Sprint has begun offering customers VoLTE service. VoLTE allows for higher-quality voice connections when the call is passed over the LTE data network, rather than the legacy voice network. VoLTE has been available from AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless for years. Sprint already offers a high-quality VoIP service called Calling Plus. Sprint's new VoLTE service replaces Calling Plus, which is being phased out. "Before we do updates market-by-market on various devices, we are alerting Calling Plus customers so they can decide whether to continue using the feature until our VoLTE launch is complete," said Sprint in a statement provided to The Verge. Right now, VoLTE is only availably to the Samsung Galaxy S8, S8+, and S8 Active. It is limited to just 15 markets, including Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas-Ft. Worth, Houston, Indianapolis, New York City, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C. Sprint did not say how quickly VoLTE will be made available to additional phones and markets.
The FCC is stripping power away from state and local governments in order to facilitate the installment of 5G infrastructure. This week the agency moved forward on an earlier proposal that sets limits on fees municipalities can charge for cell site applications, as well as the timeframe in which those applications need to be approved. Carriers must apply locally within towns, cities, and states to install new cell sites. Local governments can impede progress by denying permission to put up new sites for any number of reasons, as well as charge fees. Since 5G requires more cells in more locations, the FCC believes the process needs to change. To start, the FCC is setting limits on the fees that can be charged by municipalities for applications, processing the applications, and adjusting the right-of-way around such sites. The FCC is mandating that local governments charge no more than is reasonable. The FCC has also shortened the shot clocks afforded to local governments to weigh such applications. For example, new equipment that is to be added to existing cell sites will have a 60-day shot clock, and entirely new cell sites will have a 90-day shot clock. Local governments that charge onerous fees or sit on applications past the new 60- and 90-day windows will be presumed to be denying the applications and will need to have legitimate reasons prepared. AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless are all in various stages of building their 5G networks. This step by the FCC helps these companies at the expense of local governmental control. Earlier this year, the FCC made similar changes at the federal level.
Sprint plans to support the eSIM found in the Apple iPhone Xs and Xs Max, reports PCMag. Earlier this week, Apple published a list of carriers that will support the eSIM and Sprint's name was conspicuously absent. AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon were represented by Apple on stage. According to PCMag, Sprint's absence from the list was merely a matter of timing. The company will support the eSIM when it goes live later this year. The eSIM in the iPhone Xs and Xs Max will give owners the flexibility to switch carriers using software rather than a physical SIM card. The eSIM serves as a way for iPhones to add service from a second carrier when used in partnership with the physical SIM. Dual-SIM phones are common in some Asian markets, but have yet to fully penetrate western markets. This is the first time Apple has offered a dual-SIM device to U.S. consumers. Some MVNO carriers hope to use Apple's eSIM as well, says PCMag. TruPhone and GigSky, for example, are already on the list, while smaller providers Ting and Wing are working on it. Apple says the eSIM will not function immediately; it will be enabled by a software update to the iPhone Xs and Xs Max later this year.
The Communications Workers of America believe the proposed Sprint/T-Mobile merger will lead to as many as 28,000 job loses nationwide. The union has written the attorneys general in all 50 states asking them to investigate the deal and weigh in on the pros and cons at a local level. The CWA, which has 700,000 members, has detailed which metro regions are likely to be most severely impacted and predicts the bulk of job losses will be due to retail store closures. The attorneys general of California and New York have already begun to look into the matter. In the letter, CWA President Christopher Shelton "expressed concern" that the deal would "result in substantial harm to consumers and employees." Sprint and T-Mobile insist they need to merge in order to better compete against market leaders AT&T and Verizon. T-Mobile CEO John Legere and Sprint President Marcelo Claure believe the merger will lead to more job gains than loses, though they admit some 3,200 retail jobs will likely be lost. The deal is still being reviewed by the FCC and Justice Department.
Sprint today relaunched its device insurance program with the goal of making the service more useful. Sprint has dropped the former name (Sprint Total Equipment Protection) and renamed the service Sprint Complete. The insurance provides for $29 cracked screen repairs on Apple and Android devices. It includes unlimited storage, for backing up photos and videos, through the Complete Storage app. Sprint Complete provides password protection and online password management tools, such as protecting and/or restoring your identity. Sprint Complete will replace lost or stolen devices, sometimes as quickly as the next day. Last, Sprint Complete provides subscribers with access to live tech experts at some 450 Sprint stores and 260 Apple stores. Customers can even schedule in-home consultations. The monthly cost ranges from $9 to $19, based on the device being insured. Sprint customers can sign up within 30 days of purchasing or upgrading their device.
The nation's four largest network operators recently provided an update on the progress being made by the Mobile Authentication Taskforce. In September 2017, AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless agreed to work together in order to build a better way for people to log-in to apps and other services with their phone. This week, they announced Project Verify, which they contend will replace passwords with a "more secure, device-based, multi-factor authentication." With Project Verify, consumers will have control over what information they share through their device and what apps are allowed to access it. Once they've set up the initial handshake between their phone and their favorite apps and services, they will be logged in automatically. The Mobile Authorization Taskforce says user IDs will be backed by unique identifiers, including phone numbers, account type, account tenure, and SIM card data — all of which are protected by the mobile network's authentication protocols. Consumers' ID is verified via network intelligence that matches the SIM card to device owner data. The service can work with text- and email-based two-factor authentication methods when necessary. Users will need to protect their phone with a password, fingerprint, or other method to prevent others from easily accessing their apps and data. The carriers hope Project Verify will help prevent fraud and data breaches, while also helping people bypass the hassle of usernames and passwords. There's no word yet on when Project Verify will launch, nor what phones and carriers will be able to use the service.
Sprint this week made a pair of announcements that sees it growing several existing lines of business. First, the company introduced the third generation of its in-home Magic Box. This new small cell is smaller and more powerful than its predecessors. To start, it uses 4x4 MIMO, higher order modulation (256QAM), and three-carrier aggregation for LTE-Advanced performance. It connects to nearby Sprint cell sites and boost in-home or in-business coverage and speeds by as much as 250%. This third-generation box can switch to WiFi for backhaul when cellular coverage isn't available, and includes an ethernet port to supply access to wired devices, such as streaming TV boxes. A color screen lets users see how the Magic Box is performing, and two USB ports allow owners to charge their devices. Sprint says some 260,000 Magic Boxes have been deployed in more than 200 cities around the country, helping densify its network. The new Magic Box will be available later this year. Separately, Sprint has expanded its collaboration with Walgreens. The company will install Sprint Express kiosks in 80 Walgreens stores in the Chicago and Dallas-Ft. Worth markets. Sprint Express will offer Sprint devices, services, and customer service. Sprint says the on-site staff will be able to offer advice on mobile plans, phones, and accessories, as well as sell postpaid or prepaid wireless service. The kiosks should be open by the end of the year.
Apple today announced that its new iPhone Xs and iPhone Xs Max will be the first to support dual SIM cards. Rather that include the space for two physical SIM cards in the iPhone Xs and Xs Max, the phones will include support for one physical SIM and one eSIM, an electronic SIM card that can be programmed with carrier service. The eSIM will not be accessible to those purchasing the Xs/Xs Max right away. Apple says an update to iOS 12 will enable the eSIM later this year. Using the eSIM and physical SIM together will not be as simple as it would be to use two physical SIM cards. "To use two different carriers, your iPhone must be unlocked," explained Apple on its web site. "Otherwise, both plans must be from the same carrier. If a CDMA carrier (Sprint or Verizon) provides your first SIM, your second SIM won't support CDMA." Apple says the eSIM can serve as your only cellular plan if you don't have access to a physical SIM card. Otherwise, the main cellular plan will be attached to the physical SIM and the second to the eSIM. Apple says with two active carrier accounts on a single iPhone, owners will be able to select primary and secondary accounts, set one for calls/texts and the other for data, or use both lines for calls, texts, and data. AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon will support the eSIM, but Sprint will not. Apple warns that the eSIM may be disabled when purchased from some carriers.
Apple has realigned its roster of smartphones with the debut of the new iPhone Xs, Xs Max, and Xr. Moving forward, Apple's entry-level model is the iPhone 7 at $449 and the iPhone 7 Plus at $569. The iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus start at $599 and $699, respectively. Last year's iPhone X has been discontinued, as have the iPhone 5 SE and iPhone 6s. The iPhone Xs costs $999 for the 64 GB model, $1,149 for 256 GB, or $1,349 for 512 GB. The iPhone Xs Max costs $1,099 for the 64 GB model, $1,249 for 256 GB, or $1,449 for 512 GB. All these iPhones are available with service from AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, or Verizon Wireless, as well as unlocked with support for global GSM/LTE networks. The iPhone Xr costs $749 for 64 GB, $799 for 256 GB, or $899 for 512 GB. The Xr will not initially be sold unlocked and must be purchased with service from one of the four national carriers. Each iPhone ships with Lighting EarPods, a Lightning charging cable, and a 5W charger. They do not include Lightning-to-3.5mm adapters for standard headphones.
Samsung to Adopt Google's RCS-Based Messaging Platform So Samsung Messages and Android Messages Are Compatible
Owners of Samsung Galaxy phones will soon have access to a more powerful messaging app. Samsung says it is working more closely with Google to ensure that its own Samsung Messages app will work seamlessly with Google's Android Messages app. Samsung is integrating the Google- and GSMA-backed RCS standard within its own app. RCS offers features such as read receipts, group chats, typing indicators, and high-resolution photo/video sharing. To-date, these RCS-based features were only available to Google's Android Messages, meaning both the sender and recipient needed to use Android Messages. Eventually, these features will come to the Samsung Messages app and work between the two. The RCS features are dependent on network support and will only be available to customers on carriers that have deployed RCS. In the U.S., that includes Sprint and T-Mobile. Samsung is starting off slowly. It will first bring these features to the 2017-era Galaxy S8 and S8+, followed by the S8 Active, S9, S9+, Note8, Note9, and select A and J series running Android 9.0 or later. Eventually, new Galaxy phones will natively support RCS when they first go on sale. Samsung did not provide a timeline for deploying its RCS-based Samsung Messages App.
The FCC today announced that it's pushing back its own deadline for reviewing the proposed merger between T-Mobile and Sprint. The FCC says it needs additional time to review information submitted relatively late in the process, and it needs additional information not yet submitted by the companies. The information in question includes a revised and expanded engineering model, a detailed new business model called "Build 9", and additional economic modeling. The FCC's "informal 180-day shot clock" will resume once the necessary information is submitted.
Nokia and Sprint today said they've made the first live 5G NR connection using a Massive MIMO antenna array. The setup can support up to 120 MHz in Sprint's 2.5 GHz spectrum. The companies claim this arrangement can deliver peak 5G download speeds up to 3 Gbps while maintaining active LTE service. This means Sprint can offer 4G and 5G on the same radio. Sprint and Nokia believe this is a win for handset makers and, eventually, consumers. Sprint believes it will be able to deploy 5G NR via Massive MIMO on its 2.5 GHz spectrum during the first half of 2019. 5G is expected to offer 4K and 8K video streaming, as well as high-definition virtual reality and ultra-low latency.
Samsung today said it plans to sell the Galaxy A6 phone in the U.S. beginning September 14. The A6 is a mid-range phone that fills the gap between Samsung's entry-level J series and flagship S series phones. The A6 features a 5.6-inch Super AMOLED Infinity Display with HD+ resolution. The phone is powered by a Samsung Exynos 7884 processor with 3 GB of RAM and 32 GB of storage. The A6 offers two 16-megapixel cameras, one on front and the other on back, each with its own LED flash. The rear camera has an aperture of f/1.7, while the front camera has an aperture of f/1.9. The camera app is able to use Samsung's Bixby Vision to identify items in the viewfinder as well as translate text. A 3,000mAh battery is sealed in the chassis, and the fingerprint reader is mounted on the rear panel. The phone includes good LTE support for T-Mobile thanks to Bands 66 and 71. Other radios include Bluetooth 5.0, GPS, NFC, and WiFi. The Galaxy S6 runs Android 8 Oreo and will be sold unlocked via Samsung.com for $360. Samsung says Sprint will also sell the phone on September 14, with other carriers to follow later. Carrier pricing may be different. Last, Samsung is making the Galaxy J3 and Galaxy J7 available on September 14 unlocked via Samsung.com for $170 and $250, respectively.
The FCC wants to ensure that wireless companies don't hit any unnecessary hurdles thrown in the way by state or local governments as they build out their 5G networks. As it works today, carriers typically have to apply locally within towns, cities, and states to install new cell sites. Local government can impede progress by denying permission to put up new sites for any number of reasons. Since future 5G will require more cells in more locations, the FCC believes the process needs to change. A new Declaratory Ruling and Report and Order seeks to establish new guidelines. For example, the FCC wants to set limits on the fees that can be charged by municipalities for applications, processing the applications, and adjusting the right-of-way around such sites. The FCC also wants to shorten the shot clocks afforded to local governments to weigh such applications. For example, it wants to see a 60-day approval window when carriers seek to adjust an existing cell site and a 90-day window for installing new cell sites. The Order will codify the existing 90 and 150 day shot clocks for larger wireless facility deployments. Local governments that don't comply with the new clocks will be presumed to be denying the applications and will need to have legit reasons prepared. "This is part of a national strategy to promote the timely buildout of this new infrastructure across the country by eliminating regulatory impediments that unnecessarily add delays and costs to bringing advanced wireless services to the public," argued the FCC. AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wirless are all in various stages of building their 5G networks.
Sprint today announced a new high-end plan called Unlimited Premium. The plan is similar to the company's Unlimited Plus plan, but adds Amazon Prime, Hulu Limited Commercials, and — for a limited time — up to $20 per month of Uber rides. It also increases the mobile hotspot allowance from 15 GB to 50 GB, and removes the 10 GB cap on 4G data roaming in Mexico and Canada. The new plan costs $90/month, compared to $70 for the Unlimited Plus plan. Both plans include Tidal music streaming, full HD video streaming, and unlimited domestic data, text, and calling.
Altice, a cable TV provider, has asked the FCC to intervene in T-Mobile's $26 billion bid for Sprint. Altice plans to resell Sprint service beginning next year and fears the combined entity won't provide it with favorable terms. Moreover, Altice is "concerned about T-Mobile's willingness to support Altice's further expansion in the wireless market." Altice opposes the deal and has requested that the FCC not allow the merger to proceed. When asked for comment, Sprint and T-Mobile called Altice's actions "part of the normal FCC open comment process." Sprint and T-Mobile will have to file official responses to public comments on the merger by September 17.
Sprint is prepared to offer a huge discount on its service via one of its Flash Sales. The Kickstart deal offers unlimited data, talk, and text for $25 per line per month. In order to qualify, customers will need to switch to Sprint, and bring their own phone or buy a new phone outright. The deal will be available for a limited time starting August 24. Sprint says video streamed on this plan will be limited to 480p, while music will be limited to 500 Kbps and gaming limited to 2 Mbps. Customers on this plan may experience data deprioritization when the network is congested.
The FCC has denied a petition to stop the informal 180-day clock as it analyzes T-Mobile's proposed acquisition of Sprint. A number of organizations sought to stop the clock and delay the proceedings. Some of those in question include the Communications Workers of America, Rural Wireless Association, Public Knowledge, Free Press, and others. They argue T-Mobile and Sprint haven't provided enough information about how much spectrum the combined entity will control, and that the information the two have submitted was not in the proper format. T-Mobile and Sprint argued that all the information has been available since June and that the organization's reviewing the material can reformat it however they wish. The FCC sided with T-Mobile and Sprint, denying the motion. The agency's review of the transaction will move forward with the original dates. Petitions to deny currently are due on August 27, 2018. The clock is running.
Sprint today announced that together with LG it will bring its first 5G mobile phone to market during the first half of 2019. Sprint said the "innovative handset" is being "built for the country's first mobile 5G network." Sprint claims its forthcoming 5G network will allow customers to download full-length HD movies in seconds instead of minutes, and stream graphic-heavy videos and games without delays or lag-time. Specifics concerning the device were not provided. Sprint plans to launch its 5G mobile network in Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Kansas City, Los Angeles, New York City, Phoenix, and Washington, D.C. Sprint says more 5G devices are in development and will be announced over time. All the major carriers are rushing to be first to launch 5G. AT&T expects to offer a 5G mobile hotspot by the end of the year, while Verizon Wireless and Motorola will offer a 5G Moto Mod to the recently-announced Moto Z3 smartphone early next year.
All the major carriers in the U.S. plan to sell the Samsung Galaxy Note9 when it becomes available August 24. Each has a different offer on hand to entice consumers to buy the phone.
- AT&T: AT&T is asking customers to pay $33.34 per month for 30 months for the $999.99 128 GB version of the Note9. For a limited time, customers who buy the Note9 can get a second Note9 or Galaxy S9/S9+ for free when the phones are financed on an installment plan.
- Sprint: Sprint customers can get the Note9 for half off for a limited time, which puts monthly payments on the Sprint Flex Lease at $20.83. Customers who opt for the Galaxy Forever plan can upgrade to a new phone after completing 12 monthly payments. Sprint's deal includes the AKG headphones and/or Fortnite V-bucks.
- T-Mobile: The Uncarrier is asking customers to make a downpayment of $280 for the 128 GB Note9 and then pay $30 per month for 24 months. The 512 GB Note9 will require a $530 down payment followed by 24 months of payment at $30 each. For a limited time, T-Mobile is offering 50% off the price with a qualifying Samsung trade-in. The price will be reduced via the monthly payments.
- U.S. Cellular: The carrier is offering $150 in bill credits to those who buy the Galaxy Note9 with a new line of service.
- Verizon Wireless: Big Red is asking for $41.66 per month for 24 months for the 128 GB model and $52.08 per month for 24 months for the 512 GB model. For a limited time, customers who initiate a new line of service and buy one Note9 on a monthly plan can score a free 128 GB Note9, or Galaxy S9/S9+. Verizon's deal includes the AKG headphones and/or Fortnite V-bucks.
Preorders for the Samsung Galaxy Note9 kick off on August 10. The 128 GB capacity variant will be available in blue and lavender from AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, Verizon Wireless, U.S Cellular, and Xfinity for $999.99. Samsung will sell an unlocked version of the phone on its web site. The device will also be available from Amazon, Best Buy, CostCo, Sam’s Club, StraightTalk Wireless, Target, and Walmart. The 512 GB model will be available from AT&T, T-Mobile, U.S. Cellular, and Verizon Wireless, but not Sprint for $1,249.99 The Galaxy Note9 streets August 24.
Unreal Mobile today announced the addition of a mobile hotspot to its low-cost service. The hotspot device costs $20 and the first year of service will run $8 per month thanks to a promotion. That $8 buys 2 GB of 4G LTE data and unlimited 2G service. After the first year, the price will go up to $10 per month. Those who need more high-speed data can access 3 GB of LTE for $20 per month, 5 GB for $30, or 10 GB for $50. The hotspot can provide WiFi connections to up to eight devices. Unreal Mobile is an MVNO that runs on Sprint's network. It launched earlier this year and offers unlimited mobile service for $10 per month.
Rok Mobile confirmed this week that it is no longer offering service on Verizon Wireless' network. "Rok Mobile has decided not to move forward with utilizing Verizon Wireless service on our platform," said the company on its web site. The change went into effect on July 30 and left customers who relied on Verizon for service stranded. "We will continue to support our other wireless carriers and those customers that are on that service," said Rok. The MVNO originally allowed customers to purchase service from AT&T, Sprint, or Verizon. Now Rok Mobile only allows customers to purchase service on AT&T's platform. The company no longer offers service on Sprint, but Rok Mobile customers who put their service on Sprint will not lose it. Rok Mobile customers who relied on Verizon will need to port their number to AT&T's network to re-establish service. Rok Mobile apologized for the inconvenience.
Sprint announced a new promotion today that sees the monthly lease price of an Apple iPhone 8 drop to just $8 per month. Sprint says this deal is only available online and via telesales from July 31 through August 9. Sprint says the promo is open to new customers and existing customers who add a new line of service. Sprint has a similar deal for the Galaxy S9, which has a monthly lease price of $9. Typical lease prices for these phones range between $27 and $35 per month.
Sprint today announced new "Unlimited Plus" and "Unlimited Basic" plans. Unlimited Plus replaces the old Unlimited Freedom plan and raises the price from $60 to $70 per month for the first line. Additional lines are discounted, down to $42 per line for a family of five. Like the old Unlimited Freedom, Unlimited Plus offers HD video streaming and Hulu, however Tidal music streaming is now included, and the mobile hotspot allowance has increased from 10 GB to 15 GB. A limited-time offer slashes the price of Unlimited Plus by $20 per line if customers bring their own phone or buy one at full price, instead of leasing a phone from Sprint. That works out to $50/month for one line, or as little as $22/line for five lines. A new Unlimited Basic plan costs the same as the old Unlimited Freedom plan, but offers less. Video streaming is limited to SD resolution, music streaming is limited to to 500kbps, and mobile hotspot data is throttled after 0.5 GB. Unlimited Basic includes Hulu, but not Tidal. Unlimited Basic runs $60/month for the first line. Additional-line discounts bring the price per line down to $32/month for a family of five. There is no discount for using a non-leased phone, meaning Unlimited Plus is temporarily $10/line cheaper than Unlimited Basic with a non-leased phone. The new plans will be available starting tomorrow, July 13th.
Vivo today announced that its all-screen NEX flagship phone will be launching this month in Russia, India, Malaysia, Hong Kong and Taiwan, making it available in the global unlocked market. The international model supports LTE bands 2/4/5/12/25/26/41, meaning basic support for AT&T and T-Mobile networks, as well as full support for the CDMA and LTE bands used by Sprint. The NEX has a truly all-screen design. To avoid employing a notch, the speaker and fingerprint reader are both built into the screen, and the 8-megapixel selfie camera slides up from the top of the phone when in use. The AMOLED screen measures 6.59 inches and has FHD+ (2316x1080) resolution. The premium model is powered by a top-end Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 processor paired with 8 GB of RAM. The battery is large at 4,000 mAh. The 12-megapixel main camera features 4-axis optical stabilization and a secondary 5-megapixel sensor. It's available with either 128 or 256 GB of internal storage. A cheaper NEX model has the same all-screen design, but a standard fingerprint reader on the back, a Qualcomm 710 processor, 6 GB of RAM, and no support for Sprint bands.
The Attorney General's office from New York is investigating if and how T-Mobile's proposed merger with Sprint might impact the MVNO and prepaid markets. Sprint and T-Mobile separately serve the prepaid space via their own Boost Mobile and MetroPCS brands, respectively, as well as MVNOs, such as Google-run Project Fi. With reduced competition, the New York attorney general is concerned that the tie-up between the two companies could lead to higher prices for prepaid consumers. Dozens of other states are participating in the probe, says the Wall Street Journal. This investigation mirrors a separate one underway with the U.S. Department of Justice, which has similar concerns. The $26 billion deal was proposed earlier this year and would see the nation's third- and fourth-largest carriers become one. Antitrust investigations are normal for such deals. Sprint and T-Mobile defended the deal in front on Congress on Wednesday. The companies insist the deal will create jobs and ensure the combined entity can compete with AT&T and Verizon.
KaiOS says Google has agreed to invest $22 million in its light-weight mobile operating system. The investment from Google follows commitments made earlier this year by Google, Facebook, and Twitter to support the platform. "This funding will help us fast-track development and global deployment of KaiOS-enabled smart feature phones, allowing us to connect the vast population that still cannot access the internet, especially in emerging markets," said Sebastien Codeville, CEO of KaiOS Technologies. KaiOS is already available on a number of low-cost phones, including Nokia's 8110 5G "banana" phone and the Doro Phone 7050. KaiOS says it is working with other manufacturers, including TCL, HMD Global, and Micromax, and that it has partnerships with carriers including AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile. Beyond the investment, Google plans to bring Google Assistant, Google Maps, YouTube, and Google Search to KaiOS. Google said it is "excited to work with KaiOS to further improve access to information for feature phone users around the world."
Motorola today kicked off general preorders for the Moto Z3 Play phone. People can now pre-purchase the Z3 Play from Motorola.com, Best Buy, B&H Photo, and Amazon. The phone adopts a 6-inch 2:1 screen, and is made form a slim metal-and-glass chassis. It is compatible with Motorola's Moto Mods accessories and includes either a speaker or battery. The phone sells for $499. The phone will be sold directly by Sprint and U.S. Cellular later this summer.
Following moves made earlier in the day by Verizon and AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile have now said they also will cease sharing customer location data with certain third-party apps and services. Sprint said it is "beginning the process of terminating its current contracts with data aggregators to whom we provide location data." T-Mobile CEO John Legere tweeted, "I've personally evaluated this issue & have pledged that @tmobile will not sell customer location data to shady middlemen." The matter rose to attention after some third-party location brokers left the real-time data of millions of customers unprotected. Lawmakers called for change and today's responses appear to be it.
Verizon Communications today said it will stop making customer location data available to third-party apps and services. The decision follows last month's revelation that third-party companies didn't always properly protect this data. LocationSmart, for example, exposed the real-time location of millions of AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless customers without their consent. Accuracy of the location data was as good as a few hundred yards. The breach caught the attention of lawmakers, including Sen. Ron Wyden, who wanted the matter invested. "When these issues were brought to our attention, we took immediate steps to stop it," said Verizon spokesperson Rich Young. Wyden thanked Verizon for changing its policy, but pointed out that AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile have left their location-sharing practices in place.
T-Mobile and Sprint today officially petitioned the FCC for permission to merge. The companies filed a Public Interest Statement with the agency that makes lofty claims about why the merger a good idea. To start, the companies promise to "build a world-class nationwide 5G network" that will surpass the capacity of AT&T and Verizon. T-Mobile and Sprint believe they can do this faster if combined. The two also believe prices will go down as a result. "T-Mobile and Sprint coming together ... will spur Verizon and AT&T to invest in a huge capacity increase that will drive down the price per gigabyte across the entire industry," said T-Mobile CEO John Legere. He claims consumers will see a 55% drop in the price per GB. The two firms believe its future 5G network will supplant the need for wired services in the home and let millions cut the cord (and thus save money.) The New T-Mobile is committed to bringing increased broadband coverage to rural communities using its 600 MHz holdings, which will be served by 600 new stores and dedicated call centers. Sprint and T-Mobile also suggest it will offer stronger products to business and video customers. Last, the two believe the merger will create jobs. "We will create more than 3,000 direct jobs initially," said Sprint Chairman Marcelo Claure. "In just a few years, that will increase to more than 11,000 jobs. And, thousands more jobs will be created to support our 5G network build-out." This last point contradicts one of the most basic outcomes of many mergers: job reductions. Sprint and T-Mobile first proposed the merger in April. It's unclear what steps the government, and the FCC in particular, will take to review the deal.
The FCC revealed that it expects Sprint and T-Mobile to file on Monday June 18 the necessary paperwork needed for Sprint to transfer control of its spectrum licenses and other assets to T-Mobile. The FCC opened a docket ahead of the expected action. At the same time the FCC filed a protective order concerning the docket. This means much of the information shared between Sprint, T-Mobile, and the FCC will remain confidential as the agency considers whether or not to allow the transaction to take place. The companies announced their intent to merge in April. The deal requires government approval.
The 3GPP today ratified another piece of the 5G specification, termed the Standalone 5G New Radio, or SA 5G NR. This spec is for 5G networks that are developed on their own, apart from legacy or pre-existing networks. The Non-Standalone portion of the 5G spec was ratified late last year and covers 5G that hooks into existing LTE 4G systems. "The freeze of Standalone 5G NR radio specifications represents a major milestone in the quest of the wireless industry towards realizing the holistic 5G vision," said BalÃ¡zs BertÃ©nyi, chairman of 3GPP RAN. "5G NR Standalone systems not only dramatically increase the mobile broadband speeds and capacity, but also open the door for new industries beyond telecommunications that are looking to revolutionize their ecosystem through 5G." The SA 5G NR and the NSA 5G NR standards will together include the technology used by commercial entities, the air interface, and end users. The spec was approved by more than 600 delegates from the world's leading carrier, handset, and silicon vendors. Some participants included AT&T, DISH, Ericsson, Huawei, Intel, Kyocera, LG, MediaTek, Nokia, Qualcomm, Samsung, SoftBank/Sprint, Sony, Verizon, Xiaomi, and ZTE. The 3GPP said the technical specifications for the ratified SA 5G NR will be published in the days ahead.
Sprint today rolled out a promotion that sees the carrier offering unlimited talk, text, and data for $15 per month. A family of four can score unlimited service for $60 per month. The promo is meant to convince customers to switch to Sprint. As such, it is for new customers only. They'll have to bring their own device or buy a new one at full price from Sprint, and port their number from another carrier and/or initiate a new line. The promotion does not include taxes, surcharges, or roaming. Video streams are limited to 480p, music streams are limited to 500 Kbps, and gaming streams are limited to 2 Mbps. Speeds will be throttled when the network is congested. The promo requires autopay, but there is no annual contract. Sprint said this offer will only be available for a limited time.
The U.S. Department of Justice is exploring what impact the proposed merger of Sprint and T-Mobile will have on smaller carriers and MVNOs. Sprint and T-Mobile separately serve the prepaid space via their own Boost Mobile and MetroPCS brands, respectively, as well as MVNO's, such as Google-run Project Fi. With reduced competition, the Justice Department is concerned that the tie-up between the two companies could lead to higher prices for prepaid consumers. Reuters says the Justice Department "has been speaking with small wireless operators that buy access to the major wireless networks at wholesale rates, and is seeking their opinions about the merger." David Glickman, CEO of MVNOs Ultra Mobile and Mint Mobile confirmed that he'd been asked similar questions about the merger by the Justice Department. The $26 billion deal was proposed earlier this year and would see the nation's third- and fourth-largest carriers become one. Antitrust investigations are normal for such deals. No one from the Justice Department or T-Mobile commented on the investigation.
Motorola today announced the Moto Z3 Play, its third-generation Mod-compatible mid-range phone. The Z3 Play carries over the general size and shape of previous Z-branded phones in order to maintain backward compatibility with the Moto Mod snap-on accessories. The Z3 Play has a 6000 series aluminum frame with Gorilla Glass on both the front and back. The phone boasts a 6.01-inch AMOLED screen with a 2:1 aspect ratio and full HD+ resolution that fills much of the face with no notch. Motorola moved the fingerprint reader from the chin to the right edge of the phone in order to make room for the screen. The Z3 Play is powered by a Snapdragon 636 processor with 4 GB of memory and 32 GB or 64 GB of storage. Motorola opted for a dual-camera array on the rear with a dual-LED flash. The main camera has a 12-megapixel sensor at f/1.7 and it is accompanied by a 5-megapixel depth-sensing camera. This system supports features such as portrait/bokeh, spot color, cinemagraphs, cut-out mode, panorama, time-lapse, slow-motion, face filters, and a card/QR code reader. The front camera has a semi-wide-angle, 8-megapixel sensor at f/2 with screen-based flash and portrait shooting. Motorola says it has upgraded the phone's audio powers with a 24-bit DAC, 7-core DSP, and four mics for better far-field voice recognition. The phone packs a 3,000mAh battery with support for Motorola's TurboCharge rapid charging. Other features include splash resistance, USB-C, Bluetooth 5 with aptX HD, face unlock, dual-band wifi, and support for microSD memory cards. The phone runs Android 8 Oreo and will be updated to Android P later this year. It includes Motorola's gestures, Moto Actions, Moto Display, and a new swipe-based navigation tool at the bottom of the display. The phone will be sold unlocked from Best Buy, Walmart, Target, Fry’s, B&H Photo, and Amazon.com, and via Sprint and U.S. Cellular. Preorders start June 21 and it should reach stores June 29. The phone will be sold in two bundles: Moto Z3 Play with the Motorola battery mod or Moto Z3 Play with the Motorola stereo speaker mod. The bundles cost $499.
Sales of the LG G7 ThinQ phone kicked off in the U.S. today. The phone is being sold by Amazon, Best Buy, B&H, Project Fi, Sprint, T-Mobile, U.S. Cellular, and Verizon Wireless. It costs $749. T-Mobile is offering a BOGO deal on the phone at launch. Features of the G7 ThinQ include a 6.1-inch screen, Snapdragon 845 processor, dual rear cameras with portrait shooting and Google Lens, wireless charging, Boombox sound and quad DAC, and Android 8 Oreo.
Essential Products is for sale, reports Bloomberg, and has cancelled plans to develop a new phone. The company has hired a financial firm in order to help advise it on a potential sale, according to Bloomberg's sources, who also say Essential has already received interest from one possible buyer. Essential, part of Andy Rubin's Playground Global tech incubator, announced the Essential Phone at about this time last year. The phone was unique thanks to its ceramic design, all-screen face, and magnetic mod system. The phone was sold by Sprint in the U.S., as well as unlocked directly from Essential. The $700 device struggled to find buyers, however, due to poor camera and call performance. Bloomberg's sources suggest as few as 150,000 Essential phones have sold since its August 2017 launch. Essential raised around $300 million in funding and spent about $100 million of it developing the Essential Phone. The company is exploring a sale of the entire company, including hardware, patents, a smart home product, and a camera attachment for the phone. It's not clear what might happen to Essential's employees. Andy Rubin is known for developing the initial Android platform. Essential did not comment on Bloomberg's story.
Sprint today highlighted its pricing and launch plans for the LG G7 ThinQ. Sprint will begin accepting preorders for the phone on May 25, with retail availability expected across all Sprint channels on June 1. The company is offering the phone for $0 down and $33 per month on a Sprint Flex lease. Sprint leases run for 18 months with the option to buy or return the phone after 18 payments. The Sprint Flex also allows people to upgrade their phone after making 12 payments. This requires people to turn in their old phone when leasing a new one. Customers who lease the G7 ThinQ during the preorder period will be given the option to lease two G7's for the $33 monthly price. Sprint says this promotion is available to new and upgrade-eligible customers for a limited time. Sprint points out that the G7 ThinQ supports its HPUE LTE service for better performance under certain conditions.