The third, fourth, and fifth largest wireless carriers in the United States have undergone some major changes over the last few weeks. Sprint has announced that it is being acquired by SoftBank, while T-Mobile USA and MetroPCS’ plan to merge the two companies have been met with lawsuits from shareholders.
SoftBank’s acquisition of Sprint cost the company $20.1 billion, giving it a 70% controlling share of the company. The buyout has been approved by Sprint’s shareholders and board of the directors, so it is expected to be completed within six months barring any holdups in regulatory approval. Sprint fans will be pleased to know that the CEO, board of directors, and headquarters will remain as-is. In essence, this deal was essentially made to “give Sprint a much-needed cash infusion.”
The T-Mobile USA/MetroPCS merger from a few weeks ago, on the other hand, hasn’t been received as favorably by shareholders. MetroPCS’s shareholders claim that the payments of $4.09 per share “drastically undervalues” the company and “cheats shareholders.” Worse, they’re saying that MetroPCS’ board of directors is “conflicted and serving its own financial interests.” As a result, a lawsuit has been filed against MetroPCS, its board of directors, T-Mobile USA, and its parent company Deutsche Telekom.
[Pocketables via Sprint | CNET via TmoNews]
T-Mobile will reportedly join the HTC One X family this fall with the release of the HTC One X+, a modified version of the AT&T and Sprint’s handset. Most of the details surrounding the device are under wraps, but the going rumor is that the One X+’s mathematical suffix comes from NVIDIA’s Tegra 3+ 1.7GHz quad-core processor. The Tegra 3+ has had some issues running on LTE networks, but T-Mobile doesn’t have to worry about that problem at this point.
The device is almost certain to include a great camera and Beats Audio technology – hallmarks of the One series. The OS, however, is up for debate. Some sources claim that it will run a stock version of Android 4.0 “Ice Cream Sandwich” – in other words, no HTC Sense or Android 4.1 “Jelly Bean” – while others believe that it will come with Jelly Bean and a modified version of Sense. Either way, it should be a great device.
[TmoNews via Pocketables]
According to an article yesterday by the Wall Street Journal, citing unnamed sources, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski is finally ready to offer his suggestion that Verizon’s $3.9 billion spectrum deal be approved. The deal will, however, be coming with some additional expected stipulations. Verizon must offer competitive prices for data roaming to other carriers, and must use it in a timely fashion. In other words, no monopolization of markets, and no hogging the ball.
If you’ve been out of the loop, here is what has been going on. Verizon wants to buy $3.9 billion USD of AWS spectrum from a combination of major cable networks. Verizon claims that this will be used soon in its LTE rollout, and is happy to do a spectrum swap to that end with T-Mobile USA.
Most of the companies not involved with the deal are at best annoyed, but some are downright hostile. MetroPCS claims that Verizon will do nothing but stockpile the spectrum for future use. Sprint has expressed serious concerns that Verizon’s incumbent cross-marketing deals with cable companies will make things unfairly difficult for other providers—particularly in the areas of backhaul and WiFi services.
Verizon currently has a slight lead on AT&T in terms of subscribers, AT&T in turn has a massive lead over Sprint and T-Mobile—the third and fourth spot holders. While it appears the caveats to this deal through the new stipulations will address the concerns of both Metro PCS and Sprint, I’m sure many people will still find the offer a little too sweet in Verizon’s favor.
Should smaller carriers be given preferential treatment in the name of competition? Feel free to speak your thoughts in the comments section below.
[WSJ via Fierce Wireless]
Samsung and T-Mobile have been raising the ire of their customers lately, due to a conspicuous lack of Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich (ICS) upgrade plans. This has finally been remedied. We now know that the Galaxy S II (model SGH-T989), Galaxy S Blaze 4G (model SGH-T769), Galaxy Tab 7.0 + (model SGH-T869), and Galaxy Tab 10.1 (model SGH-T859) have all been given tickets to attend Google’s ICS party.
Things aren’t all roses however, as no dates have been given—not even a “next quarter” or “second-half 2012”—though I think it safe to assume that we will be seeing the updates before the year is out, or more likely before mid-summer.
On a harsher note, T-Mobile recently made it known that it will start blocking tethering users who aren’t ponying up. With Gingerbread—according to T-Mobile—T-Mobile’s monitoring software wasn’t up to snuff, so it let the occasional tethering freeloader get away with it. This will no longer be the case, at least for ICS users. The first users set to feel this pain are those of the HTC Sensation 4G, which is slated for its own upgrade to ICS this week.
Anybody caught using tethering—at least anybody caught using it to any serious degree—will be required to cough up an extra $14.95 a month, or risk losing tethering and hotspot abilities until they do. Still, this is a better deal than AT&T, who so kindly auto-enrolls you in a tethering plan if it detects you using the feature. Fortunately, this has only been announced for the built-in tethering feature, “undetectable” 3rd-party apps may very well still work and root-only apps are almost certain to do so.
[Samsung via Slash Gear | Android Community]
T-Mobile and Leap Wireless—best known by its wholly-owned subsidiary, Cricket—today announced an agreement that will see spectrum trade hands between the two. “Financial details were not disclosed,” so we don’t know and it has not yet made it through regulatory inspections. What we do know is that—if it passes—this will affect a broad range of US markets.
T-Mobile has been doing a lot of complaining about how much spectrum the big boys—mostly Verizon—are allowed to have, so it’s kind of refreshing to see something being done about it instead of just complaining. I guess the hassle of changing finally got bigger than the annoyance of being behind. I do wonder if this move isn’t at least a little bit designed as a ploy to prove that T-Mobile is desperate for spectrum—no thanks to that big, red meanie—but I digress
Very little was given in terms of details, just that 10MHz of AWS (3G) spectrum would be going from T-Mobile to Leap in Phoenix, AZ and in Bryan-College Station, Houston, and Galveston, TX. T-Mobile will be getting spectrum in Alabama, Illinois, Missouri, Minnesota, and Wisconsin from Leap.
Everyone loves a deal… except when subsidies come into play. T-Mobile’s CMO has publicly stated his distaste for subsidies, and it would appear that physical changes are being made to that end. According to the above internal memo obtained by TmoNews, T-Mobile will be adding on another $5 apiece for its 5GB Premium and 10GB Ultra subsidized data plans on April 4.
Be not dismayed, current customer, this price hike will not involve you, but if you’ve been waiting to get a T-Mobile data plan, doing so before April 4 would be most prudent. Otherwise, if you so desire, you can forego the “$50-$350 OFF!”, which really only saves you money if you were absolutely going to sign a contract anyway, and sign up for a Value plan, which offers the same services for soon-to-be $10 less.
Frankly, I would be happy to see carriers do away with subsidies, instead giving us non-inflated retail prices. But unless it becomes outlawed, or wrongdoing is discovered, that is unlikely to happen this millennia, as subsidies tend to bring in lots of customers. After all, there’s nothing like a “free” phone to drum up business.
Before you go and take the plunge in the next week, a few words of caution. Remember, subsidies are offered for a reason, being that the companies more than make the money back with your two years of monthly payments. And while this information appears credible, and is from a reliable source, we are dangerously close to April 1, so right now is a good time to keep wary in the technology realm.
Less customers means less jobs and, in this case, T-Mobile is citing loss of customers as the primary reason for closing seven of its 24 call centers and laying off 1,900 of its 36,000 employees in the process. Another 1,400 employees are being offered transfers as it increases staff at remaining call centers. Additionally, T-Mobile is scrambling to find money anywhere it can to invest in its network—presumably its 4G network.
While the call centers certainly hurt, the pain is not set to end there. Thanks to the failed merger, lost customers, and T-Mobile’s need for investment funds, there will be more restructurings and layoffs before the end of Q2, most of them by the end of May. These cuts will not further affect the call centers, front-line retail employees, or network technicians, but jobs will be trimmed elsewhere.
Meanwhile, AT&T’s Senior Executive Vice President of External and Legislative Affairs Jim Cicconi made a rather interesting public statement this afternoon. It pretty much boils down to the most well-worded and amenable “I told you so” that has ever been made. An excerpt is below—hit the source for the full statement.
Normally, we’d not comment on something like this [announcement]. But I feel this is an exception for one big reason– only a few months ago AT&T promised to preserve these very same call centers and jobs if our merger was approved. We also predicted that if the merger failed, T-Mobile would be forced into major layoffs.
…as I learned in my years of public service, the price of a bad decision is too often paid by someone else.
[Reuters | AT&T via AllThingsD]
We have a couple of promising developments for you—and the wireless industry as a whole, really. In meetings yesterday, the FCC took small but positive steps towards legalizing two propositions set to give us customers more 4G LTE options, and more interoperability. The first concerns Dish Network’s unused spectrum in the 2GHz band, the second concerns T-Mobile’s request that the FCC require interoperability on all US 700MHz LTE networks.
First, with regard to Dish, the FCC has agreed to consider and investigate the possibility and ramifications of Dish using its 40Mhz chunk of 2GHz spectrum to build out a LTE network. Currently the spectrum is assigned to be used for what Dish does best—satellite. The spectrum is unused right now because Dish completed the purchase of it just this month for a whopping $3 billion plus. Dish has not yet formally declared its exact intentions for the spectrum, but mumblings and rumblings indicate a land-based LTE network.
Second, the FCC has agreed to move on to the next step in considering interoperability of all 700MHz LTE networks. Right now both AT&T and Verizon operate LTE devices on different parts of the 700MHz bands. And as almost any US wireless subscriber these days knows, AT&T and Verizon’s networks do not play nice with each other.
The US iteration of a certain Magenta-branded carrier its flashing some color this weekend with Magenta Deal Days. T-Mobile is offering up to $150 off of five of Samsung’s devices in its stables, three phones and two tablets—all 4G. This deal, unlike so many these days, isn’t limited to brand-new customers. Instead, any existing customers with an upgrade handy are welcome to partake in the savings. Be warned that the savings—ranging from $30 to $150—are all mail-in rebates, you will still be asked to pony up at signing.
All else required is the normal 2-year agreement on either a Classic or an Unlimited Value Plan. For some unstated reason, the Galaxy S 4G is not available on the Unlimited plan. The other four devices are eligible for either/or. Starting with the Classic Plans, we have the $79.99 Samsung Exhibit II 4G priced down to free, the $199.99 Galaxy S Blaze 4G marked down to $119.99, and the previously mentioned Galaxy S 4G gets the smallest discount at $50.00 off $229.99—making it $179.99. Both the Galaxy Tab 7.0 Plus and the 10.1 receive $150.00 off, down to $199.99 and $349.99 respectively.
The Unlimited Value Plan options provide discounts on the “out-of-pocket down payment,” but are still mail-in rebates. So your actual out-of-pocket down payment won’t actually change. Gotta love marketing, right? The discounts for Unlimited are: Exhibit II 4G—$30.00, Galaxy S Blaze 4G—$30, Galaxy Tab 7.0 Plus and 10.1—$150. All told, the discounts are decent but I wouldn’t rush out to buy one unless it was already a plan in the works.
[T-Mobile | 2 via Yahoo!]
Back on July 1, 2010, Orange UK and T-Mobile joined forces to form Everything Everywhere (EE), effectively creating the UK’s largest carrier. Now Everything Everywhere looks to be well on its way to being the UK’s first 4G LTE carrier. The UK’s wireless licensing body Ofcom—something kinda-sorta akin to our FCC—has given preliminary approval to EE to convert some of its existing 3G 1800MHz spectrum over to LTE and WiMAX.
1.2 This notice is in response to a request from EE to authorise the use of LTE technology under their licences for 1800 MHz spectrum. It follows the European Commission’s adoption of a harmonisation decision requiring all EU Member States to designate and make available 900 MHz and 1800 MHz spectrum for LTE and WiMAX use.
Residents of the UK have been forced to sit and watch while the likes of the US, Korea, and Canada blaze ahead with advanced 4G technologies—especially LTE—but no more! Assuming nobody brings up any unconsidered complaints and barring any other hiccups, EE could turn on the first markets of its 4G LTE network by October of this year.
In a move that would have lawyers in the Land of Opportunity all in a tizzy, Ofcom clearly states that it expects this ruling and the expected future permanent rulings to create a situation in which EE is the only UK carrier with a 4G LTE network—possibly for as much as a year. After that, let the games begin!
[Ofcom via Android Central]