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Leap Wireless' Cricket brand this week launched what they're calling "Half is More
" pricing, which the company claims offers users "unlimited plans for half the price of the competition." According to a Leap/Cricket press release
, the company's new $45 Offering provides unlimited text, voice and data services. However, the company rather buries the fact that by "unlimited" they mean around 1 GB, after which you're throttled back to dial-up era speeds for the remainder of the month. "Cricket is challenging consumers and asking the question that if you can pay only half and get the same thing, why wouldn't you?" the company asks. Perhaps because you historically abuse the hell out of
the word "unlimited"?
Cablevision has spent the last few years deploying Wi-Fi to NYC metro region commuter areas, and now says they're getting close to offering service on the trains themselves. Speaking on their recent earnings conference call
, Cablevision executive Tad Smith stated the company is "in active, productive, very positive conversations with the trains" but that deploying such technology has been "complicated." The company filed a proposal with the MTA back in 2010 and originally hoped the project would be up and running within twelve months. Still, Smith says the company is "optimistic for the future" of the project, which is making slow but steady progress. Whether commuters (most of whom now have an LTE connection in their pocket) will need or use it might be something else entirely.
In early 2011 MetroPCS joined Verizon in suing the FCC
to overturn the agency's already fairly-flimsy network neutrality rules. With MetroPCS and T-Mobile now merged, T-Mobile announced late last week that it would be withdrawing the lawsuit against the FCC they acquired as part of the deal.
While there has been some twitching from the corpse of LightSquared in DC, it has been fairly clear to everyone that the company has been dead for quite some time
. Now insiders tell Bloomberg
that Charlie Ergen made a $2 billion "stalking horse" bid to acquire LightSquared's assets and spectrum. One problem with such a deal -- the FCC still hasn't given their approval for use of the interference-prone spectrum, the core reason that LightSquared died in the first place. LightSquared has until May 31 to accept the bid. Dish has slowly been engaged in a series of spectrum acquisition deals to aid the company's potential launch of their own LTE network.
Sprint raised its acquisition offer for Clearwire today
, offering $3.40 per share for the 50% of Clearwire Sprint currently doesn't own. The new offer, which temporarily delayed a Clearwire shareholder offer on the deal, values Clearwire's total value at around $10.7 billion. The higher bid comes as Dish has been trying to acquire Sprint itself
and thwart a rival offer from Japanese carrier SoftBank. Dish Corporation's Charlie Ergen has consistently offered that Dish's offer is a better value, while also trying to stir up some xenophobia
-- arguing that Dish is better suited because the company "speaks English."
After taking heat from consumer groups last year for blocking Facetime video chat, AT&T made waves last week by deciding to block the new cross-platform and device video chat functionality in Google Hangouts
from running over their speedy new LTE network. As they did during the Facetime debacle, AT&T made the obscure claim that they can block any application that comes pre-loaded on a device, even if technically Hangouts doesn't come pre-loaded (AT&T's just choosing language carefully to dodge wiggle through net neutrality rule loopholes).
As we've seen with both Sprint and T-Mobile, LTE launch locations pop up well ahead of official launch markets as the companies run pre-commercial launch tests. Users now say that they're seeing T-Mobile LTE signals pop up in Detroit, Minneapolis and New York City
. Minneapolis is slated for a May launch, while both Detroit and New York City aren't officially expected to come online until June. T-Mobile previously stated they aim to cover 100 million potential customers with LTE by the middle of 2013, with 200 million potential customers covered by the end of this year.
Amtrak has been offering Wi-Fi on board some of their trains for several years
(a full list is here
), though historically the quality of the connections have been ridiculed. Since earlier this year the company has been promising upgrades.
Earlier this week the government came under fire for hoovering up the personal call logs
of more than twenty lines belonging to the Associated Press. Initially Uncle Same claimed the snooping and violation of press rights was due to an immediate and pressing life-risking investigation, but as the week rolled on it became clear the government was simply embarrassed by internal leaks
and annoyed an AP story stole some public relations thunder.
For much of the last year, Verizon Wireless has been blocking Google Wallet
, claiming that its use of a device's "secure element" is what has prohibited them from letting consumers use the app. Numerous people have explained in great detail (including the lawyer that filed the original complaint with the FCC
) that this excuse is simply being used to keep Google Wallet permanently stuck in approval purgatory, while the wireless industry's own, competing Isis
platform sees no such restrictions.
It is very quickly becoming clear that if you want the FCC to avoid enforcing their network neutrality rules, all you have to do is throw some half-assed, vague-sounding technical jargon at the agency to bog them down in inactivity indefinitely. With yesterday's news that AT&T is blocking yet another video chat application
in order to drive users to more expensive data plans, it's rather clear that the FCC lacks the stomach to actually enforce the rules they designed.
Canadian wireless operator Telus today announced that the company would be buying smaller wireless competitor Mobilicity for $380 Million, the first of what's expected to be several similar deals. According to the Globe and Mail
, while Telus is looking for quick regulatory approval, the government has suggested they're not entirely thrilled with the erosion of competition and the accumulation of floundering upstart spectrum by incumbents. As for Mobilicity, they insist they looked high and low for other options before sleeping with the enemy. "We beat the bushes as far as they could possibly be beaten and as hard as they could possibly be beaten ... There was not a deal to be found with the other new entrants," said the company.
Verizon today announced that they're increasing the usage allotments on the company's prepaid wireless offerings. According to the Verizon statement
, Verizon's $60 prepaid plan will offer users unlimited voice, texting and 2 GB of data per month -- up from the previous cap of 500 MB per month. Verizon's $70 plan will now provide users with unlimited voice, texting and 4 GB of data per month -- up from the previous cap or 2 GB per month. As noted previously, these plans are for EVDO connectivity, not LTE. According to Verizon Wireless this new pricing is available to existing customers now, and to new customers starting on June 6.
Google today announced a flurry of news at their I/O Conference
, and while the company did not unveil a new Nexus phone, they did announce a new "Google edition" of the Galaxy S4 that will be sold unlocked and comes running a stock version of Android 4.2. According to Google, the phone will feature the "Nexus Google experience" and benefit from quicker Android updates than you traditionally see from the major carriers (which wouldn't be hard).
Back in March T-Mobile unveiled their new "uncarrier" strategy
, which included killing subsidies for smartphones and no contracts, alongside a more "no nonsense" business approach. In the case of the iPhone, users were offered the phone for a downpayment of $100, plus $20 a month for twenty-four months.
In late January, unlocking your cellphone technically became illegal
after the Librarian of Congress removed it from the DMCA exception list last year. It remains legal for you to jailbreak your phone, but you can't unlock it unless you get your carrier's permission.
A local Dallas Fort Worth CBS Affiliate this week reported
) that Nordstrom has been testing technology from Euclid that allows them to track customer locations at 17 of the company's stores around the country using their cell phones. Nordstrom was hoping to use this data to track store foot traffic, but the public attention apparently made them nervous -- given the day after the CBS story aired, Nordstrom cancelled the plans.
The FCC this week announced that they're targeting 500 MHz of additional airwaves
that could be opened up to help improve in-flight broadband services. Currently, most in-flight broadband either rely on congested satellite broadband bandwidth, or skyward-pointed ground to air EVDO antenna arrays.
Early last year we noted that AT&T, the company that really started the network neutrality debate to begin with
, had come up with yet another awful new idea: charging app makers a fee if they wanted to send data to consumers without impacting their usage caps. While AT&T presented the idea as akin to a 1-800 number for data or "free shipping," what it actually is a troll toll imposed by AT&T allowing them to rake in new cash -- and impose their power on a content ecosystem and app marketplace that operates better with companies like AT&T out of the way.
Representative Anna Eshoo this week asked the GAO to conduct a study on how usage caps and overages are applied to both wireless and wired networks. Eshoo urged the GAO to collect data on how caps are determined, when they're applied, how they change in response to costs, and also asked the FTC and FCC for a list of complaints related to said pricing. "I'm concerned that usage-based pricing, particularly when applied discriminatorily or at arbitrarily low levels, could discourage the innovation, competition, and consumer choice that have been the hallmark of the Internet's success to date," Eshoo wrote. The FCC has thus far been a bit wishy washy on the subject
, and has failed to notice that usage meters on both wired
networks often aren't accurate.
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Recent news contributorsJKukiewicz , Karl Bode , swintec