Sprint continues to lag when it comes to LTE speeds and network coverage, but indications are the company's on the cusp of another major network expansion push. According to a Sprint 4G Rollout Update
blog, the company's on the cusp of a 9,000 LTE cell site expansion, with a source stating 5,000 of those sites will be dedicated to faster Sprint "Spark" upgrades. The project aims to re-open 1,100 of the older Nextel sites the company decommissioned as part of its completed "Network Vision" project. According to Sprint their LTE network now reaches 270 million potential customers, and their tri-band Spark offering (with theoretical top speeds of 50-60Mbps) reaches 125 million potential customers.Update
: It looks like Sprint's cell site expansion plans may be significantly larger
than this report claims.
T-Mobile's outspoken and more consumer friendly brand efforts continue to pay big dividends. According to the company's latest earnings report
, T-Mobile posted a fourth quarter profit of $101 million, up from a loss of $20 million one year ago.
The latest Edward Snowden-fueled scoop from The Intercept indicates that the NSA and overseas intelligence allies hacked into the networks of the world's largest manufacturer of SIM cards to obtain encryption keys, effectively undermining phone security for users worldwide. According to the full, must-read report
, the hack of Netherlands-based Gemalto took place sometime before 2010.
The FCC has released the results from the recent AWS-3 spectrum auction
(pdf), and as analysts had guessed AT&T wound up acquiring the lion's share of spectrum. According to the FCC, AT&T spent $18.2 billion for 251 licenses, Verizon spent $10.4 billion for 181 licenses, and T-Mobile spent $1.8 billion for 151 licenses. Sprint didn't participate, as they're more interested in the broadcast spectrum being auctioned off next year. Also heavily in the bidding mix was Dish, the satellite provider spending $13.33 billion as the company continues to accumulate spectrum for a potential wireless play (or a very profitable sell off down the road).
By any measure T-Mobile's intensified competition has been a great thing for consumers, with the company pushing a number of consumer-friendly policies and plans that have then rippled through the industry over the last year or two. Though many of the pricing reactions by AT&T and Verizon have been cosmetic in nature, they've both been admitting to investors they're feeling the pinch
of real competition -- something that would never had happened had AT&T been allowed to acquire T-Mobile.
New Sprint CEO Marcelo Claure insists Sprint has finally turned a corner, and as a result isn't hemorrhaging customers quite as badly as they have previously. Claure told attendees of the Citi Global Internet, Media & Telecommunications Conference that the wireless operator added 967,000 total customers during the third quarter, thanks to increased promotions and improvements in customer service. story continues..
In a network build blog update
, Sprint says the company has reached all of its major milestones in 2014. According to Sprint Chief Network Officer John Saw, Sprint finished their Network Vision deployment (consolidating, removing/replacing gear), finished rolling out HD Voice by July, expanded the company's footprint across all 3 bands at 1.9 GHz, 800 MHz and 2.5 GHz and reached 100 million people with 2.5 GHz LTE by the end of 2014.
According to the latest data from wireless research firm RootMetrics
, Verizon Wireless still takes the speed crown, despite significant improvements in particular by T-Mobile. The firm's latest study broke the country down into eight geographical regions, then studied the maximum upstream and downstream speeds delivered by each of the big four carriers.
Sprint continues to tinker with pricing in an attempt to turn around the company's flagging fortunes, this week announcing they're reducing the data access charge on the company's $80 and $90 Sprint Family Share Pack Plans to $15 per month per line. According to the Sprint announcement
, the promotion will run from November 14 to January 15. The data access charge for those plans was previously $25 per month, per line. Earlier this month Sprint announced
that the carrier lost 272,000 subscribers on the quarter, and that the company would be trimming another 2,000 employees as it attempts to restructure under new owner SoftBank.
The Electronic Freedom Foundation last week filed a petition with the Librarian of Congress and the Copyright Office to extend and expand six different exemptions to the DMCA, covering everything from the right to bypass car DRM -- to the right to continue tinkering with games no longer supported by the developers. In a blog post
the EFF notes the group also urged the Librarian of Congress “to extend and expand the exemption that allows you to ‘jailbreak’ your phone from those restrictions, without running afoul of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (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's latest earnings
don't quite yet scream "turnaround," despite new CEO Marcelo Claure at the helm and a deep-pocketed sugardaddy named SoftBank waiting in the wings. According to Sprint's numbers, the company posted a net loss of $765 million on the quarter, fueled by a steady stream of subscriber departures.
In December of 2011, right after the cable industry struck their massive spectrum and marketing arrangement with Verizon
, Sprint filed suit against Comcast, Time Warner Cable, CableOne, and Cox
for supposedly violating Sprint VoIP patents. In early 2013 Comcast returned the favor, suing Sprint for violating numerous patents related to core network services, SMS/MMS, and 3G modem technology. After a four day federal trial, this week Sprint was forced to pay $7.5 million
to settle the case. Sprint's original suit, which resulted in this counter-suit, isn't expected to see a court room until next year.
One thing of particular note to our readers during Apple's unveiling of new iPads
yesterday is the new Apple SIM, which Apple didn't mention at all -- yet most analysts believe has a real chance to disrupt the industry. Installed on iPads with embedded Wi-Fi and cellular radios, Apple notes
their new Apple SIM allows users to float between carriers without having to replace the SIM card.
With the Sprint deal dead due to skeptical regulators and the Iliad deal now dead
, can T-Mobile now finally just focus on being the best wireless competitor they can be? While Deutsche Telekom has expressed interest in offloading the US carrier for much of the last decade, company board members are starting to wonder if it's a good idea to offload that company's only growing asset
. T-Mobile CEO John Legere has also stated he's "sick and tired" about M&A speculation.
While everybody was busy speculating on who would be buying the under-performing T-Mobile, the company slowly but surely stopped under-performing, and while still facing plenty of challenges, is starting to pose a more serious challenge to incumbents AT&T and Verizon
“Now that you’ve flushed out that M&A speculation, the stock is actually attractive now on fundamentals,” Kevin Smithen, an analyst at Macquarie Securities USA Inc., said in a phone interview yesterday. “They’re doing very, very well in the current environment.” T-Mobile has done a good job understanding what consumers are looking for, including more simplified pricing plans, said Smithen, who has the equivalent of a buy rating on the stock and expects it to reach $34.
Legere seems ok with that:
“The company is doing extremely well so I can do whatever the f--- I want,” Legere said, when asked about his relationship with Deutsche Telekom.
Acquisition speculation isn't entirely
dead given Dish's supposed interest in acquiring a stake in T-Mobile. However, after years of speculation about Charlie Ergen's intentions it's still hard to tell if Dish is serious about wireless -- or if the company is just making a lot of noise to inflate the value of Dish spectrum ahead of a sale.
“Sprint will cease operating the Sprint 4G WiMAX network on or about November 6, 2015,” a Sprint spokesperson tells Wireless Week
. Sprint had previously only stated that the network would be shut down sometime in 2015. Internal Sprint documents leaked to Android Central
indicates that letters announcing the shutdown were sent to Sprint's corporate-liable customers this past Monday, with individual-liable and prepaid customers being notified of the shutdown 180 days in advance. If you travel with me for a moment in the way back machine to 2004
, you might notice that the claims made about WiMax changing the world didn't quite live up to snuff.
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." Those reductions have been ongoing throughout the year, with a new SEC filing
indicating that Sprint expects to take a $160 million hit in the second quarter due to severance packages. The company's latest filing did not disclose the precise number of employees that have (or will be) let go, only noting the layoffs are hitting management and non-management positions alike.
Dish announced in May of last year
that the company would be offering fixed LTE services in a new partnership with nTelos. At the time, the companies stated they'd be ultimately offering the service in Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Kentucky -- though hard details on the plan were hard to come by.
Sprint has slowly but surely been expanding the company's "Spark" LTE upgrades, which combine the company's 2.5 GHz, 1900 MHz and 800 MHz bands for improved regional capacity and speeds Sprint promises should top out around 60 Mbps. According to a Sprint announcement
, the company just added Cincinnati, Ohio and Rockford Illinois to the list of markets where Spark has been deployed. You can find a list of all Spark deployed markets here
, and all of the Sprint smartphones that support Spark here
. You can find Sprint's master list of deployed LTE markets here
Back in July French telco Iliad lobbed a rather underwhelming softball offer
of acquisition at T-Mobile, offering $15 billion in cash to acquire 56.6 percent of T-Mobile. Deutsche Telekom wasn't impressed, though reports suggest that the company is still very much open to a deal to sell the freshly-disruptive US carrier, which the company has been trying to offload since 2011 or before. Reuters
indicates that Iliad is preparing to make an improved offer, "but has set specific limits on how much money it would raise to fund any deal." Deutsche Telekom spent a year negotiating a T-Mobile sale to Sprint, only to have it scrapped on fears that regulators would block the deal.
Popular Science serves up an interesting read
about the discovery of fake "towers" that are being used to surreptitiously intercept cell phone traffic. ESD America offers a product they call the GSMK Cryptophone 500, which is essentially a Galaxy S III running modified hardware and a modified, more-secure version of Android -- which the company states purges 468 vulnerabilities from the traditional Android build.
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