No U.S. wireless carrier is implementing LTE-Advanced yet, though all four major carriers have expressed interest in the technology or have described plans to offer the faster speeds as early as later this year.
The four major U.S. carriers (Verizon Wireless, AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile USA) are provisioning or have recently provisioned LTE (Long Term Evolution) network switching gear and antennas nationwide that generally provide average downlink speeds of 10Mbps.
None of the four major U.S. carriers responded Monday to a request for information on their plans for LTE-Advanced networks.
Samsung is working with Qualcomm on LTE-Advanced chips for the GS4, said JK Shin, co-chief executive of Samsung Electronics, in an interview with Reuters in South Korea.
Shin told Reuters, in a story posted early today, that Samsung is talking to carriers outside of South Korea to sell the LTE-Advanced GS4. He refused to disclose the carriers Samsung is talking to.
He also claimed that Samsung will be the first manufacturer to sell a commercial version of an LTE-Advanced smartphone.
Shen told Reuters that a three-minute download of a movie using current LTE technology would take just over a minute on an LTE-Advanced network.
He did add that a Galaxy S4 that supports LTE-Advanced will be slightly more expensive than the LTE version.
Shin claimed sales of the GS4 “remain strong,” and have been thus far stronger than the GS III. The smartphone became available in April. He appeared to be reacting to analyst forecasts that demand for the Galaxy S4 is lagging.
After those analyst forecasts appeared earlier this month, shares of Samsung stock quickly dived by 6% and the company’s market value has dropped by nearly $20 billion since June 7.
The addition of LTE-Advanced to the GS4 is another example of how phone makers must constantly improve hardware and software to keep customers interested in a smartphone market that has become saturated.
Verizon Communications Inc is exploring the possibility of entering Canada’s cellular telephone business, potentially fulfilling the government’s hopes of having a fourth major wireless company, the Globe and Mail reported on Monday.
Verizon could look at taking over a smaller player in Canada, such as Wind Mobile, and participating in a new wireless spectrum auction, the newspaper reported citing two industry sources familiar with the situation.
New entrants such as Wind, Mobilicity and Public Mobile have helped to drive down wireless prices in Canada, but have struggled to turn a profit.
The struggles of the new entrants have frustrated the Canadian government’s hopes of having a fourth major wireless company in all parts of the country to compete with Telus Corp, BCE Inc’s Bell unit and Rogers Communications.
AT&T Corp, Vodafone Group Plc and Telenor ASA could be other possible investors, the newspaper said.
Sixty percent of U.S. Fortune 500 firms are already testing or using the system to manage BlackBerry’s new line of devices, the company said on Wednesday, as U.S. carriers began to debut its new keyboard-equipped Q10 smartphone.
The Q10, which comes with the tiny physical keyboard that many BlackBerry fans admire, is the second device powered by the new BlackBerry 10 operating system.
The touchscreen Z10 launched earlier this year.
The U.S. market is crucial for Waterloo, Ontario-based BlackBerry as it seeks to win back market share ceded to Apple Inc’s iPhone, Samsung’s Galaxy smartphones and other devices powered by Google’s Android operating system.
“This is a very exciting day for us, launching with all four major U.S. carriers,” BlackBerry Chief Operating Officer Kristian Tear said in an interview.
Tear said BlackBerry, which has long had a strong base of corporate and government users, expected the Q10 to allow it to win back customers who have been using other devices.
He believed demand for the smartphones would be helped by the fact that a majority of top U.S. companies were testing or installing the BlackBerry Enterprise Service system that would allow them to manage the new devices on their internal networks.
“Since everybody is migrating toward this, we expect it will definitely create pull for our (smartphone) products,” he said.
“There are a lot of very loyal BlackBerry keyboard users out there who have been waiting for this and I think, with the Q10, we will also be able to win back prior BlackBerry customers, who are now trying other platforms.”
The Q10 launched in Canada, Britain and a few other countries two months ago. The U.S. launch was delayed due to a longer carrier-testing process.
The device is already on sale through T-Mobile in the United States, while rivals Verizon and AT&T have begun to accept pre-orders for shipping later this month. Sprint plans to begin selling the devices this summer.
Verizon Wireless began taking Web orders for the Q10 device today, with a shipping date of June 6.
Verizon will charge $199.99, with a new two-year agreement. The Q10 will be sold in Verizon stores shortly after the Web orders ship, a spokeswoman said.
Sprint and AT&T will also carry the Q10. Sprint today repeated earlier statements that it will start delivering the smartphone to users in late summer while AT&T today said again that it will start shipping the device sometime this summer.
Neither Sprint or AT&T has announced a price for the Q10.
T-Mobile has been selling the Q10 to business customers since May 14 under special plans arranged with T-Mobile business sales reps.
BlackBerry said on May 14 that it would begin selling the Q10 through U.S. carriers in June, not May as it had previously announced.
The qwerty Q10 device, which has a physical keyboard beneath a 3.1-in touchscreen, is already on sale in more than 14 other countries, including Canada.
T-Mobile charges $579.99 for the Q10, following its recent initiative to make phones available unsubsidized or nearly so. The carrier is also promoting unlimited data, voice and texting plans with no annual contracts under what it calls its Simple Choice Plan.
BlackBerry officials have high hopes for the Q10, since up to 90% of its existing 70 million-plus customers already use a qwerty BlackBerry phone like the Curve or Bold.
On Tuesday, Verizon, Sprint Nextel and T-Mobile USA joined the “It Can Wait” campaign that AT&T began last year. Next Monday, the campaign will kick off TV, radio and online ads warning consumers about the dangers of texting and driving, and a driving simulator will tour the country to demonstrate how dangerous the practice can be.
Recent studies have raised concerns over the growth of texting while driving and its dangers, especially for teenagers. Almost 43 percent of high school students of driving age had texted while driving in the past month, according to a recent survey by the Cohen Children’s Medical Center of New York.
The co-branded summer campaign, scheduled to run through Labor Day on Sept. 3, was timed for what the carriers called the most dangerous season for teen driving. It will also include messages in Wal-Mart, Best Buy and Radio Shack stores as well as the carriers’ retail shops.
More than 200 organizations are also joining in the campaign. On Sept. 19, just as they did last year, backers of the program will ask consumers to take a pledge not to text while driving.
“They are doing the right thing,” said mobile analyst Jack Gold of J. Gold Associates. “I don’t think anybody, including the carriers, wants people texting while they’re driving.”
At the same time, the carriers may also be trying to head off further regulation of mobile use in cars. Texting while driving is illegal in many states, as is talking on a phone without a hands-free system. However, regulation might someday go further to outlaw mobile use even with hands-free systems, he said. Carriers may also fear being named in lawsuits over texting-related accidents, so they’re taking strong steps to warn against it, Gold said.
Nokia will offer a new high-end smartphone through U.S. carrier Verizon Wireless, it said on Friday, hoping to expand its share in the high-margin premium market after years of falling behind Samsung and Apple Inc.
The new Lumia 928, priced at $99 if customers mail-in a $50 rebate and agree to a two-year deal with Verizon Wireless, is similar to the 920 model currently sold through AT&T, but is lighter and slightly different in appearance.
It weighs 162 grams compared with 185 grams for the 920, which some critics had said was too heavy.
The 928′s 4.5-inch screen also extends to the edge of the phone, giving a sharper impression than the curved edges of the 920. The new models also come in black and white compared with the colorful options of the earlier Lumia range.
Most other features, such as a 8.7 megapixel camera and 1.5-gigahertz dual core processor by Qualcomm, are the same as the 920′s.
The 928 is the latest in Nokia’s Lumia range of smartphones which use Microsoft’s Windows Phone 8 software.
Nokia switched to Windows in 2011, aiming to compete with Apple’s iPhones and rivals using Google’s Android system. Sales of Lumia phones have grown in recent quarters, but at 5.6 million in first quarter, they still account for only around 5 percent of the market.
The company has recently launched new products in the lower and mid-tier range to protect its position in emerging markets, but analysts have said its success in the high-margin smartphone market will be crucial for its long-term survival.
Nokia is due to unveil its new Lumia strategy at an event in London on Tuesday.
T-Mobile said the GS4 was scheduled to go on sale online at its website www.T-Mobile.com on Wednesday, but that online sales will be delayed for possibly five days, and are expected to begin Monday, April 29. The carrier cited an “unexpected delay with inventory deliveries.”
Earlier Wednesday, Sprint said its full launch on Saturday of the latest Galaxy S smartphone will be “slightly delayed.”
Sprint also cited “unexpected inventory challenges from Samsung” as the cause, but didn’t say when in-store sales would begin.
The nation’s two largest carriers, AT&T and Verizon, appeared unaffected by the delays. AT&T on Wednesday said it is “on track” for launch of the GS4 in its stores on Saturday.
Verizon Wireless said its GS4s will still be available on May 30 for $199.99 after rebate and a two-year contract.
In a statement issued via email, Samsung said: “Due to overwhelming global demand of the Galaxy S4, the initial supply may be limited. We expect to fulfill inventory to meet demands in the coming weeks.” Samsung didn’t indicate which carriers are affected.
Sprint is offering the GS4 for $249.99 with a two-year contract, while AT&T is selling it for $199.99 and a two-year contract.
T-Mobile was expected to begin sales of the GS4 on Wednesday online, and lists it on its web site for a down payment of $149.99 plus 24 monthly payments of $20 each, for a total of $629.99.
In its statement, T-Mobile apologized to customers for the delay and said it is “working with Samsung to deliver the device to T-Mobile customers as soon as possible.” It also said that “online availability is expected to begin on Monday, April 29.”
U.S. Cellular also has the device listed as a pre-order only on its site for $199.99 and a two-year contract, with no delivery date.
Other smaller U.S. carriers that will carry the device could not be reached for comment on whether they face supply-related delays.
Microsoft has rolled out a major update to its Azure cloud computing service and said that it will match Amazon on price.
Last year Microsoft announced it would preview a host of changes to its Azure cloud computing service including new virtual machine configurations, a virtual private network and a new Azure software development kit. Now the firm has taken those features out of preview and made them generally available in what it is promoting as the largest single update to Windows Azure to date.
Since Microsoft announced most of the features in its “hybrid cloud” last June, the firm said the only changes from the preview release to today’s public release are higher memory capacity and higher performance compute nodes. However the firm touted its Windows Azure Virtual Network as a way for customers to view cloud based services as if those were located on their premises.
Microsoft couldn’t rely on features alone to take the fight to Amazon and its Web Services division. Amazon’s cloud service is the biggest rival to Microsoft Azure and has a reputation for cutting prices aggressively. Now Microsoft has said it will do the same in a bid “to take the price discussion off the table”.
Michael Newberry, Windows Azure lead at Microsoft UK said that companies are in a process of moving applications that presently reside on servers located in the office onto the cloud. He said, “It is important that we get them through the process, price shouldn’t be a barrier for the customer to choose the best cloud provider.
“At the end of the day it should be about different technical facilities, what is the right environment for a particular workload, a particular application scenario. And that’s why we wanted to take the price discussion off the table and say ‘look, we know prices are changing and this is a market that is developing, but lets make this about the best environment, the best architecture, the best cloud environment for your particular customer.”
Newberry said that Microsoft’s Windows Azure service will appeal to those customers who want to make use of existing applications rather than develop ones specifically for cloud deployment. He said, “With customers who have existing infrastructure, existing applications, existing datacenters, that’s not something they want to throwaway. They still want to take advantage of cloud technologies, either in terms of private cloud, or using the public cloud as a spiking mechanism – an overflow if you will – for their existing on premise environment.”
Microsoft has also started to offer support for Linux on its Azure cloud service. Newberry said customers should have no problem running open source software or Linux on its services. However the firm does see its Windows Azure cloud service being particularly enticing for those firms that already run their network infrastructure services using Microsoft’s software, such as Active Directory, SQL Server and Sharepoint.
With Microsoft saying it will match Amazon’s pricing, the cloud provider industry might start to see a focus on performance rather than simply competing on low prices to attract customers.
AT&T will be the first U.S. carrier out of the gate with the next generation Galaxy S 4. On its S4 web page Tuesday, AT&T announced it would start shipping the units on April 30.
The company began taking pre-orders for the handset today.
AT&T is offering the S4 two 16GB models of the handset –one in white frost, the other in black mist.
The company’s unsubsidized price for the phone is $639.99. With a two-year contract, the phone sells for $199. Shipping is free if the phone is purchased online.
T-Mobile’s and Verizon’s release plans were tipped off Monday when Engadget posted a document from Staples listing the dates the retailer expects Galaxy S4 inventory to start arriving in its big box stores.
Tentative launch dates for the S4 in select Staple stores were May 1 for T-Mobile and May 30 for Verizon, according to the document.
The document also indicates that Staples expects the Galaxy S4 to be a hot item and will start taking reservations for the handsets. Those reservations–as many Windows Surface Pro shoppers already know all too well–are not a guarantee that you’ll get a handset on launch day, only that you’ll get a phone call when a phone is available.
Samsung, too, reportedly has big retail plans for the Galaxy S4. It’s setting up a number of ”mini” stores at select Best Buy outlets to hawk the company’s mobile products. The stores-within-a-store will be manned with Best Buy employees specially trained to explain the unique features of Samsung’s products.
The Galaxy S4 is expected to be another best seller for Samsung. One analyst has predicted the company will ship 10 million units during its first month on the market and 70 million by the end of the year.
Shipments aren’t sales, though, and it remains to be seen how many of those S4′s will wind up in the hands of users. Judging from the buzz surrounding the phone, however, it’s likely to be lots of them.
Dish Network Corp, the No. 2 U.S. satellite television provider, offered to acquire Sprint Nextel Corp for $25.5 billion in cash and stock, a move that could endanger the proposed acquisition of Sprint by Japan’s SoftBank Corp.
Sprint shares soared as much as 17.8 percent after the announcement to their highest level since August 2008 and slightly topped the value of the Dish bid.
Dish’s surprise bid on Monday is the latest twist in a wave of consolidation in the U.S. wireless industry. Dish had already made a counter-offer against Sprint for Clearwire Corp, the wireless company majority-owned by Sprint.
It was also the boldest step yet by Dish Chairman Charlie Ergen, who has bought billions of dollars worth of wireless spectrum in the last few years and has been seeking some sort of deal to make use of the airwaves.
“This is the culmination of a lot of years of work. Whether it be the purchase of spectrum, entering auctions, the acquisition of Sling Media, all those things come together now with the merger with Sprint,” Ergen said on a conference call with analysts and reporters.
Dish said it would pay $4.76 per share in cash and about 0.05953 shares in Dish stock for each Sprint share. The offer, which works out to $7 per share, represents a premium of roughly 12 percent to Sprint’s close on Friday.
Sprint said it would evaluate the proposal but declined further comment.
Dish claimed its offer represented a premium of roughly 13 percent above SoftBank’s existing bid. Sprint shareholders would own 32 percent of the combined company under the Dish offer compared with a 30 percent ownership in the SoftBank deal.
Some analysts said the Dish offer could lead to a bidding war with SoftBank.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if both parties revised their offers. The Dish bid strikes me as superior from an operational perspective because they operate a U.S. business,” said RBC Capital Markets analyst Jonathan Atkin.
Sprint, the No. 3 U.S. mobile services provider, agreed in October to sell 70 percent of its shares to SoftBank for $20.1 billion. That deal is currently being reviewed by regulators.
MetroPCS shareholders were due to vote for or against the deal last Friday, but on last Thursday, the regional U.S. carrier gave them more time to consider the matter after Deutsche Telekom sweetened its bid.
The merger, proposed last October, would give T-Mobile USA’s parent company 74 percent of a combined mobile operator that would have about 42 million subscribers and a stronger spectrum position than either MetroPCS or T-Mobile on their own. Shareholders of MetroPCS would get $1.5 billion and 26% of the new company. Regulators have already approved the plan.
However, some investment advisory services had recommended MetroPCS shareholders reject the deal. On Wednesday, Deutsche Telekom sweetened its bid, calling the new plan its “best and final offer.” DT reduced the amount of debt that the merged company would carry by $3.8 billion, to $11.2 billion, and lowered the interest rate on that debt.
Prospects for the merger appear to have improved since the offer was modified. Two large hedge funds that own MetroPCS shares and had opposed the deal now support it, according to published reports.
The Galaxy S III does not have a compatible LTE radio, said Randy Meyerson, senior director of product marketing at T-Mobile, during an event in New York City, where the company announced the official rollout of its LTE network and new mobile plans.
At the event, T-Mobile announced an Apple iPhone 5 that will work on its LTE network. Other phones that will work on its LTE network include BlackBerry Z10, HTC One, and S3′s successor, Samsung Galaxy S4, which will go on sale starting on May 1. Samsung’s Galaxy Note II, which started shipping in September last year, will also work on T-Mobile’s LTE network, said a representative for the wireless carrier at the event.
T-Mobile officials declined to comment on whether an LTE version of the Galaxy S III would become available.
The S III was announced last year and started shipping in the U.S. for all major networks starting in June. When announced, the smartphone worked on LTE networks from AT&T and Verizon, but T-Mobile at the time did not offer LTE and was working on deploying the network. The S III smartphone shipped with Qualcomm’s Snapdragon MSM8960 chipset, which includes an integrated LTE radio.
However, it remained unclear if the S III would work on T-Mobile’s LTE network. That led to discussion threads in T-Mobile’s forums and on other websites like XDA-developers on whether S III had forward support for LTE based on the MSM8960 chipset specifications. Forum members sent related questions to Samsung and T-Mobile representatives, but got mixed answers.
All S III phones use Qualcomm’s MSM8960 chipset, but Samsung and T-Mobile may have disabled the LTE capability on the smartphones designed for T-Mobile networks, said Anand Shimpi, a chip expert and founder of Anandtech, which reviews hardware.
Smartphones are planned starting roughly 18 months ahead of their release, and are designed for specific bands and frequencies, Shimpi said. It was likely too early for T-Mobile to determine what frequencies its LTE network would run on.
“You need the right front-end to enable LTE on the right frequency,” Shimpi said.
Qualcomm is trying to solve some of the LTE compatibility issues by cramming in support for a wide range of LTE bands in its chips, which could help smartphones interoperate on multiple networks in different countries, Shimpi said.
The U.S. launch comes more than a month after the phone, called the Z10, went on sale in the U.K. Jan. 31. The U.S. is one of BlackBerry’s biggest markets, especially for enterprise customers, so its reception in the country will be closely watched.
The Z10 has a 4.2-inch touchscreen that dominates the front of the phone. With a minimum of buttons around the edges, it’s very different from a lot of BlackBerry phones of the past that often sported physical keyboards. A version with a keyboard, called the Q10, is due, but BlackBerry 10 first arrives in the U.S. in this touchscreen-only form.
Both AT&T and Verizon Wireless, the two biggest cellular carriers in the U.S., are promoting the handset on the home pages of their websites. The phone costs $600 at Verizon and $550 at AT&T. Both carriers are also offering it for $200 with a two-year contract.
Great apps and content will be key to the phone’s success and a lot of new content has been added to the U.S. version of the BlackBerry World app store since the phone was unveiled in late January.
On Wednesday the company added apps for Delta Air Lines, Al Jazeera English and The Times, and it followed those on Thursday with Amazon Kindle, OpenTable and The Wall Street Journal. A large catalog of music and movies has also been added to the store in preparation for the U.S. launch, but some key apps are still missing.
BlackBerry says “the coming weeks” will see some of them appear, including CNN, The Daily Show Headlines, eBay, Rdio and Skype.
Radio frequency chip makers are poised to benefit as Samsung Electronics Co Ltd and Apple Inc unveil ever more sophisticated smartphones and tablets to battle for the No. 1 spot in the global mobile devices market.
Investors and analysts say they like shares of RF Micro Devices Inc,Skyworks Solutions Inc and Avago Technologies Ltd – companies that make the chips that enable gadgets to send and receive data wirelessly.
Samsung unveiled its latest flagship phone, the Galaxy S4, in New York last week. The S4 can stop and start videos when someone looks at the screen, flip between songs at the wave of a hand and record sound to accompany pictures.
As manufacturers improve and add new features to phones, which are increasingly used to stream music, video and games, they are boosting the RF chip technology used in the devices.
“The RF content in handsets continues to go up,” said Stewart Stecker, a portfolio manager at AlphaOne Capital. “That’s good from an immediate to longer-term perspective for the entire RF supply chain.”
The importance of RF chips will increase as network operators deploy high-speed wireless technology known as 4G LTE (long-term evolution), analysts said.
LTE requires a much higher number of frequency bands, which increases the number of RF chips in a phone.
The global LTE market is expected to almost double this year, surpassing the $10 billion mark, according to a March 13 report from telecom market research firm Infonetics Research.
“As you add LTE – that’s a whole other frequency – you need more radio, more RF equipment,” said Northland Securities analyst Tom Sepenzis.
A Verizon customer, for example, using a Samsung Galaxy S4 while traveling the world, would need to be able to use the LTE network in the United States and other countries, said Sepenzis.
“That requires more complex amplifiers that can handle multiple frequencies, requires better antenna solutions, switching capability to handle all the different frequencies. That obviously favors the RF component manufacturers,” he said.
A shareholder vote on April 12 on the merger is one of the last remaining obstacles to the deal. While analysts had widely expected regulatory approval for the deal the outcome from the shareholder meeting has been more difficult to predict.
Two big shareholders have publicly voiced criticism the merger of MetroPCS and the Deutsche Telekom unit, announced in October, due to its valuation of MetroPCS and the proposed $21 billion debt level of the combined company.
P. Schoenfeld Asset Management, which had a 1.66 percent stake in MetroPCS on December 31, is leading a proxy battle against the merger. It has gained support from the company’s top shareholder, Paulson & Co, which owns 9.9 percent of MetroPCS stock.
But MetroPCS said in its letter that the combined company’s debt leverage would be in line with those of its peers and its own historical average.
Under the deal, Deutsche Telekom would end up with a 74 percent stake in the combined company, and MetroPCS would declare a 1-for-2 reverse stock split and pay $1.5 billion in cash to its shareholders.
Along with their concerns about the company’s debt level, Schoenfeld and Paulson have also said the 26 percent ownership being offered to MetroPCS shareholders was not enough and that MetroPCS would be worth more as a stand-alone company.
But MetroPCS said the deal offered shareholders a 70 percent to 90 percent premium, including the net present value of projected cost savings from the merger.
The company also said the stock would be worth 19 percent less than the current price without the proposed $1.5 billion cash payment to shareholders.
Deutsche Telekom said on March 6 that the U.S. Department of Justice did not object to the deal before a regulatory deadline ran out. The Justice Department confirmed on Tuesday that it had closed its review of the deal.
Another regulatory body, the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) has yet to confirm its final decision on the deal. A CFIUS spokesperson was not immediately available for comment.