McDonald’s Gets Softcard

Softcard (formerly Isis), a mobile payment system that competes with Apple Pay and Google Wallet, announced today that it is accepted at more than 14,000 McDonald’s locations around the country beginning today. Smartphone owners can make NFC-based mobile payments at the register and the drive-thru at all McDonald’s restaurants. McDonald’s will also accept Apple Pay.

Last month, Subway also announced a partnership with Softcard to support mobile payments.

Softcard is free to download and is compatible with more than 80 Android handsets sold by AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless. Softcard combines payments, offers and loyalty in one app. Softcard uses the EMV Contactless specification and SmartTap technology to enable payments, offers and loyalty redemption through one tap.

Apple Pay saw more than one million card activations within 72 hours of launch, reports NFC World, and is already the leading NFC payments player in the US, according to Apple CEO Tim Cook. Cook outlined future growth plans for the service at the WS Journal D Live conference this week, including a potential partnership with Chinese ecommerce giant Alibaba.

US pharmacy chains Rite Aid and CVS plan to launch their own CurrentC mobile payment service in 2015, and have stopped accepting NFC payments, blocking mobile payments services like Apple Pay, Google Wallet and Softcard.

Unfortunately, CurrentC is now warning people that hackers have already swiped some of the beta tester’s email addresses.

Mobile proximity payments have to date proven lacklustre despite the hundreds of millions spent on developing these platforms. But loyalty rewards and benefits of the digital wallet is now seen by many as potentially the killer app that will help to finally ignite the long simmering mobile proximity payment market.

Ovum’s research indicates that 53% of consumers globally report they’ve either used or are interested in redeeming offers and coupons with their handsets, while 44% have used or are interested using their mobile device to pay for things in store and restaurants, explains Gilles Ubaghs, Senior Analyst, Financial Services Technology at Ovum.

NWave Joins Weightless SIG

The Weightless SIG, which develops Internet of Things standards for long distance, low cost machine to machine connections, has announced a new parter with NWave technologies joining the group as a technology vendor. Weightless has already picked up some serious backers, including ARM, CSR, and Cable & Wireless.

While many short range M2N solutions are available, such as Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, ZigBee, Z-Wave and others, they cannot provide long-range coverage.

The IEEE standards group has developed a couple of White Space standards that promise better range. Those include the 802.11af standard, based on Wi-Fi like protocols, for ranges up to 5 km. Additionally, the 802.22 standard, based on WiMax chipsets which incorporate polling, are designed for wireless regional area networks with ranges up to 100 km. But both of those standards appear to be targeting broadband connections.

The Weightless standards, by contrast, delivers a slower, narrow-band solution that connects to more devices and requires very little power. It may even be used on licensed cellular frequencies.

The Weightless standard aims to connect sensors that require long range connections and is targeting applications like vehicles and asset tracking, healthcare and metering.

While improved coverage can be supplied by cellular technology using GPRS, 3G and LTE, cellular costs are high, using more power and bandwidth than desirable. The Weightless SIG uses television white spaces and the lower unlicensed ISM band (800-900 MHz) for improved range using a slower but error-resistant data scheme.

Weightless uses a spreading algorithm to create a longer data sequence when the signal levels are weak. It reduces the data rate and shifts to a simpler modulation scheme to reduce the error rate or increase range. It enables coverage up to 5km (3 miles) to indoor terminals.

The Weightless SIG announced the development of the Weightless-W standard, which uses TV white spaces, last year. This year the the Weightless-N standard, using the unlicensed 800/900 MHz ISM band was announced. It uses Ultra Narrow Band (UNB) technology and operates in ISM band – 868MHz in Europe and 915MHz in the US, and may also use cellular frequencies around 800 MHz.

Professor William Webb, CEO of the Weightless SIG said, “We are delighted to welcome NWave Technologies Limited to the Weightless SIG. NWave is a leader in IoT over ISM spectrum and the company’s deep technical experience in LPWAN connectivity will make a significant contribution to the rapid development of Weightless-N. Bringing proven capability from an existing technology provider to the SIG and merging it with the expertise already established within the group will accelerate the development of Weightless-N as the leading global open standard for machine connectivity over licence exempt spectrum.”

See Dailywireless Whitespace articles, including; Qualcomm Buys Silicon Radio, Huawei Buys Neul, Weightless M2M Standard, Version 0.9, Neul’s Weightless Chip: $12

Qualcomm Announces end-to-end MU-MIMO

Qualcomm today announced 802.11ac Wave 2 solutions with multi-user multi-input/multi-output (MU-MIMO). Qualcomm Atheros will be conducting the industry’s an over-the-air, end-to-end MU-MIMO demonstration using their networking and client-side chips at Broadband World Forum in Amsterdam, October 21-23.

Qualcomm VIVE 802.11ac chipsets with MU-MIMO technology, which Qualcomm Atheros introduced earlier this year are beginning to be released in products. Mobile device manufacturers are also preparing smartphones and tablets to take advantage of these MU-MIMO which can achieve up to three times faster 11ac Wi-Fi, according to Qualcomm.

The Qualcomm Atheros QCA9377 chip extends the performance benefits of MU | EFX to notebooks, TVs, cameras, and other consumer electronics, while Qualcomm’s single-stream 11ac + Bluetooth 4.1 combination chip is designed to provide the best possible performance with reduced power consumption.

Qualcomm says its VIVE is currently the only line of 802.11ac Multi-User MIMO solutions for networking equipment, consumer electronics, and mobile and computing devices. The VIVE Wi-Fi radio is an integral part built into the new Snapdragon 810 and 808 platforms.

Multi-user MIMO allows multiple transmitters to send separate signals to multiple receivers simultaneously in the same band.

Three Quantenna-based 802.11ac products are now available on the market, says Tim Higgins of Small Net Builder. They include the ASUS’ Broadcom / Quantenna based RT-AC87U/R, the NETGEAR’s R7500, and the Linksys E8350, but they currently do not support MU-MIMO. Broadcom’s new 5G Xtream adds another radio to the existing platform, but does not support MU-MIMO.

Qualcomm says AVM will introduce a new FRITZ! Box router based on the Qualcomm IPQ and 4-stream 802.11ac with MU-MIMO products, targeting both retail and carrier segments. Qualcomm Atheros has enabled mobile customers using its 802.11ac products (QCA6174A and WCN3680B) to include Qualcomm MU | EFX in forthcoming smartphones and tablets.

Google Fiber Going Wireless?

Google has applied to the FCC for permission to begin wireless spectrum tests in the San Francisco area. According to Reuters, the company’s looking into a rarely-used millimeter wave frequency that is capable of transmitting large amounts of data, but only if the receiving equipment is in the line-of-sight.

Google reportedly may offer a fast wireless service in markets where it offers Google Fiber Internet and TV service. By beaming Internet services directly into homes, Google would open a new path now dominated by Comcast, Verizon and AT&T.

The Google wireless test, beginning Nov. 13, will apparently include three sites in the San Francisco Bay Area, including one in San Mateo county and two locations a half-mile apart which appear to be on Google’s Mountain View, California campus. It will use the 5.8 GHz frequency, the 24.2 GHz frequency and the millimeter wave bands of 71-76 GHz and 81-86 GHz, according to the application.

The FCC’s meeting on Friday discussed the use of wireless spectrum above 24 GHz for mobile services, including ways the agency can facilitate the development and deployment of technology. Their Notice on Inquiry looks at utilizing frequencies above 24 GHz for mobile use and “5G” applications. The FCC also adopted a Report and Order to facilite and clarify the use of public infrastructure for wireless transmitters.

Google bought Alpental Technologies in June, a stealthy Seattle startup led by ex-Clearwire researchers. Apparently Alpental will utilize 60 GHz 802.11ad and mesh networking.

The FCC loosened some rules governing the 60GHz band last year, saying that it could be used to provide wireless connections of up to a mile at speeds up to seven gigabits per second.

A wireless broadband network is cheaper than fiber. Rather than digging up roads and laying cables to each individual home, transmitters on nearby buildings could enable Google to bring Gigabit internet to more places in less time. Craig Barratt, the former Atheros Communications CEO, is now head of the Google Access and Energy division. He signed off as the authorized person submitting Google’s FCC application.

Apple SIM: Sidestepping Carriers?

AT&T Mobility, Sprint, T-Mobile US and UK operator EE support a new SIM card for Apple’s iPad Air 2 and iPad mini 3 that lets customers switch between carriers. With an unlocked phone or tablet you can change your service provider by changing the SIM card, but with Apple’s new SIM card, you won’t need to buy a second (or third) SIM card.

Apple’s SIM card enables customers to easily switch service to a different carrier. As GigaOM notes, it’s unclear how the provisioning process will work if customers want to switch between carriers. While Verizon Wireless will provide wireless service for Apple’s new tablet, it is not listed as a supporter of the new Apple SIM card, notes Fierce Wireless.

The new Apple SIM is preinstalled on iPad Air 2 with Wi-Fi + Cellular models,” Apple explains. “The Apple SIM gives you the flexibility to choose from a variety of short-term plans from select carriers in the U.S. and UK right on your iPad. So whenever you need it, you can choose the plan that works best for you–with no long-term commitments. And when you travel, you may also be able to choose a data plan from a local carrier for the duration of your trip.”

The Subscriber Identity Module stores your International Mobile Subscriber Identity number (IMSI), which is a unique serial number (ICCID), along with security and network data, your PIN, and a personal unblocking code. The SIM allows you to connect to the network and identifies you.

The International Mobile Station Equipment Identity (IMEI) number is on the phone itself. It identifies the device. The IMEI number is like a VIN number on a vehicle and can be used for “blacklisting” the phone, stopping a stolen phone from accessing the network.

[The Stingray is a brand name of an IMSI/ESN catcher sold to law enforcement. Burner phones (prepaid phones) aren't untraceable but don't require the user’s personal data at the point of sale or by the service provider. The Gossamer is a small portable device that tricks phones into handing over their IMSI, Temporary Mobile Subscriber Identity and device data. The NSA often locates drone targets by analyzing the activity of a SIM card, rather than the actual content of the calls, according to Glenn Greenwald. Makes you wonder if (or how many) people have been killed because they picked up a discarded phone that was interrogated by an IMSI Catcher on a Drone. ]

It’s easy to see how a SIM that supports multiple carriers simultaneously could disrupt the mobile industry, says Dan Frommer.

“Imagine booting up your iPhone for the first time and seeing four competing offers for your business from different operators—with short or no contract duration.”

Apple’s new tablets are thinner, faster and golder.

The Pad Air 2 delivers faster connectivity with 802.11ac Wi-Fi with Multiple-In-Multiple-Out (MIMO) at data rates up to 866 Mbps. iPad Air 2 with Wi-Fi + Cellular integrates even more LTE bands and comes with expanded LTE for up to 50 percent faster cellular connections, plus support for Dual Carrier HSDPA (for carrier aggregation in the downlink) and HSDPA+ (with MIMO).

The iPad Air 2 has full support of most LTE bands.

But Apple’s iPad Mini 3 page shows only support for LTE bands 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 13, 17, 18, 19, 20, 25, and 26, but not Sprint’s band 41.

The new iPad mini 3 is powered by the Apple-designed A7 chip and M7 motion processor compared to the newer A8X and M8 chips incorporated into the iPad Air 2 as well as a similar A8 chip in the iPhone 6 and 6+ which support Band 41 (2.5 GHz) for LTE on Sprint, as well as China and elsewhere.

Clearly, if Apple hopes to move many iPad minis in the Chinese market, they will need Band 41 support (and perhaps an A8X chip). Apple launched its latest iPhone 6 in China today. According to China Mobile, subscriptions reached 799.13 million, compared to 755.19 million a year ago. That included 244.5 million users of 3G services, and 40.95 million largely on their new TD-LTE network using band 41.

The Nexus 6, by contrast, supports virtually all LTE bands world-wide as well as all three commercially used US 700MHz bands (bands 12, 13, and 17), making the Nexus 6 the very first device to be fully interoperable on the 700MHz band, completely eliminating the interoperability problem with this phone. Sprint plans to support 700 MHz Band 12, and expand its LTE network partnerships to new locations, making it comparable in size and coverage to AT&T and Verizon’s LTE networks.

T-Mobile has a similar strategy with roaming partnerships. T-Mobile is expanding LTE deployments in 700 MHz A Block as well as the 1900 MHz PCS spectrum and its AWS LTE spectrum.

Verizon and AT&T both told the FCC that compliance with the lower “A Block”, which smaller carriers use in the United States, would not be practical or cost/effectice. Guess that problem was solved when Dish lowered their potential power on the single channel “E Block”. Perhaps adding FirstNet compliance (on Band 14) may also be comparitively easy. Of course they’d have to deal with Motorola Solutions, the part of Motorola not sold to Lenovo.

Motorola Mobility consists of the Mobile Devices business which produces smartphones and the Home business which produces set-top boxes and cable modems. Google sold most of Motorola Mobility to Lenovo for $2.91 billion.

Google Announces Nexus 6, Nexus 9 and Nexus Player

Google Android 5.0 is ready to go. The next version of Android is called Lollipop (Android 5.0), and today Google announced the first products that will ship with the new software.

The Google Nexus 6, Nexus 9, and Nexus Player will all run Android 5.0 Lollipop when they hit the streets in November. An Android 5.0 SDK launches on October 17th. And in the coming weeks Google will roll out Android 5.0 software updates to some recent Nexus and Google Play Edition phones and tablets.

  • The Nexus 6 is the biggest Nexus phone that Google has released, with a 6-inch display — bigger than both the iPhone 6 Plus and Galaxy Note 4. Like the Note 4, Google’s Nexus 6 also uses a Quad HD display and has a Snapdragon 805 processor, a 13-megapixel rear camera, a 2-megapixel front camera, a 3220 mAh battery, and two front-facing speakers.

    The Nexus 6 will be sold unlocked for $649, making it far more expensive than any other Nexus model to date. It comes running Android 5.0 Lollipop and can include either 32 or 64GB of internal storage in either blue or white. The Nexus 6 will be available to preorder on October 29th and available in stores beginning in November. You’ll also be able to buy it on monthly contract. The unlocked model will work on all four major US carriers.

  • The Nexus 9 features an 8.9-inch QVGA (2048×1536) display with a ratio of 4:3 as opposed to 16:9, and Nvidia’s Tegra K1 chipset. The device also features 2GB of RAM and, on average, around 9 hours of battery life. HTC has HTC’s BoomSound speaker technology.

    Nexus 9 will be available to preorder beginning October 17th for $399 and comes in three configurations: 16GB for $399, 32GB for $479, and an LTE-enabled 32GB model for $599. Sadly, you can’t expand that storage through microSD. It’s available in either black or white. A keyboard attachment can “magnetically attach. Nexus 9 will be available for pre-order in the Google Play store beginning October 17, and will show up in stores on November 3.

  • The Nexus Player is Google’s first Android TV device. The set-top streaming box is made by Google and Asus and is Google’s latest in a very long line of attempts to take over your TV. Announced back in June, Android TV has a good-looking interface that allows you to stream music, movies, and TV shows. You can also play Android games on it, and it can mimic the Chromecast’s features too. Inside there’s a 1.8GHz Intel Atom CPU and a PowerVR GPU, with 1GB of RAM and 8GB of storage. It’ll be available for pre-order on Oct. 17 and in stores starting November 3, priced $99.
  • The Nexus 5 is still available, same as usual but with the same price (starting at $350). It will likely be upgraded to Android 5.0 in the next few weeks.

Lollipop will be made available to the Nexus 5, 7, 10, and Google Play edition devices in the coming weeks. Motorola also said it will update many of its devices to Android 5.0 Lollipop, including the Moto X (1st Gen and 2nd Gen), Moto G, Moto E, as well as the Droid Ultra, Droid Maxx, and Droid Mini. Phone Arena has an in-depth specs comparison between the Nexus 6 and iPhone 6 Plus.

Lollipop has a consistent design across devices—an approach they call Material Design. Now content responds to your touch and voice, in more intuitive ways, and transitions between tasks are more fluidly. Lollipop also lets you adjust your settings so that only certain people and notifications can get through.

According to the latest figures from App Annie’s quarterly market reports, Google Play downloads now exceed Apple’s App Store by 60 percent, but iOS apps still make more money