The Sonim XP3 is a new rugged clamshell-style phone for Sprint. The two companies announced the phone today, and it's available now. The phone is rugged to military specs, and waterproof with an IP68 rating. Its large buttons are designed to be glove-friendly. It supports Sprint's Direct Connect Plus PTT (walkie-talkie) service. Its 100 dB speaker with noise cancellation is designed to be extra-loud and clear. The software is based on open-source Android (Oreo) but cannot run Android apps. It has a removable 1,500 mAh battery, 2.6-inch LCD main display, small outer display, and a memory card slot. It comes with a three-year warranty. Sprint is offering it for $240, or $10/month.
LG's V50 ThinQ is the first 5G phone for Sprint, and the first phone in the US to use 5G on low-frequency bands that provide broad coverage. LG took the V40 and somehow added both 5G and a larger battery, without making it any bigger. It keeps the V40's triple cameras, and other hallmark features of the V-series like wireless charging, 3.5mm audio jack... and memory card support. LG didn't leave anything out. There's also a sleek new design. How is it? We took it for a quick spin.
Sprint today released new details of the 5G network it will launch this May and June. Chicago, Atlanta, Dallas, and Kansas City will launch in May, while New York City, Los Angeles, Washington DC, Phoenix, and Houston will launch in June. The NYC, LA, and Phoenix networks will each cover over 1 million people. Los Angeles, Phoenix, Houston, Atlanta, Dallas/Ft. Worth, and Kansas City will all launch with over 100 square miles of 5G coverage, up to 270 square miles for the Phoenix area. The LA network will cover from downtown to the coast, The NYC network will cover most of Manhattan, La Guardia airport, and JFK airport. Ericsson, Nokia, and Samsung are providing the network equipment. Sprint's first 5G phone will be the LG V50 ThinQ, followed by the Samsung Galaxy S10 5G in the summer.
The LG V50 is the same size as last year's V40, but manages to include both 5G and a larger battery. Most other 5G phones this year are noticeably larger than their 4G counterparts. (The V50 is technically 0.7mm taller and 0.4mm thicker (8.3 vs 7.9mm) than the V40, a difference not obvious in person.) The V50's battery rates 4,000 mAh (compared to 3,300 in the V40). The V50 includes three rear cameras (standard, wide, and tele) plus two on the front (standard and wide). Its quad-HD OLED display measures 6.4 inches. A new vapor-chamber cooling system should reduce processor throttling during gaming sessions. Like the smaller G8, it has a Snapdragon 855 processor, 6 GB RAM, 128 GB built-in storage, stereo speakers, IP68 water resistance, fingerprint reader on the back, Quick Charge 3.0, NFC, stereo speakers, and 32-bit Hi-Fi Quad DAC. It has both a memory card slot and 3.5mm audio jack. Sprint will carry the V50 ThinQ first, this spring, followed by Verizon in the summer.
The Samsung Galaxy S10 series covers a wide range of prices, from $750 up to $1,600 for the best S10+, the Ceramic edition with 12 GB RAM and 1 TB storage. Although Samsung initially announced pricing only for the lowest-memory configuration of each S10 model, US carriers have now revealed additional details and deals, including pricing for the high-memory configurations, and monthly payment options. The pricing of the Galaxy S10 series is remarkably consistent across all US carriers, with up-front pricing being identical, and monthly options working out to an even split of the up-front price across the full term of the payment plans, with no interest. Most carriers are also offering special deals for multiple phones and/or adding lines to existing plans. Read on for full details.
The tenth edition of Samsung's Galaxy S series of flagship phones includes, for the first time, four different models spanning a range of sizes and price points. Samsung announced the Galaxy S10 series today at an event in San Francisco. In addition to the standard S10 and (larger) S10+ that mirror pervious years' offerings, Samsung also revealed a smaller, cheaper S10e, as well as the S10 5G, which is even larger than the S10+. All of the S10 models include the new, top-end Snapdragon 855 processor, Cat. 20 LTE, a new "Dynamic" AMOLED display with hole-punch design and HDR10+, and two-way wireless charging that can charge other phones or accessories. For photography, they all include the same 12-megapixel main camera as the S9 (with dual-pixel and dual-aperture technology), a 16-megapixel wide-angle camera, and a new 10-megapixel, auto-focus front camera that can record 4K video. All models keep the 3.5mm audio jack, as well as IP68 rating for water-resistance. Most S10 models (the S10e excluded) also have an ultrasonic fingerprint reader embedded in the display, a third camera on the back for telephoto shots, an Infinity Edge display that curves at the sides for thinner bezels, heart rate sensor, and a minimum of 8 GB of RAM / 128 GB built-in storage. The S10 5G also adds 3D depth cameras to both the front and back and 25W fast charging. The S10, S10e, and S10+ go on sale worldwide March 8th, with pre-orders available starting tonight at midnight Eastern time. Those models will be available in the US in Prism Black, Prism White, Prism Blue, and Flamingo Pink (which is based on Pantone's color of the year, Living Coral). Pricing will be the same unlocked and at all major US carriers: The S10e will start at $750, the S10 at $900, and the S10+ at $1,000. Variants with added memory will cost more. All four top US carriers will offer all four models. Those who pre-order the S10 or S10+ will receive a free set of Galaxy Buds fully wireless earbuds (normally $129). Samsung is also offering trade-in deals worth up to $550. The S10 5G will be available in the 2nd quarter, first with Verizon before the middle of the year, followed by AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, Spectrum, and Xfinity "at a later date this summer." Read on for more details.
AT&T today added Chicago and Minneapolis to its list of cities that will get a true 5G network by the end of this year. That list already includes Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Nashville, Orlando, San Diego, San Francisco and San Jose. The company already has 5G available to a limited group of customers in "parts of" Atlanta, Charlotte, Dallas, Houston, Indianapolis, Jacksonville, Louisville, Oklahoma City, New Orleans, Raleigh, San Antonio, and Waco. The company plans to launch 5G nationwide by "early 2020". This true (standards-based, mmWave) 5G network is not yet available to most consumers, and no phones have launched yet that support 5G. AT&T is currently running a misleading campaign to promote "5G E", which is actually 4G LTE. Sprint is currently taking AT&T to court over that campaign.
AT&T's marketing of a "5G E" network — which is actually 4G LTE and has nothing to do with 5G technology — now has the company in legal trouble, as Sprint is taking AT&T to court for "false advertising and deceptive acts". AT&T has been marketing "5G E" in large national ad campaigns, as well as updating existing phone software to show a "5G E" indicator for 4G LTE service. Sprint is seeking an injunction to stop these actions, as well as damages caused by the success of AT&T's campaign. According to Sprint, "AT&T’s deceptive ads have harmed consumers by persuading them to purchase or continue purchasing AT&T’s services based on the lie that they are offering 5G." Sprint made its filing in a United States federal court in New York, based on a combination of federal and New York state laws.
Sprint this week became the last major US carrier to commit to ending its relationships with location aggregators, companies that resell phone location data, including real-time customer location. AT&T and T-Mobile last week pledged to cut off location aggregators in March, while Verizon has also told The Washington Post that it's working to end its location aggregator contracts. An investigation by Motherboard published last week found that loose regulation and oversight had led to location data being made available on an effective black market, with bounty hunters and other private citizens able to purchase real-time location data. Legitimate users of the data may be affected by the cutoffs, including roadside assistance services and banks that use customers' location to detect credit card fraud. Several members of congress have called for inquiries into the sharing and protection of location data.
Sprint has a new app offering exclusive deals and cash back rewards up to 20 percent. The company launched My Sprint Rewards today, available for both iOS and Android phones. The app lets Sprint customers access exclusive discounts at Sprint as well as other brands, enter for a chance to win prizes, and earn 3-20 percent cash back on select purchases. The program is similar to T-Mobile Tuesdays, but "can be used any time, day or night, to fit your schedule. New deals will be added regularly from a variety of different brands". Today the app is offering a free large one-topping pizza from Papa John's "while supplies last".
Sprint this week reached a milestone toward launching 5G when it successfully tested 5G in the real world, on its network in San Diego. The company used a smartphone test device from Qualcomm and network equipment from Nokia. Sprint's 5G network uses massive MIMO technology in Sprint's unique 2.5 GHz band. Sprint's tests have demonstrated 5G delivering a 4-10x increase in capacity and speed compared to 4G LTE. Sprint plans to launch 5G in nine cities by the middle of the year.
The ultra-rugged CAT S48c will soon be available to Verizon business customers, the two brands announced this morning. The S48c has been available with Sprint since early November. The Verizon version will have 64GB os internal storage and a two-year warranty (including screen breakage), but is otherwise the same as the Sprint version. The phone is well-rated for being waterproof and rugged, as well as extreme temperature ranges and safe for areas with flammable materials. Its screen is protected by extra-thick Gorilla Glass 5 in front, and a special metal plate behind it. The screen works through gloves and with wet hands, and the camera has an underwater mode. It's powered by a Snapdragon 630 processor paired with 4 GB of RAM. It also has a 4,000 mAh battery, NFC, USB-C, and a 13-megapixel camera. The CAT S48c will be available through Verizon business channels by the end of January.
Sprint joined the other top-tier US carriers in committing to sell Samsung's 5G phone next year. AT&T and Verizon have committed to offering the unnamed phone in the first half of next year. Sprint plans to launch the phone in "summer", which likely puts its launch after the other two carriers, although Sprint will offer a 5G phone from LG in the first half of the year. T-Mobile will offer the same Samsung phone, but has only committed to launching it some time in 2019. Sprint's version of the Samsung phone will access 5G in Sprint's 2.5 GHz radio frequency band, as well as 4G LTE in all of Sprint's usual bands. In the first half of 2019 Sprint plans to launch its mobile 5G network in nine cities: Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Kansas City, Los Angeles, New York City, Phoenix and Washington, D.C., with additional markets to be announced.
Sprint has agreed to pay the state of New York $330 million to settle a False Claims Act lawsuit filed way back in 2011. New York claimed that Sprint failed to collect more than $100 million in state and local taxes over a period of 10 years. "Sprint knew exactly how New York sales tax law applied to its plans — yet for years the company flagrantly broke the law, cheating the state and its localities out of tax dollars that should have been invested in our communities,” said New York State Attorney General A.G. Underwood. “Now, Sprint will pay the price with this record-setting settlement." The issue came to light in 2011 when a whistleblower reported the fraud to the state. The whistleblower will receive $62.7 million under New York law, which entitles them to a share of the recovered funds. Sprint said it was pleased to have resolved the matter.
Several government agencies have given T-Mobile and Sprint the approval they need to move forward with their merger plans. The Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, the Department of Defense, the Department of Homeland Security, and the Department of Justice have all agreed to the deal, valued at $26.5 billion. In order to appease these agencies, T-Mobile and Sprint's parent organizations, Deutsche Telekom and SoftBank, respectively, have said they'll reconsider their use of equipment from Chinese supplier Huawei. Huawei has long been branded a security risk by U.S. lawmakers. The combined company will have about 100 million customers, putting it on more even ground with AT&T and Verizon Wireless. The deal still needs to win the approval of the FCC and FTC. T-Mobile expects the deal to close during the first half of 2019.
T-Mobile and Sprint expect their proposed merger will be given the green light by government security officials as soon as next week, according to a report from Reuters. The Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) has been reviewing the merger for potential security issues. At the same time, government officials have been pressuring Deutsche Telekom, T-Mobile's parent organization, and SoftBank, Sprint's parent organization, to cease use of Huawei networking gear. The U.S. insists that Huawei gear may include a back door that could be accessible to the Chinese government for spying purposes. Deutsche Telekom agreed to review its use of Huawei gear in its home country of Germany and other European markets. SoftBank says it will replace 4G Huawei equipment with new gear from Nokia and Ericsson. These concessions appear to be enough for CFIUS, say Reuters' sources, and the security committee may grant T-Mobile and Sprint the permission they need to move forward with the merger. The deal still needs to be approved by the FCC and Department of Justice. The companies expect the deal to be finalized in early 2019. None of the firms mentioned by Reuters offered comment on the report.
Google today said it plans to expand the availability of the eSIM technology that's built into the Pixel 3. Google's Pixel 3 has an eSIM inside, a virtual SIM card that replaces the need for a physical SIM card. The eSIM makes it easier to change carriers using software. Google has supported the eSIM on its own Fi network sine last year and now says Sprint will support the eSIM in the coming months. In addition to Sprint, a handful of international carriers, including Deutsche Telekom and Vodafone in Germany, EE in the U.K., Airtel and Reliance Jio in India, and Truphone and Gigsky in various countries, will also add support for the Pixel's eSIM. Google says it is developing a program so Android device makers can build eSIM-capable products in a way that's consistent across phones, watches, tablets, and laptops.
Google today renamed its MVNO, Project Fi, to Google Fi. Along with the name change comes dramatically expanded compatibility with phones. Moving forward, the service will work with most Android phones as well as the Apple iPhone. The process of activating Fi on Android devices will be straightforward. Google says compatibility with iPhones is in beta and will require people to jump through a few more hoops, including the use of an iOS app. Basic service will be available to the majority of devices. Fi operates on T-Mobile, Sprint, U.S. Cellular, and WiFi, dynamically jumping to the strongest connection. Subscribers will need specific phones, listed on the Fi web site, to get this benefit, as proper LTE support is required. Google recently added VPN protection to Fi. The base service costs $20 per month for unlimited voice and text. Google charges $10 per gigabyte of data. People interested in the service will need to order SIM cards from the Google Fi web site. The service does not require contracts.
Sprint today revealed that it plans to launch a "5G mobile smart hub" at some point during the first half of next year. The device will be made by HTC. Sprint did not share the device's name, features, specs, or launch timing, but did say it will "deliver multimedia and connected data capabilities in a compact and portable design." This implies the device may be something more than a mere mobile hotspot. It will be fast, says Sprint. The device will rely on Qualcomm's Snapdragon X50 5G modem, able to deliver multi-gigabit 5G and gigabit LTE 4G when 5G isn't available. This unnamed HTC mobile smart hub will join a forthcoming 5G smartphone from LG in Sprint's initial lineup of mobile 5G devices. Sprint plans to deploy 5G in Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Kansas City, Los Angeles, New York City, Phoenix, and Washington, D.C., during the first half of 2019. More markets will be announced over time. Sprint competitors AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless are all following similar timelines for their own 5G launches.
Recently published research suggests the four major wireless carriers are throttling video traffic and three Senate Democrats want to know what's going on. Senators Edward Markey (Mass.), Richard Blumenthal (Conn.), and Ron Wyden (Ore.) sent letters to AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless about the allegations with a demand for a formal explanation from each. "All online traffic should be treated equally, and internet service providers should not discriminate against particular content or applications for competitive advantage purposes or otherwise," said the senators in their letter. The Wehe testing platform showed that AT&T throttled NBC Sports, Netflix, and YouTube; Sprint throttled Amazon Prime, Netflix, Skype Video calls, and YouTube; T-Mobile throttled Amazon Prime, NBC Sports, and Netflix; and Verizon Wireless throttled Amazon Prime, Netflix, and YouTube. T-Mobile also engaged in boosting, which provides unthrottled video streaming for a short time before eventually throttling it. Carriers' usage policies may allow for some throttling or down-graded resolution, and, due to the loss of net neutrality protections, current law does not explicitly prohibit throttling. However, the law does say that carriers have to disclose their throttling policies, if any exist. In this case, it's not clear if any of the carriers have specifically stated that they'll throttle the aforementioned apps and services. AT&T disputed the research and Sprint told Ars Technica that it does not "impose any restrictions on VoIP traffic or VoIP services." The carriers have until December 6 to answer the senators' questions.
T-Mobile CFO J. Braxton Carter believes the company's planned deal with Sprint could close during the first quarter of 2019. The proposed merger is still being weighed by the FCC and Department of Justice. "The only remaining thing that is happening is depositions with the DoJ, which have started and will be completed in a few weeks," said Carter at a technology conference. The two companies proposed the merger in April and initially expected it to close during the first half of 2019. A key facet of the deal is 5G. Carter says the merger is needed for the two companies to compete with market leaders AT&T and Verizon. "The combined assets of Sprint and T-Mobile can create 8 times the 5G capacity that either of us could do on a standalone basis and 15 times the speed," noted Carter. If the government allows the merger to move forward, the U.S. will drop from four national carriers to three. Some say this will reduce competition, which could lead to higher prices for consumers. Neither the FCC nor the DOJ has made any official statements on the deal.
Sprint and Cat Phones today announced the S48c, a fully ruggedized, mil-spec 810G phone that withstands drops, shock, moisture, dust, altitude, and temperature extremes. It is rated IP68 for protection against water and dust. The phone includes a programmable PTT button and is compatible with Sprint's Direct Connect service. Cat says the phone is intrinsically safe, a first for the company, which means the S48c can be used in hazardous environments with flammable vapors. The S48c has a 5-inch full HD display with Gorilla Glass 5, wet finger tracking, and glove mode. It is powered by a 2.2 GHz octa-core Snapdragon 630 processor with 4 GB of RAM and 32 GB of storage. A slot for microSD cards supports up to 128 GB of expandable storage. The main camera has a 13-megapixel sensor with LED flash, while the selfie camera has a 5-megapixel sensor. The phone can take pictures when under water. The battery measures in at 4,000mAh and provides up to two days of battery life. The phone ships with Android 8 Oreo and a commitment from Cat to update to Android 9 Pie. The S48c costs $480 and will go on sale online and in Sprint stores November 9. Monthly payments for the phone are $20.
Commuters who use the Port Authority's PATH train service will soon have broader access to wireless service. Beginning today, AT&T and T-Mobile service is live in underground PATH stations in New York City. AT&T and T-Mobile service will expand to underground stations in New Jersey over the next three weeks. The Port Authority says service from Sprint and Verizon Wireless will reach underground stations in both New York and New Jersey in early 2019. Cellular service will be available on platforms and throughout the underground stations. The underground PATH stations in New York are located at 33rd, 23rd, 14th, 9th, and Christopher streets, while the underground New Jersey stations are located at Hoboken, Exchange Place, Newport, and Grove Street. The Journal Square, Harrison, Newark Penn Station (which are all above ground), and World Trade Center PATH stations already offer cellular device. The Port Authority recently added free unlimited, high-speed WiFi service at the four major New York-area airports.
Sprint today said it has deployed LTE Advanced technology nationwide, providing access to more consumers while also doubling average speeds on its 4G network. Sprint said it achieved these network gains through both its own Next-Gen Network investment as well as rehashed roaming agreements. Consumers can take advantage of several Sprint offers to make use of the improved network. For a limited time, customers who switch to Sprint and subscribe to the Unlimited Basic plan can get three lines for $24 per month, with the fourth and fifth lines for free. After January 2020, those rates will go up to $60 per month for the first line, $40 per month for the second line, and $20 per month for lines three through five. Subscribers to this plan will see video streams capped at 480p, music streams capped at 500 Kbps, gaming streams capped at 2 Mbps, and throttling when the network is congested. Moving forward, existing subscribers to Sprint's Unlimited Plus plan will have access to 50 GB of mobile hotspot data per month and subscribers to Sprint's Unlimited Premium plan will have access to 100 GB of mobile hotspot data per month — all at no extra cost. Sprint says it will unveil more offers over the months to come.
FCC Chairman Ajit Pai sent letters to more than a dozen telephone service providers today asking them for a status update on their efforts to curb robocalls. He demanded these companies deploy a system that authenticates the identity of callers as those calls transit the networks with the goal of identifying and squashing spoofed numbers and spam. Pai wants the system rolled out no later than 2019. "Combatting illegal robocalls is our top consumer priority at the FCC," said Pai. "That’s why we need call authentication to become a reality — it's the best way to ensure that consumers can answer their phones with confidence." Earlier this year, the FCC approved an authentication system called SHAKEN/STIR. This system verifies calls from the originating carrier as legitimate and ensures they are validated once again by the receiving carrier before the calls reach consumers. Americans receive billions of robocalls annually. If no action is taken, more than half of all calls made in 2019 are predicted to be robocalls. "By this time next year, I expect that consumers will begin to see this on their phones," continued Pai. "If it does not appear that this system is on track to get up and running next year, then we will take action to make sure that it does." Pai asked the telephone service providers to send in status reports indicating how far along they are in adopting the SHAKEN/STIR framework. The telephone companies have until November 19 to reply. Some of the companies that received letters include AT&T, Google, Sprint, T-Mobile, U.S. Cellular, and Verizon.
ZTE is taking its first, cautious steps in staging a comeback in the U.S. market with two entry-level phones that can run on Sprint, Verizon, and GSM networks. The Blade Max View and Blade Max 2s (pictured) both cost under $200 and offer big screens and big batteries. Shared features between the two include 6-inch displays with full HD+ resolution, dual-band WiFi, Bluetooth 4.2, USB-C, memory card support, 4000mAh batteries, basic GSM/LTE for AT&T/T-Mobile, fingerprint readers, and a clean version of Android 7 Nougat.
- Blade Max View: This is the slightly more capable of the two phones. It is powered by a Snapdragon 435 processor with 3 GB of RAM and 32 GB of storage. The dual-camera configuration includes a 16-/2-megapixel combination. The main sensor has a five-element lens at f/2, while the secondary sensor has a three-element lens at f/2.4 The second sensor is meant chiefly for contrast and depth-of-field information for bokeh photos. The phone has an 8-megapixel front camera. The Blade Max View provides Cat 6 LTE on Verizon Wireless.
- Blade Max 2s: This is the spiritual successor to the Max XL. It is powered by a 1.4 GHz processor with 2 GB of RAM and 32 GB of storage. It includes a 13-megapixel main camera and a 5-megapixel selfie camera. The Blade Max 2s works well on Sprint's LTE 4G network.
Apple this week distributed iOS 12.1 and with it turned on the dual-SIM capability of the iPhone Xs, Xs Max, and Xr. Each of these newer iPhones includes a slot for physical SIM cards as well as an embedded eSIM. The eSIM can be used to change carriers at will. Despite the feature's availability from Apple, U.S. carriers aren't supporting it just yet. A check of Apple's web site shows that AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless will add the capability "later this year." AT&T says it is still working with Apple to add the feature, T-Mobile says it is still finalizing the software, and Verizon has confirmed that the eSIM causes coverage issues. Sprint has publicly said it will support the dual-SIM and eSIM functionality of the newer iPhones, but the company has not said when that might be. This all means U.S. consumers hoping to take advantage of the new iPhones' dual-SIM capabilities will have to wait a bit longer.
Qualcomm expects to see two major waves of 5G handsets arrive throughout 2019. Speaking at the 4G/5G Summit in Hong Kong, Qualcomm president Cristiano Amon said, based on its viewpoint, there will be an initial set of launches along with the arrival of 5G mobile networks themselves. U.S. carriers are expecting to get their 5G mobile networks up and running during the first six months of 2019, and some may launch during the first quarter. Amon believes a second wave of 5G phones — all flagships — will hit the market in the latter part of the year ahead of the holiday shopping season. OnePlus CEO, Carl Pei, who joined Amon on stage, says his company will have one of the first, if not the actual first, 5G phones to reach consumer hands. Pei noted that OnePlus has already begun conducting 5G tests with partner Qualcomm in San Diego. OnePlus is prepared to launch the OnePlus 6T at an event in New York on October 29. It is likely the 6T's successor that will include 5G. Earlier this year, Sprint claimed it would be the first carrier to launch a 5G handset with partner LG. Given OnePlus' recent tie-up with T-Mobile, it's possible OnePlus' 5G smartphone will operate on T-Mobile's network. Neither Sprint nor T-Mobile has provided a firm 5G launch date for 2019.
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.