windows 8.1, but can be upgraded to the full version of Windows 10. The Lumia 640 XL will be available in April from AT&T, T-Mobile, and MetroPCS in the U.S. Microsoft said it will include a one-year subscription to Office 365, 1TB of OneDrive storage, and 60 Skype world minutes. The price will be approximately $245.
Softcard today indicated that the Windows Phone version of the Softcard mobile payment application will be discontinued. "The Softcard for Windows Phone app will be terminated. A specific termination date will be provided soon," said Softcard in a statement on a new FAQ web site published today. Softcard was developed by AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless. Supported devices, including a handful of Windows Phones sold by AT&T and Verizon, can use Softcard to make tap-and-go mobile payments at participating retailers. Google purchased Softcard's assets from AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon earlier this week to bolster its own Google Wallet application. The three carriers have agreed to preload Google Wallet on their Android handsets moving forward. Wallet competed with Softcard. Softcard didn't indicate how soon the Windows Phone app will be deactivated. Without it, Windows Phone handsets won't have the same mobile payment options available to Android and iOS devices.
LG today announced the global launch of the G Flex 2, its second-generation curved handset. LG said major carriers in the U.S., Hong Kong, Singapore, France, Germany, and the U.K are rolling the device out first. Sprint has already said when it will sell the phone, though AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon have remained mum on their G Flex 2 plans. LG said a second wave of operators in North and South America, Europe, and Asia will begin selling the G Flex 2 later in March. LG first revealed the G Flex 2 at the Consumer Electronics Show in January. The G Flex 2 is a curved smartphone that is flexible and has a self-healing rear cover. The phone features a Snapdragon 810 processor, 13-megapixel camera, 5.5-inch screen, and 3,000mAh battery.
Ting, an MVNO that until today only resold access to Sprint's network, has added service from an unnamed GSM network. Anyone may sign up for the service, which Ting is offering as a beta. It requires users to purchase a Ting SIM card to be used with an unlocked, compatible GSM handset. Ting said international roaming and international long distance is unavailable for the moment. Ting's beta service for GSM devices does not require an invitation, it is open to all. Ting offers a la carte service and only charges for what people use. Prices start at $15 per month for 100 minutes, 100 messages, and 100MB of data. Ting did not say which GSM network it is riding on, but the coverage map suggests it is using T-Mobile.
Google today announced that AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless have agreed to preload Google Wallet on their Android smartphones later this year. The mobile wallet will come on all devices running Android 4.4 KitKat and higher. At the same time, Google is purchasing intellectual property from Softcard -- the mobile payment service created by the same three carriers -- to help improve Wallet's performance. Softcard said its users will be able to continue to make tap-and-go payments at supporting retailers for the time being. Both Google and Softcard said more information will be made available in the coming weeks. Google is looking to revive its mobile wallet product after seeing Apple's success with Apple Pay, which is only available to the iPhone. Google Wallet has been around since 2011.
T-Mobile CEO John Legere today teased the forthcoming Samsung Galaxy S6 smart phone in a post to his personal Twitter account. Legere said, "Was there even a question? Of course T-Mobile will carry The Next Big Thing." Legere supplied a link to T-Mobile's web site, which has a sign up page for an unnamed Samsung device with the phrase "Six Appeal" emblazoned across the top. The silhouette on the page shows a phone with a curved display, much like the Galaxy Note Edge. Samsung is expected to reveal the Galaxy S6 in Barcelona on March 1.
Gemalto found itself at the center of a new hacking scandal this week after The Intercept reported the SIM card maker was compromised by the NSA and the UK's Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ). The Intercept claims the U.S. and British spy agencies stole the encryption keys for SIM cards so they would be able to secretly monitor cell phone users around the world. With the keys in hand, the agencies could snoop around completely undetected by the targets or the network operators, and could do so without warrants. SIM cards are used in most mobile phones to identify the customer and allow the device to access the network. They are protected by light encryption, but only to prevent fraud -- not hacking. Possessing the encryption keys to the cards allowed the agencies to bypass the built-in security measures completely. In order to do this, the agencies monitored Gemalto employees and eventually broke into Gemalto's computer systems. The hacks took place in 2010, and Gemalto was completely unaware of the breech until contacted by The Intercept. The company issued a statement today, saying, "Gemalto is especially vigilant against malicious hackers, and has detected, logged and mitigated many types of attempts over the years. At present we cannot prove a link between those past attempts and what was reported yesterday. We take this publication very seriously and will devote all resources necessary to fully investigate and understand the scope of such sophisticated techniques." Gemalto is the world's largest manufacturer of SIM cards and ships about two billion SIM cards per year. The company is headquartered in The Netherlands, but has a large office in Texas and a manufacturing plant in Pennsylvania. AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless all use Gemalto SIM cards in their mobile devices, as do 450 other mobile network operators around the globe. The Intercept's report is based on documents released by NSA leaker Edward Snowden.
T-Mobile has promoted CMO Mike Sievert to the COO position, according to a document the company filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Sievert served as the CMO under CEO John Legere since November 2012 and helped develop the company's Uncarrier strategy. Sievert will be in charge of all customer-facing operations, such as sales, marketing, and customer service. Tom Keys, COO of T-Mobile's MetroPCS business, is now president of T-Mobile's indirect channels. These changes are effective Feb. 13. COO of T-Mobile Business, Jim Ailing, plans to leave the company March 13. CEO John Legere said via his Twitter account, "Some changes at T-Moble HQ. Have to change it up when you have great talent and an uncarrier revolution to run."
T-Mobile CEO John Legere today asked consumers to help guide the FCC's rule-making process for the upcoming 600MHz reverse auction. Legere hopes consumers will write to the FCC and ask the agency to create rules that will lead to more competition. Legere pointed to the recent AWS-3 spectrum auction, which he called "a disaster for American wireless consumers," as proof of the need for action. AT&T and Verizon Wireless, or the "Twin Bells" according to Legere, won the bulk of the AWS-3 spectrum auctioned off by the FCC. Legere says this can't happen with the 600MHz auction, which is for valuable low-band spectrum. "Three companies alone spent an insane $42 billion between them, grabbing a ridiculous 94% of the spectrum sold at [the AWS-3] auction," argued Legere. "This whole thing should scare the hell out of you and every other wireless consumer in the U.S., because there is another important auction coming next year, and the results have to be different if wireless competition is going survive." Legere wants the FCC to reserve 40MHz or at least half the available spectrum for companies other than AT&T and Verizon. Further, he wants the government to mandate that auction winners use the spectrum to provide mobile service rather than allow it "to be collected and traded like financial securities." Legere has always been outspoken about his feelings for T-Mobile's competitors. Today's appeal to the public for support is more direct that his previous efforts.
Dan Mead, who has served as the CEO of Verizon Wireless since 2010, plans to retire according to filings the company made with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Mead will remain on the board of directors and serve as executive vice president and president of strategic initiatives. He'll stay in that role until Verizon Communications finalizes its sale of certain landline and FiOS assets to Frontier Communications. Once that is completed in mid 2016, Mead will retire fully. Mead has been replaced by John Stratton, formerly Verizon's executive vice president and president of Verizon's global enterprise and consumer wireline business. Stratton's new title is executive vice president and president of operations. He'll be in charge of both the wireless and wireline businesses. Both Mead and Stratton report to Verizon Communications CEO Lowell McAdam. AT&T and Sprint have also installed new CEOs in the last six months. Glen Lurie succeeded Ralph de la Vega at AT&T and Marcelo Claure took over for Dan Hesse at Sprint. T-Mobile's John Legere has been serving as CEO since fall 2012.
Wireless network operators are now required to unlock customers' phones once the phones are paid off or no longer under contract. Today's change follows an agreement forged between the FCC, the CTIA Wireless Association and carriers in December 2013. That agreement set a number of provisions, some of which were to be met in May 2014 and the rest by today. AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, U.S. Cellular, and Verizon Wireless all agreed to the unlocking policies. Under the terms of the agreement, carriers are required to post clear details that define which phones can and cannot be unlocked to their web site. Carriers are required to unlock all phones upon request as long as customers have fulfilled their contractual obligations. Prepaid devices will be unlocked no later than one year after their initial activation date. Carriers have to unlock devices within two days after customers request that their phones be unlocked, or initiate a request with the OEM to unlock the device, or explain to consumers why their device cannot be unlocked. The carriers have to notify customers proactively once their devices are eligible to be unlocked. Last, carriers have to unlock the devices of all deployed military personnel who are in good standing. The carriers' individual unlocking policies vary slightly.
Cricket Wireless today announced that all customers on its $50 and $60 plans can now make unlimited calls to Mexico. Cricket's subscribers can call landlines and mobile phones at no extra charge, though Cricket said calls to special or premium services may be blocked. The service also includes unlimited text, picture, and video messaging. The offer is not valid for Cricket's legacy CDMA customers. Cricket's Smart Plan costs $50 per month and includes unlimited calling, messaging, and 5GB of LTE data. The Pro Plan costs $60 and doubles data to 10GB. The Advanced Plan, which is available for a limited time, costs $60 and includes 20GB of LTE data and expands free messaging to 35 more countries. Customers can get a $5 monthly discount if they sign up for auto-pay. Cricket is still offering incentives to T-Mobile, MetroPCS, Sprint, and Boost Mobile customers, who will receive a free month of service for switching. Cricket operates on AT&T's network. AT&T recently acquired Iusacell, a Mexican network operator, and rolled out unlimited calls to Mexico to its own customers for $5 per month.
Univision Mobile, which operates in partnership with T-Mobile, today added no-cost international calling and texting to its service plans. Customers can now send messages to and call mobile and landlines in 200 countries, including much of Latin America, as well as roam in 15 countries. There is a catch. Customers will only have access to a certain amount of no-charge calling per month, and the amount will depend on which service plan they choose. For example, the $30 monthly service plan includes up to $15 worth of charges in international calling and texting. The $35 service plan includes $20 worth of charges, while the $45 and $55 service plans offer $45 and $55 worth of international charges, respectively. Univision said once the no-charge international dollar allotment is used, it will charge standard international rates for the remainder of the billing period. Univision Mobile was designed for Hispanics living in the U.S. and launched last May. It includes a portal with news, sports, and entertainment, as well as Univision apps, ringtones, wallpaper, and more content. Univision Mobile is available in Walmart and T-Mobile's Simply Prepaid stores. The new international calling is available starting today.
The FCC today published a list of companies that placed winning bids for the AWS-3 spectrum auction. The FCC auctioned off 1,600 licenses, for which 70 companies were competing. The 10X10MHz J Block was the most coveted section of airwaves. The G, H, and I blocks are all 5x5MHz channels, but also saw competitive bidding. AT&T and Verizon won many of the J Block segments. For example, AT&T placed a $2.76 billion winning bid for J Block spectrum covering New York City. Verizon, however, won the J Block covering Washington, D.C., and Baltimore with a $966 million bid. Aside from AT&T and Verizon, T-Mobile, Northstar Wireless, Advantage Spectrum, and SNR Wireless LicenseCo (Dish) won the majority of the licenses. The FCC was hoping to raise $10.54 billion and instead raised $41.32 billion. AT&T's bids alone totaled $18.2 billion, while Verizon bid $10.4 billion and T-Mobile bid $1.8 billion. The two bidding entities tied to Dish Networks totaled $13 billion. The $41.3 billion auction total is slightly smaller than the FCC earlier reported due to discounts and incentives.
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel today announced an initiative along with AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless that will see the city's subway system upgraded with LTE 4G. The City of Chicago and Chicago Transit Authority have agreed to fund the project with $32.5 million. The four carriers will undertake the upgrade themselves with a distributed antenna system, or DAS. The existing system has been in place nearly 10 years and is now outdated. Emanuel said the project will deliver continuous 4G coverage along the 22-mile stretch between O-Hare airport through the tunnels and platforms of the Red and Blue Lines. Work on the project actually began earlier this month and will be complete by the end of the year. Los Angeles recently announced a similar initiative. Boston, New York City, and Washington, D.C., also offer underground cell service in their respective transit systems.
The FCC today adopted rules it first proposed last year that will eventually help first responders to locate people who call 911 from their cell phones faster. Specifically, the FCC wants first responders to be able to better locate people within buildings. With today's technology, first responders still have trouble determining from which building wireless 911 calls originate from, let alone the floor and/or apartment or suite. The FCC has laid out clear, measurable goals for carriers to provide X, Y, and Z coordinates to help place callers as accurately as a specific room inside a building. Last fall, the CTIA Wireless Association along with members AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless laid out their own plan to meet the FCC's demands. The FCC said it understands that there's no silver bullet and knows carriers will need to rely on multiple different technologies to reach the benchmarks it has set in place. The FCC said it will allow the operators some leeway in developing their own standards as long as they meet the location accuracy requirements.
T-Mobile plans to make some of its handsets compatible with its 700MHz spectrum through a software update. Today, only the Samsung Galaxy Note 4 and Galaxy Note Edge can use LTE on T-Mobile's 700MHz spectrum. T-Mobile said it will provide the system update to the Motorola Nexus 6 in the early part of 2015, followed by the Sony Xperia Z3 and Samsung Galaxy Avant in May, and the ZTE Max later this year. Two tablets and T-Mobile's Z915 LTE 4G Hotspot also support the 700MHz airwaves. T-Mobile is supplementing its AWS-based LTE network with its 700MHz holdings in select markets around the country. The company is still in the process of deploying LTE to all its 700MHz spectrum.
T-Mobile today unveiled a new program for consumers interested in cheaper handset upgrades called Score. With Score, users will qualify for a free entry-level smartphone after six months or significant discounts on all T-Mobile devices after 12 months. Score costs $5 per month and is open to all T-Mobile customers, whether prepaid or postpaid. After paying $5 per month for six months, for example, customers may choose to get the Alcatel OneTouch Evolve 2 at no additional cost; or, after paying $5 per month for 12 months, take $150 off the price of the Motorola Nexus 6 or $100 off the Samsung Galaxy S5. (Actual handset discounts will vary based on when the customer chooses to upgrade.) Customers who enroll in Score today will be able to upgrade to a new, free phone as soon as July 25 or enjoy a heavily discounted flagship as soon as Jan. 25, 2016.
Sprint today launched an aggressive promotion aimed directly at T-Mobile. Sprint is promising $200 to T-Mobile customers who port their number to Sprint and turn in their working T-Mobile phone. The $200 trade-in offer, which runs from today through April 9, can be combined with Sprint's ETF buyout. In addition to the $200, Sprint will pay up to $350 per line to cover ETFs and other fees when customers cancel their T-Mobile service. With the two promotions combined, T-Mobile customers stand to receive up to $550 if they switch to Sprint, which should cover any costs associated with terminating their old service and acquiring a new handset.
Verizon Wireless will not follow AT&T and T-Mobile's data rollover programs with one of its own. "We're a leader, not a follower," said Verizon CFO Fran Shammo. AT&T and T-Mobile allow customers to roll unused data over to the next month. T-Mobile launched its program in December and AT&T followed it in early January. Shammo said Verizon understands that it will lose some customers over such features, but noted, "We did not go to places where we did not financially want to go to save a customer." Carriers often respond to pricing and service plan changes made by competitors.
T-Mobile CEO John Legere posted a video blog today announcing Smartphone Equality, a new program that will help customers with little or poor credit get the best deals on devices. Legere explains that more than 100 million people in the U.S. have credit scores that prevent them from qualifying for many of the carriers' $0 down and no-interest device payment plans. Beginning next week, any T-Mobile customer (prepaid and post-paid) that has made 12 consecutive payments on time will automatically qualify for T-Mobile's best smartphone sales and prices even if they still have poor credit.
AT&T and Verizon Wireless have challenged a ruling made by the FCC in December regarding data roaming rates. The FCC sided with an argument made by T-Mobile about how reasonable roaming rates are calculated. The FCC is not going to set rates, but will "provide guidance on the application of the commercial reasonableness standard" with respect to data roaming rates. AT&T and Verizon fought the FCC ahead of the ruling and have now filed petitions asking the FCC to reverse its decision. "Responding to a nakedly self-interested plea from T-Mobile for additional leverage in its commercial negotiations with AT&T, the [FCC] issued a declaratory ruling that purports to 'clarify' the Commission's rules, provide 'additional guidance,' and 'lessen ambiguity,' but has in fact thrown the Commission's entire data roaming regime into confusion," argued AT&T. Verizon accuses the FCC of not following the proper protocol when making the ruling. "These changes were unlawful because modifications to the Data Roaming Order must be made through rulemaking--and must be made by the full Commission, not by the Bureau. They also undermine the Commission's policy decision to ensure that its roaming rules do not cause carriers to rely on roaming rather than to expand their coverage and invest in building out facilities." The FCC hasn't responded to AT&T and Verizon. T-Mobile asked the FCC to change the rules because it believes AT&T is overcharging for data roaming.
Deutsche Telekom, majority owner of T-Mobile, believes the Uncarrier's best chances of success are to merge with or be acquired by another large carrier. Deutsche Telekom CEO Tim Hoettges, speaking to Re/code, said T-Mobile lacks the scale enjoyed by rivals AT&T and Verizon Wireless. Without that scale, it will be hard for T-Mobile to compete in the long run. "I was intrigued by the idea of having a combination with Sprint and being the 'super-maverick' in the market," said Hoettges, "I hope that the political environment will change at one point in time." Sprint's parent, SoftBank, abandoned the idea of acquiring T-Mobile last year after regulators said the deal would face major hurdles in scoring approval. While Hoettges praised T-Mobile CEO John Legere for enacting change and turning the company around with aggressive promotions, he said T-Mobile cannot hold its current course indefinitely. "The question is always the economics in the long term," said Hoettges. "You have to earn your money back at one point in time."