The Federal Communications Commission is prepared to release a revised set of rules concerning the governance of web traffic. The proposal, which is expected to make an official appearance Thursday, would prevent broadband providers from discriminating against certain web sites and/or content, but it would also allow broadband providers to give select companies and their traffic preferential treatment. The preferential treatment must be made at "commercially reasonable" rates that are available to all content companies, according to sources cited by The Wall Street Journal. The FCC would examine such arrangements to ensure that their terms are in fact favorable. FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler has decided not to reclassify broadband as a utility, which would give the FCC greater control over the market. Wheeler did, however, leave the possibility on the table. The FCC also wants greater transparency from broadband providers so consumers can more easily suss out details pertinent to their local service, such as speed and congestion. Last, the Journal reports that wireless broadband companies won't be subject to this proposal for now, but Wheeler is questioning if they should be allowed to make similar arrangements with content companies. Net Neutrality supporters prefer the idea that all web traffic is treated equally, with none held back or treated preferentially. The FCC's proposal won't be voted on until May, and will then require several more steps before it can become law.
Microsoft today released a beta application that will let Windows Phone 8.1 devices remotely access and control Windows computers. Windows Phone 8.1 itself has not been widely distributed to new and existing hardware, but it is available for free to registered developers. Anyone can register for the developer preview edition of Windows Phone 8.1 and install it on their Windows Phone 8 device. With the WP8.1 preview and the Microsoft Remote Desktop app installed, users can connect to a remote PC and access and interact with their Windows machines. The app includes support for Windows 8 touchscreen gestures, and can be used to open files, run apps, and more. According to Microsoft the app is secure, so it can be used by businesses, and connections can be managed by a simple dashboard. The app also supports high-definition video streaming and sound streaming from the PC to the smartphone through the network. Microsoft Remote Desktop is free to download from the Windows Phone Store. Microsoft has offered a similar tool to Android and iOS devices since last year.
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The Federal Communications Commission today issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that could result in yet more spectrum put to use for mobile broadband and other purposes. The FCC is looking at a slice of airwaves between 3550MHz and 3650MHz, and hopes to extend that to 3700MHz to forge a 150MHz block. The FCC said it will create a new Citizens Broadband Radio Service for general consumer use, carrier-grade small cell deployments, fixed wireless broadband, and other potential uses. Portions of the spectrum in question are in use by the federal government, so the FCC is proposing a three-tiered access and sharing model that will include: federal and non-federal incumbents; priority access licensees; and general authorized access users. Though the proposal says these three groups will share the spectrum, the federal government's portions thereof will need to be protected from interference. The FCC is seeking comment on potential rules that would govern auctioning the spectrum, allocating it, and technical specifications. The FCC has been on a major push to make spectrum available for the last few years. It already has two auctions on deck including an incentive auction for the 600MHz band and another for AWS-3 spectrum.
Samsung recently published details about the SGH-T199, a simple feature phone bound for T-Mobile. The T199 is a traditional candybar-style device with a small, 2-inch display and numerical keypad on the front. Other than basic calling, SMS/MMS, and browsing, the T199 offers few features, though it is capable of downloading apps through an on-board content store. The device has a 400MHz single-core processor, 128MB of RAM, 800mAh battery, and support for T-Mobile's HSPA network, but not LTE. It doesn't include a camera or expandable memory. The Samsung T199 has yet to appear on the web sites of T-Mobile and MetroPCS, so pricing and availability aren't available.
The CTIA Wireless Association today announced Meredith Attwell Baker will become the president and CEO of the organization beginning June 2. Baker succeeds Steve Largent, who held the post for more than a decade. Baker is a former commissioner of the Federal Communications Commission, and most recently served as senior vice president of government affairs for Comcast-NBCUniversal. Baker outlined an initial agenda that she'll begin to pursue once she takes the helm of the lobbying group. Baker intends to place more emphasis on technical and engineering expertise with respect to spectrum and wireless technologies; to create a five-year spectrum plan with the help of commercial and government agencies; and to regularly asses the effectiveness of spectrum use. "I am thrilled to have this opportunity to use my experience in both the public and private sectors to help the vital and fast-growing wireless communications industry," Baker said. "The wireless industry has grown significantly over the past decade and now permeates every part of our lives from education, and health care to energy and business. CTIA should be in the center of discussions about how wireless is reshaping our economy, our society and our culture." The CTIA Wireless Association represents the wireless network operators and their constituents in Washington.
Sprint recently indicated via its support site that it will devise a way to unlock its phones by February 2015. According to Sprint, none of the SIM-equipped phones it has sold during the past three years - including Apple's iPhones - can be unlocked for use on competing networks. The company said it will unlock the SIM card slot of devices that have one, but this will only apply to devices launched after February 2015. Sprint said phones purchased through its subsidiaries Boost Mobile, Virgin Mobile, and Assurance Wireless will not be compatible with Sprint's network, even if unlocked. Further, customers need to meet certain criteria in order to be given the unlock code. For example, the phone must be paid for and no longer attached to a contract. The change in Sprint's policy is a voluntary action, though the Federal Communications Commission threatened all network operators with regulation if they failed to act on their own. AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless all have to implement their own unlocking policies, too, but have yet to announce the details thereof.
AT&T plans to relaunch Cricket Wireless, the prepaid provider it acquired earlier this year, at the end of the second quarter. AT&T CFO John Stephens said new customers will be given devices that run on AT&T's LTE network, rather than Cricket's, as the company looks to transition customers away from Cricket's spectrum so it can be reused. Stephens said Cricket will be given a national presence, with 3,000 locations around the country. At the same time, AT&T's existing prepaid service, Aio Wireless, will be folded into Cricket. AT&T expects it will take 18 months to transition all Cricket's customers away from Cricket's CDMA network to AT&T's LTE network. AT&T is pursuing a path similar to one set by T-Mobile with MetroPCS. When T-Mobile acquired MetroPCS last year, it began selling new devices that worked on its own HSPA/LTE network rather than MetroPCS's CDMA network. AT&T's ultimate goal is to repurpose Cricket's spectrum.
OnePlus, a company based in China, today announced the One, a low-cost smartphone that goes toe-to-toe with the world's best devices. The OnePlus One runs CyanogenMod, which is based on Android 4.4 KitKat but includes stronger security and some features not found in stock Android, such as Voice Wakeup and custom on-screen gestures. The OnePlus One is one of the first mass-market devices to ship with CyanogenMod on board. The phone includes a 5.5-inch full HD display protected by Corning Gorilla Glass 3 and has exchangeable rear covers that come in a variety of difference materials, such as cashew and bamboo. The One is powered by a 2.5GHz quad-core Snapdragon 801 processor with 3GB of RAM. It packs a 13-megapixel Exmor camera sensor from Sony, with an f/2.0 aperture and six lens elements. It can record 4K video as well as slow motion in 720p HD. The One also has a 5-megapixel user-facing camera. The device offers worldwide HSPA/LTE support and includes Bluetooth 4.1, dual-band Wi-Fi, GPS/GLONASS, and a range of sensors. The One has a 3,100mAh battery, USB 3.0 with QuickCharge 2.0, but does not support microSD cards. OnePlus said the One will go on sale in select markets, including the U.S., during the second quarter. It is priced at $299 for a 16GB model and $349 for the 64GB model (similar price points to the LG-made Google Nexus 5). OnePlus is offering the One for $1 to those who (literally) smash their old device, but the company requires in invite in order to purchase the One.
Apple today made iOS 7.1.1 available for download. The minor system update, which applies to the iPhone and iPad, resolves a handful of ongoing issues. It further improves performance of the TouchID function of the iPhone 5s, tweaks keyboard responsiveness, and tackles a bug related to Bluetooth keyboards when VoiceOver is activated. The update marks the first maintenance update to iOS 7.1, which was released last month, and is free to download and install.
T-Mobile and MetroPCS today announced the availability of the LG L90 and L70 (pictured), devices that fall into LG's L Series III lineup. Both phones were revealed by LG earlier this year. The L90 and L70 run Android 4.4 KitKat with LG's user interface enhancements. The hardware puts LG's minimalistic design esthetic to use. Shared features include support for Bluetooth, GPS, and Wi-Fi.
- L90:The L90 is being sold by T-Mobile and supports the carrier's HSPA+ 4G network, but not LTE. It has a 4.7-inch qHD display, quad-core 1.2GHz processor with 1GB of RAM, 8GB of internal storage, 2,540mAh battery, and an 8-megapixel/1.3-megapixel camera configuration. It will be available beginning April 30 for $0 down with 24 equal monthly device payments of $9.50, or the full retail price of $228.
- L70: The L70 will be sold by MetroPCS. It steps the display down to 4.5 inches and 800 x 400 resolution, a dual-core 1.2GHz processor with 1GB of RAM, 4GB of internal storage, a 2,100mAh battery, and a 5-megapixel/VGA camera configuration. The L70 is available beginning today for $49 after a $100 instant rebate. For a limited time, MetroPCS will offer an additional $49 rebate to customers who pay for two months of service in advance. The L70 supports HSPA+, but not LTE.
Dropbox recently pushed out an update to its iOS Mailbox email app that brings the two services closer together. Mailbox now takes advantage of Dropbox to store and sync preferences between different devices. Mailbox also gains an auto-swipe feature that will learn from user interactions to automate actions such as deleting and archiving emails and email threads. Dropbox offers cloud-based storage for mobile devices, as well as a photo uploading/sharing service. It debuted Mailbox for Android devices for the first time earlier this month. Mailbox 2.0 for iOS is free to download from the iTunes App Store.
The Power Matters Alliance today welcomed Microsoft as its newest member. Microsoft will join the PMA in its goal of developing interoperable wireless charging products. By joining the PMA, Microsoft also now has access to its specifications for wireless charging technology. This is significant because Microsoft will complete its purchase of Nokia's handset business later this week and use that technology in future products. The PMA joined forces with the Alliance for Wireless Power (A4WP) earlier this year, bringing together two of the three competing standards for wireless charging. The PMA claims to have the largest installed base of wireless chargers and accessories, though many of today's smartphones, including those sold by Verizon Wireless, support the competing Qi standard.
Beginning today, consumers can bring any aging Apple product to an Apple Store for free recycling. The company explained its renewed commitment to sustainability in a post on its web site, which also includes other initiatives. Before today, Apple required users to fill out an online form before accepting old gear for recycling, and only accepted certain devices. The new program covers Apple smartphones, tablets, laptops, desktops, and accessories. Apple will provide customers with Apple Store gift cards for select products (iPhones and iPads) that are in good, working condition. Apple said it will also accept products from other companies during special, pre-announced recycling events. In addition to the recycling program, Apple said it is looking to make devices more power efficient, make devices free of toxic materials, as well as power its plants and facilities with renewable energy sources.
HTC today published a dashboard that should help consumers understand where the Sense 6.0 software update is for their One (M7) and when it might it arrive. For example, HTC has already completed updating most versions of the One (M7) to Android 4.4 KitKat, and is currently in the process of "integrating" Sense 6.0 into the operating system. After the software is integrated, it will need to be certified by the carrier before it can be delivered to customers. This dashboard is for devices specific to the U.S., including carrier variants, and unlocked/Google Play Edition variants. It is meant to provide general information and not exact dates.
Google today announced the pending availability of Hangouts for Android version 2.1. This update to Google's messaging application will resolve a long-standing complaint with the app, which until now has kept two separate conversation threads (one for SMS, one for IM) for the same contact. According to Google, the app will clearly mark which type of message is being viewed, and will allow users to choose between sending an SMS or IM. The application will create separate contact lists: One for those with whom you Hang often, and another for phone-based contacts. Hangouts adds a new homescreen widget, too, which provides a view of recent conversations, and also fixes bugs and resolves performance issues. Hangouts for Android 2.1 is free to download from the Google Play Store. The new version will be available some time this week.
Verizon's version of the Samsung Galaxy S5 is fractionally different from the AT&T model in one key metric. Here is Phone Scoop's full report about this new Android smartphone.
Motorola Solutions has signed a patent-licensing agreement with Microsoft that will allow it to use Microsoft's intellectual property in its Android and Chrome devices. Neither Microsoft nor Motorola Solutions identified the patents at issue, nor the cost of the licensing agreement. It is important to note that Motorola Solutions is not Motorola Mobility. Motorola Solutions makes enterprise-grade mobile products for businesses, some of which run Android and/or Chrome. Just last week, Motorola Solutions agreed to sell its enterprise business to Zebra Technologies for $3.45 billion. Motorola Mobility is currently owned by Google and makes Android smartphones. Motorola Mobility is on deck to be divested by Google to Lenovo in the months ahead. Motorola Mobility has staunchly refused to sign a licensing agreement with Microsoft, as it believes its own patents cover the disputed technologies.
Verizon Wireless recently filed paperwork with the Federal Communications Commission seeking permission to buy the assets of Golden State Cellular in California and Mobi PCS in Hawaii. Verizon confirmed with Fierce Wireless its plans to acquire Golden State Cellular's spectrum, network assets, and customers in several markets in California, including Amador, Alpine, Calaveras, Tuolumne, and Mariposa counties. Verizon will transition Golden State Cellular's 18,000 subscribers to its network within 15 months of the deal's closing. In Hawaii, Verizon will acquire 20-30MHz of PCS spectrum from Mobi PCS, and then lease back 10MHz of that spectrum so Mobi can transition away from being a stand-alone service provider. Verizon said Mobi is still exploring several different ways to exit its wireless business. Both proposal are subject to FCC and other government regulatory approval. Verizon and competitor AT&T have spent the last 12 to 18 months acquiring a significant number of small, regional network operators mostly for their spectrum assets.