FCC vote could compel Verizon, AT&T to share data networks

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Date: Friday, April 8th, 2011, 04:58
Category: iPhone, News

The US Federal Communications Commission narrowly voted to require big mobile carriers to contract with smaller competitors to share access to their mobile data networks, as they are already compelled to do for voice service.

According to Businessweek, the FCC’s 3-2 vote, the vote mandates that leading carriers such as AT&T and Verizon Wireless must reach “commercially reasonable” agreements with smaller carriers.

FCC chairman Julius Genachowski said the new requirement would promote competition and investment, noting that “roaming deals are simply not being widely offered.”

Wireless carriers AT&T and Verizon opposed the measure, complaining that they have scores of roaming agreements and that there’s no need for regulation. AT&T executive Robert Quinn said in a statement that “a data-roaming mandate is unwarranted and will discourage investment,” and complained that proponents of the new regulation were not just seeking to foster roaming agreements but to “regulate rates downward.”

AT&T’s vocal opposition to the measure is ironic given its interests in seeking approval of its mega-merger acquisition of T-Mobile, which competitors are complaining will reduce competition and reduce choices for consumers.

If AT&T is legally compelled to resell access to its data network, the merger becomes far more attractive to all parties involved, as it puts T-Mobile’s underutilized public spectrum licenses to better use while supporting more avenues for competition, not fewer.

AT&T has indicated that it wants to eventually turn off T-Mobile’s non-standard 3G service and repurpose the smaller firm’s AWS bands for 4G LTE service, ostensibly supporting high speed data service roaming with carriers such as MetroPCS, which already use AWS for LTE data.

In addition to MetroPCS, the report also noted Sprint Nextel, Leap Communications, and other independent carriers as being potential beneficiaries of the new ruling.

Steven Berry, president of the Rural Cellular Association that represents nearly 100 small American mobile carriers, said in a statement that “consumers will benefit from a more competitive marketplace, and carriers will be encouraged to invest in advanced networks.”

For hardware makers such as Apple, the ruling encourages the development of compatible, standardized networks that facilitate roaming, and enables consumers greater choice in mobile providers rather than being locked to a specific carrier as Apple’s iPhone has been for the last four years due to technical incompatibilities that prevented roaming agreements between carriers.

The buildout of new, next generation LTE networks by both AT&T and Verizon and smaller regional carriers promises to finally return the US back to the potential for inter-carrier roaming once common under the old AMPS mobile networks in place before the last decade of incompatible barriers arose between the digital networks of GSM, CDMA, and iDEN mobile carriers.

Stay tuned for additional news as it becomes available.

ChangeWave poll reports fewer dropped iPhone calls on Verizon network, slightly higher level of satisfaction

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Date: Wednesday, April 6th, 2011, 02:30
Category: iPhone, News

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There may have been a reason for your waiting for the iPhone to come to Verizon’s network.

Per research firm ChangeWave’s report, owners of Apple’s iPhone 4 on the AT&T network are more than twice as likely to report dropped calls than Verizon customers, a new survey has found.

ChangeWave on Tuesday released the results of its latest survey, comparing AT&T iPhone 4 owners and Verizon iPhone 4 owners. The 4,068 respondents showed that 4.8% of AT&T iPhone 4 owners experienced a dropped call on their handset over the past 90 days, compared with 1.8% of Verizon subscribers.

Those results are similar to an industry-wide, non-iPhone-specific poll conducted separately by ChangeWave. In that poll, 4.6% of AT&T subscribers reported dropped calls, compared with 1.4% of Verizon customers.

Also surveyed were prospective future iPhone 4 buyers, most of which indicated they are likely to buy the handset on Verizon’s network while 46% of respondents said they are likely to choose Verizon, 27% said they would sign with AT&T. 27% said they are unsure or did not choose AT&T or Verizon.

“Verizon is still in the very early stages of its iPhone 4 offering to consumers,” ChangeWave said, noting that the CDMA iPhone 4 just launched in February “It remains to be seen how well the Verizon network performs as the number of Verizon iPhone 4 owners ramps up and inevitably puts more pressure on their system.”

Finally, the survey also asked customers about their satisfaction with the iPhone 4, and the results showed near-identical happiness on the part of both Verizon and AT&T customers. Verizon customers were slightly more satisfied, with 82% choosing “very satisfied,” compared to 80% of AT&T iPhone 4 users.

16% of Verizon customers identified themselves as “somewhat satisfied,” while 18% of AT&T customers were of the same opinion. That means that 98% of both AT&T and Verizon iPhone 4 users consider themselves “satisfied” at some level with their handset.

If you have any feedback on this or are reclassifying your iPhone as a fairly expensive paperweight today, let us know in the comments.

AT&T quietly raises upgrade prices, non-iPhone handset purchase prices

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Date: Monday, April 4th, 2011, 07:54
Category: iPhone, News

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Ok, you’re not going to be happy about this one.

According to AndroidCentral, wireless carrier AT&T has quietly raised early and exception upgrade pricing for iPhones and other smartphones. A notice to store staff has warned that, as of Sunday, users are paying US$50 more. The move would change the premature upgrade price from US$249 for an iPhone 3GS to US$299, and up to US$449 or US$549 for an iPhone 4 before normal eligibility comes up.

A separate memo both confirms the price hikes and showed across-the-board pricing increases. With the exception of the iPhone, pricing will go up sharply for anyone buying a phone contract-free or a shortened one-year contract. Those without a contract will pay at least US$50 more, AndroidCentral saw, while one-year buyers will spend US$150 more.

Basic messaging phones are also going up by US$20 off-contract or US$10 on a one-year deal.

AT&T has yet to officially confirm the rate hikes, though they will ultimately have the largest impact on non-Apple hardware. Pricing for Android, BlackBerry, and Windows Phone 7 devices will now mostly be competitive on a two-year plan where the iPhone may be the more reasonable deal on shortened terms.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available

AT&T/T-Mobile USA deal could take up to one year for federal approval

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Date: Monday, March 21st, 2011, 07:00
Category: iPhone, News

Even if AT&T’s purchase of T-Mobile USA for US$39 billion may come as good news, it might be a while before T-Mobile can offer an iPhone.

Per T-Mobile, U.S. customers of T-Mobile likely will not have access to Apple’s iPhone for at least one year, assuming a proposed acquisition from AT&T is granted federal approval.

Following the announcement on Sunday that AT&T plans to buy T-Mobile to create the largest wireless provider in the U.S., a list of frequently asked questions were posted on the official T-Mobile website. In that list, one question is specifically devoted to the iPhone, which is currently only available to AT&T and Verizon customers.

“T-Mobile USA remains an independent company,” the FAQ reads. “The acquisition is expected to be completed in approximately 12 months. We do not offer the iPhone. We offer cutting edge devices like the Samsung Galaxy S 4G and coming soon our new Sidekick 4G.”

T-Mobile cannot yet offer the iPhone because its wireless network is not compatible with the 3G radio found in the GSM version of Apple’s best-selling smartphone. And that won’t change until AT&T’s proposed acquisition of T-Mobile is approved by federal regulators — a milestone that is by no means guaranteed.

The merging of customer bases from AT&T and T-Mobile would create a total of about 130 million users, making AT&T the largest carrier in the U.S. AT&T has touted that the acquisition of T-Mobile will help to speed up its own existing nationwide network.

Though they operate on different radio frequencies, the networks of AT&T and T-Mobile have a common technology base with 3G UMTS. That will make it easier for AT&T to merge the two networks and ensure that handsets from both companies will be compatible on the same network.

T-Mobile’s FAQ also notes that the acquisition will offer “significant benefits” for customers, improving network quality and boosting speeds.

“The merger will ensure the deployment of a robust 4G LTE network to 95% of the U.S. population, something neither company would achieve on its own,” it reads. “Also, because of our compatible networks and spectrum, the customers of T-Mobile USA and AT&T will experience improved voice and data service almost immediately after the networks are integrated.”

Customers were also advised that they should not wait to sign up with T-Mobile or upgrade their handset, as the company remains independent until the deal is approved. The company will also honor all contracted plans that are entered into before the change of ownership.

AT&T announced on Sunday its plans to acquire T-Mobile for US$39 billion. The cash and stock deal, if approved, would give Deutsche Telekom, the owner of T-Mobile USA, an 8% stake in AT&T.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available and if you have any thoughts on the deal, please let us know in the comments.

AT&T to buy T-Mobile’s American unit for US$39 billion

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Date: Monday, March 21st, 2011, 04:52
Category: iPhone, News

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Wireless carrier AT&T has announced a definitive agreement to buy Deutsche Telekom’s American T-Mobile subsidiary in a cash and stock deal worth about US$39 billion, and giving the German carrier an 8% stake in AT&T.

Per Yahoo, the two companies issued a press release outlining the terms of the deal, which has been approved by the board of both carriers.

T-Mobile and AT&T share similar GSM and UMTS/HSPA networks, and both are working to build new next generation networks using HSPA+ and LTE. However, obtaining the rights to radio spectrum and building out these networks is both expensive and complex.

AT&T’s chief executive Randall Stephenson said the deal “provides a fast, efficient and certain solution to the impending exhaustion of wireless spectrum in some markets, which limits both companies’ ability to meet the ongoing explosive demand for mobile broadband.”

T-Mobile had been rumored to be entering talks with Sprint, but those two companies run incomparable networks and have diverging future plans, as Sprint operates both CDMA and iDEN (from its merger with Nextel, which it plans to phase out) networks and has begun building a next generation WiMAX network with Clearwire (WiMAX competes with LTE as a next generation mobile network technology).

The release said that AT&T and T-Mobile USA customers “will see service improvements – including improved voice quality – as a result of additional spectrum, increased cell tower density and broader network infrastructure,” noting that as soon as the deal closes, AT&T “will immediately gain cell sites equivalent to what would have taken on average five years to build without the transaction, and double that in some markets.”

Absorbing T-Mobile “will increase AT&T’s network density by approximately 30% in some of its most populated areas, while avoiding the need to construct additional cell towers. This transaction will increase spectrum efficiency to increase capacity and output, which not only improves service, but is also the best way to ensure competitive prices and services in a market where demand is extremely high and spectrum is in short supply,” the release says.

By bolstering its existing GSM, UMTS and HSPA+ networks, AT&T will be able to better focus on future LTE capacity, rather than struggling to get its existing network to meet today’s demand. While T-Mobile operates its 3G UMTS network on different frequencies than AT&T, its basic 2G GSM network is identical. AT&T can also use the networks and towers T-Mobile operates to strengthen its own.

The incorporation of T-Mobile’s American unit adds 33.7 million subscribers to AT&T’s network of of about 95.5 million, creating a total of about 130 million users, and becoming the largest American carrier. The deal will also expand Apple’s iPhone to three of what were the top four US carriers, as Apple has already brought it to Verizon earlier this year.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Retail locations sold out of iPad 2 units, Apple raises online shipping estimate for 4-5 weeks

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Date: Wednesday, March 16th, 2011, 04:02
Category: iPad, News

You want an iPad 2.

And so does everyone else on the planet.

Per AppleInsider, Apple on Tuesday was forced again to delay estimated shipping times for new iPad 2 orders, as those who buy must now wait four to five weeks for their order to be sent.

Yet another delay comes as stock of the iPad 2 around the U.S. is believed to be entirely sold out at all locations, including Apple’s retail stores and partners. Some select Apple stores with new shipments of the iPad 2 are set to open early today, while many other stores await more stock in the face of crushing demand.

The latest delay applies to all models of the iPad 2, including Wi-Fi and both 3G models from AT&T and Verizon. It also includes all capacities: 16GB, 32GB and 64GB.

“Demand for the next generation iPad 2 has been amazing,” Apple said in a statement to the press this week. “We are working hard to get iPad 2 into the hands of every customer who wants one as quickly as possible.”

Tuesday’s need to push back estimated shipping times is the latest in a string of delays since the iPad 2 first went on sale in the U.S. last Friday. Initial orders were scheduled to ship in a matter of days, but the wait was quickly pushed back to between two and three weeks.

On Saturday, Apple was forced to extend estimates to three to four weeks. Now, customers who hesitated to buy could be waiting over a month to receive their iPad 2.

Wall Street analysts generally expect that Apple sold at least a half million of the iPad 2 in its first weekend of availability. More bullish estimates have forecast Apple to have sold as many as 1 million at launch.

So, yeah, if you did the geeky thing and waited in hours-long lines to snag one on launch day, now is the time to spend the next four to five weeks high fiving yourself…

Yahoo repairs server-side IMAP settings, clears up e-mail issue for Windows 7, iPhone users

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Date: Friday, March 11th, 2011, 04:20
Category: iPhone, News, Software

A fresh test on Thursday confirmed that Yahoo’s IMAP mail bug had been fixed. Per Electronista, Yahoo quietly upgraded its mail servers so that they now respond with only the data they were asked for, rather than the 25 times higher amount they were producing before. Rafael Rivera at Within Windows noted that it had previously sent the entire message header.

The improvement should cure a problem first discovered on Windows Phone 7 that led to a glut of data every time the devices checked mail. Later discoveries found that it also affected at least iPhone owners, but all of them carried the risk of running over bandwidth caps on carriers like AT&T.

Microsoft knew of the cause in Yahoo’s servers weeks after it was found but declined to name it, leaving customers without an idea as to which services to turn off. It instead gave them blanket instructions to turn off automatic mail checks or to disable cellular data. It wasn’t until Rivera investigated himself and confronted Microsoft that it was forced to acknowledge the source.

If you’ve seen any changes in your Yahoo mail on your iPhone, please let us know.

AT&T confirms Personal Hotspot support for iOS 4.3, iPhone

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Date: Friday, March 4th, 2011, 05:18
Category: iPhone, News

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Wireless carrier AT&T has confirmed that it will support the 3G/WiFi hotspot features that will come to the GSM iPhone 4 on March 11. Per ars technica, the company said that the pricing would remain the same as the current tethering model—AT&T customers must subscribe to the US$25 data plan that gives them 2GB per month, plus the extra US$20 tethering charge that gives them an extra 2GB. In all, that will make it US$45 per month for 4GB of data plus hotspot sharing when the feature arrives in iOS 4.3.

The iPhone’s hotspot feature first made its debut with the Verizon (CDMA) iPhone last month. Verizon iPhone users can currently pay US$30 per month for unlimited 3G data, and US$20 extra to use the hotspot feature with a 2GB cap. So, although the iPhone itself currently has no monthly data limit, those who decide to tether or share their 3G with other devices will have a lower hotspot data limit than AT&T’s comparable plan. And, if you use the hotspot sharing feature on your AT&T iPhone, it won’t pause your Internet connection when you receive a phone call.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available and let us know what you think about the Personal Hotspot feature in the comments.

Verizon executive indicates that company will end unlimited iPhone data plans by summer

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Date: Wednesday, March 2nd, 2011, 04:32
Category: iPhone, News

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A Verizon executive hinted Tuesday that the carrier will cease offering unlimited data plans for the iPhone handset as early as the middle of this summer, while also fueling speculation that Apple will release an updated Verizon iPhone later this year.

Per Reuters, Verizon Chief Financial Officer Francis Shammo made the remarks at an investors conference. According to Shammo, the carrier will probably transition to tiered pricing data plans in the “mid-summer time frame.”

Shammo also told investors Tuesday that Verizon had kept the unlimited plan for the iPhone launch because it “didn’t want to put up a barrier” to consumers looking to try out the handset.

Rumors emerged in early January that Verizon planned to offer unlimited data to iPhone customers. Rival AT&T began limiting its data plans last year, but quietly began offering some of its iPhone customers unlimited data again in January in an effort to keep them from switching to Verizon.

After a leaked memo revealed that new iPhone 4 customers on Verizon would be offered just a US$30 unlimited data plan, Verizon COO Lowell McAdam went on record as saying the unlimited data plan would only be a temporary offer, with tiered pricing coming in “the not too distant future.”

The report noted that shares of Verizon fell 2.4% Tuesday after Shammo warned that a new iPhone could negatively affect profit margins. “There could be some (margin) lumpiness when you launch the phone,” he said. “If there happens to be a new one that comes out, that quarter might not look so good (either).”

According to one analyst, Shammo’s remarks serve as evidence that an updated CDMA iPhone would arrive later this year. “I would take that comment as a pretty strong signal there’s an iPhone refresh coming to Verizon in the third quarter,” said Credit Suisse analyst Jonathan Chaplin.

Last week, Verizon CEO Dan Mead hinted that an LTE-capable iPhone from Apple is in the works. The executive also reassured investors by revealing that the iPhone 4 launch had been the largest in company history, contrary to reports that had suggested a more lackluster launch.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Verizon iPhone 4 preorder stock sells out on first day of availability

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Date: Friday, February 4th, 2011, 06:37
Category: iPhone, News

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It came and it went.

Per AppleInsider, initial demand for the Verizon iPhone was strong enough for both Apple and Verizon to appear to have run out of pre-sale stock of the new CDMA iPhone and are directing customers to wait until February 9 to purchase the device online or February 10 for in-store purchases.

Preorders for the Verizon iPhone began at 3 a.m. Eastern on Thursday, but only for existing Verizon customers. Initial interest appeared heavy, as some customers reported difficulty accessing the Verizon website.

Though it is unclear exactly how many units were offered during Wednesday’s preorder, Apple and Verizon have stopped taking orders for the device. Customers interested in purchasing the iPhone 4 on Verizon are directed to log back on to either the Verizon or Apple website starting at 3:01 a.m. Eastern on February 9. Retail stores will begin offering the handset at 7 a.m. on February 10.

If you went to order the Verizon iPhone 4 and have a story to tell, please let us know how it went in the comments.