Sprint Offers International Wi-Fi Calling

Sprint will begin offering International Wi-Fi Calling back to the United States at no additional cost starting with an over-the-air software update to Samsung Galaxy S 4 with Sprint Spark rolling out now. This new feature allows those traveling abroad with Wi-Fi Calling enabled phones to make and receive calls to friends and family in the United States, U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico at no additional charge while connected to a Wi-Fi network.

Three of the four major wireless operators in the US have announced they’re deploying voice over LTE service (excepting Sprint). Voice over LTE will eventually replace existing 2G voice service. Currently LTE is a data-only service, with voice routed through their separate 3G infrastructure.

Wi-Fi Calling lets Sprint customers use voice and messaging services over existing home, office and public Wi-Fi networks. Available at no additional charge to Sprint customers with a compatible Android smartphone, it offers improved voice, data and messaging services in locations that previously had limited or no mobile network coverage.

Sprint’s HD Voice transmits and receives a wider octave range on traditional cellular networks. HD Voice actively detects background noise and minimizes its presence, making your voice and the voice on the other end of the call more defined and easier to understand.

WiFi calling essentially allows cell phone packets to be forwarded to a network access point over the internet, rather than over-the-air using cellular providers. Since the system works over the internet, a UMA-capable handset can connect to their service provider from any location with internet access. This is particularly useful for travellers, who can connect to their provider and make calls into their home service area from anywhere in the world.

Say you take your Wifi phone to France, you can connect to Wi-Fi Calling and call your friend in Seattle. The call is billed like a local call to Seattle (e.g. it comes out of your bucket of minutes), with no international roaming fees. But if you’re in France and you call a French number (+33 …) then it’s billed like an international call to France.

Wi-Fi calling is available on T-Mobile and others, using special Wifi handsets or with smartphone apps like Kineto.

Kineto Wireless, a major supplier of telco-OTT solutions, says it has added a suite of Smart Calling services to its downloadable Smart Comms smartphone application for mobile operators. The new services include the ability to make and receive cellular calls and SMS over Wi-Fi (VoWiFi), 2nd line service, home line calling, and international VoIP calling.

CTIA Wants Faster Cell Siting

CTIA President Meredith Attwell Baker wants the FCC to take further steps to reform the wireless cell siting process to speed up the deployment of network infrastructure, notes Fierce Wireless.

In an op-ed in The Hill, Baker wrote that “a commonsense national approach to further streamline and modernize the wireless siting process is long overdue” and has bipartisan support. She noted that small cells and Distributed Antenna Systems are becoming integral to network topologies and deployments, but that they are still treated like 250-foot cell towers by many municipalities.

The CTIA chief, herself a former FCC commissioner, wants the FCC to “limit the ability of state and local authorities to delay the collocation and replacement of wireless infrastructure that have minimal impact on communities.”

Wireless carriers, tower companies and infrastructure providers have long complained of delays in the permitting and zoning process, including for equipment that is collocated with an already-approved cell site or with replacing equipment on a site that has already been zoned and approved.

Baker also wrote that the FCC should “curtail unnecessary delays at the local level by imposing a 45-day limit on collocation approvals. After all, as Congress recognized, these wireless facilities already have received the necessary zoning approval, so why impose further impediments?”

In terms of DAS and small cells, she wrote that their small size and flexibility “warrant streamlining the environmental and historic review processes–including the adoption of certain exclusions–for deployment of these facilities.”

In order to expand on the anywhere, anytime connectivity, the CTIA claims the industry needs access to more licensed spectrum, towers and antennas.

Samsung Adds Nokia Maps to Phone and Watch

Nokia’s Here Maps are coming to Samsung Android and Tizen phones, report Engadget. Nokia’s maps work offline, so no celluar connection is required once regional maps are downloaded to the device. HERE for Android will let you download entire countries and regions, much like TomTom, or OpenStreetMap-powered alternatives such as Skobbler (now owned by Telenav).

Nokia (the part that wasn’t sold to Microsoft) today announced that it will bring Here Maps to Android for the first time, giving Samsung Galaxy smartphone owners advanced access to its own Google Maps alternative. The Korean smartphone maker has an existing deal to provide Nokia’s Here Maps to their Tizen wearables, such as the 3G-enabled Gear S smartwatch, which goes on sale in October.

By tapping on your location in HERE for Android, you can send a Glympse notice to friends to let them know you’re on your way. Glympse is a free and simple way to share your location in real time with people you trust.

On the Samsung Gear S, HERE is powering an application called Navigator, which offers turn-by-turn walk navigation and public transit routing. The app provides a complete stand-alone experience, including the ability to store map data locally on the device and use it offline for navigation, directions and search.

To get the most out of Navigator on a Samsung Gear S watch, you can also pair it with a the HERE app (beta) which works with the Samsung Galaxy family of devices. With the app you can plan and calculate routes for walking and public transit on your phone and then send them to your smartwatch. The app will be made available for download from the Samsung GALAXY Apps store when the Samsung Gear S hits stores.

If you go online you can use more advanced features, like live traffic and real-time transit schedules. You can also share the places you find with family and friends and save your favorite destinations into Collections that can be synced with other devices and here.com.

Samsung also announced today a partnership with NIKE, introducing the Nike+ Running App for Samsung Gear S watch/phone. The app utilizes the new Samsung Gear S’ built-in Bluetooth and 3G connectivity. With the pre-loaded Nike+ Running App on the Samsung Gear S, users can leave their phones at home.

A Nike+ app for Android was released earlier this summer, although there is no Android Wearable support yet.

Deutsche Telekom: Buy US for $35/share

Deutsche Telekom put a valuation of at least $35 a share to any business willing to buy its T-Mobile US unit, the fourth-largest wireless carrier in the U.S., reports Bloomberg.

T-Mobile’s stock price rose 0.3 percent to $29.92 at 9:48 a.m. in New York, adding to yesterday’s 1.4 percent gain. Deutsche Telekom owns 67 percent of the Bellevue, Washington-based company, which has a market value of $24 billion.

T-Mobile rejected a $33-a-share bid by France’s Iliad this month, but hasn’t received an increased offer, according to reports.

Iliad rattled France’s wireless market with rock-bottom-priced packages that have led to a two-year tariff war with incumbent operators. BNP Paribas SA and HSBC Holdings Plc had agreed to lend Iliad as much as $13 billion to finance its bid, a person with knowledge of the deal has said.

A deal with Sprint may have valued T-Mobile at about $40 a share, has gone South. Deutsche Telekom would consider forgoing a higher price if that means avoiding the uncertainty of a prolonged regulatory review of a deal that would reduce the number of nationwide carriers to three from four, other people familiar with the matter have said.

In the absence of a good enough offer, Deutsche Telekom is focusing on the U.S. spectrum auctions. Management left open yesterday how T-Mobile plans to finance the purchases, the person said. The operator faces its first auction of wireless spectrum, of so-called “AWS-3 bands,” starting Nov. 13, according to the Federal Communications Commission.

For next year’s auction of coveted 600-megahertz bands, which allow larger areas of coverage across the countryside and inside buildings, Hoettges is pressuring regulators for favorable conditions to help T-Mobile offset the deeper coffers of its larger rivals.

Samsung Gear S: Smartwatch Untethered

Samsung is taking the wraps off the Gear S with can send and receive messages or make calls without an accompying smartphone. There’s a 3G modem inside. While it may not be especially fast, it doesn’t require a Bluetooth-connected phone or WiFi.

It features a 2-inch AMOLED screen plus a dual-core 1GHz CPU along with GPS, heart rate and motion sensors. It’s powered by a 300mAh battery that Samsung says can last up to two days. It runs Tizen instead of Android Wear, with pedestrian navigation available from from Nokia’s HERE and support for Facebook.

In the run up to IFA next week Samsung is also bringing the Gear Circle headset that pairs with a phone over Bluetooth, letting users hear notifications, use voice commands or listen to music through the earbuds.

Meanwhile, LG’s G Watch, one of the first Android Wear devices, has a round smartwatch successor, the G Watch R. It needs to be tethered to a smartphone (via Bluetooth) for any voice communications.

The G Watch R’s key feature is its display, says The Verge, with a 1.3-inch Plastic OLED panel that takes up 100 percent of the watch’s round face. LG promises that it’s viewable in sunlight and clear from any angle. The screen rests in a stainless steel frame, and comes with an interchangeable calf skin leather strap. This device looks perhaps more like a normal analog watch.

It’s powered by Android Wear, so it offers the same Google Now-based experience. You’ll get notifications, easy access to notes and calendar and directions. It’s powered by a 1.2GHz Snapdragon processor and 512MB of RAM, plus 4GB of internal storage. It has a heart-rate monitor, unlike the G Watch, plus a handful of health and fitness apps that should make the G Watch R a little more useful as a fitness tracker.

Motorola’s Moto 360, another round Android-powered smartwatch, will have a retail price of $249 and features a heart rate sensor and inductive charging system. The wearable will be introduced next week at IFA in Berlin.

Apple now plans to unveil a new wearable alongside the two next-generation iPhone on September 9, according to Re-Code. The new device will use of Apple’s HealthKit, a health and fitness platform, and Apple’s HomeKit, their new framework for controlling connected devices.

OpenBTS: 3G Cellular Data Goes Open Source

Range Networks (Twitter) is simplifying cellular networks using Open Source hardware and software. OpenBTS software is a Linux application that uses a software-defined radio to present a standard 3GPP air interface to user devices.

OpenBTS (Open Base Transceiver Station) allows standard GSM-compatible mobile phones to be used as SIP endpoints in Voice over IP (VOIP) networks. OpenBTS was developed and is maintained by Range Networks. The public release of OpenBTS is notable for being the first free software implementation of the lower three layers of the industry-standard GSM protocol stack.

The aim of the project is to drastically reduce the cost of GSM service provision in rural areas, the developing world, and hard to reach locations such as oil rigs. It’s also used to provide free cellular-like services for events like Burning Man.

OpenBTS announced last month the public release of OpenBTS-UMTS 1.0, providing data capability for 3G networks. The new code is available to the OpenBTS community immediately as a free download.

Industry leading software-defined radio (SDR) suppliers Ettus Research and Nuand make radio hardware that supports OpenBTS-UMTS.

Nuand has a USB 3-powered Software Defined Radio. Out of the box the bladeRF can tune from 300MHz to 3.8GHz without the need for extra boards.

Since 2006, the folks behind OpenBTS have been running the Papa Legba camp at Burning Man have provided fully licensed independent (free) cellular service with help from Geeks Without Bounds and others.

OpenBTS is now part of the GNU Radio project and administered by the Free Software Foundation. The original founders of this project are David A. Burgess and Harvind S. Samra.

GNU Radio can be used with external RF hardware to create software-defined radios, or without hardware in a simulation-like environment.

Keyless car remotes, home alarm systems, traffic alert systems, toll-collection transponders, TV satellites, airliner communications, medical pagers and even space probes can all be disrupted, thanks to software-defined radio, two Australian researchers demonstrated in separate presentations at the BlackHat security conference this month.

See Dailywireless; Free Cellular at Burning Man 2013, Burning Man: Ten Years of Communications Innovation, Range Networks: Open Source Cellular Networks, Burning Man Goes Live, Interactive Arts Festivals