ESPN expresses interest in subsidizing mobile data plans, looks to keep users watching streaming video

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Date: Friday, May 10th, 2013, 07:58
Category: iOS, iPhone, News

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ESPN wants you watching streaming video, even if they have to pick up part of the check…

Per the Wall Street Journal and AppleInsider, cable sports network ESPN has expressed interest in potentially subsidizing those data plans to allow users to stream video without worrying about overage fees.

ESPN has allegedly had discussions with at least one major U.S. carrier about the plan. The two largest carriers in America, Verizon and AT&T, both carry the iPhone and both restrict new customers with capped data plans.

The concept proposed by ESPN could guarantee that content streamed from the network would not result in data plan overage charges. The network has reportedly expressed interest in either paying carriers outright, or giving them a share of advertising revenue.

But the alleged deal isn’t imminent, the report said, as questions remain about the economics, and the fact that any agreements could run afoul of government regulators.

Carriers such as Verizon and AT&T are said to be interested in content deals as a way of increasing revenue without raising fees for subscribers.

ESPN has aggressively pursued mobile streaming capabilities as smartphones and tablets have gained in popularity. The network’s WatchESPN application allows users with participating cable subscribers to stream live sporting events from the ESPN family of networks.

Content available on WatchESPN includes the NBA regular season and playoffs, major golf tournaments like The Masters and U.S. Open, college football and basketball, and thousands of other live events. The service also streams original ESPN shows like SportsCenter, Pardon the Interruption, and Mike and Mike in the Morning.

But smartphone users might be reluctant to use live streaming video services like WatchESPN on the go because of restrictive mobile data plan caps in place via wireless carriers. Both Verizon and AT&T charge customers a US$15 fee for each gigabyte consumed in excess of their data plan cap.

Watching low-quality video for one hour uses about 200 megabytes of data. For an hour of high-definition video, a user might expect to see 400 megabytes of usage on their mobile data plan.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

T-Mobile boosts incentives prior to iPhone launch, begins trade-in program for iPhone 4, 4S users

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Date: Wednesday, April 10th, 2013, 07:08
Category: iPhone, News

When in doubt, offer all the incentives you can.

Per 9to5Mac, T-Mobile USA announced the latest move in their continuing initiative to lure iPhone users to their network, which currently boasts the smallest subscriber base in the country. The new iPhone trade-in program allows subscribers switching to T-Mo from other carriers to recieve deep discounts on the iPhone 5 by swapping out their older model.

According to a press release from the magenta-branded company, the down payment on the iPhone 5 will completely vanish when customers trade in an iPhone 4 or 4S, and a US$120 credit will be applied to the monthly payment for the phone, essentially cutting the price down to only US$15 a month for the remainder of the two-year don’t-call-it-a-contract “agreement.”

The iPhone 5 doesn’t officially hit T-Mobile until April 12th, but pre-orders have been open since last Friday. Some early buyers may be disappointed to learn that they could have saved quite a bit of money if only they had waited an extra seven days.

The press release specifically lists the 4 and 4S models as being tradeable, which may mean iPhone 5 owners on AT&T won’t be able to get in on the savings by trading in their current-generation devices for the updated versions that work on T-Mobile’s AWS bands. That means those customers will have to stick to their existing handsets with the latest carrier software, which will enable LTE speeds, but will not allow use of T-Mobile’s “4G” network. Instead these models will be forced to use slower speeds due to hardware differences.

If you’ve pre-ordered an iPhone from T-Mobile or want to hurl your two cents in, let us know what you make of this in the comments.

iPhone 5 now available for pre-order through T-Mobile

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Date: Friday, April 5th, 2013, 07:30
Category: iPhone, News, retail

There’s nothing wrong with a good pre-order via an upcoming iPhone carrier.

Per 9to5Mac, customers will be able to order the iPhone 5 on T-Mobile’s newly revamped “un-carrier” unlimited plans for a carrier-exclusive low price.

Along with the low down payment on the pre-order comes a two-year financing plan that totals US$579.99, which is US$70 cheaper than purchasing the phone unlocked. Plans start at US$50 per month for 500MB of high-speed data and throttled data afterward, while US$70 per month gets unlimited high-speed data.

Following the pre-orders this week, all models of the iPhone will be available for immediate purchase on April 12. Customers who purchase a new iPhone 5 through Apple or T-Mobile will be able to take advantage of T-Mobile’s speedy LTE network in markets where it is available, but those who use older AT&T or unlocked iPhone 5 models will need to install an over-the-air update to do so (and won’t get all the AWS HSPA bands without new hardware). T-Mobile also announced that the updated iPhone 5 will receive HD Voice service in a future software upgrade.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

AT&T to introduce HD Voice later this year, iPhone 5 users rejoice

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Date: Wednesday, April 3rd, 2013, 06:02
Category: iPhone, News

If you’re an iPhone 5 user, your call quality with AT&T should improve this year.

Per The Unofficial Apple Weblog and AllThingsD, when Apple introduced the iPhone 5 last year, Apple’s Senior VP of Marketing Phil Schiller explained that Apple updated the iPhone 5′s entire audio system. In addition to the inclusion of three microphones and an improved speaker design, Schiller also boasted that the iPhone 5 featured a technology dubbed wideband audio, otherwise known as HD Voice technology.

Phil Schiller said the technology was capable of delivering amazing sound performance and described it thusly:

In a typical cellphone call, this is what it looks like. The frequency of the data in your voice is compressed around the midrange to help make that call sound more intelligible, but it doesn’t sound entirely natural all the time. So with wideband audio we can fill up more of the frequency spectrum and make your voice sound even more natural.

In order to take advantage of the much improved call quality, however, the technology must be supported by the carrier and both devices on a particular call.

When Apple first introduced the iPhone 5, Schiller said that 20 cellphone carriers worldwide would be ready to support the iPhone 5′s wideband audio technology at launch. Notably, no US carriers were part of that original grouping of 20.

But that’s all poised to change.

According to statements made by AT&T senior VP Kris Rinne on Tuesday at the VentureBeat Mobile Summit indicating that Ma Bell is planning to roll out support for wideband audio later this year.

“HD Voice is part of our voice over LTE strategy,” Rinne explained.

Of course, this is welcome news for AT&T subscribers who have long complained of subpar call quality measured against other US carriers like Sprint and Verizon.

Rinne also added that AT&T is taking other measures to improve call quality on its network.

Rinne, who oversees network technologies for the carrier, said that the carrier will also begin work on so-called advanced LTE which does things to reduce interference and bond together traffic from various frequencies.

Sprint is reportedly interested in supporting HD Voice as well, though a timetable for such support wasn’t specified.

So, if you ever felt your iPhone 5′s call quality was just slightly short of stellar, this should help. Verizon users, on the other hand, will have to wait until 2014 for HD Voice support.

T-Mobile iPhone 5 to feature Advanced Wireless Services feature, arrive unlocked

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Date: Wednesday, March 27th, 2013, 05:06
Category: Hardware, iPhone, News

The T-Mobile iPhone 5 will ship on April 12th and feature something different.

Per Engadget, the handset is being reworked straight from the factory to take advantage of the carrier’s Advanced Wireless Services (AWS) bandwidths, a modification that reportedly cannot be done with a simple software update.

Apple confirmed to the web site on Tuesday that the T-Mobile version of the iPhone 5 carries the same A1428 model number as the AT&T iteration, but has AWS enabled thanks to a factory tweak. The change can’t be duplicated by a firmware update, meaning current AT&T iPhone 5 owners must buy the newest version if they want AWS functionality.

As a consolation, the new A1428 model will be factory unlocked when it ships on April 12, the same day as T-Mobile’s launch date for the device. Apple will reportedly be selling the unit at full MSRP prices in a “SIM-in unlocked fashion.” While the handset has been customized for T-Mobile’s AWS bands in the U.S., AT&T customers will be able to take advantage of the slightly revamped model on their 4G LTE network.

The publication goes on to say that Apple is phasing out the older A1428 model in favor of the T-Mobile-compatible version, suggesting that AT&T iPhone 5 units sold after April 12 will support AWS.

T-Mobile announced on Tuesday that it will be offering the iPhone 5 as part of the company’s unsubsidized payment plan, which allows users to pay a low US$99 up front fee for a 16GB version of the smartphone, with the remainder of the unit’s cost spread out across 20 additional monthly payments of US$20.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

T-Mobile to offer iPhone 5 on April 12th, will incorporate $99 upfront payment plan

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Date: Tuesday, March 26th, 2013, 08:33
Category: iPhone, News, retail

The day T-Mobile customers have been waiting for has arrived.

And you’ll be able to snag an iPhone via T-Mobile on April 12th.

Per AppleInsider, customers of T-Mobile, the fourth-largest carrier in the U.S., will get long awaited access to Apple’s iPhone when the iPhone 5 launches on the carrier’s network April 12.

The announcement was made Tuesday by T-Mobile as part of the company’s “Uncarrier” branding, which seeks to differentiate the carrier from competing providers like AT&T, Verizon and Sprint — all of which already carry the iPhone.

In standing out from the others, T-Mobile is offering a 16-gigabyte iPhone 5 for US$99 up front, with 20 additional monthly payments of US$20. With an April 12 sale date in T-Mobile’s retail stores, preorders will begin April 5.

Joining the iPhone 5 will be the remainder of Apple’s current smartphone lineup: the iPhone 4S and the iPhone 4. As with other carriers, only the iPhone 5 will be compatible with T-Mobile’s new 4G LTE high-speed data network.

T-Mobile officially announced its new LTE network at Tuesday’s event as well, available in a total of seven U.S. markets: Kansas City, Kan., Houston, Tex., Las Vegas, Nev., Phoenix, Ariz., San Jose, Calif., and Washington, D.C.

T-Mobile’s new data plans include 500 megabytes of high-speed online data and unlimited calls and texts for US$50. For an extra US$10 per month, users get 2.5 gigabytes of high-speed data, while unlimited 4G access runs US$70 per month. In addition, users are simply throttled, not penalized, when they go over their data cap.

Bringing Apple’s iPhone to T-Mobile with full support has been no small task. While the carrier counts some two million iPhone customers among its base — with about 100,000 added per month — T-Mobile’s reliance on the 1700MHz frequency for its 3G HSPA+ network proved an obstacle for T-Mobile with regard to Apple’s bestselling smartphone.

The 1700MHz frequency, branded as “4G” but not “LTE”, is unique to T-Mobile among carriers, and allows iPhone users only very slow 2G connectivity. Given T-Mobile’s relatively small customer base, Apple never moved to support T-Mobile’s standard. Instead, T-Mobile has been working to switch much of its network to 1900MHz in order to allow iPhone connectivity. The company will be repurposing its 1700MHz band for 4G LTE.

T-Mobile last year announced a deal with Apple to begin selling Apple products in 2013. Executives from the carrier said in January of this year that customers could expect Apple products on T-Mobile sooner rather than later, floating the possibility of “three to four months” rather than “six to nine.”

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Rumor: T-Mobile USA to announce iPhone today

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Date: Tuesday, March 26th, 2013, 07:12
Category: iPhone, Rumor

The T-Mobile/iPhone news you’ve been hankering for could arrive today.

Per CNET, T-Mobile has an event scheduled for later today called “Uncarrier” and is expected to announce its carrying of the iPhone under new no-contract, no-subsidy rules, where a customer pays a small fee upfront and pays a monthly charge on top of the service plan to cover the phone costs.

T-Mobile previously deployed their faster 3G/HSPA data speeds on what’s known as AWS, a range of frequencies different than those of AT&T, and not supported by Apple and the iPhone. T-Mobile has been adding non-AWS HSPA support in many markets over the last couple of years. T-Mobile has also been trailing the other networks when it comes to 4G/LTE data speeds, with support for that only beginning this year.

The iPhone’s popularity means Apple can charge the carriers a premium price for it, making it a potentially lucrative but an immediately expensive proposition for carriers. The original iPhone launched on AT&T in June 2007. The iPhone 4 launched on Verizon in January 2011. The iPhone 4S launched on Sprint in October 2011.

If this rumor pans out, the iPhone 5 will launch on T-Mobile USA sometime in the spring of 2013.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

AT&T adds premium shared data, data-only options to Mobile Share plans

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Date: Wednesday, March 20th, 2013, 07:52
Category: News

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If you’ve got the money for it, AT&T has a fairly hefty data plan for you.

Per TechHive, the wireless carrier just added three new tiers for its Mobile Share plans, which allow users to share a single pool of data across several devices. Subscribers can now get 30GB per month for US$300, 40GB per month for US$400, and 50GB per month for US$500.

At these tiers, AT&T also adds a per-device charge of US$30 per month for each smartphone, US$10 per month for tablets and gaming devices, and US$20 per month for each laptop or USB data sticks.

Streaming video through services like Netflix is one example of where you might engage in heavy use, especially with data use skyrocketing over LTE. Although if you’re dropping US$300 per month on a bad Netflix habit, that’s a problem.

Previously, AT&T’s top tier was 20GB for US$200 per month. Exceeding the limit meant paying a US$15 per gigabyte overage charge so, while the new plans seem expensive, they do offer a savings to users and businesses that need large amounts of data.

AT&T and Verizon launched their respective shared-data plans last year. Both carriers include unlimited talk and text in these plans, as well as mobile hotspot use on smartphones at no extra charge.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

AT&T cites support for unlocking handsets provided conditions are met

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Date: Friday, March 8th, 2013, 13:17
Category: iPhone, News

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This might make things easier.

Per TechHive and AT&T’s company blog, in the wake of efforts being made by consumers, politicians and the the top librarian at the Library of Congress to permit unlocking your own mobile phone is a violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), AT&T has gone on the record to state that the company won’t impede these efforts and will assist where possible.

“I want to be completely clear that AT&T’s policy is to unlock our customers’ devices if they’ve met the terms of their service agreements and we have the unlock code,” vice president Joan Marsh wrote in a company blog posted Friday entitled “Bottom Line: We Unlock Our Customers’ Devices.”

“It’s a straightforward policy, and we aim to make the unlocking process as easy as possible,” she added.

Marsh explained that the company will unlock a customer’s phone as long as the carrier can obtain the unlock code for the device and the phone’s owner has had an active account with AT&T for at least 60 days, the account is in good standing, and there’s no unpaid balance on it.

“If the conditions are met, we will unlock up to five devices per account per year,” Marsh wrote.

AT&T will not unlock devices that have been reported stolen, though.

The carrier’s unlock policy is consistent with the one aired by the White House in a response to an electronic petition criticizing last year’s ruling that phone unlocking was illegal. That petition garnered more than 100,000 signatures.

“The White House agrees with the 114,000+ of you who believe that consumers should be able to unlock their cell phones without risking criminal or other penalties,” wrote R. David Edelmen, White House senior advisor for Internet, innovation and privacy, wrote in the Obama administration’s official response to the petition.

“[I]f you have paid for your mobile device, and aren’t bound by a service agreement or other obligation, you should be able to use it on another network,” he added.

“It’s common sense,” he continued, “crucial for protecting consumer choice, and important for ensuring we continue to have the vibrant, competitive wireless market that delivers innovative products and solid service to meet consumers’ needs.”

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

AT&T announces 4G LTE network expansion to Phoenix, Hartford, additional regions

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Date: Friday, March 1st, 2013, 08:38
Category: News

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You can’t knock the expansion of a 4G LTE network.

Per 9to5Mac, wireless carrier AT&T announced on Thursday that it has further expanded its 4G LTE network coverage in the United States.

The latest market additions notably include Phoenix, Ariz., as well as parts of Avondale, Goodyear, and Litchfield Park. The carrier said it invested nearly US$700 million in Arizona wireless and wireline networks from 2009 through 2012.

Coverage also thickened in the east, where AT&T’s 4G LTE now blankets Hartford County, Conn., as well as parts of Avon, Bloomfield, Enfield, Farmington, Granby, New Britain, Simsbury, Suffield, West Hartford, Windsor, and Windsor Locks.

AT&T also switched on 4G LTE in Lincoln, Neb. and Lubbock, Texas and brought its total number of live markets to 147. The carrier revealed it now offers LTE to 174 million people across the United States, with plans to reach 300 million people by year-end 2014.

Earlier this week, AT&T also announced three new markets and a few more expansions in the following areas:

- Salinas-Seaside-Monterey, Calif.

- Tallahassee, Fla.

- Lawrence, Kan.

- Knoxville expansion (La Follette)

- Knoxville expansion (Athens)

- Memphis expansion (Tunica):

If you’re in these areas and have had a chance to try the expanded networks, please let us know what you think in the comments.