Back in April, 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 is 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. The lawsuit (and government prodding) spurred AT&T to develop new anti-theft tools
, and carriers in general have been working hard to try and prove they care about cell phone theft.
Still, law enforcement has complained the database has proven ineffective because many phones wind up overseas. New York and San Francisco lawmakers have been eyeing the idea of a "kill switch" that would automatically render a phone useless once its owner has reported it stolen. However, according to the New York Times
, city DAs say carriers are fighting the proposals because they'll lose money on stolen device re-activations:
Mr. Gascón said he is evaluating what action to take regarding the carriers’ refusal to allow Samsung to pre-load a kill switch on its phones. "We have repeatedly requested that the carriers take steps to protect their customers. We are now evaluating what course of action will be necessary to force them to prioritize the safety of their customers over additional money in their pockets," he said.
Carriers are justifying their opposition to a kill switch by claiming they're concerned that hackers could abuse the function to disable devices used by consumers or law enforcement.
Sprint today announced and demonstrated "Sprint Spark," a technology that effectively combines the company's 800 MHz, 1.9 GHz and 2.5 GHz LTE spectrum to provide what Sprint promises will be real-world downstream speeds of 50-60 Mbps. According to a Sprint announcement
, the company was today able to demonstrate wireless speeds up to 1 Gbps -- albeit in lab conditions.
Clearwire isn't too long for this world, after Sprint finalized their acquisition of the company last July
. The company began terminating Clearwire employees last month
, Clearwire's website
directs new users to Sprint services, and Sprint intends to use Clearwire's 2.5 GHz spectrum to improve Sprint LTE coverage.
While some analysts are already rather bubbly
about Sprint's fortunes, the sad reality is the company's LTE speeds and coverage are lagging noticeably behind the other big three carriers. Despite being acquired by Japanese carrier SoftBank, Sprint's stock value has dropped 14% since early August. SoftBank CEO Masayoshi Son is begging investors for patience
. "At the very least you need half a year or a year," said Son of an effective Sprint turnaround. "And for anything substantial you need one or two years."
T-Mobile chief financial officer Braxton Carter this week told Reuters
that a T-Mobile merger with Sprint would be an excellent idea. "We think it's not a question of if but when that there's further consolidation in our industry," Carter told public attendees of the Goldman Sachs Communacopia investor conference this week in New York. Speaking privately to Reuters, Carter then called a Sprint T-Mobile pairing the "the logical ultimate combination."
Regulators likely won't agree, having recently preserved four competitors by blocking the T-Mobile AT&T merger, though Carter insists that the two smaller companies merging would "create a more competitive environment" by posing a bigger threat to AT&T and Verizon.
When the iPhone 5C officially launches September 20, Sprint is hoping to make the most of the launch by offering a shiny new candy-colored 5C for $0 -- provided you're a new customer and sign a two-year contract. In most places, the 5C is priced at $99 for 16GB or $199 for the 32GB version with a two-year contract (Walmart's probably the cheapest, offering the 5C for $79). As the Sprint website notes
, Sprint's knocking $100 off both the 5C and 5S for contract customers, meaning contract users can get the 5C for $0, and the 5S for $99. Though as noted last week, the new iPhones don't support
the 2.5 GHz spectrum Sprint plans to use for the company's faster TD-LTE network upgrades.
An SEC filing by Sprint
indicates that the company has pushed back their completion date for their Network Vision upgrade project. Announced in 2010, Sprint's plan involved phasing out their iDEN network, and replacing current network hardware with smaller and more efficient network base stations capable of utilizing multiple bands and technologies, including the company's 800 MHz, 1.9 GHz spectrum, 4G 2.5 GHz WiMax, and LTE. Sprint's filing notes that "further deployments of Network Vision technology, including LTE market launches and enhancements of our 3G technology, are expected to continue through the middle of 2014."
Sprint has announced that the company's LTE deployment has now reached portions of 151 markets. According to a Sprint press release
, the company turned LTE on in parts of 41 new markets today, including Jacksonville, Florida; Daytona Beach, Florida; Flint, Michigan; Grand Rapids, Michigan; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Oakland, California; and Portland, Oregon. Sprint's definition of a launched LTE market has come under fire repeatedly
for being somewhat broad, so your mileage in any "launched" market may vary. Sprint still aims to have their LTE network reach 200 million potential customers by the end of this year.
Sprint's latest earning reports
indicate that the nation's yellow-hued third-placed wireless carrier posted a "highest ever" quarterly revenue total of $7.2 billion, though the company still posted a quarterly operating loss of $874 million. Sprint insists that total includes an accelerated depreciation of approximately $430 million that went toward last quarter's successful shutdown of the iDen network acquired from Nextel, the spectrum from which will be repurposed for LTE deployment. Still, the company saw a net loss of $1.6 billion and net subscriber losses of 2 million, but hopes things are brighter around the corner now that they've acquired Clearwire and been purchased themselves by deep-pocketed Japanese carrier SoftBank
Sprint today announced that Brooklyn and The Bronx will have full access to Sprint's shiny new LTE network as of July 30 (aka next Tuesday). According to a Sprint press release
, users in Manhattan, Staten Island and Queens will officially see LTE service launched in the "coming months," though many users have already been able to access the network for some time
. The company currently offers LTE in more than 110 markets, with the aim of covering 200 million potential customers by the end of the year. Sprint also today that they've finalized a deal with Transit Wireless that will allow Sprint users to use their service at the growing number of subway stations
where Transit Wireless is providing cellular service.
Not to be outdone by T-Mobile's semi-underwhelming announcements yesterday
(which included a new $10 monthly phone upgrade plan), Sprint this afternoon announced that the company will be unveiling some changes of their own, including a new program that provides users with unlimited data for "life" (yours or Sprint's). According to a Sprint press release
, the company's new "Sprint Unlimited Guarantee" guarantees that Sprint customers will be able to get unlimited data for as long as they keep their account active and
if they sign up for one of Sprint's new plans.
With investors placated, regulatory approval in the bag and Dish shoved aside, Sprint today announced that they've completed a deal that will now give them 100% ownership of Clearwire -- and Clearwire's highly valued spectrum. According to a Sprint statement
, Clearwire shareholders approved the transaction at a special meeting of stockholders held yesterday, and the deal became official as of today, with Clearwire stock no longer being traded. As expected, Sprint will use the 2.6GHz spectrum acquired in the deal to improve and expand Sprint's LTE offerings, which haven't performed particularly well in a suite of recent speed surveys
With Dish out of the way, shareholders placated and regulators giving their green light to the Sprint/SoftBank/Clearwire deal
, SoftBank is now promising that they'll invest heavily in their new U.S. company in order to help make Sprint more competitive with industry giants AT&T and Verizon Wireless. According to SoftBank, they're preparing to spend some $16 billion on Sprint over the next two years
, with a significant chunk of that $1.6 Trillion Yen going toward LTE base stations. SoftBank President Masayoshi Son says he hopes to pull even with Verizon LTE deployment within two years. "We've found that there is considerable possibility for cutting costs," insists Son.
As promised, Sprint has shut down the company's iDen network, putting a period to the ugly sentence that was the company's highly dysfunctional acquisition of Nextel. The shutdown leaves behind a significant chunk of ESMR 800 spectrum to be used for Sprint's LTE network upgrades. story continues..
While the drama has been high over the last few months thanks in no small part to Dish, Japanese carrier SoftBank has gotten one step closer to finally acquiring Sprint. According to a Sprint statement
, Sprint's shareholders have overwhelmingly approved the deal after SoftBank recently increased its offer for Sprint to $21.6 billion in cash and stock -- $16.64 billion of which will be headed to shareholders. Sprint CEO Dan Hesse called the approval "historic," adding that the SoftBank deal "should enhance Sprint’s long-term value and competitive position by creating a company with greater financial flexibility."
According to the Financial Times
, Japanese carrier SoftBank has upped their offer for Sprint to $21.6 billion, after being pressured in that direction by a counter-offer from Dish Network. That $1.5 billion increase appears to have all but sealed the deal for SoftBank, Sprint having now cut off talks with Dish while stating that the special committee examining the offers "is not reasonably likely to lead to a 'superior offer." SoftBank this week appears to have leaked information to the press
suggesting they'd acquire T-Mobile if the Sprint deal went through, adding some additional pressure to accept the offer that came through shortly after the leaks went public.
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