AT&T and Verizon have finally launched 5G service in the C Band, after a chaotic last-minute battle with the FAA and airlines over potential interference with airplane radio altimeters. AT&T's launch footprint today appears more limited than Verizon's. AT&T is launching the service — which it brands "5G+" — in "limited parts of" Dallas/Fort Worth, Houston, Austin, Chicago, Detroit, Jacksonville, Orlando, and Miami. Verizon's launch today covers 90 million people. Verizon originally promised 100 million people covered at launch, but had to scale back coverage near airports to appease airlines scrambling to comply with last-minute restrictions imposed by the FAA. AT&T offers at least 17 phones that are compatible with C Band 5G, including most recent phones from Apple, Samsung, and Google. 5G in the C Band should offer a better balance of good coverage and fast data speeds compared to existing 5G service. We recently published a complete guide to C Band 5G.
AT&T and Verizon are moving forward with this week's launch of 5G service in the new C Band, but have voluntarily agreed to new restrictions around airports at the request of major US airlines. The airlines have asked for 5G in the C Band to be banned within two miles of airport runways, a limitation that will severely reduce availability of the service in some cities. Verizon's initial launch will now cover 90 million people, down from the 100 million originally promised. The FCC and wireless industry insist that 5G in the C Band poses no danger to airplanes. 5G in this band is already operating in over 40 countries with no reported issues. But the FAA remains unconvinced that the service cannot interfere with some airplanes' radio altimeters, which use a nearby radio frequency to measure distance to the ground. The FAA came to an agreement with AT&T and Verizon on airport restrictions earlier this month, but also instituted new rules for airlines that apply to certain airports near C Band 5G networks and certain weather conditions. The FAA has so far tested and approved two radio altimeter models, exempting 45% of the US commercial fleet from the rules. But airlines say the rules would still have resulted in over 1,000 additional cancelled flights on days with poor weather. The new 2-mile restriction should allow the FAA to relax those rules until more testing and new rules can be put in place that will allow C Band 5G near airports.
There's a whole new kind of 5G being launched and talked about in the US in 2022: C Band. It's much faster than existing "nationwide" 5G, yet has better coverage than hard-to-find mmWave 5G. For AT&T and Verizon, it represents a huge leap forward in the 5G race. For their customers, it will mean the first time many of them will experience a significant difference between 4G and 5G. So what is C Band? Is it just hype or something to actually get excited about? Is "C Band" the best term for this? Where did this band come from? Does it pose a danger to planes? And where does T-Mobile fit into all this? We answer all those questions and more in this in-depth guide to everything C-Band.
The US FCC (Federal Communications Commission) just announced the winners of its auction 110, for prime new mid-band radio spectrum ideal for 5G. AT&T and Dish spent the most, each splurging for enough licenses to cover the entire continental US. AT&T spent $9 billion, while Dish spent $7.3 billion. AT&T purchased the maximum number of licenses allowed in each area (four), giving it 40 MHz of new bandwidth nationwide. Dish appears to have purchased closer to 3 licenses per area on average, for potentially around 30 MHz of bandwidth nationwide. T-Mobile laid out $1.4 billion for licenses covering 79 of the 406 geographic areas offered. US Cellular spent $580 million. Verizon did not appear to win any licenses, although they were already big winners in the two previous mid-band auctions, and therefore did not need this particular spectrum as much as AT&T did. T-Mobile already operates more mid-band 5G than anyone else, and also participated in the C Band auction. Auction 110 is for the 3.45 GHz band (spanning 3.45 – 3.55 GHz), which is very near the new C Band spectrum that AT&T and Verizon are expected to launch next week for new 5G service. However it is a lower frequency than C Band, and therefore should not run into the same issues with the FAA that recently delayed the launch of 5G in the C Band. This new 3.45 GHz band, C Band, and Verizon's CBRS band (the 3.5 GHz band AKA band 48) are all covered by band 77, which is already supported in most new 5G phones launched by AT&T and Verizon since the beginning of 2021.
AT&T has announced the Fusion 5G, an AT&T-branded affordable 5G phone that will go on sale this Friday, January 7th for $220. Unusually for such an affordable phone, it supports wireless charging, and has a 48 megapixel main camera. The quad rear cameras also include an 8-megapixel wide-angle camera, 2-megapixel macro camera, and depth camera. It's powered by a MediaTek Dimensity 700 chip. Other features include a 6.82-inch HD+ display, 4,750 mAh battery, fast charging (fast charger included), NFC, a fingerprint reader on the back, 4 GB RAM, and 64 GB of storage (expandable). It runs Android 11. The phone is sourced through Emblem and appears to be a variant of the AT&T Radiant Max 5G, which is manufactured by FIH. The Radiant Max is also sold as the Dream 5G by Cricket.
After initially rejecting the FAA's last-minute request to delay the launch of 5G in the C Band, the two carriers have now agreed to another two-week delay, following an earlier one-month delay. The services will now launch in mid-January.
A model previously rumored to have fallen victim to supply-chain issues, the Samsung Galaxy S21 FE (Fan Edition) is finally coming to market this month. Samsung will use the new model as the more-affordable alternative to the forthcoming S22 series, rather than keep last year's flagship S21 models on the market at lower prices as the company has done in the past. This new strategy should help the company address ongoing supply-chain issues. Compared to the standard Galaxy S21 model, the new S21 FE has a larger display (6.4"), larger battery (4,500 mAh), and higher-resolution front camera (32 megapixel). It still achieves a lower price point with less RAM (6 GB), a less-capable telephoto camera (8 megapixel instead of 64), and an optical fingerprint reader instead of ultrasonic. It keeps "fan-favorite" features of the S21 series such as the Snapdragon 888 chip, 120 Hz display refresh, triple rear cameras (including wide and tele), IP68 water rating, wireless charging, fast charging, NFC, and Wi-Fi 6. It ships with Android 12 and the US version will support both sub-6 GHz and mmWave 5G. The Samsung Galaxy S21 FE goes on sale January 11th for $700 (with 6 GB RAM + 128 GB storage). A version with 8 GB RAM + 256 GB storage will also be available, for $770. It will be available in four colors: lavender, white, olive, and graphite. AT&T, Cricket, Verizon, and US Cellular will carry the phone, and it will also be available directly from Samsung's web site. Verizon confirmed that it will offer all four colors and both memory options, starting January 11th.
Verizon and AT&T this morning refused a request by federal transportation officials to delay this week's planned launch of 5G service in the critical new C Band. [Update: By evening, the two companies agreed to a two-week delay.] The FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) insists that the service could potentially interfere with radio altimeters that planes use to measure distance to the ground in poor weather. The companies, along with the FCC (Federal Communications Commission), insist that such interference is extremely unlikely, if not impossible. Radio altimeters use a frequency band close to the C Band. The frequencies do not overlap, but radio equipment with inadequate filters can sometimes be affected by adjacent frequencies. The FCC specifically set aside empty "guard bands" to avoid such interference before auctioning off the C Band to private companies, but the FAA insists a risk remains. C-Band frequencies are already in use for 5G in other countries, with no evidence of interference with airplane systems. To appease the FAA, Verizon and AT&T have already delayed the launch of 5G in the C Band by one month. In their latest letter to the FAA, they have offered to further limit the power of transmissions near airports while any potential effects are studied. While the companies had already agreed to similar temporary power limits in specific areas, the new proposal matches stricter limits currently in place in France. The two companies spent more than $80 billion in total to acquire licenses in the C Band from the FCC, with the promise that they would be able to offer improved 5G service by the end of 2021. C Band frequencies enable 5G service with a better balance of data speeds and coverage compared to the frequency bands currently in use by AT&T and Verizon.
Samsung today announced the Galaxy A13 5G, its most affordable 5G phone yet at $250. Typically, the two most affordable phones in Samsung's annual lineup are the A1x and A0x models, leaving the new Galaxy A03s as possibly the only model in Samsung's 2022 US lineup without 5G. Key features of the Galaxy A13 5G include a 50 megapixel camera, 90 Hz adaptive refresh display, 5,000 mAh battery, and NFC. It also has 15W fast charging, 64 GB of expandable storage, a fingerprint reader on the side, headset jack, macro camera, and depth camera. It's powered by a MediaTek Dimensity 700 chip. It launches this Friday with AT&T and on samsung.com. T-Mobile will also launch it in January. The Galaxy A03s will sell for just $159. It has "a long-lasting battery, triple camera system, and fingerprint security". It launches in January with AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon.
Motorola has announced a new moto g power, just ten months after announcing the last one. The new moto g power (2022) has two key upgrades over the old 2021 model: a display with 90 Hz refresh, and a 50 megapixel main camera. It specs are otherwise comparable to the 2021 model, including a huge 5,000 mAh battery, fast charging, 6.5-inch HD+ display, 4 GB RAM, and 64 GB storage (expandable). The new model is powered by a MediaTek Helio G37 chip. The phone also has a rear fingerprint reader, headset jack, FM radio, dual-band Wi-Fi, and IPx2 water resistance. The phone launch soon with Metro by T-Mobile and Republic Wireless, followed by Verizon, Boost, Xfinity, AT&T, Cricket, US Cellular, and Google Fi. It will also be available unlocked for $200, or $250 for a version with 128 GB built-in storage.
AT&T and Verizon have agreed to an FAA request to delay the launch of 5G in new C-Band radio frequencies by one month, while potential interference issues are addressed, reports the Wall Street Journal. Both companies were planning to launch the highly-anticipated mid-band 5G service on or around December 5th, but will now launch the service no sooner than January 5th, 2022. The FAA, which regulates aircraft, is concerned that C-Band frequencies are too close to the frequencies used by some RADAR altimeters, instruments that measure the distance between aircraft and the ground. The FCC — which regulates communications including radio airwaves — disputes the FAA's claim that the new 5G networks could cause this type of interference. The new 5G networks will operate at up to 3.98 GHz, while the altimeters operate at 4.2 – 4.4 GHz. Radio equipment operating at different frequencies can sometimes still interfere if the frequencies are close enough and inadequate filters are used. The new C-Band 5G networks are highly anticipated because this band enables 5G networks with a good balance of coverage and faster data speeds. Phones that support 5G NR in band 77 will support the new C-Band 5G networks in the US.
Cricket made two major changes to its prepaid plans today, bringing them in line with the competition in two important ways. First, Cricket is removing the cap of 8 Mbps on 4G LTE download speeds. Second, the company is now including access to 5G on all plans at no extra cost. Previously, the artificial speed cap applied to most Cricket plans; only the priciest plan ($60/month for one line) included 5G and was exempt from the speed cap. No other US carrier has implemented a blanket speed cap quite the way Cricket did. Other US prepaid brands already include sub-6 5G with most plans at no extra charge. Cricket's plan structure and pricing is otherwise unchanged, starting at $30/month for 2 GB of data, up to $60/month for unlimited data and premium features like mobile hotspot, cloud storage, and HBO Max. Multi-line discounts can bring down the cost of certain plans to as little as $25/line/month for unlimited data. Cricket also announced that it has reached 12.4 million subscribers, an increase of two million over the past two years. Cricket is a brand of AT&T and uses the AT&T network.
Cricket today launched the Icon 3, the third in its series of own-brand phones that sell for under $100. The Icon 3 sells for $90. The phone is very much entry-level, yet has significant upgrades over the Icon 2 it replaces. The new model adds a fingerprint reader and steps up to a taller 6.5-inch display with a modern notch design. RAM has been upgraded from 1 to 3 GB, and storage from 16 to 32 GB. The main camera is also a bit sharper at 8 megapixel, and the battery slightly larger at 3,500 mAh. It's powered by a MediaTek Helio A20 processor. While the Icon 2 was manufactured by Tinno, the Icon 3 is manufactured FIH, a subsidiary of Foxconn. Cricket's Ovation 2, released in June, is also made by FIH. The Ovation 2 was also released under the AT&T brand with a different name, and regulatory documents indicate AT&T plans to do the same with the Icon 3. Cricket is a brand of AT&T.
Motorola today announced the moto g pure, the company's latest entry-level phone. The phone will be sold by essentially every carrier in the US, including Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, Cricket, Metro, Boost, US Cellular, and Xfinity. Verizon will be the first to offer it, for $150 starting October 14th. Other carriers will offer the phone "in the coming months". Motorola will sell the phone unlocked for $160, with pre-orders starting October 14th. The phone will come in two variants: one for AT&T, Cricket, and Verizon — with support for AT&T's unique bands 14 and 30 — and the other for all other carriers, supporting T-Mobile's network and overseas 4G networks. Both variants will be powered by a MediaTek Helio G25 chip. The phone's features include a fingerprint reader on the back, basic water resistance, headset jack, and dual-band Wi-Fi. The HD+ display measures 6.5 inches. The 13 megapixel main camera is joined by a depth camera for portrait shots and a 5 megapixel front camera. Motorola claims two days of battery life from the 4,000 mAh battery. It has 3 GB RAM and 32 GB of storage, which is expandable with a memory card. It comes with Android 11 and Motorola promises one major OS upgrade plus two years of security updates (at least quarterly).
The FCC today started Auction 110, the third in a series of auctions to sell licenses for valuable C-band (mid-band) radio frequencies that offer a good mix of data speeds and coverage when deployed for 5G networks. All three major US wireless carriers have registered and qualified to bid in the auction. The most recent auction in the series was Auction 107, which was for the highest and widest range of frequencies in the band. In that auction, all three major carriers spent billions, with Verizon spending the most. Before that, Auction 105 — for the middle range of frequencies — saw Verizon and Dish Network come out on top. The current auction is for the lowest range of frequencies in the band: 3,450 – 3,550 MHz. The US government only decided a little over a year ago to allow commercial service in this new range of frequencies. The Department of Defense currently uses this radio spectrum for radar operations that support missile defense, counter-mortar capabilities, weapons control, electronic warfare, air defense, and air traffic control. Auction proceeds must cover 110% of the expected sharing and relocation costs for federal users currently operating in the band, which in this case is estimated to be over $14 billion.
Telecom infrastructure provider Syniverse recently disclosed to the SEC that it discovered a hack of its systems this year, which appears to have been ongoing since 2016. The compromise affects the Electronic Data Transfer (EDT) environment for 235 of its customers, including Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile. The EDT handles a wide variety of sensitive customer data, including the content of SMS text messages, call records, data usage records, and billing details. Ninety-five of the top 100 mobile carriers in the world are Syniverse customers. Syniverse's systems allow different carriers around the world to connect to each others' networks, exchanging text messages between networks and enabling roaming agreements and billing.
Nokia today announced the third phone in its relatively new G series. The Nokia G50 has 5G and costs $299. Key features include a large 6.82-inch HD display, large 5,000 mAh battery for "two-day battery life", and a 48-megapixel main camera. The G50 also has 18-watt fast charging, a 5-megapixel wide-angle camera, NFC, side fingerprint reader, memory card slot, and headset jack. It's powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 480 chipset with 4 GB RAM and 128 GB built-in storage. It has decent support for AT&T's 4G and low-band 5G networks, although it lacks LTE 14/29/30 and NR 77 (US C-band) that would give it the best performance with AT&T. It will not be certified for Verizon and lacks LTE 71 that would give it decent support for T-Mobile's network. The phone is available in two colors: Midnight Sun (rose gold) and Ocean Blue. The Nokia G50 ships starting Sept. 30th and is available for pre-order from nokia.com starting today.
AT&T Prepaid and Cricket are offering a new, white-label 5G phone for as low as $90, a new milestone for affordability of 5G phones. AT&T Prepaid is offering the phone as the AT&T Radiant Max 5G. AT&T's web site shows a list price of $180, but is currently selling the phone for $90. The price is a limited-time offer, expiring Oct. 21st, and requires a prepaid Unlimited or Unlimited Plus plan. Cricket (a brand of AT&T) is selling the same exact phone as the Cricket Dream 5G for $190. The phone is powered by the MediaTek Dimensity 700, a chip specifically designed to enable more-affordable 5G phones. The phone is manufactured by FIH Mobile, a subsidiary of Foxconn. Specs include a 6.82-inch HD display, 4,750 mAh battery, 48 megapixel camera, 4 GB RAM, and 64 GB storage (expandable). Key features include a fingerprint reader, 8-megapixel wide-angle camera, NFC, dual-band Wi-Fi, and a headset jack. It's available now from Cricket and AT&T Prepaid.
For the first time, T-Mobile has won the title of Fastest Mobile Network in PCMag's annual nationwide drive test. T-Mobile's 5G network was the fastest in 24 out of 36 tested cities and regions. PCMag attributes the win to T-Mobile's use of mid-band spectrum (band 41, around 2,600 MHz) for 5G. This unique frequency band was originally owned by Sprint, and T-Mobile has been aggressively re-deploying it for 5G since merging with Sprint. Mid-band frequencies are ideal for 5G, offering a good balance of coverage and potential data speeds. AT&T and Verizon recently purchased C-band spectrum that will let them deploy mid-band 5G networks like T-Mobile starting by the end of this year. Verizon's "Ultra Wideband" mmWave 5G network is the fastest 5G network, but has very limited coverage. AT&T and Verizon's sub-6-GHz (non-mmWave) 5G networks are often barely faster than 4G. Looking only at 4G networks, AT&T was once again the winner.
Motorola today announced a new premium-tier phone: the Motorola edge (2021). The headline features are a 108 megapixel main camera and a large 6.8-inch display with adaptive refresh up to 144 Hz. It also has a large 5,000 mAh battery, 30-watt fast charging, Qualcomm Snapdragon 778G processor, Wi-Fi 6E, and NFC. The 108-megapixel camera operates in 9-pixel pixel-binning mode by default, for excellent low-light performance with 12 megapixel output. It's accompanied by am 8-megapixel wide-angle camera, a depth camera, and a 32 megapixel selfie camera. Verizon will offer a version supporting its mmWave 5G network, while the unlocked version has excellent support for the 4G and sub-6 5G networks of both T-Mobile and AT&T. The unlocked version will be available in blue for $700. It goes on sale September 2nd with a special price of $500 for a limited time. Pre-orders start August 23rd. Verizon and Spectrum Mobile will offer the Verizon version later this fall; pricing for that version is yet to be determined.
The FCC has launched a new interactive map showing 4G LTE coverage for the whole US. It includes Verizon, T-Mobile, AT&T, and US Cellular networks. The data is sourced from the carriers, but is required to meet standards intended to make the data uniform and allow apples-to-apples comparisons. "Specifically, it shows where customers can expect to receive 4G LTE broadband service at a minimum user download speed of five megabits per second (5 Mbps) and a user upload speed of one megabit per second (1 Mbps) based on propagation modeling." Another "voice" layer shows where users should be able to get basic service regardless of data speed.
Dish has struck a 10-year deal to use AT&T's network to provide service for Dish's mobile customers. Dish's mobile brands include Boost Mobile, Ting, and Republic Wireless. Until now Dish has relied on T-Mobile's network, an arrangement put in place when Sprint sold Boost to Dish as a condition of Sprint's merger with T-Mobile. Dish's deal with T-Mobile was for seven years, giving Dish time to build its own 5G network. That the new deal with AT&T spans ten years calls into question Dish's commitment to fully building out its own network.
AT&T today shared an update on the expansion of its 5G network, and shared plans for its 5G network going forward. The company's sub-6 GHz 5G network now covers 250 million people nationwide. AT&T "5G+" — its brand for mmWave 5G — now covers parts of 38 cities and 20 venues (stadiums and arenas). The company plans to expand that mmWave network to 40 cities + 40 venues by the end of this year. mmWave offers much faster data speeds than sub-6 GHz 5G, but with very limited coverage. Finally, the company plans to start deploying C-Band 5G before the end of this year, expanding to cover 70–75 million people by the end of 2022, and 200 million by the end of 2023. C-Band is a new frequency band recently auctioned off by the FCC that allows a better balance of data speeds and coverage compared to existing bands. AT&T purchased licenses for 80 MHz of this spectrum, and will start deploying the first 40 MHz this year.
AT&T has tweaked its International Day Pass and Unlimited Elite plan, adding more value for the same price. The International Day Pass is now free after the first ten days per billing period, offering a much better value on longer overseas trips. As before, the Day Pass offers unlimited talk, text, and high-speed data for $10/day, or $5/day for additional lines on the same account traveling at the same time (for customers on an unlimited plan). The International Day Pass covers 140 countries and destinations. Later this summer, AT&T will make International Day Pass automatic whenever customers travel overseas, instead of needing to enable it first. Separately, AT&T announced that its top-end Unlimited Elite plan will now include 40 GB of hotspot data (up from 30) and 4K video streaming. The plan is also now truly unlimited, whereas before customers might experience slowdowns if they exceeded 100 GB. This change brings Unlimited Elite in line with T-Mobile's competing Magenta Max plan. Customers already on Unlimited Elite will receive the new upgrades automatically.
Boost Mobile started selling the new Motorola moto g stylus 5G this week. Cricket starts selling the phone today, and AT&T will start sales July 16th. All three brands are offering the phone for far less than the $400 that Motorola is asking for the unlocked version. Boost's web site lists the full price as $250 but is currently selling it for $200. Cricket's price is $100 for new customers or $150 for existing customers. AT&T is selling the phone for $180 on a 36-month installment plan ($5/month) with an unlimited plan (for both new and existing customers, for a limited time). The version offered by carriers has 4 GB RAM and 128 GB storage, while Motorola's pricier unlocked version has 6 GB RAM and 256 GB storage (though the phone has expandable storage.) T-Mobile and Metro are also slated to sell the phone soon.
AT&T and Google have forged an agreement to make Google's Messages app the default messaging app for all AT&T customers using Android phones. T-Mobile made a similar commitment in March, leaving Verizon as the only top-tier US carrier to not standardize on Google's Messages app for next-generation rich messaging using the RCS industry standard. AT&T's move will help ensure AT&T and T-Mobile customers can enjoy interoperable rich messaging among Android phones between the two carriers. RCS is a replacement for SMS that offers better group messaging, typing indicators, and encryption, among other features. RCS offers features comparable to Apple Messages. However, Apple has yet to support the RCS industry standard, so iOS does not yet offer interoperable rich messaging with Android phones.
TCL today revealed the US launch details for its new 20 series of phones: the TCL 20 Pro 5G, 20S, and 20 SE.
- The 20 Pro 5G is an affordable flagship phone with 5G for $500. It has a curved-edge TCL AMOLED display, satin glass back, 48 megapixel Sony-made main camera, 16 megapixel wide-angle camera, and wireless charging. It's powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 750G chip with 6 GB RAM, 256 GB storage, and a 4,500 mAh battery. It has excellent support for all 5G and 4G US networks, including Verizon. It's available in Moondust Gray and Marine Blue.
- The 20S has a 64 megapixel main camera, 8 megapixel wide camera, huge 5,000 mAh battery, and 18W fast charging. It also has a Snapdragon 665 processor and 4 GB RAM. It has excellent support for Verizon and T-Mobile 4G networks, and decent support for AT&T. It runs $250 and comes in Milky Way Black and Frosted Blue.
- The 20 SE is only $190 but comes with 48 megapixel main camera, wide camera, 4 GB RAM, and huge 5,000 mAh battery. It has basic support for AT&T and T-Mobile networks, and comes in Nuit Black and Aurora Green.
Motorola today announced the moto g stylus 5G, a version of this year's moto g stylus with 5G and a larger battery, for $400. The new 5G model has excellent support for all 5G and 4G networks in the US, (except mmWave 5G.) The battery has been bumped up from 4,000 mAh to a whopping 5,000 mAh. The 5G model has a Qualcomm Snapdragon 480 chipset instead the Snapdragon 678 in the 4G model. Although the 480 is a 4-series chip, it's newer than the 678 and offers similar performance. The 48 megapixel main camera offers access to the full 48 megapixel resolution, and the fingerprint reader is located on the back instead of the side. Other specs and features are similar to the 4G model, including a huge 6.8-inch full-HD display, wide camera, macro camera, 16 megapixel selfie camera, fast charging, memory card slot, and headset jack. The software is Android 11 with a nearly stock Google interface. Added stylus-oriented software includes the Moto Note app, Coloring Book app, and a customizable shortcut bar that appears when the stylus is removed. The stylus itself has been redesigned to be easier to remove and replace, and has a new feature that can help you find the stylus if you lose it. New features in the camera app include Spot Color for video and Dual Capture, which combines video from the front and rear cameras. The moto g stylus 5G will come in Cosmic Emerald. AT&T, Cricket, T-Mobile, Metro, Boost, Xfinity, and Spectrum will offer a version with 4 GB RAM and 128 GB storage (launch timing and pricing TBA), while the unlocked version sold by Motorola (plus B&H, Best Buy, and Amazon) will up that to 6 GB RAM / 256 GB storage. The unlocked version goes on sale for $400 on June 14th.
Cricket today launched its latest Cricket-branded affordable Android phone: the Ovation 2. The new phone is very similar to the first Ovation in terms of specs and features. The biggest difference is a taller screen that brings the screen size to 6.8 inches. Key specs include a MediaTek Helio A22 processor, large 3,900 mAh battery, 13 megapixel main camera, 5 megapixel wide camera, 8 megapixel front camera, and a fingerprint reader on the back. It also has 3 GB RAM, 32 GB built-in storage, a memory card slot, and a headset jack. The phone comes in "Evergreen" and available now for $130. The Ovation 2 is manufactured by FIH (a division of Foxconn) and sourced for Cricket by Emblem, which has a multi-year contract to supply AT&T and Cricket with private-label phones. The original Ovation was manufactured by Tinno.
AT&T is shedding its WarnerMedia division, which includes HBO, CNN, DC Comics, Warner Brothers, TBS, TNT, and Cartoon Network. In a complex deal, WarnerMedia will leave AT&T and merge with Discovery, Inc., to form a new media company. AT&T will receive $43 billion as part of the transaction. AT&T says the deal will create an opportunity for "stepped-up investment in growth areas", including mobile broadband. AT&T completed its purchase of Time Warner three years ago. Verizon sold its media division two weeks ago.
ZTE today announced the US launch details for its new Axon 30 Ultra flagship phone. It will be available starting June 4th for $749. Pre-orders start May 27th on ZTE's web site and include a free pair of Livebuds TWS earbuds. The Axon 30 Ultra is unique in having three 64-megapixel cameras (standard, portrait orientation, and wide-angle) on the back, plus a fourth camera with 5x optical zoom thanks to a periscope lens. Although ZTE will sell the phone in the US, it is not optimized for US networks, offering only basic support for AT&T's 4G network (LTE 2/4/5/12). It won't support 5G in the US, nor the 4G networks of Verizon and T-Mobile. Other specs include a Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 chip, 6.67-inch AMOLED display with 144 Hz refresh and HDR, and a 4,600 mAh battery. It also features 65W fast charging, NFC, Wi-Fi 6e, Bluetooth 5.2, and in-display fingerprint reader. The standard model comes with 8 GB LPDDR5 RAM and 128 GB UFS 3.1 storage. A step-up option offers 12 GB RAM + 256 GB storage for $849.
AT&T has launched the Kyocera DuraXE Epic, an update to the DuraXE rugged flip phone first introduced in early 2016. The most important addition is support for LTE band 14 and FirstNet, the LTE network operated by AT&T that gives priority to first responders. The DuraXE Epic includes a number of other features aimed at such markets, such as AT&T's Enhanced PTT with LMR network integration, and a headset jack with cam-lock that supports PTT controls. The DuraXE also has charging contacts for use with a charging dock or car kit, and enterprise Device Control. Compared to the original DuraXE, the Epic has a larger (1,770 mAh) removable battery, slightly better processor, and double the memory & storage. The new model also has a USB-C connector. Other features are similar to the original, including a very rugged, waterproof design with military ratings for dust, shock, vibration, temperature extremes, blowing rain, low pressure, solar radiation, salt fog, humidity, freeze-thaw and icing/freezing rain. Dual front-facing speakers offer 100dB of clear sound with the phone open or closed. It has programmable shortcut buttons on three sides, and a small outer display. The 5-megapixel auto-focus camera can record HD video; the phone also available without a camera for sensitive workplaces. The DuraXE Epic is available now from AT&T for $270.
Samsung today announced the US launch of five new phones in the company's affordable Galaxy A series, including three 5G models. The Galaxy A32 5G will be the most affordable 5G model at just $280, and will be exclusive to T-Mobile (and Metro) at launch. Samsung is able to offer 5G at this prince thanks in part to the MediaTek Dimensity 720 5G chip in the A32 5G, whereas the two pricier 5G models use the Qualcomm Snapdragon 750G. Samsung announced the A32 5G and A52 5G a few weeks ago, but withheld US launch details at that time. The Galaxy A52 5G will run $500 and come to both AT&T and T-Mobile (including Metro). New is the Galaxy A42 5G, which is similar to the A32 5G but adds mmWave 5G for Verizon. It also swaps the 90 Hz LCD display for a 60 Hz Super AMOLED display, switches to an in-display (optical) fingerprint reader, and has double the storage at 128 GB. Most other keys specs are identical to the A32 5G. The A42 has a unique design on the back divided into four equal parts. Verizon starts selling the Galaxy A42 5G tomorrow for $400. All three 5G models will be available by the end of this week. The two more affordable 4G models are the A12 and A02s. We reported on the Galaxy A12 for AT&T on Monday. That model will also come to T-Mobile this week, and Verizon on April 29th. The most affordable model is the new Galaxy A02s (shown), "starting at" $110, although Verizon will sell it for $150 and T-Mobile says "Stay tuned for pricing details." The A02s has the same 6.5-inch HD display and huge 5,000 mAh battery as the A12, but with expected cost-trimming on the cameras (13 megapixel main and no wide-angle), processor (Snapdragon 450), and RAM (2 GB instead of 3). The A02s also loses NFC and the fingerprint reader, but keeps 15W fast charging, USB-C, memory card slot, and the headset jack. The A02s is distinguished by its textured design on the back, divided into sections diagonally. Verizon starts selling the A02s on April 29th; T-Mobile has yet to announce a launch date.
AT&T has started selling the Samsung Galaxy A12, a new entry-level phone, for $180. The A12 replaces the Galaxy A11 and has several upgrades, most notably a huge 5,000 mAh battery (up from 4,000) and the inclusion of NFC. The amount of RAM has also been bumped up to 3 GB and the processor is a MediaTek Helio P35. The main camera is 16 megapixel, a step down from the 48 megapixel sensor in the international version. The A12 also has wide-angle (5 megapixel), macro, and depth cameras. Other specs remain similar to the A11, including an 8 megapixel selfie camera, 6.5-inch HD display, 32 GB storage (expandable), fast charging, and a headset jack. Design-wise, the A12 switches to a notched display (from a corner hole-punch on the A11) and moves the fingerprint reader to the side of the phone. AT&T is currently only offering the phone in black, although red, white, and blue versions are available in other parts of the world. A new entry-level phone from Samsung is timely, as LG did well in this segment in the US. LG announced earlier today that it is leaving the phone business, leaving a void that phones like the A12 could fill.
Samsung today announced the Galaxy A52 5G, the update to last year's Galaxy A51 5G. Upgrades over the A51 include 120 Hz display refresh, 64 megapixel main camera with optical image stabilization (OIS), IP67 water resistance, and stereo speakers. Other specs remain similar to least year's model, including 6.5-inch FHD+ AMOLED display, 4,500 mAh battery, 25W fast charging, quad rear cameras, 6–8 GB RAM, expandable memory, and NFC. Samsung didn't reveal US launch details, but regulatory filings indicate that a US version is planned for multiple carriers, including AT&T and T-Mobile. While the A51 5G was Samsung's most affordable 5G phone in 2020, Samsung's Galaxy A32 5G, announced in January, is likely to be the company's most affordable 5G phone in 2021. A recent FCC approval indicates Samsung is preparing to bring the A32 5G to the US market as well. The Galaxy A32 5G has a 6.5-inch HD display, 48 megapixel main camera, 8 megapixel wide camera, 5,000 mAh battery, 15W fast charging, 4–8 GB RAM, and a side-mounted fingerprint reader. Samsung also announced a 4G-only Galaxy A72 today. It's similar to the A52 but with a larger display and battery. There is no indication yet that the A72 will come to the US.
Nubia today announced the global launch of the RedMagic 6, a relatively affordable gaming phone with high-end specs starting at $599. The global model will be sold unlocked in the US, but will offer only basic support for AT&T's 4G network. Although it's a 5G phone, it won't support the frequency bands used for 5G in the US. Nor will it support 4G in bands 13 and 71, crucial bands for Verizon and T-Mobile, respectively. Without support for bands 14, 29, and 30, AT&T users won't receive maximum 4G service. The RedMagic 6 is powered by Qualcomm's flagship Snapdragon 888 chip, and boasts an AMOLED display with 165 Hz refresh and touch sampling up to 500 Hz. Other specs include a 5,050 mAh battery, 66W fast charging, and a built-in "turbofan". The standard model comes with 12 GB LPDDR5 RAM and 128 GB UFS 3.1 storage. A Pro model for an extra $100 upgrades to 16 GB RAM + 256 GB storage. Pre-orders start April 9th with full availability on April 15th.
AT&T today announced its plans for the C-band radio spectrum it recently acquired in FCC Auction 107. The company will "begin deploying the first 40 MHz of this spectrum by the end of 2021". The company purchased 80 MHz total. AT&T will spend $6–8 billion on building out this enhanced 5G network through 2024. The company plans deploy C-band in areas covering 70–75 million people by the end of 2022, reaching 100 million in 2023. The company will also continue deploying mmWave 5G, including 17 new sports venues (stadiums, arenas, and practice facilities) as well as seven new airports. AT&T is currently only using 70% of its existing low- and mid-band spectrum, but plans to deploy the remaining 30% in the coming years, delivering "enhanced performance in the top 50 urban markets".
Vietnamese manufacturer VinSmart has officially entered the US phone market thanks to a deal with AT&T for "nearly 2 million smartphones". AT&T (and its Cricket prepaid brand) recently started selling two distinct entry-level phone models from VinSmart. Both are under $100 and are white-labeled, meaning they bear the AT&T or Cricket brand (instead of VinSmart or its Vsmart brand). AT&T has turned to Chinese manufacturer Tinno for such phones in recent years. But with the US government's hostile posture toward Chinese telecom companies in the last few years, AT&T may be looking to diversify its suppliers beyond China. The more affordable of the two models is the AT&T Fusion Z. It has a 6-inch HD display and USB-C, but its specs are otherwise minimal, including Android Go Edition, a Snapdragon 215 chip, and a 5 megapixel main camera. AT&T Prepaid shows the list price as $80 but is selling it for $40. Walmart is selling the same phone as the "Motivate" for $50. The slightly higher-end model is the Cricket Influence, which runs full Android 10 thanks to 3 GB of RAM and 32 GB of storage. It's powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 460 chip. Features include a fingerprint reader, modern notched HD display with Gorilla Glass 3, and a 13-megapixel camera plus depth camera for portrait mode. Both phones have a headset jack and memory card slot. Cricket shows a list price of $110 for the Influence, but is selling it for $40 to both new and existing customers. Walmart is selling the same phone for AT&T Prepaid as the AT&T Maestro Plus, for $90. The original "AT&T Maestro" was manufactured by Tinno.
The FCC today announced the winners of Auction 107 for radio frequency licenses in the coveted "C-Band". Verizon spent $45.5 billion, well over half the $81.1 billion total spent in the whole auction. All major US carriers spent large amounts, with AT&T spending $23.4 billion, T-Mobile spending $9.3 billion, and US Cellular spending $1.3 billion. Auction 107 is for radio frequencies spanning 3.7 to 3.98 GHz. This band is unusually large at 280 MHz wide, giving it valuable high capacity for many users and/or fast data speeds. Spectrum in these "mid-band" frequencies is also valuable because it's ideal for building 5G networks that offer a good balance of fast data speeds and broad coverage. Most current 5G networks in the US offer only fast speeds or broad coverage, an issue that is particularly acute for Verizon at the moment. Auction 107 is likely to be the largest and most important of several C-band auctions the FCC is holding. Auction 105 was the first, though it raised only $4.6 billion. The next will be Auction 110, for 3.45 – 3.55 GHz. The FCC finalized its proposed rules for that auction earlier this week.
The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority today announced the completion of its project to offer cellular service in all 100 miles of underground tunnels and stations in the Washington, D.C. Metrorail system. Passengers can now receive uninterrupted AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon service on their phones throughout their entire journey. The project was mandated in a bill passed by Congress in 2008.