Businesses

Would a T-Mobile-Sprint Merger Hurt Consumers? (dslreports.com) 95

Following a report from Reuters claiming T-Mobile is close to agreeing on a deal to merge with Sprint, an anonymous Slashdot reader shares a report from DSLReports arguing how such a merger would remain "a very bad deal for consumers": The Sprint-T-Mobile merger could prove problematic for not only wireless prices, but the recent resurgence in unlimited data plans. While wireless carriers still often engage in theatrical non-price competition more often than not, the government's decision to block AT&T's acquisition of T-Mobile several years ago helped spur an unprecedented period of competition in wireless (something large ISPs and their policy armies like to ignore). The end result was a brasher and more competitive T-Mobile, who lead the way on a wave of improvements in the sector culminating most recently in the return of simpler, easier unlimited data plans. The government's decision to block Sprint from acquiring T-Mobile helped keep that competition intact, something large ISPs and their policy folk would similarly like you to forget. As a result, T-Mobile has added more customers per quarter than any other wireless carrier for several years running, as the resulting competition put an end to numerous, nasty industry tactics including overcharging for international roaming, to obnoxious fees and long-term contracts. And while the new, combined company will likely still be run by current popular T-Mobile CEO John Legere, the very act of eliminating one of only four major players in the wireless market will indisputably reduce the incentive to more seriously compete on price, and could help reverse the progress the sector has seen in recent years. It's well within reason that this reduced competition could also bring back metered plans and put an end to unlimited data.
Communications

Verizon Backtracks Slightly In Plan To Kick Customers Off Network (arstechnica.com) 51

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Verizon Wireless is giving a reprieve to some rural customers who are scheduled to be booted off their service plans, but only in cases when customers have no other options for cellular service. Verizon recently notified 8,500 customers in 13 states that they will be disconnected on October 17 because they used roaming data on another network. But these customers weren't doing anything wrong -- they are being served by rural networks that were set up for the purpose of extending Verizon's reach into rural areas. Today, Verizon said it is extending the deadline to switch providers to December 1. The company is also letting some customers stay on the network -- although they must switch to a new service plan. "If there is no alternative provider in your area, you can switch to the S (2GB), M (4GB), 5GB single-line, or L (8GB) Verizon plan, but you must do so by December 1," Verizon said in a statement released today. These plans range from $35 to $70 a month, plus $20 "line fees" for each line. The 8,500 customers who received disconnection letters have a total of 19,000 lines. Verizon sells unlimited plans in most of the country but said only those limited options would be available to these customers. Verizon also reiterated its promise that first responders will be able to keep their Verizon service even though some public safety officials received disconnection notices. "We have become aware of a very small number of affected customers who may be using their personal phones in their roles as first responders and another small group who may not have another option for wireless service," Verizon said. "After listening to these folks, we are committed to resolving these issues in the best interest of the customers and their communities. We're committed to ensuring first responders in these areas keep their Verizon service."
Communications

T-Mobile, Sprint Close To Agreeing Deal Terms (reuters.com) 85

From a report: T-Mobile US is close to agreeing tentative terms on a deal to merge with peer Sprint Corp, people familiar with the matter said on Friday, a major breakthrough in efforts to merge the third and fourth largest U.S. wireless carriers. The development follows more than four months of on-and-off talks this year between T-Mobile and Sprint, and comes as the U.S. telecommunications sector seeks ways to tackle investments in 5G technology that will greatly enhance wireless data transfer speeds.
Businesses

Judge Kills FTC Lawsuit Against D-Link for Flimsy Security (dslreports.com) 99

Earlier this year, the Federal Trade Commission filed a complaint against network equipment vendor D-Link saying inadequate security in the company's wireless routers and internet cameras left consumers open to hackers and privacy violations. The FTC, in a complaint filed in the Northern District of California charged that "D-Link failed to take reasonable steps to secure its routers and Internet Protocol (IP) cameras, potentially compromising sensitive consumer information, including live video and audio feeds from D-Link IP cameras." For its part, D-Link Systems said it "is aware of the complaint filed by the FTC." Fast forward nine months, a judge has dismissed the FTC's case, claiming that the FTC failed to provide enough specific examples of harm done to consumers, or specific instances when the routers in question were breached. From a report: "The FTC does not identify a single incident where a consumer's financial, medical or other sensitive personal information has been accessed, exposed or misused in any way, or whose IP camera has been compromised by unauthorized parties, or who has suffered any harm or even simple annoyance and inconvenience from the alleged security flaws in the [D-Link] devices," wrote the Judge. "The absence of any concrete facts makes it just as possible that [D-Link]'s devices are not likely to substantially harm consumers, and the FTC cannot rely on wholly conclusory allegations about potential injury to tilt the balance in its favor."
Entertainment

Sonos To Launch a Wireless Speaker That Would Support Multiple Voice Assistants (yahoo.com) 33

Sonos, a mid- to high-end speaker manufacturer, released an updated privacy policy for its speakers that almost certainly confirms that the company will release a speaker with Amazon's Alexa voice assistant built into the device in the near term. From a report: Though many devices that integrate with Alexa have been announced and are starting to come to market, this is one of the higher-profile examples and could be instructive for smart-speaker designers. The company first announced its intention to add voice-assistant integration to its speakers over a year ago, but didn't give any specific time frame for that step. And an FCC filing from the company that surfaced a few weeks ago showed that it is looking into systems that would support multiple voice assistants, so a user could potentially have the option to choose between Amazon's Alexa or Google's Assistant, depending on what other devices they own and what platform they prefer.
Networking

Scientists Explore A Light Bulb-Based Based 10Gbps Li-Fi/5G Home Network (ispreview.co.uk) 12

Mark.JUK writes: Researchers at Brunel University in London have begun to develop a new 10 Gbps home wireless network using both Li-Fi (light fidelity) and 5G based mmWave technology, which will fit inside LED (light-emitting diode) light bulbs on your ceiling.

In simple terms, the Visible Light Communication (VLC) based Li-Fi technology works by flicking a LED light off and on thousands of times a second (by altering the length of the flickers you can introduce digital communications).

The article says it'd be more energy efficient (and faster) than a standard Wi-Fi network -- though both technologies have trouble penetrating walls, so "you'd have to buy lots of pricey new bulbs in order to cover your home..."

"It's probably not something that an ordinary home owner would want to install; unless you're happy with running lots of optical fibre cable around your various light fittings."
Verizon

8,500 Verizon Customers Disconnected Because of 'Substantial' Data Use (arstechnica.com) 108

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Verizon is disconnecting another 8,500 rural customers from its wireless network, saying that roaming charges have made certain customer accounts unprofitable for the carrier. The 8,500 customers have 19,000 lines and live in 13 states (Alaska, Idaho, Iowa, Indiana, Kentucky, Maine, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Utah, and Wisconsin), a Verizon Wireless spokesperson told Ars today. They received notices of disconnection this month and will lose access to Verizon service on October 17. Verizon said in June that it was only disconnecting "a small group of customers" who were "using vast amounts of data -- some as much as a terabyte or more a month -- outside of our network footprint." But one customer, who contacted Ars this week about being disconnected, said her family never used more than 50GB of data across four lines despite having an "unlimited" data plan. We asked Verizon whether 50GB a month is a normal cut-off point in its disconnections of rural customers, but the company did not provide a specific answer. "These customers live outside of areas where Verizon operates our own network," Verizon said. "Many of the affected consumer lines use a substantial amount of data while roaming on other providers' networks and the roaming costs generated by these lines exceed what these consumers pay us each month. We sent these notices in advance so customers have plenty of time to choose another wireless provider."
Iphone

iPhone 8 and iPhone X Will Support Fast Charging, But Only If You Buy a New USB-C Charger (9to5mac.com) 144

One little detail Apple didn't mention at its event in Cupertino, California yesterday was the fact that the new iPhones will support fast charging. According to the official tech specs page, the new iPhones can recharge up to 50 percent of their battery life in a 30-minute charge. The catch? You have to use a USB-C charger and Lightning cable (sold separately). 9to5Mac reports: iPhone 8 battery life is roughly equivalent to the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus. On a full charge, expect up to 12 hours of internet usage on iPhone 8 and iPhone X, with up to 13 hours on iPhone 8 Plus. With a 50% quick charge in 30 minutes, you are effectively gaining hours of additional battery life during the day, even if you only plug in for a short period. However, to take advantage of fast-charging, you cannot use the Lightning to USB-A cable that is bundled in the box. Fast charging requires a USB-C to Lightning cable and the USB-C wall charger. More specifically, one of three USB-C wall chargers. Apple sells 29W, 61W and 87W variants of its USB-C power adapters. Prices range from $49 to $79. Apple doesn't break out specific numbers on how each model affects charging times, it's not clear if the cheapest 29W model can achieve the advertised 50% recharge in 30 minutes.
Intel

Intel Cuts Cord On Its Current Cord-Cutting WiGig Products (zdnet.com) 30

An anonymous reader shares a ZDNet report, which also has some clarification from Intel: It looks like you can add WiGig wireless docking to Intel's dustbin (along with IoT products axed earlier this summer), as the company has discontinued existing products using the 802.11ad wireless standard, according to Anandtech. [Since publishing this report, we've received a statement from Intel clarifying its WiGig support: "We continue to offer current versions of our 802.11ad products, such as the Intel Tri-band Wireless AC 18265 and Gigabit Wireless 10101R antenna module. We remain committed to WiGig and think it has exciting potential for a number of applications, including enabling VR to become wireless, mesh networking and as part of Intel's leading products for 5G."] WiGig was developed several years ago with faster speeds than then-current Wi-Fi standards, but because it relied on the 60GHz channel, its high throughput could only travel over short distances. As a result, it eventually became marketed as a feature for wireless laptop docking stations, and while it received some support from enterprise laptop manufactures like Dell and Lenovo, the technology didn't make a big dent against standard wired laptop docks.
Iphone

Apple Announces iPhone X With Edge-To-Edge Display, Wireless Charging and No Home Button (theverge.com) 570

At its event in Cupertino, California today, Apple unveiled the iPhone X to mark the 10th anniversary of the iPhone. It brings several new features including an edge-to-edge screen, Qi wireless charging, and Face ID. The Verge reports: Because of its edge-to-edge display, the iPhone has no place for a conventional home button, relying instead on a complex facial recognition system to unlock the phone. Called FaceID, the new system will replace TouchID, the home button sensor that's enabled fingerprint logins since 2013's iPhone 5S. Users can wake the phone by swiping up from the button instead of hitting the button. The same gesture will open the control panel once the phone is awake. The updated iPhone 8 will continue unchanged, including both the home button and TouchID. Apple also unveiled the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus, which are updated versions of the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus released last year. These new devices feature glass backs with support for wireless charging. The Verge provides some additional specs and features in its report: Apple has improved the display on the iPhone 8 line, adding the same True Tone technology it offers on the 10.5-inch iPad Pro to automatically adjust the screen based on the ambient light in the room to offer more accurate colors. Internally, Apple has upgraded the processor from the A10 Fusion found in the 7 to the A11 Bionic. It's a six-core chip with two performance cores that are 25 percent faster than the A10, and four performance cores that the company says are 70 percent faster that the old model. There's also a new Apple-designed GPU that's 30 percent faster, with the same performance as the A10 at half the power. On the camera front, there's a new 12-megapixel sensor on the iPhone 8 that is larger, faster, and finally has optical image stabilization. The iPhone 8 Plus also has new sensors, and offers f/1.8 and f/2.8 apertures now. The dual cameras on the 8 Plus also have a new "Portrait Lighting" feature to adjust the lighting for portrait shots. And Apple says that the improvements apply to video, too, with Apple executive Phil Schiller claiming that the new devices have the "highest quality video capture ever in a smartphone," with support for 4K/60fps video. Slow motion videos now support up to 1080p resolution at 240fps, doubling the the iPhone 7's 120fps option. The iPhone 8 will start at $699 for a 64GB model, while the 8 Plus will start at $799 for 64GB of storage. You can preorder these devices starting Friday, September 15th, and they will be released a week later on September 22nd.

UPDATE 9/12/17: The iPhone X will be priced starting at $999 for the 64GB variant. Pre-order will be available October 27th with shipments starting November 3rd.
Communications

The New Apple Watch Series 3 Has Cellular Built-In (techcrunch.com) 55

The first big product unveiling at Apple's Event at the Steve Jobs Theater in Cupertino, California was the Apple Watch Series 3 with built-in support for cellular. TechCrunch reports: Wireless cellular LTE connectivity provided by a built-in chip means the new Apple Watch will be able to stay connected even when it's not tethered to an iPhone, which is a huge step forward in terms of making it an independent mobile device. Pricing for the Series 3 Cellular starts at $399, and a version without cellular starts at $329. Pre-orders begin on September 15, and they'll be available on September 22. The new Apple Watch is visually quite similar to the existing version, with backwards compatibility with existing straps and bands. There's a new Blush Gold color to match the new iPhone color option, and a new ceramic Dark Gray for the higher-end models that joins the existing white. Plus, the cellular version sports that red crown for an extra bit of visual flare. The non-cellular version doesn't have the new red crown.

Inside, it has a new dual-core processor with 70 percent better performance, as well as a new W2 chip that improves Bluetooth and wireless connectivity and power efficiency. The cellular antenna is actually the display itself, and there's an electronic SIM card inside for connectivity. The device is the same physical size as the Series 2, despite adding everything needed for cellular and LTE connectivity -- though the back crystal is extended 0.25 mm, which is incredibly thin. It's still got GPS like Series 2, and it's swimproof, plus it packs in all-day battery life still.

Android

Android Always Beats the iPhone To New Features, Qualcomm Says (theverge.com) 177

An anonymous reader shares a report: Qualcomm has published a somewhat self-congratulatory blog post that lauds the company and its Android partners for achieving a series of industry firsts that include wireless charging, dual-camera systems, OLED smartphone screens, edge-to-edge displays, and more -- features that the upcoming iPhone is expected to have. Apple and Qualcomm are currently embroiled in what's turning into a vicious, global patent licensing dispute. So the timing of this adulation for Android -- hours before Apple's big September event -- doesn't really strike me as coincidental. It can't be. Qualcomm never mentions Apple by name; the closest the company ever comes is with this line: Inventions from Qualcomm lay the foundation for so many technologies and experiences we value in our smartphones today -- on Android and other platforms.
AT&T

T-Mobile Named Fastest US Mobile Carrier by New Wirefly Report (phonedog.com) 34

T-Mobile offered the fastest internet speed to subscribers between Q1 and Q2 of 2017 (which ended in June), according to the Wirefly Speed Test, which combed through thousands of test results made using its service. T-Mobile scored highest in overall speed while Verizon ended up with a close second spot, Wirefly, which doesn't require Java or Flash for its tests, added. AT&T and Sprint rounded out the ranking at third and fourth, respectively, the report added, which was done in collaboration with SourceForge. T-Mobile also topped the chart for offering the fastest mobile download speed. An anonymous user writes: T-Mobile offered 22.18 Mbps download speed, while Verizon Wireless ended up with another close second with 21.45 Mbps download. AT&T came in with an average download speed of 17.00 Mbps, and Sprint was trailing all with 15.76 Mbps. Verizon finished with the fastest average upload speed at 16.06 Mbps. You can read the full report here.
AT&T

Hundreds of AT&T Wireless Workers and Supporters Plan To Protest at iPhone 8 Launch at Apple HQ 103

Hundreds of AT&T wireless workers and members of the Communications Workers of America (CWA) will protest outside the launch of the iPhone 8 at Apple HQ on Tuesday, we were told. "Marking the start of a critical sales period that's expected to bring in billions for the telecom giant, workers are calling out AT&T's pay cuts for its retail employees and the company's rampant outsourcing and offshoring that undermine their job security and ability to provide quality customer service," the Communications Workers of America said in a press statement. Over the years, AT&T has increasingly handed over the operations of its retail operations to third-party dealers that now represent over 60 percent of all AT&T branded stores. On top of this, AT&T retail employees allege that they are seeing their pay decline by thousands of dollars because the company manipulates their commission structure.
Iphone

Leaks Reveal New Features In Apple's Next iPhone 224

Though Apple officially unveils their newest iPhone on Tuesday, information is already leaking on the internet.
  • Mashable: "Physically, it's expected to be about the same size as an iPhone 7, but with an edge-to-edge OLED display that's bigger than what is currently on the iPhone 7 Plus. It won't have a home button or Touch ID, and will likely use some kind of facial recognition tech to unlock."
  • MacRumors cites a report from KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo suggesting facial recognition may just be one feature of a complex front camera with 3D sensing hardware, including a proximity sensor, ambient light sensor, and a structured light transmitter (using a surface-emitting laser) and receiver.
  • Fortune: "Apple's iPhone line is expected to catch up with Android phones in the area of wireless charging this year... just lay the phone down on a compatible charger mat or base or dock, and watch the battery fill up."
  • 9to5Mac: "We've found a brand new feature called 'Animoji', which uses the 3D face sensors to create custom 3D animated emoji based on the expressions you make into the camera. Users will be able to make Animoji of unicorns, robots, pigs, pile of poo and many more."
Android

Android Oreo Bug Eats Up Mobile Data Even When On Wi-Fi (betanews.com) 89

Mark Wilson shares a report from BetaNews: An apparent bug with Android Oreo has been discovered which means Google's mobile operating system could be munching its way through your data allowance, even if you're connected to a wireless network. A thread on Reddit highlighted the issue, with many people pointing out that it could prove expensive for anyone not using an unlimited data plan. Google is apparently aware of the problem and is working on a patch, but in the meantime Oreo users are being warned to consider disabling mobile data when they are at home or using a wireless connection elsewhere.
Communications

Like Netflix? T-Mobile Is Giving it Away For Free (cnet.com) 105

Roger Cheng, writing for CNET: T-Mobile and Netflix are new BFFs. The primary beneficiaries of this new friendship will be subscribers to T-Mobile's "One" unlimited data plans, many of whom will get access to Netflix for free, T-Mobile CEO John Legere said on an "Un-carrier Next" webcast video on Wednesday. But the freebie only works if you have at least two T-Mobile One unlimited data plans (single line customers are out of luck). The free Netflix access arrives on Sept. 12. The alliance is just the latest proof that the worlds of video and mobile are colliding. AT&T is in the process of buying Time Warner -- home of "Game of Thrones" and Batman -- so it can own more of the content you watch, and has bundled HBO for free to some of its higher end wireless customers. Verizon has invested in creating short-form video geared towards younger audiences and a mobile video service called Go90.The offer is for the T-Mobile ONE plan with 2+ lines. You can compare T-Mobile plans here.
Verizon

Verizon Up Offers Rewards in Exchange For Customers' Personal Information (wsj.com) 74

An anonymous reader shares a report: A new Verizon rewards program, Verizon Up, provides credits that wireless subscribers can use for concert tickets, movie premieres and phone upgrades. But it comes with a catch: Customers must give the carrier access to their web-browsing history, app usage and location data, which Verizon says it uses to personalize the rewards and deliver targeted advertising as its customers browse the web. The trade-off is part of Verizon's effort to build a digital advertising business to compete with web giants Facebook and Google, which often already possess much of the same customer information. Even though Congress earlier this year dismantled tough privacy regulations on telecommunications providers, Verizon still wants customers to opt-in to its most comprehensive advertising program, called Verizon Selects. Data collected under the program is shared with Oath, the digital-media unit Verizon created when it bought AOL and Yahoo. Since access to data from customers could make it easier to tailor ads to their liking, Verizon hopes the information will help it gain advertising revenue to offset sluggish growth in its cellular business.See a current list of Verizon plans here.
Operating Systems

Is Apple Copying Palm's WebOS? (salon.com) 188

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Salon: Released in 2009 by Palm -- the same company that popularized the PDA in the 1990s -- WebOS pioneered a number of innovations, including multiple synchronized calendars, unified social media and contact management, curved displays, wireless charging, integrated text and Web messaging, and unintrusive notifications [that have all been copied by the mobile operating systems that defeated it on the marketplace]. The operating system, built on top of a Linux kernel, was also legendary for how easily it could be upgraded by users with programming skills. WebOS was also special in that it used native internet technologies like JavaScript for local applications. That was a huge part of why it was able to do so much integration with Web services, something its competitors at the time simply couldn't match.

Apple's upcoming iOS 11 once again demonstrates how far ahead of its time WebOS really was. The yet-to-be-released Apple mobile system has essentially copied the WebOS model for switching apps by having the user swipe upward from the bottom to reveal several "cards" that represent background applications. While Apple's decision to remove its massively overworked Home button is an improvement, it is still an inferior way of switching apps, compared to what you could do on WebOS eight years ago.

Communications

New Qualcomm Auto Chipset Advances Vehicle-To-Everything Communications (zdnet.com) 24

Qualcomm has introduced a new Cellular Vehicle-to-Everything (C-V2X) chipset and reference design that aims to bring automakers one step closer to deploying the communications systems necessary for fully autonomous vehicles. Ford, Audi, the PSA Group and SAIC are all endorsing the new chipset. ZDNet reports: The Qualcomm 9150 C-V2X chipset, expected to be available for commercial sampling in the second half of 2018, is based on specs from the 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP), a collaboration between groups of telecommunications associations. Meanwhile, Qualcomm's C-V2X reference design will feature the 9150 C-V2X chipset, an application processor running the Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) V2X stack, as well as a Hardware Security Module (HSM). C-V2X technology encompasses two transmission modes: direct communications and network-based communications. It's key for both safety features and for implementing autonomous driving capabilities.

For instance, its direct communications capabilities improve a vehicle's situational awareness by detecting and exchanging information using low latency transmissions. Relying on the globally harmonized 5.9 GHz ITS band, the 9150 C-V2X chipset can relay information on vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V), vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I) and vehicle-to-pedestrian (V2P) scenarios without the need for a Subscriber Identity Module (SIM), cellular subscription or network assistance. On top of that, C-V2X network-based communications (designed for 4G and emerging 5G wireless networks) supports telematics, connected infotainment and a growing number of advanced informational safety use cases.

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