New York State Attorney General Letitia James today confirmed that she continues to lead a coalition of 14 states in suing to stop the merger of T-Mobile and Sprint on anti-trust grounds, in spite of today's approval of the merger by the US Department of Justice. The states' concerns include specific issues with the deal announced today by the DoJ and Dish, for Dish to take certain assets from Sprint to build a new, fourth national carrier. The new concerns include: "Dish has never shown any inclination or ability to build a nationwide mobile network on its own and has repeatedly broken assurances to the Federal Communications Commission about deployment of its spectrum." and "T-Mobile and Sprint are asking Americans to trust that this new mega corporation will act directly against its own economic interests by helping transform Dish into an independent competitor that rivals this new company" In addition to New York, the plaintiffs currently include California, Colorado, Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nevada, Virginia, and Wisconsin.
Dish Network will pay $5 billion to buy significant Sprint assets in an attempt to create a new national 5G wireless network, in a deal brokered by the US Department of Justice to win approval for T-Mobile merging with Sprint. The deal includes $3.6 billion for licenses to 14 MHz of nationwide 800 MHz spectrum. For its new 5G network. Dish will use the new 800 MHz spectrum alongside 600 MHz, 700 MHz, and 1,700 MHz spectrum it already owns. Dish will also pay $1.4 billion to acquire Sprint's prepaid business, including Boost Mobile, Virgin Mobile, and Sprint Prepaid. That purchase includes 9.3 million customers and 400 employees. Dish has made a new commitment to the FCC that it will build its own 5G network capable of serving 70 percent of the US population by June 2023. Dish will pay a penalty of up to $2.2 billion if it fails to meet that deadline. Dish will have access to the new T-Mobile / Sprint network for seven years while it builds its own network. Dish will also lease T-Mobile some of its 600 MHz spectrum for several years to smooth the transition. Dish will also have the option to acquire certain tower, network equipment, and retail assets that will be decommissioned as part of the Sprint / T-Mobile integration process.
The US Department of Justice has given its blessing to the proposed merger of T-Mobile and Sprint. Several conditions — including a comprehensive deal with Dish intended to create a small fourth national carrier — have satisfied the federal government's anti-trust concerns. The FCC has already announced it will allow the deal, meaning the deal is cleared at the federal level. Five state attorneys general joined in supporting the deal. However, ten state attorneys general have filed suit to block the deal on anti-trust grounds, including those for New York and California. Those states are not signed on to the deal announced today. That action remains outstanding and could still delay or scuttle the deal. The required deal with Dish will see Dish acquire all of Sprint's prepaid business, including the Boost and Virgin brands and 9 million customers with those brands, along with radio spectrum licenses. Dish will also have "robust access" to the new T-Mobile/Sprint network as an MVNO for at least seven years, giving it time to build out its own physical network. T-Mobile/Sprint will also be required to "make available" at least 20,000 tower sites and hundreds of retail locations, in order to facilitate Dish building its new network and wireless business. Dish has a long history of hoarding spectrum licenses while promising — but failing — to build any significant network to use them.
Moto's new g-series phones bring up-to-date features, upgraded specs, and clean Google software to three models ranging from $200 to $300. This year's series moves to a notched-screen design, steps up to a Qualcomm Snapdragon 632 processor, and supports USB-C across the board. They will all launch with Android 9 (Pie). All three will eventually come to US carriers, most by this spring.
- Moto g7 play: The most affordable at $199, it has a 5.7" HD display, 3,000 mAh battery, fast charging, fingerprint reader, 13 megapixel camera, 2 GB of RAM, 32 GB of storage, memory card slot, 3.5mm headset jack, and FM radio. It will be available from Boost, Virgin, US Cellular, Ting, and Republic, as well as unlocked from most major retailers.
- Moto g7 power: The main feature is its huge 5,000 mAh battery, which Motorola claims will last for three days. It builds on the specs of the g7 play, stepping up to a larger 6.2" display, 3 GB of RAM, and a higher-quality 12-megapixel camera. It will be available for $249 from Verizon, T-Mobile, Metro, Cricket, Xfinity Mobile, Republic, Ting, and Consumer Cellular, as well as unlocked from most major retailers.
- Moto g7: Higher-end but with a normal-size (3,000 mAh) battery, this flagship of the g series has a curved glass back, full-HD 6.2" display with a smaller notch, 4 GB of RAM, 64 GB of storage, 4K video capture, and dual cameras for portrait effects. It also has a more advanced camera app, with new features like automatic group smile capture, hi-res digital zoom using multiple frames, hyperlapse video, and RAW output. The camera also integrates with YouTube Live and Google Lens. It will be available unlocked from most major retailers for $299 this spring, followed by launches with Google Fi, Republic Wireless, and Ting.
At least one person thinks Sprint and T-Mobile should be required to divest their respective prepaid businesses if they are allowed to merge. Peter Adderton, founder and former CEO of Boost Mobile, firmly believes the market will become less competitive — particularly in the prepaid space — if Sprint and T-Mobile are allowed to merge without any divestitures. “If this merger is approved without the divesture of Boost Mobile and/or MetroPCS, the new combined entity will hold a 40% market share in the prepaid segment — which I would argue has the effect of being a monopoly or extreme dominance in the category,” said Adderton in a press release. “This level of market domination virtually always leads to rising prices, more onerous terms and conditions and lower service quality, and young and credit-challenged prepaid subscribers simply can’t afford that.” Sprint owns and operates Boost Mobile and Virgin Mobile USA, while T-Mobile owns and operates MetroPCS. Sprint and T-Mobile “will have significant incentive to restrict network access to competing MVNOs. If that happens, MVNOs, who already run on extremely tight margins, have little or no opportunity to make a profit, and we can expect many of them to close their doors,” argued Adderton. Boost, Virgin, and MetroPCS do not own or operate their own networks, so it’s unclear how Adderton believes such a divestiture could work. Each would have to be given spectrum and other assets to launch functioning service around the U.S. Though Adderton said “I would love to take control of it, that’s not the driver here.” Instead, he insists his goal is to ensure the wireless market remains competitive. Adderton plans to take his case to Congress as well as the public. Sprint and T-Mobile believe their proposed merger will pass regulatory scrutiny, but the government has yet to make its case.
Virgin Mobile today said customers will be able to buy "Certified Pre-Loved" (aka, used) iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus handsets beginning in February. The company already sells the refurbished iPhone 6s and 6s Plus devices. Prices for the used iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus will range from $380 to $420. Virgin reiterates that Certified Pre-Loved iPhones are tested and inspected, given a new battery, and include a one-year Apple warranty. The used handsets also include new Apple EarPods and an Apple charger. The company is still offering six months of its Virgin Mobile Inner Circle service to port-ins for $1 per month for six months. After the initial six-month period ends, the Virgin Mobile Inner Circle costs $50 per month for unlimited talk, text, and data.
AT&T is selling $1 billion worth of recently-acquired radio spectrum licenses to an obscure Virginia company, according to documents filed recently with the FCC. The spectrum in question is all (or nearly all) of the 600 MHz (band 71) licenses that AT&T acquired in an FCC auction just one year ago. 600 MHz is radio spectrum previously used for over-the-air TV channels 38-51. T-Mobile owns the most 600 MHz spectrum in the U.S., and has already started deploying LTE service in that band. AT&T is selling the licenses to LB Spectrum Holdings, an affiliate of Columbia Capital that apparently raised nearly a billion dollars to bid in the FCC's 600 MHz auction as Columbia Crest, but failed to secure any licenses. The licenses being sold include many major metro areas, including San Francisco, Seattle, Phoenix, Dallas, Atlanta, Washington, Baltimore, and Philadelphia. AT&T's sale may be motivated by the recent success of FirstNet in securing the participation of all 50 states. FirstNet will be a new, unified public-safety LTE network operated by AT&T in 700 MHz spectrum known as band 14. Operating FirstNet gives AT&T the right to use part of that band for its own commercial purposes.
Virgin Mobile USA today said it will offer customers the Apple iPhone X starting November 10. The company will accept preorders beginning November 3, which happens to be the same day the handset reaches Apple retail stores and those of Virgin's owner, Sprint. Virgin did not reveal pricing details for the iPhone X, but it will likely charge customers the full retail price of $999 for the 64 GB model and $1,049 for the 256 GB model. iPhone X owners on Virgin Mobile can get unlimited talk, text and data at up to 4G LTE speeds for just $50 per month.
Virgin Mobile today announced a promotion that lets new customers receive 12 months of service for just $1 by bringing their number and existing iPhone from a different carrier and activating it with Virgin's Inner Circle plan. The offer was previously only available to customers purchasing a new iPhone from Virgin. After 12 months, the Inner Circle plan costs $50/month for unlimited service. Most iPhones from the 5S and newer are compatible, but potential customers should use Virgin's web site to check specific compatibility first. Through September 29th, SIM activation kits for existing iPhones are free. Virgin customers can also receive six months of service for $1 each time they upgrade to a new iPhone. The Inner Circle plan caps video, music and gaming quality, and can limit all data speeds when Sprint's network is congested. Inner Circle includes promotions for other Virgin-brand companies. Prices exclude taxes and require enrollment in AutoPay. The promotion will be available "for a short period of time".
Virgin Mobile today announced plans to become an iPhone-only carrier, but the carrier's Android-based handsets won't vanish overnight. Virgin's reseller partners, including Best Buy, Target, and Walmart, will continue to carry and sell Virgin Mobile's lineup of Android handsets along with the prepaid carrier's Data Love service plans, according to Justin Scott, Virgin Mobile's Director of Communications. These retail partners will not sell the iPhone for the Inner Circle yet, though Virgin anticipates they will later this year. Virgin says its existing customers won't have to worry about any immediate changes. All Virgin subscribers are welcome to keep their current phone and service plan. If they wish, customers can upgrade to the Inner Circle plan once it becomes available, but Virgin won't force them to right away. Virgin will, however, begin to phase out all Android handsets over time. "While we love our partners in the Android ecosystem and care deeply about our Android customers, the Inner Circle is a path to a different future," explained Scott. "Specifically, it's an opportunity to reposition the brand and align it with the other Virgin companies in the United States. We certainly didn't make this decision lightly and based some of it on consumer data. We chose to become the first iPhone-only based mobile carrier in the United States and launch a game-changing offer because it was time for Virgin Mobile to make a bold move." Scott did not provide any sort of timeline for phasing out the company's Android phones.
Virgin Mobile USA, which is owned and operated by Sprint, transformed itself today into new provider much more closely aligned with the Virgin brand. Significantly, Virgin Mobile USA is now an iPhone-only carrier, meaning Apple's iPhones are the only phones Virgin will sell moving forward. Further, shoppers will be able to buy and activate an iPhone on Virgin Mobile USA at Apple Stores. Pricing for Virgin Mobile iPhones starts at $279 for the 32 GB iPhone SE and ranges up to $969 for the 256 GB iPhone 7 Plus. According to the company's web site, Virgin Mobile does not offer financing for iPhones and customers will have to pay full price. The company now offers only a single service plan. For $50 per month, Virgin Mobile USA provides unlimited talk, text, and data in the U.S. International roaming add-ons start at $5 per month. There are limitations on Virgin's plan: video playback is capped at 480p, music is streamed at 500Kbps, and gaming is streamed at 1.5Mbps. Virgin says mobile data speeds will be suppressed when the network is congested. For a limited time, Virgin Mobile is offering up to 12 months of service for just $1. The $1 yearly service offer is only available to customers buying a new iPhone and activating it on Virgin's network. Customers will have to sign up by July 31, 2017 to score the $1 deal. At the end of the 12-month service plan for $1, customers will automatically be moved to the $50 plan. Last, the $1 yearly plan and iPhone purchase buy customers access to the Virgin Inner Circle. The Inner Circle is a promotional program that provides benefits with other Virgin-branded properties. For example, Inner Circle members who buy one plane ticket on Virgin Atlantic will be given a second ticket for free. Inner Circle members who book two nights at a Virgin-owned hotel will be able to cash in on a third night for free. Virgin says these offers will be made available to Inner Circle members every few weeks. Customers interested in this package can pre-order one of Virgin Mobile USA's iPhones starting today. The phones and Inner Circle will become available starting June 27. Last, Virgin said it will offer "pre-loved" iPhones starting in the fall, allowing customers to take advantage of more affordable prices.
Sprint's prepaid brands Boost Mobile and Virgin Mobile today launched the ZTE Prestige 2, an entry-level Android handset. The Prestige 2 has a 5-inch FWVGA display and it is powered by a 1.1 GHz quad-core processor with 2 GB of RAM and 16 GB of storage. The phone has two 5-megapixel cameras, one on the front and one on the back. The main camera has a flash. Other specs include a 2,035mAh battery, memory card support, HD voice, roaming in Mexico, mobile hotspot, and LTE 4G. The phone costs $80, but Boost Mobile is selling it online for $52. Virgin Mobile is offering the ZTE Prestige 2 for $50. It runs Android 6 Marshmallow.
Sprint-owned Boost Mobile and Virgin Mobile USA today both kicked off sales of the LG Stylo 3. The device, first announced late last year, features a 5.7-inch 720p display. It is powered by a 1.4 GHz octa-core processor from MediaTek with 3 GB RAM, 16 GB of storage, and support for memory cards up to 2 TB. The main camera has a 13-megapixel sensor and the front camera has an 8-megapixel sensor. Other features include a removable 3,200mAh battery, FM radio, and fingerprint sensor. The Stylo 3 includes a new stylus. LG said it improved screen feedback for a more natural feel. The revised pen-based software includes PenPop 2.0 (memos are never out of sight), Pen Keeper (warning system to prevent stylus loss), and Screen-Off Memo (note-taking even when the screen is off). Both prepaid carriers are asking $180 for the phone, which is available online and in stores.
Sprint intends to relaunch its Virgin Mobile brand later this year and will use the prepaid service to shake things up. "We've put most of our attention in the postpaid handset business, which is where 80% of the profit in this industry comes from," said CEO Marcelo Claure. "Now that that business is stable, we're putting a lot of energy into Boost and Virgin." Claure has spent the last 18 months trimming costs at Sprint and getting its network strategy under control. With these tasks largely on track, the company is now focusing on its prepaid brands, which it has de-emphasized for a while. "I envision Virgin as being our disruptive brand," said Claure. "You're going to see us test different models. One model we're testing that we like is, rather than subsidizing handsets, actually providing free airtime with no subsidy on the handset. So you're going to see Virgin be our disrupter brand. And you're going to see Boost be a very strong brand that can give good competition to both Cricket and Metro." Claure didn't say when it might actually unveil the new, "disruptive" Virgin Mobile.
Boost Mobile and Virgin Mobile today both made the LG Tribute HD smartphone available via their web sites. The phone is a small step up from the low-cost Tribute 5. The Tribute HD boasts a 5-inch 720p HD screen, which is improved over the Tribute 5's FWVGA display. The Tribute HD is powered by a 1.3 GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 212 processor with 1.5 GB of RAM and 16 GB of storage. The main camera has an 8-megapixel sensor and the front camera has a 5-megapixel sensor with an automatic selfie mode. The phone relies on a 2,100mAh battery and supports LTE 4G as well as roaming in Mexico. The Tribute HD runs Android 6 Marshmallow. Boost Mobile is selling the Tribute HD for $80, and Virgin Mobile is selling the Tribute HD for $99. Service plans start at $30.
Sprint's prepaid brands, Boost Mobile and Virgin Mobile USA, will sell the Apple iPhone 7 beginning September 23. Boost and Virgin will not be selling the iPhone 7 Plus. The company didn't provide specific release details, but customers should expect to pay full retail price for the handset. The 32 GB iPhone 7 costs $649.
Boost Mobile and Virgin Mobile U.S. today announced the immediate availability of the Alcatel Dawn, a low-cost Android handset. The Dawn features a 4.5-inch screen with 854 by 480 resolution, 1.1 GHz quad-core processor, and 1 GB of RAM. The phone includes a 5-megapixel main camera, VGA front camera, 8 GB of storage, 1,780mAh battery, support for LTE, and a memory card slot for microSD cards up to 32 GB. The Dawn runs Android 6.0 Marshmallow and costs $69.99. Service plans from Boost and Virgin start at $35. The Alcatel Dawn can be purchased online.
Sprint's prepaid brands Boost Mobile and Virgin Mobile today announced plans to sell the LG K3 handset. The phone is available from both carriers' web sites today and will reach Boost Mobile stores next week. The phone runs Android 6.0 Marshmallow and features a 4.5-inch screen, quad-core Snapdragon 210 processor clocked at 1.1 GHz, 1 GB of RAM, 8 GB of storage, and a 1,940mAh battery. The main camera has a 5-megapixel sensor with flash, while the front camera has a VGA sensor and a selfie light. Both cameras include LG's shooting tools, such as Cheese Shutter and Gesture Shot. The LG K3 costs $79.99.
A U.S. appeals court said law enforcement does not need to obtain a warrant before obtaining location data from wireless network operators. Today's decision stems from an appeal based on a Baltimore case involving armed robberies from 2011. Citing a decades-old idea suggesting consumers routinely allow their phone service provider to know their location, the Fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia, reversed a divided opinion from last year. The majority (12-3) opinion held that "Anyone who has stepped outside to 'get a signal,' or has warned a caller of a potential loss of service before entering an elevator, understands, on some level, that location matters." A ruling last year from the Sixth U.S. Circuit Court agreed that no warrant is needed. The Supreme Court has refused to review similar cases. A lawyer for the ACLU argued that the matter has not been finalized by the courts.
Sprint today said its customers will be able to stream all the 2016 Copa AmÃ©rica Centenario soccer matches on their phones of free. The tournament, which is being held in June, will be streamed via the fuboTV app. Sprint is giving its postpaid and Boost/Virgin prepaid customers free access to the fuboTV app for 60 days. After the trial ends (60 days for Sprint, 30 days for Boost/Virgin), customers can continue the subscription for $9.99 per month, or drop the app. In addition to free access to the live matches, Sprint will not count streamed games against customers' data buckets. Sprint is sponsoring the tournament, which is taking place in the U.S. for the first time, and will have an on-site presence at all the games. The sponsorship includes several giveaways and awards that customers can access through the fuboTV app.
Sprint's prepaid brands, Boost Mobile and Virgin Mobile, plan to sell three low-cost smartphones in the weeks ahead, including the Kyocera Hydro Reach. The Reach (pictured) is an update to the Hydro Edge. It is water and dust proof, and the 5-inch qHD display supports wet finger tracking. The Hydro Reach is powered by a 1.1 GHz quad-core Snapdragon processor and comes with 1 GB of RAM and 8 GB of storage. The main camera has a 5-megapixel sensor and the user-facing camera has a 2-megapixel sensor. The device has a 2,160mAh battery and runs Android 5.1 Lollipop. The Hydro Reach will go on sale April 15 from Boost Mobile and Virgin Mobile USA. It will cost $99. Boost and Virgin also plan to add the LG Stylo 2 and Samsung Galaxy J7, both announced earlier this year, to their rosters. The Stylo 2 will reach Boost stores April 15 and Virgin stores May 9. It will cost $179.99. The Galaxy J7 hits Boost stores on April 15 for $229.99, and Virgin on April 19.
Boost Mobile and Virgin Mobile today both confirmed plans to offer the Samsung Galaxy S7 to their prepaid customers. Boost will kick off sales of the flagship handset on March 11, with Virgin to follow March 18. Both companies are asking for the full retail price, which is $649.99 for the 32 GB model. They are selling only the black variant. Boost has a promotion for families right now that offers 10 GB per line, while Virgin offers free music streaming via LTE. Boost and Virgin, which operate on Sprint's network, do not require contracts and offer low-cost service plans.
Sprint is today discontinuing its PayLo and Broadband2Go sub-brands, which were operated through Virgin Mobile. The move comes mere days after Sprint said it was "de-emphasizing" the Virgin brand. PayLo chiefly offered talk/text plans to feature devices and Broadband2Go mainly sold data-only devices and services. Virgin said the PayLo brand attracted people seeking "burner phones" and it wants to move away from that association. The company is also adjusting the service plans available from Virgin Mobile. Starting today, Virgin will offer three plans. The entry-level plan costs $30 and includes unlimited talk/text and 500 MB of data. Stepping up to the $40 plan boosts data to 4 GB, while the $50 plan includes 6 GB. Sprint doesn't charge overages, but does throttle people who exceed their data limits. "We've kind of transitioned to focusing on those monthly unlimited plans, which are the more engaged, higher-ARPU subscribers," said Angela Rittgers, VP of Sprint's prepaid services, to Fierce Wireless. "I think what we'll find is that the net amount of money we get from customers will be the same, but these are just more attractive price points to subscribers." Sprint said it remains committed to its prepaid brands and customers. Sprint's other prepaid brand, Boost Mobile, recently revised its pricing, too.
Sprint says it has a new strategy in mind for its prepaid brand Virgin Mobile. During a call with analysts today, Sprint execs said the company is de-emphasizing Virgin at the moment in favor of Boost Mobile, and has gone so far as to pull Virgin advertising ahead of a the new strategy's debut. Sprint did not say what it plans to do with Virgin, though it did admit it is not pursuing the pre-paid space as aggressively as rivals Cricket and MetroPCS. "You've got to figure out where do you want to fight and where do you want to grow," said CEO Marcelo Claure. "We are keeping the customers that matter." Claure also took the opportunity to reassure investors and customers that its network improvement plan will not be disruptive. "This is not a rip-and-replace strategy," said Claure, calling the implementation a "progressive build" that will make changes for the better. The company is expected to relocate some cell towers and make greater use of small/macro cells to densify its network. It may also shift some backhaul operations to microwave in order to cut down the fiber carriage fees it pays to AT&T and Verizon. Claure still believes Sprint can become the No. 1 or No. 2 network in terms of absolute performance in 80% of the country's markets within two years.
T-Mobile-owned MetroPCS is targeting Sprint customers with new service and handset discounts. Starting January 21, Sprint, Boost Mobile, and Virgin Mobile customers who switch to MetroPCS can save up to 50% off Sprint's Family Share Pack pricing. For example, a single ported line can save between 22% and 48%, while two or more lines can save between 23% and 50%, depending on a number of variables such as existing plan cost, new plan pricing, and local taxes. Customers who switch can keep the low rate plans as long as they remain with MetroPCS. The promotion includes unlimited talk and text, Music Unlimited, Data Maximizer and mobile hotspot. MetroPCS is offering switchers a free LG Leon LTE, Kyocera Hydro Wave, Samsung Core Prime, LG K7, or $50 rebate that can be applied to any phone sold by MetroPCS. Last, MetroPCS is offering its existing customers a $20 discount when adding an extra 5GB line. T-Mobile said the promotion will be available for a limited time, but didn't provide an end date.
Sprint today said its prepaid brands Boost Mobile and Virgin Mobile USA will soon sell the Samsung Galaxy J3. This inexpensive Android handset includes a 5-inch 720p HD screen, a 5-megapixel main camera with LED flash, and a 2-megapixel selfie camera. It is powered by a 1.2 GHz quad-core processor and carries 1.5 GB of RAM and 16 GB of storage. It supports memory cards up to 128 GB. The phone ships with Android 5.1 Lollipop and includes Samsung's Easy Mode for novice users. It packs a 2600mAh battery. The Galaxy J3 reaches Virgin Mobile stores today and Boost Mobile stores next week. It costs $179.99.
Boost Mobile today said customers can now stream music from several different services over its cellular network without impacting their monthly data allotment. Unlimited music streaming is available through Pandora, iHeartRadio, 8tracks, Slacker, and Samsung Milk Music. Customers who subscribe to Boost's 2GB, 5GB, and unlimited data plans can stream as much music from these providers as they wish each month. Boost said song downloads, video content, non-audio content, and other data sent via the music services (ads, images) will count against monthly data caps. Virgin Mobile, which has offered free music streaming from several services since October, added 8tracks and Samsung Milk Music to its supported streaming apps. Moreover, Virgin is now selling the LG G Stylo and the Tribute 2. Boost Mobile and Virgin Mobile are both owned and operated by Sprint.
T-Mobile today said Sprint customers can score $200 when porting their lines to T-Mobile during the holidays. T-Mobile will give Sprint, Boost, and Virgin subscribers an extra $200 for every line they switch to a T-Mobile Simple Choice plan, with no trade-in required. T-Mobile is also targeting subscribers to Sprint's unlimited plan. These customers can get access to T-Mobile's unlimited LTE plan for $45 per line for a family of four. These offerings will be available starting Nov. 26.
Virgin Mobile USA today announced Data Free Music, a program that lets customers stream an unlimited amount of music over the cellular network with no impact on their data plan. The idea is similar to one from T-Mobile. The feature is being added to Virgin's $35, $45, and $55 plans, which offer 1GB, 3GB, and 8GB of high-speed data, respectively. Customers who have these plans will be able to listen to as much music as they want from iHeartRadio, Pandora, and Slacker Radio. Virgin said it may add more music providers over time. Data consumed via these music streaming providers will not count against customers' monthly data limits. Data Free Music will be available beginning Oct. 9.
Virgin Mobile today updated its service plans with more 4G LTE data. The entry-level $35 plan bumps the monthly high-speed data bucket from 250MB to 1GB, the $45 plan improves from 1GB to 3GB, and the $55 plan improves from 3GB to 8GB. Virgin throttles data speeds down to 2G once the data bucket is exhausted in a single billing period, but customers can purchase more high-speed data for $5 per 1GB. Virgin also announced availability of the LG Tribute 2, a $100 Android smartphone. Boost Mobile, run by Virgin parent Sprint, has sold the Tribute 2 since July.
Motorola has revealed there will be at least two variants of the Moto G handset for the U.S. market. The first model, XT1540, is the GSM model that includes EDGE, HSPA+, and LTE. This model is compatible with the networks run by AT&T and T-Mobile. The second model, XT1548, is the CDMA model, though it also supports GSM, EDGE, HSPA+, and LTE for world roaming. Motorola specifically said the Moto G will be offered by Sprint Prepaid, U.S. Cellular, and Virgin Mobile. None of these carriers has yet voiced support publicly for the Moto G. The Moto G, now in its third generation, has a 5-inch 720p screen, Snapdragon 410 processor, 13-megapixel camera, and support for memory cards. It costs $179 and is available directly from Motorola.com.
Sprint's Boost Mobile and Virgin Wireless USA brands today made available new data packs for customers seeking a bit more data. The $5 pack provides 1 GB of high-speed data and the $10 pack provides 2 GB of high-speed data. Boost's existing plans offer unlimited talk, text, and 2G data, but limited buckets of LTE 4G data. Virgin's plans offer a variety of talk, text, and LTE data buckets ranging from 1 GB to 3 GB. The $5 and $10 data packs can be added to any of Boost's or Virgin's plans.
Sprint today announced the LG Tribute 2 is now available from Virgin Mobile and Sprint Prepaid. The Tribute 2 has LG's signature rear-placed buttons, 1.2 GHz quad-core processor, LTE, Bluetooth, and WiFi. It runs Android 5.1 Lollipop with LG's Knock Code, QuickMemo, and selfie camera tools. The screen measures 4.5 inches and offers 854 x 480 resolution. The Tribute 2 also includes a 5-megapixel main camera, VGA front camera, 1 GB of RAM, and 8 GB of ROM. Virgin Mobile is selling the phone as the LG Tribute 2, but Sprint Prepaid has rebranded it to the Tribute Duo. It costs $99. Sprint-owned Boost Mobile is already selling the Tribute 2.
HTC today revealed a new family of Desire handsets. The 626 series (pictured) and 526/520 series share many features, though the former is a bit more mid-range and the latter is decidedly entry-level. Traits common to the 626, 626S, 526, and 520 include Qualcomm's 1.1 GHz quad-core Snapdragon 210 processor; 2,000mAh batteries; single-band WiFi, Bluetooth 4.1, and GPS/GLONASS; support for 2 TB memory cards; and Android 5.1 Lollipop with HTC Sense.
- 626/626S: In keeping with prior Desire designs, the 626/626S are formed of polycarbonate and have variable color combinations. These larger Desire handsets have 5-inch 720p HD screens and 8-megapixel main cameras with 720p video capture. The 626 has 16 GB of storage, 1.5GB of RAM, and a 5-megapixel user-facing camera. The 626S has 8 GB of storage, 1 GB of RAM, and a 2-megapixel user-facing camera.
- 526/520:The 526 and 520 share most design features, but differ in some key specs. They have a simple appearance and cheaper materials. The 526, intended for Verizon, has a 4.7-inch qHD screen, 8-megapixel rear camera, 2-megapixel front camera, 8 GB of storage, and 1.5 GB of RAM. The 520, intended for Cricket Wireless, has a 4.5-inch FWVGA screen, 8-megapixel rear camera, 2-megapixel front camera, 8 GB of storage, and 1 GB of RAM.
Helio, an MVNO that shuttered its doors years ago, is back. The company announced its return via Twitter and is once again offering prepaid service. The company operates on Sprint's network. Unlike before, however, Helio has a roaming agreement with Verizon Wireless, too, so customers will have greater network access when out and about. The basic service cost $29 per month, which includes unlimited voice, unlimited messaging (including international text), and unlimited 2G data capped at 128Kbps. Helio's web site does not say if or when it might offer 3G or 4G service. The $29 monthly plan includes all taxes and fees. The company supports a BYOD program, but requires handsets compatible with Sprint's network. It also sells a handful of older smartphones on its web site, including the Samsung Galaxy S3 and S4, for $249 and $299, respectively. Helio said it will sell its own branded handsets soon. Helio is offering the first month of service for free with no commitment. Helio was originally launched in 2006 as a joint venture between SK Telecom and Earthlink. It was folded into Virgin Mobile, another Sprint property, in 2008. Helio ceased all operations in 2010. Helio is now backed by a company called UBI.
T-Mobile has filed a petition with the FCC in an attempt to prevent AT&T from purchasing select 700 MHz spectrum licenses. AT&T filed a request to transfer the licenses, which cover portions of Kentucky, Ohio, and West Virginia, last month. The Lower 700 MHz C Block licenses are owned by East Kentucky Network and cover 20 counties in three Cellular Market Areas. If approved, AT&T stands to hold 113 to 145 MHz of spectrum in total, and 43 to 55 MHz of below-1-GHz spectrum in these three CMAs. T-Mobile wants the FCC to deny AT&T's request on the grounds that it believes AT&T already owns too much low-band spectrum. "The license assignments sought would result in AT&T holding more than one-third of the spectrum below 1 GHz in the Huntington-Ashland and Lexington-Fayette CMAs. Although six entities currently hold low-band spectrum in these Markets, this transaction, if approved, will eliminate one of them entirely," argued T-Mobile. The Uncarrier has about 42,000 customers and ranks last in the areas involved. AT&T responded by saying, "AT&T will not exceed the Commission's spectrum aggregation screen and — because the spectrum at issue currently sits completely fallow and unused — the deal will not reduce any actual competition." AT&T also accused T-Mobile of under-investing in rural markets, including the ones at stake. "T-Mobile has only limited plans to invest in the rural markets covered by these licenses, particularly those in West Virginia. T-Mobile has 20-30 MHz of AWS spectrum in all of these markets that it could use to serve these rural communities if it chose. Finally, if T-Mobile wants low band spectrum for these markets, it could buy the 700 MHz A block spectrum and deploy it. Yet, T-Mobile chooses to do none of these." The FCC hasn't said if it will approve the deal or not, but because the spectrum in question falls below 1 GHz it will apply look more closely at the proposed deal.
Virgin Mobile today announced the Data Done Right promotion, which kicks off May 16 at Walmart stores. The new plans offer 300 minutes, unlimited texting, and 3GB of high-speed data for $30 per month, or unlimited voice, texting, and 3GB for $40. These prices are $5 lower and each option includes 500MB more data. Accounts with more than one line have been improved, too. Two lines will have access to unlimited voice, unlimited messaging, and 6GB of data for $65; three lines get 10GB for $90; and four lines get 14GB for $115. The promotional plans are available to seven different handsets, including the Samsung Galaxy S6. Virgin did not say how long the promotion will run.
Sprint said it will re-open 1,435 RadioShack stores tomorrow that it acquired from General Wireless. The move will double the number of company-owned stores and give Sprint a much wider retail footprint around the country. The stores will be co-branded Sprint-RadioShack, but Sprint will be the main brand associated with each location. Sprint plans to build a store-within-a-store covering approximately one third of the retail space in each location. It will use this space to sell Sprint-, Virgin-, and Boost-branded hardware and service plans. Sprint said RadioShack's products and accessories will also be available at each location. General Wireless is holding into about 310 RadioShack stores. Sprint acquired the stores as part of RadioShack's bankruptcy restructuring.
Sprint today said it plans to sell the Motorola Moto E from Boost Mobile, Virgin Mobile, and Sprint Prepaid this month. The Moto E, which has a larger screen and supports LTE 4G, is available in white from Boost Mobile beginning today for $99.99. The black model is available today from Sprint Prepaid at Best Buy and RadioShack stores. Sprint said Virgin Mobile (via Walmart) will offer the Moto E beginning March 9. The device has a 4.5-inch display, 5-megapixel camera, and runs Android 5.0 Lollipop.
Sprint today launched LTE service in 24 new markets and Spark service in an additional 24 markets. The company's LTE footprint now reaches 270 million POPs, while its Spark footprint reaches 125 million POPs. Some of the new LTE markets include Flagstaff, Ariz.; Maui and the Big Island, Hawaii; Terra Haute, Ind.; Thousand Oaks, Ventura, Santa Barbara, and Santa Maria, Calif.; and Washington, D.C., Arlington, and Alexandra, Va. Some of the new Spark markets include Camden, N.J.; Nashua, N.H.; New Haven and Milford, Conn.; Norfolk, Virginia Beach, and Newport News, Va.; Peoria, Ill., Providence, R.I.; and Spokane, Wash. Sprint said it will add Spark coverage to Atlanta, Boston, Las Vegas, Nashville, Portland, San Francisco, San Jose, and Washington, D.C. later this month.