AT&T to argue need for T-Mobile resources, spectrum, in merger deal

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Date: Friday, June 10th, 2011, 06:13
Category: iPhone, News, wireless

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You may not think too highly of wireless carrier AT&T’s acquisition of T-Mobile USA, but apparently it’s necessary for the company to move forward.

This was the statement from company officials on Thursday, who said the deal would allow AT&T to significantly improve its mobile network capacity and give better service to its customers.

Critics of the deal, including competitor Sprint Nextel, are incorrect in asserting that AT&T is sitting on mobile spectrum, said Bob Quinn, AT&T’s senior vice president for federal regulatory affairs in a Macworld article. The proposed US$39 billion deal, announced in March, is a “very clean and quick way to deal with some of the spectrum issues that are facing this country and this company in particular,” he said during a press briefing.

The deal is necessary because AT&T is facing a spectrum shortage as mobile broadband use continues to skyrocket, the company has argued. While critics have suggested AT&T is hoarding spectrum, the company is using its 700MHz spectrum, acquired in 2008 auctions, and its AWS (advanced wireless services) spectrum to roll out 4G LTE (long-term evolution) service, Quinn said.

Sprint has questioned why AT&T, with the largest spectrum holdings of any U.S. carrier, needs T-Mobile. “AT&T has repeatedly reassured investors that it has the spectrum and network capacity it needs to meet the growing demand for data services,” Sprint said in a May 31 filing at the U.S. Federal Communications Commission. “If AT&T has capacity constraints, they are the result of its failure to upgrade and invest in its network. AT&T has lagged significantly in network investment.”

Dozens of groups have voiced opposition to the merger between the second-largest mobile carrier in the U.S. and the fourth-largest. The merger would reduce competition in the mobile market and likely drive up prices, said critics including Public Knowledge, the Rural Telecommunications Group and the NoChokePoints Coalition, a coalition of telecom customers, consumer groups and small carriers concerned with mobile backhaul rates.

The merged company would be “contrary to the express policies of Congress and the Commission to rely on competition rather than regulation to protect consumers and spur deployment of new services,” Public Knowledge and the Future of Music Coalition wrote in a May 31 filing to the FCC.

The combined company would be the largest mobile provider in the U.S. and would be able to assert control over mobile handsets, applications, equipment and protocol development, Public Knowledge and the Future of Music Coalition said in their filing.

But AT&T, in a response filing to be sent to the FCC on Friday, will argue the merger will be good for mobile customers. By combining networks, AT&T will be able to increase its mobile capacity by 60% in New York City in the short term, and by more than 80% in the long term, Quinn said.

Los Angeles and San Diego would both see short-term spectrum gains of more than 45%, Quinn said.

The merger would give AT&T more spectrum and cell tower coverage, giving customers better mobile data service, he said. AT&T has tried other ways to improve capacity, including distributed antenna systems and Wi-Fi hotspots, Quinn said.

“We are not stupid,” he said. “We’ve been in the wireless business for a long time. We’ve tried all of these as short-term methods … to fix and provide for more capacity. While they give you some short-term benefit, they’re not long-term benefits to address the kind of bandwidth demands that we’re seeing.”

AT&T, in its FCC filing, will also note support for the merger from dozens of groups, including 15 state governors, 10 labor unions, nine venture capital firms and several tech firms, including Microsoft, Facebook, Oracle and Yahoo, Quinn said.

Many groups supporting the merger see the potential for AT&T to bring mobile broadband to more corners of the nation, he said. AT&T has said it plans to cover 97% of the U.S. population with 4G service if the merger is approved by the FCC and the U.S. Department of Justice. Right now, the company plans to cover 80% of the population with 4G service.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Mac OS X 10.7 (“Lion”) to support up to 450 mbps Wi-Fi speeds on newer Mac models

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Date: Monday, May 9th, 2011, 03:09
Category: News, Software

Although it’s unknown as to exactly when Mac OS X 10.7 (“Lion”) will be released, its feature list is looking interesting.

Among these features is a new protocol that will unlock the latent capacity of recently released Thunderbolt MacBook Pro and iMac systems to use faster 450 Mbps 802.11n wireless networking, thanks to triple send and receive antennas capable of supporting three spacial streams of wireless traffic.

Per AppleInsider, the 802.11n WiFi standard supports faster networking speeds through a number of technologies, including the use of multiple antennas (aka “MIMO” or multiple-input multiple-output).

Devices and wireless base stations supporting 802.11n can use multiple antennas (up to four each for send and receive) to spatially multiplex multiple independent data streams within one spectral channel of bandwidth enabling faster data throughput, a major factor of why the relatively new 802.11n is faster than previous 802.11 a/b/g wireless networks.

The 802.11n standard also supports the less-utilized (but higher frequency and therefore weaker wall penetrating) 5GHz frequency band, which was previously only tapped by 802.11a devices in corporate networks; 802.11b/g standards both only use the (often heavily saturated) 2.4GHz frequency band, potentially suffering from interference with neighboring wireless networks or Bluetooth devices.

New 802.11n networks can also speed up data transfers by using wide, 40MHz bandwidth channels to double the amount of radio spectrum used. Apple’s Airport base stations only support wide channels when configured to work as “802.11n only (5GHz)” networks. The option is hidden behind the “Wireless Network Options” button.

MCS is reported by Mac OS X clients in the AirPort menu when holding down the Option key. This index number can scale down depending on signal strength and interference, but its top limit is bound by the features of the hardware on the client and the network’s base station.

For example, iPhone 4 is 802.11n but lacks support for 5GHz and wide channels, limiting it to 802.11n networks configured to use 2.4GHz. The iPad, in contrast, can see and connect to “802.11n only (5GHz)” wireless networks. However, the iPad can still only support one spatial stream using a 20MHz channel because, like the iPhone, it lacks multiple “MIMO” antennas (due to battery life, cost and complexity constraints, as each antenna also requires radio support as well).

This limits Apple’s iPhone 4 and iPad to an MCS index of 7, with a top throughput rate of 65 Mbps. Earlier 802.11b/g devices (including older iPhones) can only support a maximum data rate of 54 Mbps. The iPad, unlike iPhone 4, can also make use of 5GHz networks, which may enable for less interference from neighboring wireless traffic but does not raise its MCS index.

All Macs supporting 802.11n have multiple antennas and can therefore support two spacial streams, allowing them to achieve an MCS of 15 and a top data rate of 130 Mbps on 2.4GHz networks. Unlike iOS devices, Macs can also handle wide 40MHz channels in the 5GHz band, enabling a doubled data throughput of 300 Mbps when connecting to a “802.11n only (5GHz)” network configured to support wide channels.

This year, Apple began incorporating three send and receive antennas in its Thunderbolt-equipped MacBook Pro and iMacs, enabling them to achieve an MCS of 23 and a top data rate of 450 Mbps on 5GHz networks with wide channels. This new capability goes beyond the baseline certification of 802.11n as defined by the Wi-Fi Alliance, which maxes out at 300 Mbps

While not currently supported by Mac OS X Snow Leopard, a developer has reported that the developer preview of Lion does indicate support for the new hardware when used with modern base stations such as Airport Extreme or Time Capsule.

The developer tested a MacBook Pro using a 2.3GHz Core i5, and reported an MCS of 23 with a transmit rate of 450 using a 5GHz network hosted by Airport Extreme. Previous machines are only able to achieve MCS 15.

If you’ve gotten your hands on an early build of Mac OS X 10.7, let us know how it went and we’ll have additional details as they become available.

HBO releases Go App for iOS devices

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Date: Friday, April 29th, 2011, 15:05
Category: iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch, News, Software

It’s been promised for a while and it’s finally here.

Per Macworld, The HBO cable network has released its long-awaited iOS client Go app for iPhone and iPad. The app brings both HBO original series as well as hit movies to Apple’s iOS devices, but there is a catch: Unless you’re already an HBO subscriber with a participating television provider, you’re out of luck.

In addition to currently airing programs like Boardwalk Empire, Game of Thrones, and True Blood, HBO Go also provides access to a backlog of older programs, like Deadwood, The Wire, and the recently concluded Big Love. In addition, there’s access to bonus features and behind-the-scenes extras, and the app supports video over both Wi-Fi and 3G connections, so users can access their favorite shows from any location. A customizable Watchlist feature lets you mark programs you want to view later, and you can set up a Series Pass to automatically populate it with shows you’re following.

Of course, those looking to follow HBO’s series without subscribing to the preimum channel are still stuck. The network doesn’t provide à la carte access via its app (or its Web-based streaming service), and as its shows aren’t available in the iTunes Store while airing, you’re pretty much consigned to wait until the season is over—unless you want to pony up for an HBO subscription.

The HBO Go app requires a device running iOS 3.2 or later to install and run.

HBO Go to launch in early May, stream content to mobile and iOS devices

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Date: Tuesday, April 19th, 2011, 03:08
Category: iPad, iPhone, iPod, News, Software

If you love the HBO Go online streaming service that allows subscribers to watch their shows as they please, you’ll like this. Per Engadget, HBO Go is slated to hit smartphones and tablets early next month. Android and iOS HBO Go apps have been teased by a new video on HBO’s YouTube channel, with promises of “instant and unlimited access” to “every episode of every season” of your favorite shows, garnished with a selection of hit movies.



The apps and streaming will be free to HBO subscribers, who’ll be able to get their content over both 3G and Wi-Fi connections. May 2nd is the date on which the teaser video ends, though it doesn’t explicitly say that the service will go live then.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple releases iOS 4.3.2 update

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Date: Friday, April 15th, 2011, 03:34
Category: iPad, iPhone, iPod, News, Software

Late Thursday, Apple released iOS 4.3.2, the latest update to its mobile operating system for its iPhone, iPod touch and iPad devices. The update includes the following fixes and changes:

- Fixes an issue that occasionally caused blank or frozen video during a FaceTime call.

- Fixes an issue that prevented some international users from connecting to 3G networks on the iPad Wi-Fi + 3G.

- Contains latest security updates.

The update is recommended for all users of the GSM and CDMA iPhone 4, iPhone 3GS, iPad, iPad 2, and the third- and fourth-generation iPod touches. To download and install it, connect your device to your Mac or PC and click Check for Updates in iTunes.

If you’ve tried the update and noticed any changes (for better or for worse), please let us know in the comments.

iFixit performs full iPad 2 3G teardown, finds antennas similar to iPhone 4 units

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Date: Wednesday, March 30th, 2011, 08:14
Category: iPad, News

I think we all have a certain fondness in our hearts for iFixit, as they follow the habit we all had when we were six and took everything apart to see how things worked, even if it meant that our parents invariably wound up screaming at us for the destruction involved.

On the plus side, iFixit is staffed by adults and releases some interesting finds.

And they’re nice enough to clean up the things that they destroy.

The latest iFixit teardown of the iPad 2 3G the differences between Apple’s different versions of the iPad 2, comparing the components of the Wi-Fi-only, GSM and CDMA models and discovering similarities with the iPhone 4.

The comparison shows design decisions similar to the differences between the GSM and CDMA iPhone 4 models. For example, the CDMA version of the iPad 2 has one more antenna than the GSM model, just like the Verizon iPhone 4.

Also like the Verizon iPhone 4, the CDMA iPad 2 features an integrated GPS receiver. On the GSM model, GPS is a separate chip from Broadcom, like with the GSM iPhone 4.

The other major difference between the GSM and CDMA iPad 2 models is the inclusion of a Micro-SIM card slot on the GSM model. Located in the upper left corner of the device, the slot’s inclusion gives that model a unique design.

The Micro-SIM tray is integrated into the headphone jack assembly for the GSM iPad 2. Since the CDMA iPad 2 does not have a space for a SIM card, it uses the exact same headphone jack assembly as the Wi-Fi-only model.

Chips providing 3G connectivity for the CDMA iPad 2 include a Qualcomm MDM6600 Baseband/RF Transceiver, Qualcomm PM8028 Power Management IC, Toshiba Y890A111222KA, Skyworks 77710 Power Amplifier Module, and Skyworks 77711 Power Amplifier Module. All of these are also found in the Verizon iPhone 4.

The GSM iPad 2′s 3G radio has an Intel 36My1EF with 128MB of Numonyx NOR flash and Elpida Mobile DDR SDRAM, Infineon 337Se833 Baseband Processor, Skyworks & TriQuint Transmit Modules, and Infineon 338S0626 GSM/W-CDMA Transceiver. It also includes a Broadcom BCM4751 Integrated Monolithic GPS Receiver, which is an update from the BCM4750 found in the GSM iPhone 4.

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…

iFixit completes iPad 2 teardown, finds 512 MB of RAM, larger battery, new controller chips and gyroscope

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Date: Monday, March 14th, 2011, 03:26
Category: iPad, News

The iPad 2 is out.

And so is the iFixit teardown in all its goodness, the cool cats over there having discovered some nifty components inside Apple’s new tablet.

Immediately after Apple’s release of the iPad 2 on Friday, iFixit began a teardown of Apple’s iPad 2, discovering a slight increase in battery capacity compared to the original iPad and confirming that the tablet has 512MB of RAM.

The company gave the tablet a repairability score of 4 out of 10 after completing its teardown on Friday. According to the report, the touchscreen tablet contains only standard Phillips screws, while the battery is “very securely” stuck down to the rear case.

The Wi-Fi version of the iPad 2 sports a new model number: A1395, compared to a model number of A1219 for the original Wi-Fi iPad and A1337 for the original iPad 3G. iFixit confirmed via software that the tablet has 512MB of RAM.

Unlike the original iPad, which iFixit described as having “gorgeous symmetry,” the iPad 2 requires a heat gun in order to remove the front panel, as Apple has opted to glue the panel in place this time around instead of using clips.

The iPad 2′s Li-Ion Polymer battery, which is made up of three cells, is rated at 3.8 volts, 25 watt-hours, slightly more than the original iPad’s rating of 3.75 volts, 24.8 watt-hours. As with the original iPad, Apple claims “up to 10 hours” of battery life on the iPad 2.

According to the teardown, the logic board of the tablet contains the Apple 1GHz A5 Processor (APL0498), Toshiba NAND Flash, and additional chips from Apple and Texas Instruments.

“The A5 processor has manufacture dates of late January and mid-February 2011,” the report noted. “Production was clearly ramping up through the last minute.”

iFixit discovered that Apple has again tapped Broadcom for several of the iPad 2′s touch controller chips, as well as a “Wi-Fi/Bluetooth/FM tuner combo chip” that powers the Wi-Fi board. Also, the tablet’s new gyroscope is labeled AGD8 2103.

The report also discovered that the iPad 2 LCD component is 2.4 mm thick, while the glass panel is 62 mm thick. By comparison, the original iPad employed a 3.2 mm thick LCD and .85 mm thick glass panel.

If you’ve snagged the new iPad 2, let us know what you make of it in the comments.

Developers plow through iOS 4.3 code, find evidence of A5 processor in upcoming iPhone 5

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Date: Thursday, March 10th, 2011, 05:10
Category: iPhone, News, Software

Apple’s iOS 4.3 update hit yesterday and within hours, developers had found further evidence that Apple plans to use its dual-core A5 processor in the next-generation iPhone.

Per iClarified, developers have found references to the A5 processor in a kernel file for a device codenamed N94AP, widely assumed to be the iPhone 5, within the code for iOS 4.3 (full picture available here).

According to the report, the A5 chip is referred to as S5L8940 in the iOS 4.3 code and, as expected, is also listed as the processor for the Wi-Fi, GSM and CDMA versions of the iPad 2.

Apple released iOS 4.3 on Wednesday, ahead of Friday’s iPad 2 launch and two days earlier than originally expected. The software update improves JavaScript performance in the mobile Safari web browser, features third-party support for AirPlay wireless streaming and adds the Personal Hotspot feature first introduced on the Verizon CDMA iPhone 4 in February.

Apple took the wraps off the new A5 processor last week when it unveiled the faster, thinner and lighter iPad 2. A recent rumor suggested that Apple has turned to Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. to produce the A5 chip, rather than staying with Samsung, its original partner for the A4 processor.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple releases iOS 4.3 for iPhone, iPad and iPod touch devices

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Date: Thursday, March 10th, 2011, 04:02
Category: iPad, iPhone, iPod, News, Software

If you missed it yesterday, Apple released its latest version iOS on Wednesday, the long-awaited iOS 4.3 update becoming available through iTunes and introducing the following new fixes and features:

- Personal Hotspot – Share iPhone 4 cellular data connection with up to 5 devices (combination of up to 3 Wi-Fi, 3 Bluetooth, and 1 USB).

- iTunes Home Sharing – Play music, movies and TV shows from a shared iTunes library on a Mac or PC (requires iTunes 10.2).

- New Airplay features – Play videos from the Photos app including the Camera Roll album, iTunes previews, enabled third-party appsand websites on Apple TV – Play slideshows from Photos on Apple TV using transitions available on Apple TV.

- Faster Safari performance with Apple Nitro JavaScript engine.

- HD video out using the Apple Digital AV Adapter – View 720p HD videos from Videos app, iPod app, Photos, YouTube, Safari, Keynote, and enabled third-party apps on an HDMI display
Ping features.

- Push notifications for comments and follow requests.

- Post and Like songs directly from the Now Playing screen.

- Parental controls.

- New Settings.

- Messages setting for number of times to repeat an alert.

- iPad side switch setting to lock screen rotation or mute audio notifications and sound effects.

- Single tap conference call dialing with a pause to send a passcode.

- Bug fixes.

Amongst the biggest inclusions are Home Sharing (the ability to stream audio and video from iTunes on a local network to the iOS device); AirPlay (the ability to stream audio and video from the iOS device to an Apple TV or computer) for third-party developers; and the ability to create a personal WiFi hotspot from an iPhone or iPad with 3G support.

Per Macworld UK, users may need a qualifying data plan from your carrier and any necessary hotspot or tethering options to enable the much-anticipated Personal Hotspot feature. Users with an unlocked iPhone can use the feature without restriction. However, we advise users of this feature to keep a close eye on data charges as some mobile phone companies are now restricting data usage.

A couple of minor features snuck into iOS 4.3. Users can now enable Push Notifications for Ping activity, and the iPod app’s Now Playing screen offers the options to post about songs and like them on your Ping profile. Also new is a preference to specify how many times an SMS alert is repeated, as well as a conference dialing option to add a pause for entering a passcode.

Missing from iOS 4.3, however, are the new multitouch gestures that Apple asked developers to test on the iPad during the beta period. Gestures like four- and five-finger swipes could switch between apps and reveal the multitasking bar, and a pinch could exit an app and return you to the Home Screen. With the second iOS 4.3 beta, however, Apple clarified that these features were only for testing and would not ship to consumers in the final version. Obviously, they could return in a future iOS update or upgrade, but Apple hasn’t stated any plans.

iOS 4.3 is available now as a free update in iTunes for the iPad, iPhone 3GS, the GSM iPhone 4, and third- and fourth-generation iPod touch. As for the Verizon iPhone 4, it runs a custom version of iOS 4.2.6 that includes some features like hotspot support. Comments from an Apple representative at the iPad 2 event suggest that it might take a little while for Verizon’s iPhone 4 to converge with the same iOS version as Apple’s other mobile devices.

If you’ve snagged the iOS 4.3 update, please let us know how it’s working on your devices, for better or for worse.