Google is gearing up to sell wireless service directly to customers as a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO), by acquiring excess network capacity from Sprint and T-Mobile and reselling it to customers under its own brand. This is the same approach used by Cricket Wireless, MetroPCS, Pure Talk, Republic Wireless and many others in the U.S., but Google’s arrangement apparently… Read More
As you must have heard, if the FCC institutes strict net neutrality regulations, and especially if it uses its authority under Title II of the Communications Act, investment in Internet service infrastructure will catastrophically decrease, gutting improvements of our nation’s private data backbone. Read More
Sprint will drop its efforts to buy T-Mobile amid a hostile regulatory climate and financing difficulties. The prospect of lowering the number of major mobile carriers in the United States from four to three proved unpopular among U.S. regulatory bodies. In addition to walking away from its merger efforts, Sprint will reportedly appoint a new CEO tomorrow, according to Bloomberg. The two… Read More
Sprint is taking two devices with questionable utility and mashing them together, to create a hybrid pocket projector/mobile hotspot that might actually succeed at making an actual Voltron out of pieces from the spare parts bin. The small device (4.7-inches by 4.7-inches, with a thickness of 1.1 inches) offers a built-in 4-inch display with Android 4.2, for direct access to content, as well as… Read More
Regulators are not enthused about a possible Sprint and T-Mobile U.S. merger agreement, voicing concerns that further consolidation of the market could lead to reduced competition.
The New York Times reported earlier today that William Baer, assistant attorney general for the Department of Justice’s antitrust division, said it would be “hard for someone to make a persuasive case that reducing four firms to three is actually going to improve competition for the benefit of American consumers.” As the Times notes, Baer didn’t specifically detail which firms might be working to combine, but the subtext is clear.
Sprint shares fell yesterday on the news. Bloomberg reported that Sprint had received a “cool reception” from the Department of Justice.
The irony is that T-Mobile itself has been making waves, offering to pay the early termination fee of customers of rival carriers to tempt them to its service. Some are making the jump. That’s a competitive move. Uniting two American carriers at this point would reduce the total pool by a fourth, a sharp contraction.
Putting T-Mobile U.S. into a Sprint box could see it reduce its efforts to disrupt its market. And that could worry regulators about decreasing competition. Baer, the Times quotes, thinks that the American consumer has been the recipient of “much more favorable competitive conditions” since the government axed the 2011 AT&T/T-Mobile deal. Or, in other words, the folks dealing with this sort of thing have historical precedent to be conservative in their regulatory decisions. Recent precedent, even.
We’ll keep an eye on this over the next few months, but the government appears to be signaling that if Sprint and T-Mobile U.S. want to unite, the journey will be a full slog on a steep incline. If it’s possible at all. Top Image Credit: Flickr
U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota has today taken up the battle cry of numerous legislators before her, calling for wireless carriers to enable new anti-theft technology on handsets.
According to the Senator, one-third of robberies involve cell phone theft, resulting in an estimated $30 billion in lost or stolen phones.
That said, Klobuchar has written a letter to the heads of the major wireless carriers, including Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and U.S. Cellular.
In the letter, she requests an explanation as to why “the most advanced security features” haven’t been provided to consumers.
This comes on the heels of Apple’s iOS 7 launch, which included an Activation Lock feature inside Find My iPhone. This essentially worked as a kill switch, requiring the owners passcode to reactive an account, wipe the device, turn off Find My iPhone, or sign out of iCloud.
The NYT reported last month that Samsung was trying to bring a similar technology to handsets but that it was rejected by carriers.
After all, the carriers make a pretty penny from insurance policies protecting against lost or stolen phones, which has become a huge issue in major cities. Cops have even lovingly given iPhone theft a name: Apple picking.
Here’s the full text of Senator Amy Klobuchar’s letter:
Dear Messrs. McAdam, Stephenson, Hesse, Legere, and Meyers:
I am writing to express my concern regarding the increase in crimes involving the theft of mobile devices across the country. As a member of the Senate Commerce Committee and the Senate Judiciary Committee, I understand that consumers are utilizing more mobile technology and this is spurring growth in our economy. Unfortunately, more and more consumers are also at risk of being targeted by criminals looking to steal cell phones and other devices for illegal resale. I appreciate the work the industry has done in creating a database to keep stolen phones from being reactivated, but more action is needed.
According to the Federal Communications Commission, almost one-in-three robberies involve phone theft and the cost to consumers of lost or stolen phones is more than $30 billion each year. I’ve heard from local law enforcement officials about the continued call for the wireless industry to engage with them further and to adopt “kill switch” technologies on devices. Additionally, state Attorneys General have suggested that wireless carriers have not taken adequate steps to fight cell phone theft.
As Chairman of the Judiciary Subcommittee on Antitrust, Competition Policy and Consumer Rights, I expect wireless carriers to compete against one another to ensure consumers are offered the most advanced security features and offerings. Your five companies are the nation’s leading wireless carriers, collectively serving more than 90 percent of the nation’s wireless subscribers. With that market share comes an obligation to do all you can to utilize technologies available to protect consumers.
While I understand your companies are continuing to work with law enforcement on the stolen cell phone database, it is clear that consumers want and deserve a comprehensive strategy to prevent mobile device thefts. That is why I respectfully request that each of your companies provides my Judiciary Subcommittee detailed information on the following issues by January 9, 2014:
· Information explaining whether you have had offers by handset manufacturers to install “kill switch” technology, and, if so, why your company has or has not adopted such technology.
· Information about whether you have considered including this solution on handsets made by manufacturers now competing with Apple’s activation lock technology that operates as a “kill switch” on iPhones. If not, please describe your reasoning behind the decision made by your company.
· How your company will include such technology options at no cost to consumers in the future and how your phone security offerings differ from your competitors.
Identifying ways to curb mobile device theft is a top priority of mine and I will continue to advocate for the American wireless consumer. I also believe additional action to protect wireless consumers is necessary and that’s why I am asking you for this information. The status quo is not acceptable.
It’s no longer a summertime tease: FreedomPop’s freemium mobile phone service is now officially a go. Launched in beta today, the operator’s basic plan offers consumers a voice/text/data bundle that nets them 200 anytime minutes, 500 texts and 500MBs for the price of, well, nothing per month — and it’s contract-free, too. There’s also a more robust unlimited voice and text package for chattier users that runs about $11/mo. Keep in mind, FreedomPop’s network piggybacks on Sprint 3G, WiMAX and LTE, so coverage, reception and call quality (it’s VoIP) will be vary depending on your location and any data overages will cost you $0.01/MB and $10/GB.
It’s not all free champagne and strawberries, though — there is an actual price of entry, and it comes in the form of HTC’s EVO Design, offered at a very reasonable $99. Users accustomed to more device choice will have to hold out until later this year, as FreedomPop does plan to add other Android devices to its lineup. For now, though, it’s extremely slim pickings. But can you really look a gift horse in the mouth? We didn’t think so, freeloaders.
If you didn’t get enough mobile news during the week, not to worry, because we’ve opened the firehose for the truly hardcore. This week brought a new LTE phone to Boost Mobile, hints of consolidation between Sprint and T-Mobile, and lastly, hints of what we might see at Nokia’s upcoming ‘innovation reinvented’ event. These stories and more await. So buy the ticket and take the ride as we explore all that’s happening in the mobile world for this week of September 23rd, 2013.