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Amtrak has been offering Wi-Fi on board some of their trains for several years
(a full list is here
), though historically the quality of the connections have been ridiculed. Since earlier this year the company has been promising upgrades. Amtrak nowstates in an announcement
(pdf) that the upgrades are complete on the company's 400 mile high-speed Acela route between Washington and Boston, as well as a significant chunk of California.
The upgrades involve updating on-train antennas and hardware so they can obtain LTE speeds from towers (Amtrak uses both Verizon and AT&T networks). Amtrak insists that most of their lines should be upgraded to LTE by the end of the summer.
How reliable that signal is as the train zips in and out of tower range remains to be seen. In the North East, there's plenty of regions along major highway routes where LTE signal simply evaporates for significant stretches. Many Amtrak routes will obviously be worse.
Earlier this week the government came under fire for hoovering up the personal call logs
of more than twenty lines belonging to the Associated Press. Initially Uncle Same claimed the snooping and violation of press rights was due to an immediate and pressing life-risking investigation, but as the week rolled on it became clear the government was simply embarrassed by internal leaks
and annoyed an AP story stole some public relations thunder.
It is very quickly becoming clear that if you want the FCC to avoid enforcing their network neutrality rules, all you have to do is throw some half-assed, vague-sounding technical jargon at the agency to bog them down in inactivity indefinitely. With yesterday's news that AT&T is blocking yet another video chat application
in order to drive users to more expensive data plans, it's rather clear that the FCC lacks the stomach to actually enforce the rules they designed.
The Justice Department is under fire for obtaining two months of telephone records for twenty different lines used by reporters and editors for The Associated Press. Said data included phone numbers, names, calls made, and potentially call duration. story continues..
The FCC this week announced that they're targeting 500 MHz of additional airwaves
that could be opened up to help improve in-flight broadband services. Currently, most in-flight broadband either rely on congested satellite broadband bandwidth, or skyward-pointed ground to air EVDO antenna arrays.
After getting approval from both shareholders and regulators, T-Mobile and MetroPCS today announced that they've officially become one company. "The combination of T-Mobile and MetroPCS creates an even stronger disruptive force in the U.S. wireless market," T-Mobile CEO John Legere said in a prepared statement
. "Together, as America's Un-carrier, we'll continue our legacy of marketplace innovation by tearing up the old playbook and rewriting the rules of wireless to benefit consumers." The combined company serves 43 million subscribers, and would have seen $24.8 billion in combined revenues last year. T-Mobile claims the combined spectrum holdings allow for "20+20 MHz of 4G LTE in approximately 90% of the top 25 metro areas."
By now AT&T's total disregard for privacy and wiretap laws in their cooperation with the government's warrantless wiretap program is fairly well established. As numerous NSA and AT&T whistleblowers have illustrated, the company dumps all voice and data from any carrier that touches their network directly into the lap of the NSA
-- with no warrants or transparency and only marginal government oversight.
Upstart MVNO FreedomPop
today announced that the company is expanding its free-based business model further by running it over Sprint's 3G network. The company's efforts had previously been hamstrung by the fact their service was only available via Clearwire's network.
AT&T this afternoon released their first quarter earnings
, which detailed revenues of $31.4 billion and net income of $3.7 billion. AT&T sold a record 6 million smartphones during the first quarter, (4 million of which were iPhones) and added 1.2 million smartphones -- most of which were feature phone upgrades. Still, growth has some investors nervous; AT&T added a net 296,000 contract wireless devices on the quarter, though when you subtract tablets AT&T lost 69,000 net devices on contract plans
. That slowed growth means you can expect more "because we can" fees like this one
to keep hungry investors fed. On the wireline front, AT&T added 731,000 U-Verse broadband and 232,000 U-Verse TV subscribers, but lost 607,000 DSL customers.
Numerous Verizon executives are on record stating that Verizon has more than enough spectrum to deploy LTE nationally -- before
Verizon nabbed another massive swath of spectrum from the cable industry. Studies
have shown Verizon has plenty of spectrum, particularly after re-farming spectrum currently being used for 2G and 3G (EVDO) services.
After the Boston bombings earlier this week the Associated Press incorrectly reported
that cell carriers in Boston had been told by the government to shut down their cellular networks "to prevent any potential remote detonations of explosives." That story wound up being false and was ultimately deleted by the AP as it quickly became clear that some Boston cellular networks were simply struggling (as usual) under heavy load during emergency.
While the government didn't force carriers to pull the plug, Mother Jones
explores that the government technically does have the power to do so under SOP 303:
"No one in Washington or in any statehouse or bunker anywhere can press a button and shut down phone service," explains Harold Feld, vice president at Public Knowledge, an advocacy group focused on communications and technology policy.
Sprint's LTE deployments so far have focused primarily on smaller cities and more rural markets, apparently in the hopes of nabbing customers waiting for LTE deployments from other carriers. Larger cities have been waiting in the wings for much of the last year, with Sprint repeatedly promising a looming deployment. story continues..
According to Verizon Communications CEO Lowell McAdam, 50% of the data running over their wireless network is now video, a total the company predicts will reach two-thirds of overall traffic by 2017. "With 3G you have video clips but there is buffering. With 4G you can stream video," proudly and astutely observed the CEO
. McAdam was speaking at the NAB trade show this week in Las Vegas, trying to sooth broadcaster concerns about Verizon's plan to use LTE broadcast technology
to stream live events like the Super Bowl next year. "We don't want to get in the way of broadcasters," McAdam promised, adding that Verizon could simply "add a dimension" to make existing programming better.
, a MNVO from TracFone Wireless, took some heat this week after numerous Facebook users accused the company
of promoting an unlimited service, then capping users at around 1.5 GB of usage. One of the company's reps didn't help its case by confirming that usage was capped at 1.5 GB
. Taking to the company blog
, Straight Talk promises that aside from throttling their unlimited service truly is unlimited, and that the 1.5 GB cap "only applies to Bring Your Own Phone (BYOP) AT&T-compatible SIMs on our sister brand, NET10." The company currently offers unlimited voice, text and data starting at $45 per month.
Our friends over at TMONews
point out that T-Mobile will be sending out an over-the-air update from Apple that will provide LTE connectivity for unlocked iPhones on T-Mobile's network starting on April 5. According to the leaked internal screenshot, the over-the-air update will also provide those users with other awaited functionality like visual voicemail and MMS.
According to documents obtained by CNET
, the DEA is upset because the encryption used by Apple's iMessage foils their ability to snoop on those communications. Even with a warrant (increasingly seen as optional these days by law enforcement and intelligence agencies) and the fact that carriers let the NSA snoop on everything in real time
, "it is impossible to intercept iMessages between two Apple devices."
Well not entirely impossible; the memo notes that sometimes interception is possible, but it would require the government to conduct man in the middle attacks using spoofed cell towers, something the feds just got busted for using for years without properly informing Judges
Back in May of 2011 we were the first to exclusively report
that AT&T would be imposing usage caps on the company's DSL and U-Verse users. Users were told DSL users would see a cap of 150 GB a month and U-Verse users would see a cap of 250 GB a month -- with both sets of users paying $10 for every additional 50 GB of data they use.
A new report
from research firm OpenSignal found that T-Mobile LTE is currently live in nine United States cities ahead of the company's official network launch expected tomorrow. Only Kansas City and Las Vegas were specifically mentioned as launch markets, though the firm notes they've also seen significant LTE presence in Seattle, Denver, New Orleans, New York, San Diego, and the Bay Area.
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Recent news contributorsKarl Bode , telcodad