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.
AT&T today said it has agreed to purchase wind power in order to help it reach renewable energy goals. AT&T will buy 220 megawatts of power from the Minco V Wind Farm in Oklahoma and 300 megawatts from the wind farm in Webb and Duval Counties in Texas. AT&T says the combined 520 megawatts is equivalent to taking 350,000 passengers cars off the road in terms of reducing its carbon footprint. AT&T's goal is to "develop and leverage technology solutions that enable carbon savings 10 times the footprint of our operations by 2025." In other words, it wants to go far beyond reducing its carbon footprint to zero. AT&T is also joining the Corporate Renewable Energy Buyers’ Principles group, which is made up by large energy buyers. AT&T has already taken a number of steps to reduce its carbon footprint, such as downsizing its fleet of corporate vehicles by some 1,800 cars and trucks. "As one of the world’s largest companies, we know how we source our energy is important," said Scott Mair, President, AT&T Operations. "We will continue to explore renewable energy solutions to help create a better, more sustainable world." T-Mobile recently committed to running all its operations on renewable energy by 2021.
Qualcomm today said various network operators plan to use its Snapdragon X50 5G modem in trials this year, while a number of device makers have selected the X50 for mobile gear due next year. According to Qualcomm, the carriers committed to the X50 include AT&T, British Telecom, China Mobile, Deutsche Telekom, KDDI, NTT DoCoMo, Orange, Singtel, SK Telecom, Sprint, Telstra, Verizon, and others. They will all rely on the Snapdragon X50 to test mobile 5G. A notable exception is T-Mobile in the U.S. The tests will occur in sub-6 GHz and mmWave spectrum bands and will be based on the 3GPP Release 15 5G NR standard. Qualcomm says the X50 will allow the carriers to test the modem within hardware that has the size, power, and limitations of a smartphone. This will help operators fine-tune their pre-launch 5G networks accordingly. Further, Qualcomm says the Snapdragon X50 will wind up in commercial mobile devices as soon as the first half of 2019. Device makers including Asus, Fujitsu, HMD Global, HTC, LG, Netgear, Oppo, Sharp, Sierra Wireless, Sony Mobile, vivo, Xiaomi, ZTE, and others all plan to bring 5G devices to market with the Snapdragon X50 5G NR providing the connectivity. Notable abesntees from the list include Apple and Huawei. Qualcomm believes the Snapdragon X50 will be ideal for smartphones, always-connected PCs, mobile broadband, and extended-, virtual-, and augmented-reality applications. The goal for 5G is to deliver multi-gigabit per second speeds and ultra-low latency — something Qualcomm asserts that the X50 can do. Network operators in the U.S. including AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint, and Verizon Wireless have all committed to launching some form of 5G over the next 10 to 18 months.
Republican Senators today introduced a new bill that would prevent the U.S. government from using telecommunications equipment from either Huawei or ZTE. Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton and Florida Senator Marco Rubio proposed the bill, citing security concerns. "Huawei is effectively an arm of the Chinese government, and it’s more than capable of stealing information from U.S. officials by hacking its devices," said Cotton. "There are plenty of other companies that can meet our technology needs, and we shouldn't make it any easier for China to spy on us." The bill is similar to one proposed last month by Texas Representative Michael Conaway and Wyoming Representative Elizabeth Cheney. Last month, AT&T and Verizon Wireless scrapped plans to sell Huawei's flagship Mate 10 Pro smartphone due to government pressure. Last year, ZTE was hit with a temporary ban after it was discovered the company supplied some equipment to Iran in violation of international sanctions. Both Huawei and ZTE deny any connection to the Chinese government. ZTE's handsets are widely available from prepaid carriers in the U.S., including Cricket Wireless and MetroPCS. Huawei sells its phone to U.S. consumers directly without a carrier distribution deal.
OnePlus and Honor today made red versions of their most recent devices available to U.S. consumers. The OnePlus 5T Lava Red Limited Edition phone (pictured) will be sold from OnePlus' web site starting February 6. Anyone who preorders the handset before February 9 will receive free upgraded shipping. The OnePlus 5T Lava Red is sold with 8 GB of RAM and 128 GB of storage. It costs $559. Huawei's Honor brand is also bringing a red phone to the U.S. The Honor 7X in red is available from the Honor web store starting today. It costs $199. Both phones are sold unlocked with support for AT&T and T-Mobile. Supplies are limited.
When AT&T launches 5G service, the first device able to access it will not be a handset and will instead be a puck, according to comments made by AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson. "Getting the handsets at scale penetrated into the market will slow things down," noted Stephenson. "So that’s why we’re going to be deploying pucks ... in these 12 markets. So it is a mobile solution, but it’s not going to be a handset just because there aren’t going to be that many [5G] handsets available." The company expects to introduce the puck, a mobile hotspot of sorts, by the end of the year. Handsets with 5G on board won't reach the market until 2019. Stephenson said AT&T's FirstNet emergency network will help get its 5G network off the ground. The company is already at work putting up towers in underserved areas of the country. AT&T has allocated spectrum for FirstNet for these towers, and will also deploy 39 GHz of spectrum it expects to acquire from FiberTower on these same towers. "This is what’s required for 5G. We get from FiberTower an average of 360 MHz of nationwide spectrum. We’ll be putting this spectrum to work later this year." AT&T is expected to launch mmWave service on the 39 GHz airwaves.
A handset made by Freetel, a Japanese company, was recently approved by the FCC for Cricket Wireless. Documents on the FCC web site detail a smartphone called the Cricket Wave, though the phone is manufactured by Freetel. The FCC confirms specs including support for AT&T/Cricket LTE bands, a Snapdragon 210 processor, 2,500 mAh battery, FM radio, 3.5mm headphone jack, microUSB port, touch screen, memory card support, a rear camera with flash, and user-facing camera. A draft user manual mentions some specifications, such as a 5.1-inch 720p screen, 2 GB of RAM, 16 GB of storage, and Android 7.1 Nougat, though these are unconfirmed. Neither Freetel nor Cricket has announced this handset and it's possible the phone will never come to market. Freetel made a big push into the U.S. unlocked market in early 2016, but gave up quickly.
FCC Chairman Ajit Pai today said he disagrees with national security advisors' idea that the government should take control of 5G. "I oppose any proposal for the federal government to build and operate a nationwide 5G network," said Pai in a statement. People advising the Trump administration recently suggested that the government should build and run a 5G network in order to protect the country from Chinese spying. "The main lesson to draw from the wireless sector’s development over the past three decades — including American leadership in 4G — is that the market, not government, is best positioned to drive innovation and investment. What government can and should do is to push spectrum into the commercial marketplace and set rules that encourage the private sector to develop and deploy next-generation infrastructure. Any federal effort to construct a nationalized 5G network would be a costly and counterproductive distraction from the policies we need to help the United States win the 5G future." U.S.-based mobile network operators are already developing 5G technology, devices, and services. AT&T and Verizon have committed to releasing 5G in some form by the end of 2018.
AT&T today said that like its competitors T-Mobile and Verizon Wireless, it will offer customers the opportunity to use their mobile devices during the 2018 Winter Olympic Games at no extra cost. Specifically, AT&T will waive the $10 fee normally charged for the AT&T International Day Pass. The Pass gives AT&T customers access to their data, calling, and messaging plan from more than 100 countries around the world for $10 per day. Data consumed when roaming comes out of customers' normal monthly data buckets. Americans who travel to South Korea to attend the games won't have to pay the $10 daily fee from February 1 through March 20.
Qualcomm today said it has devised what it calls a 5G Tunable RF front-end. This radio module is designed to let phone makers create unique 5G products that are thinner and perform better. Qualcomm has added the 5G Tunable RF front-end to its 5G roadmap, though the company didn't say how soon this module will be available to phone makers. Carriers in the U.S. and elsewhere are moving forward with 5G, despite the standard's infancy. The 3GPP has defined the basics of the 5G New Radio spec, though it has yet to be ratified in final form. Companies such as AT&T and Verizon insist they will launch some form of 5G service by the end of the year.
AT&T today claimed in full-page newspaper advertisements published around the country that it wants Congress to take charge of net neutrality. The company suggests an "internet bill of rights" is in order. "It is time for Congress to end the debate once and for all, by writing new laws that govern the internet and protect consumers," said AT&T. The company claims it "is committed to an open internet. We don’t block websites. We don’t censor online content. And we don’t throttle, discriminate, or degrade network performance based on content. Period." The company goes on to say this bill of rights should apply to all internet companies and guarantee neutrality, transparency, openness, and privacy protection for users. AT&T said it will work with Congress in order to make such a bill of rights a reality. Evan Greer, marketing director of Fight the Future, points out that AT&T spent more than $16 million in 2017 lobbying to kill the FCC's net neutrality regulations. "We had an Internet bill of rights," said Greer. "It was called Title II, and AT&T's army of lobbyists did everything in their power to burn it down." A number of Senators have already said they'll propose net neutrality. They have 50 signed on and need one more in order to bring the legislation in front of the Senate. In the House, some 110 Representatives back similar legislation. The FCC's work to undo net neutrality is being fought on many fronts. For example, the agency is being sued by civil rights groups, state attorneys general are battling the agency, and a handful of governors are weighing state-level net neutrality laws. The FCC voted to reverse the Obama-era net neutrality rules in a vote last December, despite public outcry.
Montana Governor Steve Bullock today signed an executive order that would force internet service providers to comply with several basic tenets of net neutrality. Specifically, Bullock said any ISP that has a contract with the state government cannot block web sites or create for-pay fast lanes that would impact its other customers. "If you want to do business with Montana, there are standards on net neutrality you will have to follow," said Gov. Bullock. Mega ISPs including AT&T, CenturyLink, Charter, and Verizon all have contracts with the Montana state government, according to the New York Times. The executive order, which will apply to new and renewed contracts, goes into effect July 1, 2018. The move, meant to circumvent the FCC, could face legal hurdles. Bullock's decision is likely to face pushback from internet providers that do business in Montana. The FCC's order itself is facing plenty of opposition. In December, the FCC voted to do away with net neutrality protections. Recently, the attorneys general from 22 states filed a lawsuit seeking to overturn the vote. Multiple civil rights organizations and other groups have filed similar lawsuits against the FCC, all seeking to keep net neutrality in place. The FCC maintains that net neutrality rules have slowed investment in new technology, while proponents believe a free and open internet is vital for protecting communication and access to information.
Some people who work for the U.S. government don't want AT&T and other firms doing business with Huawei, according to Reuters. Unnamed U.S. lawmakers are "urging" AT&T "to cut commercial ties to Chinese phone maker Huawei" due to national security concerns. The lawmakers in question suggested that AT&T cease working with Huawei on the development of the 5G network standard. Moreover, the lawmakers don't want AT&T or its discount subsidiary Cricket Wireless to sell Huawei handsets. The lawmakers, including members of the Senate and the House, further suggested that any U.S. firm doing business with Huawei may see its ability to do business with the U.S. government hindered. Earlier this month, AT&T canned plans to sell the Huawei Mate 10 Pro smartphone due to government pressure. The two companies were widely expected to kick off sales of the phone at the Consumer Electronics Show. The phone will still be made available to U.S. consumers directly from Huawei online. Neither AT&T nor Huawei commented on Reuters' story. Huawei is the world's third-largest supplied of handsets and the largest supplier of telecommunications gear. Reuters suggests the change in tone with respect to Chinese technology firms comes from the Trump Administration. The U.S. has recently blocked a handful of other Chinese acquisitions, and is actively seeking to prevent China Mobile from dipping its toe in the U.S. market. Last week, lawmakers introduced legislation that would prevent the U.S. government from using equipment or devices from Huawei and ZTE.
AT&T will not sell the Huawei Mate 10 Pro smartphone, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal. Huawei was widely expected to announce a distribution deal with AT&T during its CES keynote address, scheduled for Jan. 9. The deal has collapsed for reasons unknown. Huawei has not yet been able to strike a carrier deal in the U.S., leaving it essentially shut out of the market. If and when it sells devices in the U.S., it generally does so through the open market through partners such as Amazon.com. The Mate 10 Pro is a flagship handset that Huawei has been selling abroad since late last year. Huawei didn't immediately comment on the matter. Official word may come from the company during its CES address later this week.
Huawei's Honor brand expects to roll out an animoji-style feature to its V10 smartphone later this year. The company demonstrated the facial recognition technology on stage during the Consumer Electronic Show in Las Vegas. Using the V10's user-facing camera and special software, people will be able to make faces that are then animated on the screen, similar to the iPhone X's animoji feature. Honor's animations were more complex than Apple's, at least according to the demonstrations made on stage, as the animoji were more responsive to minute facial expressions. Honor did not say exactly when the feature will be available, but it will first reach the V10. The company also spoke about its plans for the U.S. market. Honor is already on step two of a three-step plan. The first was to enter the open market with support for select GSM networks. The second was to expand compatibility to all GSM networks in the U.S. The third, and yet unrealized, step is to sell its devices from one or two U.S. carriers. Honor did not say if it has made progress with U.S. network operators, such as AT&T and T-Mobile.
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.
AT&T today said it expects to launch commercial mobile 5G service in a dozen markets by late 2018. The company claims it will be the first U.S. carrier to offer such service. AT&T will use the proposed 5G New Radio specification that was given initial approval by the 3GPP last month. AT&T believes that the early version of the 5G standard, though still not final, is enough to give hardware, chipset, and device makers the ledge they need to begin developing 5G components and goods. AT&T didn't say which 12 markets will be first to see 5G service. In addition to offering 5G to consumers, AT&T will continue to trial various 5G technologies with its business customers. The goalposts for 5G are to provide sub-5-millisecond latency and speeds in excess of 1 Gbps. AT&T provided a progress report for its other wireless efforts. For example, AT&T plans to increase the footprint of its LTE-LAA service by dozens of markets this year. The company has already begun offering what it calls 5G Evolution in 23 metro areas around the country, which targets entertainment experiences. AT&T will continue to roll out 5G Evolution throughout 2018. The company largely finished deploying LTE-M for the Internet of Things last year, and it will continue to upgrade that service over the next 12 months. The company is providing fixed-wireless internet to 440,000 locations across 18 states, and plans to reach 660,000 locations by the end of 2018 and 1.1 million locations by the end of 2020 (in those same 18 states). The company kicked off pre-standards 5G fixed wireless service in Austin, Kalamazoo, South Bend, and Waco last year, as well as two Project AirGig trials. Last, this is all supported by a broader base fiber network, which reached 7 million new locations across 67 metro areas in 2017. AT&T says its fiber backbone will spread to 3 million more customers this year and at least 83 metro areas by the middle of 2019.
The FCC today voted on party lines to repeal the Obama-era net neutrality regulations. The vote was led by FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, who was supported by his fellow Republican Commissioners Brendan Carr and Michael O'Reilly. Pai insists the standing rules were overly burdensome to businesses and reduced investment in internet services. Pai believes the industry should regulate itself and suggests the Federal Trade Commission has the wherewithal to protect consumers from corporate abuses. Many disagree. Democratic Commissioners Mignon Clyburn and Jessica Rosenworcel offered scathing dissents. "This decision puts the Federal Communications Commission on the wrong side of history, the wrong side of the law, and the wrong side of the American public," said Rosenworcel in a rebuke to Pai. "History will not be kind to this vote to destroy Internet openness. But this is not over. I'm not stopping here or now — and neither should you. Let's keep up the fight. Let's keep raising a ruckus. The future depends on it," concluded Rosenworcel. Millions of Americans submitted comments to the FCC in favor of keeping net neutrality. Those comments were largely ignored by Pai. Broadband providers such as AT&T and Comcast applauded the change. Consumer-focused organizations such as the ACLU and FreePress have vowed to fight today's vote through legal action. It's not clear how quickly the FCC will be able to put its proposed changes into effect.
Blu Products today announced the Life One X3, a mid-range handset from the unlocked phone maker. The One X3 has a curved-edge glass screen and an aluminum frame painted in matte black. The display measures 5.5 inches and offers full HD resolution. Blu gave the One X3 an octa-core MediaTek 6753 processor at 1.3 GHz with 3 GB of memory and 32 GB of storage. An impressively large 5,000mAh battery lurks within in the chassis to provide more than a day of battery life. The One X3 sports two 13-megapixel cameras, one on front and one on back. Both cameras have their own flash and can capture full HD video. Other specs include Bluetooth, WiFi, GPS, and LTE (Bands 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 12, 17, 28) for moderate compatibility with AT&T/Cricket and T-Mobile/MetroPCS. The phone ships with Android 7 Nougat. Blu says the One X3 is available from Amazon.com starting today. The standard retail price is $250, but the Life One X3 will be available for a limited time at $150.
T-Mobile has set its sights on the cable TV industry and hopes to disrupt that market beginning next year. The company today announced plans to acquire Layer3 TV, which already delivers internet-based television service in five markets around the country. T-Mobile will use Layer3 TV's technology to create and launch a new TV service that will be delivered over T-Mobile's LTE network. "People love their TV, but they hate their TV providers. And worse, they have no real choice but to simply take it — the crappy customer service, clunky technology and outrageous bills loaded with fees! That’s where we come in. We're gonna fix the pain points and bring real choice to consumers across the country," said John Legere, president and CEO of T-Mobile. Legere insisted T-Mobile's TV service will be "disruptive" and will take full advantage of the latest technology and best content from today's top creators. In addition to T-Mobile's network, the as-yet-unnamed TV service will be supported by T-Mobile's retail stores, and sales and service organizations. Jeff Binder, CEO of Layer3 TV, added, "No market needs Un-carrier-ing more than pay TV, so we’re completely stoked to join T-Mobile in disrupting the status quo!" T-Mobile did not say how much it will pay for Layer3 TV, nor when this television service might launch, not what it expects to charge per month. The company already allows people to stream as much video via LTE as they wish, and offers some customers Netflix for free. T-Mobile competitors AT&T and Verizon each have their own television services, both mobile and in-home. T-Mobile needs to enter the TV space in some capacity in order to offer customers a similar set of services.
AT&T today added to its selection of international roaming packages. To start, its $10-per-day option is still available. This legacy option gives people access to their own calling, messaging, and data plan for $10 per day when overseas. The new options are meant for people who would rather buy access in bulk. The first option costs $60 for a 30-day period and includes unlimited messaging and WiFi access, 1 GB of data, and $0.35/minute voice calls. This plan automatically expires or renews after 30 days, depending on the subscribers' needs. Those who require more data can opt for the 3 GB roaming plan, which costs $120 per 30 days and includes the same messaging, WiFi, and calling features. These plans are not available to cruise ship passengers, who are encouraged to use AT&T's dedicated cruise packages. AT&T's new international options are available starting today.
Huawei said its Honor 7X handset will be available to U.S. consumers beginning today. Anyone interested in the phone can pre-order it from the Honor web site. Available in black, gold, and blue, the Honor 7X costs $199 and is sold unlocked with support for GSM networks such as AT&T and T-Mobile. The 7X has 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 U.S. Department of Justice has sued to stop the proposed merger between AT&T and Time Warner. The DOJ argues the combined entity would lead to higher TV content prices for consumers. The DOJ also suggests the deal would hurt AT&T/Time's rivals, "forcing them to pay hundreds of millions of dollars more per year for Time Warner's networks." The government agency is open to a settlement with AT&T and Time Warner, but suggests that divestments would be required. AT&T already owns DirecTV, which offers content nationwide via its satellite TV business. AT&T took issue with the lawsuit, calling it "a radical and inexplicable departure from decades of antitrust precedent. Vertical mergers like this one are routinely approved because they benefit consumers without removing any competitor from the market. We see no legitimate reason for our merger to be treated differently." The company argues it is combining a content company with a delivery company, which should preclude it from antitrust regulation as neither is in direct competition with the other. "Fortunately, the Department of Justice doesn’t have the final say in this matter. Rather, it bears the burden of proving to the U.S. District Court that the transaction violates the law," concluded AT&T. AT&T first proposed the merger in October 2016.
ROK Mobile has rolled out a new promotional rate plan that includes three months of unlimited service for $99. The offer is available to new customers only. After the three-month period ends, the plan reverts to the normal monthly rate of $45. ROK Mobile is an MVNO that offers service on AT&T, Sprint, and Verizon. Customers can select which carrier they wish to use when they sign up for ROK Mobile. This allows people to use their own device. The $99 promo is only available to new customers who choose service on Sprint or Verizon. Those who select Sprint will be eligible for a free ZTE Prestige smartphone. ROK Mobile started out as a music-focused MVNO but has since transitioned to a more traditional MVNO. Service plans range from $20 to $50 per month, depending on the data bucket. ROK Mobile also offers what it calls Life Plans, a series of services including roadside assistance, accidental death and cremation insurance, family legal services, family telemedicine, and ID theft insurance. These Life Services can be added as extras to any of ROK Mobile's service plans. Pricing ranges from $5 to $15 per month depending on the package.