The CTIA Wireless Association today filed a request to stay the FCC's Open Internet regulations. The regulations were published in the Federal Register on April 13 and are slated to become official policy 60 days from the publication date (on or about June 13). Numerous organizations have already filed lawsuits seeking to block the rules entirely, but those suits won't prevent them from going into effect at the 60-day mark. As such, the CTIA and its members think it is vital to keep the current regulations in place until the lawsuits against the FCC have a chance to work their way through the courts. "We are very confident the courts will ultimately reject the FCC's abandonment of its highly successful bipartisan regulatory approach for mobile broadband," said CTIA President Meredith Attwell Baker. "Today, with our stay petition, we are asking that the status quo be preserved during the pendency of our court challenge. We recognize that stays are not common, but the uncertainty and serious ramifications stemming from the FCC's order requires CTIA to take every procedural step available to limit the impact of the FCC's overreach. The United States leads the world in 4G wireless investment and innovation. CTIA seeks to preserve this winning environment while the courts decipher the FCC's convoluted arguments." In the CTIA's petition, it allowed that the three so-called "bright-line rules" (no throttling, no blocking, no paid prioritization) are not the issue; rather, it is concerned with the FCC's intent to reclassify broadband under Title II regulations of the Telecommunications Act of 1934. It argues allowing the FCC's proposed rules to go into effect, even temporarily, could cause irreparable harm to internet and broadband companies. The CTIA asked the FCC to respond no later than May 8. The FCC is confident the rules, as drafted, will withstand legal assaults.
Verizon Wireless is offering its prepaid customers 1 GB of bonus data if they sign up for auto-pay. In order to qualify for the extra data, customers need to have the $45 or $60 prepaid plan. With auto-pay enabled, subscribers to the $45 plan will see their data allotment improve from 1 GB to 2 GB per month, while subscribers to the $60 plan will see their data allotment jump from 2.5 GB to 3.5 GB. Existing customers will see their bonus data appear after their next automatic payment. Verizon said this offer will only be available for a limited time. A handful of other pre-paid providers, including the likes of Boost Mobile and Cricket Wireless, also offer discounts for using auto-pay.
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Microsoft today said it has acquired digital pen technology from N-Trig. Microsoft has worked with the Israeli company for years, as N-Trig created the Surface Pen stylus for Microsoft's Surface tablets. "Digital pens have a ways to go to be as good as pen and paper on some dimensions, and we'll get there. But more importantly, adding the ability to capture and share the work you do with a digital pen opens up possibilities that traditional pen and paper just can't match," said Microsoft in a blog post. In the past, N-Trig created the DuoSense Pen for using with Android and Windows Phone smartphones. Terms of the technology deal with Microsoft were not disclosed.
Google has updated the main search application for Android devices and expanded its ability to use voice commands with other installed applications. For example, users can say things like, "Ok Google, Shazam this song," or "Ok Google, listen to NPR" and it will do exactly that. Google provided a guide on the new things the voice-enabled search app can handle and many of the functions are quite useful. Travelers can simply ask Google the status of their flight followed by what there is to do in their destination city. The search app can also control base functions of the phone, such as turn on/off the flashlight, or WiFi and Bluetooth radios. Power users can take advantage of the tool to search through their email for specific messages, or to find attachments/photos. The latest version of Google Search is free to download from the Play Store. Some apps will also need updates of their own to make these functions work. Google said these updated apps will appear in the Play Store over the next few days.
Meerkat today released a beta version of its live streaming app for Android devices. The company announced the pending arrival of the beta several weeks ago. Meerkat, which is already available for iOS, allows Twitter users to stream live video to their followers. Twitter's own Periscope app, also iOS only, does the same thing. Meerkat is free.
Microsoft has shied away from saying exactly when Windows 10 will launch other than to say "this summer." Speaking at Microsoft's Build developer conference this week, executive Joe Belfiore said the phone-specific version of Windows 10 won't arrive until after Windows 10 launches for PCs and tablets. "Our phone builds have not been as far as long as our PC builds," said Belfiore. "We're adapting the phone experiences later than we're adding the PC experiences." Belfiore didn't provide specifics, but the implication is that the revised OS for mobile phones won't arrive until the fall months. Microsoft has already released two preview builds of Windows 10 for Phones. The company is expected to seed a new build of the fledgling OS in the next couple of weeks.
AT&T today said it has completed its acquisition of Nextel Mexico. Nextel Mexico covers 76 million customers across the country. When first announced in January, AT&T said the acquisition would complement its recent purchase of Iusacell, another Mexican network operator. AT&T plans to create the "first-ever North American Mobile Service area" covering more than 400 million people across Mexico and the U.S. The company has already debuted several new service plans for calling and texting lines in Mexico since acquiring Iusacell. The deal cost AT&T about $1.875 billion.
TextNow Wireless today announced new pricing for its service plans and added two handsets to its lineup. TextNow Wireless offers all customers unlimited talk and text and up to 500MB of data for $18.99 per month. Similar to Google's recently-announced Project Fi, TextNow runs on Sprint's cellular network but defaults to WiFi connections whenever possible. The service is available to most any device (phone, tablet, PC) for WiFi-based calling and texting, and customers can use their TextNow number no matter which form factor they choose. Customers can upgrade to 1 GB of cellular data for $26.99 per month, 2 GB for $39.99, or 4 GB for $59.99. All plans include taxes and fees. In addition to the reworked plans, TextNow Wireless now sells the Google Nexus 5 ($249) and Motorola Moto X ($149). TextNow Wireless already offers a number of new and refurbished Sprint devices, including the Moto G, LG Optimus F3, Samsung Galaxy S3, and Samsung Galaxy S4.
HTC today rolled out an update to its camera application for the One M9 and One M8. The new camera application adds RAW camera mode to the one M9, which lets users capture, download, and adjust full-sized digital negatives. The app also adds a Crop-Me-In shooting mode to the One M8. Other new features for both the M9 and M8 include an adjustable divider in Split Capture mode, and the ability to add and remove camera shooting modes. The HTC camera application is free to download from the Google Play Store.
Sprint today announced a new partnership with Boingo that will give its customers free access to Boingo's WiFi hotspots in 35 U.S. airports. Sprint subscribers should be able to connect their WiFi-equipped handsets to Boingo's airport WiFi networks automatically and securely with no log-in required. Sprint says the WiFi connection is secure enough for business customers to use for accessing corporate VPNs. Sprint didn't say which airports are covered. Sprint today also announced the Sprint WiFi Connect, a consumer router that prioritizes Sprint's WiFi Calling service over any other traffic on that particular hotspot. Sprint says the Sprint WiFi Connect includes Smart Connect technology that dynamically manages 2.4GHz and 5GHz WiFi bands for optimal WiFi data performance. Sprint's WiFi Connect is available free of charge to qualified customers. WiFi Calling is available to most of Sprint's Android handsets as well as the Apple iPhone 6, 6 Plus, 5, and 5s.
Verizon's version of the Galaxy S6 is a solid performer and Samsung's flagship is well matched with Big Red's network. This premium Android phone is well worth a look for the flagship shopper.
OmniVision has agreed to allow a consortium of private investors purchase the company for about $1.9 billion. OmniVision makes digital imaging products, such as camera sensors for smartphones. Apple has, for example, used OmniVision's sensors in the iPhone. OmniVision is based in California, but has manufacturing facilities in Taiwan. The private equity investors purchasing the company are Chinese, and OmniVision agreed to divest its Taiwan assets in order to make the deal work. OmniVision expects the deal, which will require regulatory approval, to close late this year or early next year. Once the deal is concluded, OmniVision will stop being a public company and will be a private company moving forward.
Google has pushed out an update to its Messenger application for Android devices and in so doing added a few new features. Messenger now has its own desktop widget for viewing conversations from Android home screen panels. The app adds support for animated GIFs to spice up conversations, as well as a handful of new quick replies for speedier responses. The update also resolves some performance issues. Messenger is Google's newest SMS/MMS application for Android devices. It is free to download from the Play Store.
Samsung has this week made the app store for its Tizen platform available in most places around the world. Tizen is Samsung's homegrown operating system. At the moment the lone Tizen-based smartphone, the Z1, can only be purchased in India and Bangladesh. Samsung's decision to expand the Tizen app store to other countries could signal an intent to push the phone to new markets. A lack of apps forced Samsung to delay the launch of the Tizen smartphone by more than a year. Initially expected to reach Japan in late 2013, the phone didn't reach consumers in India until early 2015. Samsung has not said if or when it might expand the availability of the Z1 or other Tizen handsets, but the app store is now accessible from nearly every country.
Google has expanded the reach of the Chrome Dev channel to its Android mobile operating system. The Chrome Dev channel is not meant for general use by consumers; rather, it is intended for web developers seeking to test their sites against future versions of the Chrome browser. Consumers interested in testing pre-release versions of Chrome should stick to the Chrome Beta program, which lets people try new features before they are released to everyone. The Chrome Dev channel is already available to the Windows, Mac, Linux, and ChromeOS platforms. Google warns that Chrome Dev is "rocky at times" and installs in addition to the current public version of Chrome. Google pushes updates to the Chrome Dev channel at least once a week to resolve bugs and performance issues. At the end of the day, Google hopes bringing the Chrome Dev channel to Android will eventually result in a better mobile web experience for all users.
The FCC today approved nine applications submitted for the AWS-3 spectrum auction, two of which belong to Dish designated entities Northstar Wireless and SNR Wireless. The FCC said the applications are in their final form and are complete, but the FCC has not made a final decision about the bidding tactics used by Dish and whether or not the company deserves the 25% discount meant for small businesses. Rather than participate directly, Dish used a trio of small companies to make bids. The small companies should qualify for the discounts, but some think Dish's controlling stake in the companies negates their small stature. AT&T and Verizon have already complained vociferously about Dish's bidding tactics and the small business discount. Dish's total provisional winning bids total $13.3 billion. The discount would deduct $3 billion from that total. The FCC has decided to make the applications available to the public and open for comment. "The applications that seek small business bidding credits are the most complex, given that they detail the nature of the applicant’s ownership and control structure, and require the review of the related corporate agreements that in some cases consist of a highly complex set of rights and obligations, including agreements pertaining to equity ownership, funding, joint bidding, and management services," said Robert Sherman, chief of the FCC's Wireless Telecommunications Bureau. "These are complex and important matters, and we have a long way to go in our review before we reach final conclusions on all of the applications." The public has until May 11 to file petitions to deny Dish the small business discounts.
The FCC today levied fines against AT&T and SNET, a former subsidiary of AT&T's, for violating federal Lifeline regulations. The companies over billed the government program, which helps ensure low income consumers have access to a phone line. AT&T and SNET failed to remove ineligible customers from their records but billed the government for the accounts anyway. In particular, AT&T will pay $6.9 million and SNET will pay $4 million. Both companies will have to adopt vigorous compliance programs to ensure similar mistakes don't happen again. "American consumers trust that the companies who receive federal funds will use that money appropriately," said Travis LeBlanc, Chief of the FCC's Enforcement Bureau. "We expect companies to be vigilant in protecting public funds and complying with FCC rules." The FCC has doled out tens of millions of dollars in fines so far this year through various enforcement actions. It fined AT&T earlier this month over privacy violations and it fined Verizon last month over a 911 outage.
Microsoft today demonstrated how Windows 10 on phones will be able to serve as full PCs thanks to the Continuum user interface idea. Continuum helps keep the UI approximately the same as users move from PC to tablet to phone. Continuum on Windows 10 phones will let users turn their phones into full computers with apps, data, and accessories such as a keyboard and mouse. According to Microsoft's Joe Belfiore, new hardware is required to power this vision. The Windows 10 platform is expected to arrive later this year, but Microsoft has not announced new Windows Phones just yet.