Qualcomm today announced the FSM100xx, a 5G NR product designed for small cells and remote radio heads. Qualcomm says the FSM100xx builds on its existing Qualcomm FSM Platform for 3G and 4G small cells. It supports 5G NR in sub-6 GHz and mmWave spectrum, allowing network operators to make use of whatever spectrum is available to them in a given location. Qualcomm designed the FSM Platform for flexibility. It is based on 10nm mobile technologies for controlling power consumption while allowing for fast performance. Qualcomm says the FSM100xx can address the propagation characteristics of mmWave spectrum in real time, particularly in indoor spaces where small cells are most often deployed. Further, it supports MIMO and multi-gigabit throughout, as well as power-over-ethernet for broader outdoor deployments. Last, the FSM100xx includes a software-defined modem, which gives carriers the flexibility to control and update their hardware when needed to comply with future 3GPP releases of the 5G NR spec. Qualcomm says it expects the FSM100xx to begin sampling in 2019. Meanwhile, AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile all claim they will launch 5G in select markets by the end of 2018.
The FCC today said it is investigating reports that a web site leaked the location data of millions of U.S. cell phones. A security researcher claims a company called LocationSmart suffered a leak and made it possible track the whereabouts 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. On her Twitter account today FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel said, "The @FCC needs to investigate. No ifs, ands, or buts." Senator Ron Wyden agreed, saying, "This leak, only days after the lax security at Securus was exposed, shows how little companies throughout the wireless ecosystem value Americans’ security. Wireless carriers and LocationSmart appear to have allowed nearly any hacker with a basic knowledge of web sites to track the location of any American with a cell phone. A hacker could have used this site to know when you were in your house so they would know when to rob it. A predator could have tracked your child’s cell phone to know when they were alone." Wyden demanded an investigation and the FCC appears to agree. The agency has pushed the matter to its enforcement bureau to investigate.
AT&T and Verizon Wireless today voiced support for the Red Hydrogen One phone, which they'll sell later this summer. The Hydrogen One was first announced in summer of 2017. It is a pricey Android phone with a 5.7-inch "holographic" display touting glasses-free 3D. While the display supports traditional stereo 3D, it also supports a new 3D-like "holographic" technology created by Red called Hydrogen 4-View (H4V). The phone body sports Red's industrial design and comes in either aluminum or titanium. The Hydrogen One will support snap-on modules for shooting both high-resolution video and H4V content. It will also integrate with other Red products, serving as a touchscreen controller and monitor for Red cameras. The phone also has USB-C and a microSD memory card slot. When first announced, Red listed the Hydrogen One's price as $1,195. Neither AT&T nor Verizon said what they'll charge for the phone. The Hydrogen One was expected to go on sale in early 2018, but it has been delayed several times. An exact for-sale date was not provided.
AT&T today updated its DirecTV Now mobile video service, adding several new features along the way. To start, the Android and iOS apps have been redesigned a bit. AT&T says users' most-watched channels and programs will now be highlighted when they first open the app. The number of on-demand titles is improving. Depending on the subscription level, DirecTV Now customers can gain access to more than 25,000 on-demand programs. The streaming video service is adding optional support for a third stream. Under the current plan, DirecTV Now only permits two concurrent streams. For $5 more per month, subscribers can make use of a third stream, meaning three people can watch on separate devices at the same time. The new DirecTV Now debuts a cloud DVR (in beta) that provides up to 20 hours of free recording that can be saved for up to 30 days. The DVR supports features such as fast-forward and rewind. AT&T expects to offer more cloud DVR options later this year. Last, DirecTV Now will allow people to watch their local channels when on the road. This means people who prefer their home market's news programs on NBC, ABC, and FOX can do so no matter where they are. AT&T's DirecTV now starts at $35 per month.
AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson emailed employees today to apologize for the company's connection with lawyer Michael Cohen and Essential Consultants. "Our company has been in the headlines for all the wrong reasons these last few days and our reputation has been damaged," wrote Stephenson in the email. "There is no other way to say it — AT&T hiring Michael Cohen as a political consultant was a big mistake." The company paid Cohen for what it says were consulting purposes during the transition to the Trump administration. AT&T had hoped to gain insight concerning legislative and regulatory changes. "To be clear, everything we did was done according to the law and entirely legitimate. But the fact is, our past association with Cohen was a serious misjudgment. In this instance, our Washington D.C. team's vetting process clearly failed, and I take responsibility for that." As a result, Stephenson said Bob Quinn, who ran AT&T's legislative affairs operations in D.C., will retire.
AT&T has admitted to making payments to Michael Cohen, the personal lawyer of President Donald Trump, for what it calls consulting purposes. The company says it hoped Cohen would provide it with information regarding "regulatory reform at the FCC, corporate tax reform, and antitrust enforcement." AT&T hasn't detailed how much it paid to Cohen's Essential Consultants, but the estimates range between $200,000 and $600,000. Despite making the payments, the Federal Trade Commission sued to block AT&T's acquisition of Time Warner. The trial concluded only recently and the judge is expected to announced his decision on June 12. At the same time, the FCC has moved to kill net neutrality regulations, a win for AT&T and its competitors. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai says Cohen's company never contacted the FCC regarding net neutrality issues. AT&T insists the contract with Cohen specified that no lobbying work was to be undertaken by the lawyer. Democratic Senators have called for an investigation into the matter. Drugmaker Novartis also made payments to Cohen in what it later called "a mistake."
AT&T does not plan to sell LG's new flagship phone, the G7 ThinQ, according to The Verge. Instead, the company plans to offer an exclusive phone from LG later this summer. “We offer a strong lineup of devices from LG today. And we’re planning to launch a new LG device this summer only from AT&T," said the company in a statement. AT&T competitors Sprint, Verizon Wireless, and U.S. Cellular all plan to sell the G7 ThinQ, which will be available for preorder starting on or about May 25. T-Mobile said it will sell the G7 later this spring. AT&T did not provide a reason for skipping the G7 ThinQ.
Following T-Mobile’s lead, Verizon Wireless, Sprint, and U.S. Cellular have all committed to selling the new LG G7 ThinQ phone. Verizon Wireless said it will begin accepting preorders on May 24. Verizon did not specify a ship date. Sprint said it will start taking preorders on May 25, with an expected June 1 ship date. U.S. Cellular said it will take orders for the G7 ThinQ beginning June 1. None of these carriers has indicated what the phone might cost. AT&T is the only major carrier yet to announce launch details for the G7.
The Justice Department, during closing arguments of its case against the AT&T-Time Warner merger, suddenly suggested the judge weigh "alternative" remedies should he choose not to block the deal. The Justice Department has fought against the merger from the start, saying AT&T would use Time Warner's content as a weapon against consumers, raising prices and limiting competition. Throughout the six-week trial, however, U.S. District Judge Richard Leon has seemed skeptical of the Justice Department's case. In a surprise twist, Justice Department attorney Craig Conrath took advantage of his closing arguments to suggest Leon take at least some protective measures. If Leon chooses to allow the deal to proceed, Conrath asked that the judge force AT&T to divest part of Time Warner in order to close the deal — specifically Turner Networks. Time Warner generates television and movie content and is separate from Time Warner Cable, which provides cable TV and internet service in New York. This deal is just for Time Warner the content company. Conrath also suggested that AT&T be forced to make "structural" alterations to minimize the deal's effect on customers. The Justice Department had already asked AT&T for divestures. It refused, saying such requirements weren't necessary. AT&T insists it needs to acquire Time Warner in order to compete with Verizon Communications. The judge said he will announce his decision at a hearing on June 12.
Huawei's survival in America is facing a new threat: a criminal investigation over whether or not it violated sanctions preventing the sale or export of select goods to Iran. The U.S. Department of Justice is looking into Huawei's dealings with Iran to see if it broke U.S. law, though it's unclear how far along the probe is and what specific allegations are being made. The investigation "follows administrative subpoenas on sanctions-related issues from both the Commerce Department and the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control," reports the Wall Street Journal. If Huawei is found to have violated U.S. law, it could be hit with severe penalties. The U.S government has already targeted the company this year, suggesting it is a security threat. AT&T and Verizon Wireless backed out of distribution deals with Huawei after being pressured by the U.S. government, and lawmakers have proposed to make it illegal for government employees to use Huawei phones. Huawei, the world's third-largest maker of phones, did not comment on the new assault. Last year, Huawei rival ZTE settled a similar lawsuit over sanction violations.
The GSMA telecommunications group today said it will pause work on the eSIM standard while the U.S. Justice Department completes its investigation over the technology. The Justice Department alleges that AT&T, Verizon Wireless, and the GSMA have been colluding to make it more difficult for consumers to take advantage of the benefit of eSIMs. eSIMs act as an electronic version of the physical SIM cards most phones use to identify the subscriber on the network. The original idea behind the cards was to make it easier for consumers to switch network providers via software. Apple and other companies complained to the U.S. government that AT&T, Verizon, and the GSMA are in fact doing the opposite, and making it more difficult for eSIM devices to be used on competing networks. Apple uses its own Apple SIM, which works like an eSIM, in some iPads. Verizon said the inquiry was "much ado about nothing." AT&T and Apple have not commented on the matter.
The U.S. Justice Department is investigating AT&T and Verizon for secretly colluding to put carrier-locking ability into the new eSIM industry standard, according to the New York Times. eSIM technology eliminates the physical SIM card that gives a phone its number and identity on the network, replacing it with a virtual SIM that can be loaded and replaced over the network. The Apple Watch and Pixel 2 already include eSIM, but the standard is new and evolving. As originally designed, eSIM could make it easier for consumers to switch their existing phone to a different wireless carrier. AT&T and Verizon are accused of secretly colluding with the GSMA standards group to alter the standard so that eSIM phones could be locked to one carrier. Such a move could be harmful to smaller carriers, and thus the alleged collusion could run afoul of antitrust laws. The Justice Department investigation started when both a phone maker and another carrier filed formal complaints.
AT&T today said it has launched what it calls 5G Evolution in 117 new markets, bringing the total of pre-5G markets to 141. The company says its 5G Evolution technology can deliver theoretical speeds up to 400 Mbps to properly equipped phones. AT&T expects to launch 5G service in in a dozen markets, including Dallas and Waco, Texas, and Atlanta, Ga., by the end of the year. Further, AT&T has expanded its LTE-LAA footprint from three markets to parts of seven markets. LTE-LAA can push speeds to theoretical a max of 1 Gbps. The new LTE-LAA markets are Boston, Sacramento and McAllen, Texas. A handful of phones sold by AT&T are LTE-LAA capable, including the Samsung Galaxy S8, S9, S8+, S9+, Note8, and S8 Active, as well as the LG V30 and Moto Z2 Force Edition. AT&T's LTE-LAA is already available in The Loop in Chicago, Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, downtown LA, and the business district of San Francisco. AT&T plans to deploy LTE-LAA in at least 24 markets by the end of the year.
AT&T today overhauled how it organizes its AT&T Prepaid service plans. Specifically, the company is now offering more data and higher discounts for multi-line accounts. First, the $50 plan now includes 8 GB of high-speed data. Second, the $85 unlimited plan improves the allotment of high-speed mobile hotspot data from 6 GB per month to 10 GB per month. Once these allotments are met or exceeded, data will be throttled down to 128Kbps for the remainder of the billing period. All video is streamed at standard definition, and AT&T may slow speeds when the network is congested. Third, AT&T is offering better per-line savings with family plans. Moving forward, the second and third lines added to a prepaid account will each enjoy a $10 discount, while the fourth and fifth lines added to a prepaid account will each enjoy a $20 discount. Customers have to enroll in Autopay in order to score these discounts and data deals. Last, AT&T Prepaid will allow customers to cater each line to family members' individual needs, meaning everyone will have their own line, their own plan, and their own data all under one bill. The AT&T Prepaid rate plan changes go into effect April 20.
Motorola's g-series phones have a long-held reputation for value and quality. With the 2018 incarnation, Moto is trying harder than ever to bring high-end features and design to a low price point. For $250, you get a metal body, curved glass back, full-HD screen with 2:1 ratio, dual camera with portrait mode and object recognition, USB-C, fast charging, a fingerprint reader, an ultrasonic sensor that lights up the screen as you approach. It also has much better support for U.S. LTE networks than most unlocked phones, including Verizon, Sprint, and newer bands used by AT&T and T-Mobile. How does it stack up in person? Here are our first impressions.
Motorola today announced four new affordable Android phones coming to the U.S. market before mid-year. Spread across the Moto e5 and Moto g6 series, all four new phones share the company's evolved design language that debuted with the Moto X4 last year. They also all sport a fingerprint reader, a clean version of Android 8 Oreo, Moto Actions gesture shortcuts, a water-repellent coating, front cameras with an LED flash, 3.5mm audio jacks, and memory card slots. They have Qualcomm Snapdragon 400-series processors supporting Cat. 6 LTE, and excellent support for all major US networks, including Sprint, Verizon, and band 66.
- Moto g6: The highest-end model of the group, it has a curved glass back, metal frame, and a 5.7-inch full-HD display with 2:1 ratio. It's powered by a Snapdragon 450 processor with either 3 or 4 GB of RAM, and 32 or 64 GB of storage. The 3,000 mAh battery supports fast charging via the USB-C port. The 12-megapixel camera (f/1.8) is aided by a 5-megapixel camera for depth sensing, to create portrait effects. The camera app includes object, landmark, and text recognition, as well as slow-motion and time-lapse modes. An ultrasonic system detects when you approach the phone and lights up the display to show the time and notifications. It will be sold unlocked for $249, and via carriers.
- Moto g6 Play: This more affordable model (at $199) has a rounded polycarbonate back and metal frame. The 5.7-inch display with 2:1 ratio is 720p HD resolution. It's powered by a Snapdragon 427 processor with either 2 or 3 GB of RAM and 16 or 32 GB of storage. The 4,000 mAh battery supports fast charging via micro-USB. The main camera is 13-megapixel camera with PDAF, while the front camera is 8-megapixel. Like the g6, it will be sold unlocked and via carriers. It supports all AT&T bands, include LTE 14, 29, and 30.
- Moto e5 Plus: A larger version of the Moto g6 Play. It has the same design and features, except the battery steps up to 5,000 mAh, the display size is bumped to 6 inches, and it adds laser focusing to the camera. The processor is a Snapdragon 435 and there is just one configuration with 3 GB of RAM and 32 GB of storage. It will be available in the U.S. exclusively from carriers.
- Moto e5 Play: A lower-end model, similar to e-series models of years past. Its plastic shells pops off to reveal a removable (2,800 mAh) battery. Its 5.2-inch display has HD resolution and a 16:9 aspect ratio. The Snapdragon 427 processor is accompanied by 2 of RAM and 16 GB of storage. (However at least one variant will have a Snapdragon 425 processor that only supports Cat. 4 LTE.) The cameras are 8 megapixel (rear) and 5 megapixel (front), and it can record 1080p video. Like the other models, it has dual-band Wi-Fi, a fingerprint reader, and gesture shortcuts. It will also be available exclusively from carriers.
AT&T Prepaid has some discounts for those who activate a new line of service. First, customers who bring their own device to AT&T Prepaid (or pay full price for a phone) and sign up for a plan that costs at least $65 per month will receive a $50 service credit. The credit will be applied about three weeks after customers make their first payment. Second, customers who do need a new phone can score $30 off any phone sold by AT&T Prepaid. Customers must activate a new line and enroll in AutoPay to earn these rewards. The promotions are available from now through June 7.
AT&T recently added the Sonim XP8 and XP5s to its roster of rugged phones. Both devices are intended to be used by FirstNet customers (first responders), though they are also available for consumers to purchase. Each meets mil-spec 810G for protection from abuses such as drops, impacts, temperature extremes, and vibration. They also offer IP68 protection from water and dust. Other shared features include dedicated push-to-tak buttons and compatibility with AT&T/FirstNet's e-PTT service. The phones support microSD memory cards for expanded storage.
- XP8: This Android smartphone has a 5-inch full HD display and a Snapdragon 630 processor with 4 GB of RAM and 64 GB of storage. It includes a 12-megapixel main camera and an 8-megapixel user-facing camera. A 4,900mAh battery delivers up to 30 hours of talk time and a 100dB speakerphone ensures that calls can be heard in even the noisiest spaces. Other features include dual-band WiFi, NFC, Bluetooth 5.0, and a bevy of internal sensors. It runs Android 7 Nougat. The Sonim XP8 sells for $699, or $23.34 per month for 30 months. Orders placed online now will ship in early May.
- XP5s: This bar-style feature phone has a 2.64-inch screen with 320 by 432 pixels. It is powered by a Snapdragon 427 processor with 2 GB of RAM and 16 GB of storage. It has a 5-megapixel camera, 3,180mAh battery, Bluetooth 4.3, dual-band WiFi, as well as apps including email, media player, and a browser. The Sonim XP5s costs $339. Orders placed online will ship within a week.
Samsung's U.S. carrier partners are rolling out Android 8 Oreo to the Galaxy Note8 handset. AT&T kicked things off last month and was followed by Sprint and Verizon Wireless. In the last day, T- Mobile, too, has begun pushing Oreo to the Note8. With the carrier variants picking up Android 8, only the unlocked version remains. Samsung said people who own the unlocked Note8 (and S8, S8+) can expect to see Android 8 in the next few weeks. The update includes the core Android 8 code (notification dots, autofill, picture-in-picture) in addition to the latest version of Samsung's user interface. Samsung released the Galaxy Note8 last September.
ZTE made the Tempo Go available for purchase from its online store. The Tempo Go is a version of the Tempo X that runs the Android Go Oreo platform. Android Go is Google's slimmed-down version of Android for ultra low-cost devices with RAM of 1 GB of less. The Tempo Go has a 5-inch display with 854 by 480 pixels and it is powered by a Snapdragon 210 processor with 1 GB of RAM and 8 GB of storage. Other features include a 5-megapixel rear camera and 2-megapixel front camera, microUSB, 3.5mm headset jack, WiFi, Bluetooth, GPS, and a 2,200mAh battery. The Tempo Go is sold unlocked with support for the LTE 4G networks of AT&T and T-Mobile. The phone costs $80.
AT&T this week released Android 8 Oreo for the LG V30. The phone shipped last fall with Android 7.1 Nougat. The latest software from LG and AT&T boosts the core platform to Oreo, with notification dots, autofill, and picture-in-picture, and the security patch level to March 1, 2018. Neither AT&T nor LG called out any additional features for the phone, though the update includes general bug fixes and performance tweaks. AT&T says V30 owners can download the update via WiFi. Sprint and Verizon variants of the V30 have already received Oreo.
FCC Chair Would Bar Use of Universal Service Fund to Buy Equipment from Companies that Pose Security Risks
FCC Chairman Ajit Pai wants to prevent the government and companies from using the Universal Service Fund to buy equipment from companies that represent a security threat to the U.S. "Threats to national security posed by certain communications equipment providers are a matter of bipartisan concern. Hidden 'back doors' to our networks in routers, switches — and virtually any other type of telecommunications equipment — can provide an avenue for hostile governments to inject viruses, launch denial-of-service attacks, steal data, and more," said Pai. Pai didn't call out Huawei and ZTE specifically, but the measure is clearly aimed at preventing either Chinese company from making inroads in the U.S. market. Members of the government have been campaigning against the two companies for the last few months. Pressure from a collection of Congressmen nixed distribution deals between Huawei and carriers AT&T and Verizon Wireless. More recently, retailer Best Buy said it will stop celling Huawei phones. Pai has singled out Huawei as a threat in previous statements. "I'm proposing to prohibit the FCC's $8.5 billion Universal Service Fund from being used to purchase equipment or services from any company that poses a national security threat to the integrity of communications networks or their supply chains. The money in the Universal Service Fund comes from fees paid by the American people, and I believe that the FCC has the responsibility to ensure that this money is not spent on equipment or services that pose a threat to national security." The FCC will vote on the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking at its April 17 meeting.
FCC Chairman Ajit Pai today said will take action to ensure the U.S. telecommunications supply chain is protected from potential threats. Pai made the comments in a response to members of Congress who expressed concern about AT&T and Verizon's plans to sell Huawei handsets in the U.S. On December 20, 2017, Senators Tom Cotton, Angus King, John Coryn, Susan Collins, Roy Blunt, Jim Risch, Richard Burr, Marco Rubio, and James Lankford, and Representatives Frank LoBiondo, Brad Wenstrup, Elise Stefanik, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Michael Conaway, Michael Turner, Chris Stewart, Rick Crawford, and Peter King all signed a letter imploring Pai to examine the relationship between Huawei, AT&T, and Verizon. The main matter of concern in the letter from Congressional members to the FCC was that government employees might eventually buy and use Huawei devices from U.S. carriers. Some members of the U.S. government have long claimed that Huawei equipment could be used by the Chinese government to spy on Americans. Pressure on AT&T and Verizon put that matter to rest. Shortly after these members of Congress sent the letter to the FCC, AT&T and Verizon Wireless dropped plans to sell Huawei handsets. Earlier this week, Huawei's retail partner Best Buy said it will cease selling Huawei devices in the U.S. Telecom companies in the U.S. are not allowed to buy networking equipment form Huawei. Even so, Pai alluded to taking more action. In his response he said, "I intend to take proactive steps to help ensure the integrity of the communications supply chain in the United States in the near future." Pai did not specify what those steps might be, though Huawei and ZTE continue to be targets of government scrutiny. The FCC did not immediately return a request for comment on the nature of Pai's intended actions.
Best Buy is expected to drop products made by Huawei over the next few weeks, reports CNET. Citing a source familiar with Best Buy's plan, CNET says the company will sell through the stock of devices such as Huawei's smartphones that are already in its stores, but the electronics retailer will not replenish supplies of Huawei phones. Huawei has faced scrutiny from some in Washington over its ties to the Chinese government. Some believe the Chinese government could use Huawei handsets for espionage purposes. Earlier this year, government pressure led AT&T and Verizon Wireless to cancel plans to sell the Mate 10 Pro from Huawei, the company's flagship smartphone. The Mate 10 Pro is available to Americans online from retailers such as B&H Photo and Amazon. Huawei has been banned from selling telecommunications gear in the U.S. for some time. Neither Best Buy nor Huawei commented directly on the matter concerning smartphone sales.
People in the U.S. who own the Samsung Galaxy S8 or S8+ can expect to see Android 8 Oreo reach their phone over the coming days. Sprint, T-Mobile, Verizon Wireless, and not AT&T are all pushing the system upgrade to their customers. Oreo includes notification dots, picture-in-picture, and autofill. The update brings the S8/S8+ in line with the user experience seen on the newer S9/S9+, which includes updated emoji. It also packs the February 2018 security patch from Google. The update weighs in at a little over 1.5 GB and can be downloaded over WiFi. Samsung has not yet said when it will update the unlocked model of the S8/S8+ to Oreo.
Huawei said that its Honor View10 smartphone is available in the U.S. starting today. The phone will be up for preorder between March 12 and March 22, with shipments starting March 22. The View10 has a unibody aluminum chassis with smooth edges and curved glass. The display measures 5.99 inches and adopts the 2:1 aspect ratio with full HD+ resolution. The phone is powered by Huawei's top-of-the-line Kirin 970 processor with 8 cores, 6 GB of memory, and 128 GB of storage. The View10 includes a dual-camera array on the rear. The main camera has a full-color, 16-megapixel sensor and the secondary camera has a monochrome, 20-megapixel sensor. They can tap into PDAF and the Kirin 970's neural processing unit for sharp focus and portrait photos with blurred backgrounds. Other features include a 13-megapixel selfie camera, fingerprint sensor, NFC, dual SIM cards, 3,750mAh battery, 4K video capture, aptX HD, Microsoft Translate, muted notifications during gaming, screen recording, face unlock, and 3.5mm headphone jack. The Honor View10 runs Android 8.1 Oreo with Huawei's EMUI 8 user interface on board. It includes U.S. LTE Bands 2, 4, 5, 7 12, and 17, which gives it average support for AT&T and T-Mobile. Missing are newer bands such as T-Mobile's 66/71. The View10 is being sold in blue and black, unlocked, for $499. Honor is selling the phone from its own web site. The company didn't say if other online retailers, such as Amazon, Best Buy, or B&H, will also sell the phone.
Huawei recently began selling the Mate 10 SE via Amazon and other online retailers. The phone carries over most specs from the Honor 7X, which means it includes an aluminum unibody chassis with 2.5D curved glass and a 5.9-inch 2:1 aspect ratio display. It is powered by Huawei's Kirin 659 processor and has dual cameras, a fingerprint reader, a 3,340mAh battery, and Cat 6 LTE. It runs Android 7 Nougat with Huawei's EMUI 5.1 user interface on board. The one significant change under the hood concerns memory and storage. Where the Honor 7X had 3 GB of RAM and 32 GB of storage, the Mate 10 SE has 4 GB of RAM and 64 GB of storage. The improvement in RAM should give the Mate 10 SE an edge in performance over the Honor 7X. On the exterior, the Mate 10 SE loses the Honor branding in favor of Huawei's, and the dual-camera array is encircled in a single frame rather than two. Amazon is selling the Mate 10 SE in gray and gold for $230 (about $30 more than the Honor 7X). It is unlocked and compatible with AT&T/T-Mobile and their prepaid brands.
Preorders for the Samsung Galaxy S9 and S9+ start today and AT&T hopes its promotion will score with customers. Similar to Sprint's offer, AT&T will give customers up to $500 in account credits through combined promotions. First, customers who port in a number from a competing carrier will be rewarded with a $150 bill credit. Further, those who trade in a smartphone will receive a minimum of $200, and possibly as much as $350, in bill credits. Phones worth $350 on trade are the Apple iPhone 8, 8 Plus or iPhone X; LG V30; Google Pixel 2/XL Phones. Phones worth $300 on trade include any of the Samsung Galaxy S7 variants. With these offers combined, AT&T says the S9 price drops to as low $290, while the S9+ drops to $415. By way of comparison, Sprint is offering $350 off its S9/S9+ lease program and $150 via Visa gift card. The S9 is also sold by T-Mobile and Verizon Wireless.
All four major carriers in the U.S., AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless, are building a "multi-factor authentication" method that will rely on peoples' cell phones to gain account access. The system, which has been in development since last September, is expected to launch before the end of the year. The goal is to cut back on identity theft and fraud enabled by weak or exposed passwords. The carriers said it will employ a "cryptographically verified phone number" that assesses data including device IP, SIM card, account, and how long customers have been with the carrier. "In addition, advanced analytics and machine learning capabilities will be used to help assess risk and protect customers," said the carriers in a statement. How this will be used by people on a day-to-day basis is still unknown. The group expects to provide more information later this year.
AT&T has adjusted the pricing of its unlimited service and also debuted a number of discounts and deals on its television services. To start, AT&T's Unlimited Plus Enhanced plan has dropped from $90 per month for the first line to $80 per month. Autopay is required. The plan includes 15 GB of mobile hotspot usage, an increase of 5 GB from earlier plans. At the same time, AT&T raised the price of its Unlimited Choice Enhanced plan from $60 for the first line to $65 for the first line. This plan may include unlimited data, but speeds are capped at 3 Mbps. Additional lines on Unlimited Choice Enhanced are $40 each. Customers who sign up for AT&T Unlimited Plus Enhanced can earn a $15 monthly bill credit towards AT&T's video services, such as DirecTV, U-verse, or DirecTV Now. Customers who sign up for AT&T's Unlimited Choice Enhanced plan will receive a $15 bill credit only on DirecTV Now. AT&T's wireless customers can snag HBO for free when they sign up for DirecTV Now. AT&T's unlimited plan is now more competitive with other carriers. For example, Verizon charges $80 per month for its unlimited plan, T-Mobile charges $70, and Sprint offers unlimited data for free for one year to customers who bring their own device. AT&T didn't say how long the TV-bundling discounts will be available.
The FTC can gun for AT&T once again, according to the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which says the agency has the purview to regulate large internet service providers. The case reaches way back to 2014 when the FTC first sued AT&T over throttling users' mobile data speeds without properly informing them. AT&T pushed back against the agency's claims and scored an early win in court. The FTC, however, challenged the earlier court's decision. The FCC, at one point, levied a fine of $100 million against AT&T over the issue, though that fee was never collected as the appeal worked its way through the court. "The decision is a significant win for American consumers," noted FCC Chairman Ajit Pai. "Among other things, it reaffirms that the Federal Trade Commission will once again be able to police internet service providers after the Restoring Internet Freedom Order takes effect." Pai believes the FTC, not the FCC, should govern internet service providers' behavior.
All four major carriers in the U.S. plan to sell the Samsung Galaxy S9 and S9+ beginning in March. Preorders for the phones kick off March 2 and the handset is expected to be available in stores on March 16. Samsung itself is selling the unlocked version via its web site. The S9 costs $720 and the S9+ costs $840. Customers can apply for financing from Samsung to break down the cost of the phone over 24 months. Samsung is offering app to $350 off the price with a qualifying trade-in. Pricing from U.S. carriers varies significantly.
- AT&T: AT&T is asking subscribers to its AT&T Next plans to pay $26.34 per month for 30 months for the S9 (total: $790), or $30.50 per month for 30 months for the S9+ (total: $915). AT&T says business customers can get a $150 activation credit with they by the S9 or S9+ on an installment plan. The devices support Band 14, and thus the AT&T-run FirstNet public safety network. AT&T's prepaid brand, Cricket Wireless, plans to sell the Galaxy S9 and S9+ at full cost.
- Sprint: Sprint is selling the S9 for $33.00 per month with $0 down on a Sprint Flex lease (total: $792). The Galaxy S9+ will be $38.00 per month with $0 down on a Sprint Flex lease (total: $912).
- T-Mobile: T-Mobile is asking customers to pay $30 per month for 24 months for the S9 with $0 down (total: $720), and $30 per month for 24 months for the S9+ with $120 down (total: $840) For a limited time, postpaid customers can get up to $360 off either phone with a qualifying trade-in when the S9 or S9+ is purchased on an equipment installment plan. T-Mobile's prepaid brand, MetroPCS, will sell the Galaxy S9 starting March 16 for full price.
- Verizon Wireless: Last, Verizon Wireless is charging $33.33 per month for 24 months for the S9 (total: $799) and $38.74 per month for 24 months for the S9+ (total: $930). Customers who switch to Verizon, port in their line, and trade in an old phone may get up to $500 in bill credits towards the purchase of a Galaxy S9 or S9+.
Google says its Android Messages app is on the upswing thanks to new RCS-based tools and growing support from phone makers and wireless network operators. To start, brands now have more power to interact with consumers thanks to RCS business messaging. Google says brands can "send more useful and interactive messages" to their customers with photos, videos, and links for purchasing. A number of companies have been testing RCS business messaging via Google's Early Access Program. Some include 1-800 Contacts, 1-800-Flowers.com, Booking.com, SnapTravel, and Subway — all on Sprint in the U.S. Google says more businesses will be deploying richer messaging via the Android Messages app over the coming months. The Android Messages app has gained a lot of traction with phone makers and carriers, and more support is on the way. Moving forward, Alcatel, BlackBerry, Transsion, Blu, Positivo, Multilaser, Mobiwire, Azumi, and Essential will all preload Android Messages as the default SMS/messaging app. A number of phone makers already offer Android Messages, including Huawei, LG, HMD Global, HTC, Kyocera, Motorola, Sony, and ZTE. The app has a growing footprint with carriers, as well. Google says America Movil, AT&T in Mexico, Celcom Axiata Berhad, Freedom Mobile, Oi, Telia Company, and Telefonica have joined Deutsche Telekom, Globe Telecom, Orange, Rogers Communications, Sprint, and Telenor in their commitment to launch RCS messaging. Sprint is the lone U.S. carrier to go all-in with Google's RCS and Android Messages. AT&T and Verizon each offers its own RCS-based messaging client for Android handsets. Google believes this new momentum for RCS and Android Messages will eventually mean a better messaging experience between people, brands, and more.
AT&T today said Dallas and Waco, Texas, and Atlanta will be its first three mobile 5G markets and it plans to launch before the end of the year. AT&T has more markets prepped for mobile 5G and will name them later. AT&T said it will offer 5G based on the current 3GPP 5G NR spec, which has yet to be fully finalized. The company will use mmWave spectrum, though it didn’t specify which bands. AT&T expects to offer a puck-style mobile hotspot as its first 5G device and will bring 5G-capable phones to market in early 2019. As part of its 5G rollout, AT&T is relying on software-defined network (SDN) technology. It expects to rely on SDN on as much as 75% of its network by 2020. AT&T says its mobile 5G service will eventually deliver multi-gigabit-per-second speeds and incredibly low latency. In the meantime, AT&T has expanded the reach of its LTE-LAA technology, which is available in Indianapolis, Los Angelas, Chicago, and San Francisco. AT&T and competitors Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless are racing to be the first to deploy 5G and all have adopted aggressive rollout schedules.
The FCC is prepared to publish its order abolishing Obama-era net neutrality rules in the Federal Register on Thursday, the last act needed to put the change into effect. The rules will be made public in their final form on Wednesday, according to an unnamed source cited by Reuters, and will appear in the Federal Register the following day. In December, the FCC voted 3-2 along party lines to do away with the previous administration's rules governing openness on the web. The move was seen as a victory for telecommunications companies such as AT&T and Verizon. The attorneys general from 21 states plan to sue the FCC in a bid to overturn the reversal once the rules reach the Federal Register. Further, the governors of Montana, New Jersey, and New York have introduced their own rules that compel telecommunications firms to abide by at least some elements to treat web traffic equally. Similarly, some 50 senators have agreed to introduce legislation that would keep net neutrality rules in place, as well as give control over the matter to congress. Without a simply majority, however, it's doubtful the democratic effort will make much headway.
AT&T’s prepaid customers are being given access to the company’s sponsored data program. The sponsored data program allows companies to sponsor the data usage for specific content on behalf of eligible AT&T wireless customers, meaning customers can consume select content and not be charged for it. This program has been available to AT&T’s postpaid customers for some time. AT&T’s prepaid customers can now, for example, make use of the DirecTV Now streaming video service without it impacting their monthly data allotment. The sponsored data program also applies to other AT&T-owned services, such as U-Verse. Customers who subscribe to AT&T’s $35 and $45 prepaid plans are automatically opted in to the sponsored data program. AT&T gives customers the ability to opt out if they so wish. AT&T has been notifying customers of the change via text message since last week.
Sprint expects to deploy voice over LTE across its network starting this fall. Sprint competitors AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless already offer VoLTE across the bulk of their footprints, making Spring the last major carrier to deploy the upgraded voice technology. "For more than a year we’ve been testing VoLTE and preseeding our customer base with VoLTE-capable devices in preparation for our commercial deployment starting this fall," said Sprint to Fierce Wireless. "Our network today offers a great HD Voice experience on a very efficient 1x platform, and our goal with VoLTE is to match this same high-quality experience that our customers have today." VoLTE allows devices to connect voice calls over carriers' data networks, rather than legacy voice networks, and delivers as much as three times the clarity. Sprint didn't say which devices support VoLTE, nor did it say if its VoLTE service will be compatible with those of other network operators. AT&T and Verizon, for example, allow some customers on some devices to connect VoLTE calls across carriers, though typically VoLTE calls are limited to intra-carrier connections.
ZTE says American consumers have no reason to fear its cell phones. The company issued a statement after the heads of the FBI, CIA, NSA and other intelligence groups suggested that Americans should not purchase phones made by ZTE and Huawei. "ZTE is proud of the innovation and security of our products in the U.S. market. As a publicly traded company, we are committed to adhering to all applicable laws and regulations of the United States, work with carriers to pass strict testing protocols, and adhere to the highest business standards," said the company. ZTE has carrier deals, unlike Huawei, and sells many of its phone via prepaid operators Cricket Wireless and MetroPCS. "Our mobile phones and other devices incorporate U.S.-made chipsets, U.S.-made operating systems and other components. ZTE takes cybersecurity and privacy seriously and remains a trusted partner to our U.S. suppliers, U.S. customers and the people who use our high quality and affordable products for their communications needs," argued the company. Some in the government characterize phones and telecommunications gear sold by ZTE and Huawei as security risks. Pressure from the government recently put the kibosh in planned deals between Huawei and AT&T, and Verizon Wireless. Moreover, Republican senators and congressmen have put forth bills that would make it illegal for the government to purchase or use equipment from Huawei and ZTE. Neither of these bills has been voted upon yet. For the time being, ZTE's handsets continue to be available in the U.S. at carrier stores and online. Huawei's devices are available online.
Intelligence agency leaders have suggested that U.S. consumers not buy phones from Huawei or ZTE, according to a report from CNBC. The six intelligence chiefs, including the heads of the CIA, FBI, NSA, and the director of national intelligence made the remarks at a recent security hearing. "We're deeply concerned about the risks of allowing any company or entity that is beholden to foreign governments that don't share our values to gain positions of power inside our telecommunications networks," said FBI Director Chris Wray. All six intel heads said plainly they don't think American citizens should use phones or other products from Huawei and ZTE. Huawei recently saw plans to sell its flagship Mate 10 Pro device via AT&T and Verizon Wireless thwarted at the last moment by pressure from the U.S. government. Lawmakers in the House and the Senate have since introduced bills that would make it illegal for the government to use any equipment from Huawei or ZTE. Huawei said it is "aware of a range of U.S. government activities seemingly aimed at inhibiting Huawei's business in the U.S. market. Huawei is trusted by governments and customers in 170 countries worldwide and poses no greater cybersecurity risk than any ICT vendor." ZTE didn't provide a response. Nearly all mobile devices, including Apple iPhones, are made in China.
AT&T today said it has finalized its acquisition of FiberTower and in the process gained a foothold in the spectrum needed to deploy 5G. Specifically, AT&T now owns 375 MHz of 39 GHz spectrum in the top 100 markets around the country. AT&T said it paid $207 million for FiberTower. The deal was approved by the FCC earlier this week, though Commissioner Mignon Clyburn said the matter was settled without all five commissioners participating in the vote. She accused FCC Chairmain Ajit Pai of ignoring her petition to have all the commissioners present. Clyburn suggests the deal was given the thumbs-up without fully vetting how much spectrum AT&T owns or will own in each market, and whether or not its spectrum holdings will result in harm to consumers. AT&T expects to debut 5G service on a “puck” by the end of the year.