T-Mobile and Sprint ‘Close’ to Finalizing Merger Deal, John Legere Said to Lead Combined Company

T-Mobile and Sprint are said to be "close to agreeing" to terms regarding a deal that would merge the third and fourth largest United States wireless carriers together. People close to the deal told Reuters that Sprint parent company SoftBank would own 40 to 50 percent of the combined company, while T-Mobile parent company Deutsche Telekom will gain the majority stake.

The terms of the deal are expected to be finalized by the end of October, "though talks may still fall through," the two sources said. Previously, U.S. antitrust officials told Sprint that a merger with another wireless carrier would face intense scrutiny because having four major carriers in the U.S. was important to maintaining a competitive market. During those talks a few years ago the situation of the companies was reversed -- since T-Mobile had yet to gain in popularity -- with Sprint seeking to acquire T-Mobile for more than $20 billion.


Now, those concerns are said to come into play again with regulatory scrutiny expected to face any deal between Sprint and T-Mobile "over concerns that the U.S. wireless market is becoming too concentrated."
T-Mobile US Inc is close to agreeing tentative terms on a deal to merge with peer Sprint Corp, people familiar with the matter said, a major breakthrough in efforts to merge the third and fourth largest U.S. wireless carriers.

Once terms are finalized, due diligence by the two companies will follow and a deal is expected by the end of October, though talks may still fall through, the sources said.
If the merger happens, the resulting company would have revenues topping $70 billion and more than 130 million subscribers, falling in line behind the two other major U.S. carriers -- Verizon and AT&T -- in terms of subscribers.

The combined company would be led by T-Mobile CEO John Legere, according to the sources, thanks to T-Mobile outperforming Sprint under his leadership. The new company would also undertake a "massive" effort to cut costs early on.


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Sprint Offering Free iPhone 8 Lease With iPhone 7 Trade In

Sprint today announced that well-qualified customers can lease an iPhone 8 with 64GB of storage for $0 per month after bill credits with the trade in of an eligible smartphone, including the iPhone 7, iPhone 7 Plus, and Galaxy S8.


With the trade in, Sprint will waive the regular $29.17 charge for 18 months. After at least 12 lease payments, all of which are covered by the promotion, customers can trade in the iPhone 8 and upgrade to a new iPhone.

The limited time offer appears to be available to both new and existing customers who activate at least one new line of service.

Sprint is also offering 50 percent off the 18-month lease of an iPhone 8 to customers who trade in an older smartphone, such as an iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, iPhone 6s, iPhone 6s Plus, Galaxy S7, or Google Pixel.

Until October 31, 2018, Sprint's unlimited talk, text, and data plan costs $50 per month for the first line, and $40 per month for the second line, with up to three additional lines for free with AutoPay and paperless billing.

"Unlimited" has some caveats, including a max of 1080p for streaming video, 1.5 Mbps for streaming music, and 8 Mbps for games. After 23GB of usage in a billing cycle, data deprioritization applies during times of congestion.

Sprint will waive its $30 activation fee for customers who order online or by phone. There may be additional taxes and fees.

Tag: Sprint

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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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Sprint Launches New ‘Sprint Flex’ and ‘Sprint Deals’ Smartphone Purchase Options

Sprint today announced the launch of two new smartphone upgrade programs, Sprint Flex and Sprint Deals. Sprint Flex, as the name suggests, is designed to give users more options for upgrading their phones, including on an annual basis.

With Sprint Flex, customers can choose an iPhone for a low monthly price and begin making payments. Through Sprint's existing iPhone Forever and Galaxy Forever programs, customers can then opt to upgrade on an annual basis, trading in their devices each year.

After 18 months, though, customers can choose to return their devices for a new one, own the device by making a single payment, or own the device by making six additional monthly payments. Sprint has a chart outlining the program:


Sprint Deals, the other new program Sprint is introducing, will let customers purchase a smartphone without a credit check. Sprint Deals is limited to older devices like the iPhone 6s, but offers $25 to $30 down and payments of $5 to $10 a month.

Customers who apply for and receive credit with Sprint, can take advantage of Sprint Flex on a postpaid plan:

- For entry-level devices, customers pay $5 per month with $25 down.
- For higher-end devices, customers pay $10 per month with $30 down.

Customers who prefer to bypass a credit check with Sprint, can get an instant discount on the same "value menu" of smartphones, on a Sprint Forward prepaid plan:

- For entry-level devices, customers get 50 percent off the suggested retail price.
- For higher-end devices, customers pay 25 percent off the suggested retail price.
Sprint is also currently running a free service promotion that may make it an attractive choice for customers looking for an affordable smartphone. For customers switching from Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, or another postpaid carrier and bringing their own device, Sprint is offering one year of free unlimited talk, text, and 4G LTE data.

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Jay-Z’s Album ‘4:44’ Rumored to Arrive on Apple Music After One Week of Tidal Exclusivity

Soon after Jay-Z's newest album, "4:44," launched as an exclusive on his own streaming service Tidal, sources speaking to Billboard this weekend have said that 4:44 will be coming to Apple Music and iTunes later this week. Tidal and Sprint are believed to have a one week exclusivity window on 4:44, so it's predicted that the album will launch on Apple Music next Friday, July 7.

A rumor last year stated that Apple was in talks to purchase Tidal, but Apple Music executive Jimmy Iovine eventually denied those reports by saying, "We're really running our own race. We're not looking to acquire any streaming services." For a brief period of time earlier this year, Jay-Z even removed all of his albums from Apple Music and Spotify, although most eventually reappeared on Apple Music a few days later.


A track on 4:44, called "Smile," references the Apple Music and Tidal feud by specifically calling out Jimmy Iovine (via Business Insider).
F*** a slice of the apple pie, want my own cake
Chargin' my own fate
Respect Jimmy Iovine
But he gotta respect the Elohim as a whole new regime
The ongoing rivalry between the two competing music services is said to be negatively affecting the music industry as a whole, according to Kanye West who tweeted about the two companies last summer. Later in 2016, West blamed the fight between Apple Music and Tidal as the main factor behind the reason why there won't be a sequel to Watch The Throne, his 2011 collaboration with Jay-Z. Kanye's album "The Life of Pablo" began as a Tidal exclusive as well, before it eventually streamed on Apple Music and other services after a few months.

Exclusive deals for services like Apple Music, Tidal, and Spotify have come under fire in recent years by music labels and critics, but Apple has continued releasing exclusive music on its streaming service. Tidal has done the same thing with 4:44, tying the album into the service's recent acquisition by Sprint.
That source also confirmed that fans need to sign up for Sprint service in order to get the album if they are not already Tidal subscribers. Otherwise, as noted by disgruntled Jay fan hit-making producer Mark Ronson, it is only available to those who were pre-established Tidal subscribers before June 26 or already had Sprint service.
If this weekend's report is accurate, Tidal/Sprint's exclusivity window will be ending very soon, allowing more users to get a chance to listen to 4:44 than if it remained a streaming exclusive on Tidal. The sources didn't confirm whether 4:44 will make it to other streaming services in addition to Apple Music, like Spotify, after Tidal's exclusivity window ends.


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New Jay Z Album ‘4:44’ Will Be Sprint-Tidal Exclusive

Rapper Jay Z has confirmed that his new album, 4:44, will be released on June 30 and will be available exclusively to Sprint customers and existing Tidal subscribers (via Variety). The album is the first major project between the streaming music service and Sprint, which acquired 33 percent of the company in January in a deal reportedly worth $200 million.


Tidal has recently been promoting 4:44 with videos on YouTube featuring actors Mahershala Ali, Lupita Nyong’o, and Danny Glover, suggesting video content could accompany the album.

Based on the performance of previous Tidal-only releases, how long the album remains an exclusive could have a big effect on its chart success. Beyonce's album Lemonade reportedly suffered because of its exclusivity to Tidal, which claims as many as 3 million subscribers. That contrasts with Spotify's claimed 50 million paying subscribers, with Apple Music now on 27 million subscribers, as revealed earlier this month at the Worldwide Developers Conference.

Apple was rumored to be interested in buying Tidal last year as a way to bolster Apple Music, but the company later denied the reports and said it wasn't looking to acquire any existing streaming services. The rivalry between Apple Music and Tidal has been criticized for their promotion of exclusive artist deals, which Kanye West said was negatively affecting the music industry.

As part of the Sprint-Tidal deal, Sprint customers are eligible to receive a free six-month Tidal trial subscription to the streaming service.

Tags: Sprint, Tidal

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Sprint Offering Free Year of Unlimited Service to Switchers

Sprint today announced that customers of Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, or any other postpaid carrier who bring their eligible iPhone or Android-based smartphone to Sprint will receive one free year of unlimited talk, text, and 4G LTE data. The offer is available for up to five lines per new account opened.


The term "unlimited" has some limitations, including a max of 1080p for streaming video, 1.5 Mbps for streaming music, and 8 Mbps for games. Data de-prioritization applies during times of congestion, and customers that exceed 23GB of data in any billing cycle may be throttled until the next billing cycle.

Unlimited talk includes long distance calls within the United States and Sprint Global Roaming, which includes 2G data and text messaging in over 165 countries for no charge, plus calling for $0.20 per minute. 10GB of high-speed data per line is included to use toward Personal Hotspot, VPN, and Peer-2-Peer usage.

Eligible smartphones must be unlocked and compatible with Sprint's network and SIM card, including the following iPhone models. An asterisk indicates only the Verizon model of that particular iPhone works on Sprint due to CDMA compatibility. Tablets and Personal Hotspot devices are ineligible.
  • iPhone 5c*
  • iPhone 5s*
  • iPhone 6
  • iPhone 6 Plus
  • iPhone 6s
  • iPhone 6s Plus
  • iPhone 7*
  • iPhone 7 Plus*
  • iPhone SE
As to be expected, the offer has some fine print, but there really are no significant catches or anything that should be considered a deal breaker.
  • New customers only: The offer is not available to customers that already have an active Sprint account.
  • No annual contract: After July 31, 2018, the free plan will convert to Sprint's standard Unlimited Freedom plan starting at $60 per month with AutoPay. Customers don't appear to be under any obligation to continue paying for that plan and may cancel after the first year of free service if desired.
  • Keep the same phone number: Port-in from postpaid carrier required.
  • SIM card purchase required: $2.99 + $10 shipping + taxes online. Also available at Sprint stores. SIM card must be activated prior to port-in.
  • Activation fee rebated: A $30 activation fee will appear on the first bill and an equal credit will appear within 2 bills.
  • AutoPay and eBilling required: If AutoPay and/or eBill are removed, up to a $7.99 per month charge will apply.
  • Taxes and fees: A standard $1.99 admin fee, $0.40 regulatory fee, state and local taxes, and other surcharges may apply each month.
  • No device upgrade allowed during first 120 days: Any upgrades prior to October 1, 2017 will require a plan change to Unlimited Freedom, and the customer will lose the remaining free months in his or her year of free service.

Sprint said this limited time offer is available until June 30. To switch, customers must purchase a SIM card from Sprint's website or stores, activate it, and port their phone number over.

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Sprint Partners With Qualcomm and SoftBank to Launch Wide-Scale 5G Network By End of 2019

Sprint today announced plans to develop and deploy a wide-scale 2.5GHz 5G network in partnership with Qualcomm and SoftBank, with the intent to provide the service and products compatible with it to customers in "late 2019."

Sprint's 5G network is said to use the New Radio standard developed by the 3rd Generation Partnership Project, a group of telecommunications organizations that oversee the development and maintenance of major communication networks.


Otherwise, Sprint's press release today is notably sparse on details.
Qualcomm Technologies, SoftBank and Sprint have jointly agreed to develop technologies for 5G, including the 3GPP New Radio (NR) standard in Band 41 (2.5GHz) for accelerated wide-scale 5G deployments.

The companies plan to provide commercial services and devices in late 2019. Additional details will be provided by the companies.
Like previous advances in network technology, 5G will grant users faster data speeds and lower latency on smartphones and other cellular-enabled devices. Other companies -- including AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile -- have announced plans and tests for 5G networks, but the advanced technology isn't expected to become a reality until after 3GPP establishes the initial standards for 5G.

After the standards are developed (which will be a focus of 3GPP's work in the second half of 2017), and after carriers finish testing and launch support for the advanced 5G network infrastructure, it'll take some additional time for Apple to create and debut an iPhone that could connect to 5G. For these reasons, widespread commercial adoption of 5G is still estimated for 2020 or later.

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Sprint Announces ‘Magic Box’ to Improve LTE Data Download and Upload Speeds By 200%

Sprint today announced the "Sprint Magic Box," a small plug-and-play device that the carrier said will "dramatically improve" LTE data services and connections for any Sprint customers in its range. The indoor consumer device is built to be placed near a window, and is free for qualifying customers, with no installation, labor, or rental costs attached to its use.

The Magic Box doesn't require a router or Wi-Fi to use -- Sprint also mentioned that it doesn't interfere with established Wi-Fi networks -- and it automatically connects to the nearest Sprint cell site to guide users through installation. Once it's up and running, Sprint said that users will see a better data experience while streaming videos and surfing online, with up to 200 percent increases in download and upload speeds.


The carrier also said that the Magic Box will be additionally beneficial in cities, as one device will boost the densification of Sprint's network for any Sprint user nearby.
So why did we name it Sprint Magic Box? Because the product is so simple, it just plugs in and works like magic to create a better experience by virtually eliminating hard-to-reach indoor areas. Within minutes customers see an average increase of 200% in download and upload speeds. The early feedback from thousands of customers who’ve been using Sprint Magic Box has been tremendous, and we’re excited for more customers to benefit from this amazing new innovation.
One Magic Box has more than enough coverage to provide faster speeds for any average-sized home or business. According to Sprint, this means the device can cover an indoor area of around 30,000 square feet, and reaches up to 100 meters of outdoor coverage, with up to 64 simultaneous user connections sustainable on one Magic Box.


Users interested can fill out a request form to see if they qualify for the Magic Box, which can be found on Sprint's website. The form asks for a Sprint number and description of how users heard about the offer, among the usual name and email requirements.

Tag: Sprint

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