AT&T looks to transfer $1 billion of wireless spectrum to T-Mobile

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Date: Tuesday, January 24th, 2012, 06:35
Category: iPhone, News

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If you’ve got a spare billion dollars of wireless spectrum just laying about, why WOULDN’T you transfer it to the wireless carrier that you’d made a bid to purchase?

Per the Wall Street Journal, AT&T has filed for FCC approval to transfer wireless spectrum worth US$1 billion to T-Mobile as a result of the failure of its US$39 billion effort to acquire the smaller mobile carrier.

Along with the spectrum, AT&T will give T-Mobile’s German owner Deutsche Telekom US$3 billion in cash as part of its pre-negotiated terms for backing out of the acquisition, which was quashed by the US Justice Department and the FCC as threatening competition in the wireless market.

T-Mobile’s senior vice president for government affairs said “this additional spectrum will help meet the growing demand for wireless broadband services.”

T-Mobile is the only carrier among the US’ top 4 to have not articulated any plans for rolling out LTE 4G service, and is also hampered by its use of non-standard UMTS 3G service. That prevents the carrier from selling Apple’s existing iPhone, which it has cited as a key reason for its poor performance.

T-Mobile has previously indicated that new chipsets could enable future iPhone models to support the company’s existing 3G service. Without building out LTE however, T-Mobile could likely be left behind as support for the new networking standard begins to trickle into the mainstream.

Both T-Mobile and AT&T have referred to their existing HSPA+ networks as 4G, because they can offer data speeds compatible to LTE. However, LTE has future potential well beyond HSPA+.

Apple is expected to release an iPhone model capable of supporting LTE later this year. It has not previously supported LTE until now because of technical issues involving battery life and size.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

AT&T announces data plan price increases

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Date: Thursday, January 19th, 2012, 07:13
Category: iPhone, News

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You might not like this.

Per AppleInsider, AT&T has introduced new data plans for smartphone and tablet users, adding additional cap space but also charging customers more. The new plans max out at 5GB with tethering for US$50 per month.

A press release on Wednesday stated that the new rates that will take effect on Sunday, Jan. 22, marking the first change to the company’s data plans since 2010.

“Customers are using more data than ever before,” said David Christopher, Chief Marketing Officer of AT&T Mobility and Consumer Markets. “Our new plans are driven by this increasing demand in a highly competitive environment, and continue to deliver a great value to customers, especially as we continue our 4G LTE deployment.”

The new smartphone pricing is basically a US$5 surcharge for a 1 GB bump in data for DataPro users, while DataPlus subscribers will get an extra 100 MB for the same price.

Tablet owners will see a reshuffling of options as the previous 2 GB DataConnect plan is to be replaced a 3 GB per month flavor previously only available on a two-year contract. An additional 5 GB plan will also be added for US$50 per month and the lowest 250 MB plan remains unchanged.

Current subscribers can keep their existing plans or opt in to one of the new tiers when the program launches on Sunday.

Smartphone plans are as follows:
- AT&T DataPlus 300MB: US$20 for 300MB

- AT&T DataPro 3GB: US$30 for 3GB

- AT&T DataPro 5GB: US$50 for 5GB, with mobile hotspot / tethering

Additional data pricing remains at US$10 per gigabyte for the DataPro plans and US$20 per additional 300 MB for DataPlus customers.

Tablet data tiers have changed to:
- AT&T DataConnect 250MB: US$14.99 for 250MB

- AT&T DataConnect 3GB: US$30 for 3GB

- AT&T DataConnect 5GB: US$50 for 5GB

Overage charges only apply to 30-day tablet prices and include US$14.99 for and extra 250MB with AT&T DataConnect 250 MB, and US$10 per additional gigabyte for DataConnect 3 GB and 5 GB.

The new plans reflect an upward trend in cellphone and tablet data pricing from U.S. carriers as their networks strain under the pressure of a growing customer base.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

China Unicom customers can snag free iPhone 4S handset after signing multi-year contract

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Date: Friday, January 6th, 2012, 09:11
Category: iPhone, News

Incentives are always a good thing.

Apple’s carrier partner in China is offering an aggressive promotion in which customers can get a brand new iPhone 4S for free if they sign a multi-year service contract.

Per Bloomberg, customers can pay as little as 286 yuan, or US$45 per month, for the plan to get a free iPhone 4S. The promotion will begin Friday, Jan. 13, which is the day the iPhone 4S will go on sale in mainland China and 21 other countries.

China Unicom subscribers can get a free 32-gigabyte iPhone 4S with a three-year service contract. And the 16GB model is available free for those who agree to a two-year contract.

The iPhone has already proven to be costly for China Unicom, as the carrier saw its 3G-related cost increase nearly fourfold in the first half of 2011. Some analysts believe the carrier’s heavy iPhone 4S subsidy will only accelerate those costs.

China Unicom’s 3G business has been a money-losing operation for the carrier through the first six months of 2011. Subsidies of smartphones reportedly accounted for 45 percent of the 3G service costs.

The subsidies being offered by China Unicom are much more aggressive than other carriers across the world. For example, in the U.S., customers on AT&T, Sprint and Verizon can get a 16GB iPhone 4S for US$199 with a new two-year plan, while the 32GB model is US$299 and 64GB is US$399.

Customers in the U.S. and some other countries to have an option for a free handset in the form of the iPhone 3GS, which was first released in 2009. That promotion started with the release of the iPhone 4S in October.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

AT&T ends T-Mobile acquisition effort

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Date: Tuesday, December 20th, 2011, 06:32
Category: iPhone, News

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Sometimes you’ve just gotta throw in the towel.

Per AppleInsider, AT&T has given up its efforts to buy carrier T-Mobile, citing opposition from federal regulators.

A statement by AT&T says the company will take a pretax charge of US$4 billion that was stipulated in the agreement between the two carriers if the deal were dropped before being finalized.

In addition to the payoff, T-Mobile patent company Deutsche Telekom is also entering into what AT&T described as “mutually beneficial” roaming agreements with its attempted buyer.

“The actions by the Federal Communications Commission and the Department of Justice to block this transaction do not change the realities of the U.S. wireless industry,” AT&T stated. “It is one of the most fiercely competitive industries in the world, with a mounting need for more spectrum that has not diminished and must be addressed immediately. The AT&T and T-Mobile USA combination would have offered an interim solution to this spectrum shortage. In the absence of such steps, customers will be harmed and needed investment will be stifled.”

The merger was opposed throughout the year by the US FCC and the DOJ, both of whom cited limited competition and job layoffs as reasons for opposing the deal.

AT&T’s chairman and chief executive Randall Stephenson wrote that “to meet the needs of our customers, we will continue to invest. However, adding capacity to meet these needs will require policymakers to do two things.

“First, in the near term, they should allow the free markets to work so that additional spectrum is available to meet the immediate needs of the U.S. wireless industry, including expeditiously approving our acquisition of unused Qualcomm spectrum currently pending before the FCC. Second, policymakers should enact legislation to meet our nation’s longer-term spectrum needs.”

It is not known if the new roaming agreement between T-Mobile and AT&T would enable Apple to sell its existing iPhone models to T-Mobile, or if it would still need to develop a unique version of the iPhone to sell on the carrier, which uses a different AWS band for 3G service than the rest of the GSM/UMTS world.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

AT&T adjusts iPhone 3GS price to $0.99

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Date: Monday, November 21st, 2011, 07:08
Category: iPhone, News

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Wait long enough and things will get, well, unbelievably cheap.

Per Electronista, after making the iPhone 3GS free with contract last month, wireless AT&T has now raised the price of Apple’s two-year-old smartphone to US$0.99.

The iPhone 3GS was originally announced as free with a two-year contract during Apple’s iPhone 4S unveiling in October. It was reported Friday that AT&T has now bumped up that price to 99 cents.

“iPhone 3GS is still available at an incredibly low price and we’re confident consumers will agree that this remains one of the best deals for a leading smartphone,” the company said in a statement.

The second-largest wireless carrier in the U.S. has been the exclusive seller of the iPhone 3GS since it arrived in 2009. Sales of the handset have remained surprisingly brisk even after more than two years on the market. According to the NPD Group, the iPhone 3GS was the second-best-selling smartphone in the U.S. during the third quarter of this year, behind only its successor, the iPhone 4.

The reason for AT&T’s minor price hike remains unclear. In the past, Apple has, however, asked its partners not to advertise its products as “free” during promotions in order to prevent its brand from being diluted. It’s possible that the iPhone maker had a change of heart about the iPhone 3GS deal and asked for a nominal fee to be put in place.

Another explanation could be the existence of an obscure accounting rule that would require a token payment for the device. For example, Apple in the past had to adjust its accounting of the iPhone to a subscription method in order to steer clear of laws and policies put into place after the Enron scandal. There’s no indication that this is the case for the iPhone 3GS, however, and offers of free phones on contract have long been a practice among wireless carriers.

It has also been suggested that the new price is meant to curb overwhelming demand, but it seems unlikely that the extra US$1 would deter many prospective customers.

So, yeah…maybe you SHOULD be listening to your ancient/pragmatic relatives when they tell you to wait two years for the smartphone you’re interested in.

Some users reporting “Invalid SIM” error after updating iPhone 4S units to iOS 5.0.1

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Date: Thursday, November 17th, 2011, 11:46
Category: iPhone, News, Software

This doesn’t bode too well…

Per AppleInsider, multiple users on Apple’s discussion boards complaining that the recent iOS 5.0.1 update has lead to messages that read “Invalid SIM” and “SIM Failure” on their iPhone 4S users. This person said the errors began occurring after they updated to iOS 5.0.1, though other users posting on Apple’s official Support Communities website, in a thread with more than 30,000 views to date, have experienced similar problems since the iPhone 4S first went on sale in October.

“This problem can only be solved when you reboot your iPhone,” the person, who is an AT&T customer, wrote in an e-mail. “Everything else fails — restore, removal of the SIM, etc.”

When users experience a SIM-card-related error, basic functions including making phone calls, sending text messages, and using mobile data become unavailable, as the handset cannot make a connection with the wireless data provider.

The iPhone 4S is a “world phone,” which means its redesigned antenna and internal components are compatible with both CDMA and GSM carriers. Micro SIM cards placed in the iPhone 4S are only used by GSM carriers to identify a subscriber and grant them access to a carrier’s wireless network.

But while only GSM carriers, like AT&T in the U.S., use the micro SIM slot on the iPhone 4S, users on CDMA carriers, like Verizon and Sprint, have also reported experiencing SIM-card-related errors. iPhone 4S units sold through CDMA carriers come with a “roaming SIM” installed, which allows CDMA customers to roam worldwide on GSM networks.

“No service on my white 32 GB 4S on Verizon,” user ‘racyb’ wrote in October. “Did a shutdown and reboot….it went into searching mode and finally found Verizon again after 1 minute. What is going on?”

Since the release of iOS 5.0.1 earlier this month, another thread at the Apple Support Communities website features more users who say the problems began occurring after they updated their iPhone 4S. Some say their iPhone displays full signal reception, yet error messages like “Call Failed” and “Invalid SIM” continue to display.

“Same problem here in Brazil,” user ‘GuiMedrado’ wrote on Wednesday. “Bought my 4S – 32GB unlocked in Switzerland and couldnt’ make it work after upgrading to 5.0.1. Any solution?”

The iOS 5.0.1 update was released earlier this month in an attempt to address battery life issues reported by some users. But some battery-related problems have remained, and Apple has publicly said it is still working to fix those issues.

One rumor this week claimed that Apple will issue a new update, iOS 5.0.2, no later than next week in a second attempt to improve battery life with iOS 5. There was no mention of any fixes for SIM card issues or error messages.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available and if you’ve seen this bug on your end, please let us know.

Apple now offering unlocked, contract-free iPhone 4S units via online store to U.S. customers

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Date: Friday, November 11th, 2011, 10:40
Category: iPhone, News

You’ve wanted it since 2007 and it’s finally here.

Per AppleInsider, Apple has begun offering its unlocked iPhone 4S contract-free from the online store.

The unlocked iPhone 4S starts at US$649 for the 16GB model, while customers can also get a 32GB option for US$749, or 64GB for US$849. All three models are estimated to ship within one to two weeks when ordered from Apple’s online store.

The unlocked iPhone 4S is only supported on GSM networks, like AT&T in the U.S. Users can also obtain a micro-SIM card to use on overseas carriers when traveling abroad.

Customers of CDMA networks, like Verizon and Sprint, should not buy the unlocked iPhone 4S, because it cannot be activated on their networks, even though the iPhone 4S is a “world phone” compatible with both GSM and CDMA networks.

“If you don’t want a multiyear service contract or if you prefer to use a local carrier when traveling abroad, the unlocked iPhone is the best choice,” Apple’s official product description reads.

“It arrives without a micro-SIM card, so you’ll need an active micro-SIM card from any supported GSM carrier worldwide. To start using it, simply insert the micro-SIM card into the slot on your iPhone and turn it on by pressing and holding the On/Off button for a few seconds. Then follow the onscreen instructions to set up your iPhone.”

The company warns that a credit check may be required for customers to buy the unlocked iPhone 4S, and the handset is only available to buy for customers who are 18 or older.

Apple first revealed that the new iPhone 4S would be sold unlocked and contract-free in October. The sale of the unlocked iPhone 4S at Apple’s online store in the U.S. means the company met is previously promised deadline of November.

The unlocked iPhone 4S arrives five months after Apple began selling the GSM iPhone 4 unlocked in June. The contract-free iPhone 4 also carried a starting price of $649 for 16GB.

Stay tuned for additional details and while it may be pricey, it’s the unlocked, contract-free freedom you’ve been hankering for.

AT&T offers revised timeline for T-Mobile merger

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Date: Monday, November 7th, 2011, 13:47
Category: Finance, iPhone, News

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Sometimes you’ve just got to wait for your gigantic telecom merger to take place.

Per Macworld, AT&T has pushed back the expected date of its proposed US$39 billion merger with T-Mobile USA, saying now that the deal will close in the first half of 2012.

When it announced the deal in April, AT&T said it expected to get regulatory approval within 12 months. But a lawsuit by the U.S. Department of Justice and seven states, filed on Aug. 31, made that forecast unrealistic. The suit isn’t even scheduled to go to trial until Feb. 13, 2012.

AT&T laid out the new timeline in a document filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission on Thursday.

The DOJ has argued that the merger would raise prices and stifle innovation by eliminating a low-price competitor. AT&T’s plans have also come under attack from some consumer groups and from Sprint Nextel and C-Spire Wireless, a smaller mobile operator. Earlier this week, a federal judge allowed a lawsuit by Sprint and C-Spire to go forward. Those carriers argue that the merger would make it harder for them to acquire new types of handsets because of exclusive deals that a combined AT&T and T-Mobile could make.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

iPhone 4S to hit C Spire wireless on Friday, November 11th

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Date: Wednesday, November 2nd, 2011, 04:43
Category: iPhone, News

In nine days, the little guy gets the iPhone 4S.

Per AppleInsider, Apple’s debut on regional carriers in the U.S. will occur on Friday, Nov. 11, when the iPhone 4S becomes available to customers of C Spire Wireless.

C Spire’s official page has been updated to reflect the forthcoming launch date of the iPhone 4S, and also allows customers to pre-register to reserve Apple’s latest smartphone. The website also features a “Why C Spire?” section, listing some of the attributes of the smaller, regional carrier versus the “big four” wireless providers in the U.S.

C Spire’s individual plans include an unlimited plan with “infinite” minutes, data, messaging and streaming. Those who don’t pay for a streaming plan are given 30 minutes per month of free streaming of online content like music and videos, while two hours of streaming runs US$5, 5 hours is US$10, and unlimited is US$30.

The carrier has advertised that its unlimited plan with streaming is US$100, compared to 2GB of data and unlimited calling for US$114.99 and US$119.99 at AT&T and Verizon, respectively.

An individual plan with 500 minutes and unlimited data with free streaming until 2012, for example, carries a base price of US$50 a month. For those who don’t want a data plan, C Spire also offers entry-level plans starting at 250 minutes with “infinite” messaging for US$25 per month.

Those who don’t buy a data plan can pay for data as they go, with a Web usage rate of one penny per five kilobytes.

Last month it was revealed that Apple was expanding availability of its iPhone to smaller, regional U.S. carriers starting with C Spire, which has about 900,000 customers. C Spire is based in Ridgeland, Miss., and serves customers in Mississippi, Memphis, the Florida Panhandle, as well as parts of Alabama and Georgia.

The new iPhone 4S is also available in America on AT&T, Sprint and Verizon. The only major carrier that does not offer Apple’s smartphone is T-Mobile, which has a 3G service that relies on the uncommon 1700MHz and 2100MHz bands not supported by the iPhone. Users who unlock an iPhone and use it on T-Mobile’s U.S. network are restricted to much slower 2G EDGE speeds.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available and if you’re already a C Spire user, please let us know what you make of the company’s service.

Rumor: Apple to release official 4G-capable iPhone in 2012

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Date: Tuesday, October 25th, 2011, 05:22
Category: iPhone, Rumor

When the iPhone 4S was released recently, one of the major complaints was that the unit lacked an official 4G function.

This may be resolved next year when Apple is “expected to join the LTE club,” according to sources who spoke with DigiTimes.

Apple’s entrance into the 4G LTE smartphone market is expected to come as Nokia, Research in Motion and Sony Ericsson also release their own next-generation high-speed handsets next year. The debut of those smartphones will come as carriers around the world launch their own LTE networks.

Just 35 LTE networks are online globally at the moment, but that number is expected to triple and exceed 100 before the end of 2012. By 2015, LTE networks are expected to reach 290 million people, and sales of LTE smartphones are projected to top 154 million units.

In the U.S., competition for 4G networks is expected to pick up next year, when Sprint launches its own LTE services in the middle of the year. The third-largest carrier in America, which began offering the iPhone earlier this month, reportedly expects to launch 15 LTE-enabled devices in mid-2012.

Earlier this year, reports claimed that Apple had eyed building an LTE-capable iPhone in 2011, but opted to push back the launch of such a device in 2012. It was said that the implementation of LTE networks had not yet matured enough to satisfy Apple.

In a quarterly conference call earlier this year, Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook, then the company’s chief operating officer, said that poor battery life and other issues with current LTE technology were enough to dissuade the company from pursuing an LTE iPhone at the time.

“The first generation of LTE chipsets force a lot of design compromises with the handset, and some of those we are just not willing to make,” Cook said.

The just-released iPhone 4S features an improved antenna that it HSDPA compatible for theoretical download speeds of up to 14.4Mbps. That has led U.S. carrier AT&T to advertise that the iPhone 4S has 4G-like speeds on its GSM network. However, the world-mode phone is not capable of achieving those same speeds on CDMA networks with carriers like Sprint and Verizon.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.