Tag Archives | Wireless

AT&T Gives Up T-Mobile Bid

It’s  official, and not the least bit surprising at this point: AT&T has ended its attempt to acquire T-Mobile USA.  It’s not happy about it, either: 

The actions by the Federal Communications Commission and the Department of Justice to block this transaction do not change the realities of the U.S. wireless industry. It is one of the most fiercely competitive industries in the world, with a mounting need for more spectrum that has not diminished and must be addressed immediately. The AT&T and T-Mobile USA combination would have offered an interim solution to this spectrum shortage.  In the absence of such steps, customers will be harmed and needed investment will be stifled.

AT&T’s agreement with T-Mobile parent Deutsche Telekom requires it to fork over $4 billion in penalties, which probably doesn’t make AT&T any less cranky.I’m glad that the merger didn’t happen, simply because I don’t want to see AT&T and Verizon share a wireless-industry duopoly. The continued existence of T-Mobile USA in some form–it may well be bought out by someone else–helps prevent that eventuality. I wonder what AT&T’s backup plan is, and whether we’ll even remember this non-merger five or ten years from now?

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One Small Step for Wireless Customers

I don’t like signing up for two-year contracts when I buy a phone–in fact, I’ve frequently chosen to buy phones at full price and therefore avoid the commitment. But there’s been one giant argument against doing so: Wireless carriers charge folks who pay up front for a phone exactly the same monthly fee that they get from customers who opt to get the phone cheap in return for signing a contract.

Effectively, full-price phone buyers are paying back the subsidy to the carrier even though they weren’t subsidized in the first place. That’s why I reluctantly but rationally signed up for a two-year Verizon contract last week when I bought a Droid. (The Droid only works on Verizon in the first place, so it’s not like I have the option of leaving the carrier a few months from now and using the handset with another carrier.)

Now T-Mobile has become the first U.S. carrier to do the right thing: As Bob Tedeschi of the New York Times reports, it’s charging people who pay list price for phones less for monthly service than it does subsidy customers. By forgoing the subsidy, you’ll save money over the long run and won’t be locked into a relationship with T-Mobile; assuming you’ve got the cash on hand, it clearly becomes the smartest way to buy a phone.

Bravo, T-Mobile. May AT&T, Sprint, and Verizon follow your lead…


AT&T Aces 3G Tests. Most of Them, Anyhow

My pal Mark Sullivan of PC World has written a spectacularly ambitious story summarizing cross-country tests of the major wireless carriers’ 3G service. It’s a follow-up to an earlier piece, and the big news this time around is that AT&T did extremely well. It had the highest average download and upload speeds in tests conducted by Norarum, Inc. for PCW, and was tied for highest reliability.¬†Most of the individual numbers associated with AT&T’s 3G performance via laptop and iPhone in thirteen cities range from good to excellent.

Except for one number. In the tests, AT&T’s reliability via iPhone in San Francisco was a dismal 55 percent, by far the worst performance turned in by any carrier on either laptop or smartphone in any city. Nearly half the time, the damn phone just didn’t work.

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Gizmodo’s Nationwide 3G Tests

What’s this about bloggers sitting around in pajamas regurgitating the work of real journalists? Gizmodo undertook an uncommonly ambitious project to test 3G wireless speeds in twelve U.S. cities, from New York City to Maui. The results? In a nutshell, AT&T was fastest overall, competing fiercely with Verizon Wireless for download dominance, and sweeping Giz’s upload tests. (The results are worth comparing with PC World’s somewhat similar tests from last Spring; PCW used different methodology in a different set of cities, so it’s no shocker that its conclusions weren’t identical.)

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Too Many Next-Generation Wireless Standards

This I know: We need faster wireless home networks. The Roku box hitched up to my TV works fine most of the time, but it’s also prone to unexpected pauses and freezes–and sometimes gets the video and audio out of sync in an amusing fashion. The moment I try to do something else that involves shoving a lot of data across my network–like performing an online backup–things get really gnarly.

So even though the ink is barely dry on the document making today’s 802.11n standard official, I’m happy that major technology companies are pooling their resources to come up with faster wireless technology more suited to HD video and other demanding applications. But the thing is, there isn’t one consortium figuring out what’s next–there are three of them.

As Dean Takahashi reports on VentureBeat, the Wireless Gigabit Alliance is announcing its WiGig standard, which combines Wi-Fi with 60-GHz networking that’s theoretically ten times faster than 802.11n. WiGig joins WHDI (Wireless Home Digital Interface) and Wireless HD in the next-generation wireless race, inevitably bringing to mind that old saying: “The great thing about standards is that there are so many of them.”

As Dean notes, WiGig, WHDI, and Wireless HD aren’t trying to do exactly the same thing, and there are arguments in favor of all of them. But the fact that the industry’s pursuing a trio of related, overlapping standards still reminds me of the long, tedious, counterproductive squabbling that bogged down 802.11n’s progress–not to mention the equally pointless Blu-Ray/HD-DVD wars.

So I’m left with visions of consumers buying networking gear and gadgets that are doomed to obsolescence, and worrying that it’s going to be awhile before it’s clear which of these standards has legs and which doesn’t. Anyone want to make the case for competing standards being healthy? And is there anyone out there who knows more about these three than I and can outline their pros and cons?


FCC Demands Answers from Verizon on Fees

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) sent a letter to Verizon demanding answers about why it increased early termination fees for smart phone users as well as whether customers are charged for inadvertently accessing Verizon’s Internet services.

At dispute is that Verizon doubled early termination fees (ETF) for new customers that signed up to its wireless services with a smartphone. The company also charged a $2 fee of a number of customers who accessed its mobile Web by inadvertently loading their browsers.

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AT&T and Verizon End Map Spat

According to Dan Frommer at the Business Insider, AT&T and Verizon Wireless have agreed to end their legal tussle over the Verizon ads that slam AT&T’s 3G coverage. Good for Verizon. And good for AT&T, too–as far as I can see, the suit it filed against Verizon did absolutely nothing to improve anyone’s perceptions of AT&T. Actually, it mostly gave lots and lots of people a new excuse to grumble even more about AT&T–and gave more publicity to Verizon’s (accurate) map showing that it has far more 3G coverage than AT&T does than the Verizon ads could have gotten on their own.

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