According to a SoftCard blog post
, AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile have agreed to sell "Softcard technology and capabilities" to Google in order to forge "the next generation of mobile payments." That's a polite way of saying the carriers' attempt to create a mobile payment platform of their own was a failure, and they're selling the scraps of the effort to Google.
The blog post beats around the bush, but it sounds as if SoftCard as a brand will eventually just cease to exist:
For now, Softcard customers can continue to tap and pay with the app. We will share more information with customers and partners in the coming weeks.
Softcard was founded in 2010 by AT&T Mobility, T-Mobile USA and Verizon Wireless and pioneered NFC-based mobile payments and commerce in the U.S. by offering merchants more options and consumers a safer, simpler way to shop, pay and save using mobile phones. Today’s announcement is a positive step forward for the mobile payments industry and wireless consumers.
The irony of this deal is likely not lost on you if you watched as AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile tried to block Google Wallet on their devices
to try and give SoftCard a leg up in the marketplace. SoftCard's problems were extensive however, from low to nonexistent brand awareness or adoption
to ultimately having to change the name to avoid conflation with violent religious extremists
. Reviews of the mobile payment app for both Android and iOS were routinely poor
According to a Google announcement
, the company will be paying carriers to prominently feature the Google Wallet app (a revised version of which is expected in May) on all of their handsets.
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).
According to a blog post by T-Mobile CEO John Legere
, 63% of Americans have a less than perfect credit score. Bad credit, the CEO argues, keeps most consumers from being able to qualify for most of the best wireless service and device deals made available.
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.
Both US Senator Richard Blumenthal and Federal Communications Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel held a press conference this week urging customers to claim their refunds in the cramming settlements recently struck with AT&T and T-Mobile. AT&T's $105 million settlement
was struck in October, after the government showed AT&T not only ignored the scamming of its own customers, but intentionally made bills harder to read to try and obscure the cramming.
This is relatively funny (at least the ending is). Hopefully we'll see AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson and Verizon CEO Lowell McAdam post similar fireside Christmas video chats soon too, right?
T-Mobile this morning unveiled their latest "Uncarrier" press salvo, announcing that the company will now be offering customers roll over data. According to a company announcement
, both new and existing T-Mobile customers will be given what T-Mobile's calling a "Data Stash," or a data allotment where they can store unused data at the end of each month.
T-Mobile today announced that the company's faster "wideband" LTE upgrades have gone live in New York City, the upgrades providing speed bumps of 50% and theoretical peak speeds of up to 100 Mbps downstream. According to a T-Mobile announcement
, the wideband upgrades are now available in Manhattan, The Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island, Long Island and Northern NJ.
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.
T-Mobile's latest earnings
again confirm that being the pesky kid on the block is working in terms of adding new subscribers. The company added 2.3 million customers total and 1.4 million new postpaid subscribers on the quarter, though the company's expansion of its LTE network continues to drag on earnings. T-Mobile expects to add around 4.3 million to 4.7 million new customers this year as users respond to the company's more customer-friendly approach to doing business. "Despite our competitors' best efforts, the Un-carrier revolution made huge advances in the third quarter with record net new customers," CEO John Legere said in a statement. "More proof of the resurgent strength of our brand and the massive momentum behind the Un-carrier consumer movement."
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.
On the heels of T-Mobile's announcement last week
that they've started a heavy push toward Wi-Fi calling, AT&T says they'll also be offering Wi-Fi calling starting in 2015. AT&T Mobility CEO Ralph de la Vega stated last week the company will be offering it next year, but hasn't been in a rush because, they claim, their network coverage is good enough (unlike T-Mobile's, the CEO implied).
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.
T-Mobile has announced that as part of their "uncarrier 7.0" announcement, they'll be expanding the company's Wi-Fi calling initiative, offering a program called "Wi-Fi Unleashed" to nudge more users toward the feature. According to a T-Mobile announcement
, the company is enabling Wi-Fi calling and texting for every Simple Choice customer on every new smartphone sold by the company.
AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile's Isis NFC-based mobile payment service was already struggling, with many users either simply not interested in the idea of using their smartphone as a debit card, already using other services, or simply never having heard of it
. Now things are more complicated, with the service suddenly sharing its name with a violent iraqi uprising dominating the newswires (the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, or ISIS).
T-Mobile has announced that the company will be pushing MetroPCS 10 new markets across the country this fall. According to a company press release
, since acquiring the prepaid carrier, T-Mobile has taken MetroPCS from just over 6,000 points of sale in 15 metropolitan markets to nearly 11,000 points of sale in 55 metropolitan areas. This latest market expansion includes Chattanooga, Chicago, Kansas City, Milwaukee, Minneapolis-St.Paul, Salt Lake City, St. Louis, Yakima-Pasco-Richland-Kennewick and Norfolk-Portsmouth-Newport News.
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.
Back in June T-Mobile announced the company would be exempting music services from the company's bandwidth caps
, though users would need to vote on their favorite music service to get it added to T-Mobile's white list. This week T-Mobile added six more music services to that exemption list
: AccuRadio, Black Planet, Grooveshark, Radio Paradise, Rdio and Songza. Google Play Music was the top-voted service, and T-Mobile states they'll be adding that "later this year." While well-intentioned, consumer advocates have criticized T-Mobile's cap exemption for music services (and speed tests
), arguing it creates an unlevel playing field for smaller companies trying to gain recognition.
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.
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