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]
If you have a Motorola DROID RAZR or a Motorola DROID RAZR MAXX, prepare to receive an update to Android 4.0 “Ice Cream Sandwich.” Verizon has begun sending customers with these devices a text message alerting them to the impending update and warning them to re-download the Verizon Wireless Mobile IM app once the update process has been completed.
Free Verizon Message: Your phone will soon be upgraded to Android 4.0. At that time we will remove your Verizon Wireless Mobile IM app because it is not supported in Android 4.0. Please download a new instant messaging app to use IM on your phone. Thank you for using Mobile IM!
DROID RAZR and RAZR MAXX owners have had to wait a long time for their Ice Cream Sandwich update. Thankfully, that wait is nearly over. The update was originally rumored to be pushed out to compatible devices on June 12, but that ended up not happening. As usual, if you’ve rooted your smartphone, you’ll be ineligible to receive the update.
Normally we try to avoid rumors here, mostly due to the fact that they often turn up as busts. But every once in a while, a leak comes along that is so solid it’s virtually unavoidable. For an extremely brief amount of time recently, typing in www.droiddoes.com/droidincredible4g would take you to a product page for the rumored—but unannounced—HTC Droid Incredible 4G LTE for Verizon. Verizon and HTC have both failed to provide us with an announcement or confirmation of any kind, but considering that this is from the official Droid portal, I think it’s safe to say that we will be seeing it out soon.
No release date was given, but a “buy it now” button was prominently featured, so it is reasonable to expect it soon. Pricing was set at $299.99—Verizon’s highest on-contract smartphone price point—and the specs provided point to a kissing cousin of the top of HTC’s One line. The screen is a 4-inch qHD Super LCD beauty, most likely covered in Gorilla Glass. The dual-core processor clocks in at 1.2GHz, 1GB of RAM is onboard, as are 8GB of internal storage, an 8MP camera—likely the high-end hardware from the One series—and the usual remaining assembly of accoutrements. HTC’s Sense 4.0 was listed, so obviously this is a Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich phone, albeit with heavy HTC customizations.
Personally, from what I’ve seen, I’d prefer a HTC One X. But that, sadly, cannot be had on Verizon’s LTE, so what is a guy to do? Hope that this phone does share camera and processor types with the One X, and scrounge for a way to pay for it, that’s what! Though I’m not sure if it’s enough to dethrone Big Red’s LTE kings, the Nexus and the RAZR MAXX.
Verizon has had an interesting relationship with Windows Phone. The US carrier has only released one device–the HTC Trophy–to date, and it hasn’t been very enthusiastic about Windows Phone 7.5. To make matters worse, AT&T’s Windows Phone LTE exclusivity deal clashed with Verizon’s requirement that all of its smartphones support LTE. This situation, however, will change dramatically this fall with Windows Phone 8.
Speaking to the Wall Street Journal, Verizon Chief Financial Officer Fran Shammo expressed his company’s intention to fully support Windows Phone going forward, eventually repeating the success the company has seen with Android.
“It is important that there is a third ecosystem that’s brought into the mix here, and we are fully supportive of that with Microsoft. We created the Android platform from the beginning and it is an incredible platform today. We’re looking to do the same thing with a third ecosystem. We’re really looking at the Windows Phone 8 platform because that’s a differentiator.”
This is huge. As Shammo notes, Verizon was influential in the success of Android, working with Motorola to create the DROID handset and its iconic advertising campaign and pushing the platform hard over the years. It’s unlikely that the Big Red would ever completely switch from Android to Windows Phone, but the company could certainly promote both equally. And with the high cost of iPhone subsidies, Windows Phone is Verizon’s best and most exciting alternative.
[The Wall Street Journal via Pocketables]
The Droid Charge appears to be having a mid-life crisis, or perhaps an end-of-life crisis. Verizon.com is proudly displaying “Free CHARGE by Samsung” on its homepage. Clicking on it takes you to the device page for the Droid Charge by Samsung, a phone that, at its best, was a high-level midrange device. This means a few different things.
What it means for you: If you want cheap Verizon 4G LTE, don’t waste your money on the ‘budget-priced’ LG Lucid—free beats the pants off $79.99. Second, the Charge is most likely about to hit the end of its proverbial road, as I’m not seeing any “limited time only” stickers on this deal. Considering that it once retailed for $299, free is a pretty hefty drop, unless Verizon is trying to eliminate stock.
So then what does this mean for Verizon regarding the name-change? Either somebody was asleep at the wheel and failed to tag the phone with the Droid brand label, or the Droid brand is being done away with—doubtful—or Verizon is finally admitting that the Charge was never worthy of the Droid label to begin with.
If you’ve never looked at the Charge before, don’t feel bad—there isn’t much to look at. The best part of this deal is Verizon’s Double My Data 4G LTE promotion. The Charge does have a decent 4.3-inch AMOLED Plus screen, but at 480 x 800 pixels, it’s not exactly full HD. The single-core processor clocks in at 1GHz, with only 2GB of internal memory. There is an 8MP 720p rear camera though, and the usual GPS, DLNA, mobile hotspot, and WiFi b/g/n are all included, so for free this isn’t a bad way to do LTE.
[Verizon via Droid Life]
Haven’t jumped on the Verizon 4G LTE bandwagon yet? Well ol’ Red is hoping to entice you to do just that in two days with the Lucid by LG. The Lucid is a 4-inch, Gorilla Glass-clad mid-range Android 2.3.x Gingerbread phone, featuring a 1.2GHz dual-core processor, 1GB of RAM, a 5MP 1080p rear camera, a front facing webcam, and all the usual other goodies, obviously including 4G LTE.
The specs on this phone are solid to be sure, but they are purposefully midrange. Priced at only $79.99 out of the gate—with a $70 minimum two-year contract, of course—the hope is to draw in customers that had until now been turned off by the high capital investment costs of LTE hardware. The Lucid will be available on March 29, but be warned that your out-of-pocket costs for the phone will be at least $129.99, plus tax, activation, and so on. The $79.99 number is only reached via a $50 mail-in rebate.
Shipping with Gingerbread, Verizon is promising an Android 4.0.x Ice Cream Sandwich (ICS) update at an undefined future date. However the device comes with a custom UI from LG, adding features such as lock screen customization and Quick Reply texting, allowing you to reply to texts without exiting other applications. While possibly nice, I expect the custom UI to slow down the device at least a little. Worse, it will most likely cause Verizon’s glacier-like speed of updating move even slower. So if getting ICS by summer is high on your list, you may want to avoid this one.
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.
Motorola has been making waves updating its Verizon DROID line, and now Samsung is getting in on the action with the Droid Charge. As with the Motorola updates, this is not an Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich update. Rather, it is a significant bug-fixing update with a few extra goodies thrown in for good measure. And in accordance with Verizon’s MO, we have no idea when the update will hit, only that it will be sent out soon.
Within the list are several updates to device features, system applications, system widgets, and a fix for the desk-dock crash issue. Most notable is the new Verizon Remote Diagnostics (VRD) application, which allows for old-school remote PC-style assistance by Verizon Care. As with remote PC applications, you must enable it for Verizon to do its thing—Verizon cannot just randomly hijack your device. This is a feature Verizon is rolling out to many of its Android phones right now, not just the Charge.
Charge owners, check out the bulleted features list after the break, along with a breakdown of the rest of the Application updates.
Verizon Wireless and AT&T are vying to see which cellular network can implement family data plans first, and screenshots of the former’s Family Data Usage Calculator have been leaked online. The calculator is nearly identical to the one found on almost every carrier website. The wording, however, is geared toward family data plans and implies that Verizon’s implementation could be ready soon. Details are scarce, but Verizon previously promised to launch the new plan during the middle of 2012, a timeframe which is fast approaching.
Family data plans could be useful for both customers and the wireless carriers. More and more family members are carrying around a device which requires a data plan–often times multiple devices–thanks to smartphones, tablets, e-readers, handheld gaming platforms, and much more. Paying for a data plan for every device quickly becomes infeasible. Carriers, meanwhile, want to move customers off of their legacy unlimited data plans. A family data plan could be the perfect win-win scenario, provided it’s priced right. The only question is who will get there first: AT&T or Verizon?
[Phone Arena via The Verge]
Cricket has joined the Rural Cellular Association in its fight against Verizon—and AT&T, for that matter—on Capitol Hill in Washington. While the RCA had more humble beginnings back in 1992, it is no longer a simple association for a handful of small carriers. Its ranks—which now number over 100—include Sprint, T-Mobile, and now Cricket.
“I am extremely pleased to welcome Cricket Communications to RCA,” said RCA president & CEO Steven K. Berry. “Cricket provides some of the most innovative, dynamic services in the wireless industry, focusing on consumers’ interests and needs. Cricket shares many of the same advocacy concerns as our current members, and their presence will only strengthen our fight to ensure the wireless industry is a competitive one…”
RCA is the US’ largest small carrier advocacy group, and is currently fighting several policies that it believes would give Verizon and AT&T too much spectrum, and therefore too much power. Namely, it wants “automatic data roaming, interoperability throughout the 700 MHz spectrum,” and several other similarly-themed objectives. In short, RCA’s members want the federal government to preserve their competitiveness in a rapidly-changing cellular market. Cricket joining this movement certainly isn’t a death nail for Verizon, AT&T, or their 4G LTE plans. But, a thousand crickets working together may just be able to take down the giant.
[RCA via The Verge]