DirecTV Now Reaches 1M Subscribers While AT&T Continues to Promise DVR, 4K, and More Coming in 2018

AT&T this morning announced that its over-the-top streaming service DirecTV Now has surpassed the one million subscriber mark, with the milestone coming in just a little bit over a year since the service launched on November 30, 2016. DirecTV Now originally debuted only on iOS and Apple TV devices, and continues to promote the Apple TV in offers where new subscribers can pay for four months of service upfront ($140) and get an all-new 32GB Apple TV 4K ($180) for free.

In comparison, Sling TV is said to still sit at the top of the OTT streaming service bundle market with about 1.7 million subscribers as of Q3 2017. Around this time, Sling TV was followed by PlayStation Vue (455,000 subscribers), YouTube TV (325,000), Hulu with Live TV (150,000), and FuboTV (100,000), according to research firm Guggenheim Securities (via Variety). At the end of the same quarter this year, AT&T reported about 787,000 people had signed up for DirecTV Now, which has now grown to more than one million in just over two months.


"This milestone is an incredible testament to the thousands of hours many people spent working to bring this product online and continually improving it during the past year," said David Christopher, president, AT&T Entertainment Group. "We're thrilled so many customers have come to love DIRECTV NOW and can't wait to bring them a host of new features in 2018."

"To reach 1 million subscribers is an important benchmark for any OTT video service, but to go from zero to 1 million subscribers so quickly is quite an achievement," said Brett Sappington, senior director of Research, Parks Associates.
As it celebrates the milestone, AT&T also looked forward into the New Year and listed a few upcoming features coming to the service in 2018. According to the company, subscribers can expect the following features to be added to DirecTV Now sometime next year:
- A DVR in the cloud to record your shows and access virtually anywhere
- 4K Ultra High Definition (UHD) quality video
- Capacity for more than 35,000 titles on demand
- Individual profiles
- Adding an additional concurrent stream
- More……surprises!
One of the most-requested additions to DirecTV Now is a cloud-based DVR for recording and storing shows to watch later, and AT&T originally stated that the DVR would be launching in fall 2017. The DVR has been in beta for weeks now, so it appears that AT&T is still fine-tuning the experience ahead of the wide launch next year. It's not clear if all of the new features will debut at once, but besides the DVR subscribers can expect an overhauled user interface, 4K video, expanded on demand options, and more.


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U.S. Justice Department Files Lawsuit to Block Merger Between AT&T and Time Warner

The United States Justice Department today filed a lawsuit to stop a planned merger between AT&T and Time Warner, reports Bloomberg. The DOJ believes such a merger would result in higher bills and fewer options for consumers.
"This merger would greatly harm American consumers. It would mean higher monthly television bills and fewer of the new, emerging innovative options that consumers are beginning to enjoy," said Makan Delrahim, the head of the department's antitrust division.
According to Bloomberg, this is the first time in several decades that the DOJ has sued to block a vertical deal, aka a merger between two companies that do not directly compete with one another. The lawsuit comes following a request from antitrust head Delrahim that the two companies sell either the Turner broadcasting unit or DirecTV, which AT&T refused to do.

Given that the DOJ does not usually step in to block vertical deals, it is unclear how this legal battle will play out in court. Other similar deals, such as Comcast's purchase of NBC Universal, have gone through after certain conditions have been put in place.

AT&T and Time Warner have been in talks over a merger since late 2016, with AT&T planning to shell out $85.4 billion for Time Warner.

AT&T says the DOJ's lawsuit is a "radical and inexplicable departure from decades of antitrust precedent," and that it is confident the court will reject the claims and allow the merger to proceed.

Apple at one time was rumored to be interested in a Time Warner purchase and was said to have monitored the deal between AT&T/Time Warner closely, but Apple ultimately had no interest in Time Warner or outbidding AT&T.


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AT&T’s Network Down for Some Users, iPhone Owners Unable to Make Calls

AT&T appears to be experiencing some kind of outage, and many AT&T customers across the United States are unable to make and answer phone calls.

There are numerous reports of issues on Twitter, and MacRumors has also been unable to place calls on an iPhone associated with AT&T. The problem appears to have begun at least 30 minutes ago.

Customers affected by the problem who attempt to make a phone call are seeing the calls they place immediately disconnected. Incoming phone calls go directly to voicemail, and customers are not able to answer them.


Many users have been able to fix the phone call problem by restarting their iPhones, so affected customers should try that right away to attempt to resolve it.

If a restart doesn't work, customers who need to place calls to friends and family members can still use FaceTime or FaceTime Audio. iMessages and text messages are also working at the current time.


Tag: AT&T

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AT&T Announces Plans to Launch 5G Network in Parts of Minneapolis for Super Bowl LII

AT&T this week announced that it plans to launch its "5G Evolution" network in parts of Minneapolis over the next few months, intending to provide next-generation cellular coverage to customers at Super Bowl LII. AT&T didn't mention which specific areas of Minneapolis would be covered by February 4, 2018, but confirmed "areas near the host stadium" will have 5G at the time.

Minneapolis is the next leg in AT&T's 5G rollout, and one of 20 markets where the carrier is planning to bring 5G Evolution by the end of 2017. The technology is already available in parts of Austin and Indianapolis, and allows customers access to much faster speeds on compatible devices, which as of now does not yet include any iPhone model.
“We’re excited about launching this new wireless network in Minneapolis in the coming months as we move towards standards-based mobile 5G,” said Marachel Knight, senior vice president, Wireless Network Architecture and Design. “The upgrades we’re making today in Minneapolis are the foundation for the future of next generation connectivity in this city.”

“Minnesota is in a great position to welcome 5G Evolution wireless technology, with a climate that encourages the deployment of small cells – an integral building block for 5G,” said State Senator Bobby Joe Champion. “Good public policy can help put Minnesota on the map and attract investment that will prepare our state for the next generation wireless economy.”
In addition to the upgraded network in and around Minneapolis, AT&T will also upgrade the Distributed Antenna System (DAS) at the U.S. Bank Stadium in downtown Minneapolis, where Super Bowl LII will be held. The company said this means the stadium will be "overloaded...with wireless capacity and boosted LTE capacity" by an increase of 150 percent compared to last year, thanks to more than 800 antennas.

AT&T mentioned that Minneapolis is a "major step" on its journey to make 5G a standard for mobile networks "as soon as late 2018." In total, the locations focused on AT&T's 5G rollout will result in "smarter cities," according to the company, as well as support for higher quality augmented and virtual reality experiences on smartphones.

U.S. Bank Stadium via Darb02 / Wikimedia Commons

Right now, 5G-capable devices include LG V30, Moto Z2 Force Edition, Samsung Galaxy Note 8, Samsung Galaxy S8, Samsung Galaxy S8+, and the Samsung Galaxy S8 Active. These smartphones can take advantage of ultra-fast LTE Advanced features including 256 Quadrature Amplitude Modulation, 4x4 Multiple-Input and Multiple-Output, 3-way carrier aggregation, and other 5G-related upgrades, to provide faster network speeds to users.

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 3rd Generation Partnership Project 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.

Earlier this year, Apple submitted an application to the FCC for an experimental license to test next-generation 5G wireless technologies, which it was then granted in July. While the exact purpose of Apple's tests remains unclear, the company could be looking to prepare future models of its iPhone and iPad devices to take advantage of 5G network speeds.

Tags: AT&T, 5G

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AT&T Confirms iPhone X Demand ‘Has Been Strong’ Following ‘Highly-Anticipated’ Launch

AT&T chief John Donovan has confirmed that demand for the iPhone X has been "strong" following the device's "highly-anticipated" launch in the United States and over 50 other countries just four days ago.


"All the signs are that customers love it. It's probably the most highly-anticipated version… and demand has been strong. So we're pleased," Donovan said at the Web Summit conference in Lisbon, Portugal, per CNBC.

Apple no longer provides first weekend sales numbers for iPhone launches, and it doesn't reveal iPhone sales on a model-by-model basis in its quarterly earnings results, but it did say pre-order demand was "off the charts."
We are thrilled to be taking orders for iPhone X, the future of the smartphone. We can see from the initial response, customer demand is off the charts. We're working hard to get this revolutionary new product into the hands of every customer who wants one, as quickly as possible.
Apple's guidance for the current quarter is between $84 billion and $87 billion, which would easily be an all-time record even at the lower end of that range, suggesting that iPhone X sales are and will remain very strong.

Localytics, a mobile engagement platform used by more than 37,000 apps, said iPhone X adoption outpaced iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus adoption over the first three days of availability following each device's respective launches.

iPhone X online orders placed today are estimated to ship in 3-4 weeks around the world. The device is also available to purchase in stores, but inventory is extremely limited right now, especially outside of the United States.

Related Roundup: iPhone X
Tag: AT&T
Buyer's Guide: iPhone X (Buy Now)

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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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