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California this week became the first state in the country to pass a law requiring that cell phones include so-called "kill switch" functionality to deter theft, enabled by default (the full law is here
, pdf). Minnesota passed a similar law earlier this year, but in that version of the law, the functionality is turned off by default. "California has just put smartphone thieves on notice," bill backer and State Sen. Mark Leno said in a statement.
The kill switch push only came about after other efforts repeatedly failed to impact smartphone theft.
Two years ago wireless carriers and the government announced
that they'd be collaborating on building a new nationwide database to track stolen phones (specifically the IMEI number, not just the SIM card ID). The goal was to reduce the time that stolen phones remain useful, thereby drying up the market for stolen phones and reducing the ability of criminals to use the devices to dodge surveillance.
The move came after AT&T was sued for doing little to track or stop theft
, the lawsuit alleging it was more profitable to do nothing and cash in on stolen phone re-activations.
T-Mobile took a shot at Sprint, AT&T and Verizon today with a new promotion that gives the company's Simple Choice plan users unlimited LTE data for a year if they bring another user over to T-Mobile. If the Simple Choice plan users already have unlimited data, users will receive a $10-per-month credit for a year. story continues..
It was just last week that we noted how Sprint CEO Dan Hesse seemed terrified of cutting prices to compete with T-Mobile
, expressing concern that if the company reduces prices -- they by proxy reduce revenues necessary to get the company's LTE network up to snuff. Hesse of course has since been informed he'll be fired from the new CEO spot
, with Sprint also announcing their intention to give up their pursuit of T-Mobile.
Last month we noted
that Sprint and T-Mobile were hoping to join forces and bid under a joint venture company in the FCC's 2015 incentive auction of 600 MHz spectrum. That may not float for the FCC, who in a blog post
stated that the agency is circulating a proposal that would bar such a play.
Sprint and SoftBank's plan to acquire T-Mobile just got somewhat more complicated on the news that French telco Iliad has made their own counter-offer to acquire the telco. Iliad today announced the company has made a $15 billion cash offer to purchase 56.6 percent of T-Mobile. story continues..
Last month Senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Charles Grassley (R-IA) introduced the "Unlocking Consumer Choice and Wireless Competition Act
(pdf), which aims to make unlocking one's cell phone technically legal again, even if it doesn't fully address the myriad of problems with the DMCA. In January of last year unlocking your cellphone technically became illegal
after the Librarian of Congress removed it from the DMCA exception list.
Sprint this week unveiled the company's new LivePro LTE hotspot, which does a little bit of everything -- including operating as a mini digital projector a mobile hotspot, back-up battery, and stand-alone media streaming device. According to the Sprint announcement
, the device also has a four-inch touchscreen and runs Android 4.2, allowing you to install apps directly to the unit. According to Sprint the LivePro is available starting July 11 for $450, or 24 payments of $18.75.
To try and sell regulators on a Sprint takeover of T-Mobile, SoftBank boss and Sprint Chairman Masayoshi Son has been insisting that the deal would allow Sprint to join the fixed-LTE broadband space, bringing additional competition to the home broadband market
. This strategy appears to be news for Sprint CEO Dan Hesse, who stated this week that offering a fixed LTE service is nowhere on Sprint's horizon. When outlets pointed out the contradictory positions of Son and Hesse, the company's PR department stated
"Dan was speaking to Sprint's short-term focus--completing our 3G and voice network rip and replace, rolling out our 4G LTE network, launching Sprint Spark, expanding the Framily platform and growing EBITDA--and how they fit with our spectrum and other assets/resources," Sprint spokesman Scott Sloat told FierceWireless. "Masa's remarks have been in the context of his long-term vision."
In other words, like I noted in April
, Sprint has its hands full just running a decent LTE network right now, and the promise of significant fixed LTE competition is just regulator bait.
While consumers clearly love T-Mobile's more aggressive, consumer friendly policies and pricing, I've seen more than a few people in the industry quietly wonder if T-Mobile CEO John Legere isn't just playing a cartoon character
with the express purpose of helping sell T-Mobile to SoftBank. After all, they argue, while Legere's mocking of AT&T on Twitter
provides great comedy, he seemed to be a different human being entirely during his time at AT&T or as CEO of Global Crossing (and Asia Global Crossing, a SoftBank joint venture).
Sprint has scheduled a media even in Chicago for June 23
, during which the company is likely to give an update on the company's ongoing network improvements. Despite making a lot of noise
about the company's "Network Vision" upgrades a few years back, those upgrades were too little too late, with the company currently lagging behind the other three carriers in most LTE speed and latency tests. Late last year new Sprint owner SoftBank declared that a turnaround could take two years
. While Sprint customers wait T-Mobile is pretty clearly grabbing all the PR attention, something that could be eliminated by a Sprint T-Mobile merger
) T-Mobile's overseas owner Deutsche Telekom is very close to agreeing with SoftBank on a deal that would combine both Sprint and T-Mobile. A report in Reuters
originally claimed the deal was completed, according to anonymous industry sources speaking to the Kyodo news agency.
There has been a recent rash of proposed deals in the wake of Comcast's attempted takeover of Time Warner Cable, including AT&T's rumored takeover of DirecTV
, as well as Sprint's unflagging interest in acquiring T-Mobile
. Regulators choosing poorly in terms of which deals they let through will have a major impact on user wallets.
In January of last year, unlocking your cellphone technically became illegal
after the Librarian of Congress removed it from the DMCA exception list. It technically remains legal for you to jailbreak your phone, but you can't unlock it without carrier permission.
Back in January, a Sprint SEC filing
stated that the company would be launching "workforce reduction plan to reduce costs and better meet the changing dynamics of the marketplace." As promised that plan appears to be taking shape, with the company confirming to CNET
that they're laying off 330 technical consultants, losing 150 service and repair centers across the country, and shutting down 55 of the company's worst performing retail locations. ReCode
notes that 1,400 position in total will be eliminated.
The cuts are part of new owner SoftBank's plans to get Sprint in fighting shape as the company tries to expand its LTE footprint and compete with AT&T and Verizon.
Since 2012 Sprint prepaid brands Boost Mobile and Virgin Mobile have throttled customers who consume more than 2.5 GB of data back to speeds of around 256 kbps for the remaining of their billing cycle. It now appears that both brands will be throttling users even harder, Phone Scoop
pointing out that users who consume more than 2.5 GB will now be throttled back to just 128 kbps for the remainder of their billing cycle.
AT&T CFO John Stephens this week stated that AT&T would be "surprised" if the government allowed Sprint to acquire T-Mobile so soon after the government blocked AT&T's attempted takeover of the company. "It would be interesting to see if the government varies from that," Stephens told attendees of this week's Deutsche Bank Media, Internet & Telecom Conference
, adding that he would be "surprising today if they changed or reversed that opinion." AT&T this week also stated they've temporarily shelved their overseas expansion ambitions, though they failed to mention that a big part of that is European regulators' discomfort at the telco's close relationship to the NSA
When Sprint recently stated that 2014 would finally be Sprint's year
, they apparently weren't talking about many of their own employees. In a new filing
(via Fierce Wireless
) with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Sprint said that on January 16 the company began to implement a "workforce reduction plan to reduce costs and better meet the changing dynamics of the marketplace." Sprint didn't get specific about the volume of layoffs, and a Sprint spokesman tells the AP
Sprint is still assessing just how many employees will need to be let go. Meanwhile, Sprint majority owner SoftBank continues discussions with T-Mobile majority owner Deutsche Telekom about an acquisition that would easily result in considerably more job losses.
has obtained documents indicating Sprint is preparing to offer users free Wi-Fi calling on at least two handsets (initially). According to the docs, the calls won't count against your voice minutes, but there will not be Wi-Fi to cellular call handoffs, and there will need to be a cellular signal present to make calls over Wi-Fi (something Sprint claims is due to 911 requirements). There's no information on when Sprint plans to launch the new feature, though the information comes on the heels of leaks disclosing several big changes
Sprint has planned for early this year, including the resurrection of the Nextel brand as a premium business offering, and the fusion of the Virgin Mobile and Boost Mobile brands.
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