FCC: POTS is History

The FCC gave the go ahead for a next-gen telephone network sending digitized voice and data through the internet rather than copper-based Plain Old Telephone Service and central offices.

AT&T and Verizon received a nod to test moving telephone services from existing circuit-switch technology to Internet protocol to see how the change may affect consumers.

The experiments would not test the new technology – it is already being used. The trials would seek to establish, among other things, how consumers welcome the change and how new technology performs in emergency situations, including in remote locations.

The IP transition tests allow companies that offer landline phone services to ultimately replace their old copper wires with newer technology like fiber or wireless.

“We cannot continue requiring service providers to invest in both old networks and new networks forever,” Commissioner Ajit Pai, a Republican, said.

More than a third of adults use cellphones as their only form of phone service, up from just 5 percent a decade ago. Federal regulations require phone companies to maintain the plain, old telephone system even as they continue building out advanced networks that imposes costs and slows investment.

Meanwhile, consumer advocates caution that moving too quickly to an IP-based phone network could leave some Americans behind.

Airport WiFi Used to Track Users

Airport WiFi was used to track users, according to a top secret document retrieved by U.S. whistleblower Edward Snowden and obtained by CBC News.

It shows that Canada’s electronic spy agency, the Communications Security Establishment Canada (CSEC) used information from the free internet service at a major Canadian airport to track the wireless devices of thousands of ordinary airline passengers for days after they left the terminal.

After reviewing the document, one of Canada’s foremost authorities on cyber-security says the clandestine operation was almost certainly illegal.

The spy agency is supposed to be collecting primarily foreign intelligence by intercepting overseas phone and internet traffic, and is prohibited by law from targeting Canadians or anyone in Canada without a judicial warrant.

The N.S.A.’s programs have been attacked by civil libertarians and Silicon Valley companies that say their business is being undercut and denounced by American allies.

In nominating Vice Adm. Michael S. Rogers as the new director of the National Security Agency on Thursday, President Obama picked a military officer, rather than a civilian versed in civil liberties issues, rejecting his own advisory panel’s recommendation, notes the NY Times.

Google Selling Motorola to Lenovo

Google has agreed to sell Motorola to Lenovo for $2.91 billion, writes Larry Page on the Google blog.

According to Page, the smartphone market is super competitive, and they believe that Motorola will be better served by Lenovo—which has a rapidly growing smartphone business and is the largest (and fastest-growing) PC manufacturer in the world.

In two years, China’s three biggest handset makers – Huawei, ZTE and Lenovo – have vaulted into the top ranks of global smartphone charts.

Google acquired Motorola in 2012 for $12.5 billion to help the Android ecosystem and create a stronger patent portfolio.

Google is selling Motorola for much less than it paid for it, but Google is keeping a bunch of Motrola’s patents, which it can license out to other companies. It also won’t include the Advanced Technology and Projects group which developed the Project Ara modular phone, which allows different phone configurations to be constructed from various parts. Google also sold off Motorola’s cable box business (the home division) for $2.5 billion.

It is Lenovo’s second major deal on U.S. soil in a week. Lenovo last week said it would buy IBM’s low-end server business for $2.3 billion.

Lenovo has the expertise and track record to scale Motorola into a major player within the Android ecosystem. They have a lot of experience in hardware, and they have global reach. In addition, Lenovo intends to keep Motorola’s distinct brand identity—just as they did when they acquired ThinkPad from IBM in 2005.

H-Block Auction Winding Down?

The auction of the 1900 MHz PCS H Block is one week old, but it’s already becoming apparent to analysts that Dish Network is set to capture the spectrum in short order, reports Fierce Wireless.

The FCC auction (auction 96 and live bidding results), is expected to generate over $1.6 billion for the US Treasury.

Dish has pledged to bid, at minimum, $1.56 billion, or $0.50/MHz-POP, for the entire auction (though it does not have to bid that for each license). Of the 176 licenses up for auction, 144 have posted winning bids so far and 32 have not.

According to Tim Farrar, Dish can outbid any company for any individual licenses because it knows it will not get outbid and can make up for bidding heavily on one license by bidding a lower amount on another.

According to Farrar:

“By sometime tomorrow morning, it looks like no other players will have any remaining eligibility and it will be left to DISH to raise the price step by step to the $1.564B minimum price and the auction will be done. Indeed that seems to already be happening, with DISH renewing its bidding on NY and LA in Round 17 as any potential competition ebbed away.”

Justice Cool on Sprint/T-Mobile Merger

Justice Dept Officials have met with Sprint Directors Son and Hesse, but signaled a dim view toward a merger between Sprint and T-Mobile, reports the Wall St Journal. U.S. antitrust authorities regard the current lineup of four national mobile-phone carriers as important to maintaining a competitive market.

The FCC also reviews telecom transactions to determine if they are in the public interest and has also sent signals that it prefers 4 national carriers over 3.

It doesn’t appear the meeting has deterred Mr. Son, who has been the driving force behind the effort to merge Sprint, the third-largest U.S. carrier by subscribers, with No. 4 T-Mobile, according to the WSJ.

The main argument is that Verizon Wireless and AT&T account for more than two-thirds of the U.S. industry’s subscribers and nearly all its profits. Absent a merger, they won’t face any significant competition.

Three years ago the Justice Department shot down a $39 billion deal for AT&T to buy T-Mobile, lauding the smaller company’s role as a price-cutting maverick. T-Mobile has stepped up its aggressive tactics in the past year, getting rid of industry standbys like service contracts and international data roaming fees,and has started reversing a long slide in its customer base.

T-Mobile’s resurgence might leave regulators less inclined to approve a deal. Justice Department officials regard T-Mobile’s strides since the demise of the AT&T deal as good for consumers and competition, said people familiar with the matter.

Meanwhile, AT&T reported weaker wireless subscriber growth for the fourth quarter, but stronger data revenues.

Verizon’s 4Q financials revealed an 8.0 percent year-over-year increase in service revenues in 4Q 2013; 7.5 percent year-over-year increase in retail service revenues; 29.5 percent operating income margin and 47.0 percent segment EBITDA margin on service revenues (non-GAAP).

35 NYC Subway Stops Get Wireless Access

Verizon’s voice and 3G and 4G LTE data services are now available in 35 New York City subway stations, reports contractor Transit Wireless

The stations cover the west side of Manhattan from 23rd St. to 96th St, including Times Square, Rockefeller Center, Lincoln Center and Columbus Circle. The signals are distributed on fiber optic cable through ducts under city streets to subway stations where the cables connect to multi-band radio frequency (RF) nodes, which are placed on platforms, mezzanines and at various points within public access passageways.

New Yorkers using AT&T and T-Mobile already have service in many stations, and Sprint wireless is reportedly on the way.

The New York subway project comprises more than 22 million square feet of real estate that will receive access to wireless service, that covers everything from 700 megahertz to 6 gigahertz, which includes Wi-Fi, as well as New York City Transit-owned spectrum.

While the Internet not on the island’s western corridor, Transit Wireless intends to bring Wi-Fi to the entire subway system by 2017. The total cost of the project is expected to be between $200 million and $250 million, though Transit Wireless and the carriers will foot the entire bill.

Cablevision is now extending its reach to nearly a dozen major commuter rail stations in northern New Jersey.

Its Optimum WiFi service is now available throughout 11 New Jersey Transit train stations, including major hubs at Hoboken Terminal, Newark Penn Station, Secaucus Junction, Trenton Transit Center, and Newark Broad Street. Other stations on the list are the Meadowlands, Metropark, Montclair State University, New Brunswick, Rahway, and Summit.

The MSO’s existing Optimum Online subscribers can access the NJ Transit hotspots for free. Non-subscribers are allowed five free passes per device. Further 24 hr passes are available for $4.99 each.