AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon Detail Plans for ‘Next-Generation Mobile Authentication Platform’

Last September, AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, and T-Mobile announced a team-up with the mission of developing a mobile authentication solution for both businesses and consumers. One of the main reasons the carriers created the "Mobile Authentication Taskforce" was to help users who have to manage "dozens of difficult-to-remember passwords" for numerous apps.

Today at Mobile World Congress, the taskforce has revealed more details about its upcoming platform, and set a launch date for later in 2018. AT&T said the solution will create a cryptographically verified phone number and "unique profile" that's specific to the user's smartphone or tablet, strengthened by processing attributes such as a network verified mobile number, IP address, SIM card attributes, phone number tenure, phone account type, and more. The solution will only work with apps authorized by the taskforce, and at the consent of the user.

The companies' combined resources will further analyze data and activity patterns on a mobile network to predict, "with a high degree of certainty," whether the user is who they say they are.
Formed last year to develop a mobile authentication solution to help protect enterprises and consumers from identity theft, bank fraud, fraudulent purchases and data theft, the Mobile Authentication Taskforce has dedicated resources developing a highly secure and trusted multi-factor authentication platform powered by the carrier networks. The taskforce vision includes interoperability with GSMA's Mobile Connect technology.
To confirm a user's identity and allow them entry into their own secure data, the solution will also use machine learning, advanced analytics, and run a risk assessment engine with AI to confirm that all of this data matches -- or doesn't match -- the main user's identity. VentureBeat reported that the Mobile Authentication Taskforce's platform is expected to be "simpler and more secure" than current heavy-duty password and data protection solutions, like two-factor authentication.

According to the GSM Association, which represents the interests of mobile operators worldwide, the solution will not only provide mobile device owners with an easier way to manage passwords, but also help to "decrease fraud and identity theft, and increase trust in online transactions." With the four largest U.S. network carriers working together, AT&T said that the taskforce will bring "significant capabilities and insights" to build a modern security and identity protection system.
“As mobile becomes the remote control for day-to-day life, mobile identity is key to making things simpler and more secure for consumers,” said Alex Sinclair, Chief Technology Officer, GSMA. “The GSMA has been working with operators around the world to bring a consistent and interoperable, secure identity service and this taskforce will strengthen that effort by enabling a simple user experience quickly and conveniently in the US market.”
Ahead of the launch, registered developers will be able to submit to the taskforce and begin ensuring that their applications will be compatible with the new mobile authentication platform. This submission process itself will be highly secure as well, using "private and permissioned blockchain technology to help ensure application integrity."

Developers and other service providers will be able to sign up to participate as an application developer when the taskforce's website launches "later this year," and in the next few weeks internal trials of the system will begin.

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AT&T Announces City-Specific Offers for Free DirecTV Now, Internet, and BOGO iPhones

AT&T today announced a series of deals launching this Thursday, March 1 that will be available only for customers in New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles. The offers vary from city to city, and the carrier noted that each one will last for a "limited time" only.

The city-specific deals are debuting alongside the launch of AT&T's new Unlimited Plus Enhanced and Unlimited Choice Enhanced plans, and most of them tie in with the new plans. Users everywhere in the United States will be able to sign up for one of the new Unlimited plans, but AT&T is launching offers for three select cities -- "tailored" to its customers in each -- as a way to encourage sign ups for the plans in these locations.

AT&T detailed some information on each plan, seen in the quote below, and there's a new support article on with a deeper breakdown. One of the major new updates comes to the Unlimited Plus plan, which is $80 for the first line, down from the current price of $90, and now comes with 15GB of hotspot data, an increase from 10GB. The carrier is also offering a $15 loyalty video credit applicable to DirecTV, U-Verse, or DirecTV Now.
On AT&T Unlimited Plus Enhanced the first line starts at only $80, and you’ll get 15GB of mobile hotspot data per line on the plan. And on AT&T Unlimited Choice Enhanced unlimited 4G LTE data is only $40 a line when you have 4 lines.

These enhanced wireless plans come with a $15 loyalty credit towards applicable AT&T video services
Regarding the city-specific offers, New York users will get one year of DirecTV Now for free when switching to either of the new Unlimited plans. The offer is valid for both new and existing DirecTV Now customers and will be given in the form of a $35/month video credit over the course of 12 months, which pays entirely for DirecTV Now's basic "Live a Little" package. If users want more channels, they can switch to a larger package and put the $35 credit towards it.

As usual, the credits will start within two bill cycles, and New York users will automatically be charged at full price when DirecTV Now renews after one year, but they can cancel beforehand. AT&T is also still offering new DirecTV Now customers a chance to get a free 32GB Apple TV 4K when they prepay for three months of DirecTV Now at $105.

In Chicago, those who switch from any wireless competitor to one of AT&T's new Unlimited plans will get free home internet on plans up to 50 Mbps "for life." Similar to the New York offer, this will come in the form of a $30 monthly internet credit to pay for a 50 Mbps plan, which can be applied to a higher speed internet tier if desired. The "for life" qualification pertains to users who maintain a qualifying service on AT&T's new Unlimited plan, alongside a matching eligible service address in Chicago.

Lastly, those in Los Angeles will have a more traditional buy one, get one offer on "the latest smartphones," including iPhone X. AT&T said that Los Angeles residents can purchase a 64GB iPhone X and get another for free when both are purchased on AT&T Next, and a new line is added with eligible wireless service.

AT&T's description for each offer notes that more details will be coming soon at If you want to read more of the fine print for each city's deal, head over to the press release and scroll down to the bottom. For more discounts and offers, visit our full Deals Roundup.

Related Roundup: Apple Deals

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DirecTV Now’s Revamped Interface and Cloud DVR Features to Debut This Spring

During its fourth quarter earnings report this afternoon, AT&T shared release details (via Engadget) for its next-generation DirecTV Now video streaming platform, which will be a major revamp of the existing service.

When the update rolls out this spring, DirecTV Now subscribers will gain access to a new cloud DVR feature, allowing them to record and access their shows from anywhere.

DirecTV Now will also be gaining an entirely new interface to provide a "consistent look and feel" across all of the company's consumer video services, and subscribers will be able to stream to one additional device concurrently.

DirecTV Now subscribers have had access to the cloud DVR features in a beta capacity since late 2017, but it will be launching officially in the spring.

AT&T said in December that additional features are planned for DirecTV Now, including support for 4K video, individual profiles, and more on-demand titles.

According to AT&T, DirecTV Now has a total of 1.2 million subscribers, with the company gaining 368,000 new subscribers during the fourth quarter of 2017.

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AT&T Launches $35 Smart Wi-Fi Extender to Boost Coverage by Up To 1,000 Square Feet

AT&T has launched the "AT&T Smart Wi-Fi Extender," a device built to enable a stronger and more consistent Wi-Fi signal throughout your home. AT&T's product is one box that keeps devices connected to the internet as you move from one room to another, and customers can purchase additional boxes for bigger homes.

The Smart Wi-Fi Extender is designed for customers with an AT&T internet subscription who have Wi-Fi gateways 5268AC or BGW210, boosting coverage by up to 1,000 square feet and reducing network congestion. The company said that it automatically selects the "best and fastest available connection" for every device that you connect to the internet within your home.

The company priced the Smart Wi-Fi Extender at $34.99, and said it offers the same Wi-Fi boosting abilities of competitive mesh systems "that cost hundreds of dollars." It appears that the Wi-Fi Extender was available for some AT&T customers to purchase ahead of the wider launch this week.
That’s why we are introducing the new AT&T Smart Wi-Fi Extender – a state-of-the-art device that gives you the strongest Wi-Fi signal throughout your entire home. Its mesh technology keeps your devices connected as you move around, so you experience a seamless connection everywhere. Now you can stream, download, surf, and work on your devices anywhere, worry free. No dropped connection as you step into the backyard. No more interruptions or watching the football freeze in mid-air.
The 4-inch box is a 1600Mbps dual-band concurrent wireless access point and includes a port for 2 Gigabit Ethernet LAN and a power cable. AT&T also noted that it is compliant with 802.11ac and 802.11n standards, as well as being backwards compatible with 802.11a/b/g wireless standards.

The Smart Wi-Fi Extender will connect to an established AT&T Wi-Fi network, which can be managed via the Smart Home Manager iOS app. The company announced the app last summer and refers to it as a customer's "Wi-Fi concierge." With the app, users can change their network name and password, check who is connected to the network, invite guests to join with a text or email, and contact customer service in a chatroom.

Tag: AT&T

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AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile Tout Boosted Cellular Capacity Across Twin Cities in Anticipation of Super Bowl LII

In November, AT&T shared its plans to launch its "5G Evolution" network -- which isn't true 5G -- in select areas of Minneapolis as part of its overall plan to boost cellular coverage in the city during Super Bowl LII. This week, three of the major United States cellular carriers -- AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile -- each outlined their own plans to ensure that customers retain quality coverage in the Twin Cities on the weekend of February 4.

U.S. Bank Stadium via Darb02 / Wikimedia Commons

AT&T said its users can expect "a better mobile experience" in the city, with technology it's been working on for over a year that combines both permanent and temporary upgrades to the carrier's cellular connectivity. The company's $40 million investment in its Minneapolis wireless network boost includes coverage within the U.S. Bank Stadium (where the game will take place), as well as outside the stadium in hotels, airports, and other venues that will see increased traffic in a few weeks.

AT&T's upgrades:
  • Upgraded in-stadium Distributed Antenna System (DAS) offering "nearly 220% more LTE capacity."

  • More than 800 hidden antennas in the stadium to help manage wireless traffic.

  • DAS installed at 16 total locations in Minneapolis.

  • 10 Cell on Wheels (COWs, or temporary towers) deployed to further support reliability of AT&T's network.

  • 5G Evolution with 256 QAM, 4x4 MIMO, and 3-way carrier aggregation in select areas on supported smartphones.

Verizon predicted a "blizzard" of data usage for the Super Bowl this year, and said it's been working for two years on preparing the Minneapolis-Saint Paul area for the event. Verizon focused on its more permanent updates, which include boosted performance in the U.S. Bank Stadium and other venues throughout the Twin Cities area.

Verizon's upgrades:
  • 24 new permanent cell sites and more than 230 permanent small cell sites.

  • Introduction of LTE Advanced features to 4G LTE network "for greater capacity and faster peak data speeds."

  • Addition of 48 percent more antennas to DAS inside stadium.

  • New neural host DAS in Mall of America to boost network capacity by 900 percent.

  • Similar system added to Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport to boost network capacity by more than 1,000 percent.

T-Mobile laid out similar upgrades it's been working on for the last two years, which it said make its LTE network "the fastest in the Twin Cities." Those on T-Mobile's network can expect boosted network capacity in the U.S. Bank Stadium, the Minneapolis Convention Center, Xcel Energy Center, and locations like the Armory, Nicollet Mall, downtown St. Paul, Mall of America, and the International Airport.

T-Mobile's upgrades:
  • Boosting network capacity 30x in U.S. Bank Stadium, 35x in the convention center, and 16x in Xcel Energy Center.

  • Doubling the amount of LTE spectrum in the Twin Cities, along with carrier aggregation, 256 QAM, and 4x4 MIMO.

  • Deploying more than 120 small cells across Minneapolis and surrounding areas.

  • Increasing upload speeds up to 40 percent inside the stadium with Centralized Radio Access Network (C-RAN) technology.

Sprint's news on boosted Super Bowl network coverage came in a press release last month. Sprint users will get much of the same bonuses as the other carriers, with the company installing a DAS with 800 antennas inside the stadium, as well as small cells installed on lamp posts and street lights throughout Minneapolis. There will also be the "Sprint Magic Box," which Sprint described as the "world's first all-wireless small cell" to be placed in hundreds of locations across the Twin Cities to boost indoor data speeds by an average of 200 percent.

Although it won't launch in time for Super Bowl LII, T-Mobile has also provided more details on its own plans for a true 5G network, while commenting on AT&T's "#Fake5G" debut in 2017. T-Mobile said its schedule for 5G hasn't changed, and is still on track to debut nationwide by 2020. The company said it's been "encouraged" by confirmed chipset and OEM plans to launch wider support for 5G smartphones in 2019, which will initiate broad support for a "real 5G" network.

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AT&T Announces Plans to Launch Mobile 5G in a Dozen U.S. Markets by Late 2018

Following an expansion of its 5G tests to multiple cities around the United States -- including Minneapolis in time for Super Bowl LII -- AT&T this week announced that it expects to be the first U.S. company to launch mobile 5G services in a "dozen markets" by late 2018. The carrier said that it's "moving fast" to fulfill this promise, but hasn't yet specified which new cities could be reached by the 5G service or how fast the speeds will be.

AT&T pointed towards an announcement made last month by international wireless standards body the 3rd Generation Partnership Project, in which the Project confirmed that the global mobile industry is ready to begin "full-scale development of 5G NR (new radio) for large-scale trials and commercial deployments as early as in 2019."

AT&T explained that hardware, chipset, and device manufacturers can now start development on 5G technologies, and AT&T can provide mobile 5G services sooner "without compromising its long-term vision." This means that the new network will be a true 5G service, unlike AT&T's previous "5G Evolution" technology that was essentially a rebranded version of LTE.
“5G will change the way we live, work and enjoy entertainment,” said Melissa Arnoldi, president, AT&T Technology and Operations. “We’re moving quickly to begin deploying mobile 5G this year and start unlocking the future of connectivity for consumers and businesses. With faster speeds and ultra-low latency, 5G will ultimately deliver and enhance experiences like virtual reality, future driverless cars, immersive 4K video and more.”
AT&T's 5G deployment will be aimed at consumers, and the carrier expects to trial 5G technology with businesses as well. In this release, AT&T boasted faster speeds and "much lower latency" on users' smartphones as the selling point of the 5G technology. In addition to boosting connectivity speeds on smartphones, the company mentioned that it expects future 5G technologies to allow driverless vehicles to make better real-time decisions, enabling the cars to see around corners, through other vehicles, and at longer distances.

To take advantage of 5G features, users will need compatible smartphones, which right now include devices like the 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.

It's believed that Apple is looking to prepare future iPhone and iPad models for 5G technologies, following an application submission to the FCC last year, but the exact purpose of Apple's test remains unclear.

AT&T is also continuing to work on other wireless technology areas, including LTE, 5G Evolution, LTE-M for low-power wide-area coverage, Fixed Wireless Internet, Fixed 5G and AirGig, Fiber, and AT&T rival carriers have also joined in on testing 5G technology, with Sprint saying its own wide-scale 5G network will launch by 2019, and T-Mobile aiming for nationwide 5G coverage by 2020.

Tags: AT&T, 5G

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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.

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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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