Apple and AT&T Team Up to Improve Cellular Service in Puerto Rico With LTE Band 8 Activation

Apple and AT&T have been working together to improve cellular connectivity for iPhone users in Puerto Rico who have been largely without cellular service since Hurricane Maria hit a month ago.

The two companies are enabling LTE Band 8, a provisional LTE band that's been approved but not activated or licensed in the United States or Puerto Rico, reports TechCrunch.


LTE Band 8 will work with the iPhone 5c and up on iOS 10 or higher in Puerto Rico following a carrier update. Band 8 is a 900Mhz band with improved range to better reach cell towers that are located further away.
"We are working with AT&T to activate cellular service for iPhone users in Puerto Rico as the island recovers from Hurricane Maria," read an Apple statement. "Apple engineers have created a special carrier settings update which users connected to Wi-Fi or who are connected to a cellular network will automatically be prompted to download throughout the week. The update allows iPhone customers with iPhone 5c and later models running iOS 10 or higher, to connect to a provisional band on the AT&T network so they can be in touch with loved ones and get services in this time of need."
iPhone owners in Puerto Rico will need to go to Settings --> General --> About when connected to Wi-Fi or cellular to download the carrier update.

Once the new carrier data has been installed, iPhones will be able to use Band 8 where available to connect to cellular towers and Project Loon balloons being deployed by Google to improve cellular service in Puerto Rico.

Project Loon balloons support basic communication and internet activities for sending text messaging and accessing information online over LTE.


Following the devastation caused by Hurricane Maria on September 20, much of Puerto Rico continues to be without power, and millions are also without running water. Many areas are also without cellular service and Wi-Fi connectivity with up to 75 percent of antennas currently down, making it difficult for families to stay in touch.

Tags: AT&T, LTE

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Apple Watch Series 3: LTE Plan Prices on Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, Bell, EE, and Deutsche Telekom

Apple Watch Series 3 is available with built-in cellular capabilities, allowing you to make phone calls, send and receive text messages, stream music, get directions with Apple Maps, use Siri, and more without a paired iPhone.


The freedom comes at a cost, however, as Apple Watch Series 3 models with cellular are priced $70 higher than those with Wi-Fi and GPS only. Also, to access LTE, the watch must be added to your phone bill as an additional monthly charge.

Here's a breakdown of how much participating carriers plan to charge. Some carriers have yet to announce their plans.



Verizon


Verizon said it allow customers to add an Apple Watch to an eligible plan for $10 per month. Verizon will reportedly waive its $30 activation fee, and is offering the first three months of service for free. The watch and iPhone share the same phone number via Verizon's NumberShare feature.

AT&T


AT&T has announced that customers can add an Apple Watch to an eligible plan for $10 per month. AT&T is offering a $25 activation fee credit, and a $30 service credit for adding an Apple Watch, within three bills. The watch and iPhone share the same phone number via AT&T's NumberSync feature.

T-Mobile


T-Mobile has announced that customers can add an Apple Watch to a plan for $10 per month with AutoPay. T-Mobile will reportedly waive its $25 new SIM card kit fee, and is offering the first three months of service for free. The watch and iPhone share the same phone number via T-Mobile's DIGITS feature.

Sprint


Sprint has announced that customers can add an Apple Watch to an eligible plan for $10 per month. Sprint will also offer a special introductory three-month cellular plan trial. The carrier has yet to specify whether its activation fee of up to $30 per line will be waived as well, but it would seem likely.

Bell (Canada)


Bell has announced that customers will be able to add an Apple Watch to an eligible plan for $5 per month. There is a one-time $10 activation fee. Bell will also offer a special introductory three-month cellular plan trial. The watch and iPhone share the same phone number via Bell's NumberShare feature.

Bell will not support the Apple Watch's cellular capabilities in Manitoba or Saskatchewan due to the carrier's lack of VoLTE in those provinces.

EE (UK)


EE has announced that customers can add an Apple Watch to an eligible SIM only or pay monthly plan for £5 per month, with the watch and iPhone sharing the same phone number. The carrier hasn't confirmed if it will be offering an introductory three-month trial, or if there will be an activation fee.

Deutsche Telekom (Germany)


Deutsche Telekom has announced that customers can add an Apple Watch to an eligible plan for up to €4.95 per month, with the first six months free of charge. The watch and iPhone share the same phone number via Deutsche Telekom's MultiSIM feature. The carrier didn't specify if there is an activation fee.



Apple Watch Series 3 models will be available to order starting tomorrow, September 15, at 12:01 a.m. Pacific Time. In-store availability begins September 22. LTE-enabled models start at $399 in the United States.


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T-Mobile Offered Fastest LTE Speeds in the First Half of 2017

T-Mobile was the carrier with the fastest mobile network in the United States during the first half of 2017, according to a new U.S. Market Report for Mobile Broadband shared this morning by Ookla.

The carrier scored a 23.17 using Ookla's new "Speed Score" metric that combines low-end, median, and top-end performance for both upload and download speeds. Ookla says this is a comprehensive metric combining all factors that "matter to a good network experience" into a single score.

Coming in after T-Mobile was Verizon, with a Speed Score of 21.13, while AT&T came in third with a score of 20.05 and Sprint brought up the rear with a score of 15.39.


According to Ookla, T-Mobile's "tightly-spaced cell site grid" and smaller subscriber base gave it an edge over Verizon and AT&T, both of whom are dealing with higher traffic loads since their unlimited plans were introduced last year.

While Verizon has managed to deliver "consistent and reliable performance" across its network despite the unlimited plans, the rollout of AT&T's unlimited plans resulted in a "notable drop in performance."

Sprint, unsurprisingly, had the slowest mobile network with a Speed Score of 15.39, despite improvements made over the course of the last year. From June of 2016 to June of 2017, Sprint LTE speeds improved by 23.7 percent, but the carrier still can't match the big three.
T-Mobile comes out on top for overall speeds and acceptable speeds at a national level and provides the fastest service in 40% of the largest cities in the U.S. Verizon Wireless has the fastest service in many of the cities we looked at and comes in first on acceptable speeds in the top 100 CMAs, but we suspect their use of depriortization on unlimited could be bringing down their overall performance.

AT&T falls near the bottom in consistency of acceptable speeds and also saw a spoke in low end speeds in Q2 2017. The slowest carrier, Sprint, struggles with consistently providing acceptable speeds but saw big gains in the first half of the year.
While the above chart information covers the United States as a whole, Ookla also compared mobile performance data in the 100 most populated Cellular Market Areas within the country. The rankings were the same, but T-Mobile and Verizon Wireless were nearly neck and neck. Across the board, users in populated cellular markets see higher speeds.


Mobile performance by carrier varies greatly from area to area, so while T-Mobile may have the best overall network speeds, AT&T or Verizon could have a significant edge depending on where a user is located. All four carriers are aggressively pursuing improved LTE speeds and network expansion through spectrum purchases, refarming legacy spectrum (like ending 3G networks), network densification, relay solutions, and other techniques.

Across all carriers in the United States, there was a 19.2 percent increase in average mobile download speeds between the first half of 2016 and the first half of 2017, with an average speed of 22.69 Mb/s.


Average mobile upload speeds didn't see quite as much improvement, coming in at 8.51 Mb/s for a four percent improvement year over year. When it comes to average mobile download speeds, the United States is ranked 44th in the world. That rank drops down to 65th for average mobile upload speed. In rural areas, performance can be significantly worse, with speeds that are 20.9 percent slower than the nation as a whole. Verizon (51.6%) and AT&T (27.3%) have far more coverage in rural areas than T-Mobile (11.5%) and Sprint (9.6%).

In addition to looking at network performance by carrier, Ookla also shared some data on LTE speeds across carriers on two popular devices: the iPhone 7 and the Galaxy S7. On T-Mobile and Sprint, broadband speeds were on average slightly faster for the Galaxy S7, with little difference on Verizon and AT&T networks.

Both the iPhone 7 and the S7 see higher mobile network speeds than other devices because they aggregate three component carriers to improve peak and average speeds. On T-Mobile, Samsung has an edge because the Galaxy S7 enables features like higher order modulation and 4-Layer MIMO.


Ookla's report is based on data gathered from its popular Speedtest Intelligence benchmark during the first half of 2017. More than 3 million unique devices performed more than 14 million user-initiated cellular network tests, giving the company a lot of data to work with to figure out trends during the year. For the S7 and iPhone 7 comparison tests, data from 250,278 iPhones was collected and compared to data from 134,742 Galaxy devices.

Additional test results covering minimum acceptable experience, the impact of unlimited data, fastest carriers by city, and more can be read in the full report.


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AT&T Expanding 5G Network Tests Into Three More U.S. Cities by End of 2017

In early 2016, AT&T began its first test of a fixed wireless 5G cellular network within Austin, Texas and expanded that test to new local businesses this past June, including a car wash, an apartment unit, and a church. Today, the carrier announced that its test of next-generation 5G cellular connectivity will be expanding to new businesses and residential customers in three new U.S. cities by the end of 2017: Waco, Texas; Kalamazoo, Michigan; and South Bend, Indiana.

AT&T noted back in 2016 that the 5G trials introduced download speeds in gigabits per second, improving upon the normal megabits per second that customers on current wireless networks see, allowing 5G customers to "download a TV show in less than 3 seconds." In today's press release, AT&T said that it has seen speeds up to 1 gigabit per second in Austin, and latency rates "well under 10 milliseconds." In 2016, the carrier predicted 5G latency at somewhere between 1 to 5 milliseconds.
In the Austin apartment unit, AT&T set up a fixed wireless 5G home with various apps running simultaneously on the same connection, with usage centering on streaming DIRECTV NOW, 360-degree video, and international video calls without lag. While the test remained at fixed locations in Austin for over a year, AT&T said that its findings demonstrated "how people can live, work, and play in a connected home of the future."

AT&T said that its findings in Austin will help during the expansion to the three new cities, with new insights gained into millimeter wave performance and propagation, and how obstructive objects (foliage, buildings, etc), the weather, and device placement can impact the 5G signal in the real world. As with other carriers, AT&T's 5G test data is being contributed to the 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP), a group of telecommunications organizations that oversee the development and maintenance of major communication networks.
“In Austin, we see all types of weather and substantial foliage,” said Marachel Knight, senior vice president, Wireless Network Architecture and Design, AT&T. “Taking our fixed wireless 5G trials out of the lab and into the real world helps us learn important factors about mmWave and 5G. And in doing so, we’re learning how to better design our network for the future.”
As it expands, the carrier said it will apply the knowledge it gained from the Austin tests, while also increasing the number of participants and expanding the physical footprint of the 5G network trials in each new city, hinting at much larger tests coming to Waco, Kalamazoo, and South Bend. In these three cities, trial participants are said to potentially include universities, hospitals, churches, restaurants, and other small businesses, bringing the ability to stream live TV and experience faster broadband services over the 5G connection.

AT&T will continue to test both fixed and mobile wireless solutions based in the millimeter wave spectrum in these field trials, and in closed "testbed" settings. The goal for the new expansion is to "help speed up" the deployment of new 5G network standards, with AT&T hoping that this deployment will happen as soon as late 2018. AT&T is working with Ericsson, Samsung, Nokia, and Intel during these trials, which also includes a test location in Indianapolis as of July, 2017.

Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon have also announced interest in 5G networks, with Sprint saying its own wide-scale 5G network will launch by 2019, and T-Mobile aiming for nationwide 5G coverage by 2020. Of course, all of this progress hinges on the 3GPP first completing the 5G Release 15 standard. According to AT&T, once Release 15 is out then 5G-supported "commercial equipment" will be available within six months.

Tags: AT&T, 5G

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AT&T Again Giving New DirecTV Now Subscribers a Free Apple TV

AT&T today announced that it's reactivated a deal offering new DirecTV Now subscribers a free 32GB fourth-generation Apple TV with the purchase of a 3-month prepaid DirecTV Now subscription.

A DirecTV NOW subscription starts at $35 per month for the most basic package, so subscribers will need to pay $105 up front to get the deal. AT&T offered a similar deal back when the service first launched, but the original promotion ended months ago.


To get the free Apple TV, new subscribers will need to sign up for DirecTV now at an AT&T Retail or Authorized Retail Store, or through an AT&T Call Center. The deal is not available online.

While pricing for DirecTV Now starts at $35 for 60 channels, AT&T's other pricing plans include $50 per month for 80+ channels, $60 per month for 100+ channels, and $70 per month for 120+ channels. HBO and Cinemax are also available for an additional $5 each per month.

AT&T says the Apple TV deal will be available while supplies last.


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Study Finds AT&T and Verizon Have Slower LTE Speeds After Launching Unlimited Data Plans

In its semi-annual State of Mobile Networks report this week, OpenSignal claims that both AT&T and Verizon have experienced a decline in 4G LTE speeds since each carrier reintroduced an unlimited data plan in February. OpenSignal blames the slowdown on an increase in data demand now that caps have been removed.


From April through June, AT&T's average LTE download speed was 12.92 Mbps, while Verizon averaged 14.91 Mbps, according to crowdsourced data from thousands of users with the OpenSignal app for iOS or Android.

By comparison, OpenSignal's last report measured average LTE speeds for AT&T and Verizon at 13.86 Mbps and 16.89 Mbps respectively, based on crowdsourced data collected from 169,683 users with the OpenSignal app for iOS or Android installed between October 1 and December 31, 2016.

August 2017 Report


AT&T: 12.92 Mbps
Verizon: 14.91 Mbps
Sprint: 9.76 Mbps
T-Mobile: 17.45 Mbps

February 2017 Report


AT&T: 13.86 Mbps
Verizon: 16.89 Mbps
Sprint: 8.99 Mbps
T-Mobile: 16.65 Mbps
T-Mobile was declared as the fastest network in the United States during the testing period. The carrier's average LTE speed was 17.45 Mbps, up from 16.65 Mbps in OpenSignal's last report. Sprint's average LTE speed also rose to 9.76 Mbps, up from 8.99 Mbps in the previous study.

AT&T or Verizon remained the fastest network in select U.S. cities, including Austin, Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Denver, Houston, Indianapolis, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Phoenix, Pittsburgh, San Diego, and San Francisco.

OpenSignal says its data is collected from regular consumer smartphones and recorded under conditions of normal usage, be it indoors, outdoors, in a city, or in the countryside. For this particular report, it said 5,073,211,200 data points were collected from 172,919 users between April 1 and June 30, 2017.


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Huawei Boosts Goal of Outselling iPhone as AT&T Agrees to Carry Its Upcoming Flagship

AT&T has tentatively agreed to sell a flagship smartphone made by Chinese company Huawei, according to The Information.


The report, citing people familiar with the matter, said the device AT&T carries may resemble Huawei's upcoming Mate 10 smartphone, a new high-end model that the company is rumored to unveil in Europe this October. However, the smartphone could have a different name in the United States.
A deal isn’t finalized until the phone clears all the technical hurdles and the companies agree on the commercial terms of the release. Huawei’s engineers are working on hardware and software modifications that are necessary for meeting U.S. telecom standards and AT&T’s requirements, the people said.
The partnership would be a major win for Huawei, already the world's third largest smartphone maker by market share.

Huawei is the most popular smartphone maker in China, and it has aggressively pushed into Canada and several European countries, but it has considerably less brand awareness in the United States, where it lacks agreements with the big four carriers Verizon, T-Mobile, Sprint, and until now, AT&T.

American customers have to resort to retailers such as Best Buy, Walmart, or Amazon to purchase a Huawei smartphone, reducing the brand's visibility in a country where Apple and Samsung reign supreme.

Huawei's reputation also suffered when it was banned from selling network equipment in the United States. In 2012, citing a risk to national security, a U.S. congressional report raised concerns that Huawei could build backdoors in their equipment to leak sensitive information from the U.S. to China.

Huawei has denied those claims, and the company has expressed hope that the ban will eventually be lifted. Of note, the ban doesn't appear to affect Huawei's ability to sell smartphones in the United States.

A deal with AT&T could help Huawei achieve its lofty goal of becoming the world's largest smartphone maker by 2021, a feat that would require leapfrogging both Apple and Samsung in sales.

Huawei shipped an estimated 38.4 million smartphones in the June quarter, a 20 percent increase over a year ago, according to research firm Strategy Analytics. By comparison, Apple reported it sold 41 million iPhones in the same period, up nearly 2 percent from the year-ago quarter.

"Huawei is now closing in fast on Apple and Apple will be looking nervously over its shoulder in the next few quarters," said Woody Oh, Director at Strategy Analytics. "Huawei is outperforming across Asia, Europe and Africa with popular Android models such as the P10 and Mate 9."

Huawei held just 1 percent market share in the United States as of the first quarter, according to research firm IDC.


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Huawei Boosts Goal of Outselling iPhone as AT&T Agrees to Carry Its Upcoming Flagship

AT&T has tentatively agreed to sell a flagship smartphone made by Chinese company Huawei, according to The Information.


The report, citing people familiar with the matter, said the device AT&T carries may resemble Huawei's upcoming Mate 10 smartphone, a new high-end model that the company is rumored to unveil in Europe this October. However, the smartphone could have a different name in the United States.
A deal isn’t finalized until the phone clears all the technical hurdles and the companies agree on the commercial terms of the release. Huawei’s engineers are working on hardware and software modifications that are necessary for meeting U.S. telecom standards and AT&T’s requirements, the people said.
The partnership would be a major win for Huawei, already the world's third largest smartphone maker by market share.

Huawei is the most popular smartphone maker in China, and it has aggressively pushed into Canada and several European countries, but it has considerably less brand awareness in the United States, where it lacks agreements with the big four carriers Verizon, T-Mobile, Sprint, and until now, AT&T.

American customers have to resort to retailers such as Best Buy, Walmart, or Amazon to purchase a Huawei smartphone, reducing the brand's visibility in a country where Apple and Samsung reign supreme.

Huawei's reputation also suffered when it was banned from selling network equipment in the United States. In 2012, citing a risk to national security, a U.S. congressional report raised concerns that Huawei could build backdoors in their equipment to leak sensitive information from the U.S. to China.

Huawei has denied those claims, and the company has expressed hope that the ban will eventually be lifted. Of note, the ban doesn't appear to affect Huawei's ability to sell smartphones in the United States.

A deal with AT&T could help Huawei achieve its lofty goal of becoming the world's largest smartphone maker by 2021, a feat that would require leapfrogging both Apple and Samsung in sales.

Huawei shipped an estimated 38.4 million smartphones in the June quarter, a 20 percent increase over a year ago, according to research firm Strategy Analytics. By comparison, Apple reported it sold 41 million iPhones in the same period, up nearly 2 percent from the year-ago quarter.

"Huawei is now closing in fast on Apple and Apple will be looking nervously over its shoulder in the next few quarters," said Woody Oh, Director at Strategy Analytics. "Huawei is outperforming across Asia, Europe and Africa with popular Android models such as the P10 and Mate 9."

Huawei held just 1 percent market share in the United States as of the first quarter, according to research firm IDC.


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AirPods In Stock at AT&T and Verizon With Free 2-5 Day Delivery

AirPods continue to have a 6-week shipping estimate when purchased through Apple's online store, but AT&T and Verizon currently have the wireless earphones in stock online with free delivery in 2-5 business days.


AT&T and Verizon sell AirPods for $159, the same price as Apple charges, but the carriers only ship to addresses within the United States, excluding P.O. boxes.

AirPods occasionally appear in stock through Apple resellers, but typically not for very long due to a combination of limited supplies and strong demand. For that reason, prospective buyers should order as quickly as possible.

AirPods, driven by Apple's custom W1 chip for one-tap setup, instantly connect to a nearby iPhone, Apple Watch, iPad, or Mac when taken out of their charging case. The cord-free earphones use optical sensors and a motion accelerometer to detect when they are in your ears and automatically turn on.

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Double tapping an AirPod invokes Siri by default, which can be used to adjust the volume, change the song, make a call, or get directions.

AirPods deliver up to five hours of listening time on one charge, and a 15-minute fast charge provides up to three hours of listening time. The charging case holds multiple additional charges for more than 24 hours of listening time.


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AT&T’s DirecTV Now to Gain Cloud DVR and Revamped User Interface

AT&T today announced plans to unveil a next-generation video platform this fall, which will be introduced first to DirecTV Now customers later this summer.

As part of a beta test for the platform, DirecTV Now subscribers will gain access to a cloud DVR feature, which will allow them to record and access their shows from anywhere. A wide selection of live channels will be able to be recorded, with 4K and HD video quality.


"We all want easy and quick access to our content, regardless of where, when or on what device we watch it," said David Christopher, chief marketing officer, AT&T Entertainment Group. "By developing for a single video platform, we'll deliver new features and platform innovations in a faster, more efficient way. And it will be simple and consistent wherever you watch--TV, phone or tablet."
AT&T also plans to introduce a whole new interface for the video platform, which will provide a "consistent look and feel" across all of the company's consumer video services. DirecTV testers will be able to provide AT&T with feedback on the new design.

Eventually, the next-generation video platform is expected to support features like live TV pausing and parental controls, expected later this year, and user profiles, offline watching (download and go), and 4K HDR are planned for 2018.

According to AT&T, beta testing for the video platform will begin in the summer, and select DirecTV Now customers will receive invites to test the features.


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