Sprint & T-Mobile Charged with “Cramming”

Sprint is facing a lawsuit by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau that alleges the carrier illegally billed wireless consumers for tens of millions of dollars in unauthorized third-party charges. The lawsuit contends that Sprint operated a billing system that allowed third parties to bill for unwanted services, a process known as “cramming.”

T-Mobile has agreed to pay the FTC and FCC $90 million to settle cramming charges, according to the FCC’s site. An FTC and FCC investigation found T-Mobile guilty of breaking the law by “engaging in an unjust and unreasonable practice of billing consumers for products or services they had not authorized; and failing to provide a brief, clear, non-misleading, plain language description of the third-party charges.”

“Today we are suing Sprint for allowing illegal charges to be crammed onto consumers’ wireless bills,” CFPB Director Richard Cordray said in a statement. “Consumers ended up paying tens of millions of dollars in unauthorized charges, even though many of them had no idea that third parties could even place charges on their bills. As the use of mobile payments grows, we will continue to hold wireless carriers accountable for illegal third-party billing.”

The CPFB contends Sprint outsourced payment processing for digital purchases such as apps, games, books, movies, and music to vendors called “billing aggregators” without properly monitoring them. The lack of oversight, the lawsuit alleges, gave aggregators “near unfettered access to consumers’ wireless accounts,” according to a CPFB statement.

“Sprint’s system attracted and enabled unscrupulous merchants who, in some cases, only needed consumers’ phone numbers to cram illegitimate charges onto wireless bills,” the CPFB said. “The charges ranged from one-time fees of about $0.99 to $4.99 to monthly subscriptions that cost about $9.99 a month. Sprint received a 30-40 percent cut of the gross revenue from these charges.”

“We strongly disagree with (the CFPB’s) characterization of our business practices,” Sprint spokeswoman Stephanie Vinge Walsh said in a statement.

“It appears the CFPB has decided to use this issue as the test case on whether it has legal authority to assert jurisdiction over wireless carriers,” she said in an email.

Prodded by state attorneys general, Verizon, AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile last year agreed to stop billing customers for third-party services.

The F.C.C. is conducting a similar investigation, and people close to the investigation said the parties were close to completing a settlement under which Sprint would pay $105 million in refunds and restitution for the unauthorized transactions.

Cable & Carriers Target 5GHz Spectrum

Cox Communications announced today that it launched more than 1,700 additional WiFi hotspots for Cox Internet customers in the Phoenix and Las Vegas this month. The latest Cox WiFi hotspots bring CoxWiFi service to six markets to date with many more planned for 2015, including hundreds of hotspots in San Diego after the first of the year.

In addition to the current Cox WiFi markets (Connecticut, Northern Virginia, Omaha, Phoenix, Las Vegas and Sun Valley), customers also have access when they travel to the nation’s largest WiFi network of more than 300,000 hotspots made possible by a collaboration of cable companies across the country, called CableWiFi, launched in 2013. The hotspots are strategically located in high-traffic areas such as restaurants, malls, sports arenas, parks and beaches in cities like New York, Washington D.C., Boston, Richmond, Philadelphia, Los Angeles and Tampa.

Only Cox customers who subscribe to the Preferred Internet Package ($49/mo for the first 12 months) or higher have free access to the CableWiFi network. Comcast offers a similar “deal” for access to the joint cable WiFi network offered across the country.

CableWiFi uses Hotspot 2.0 technology where visitors will be able to use Passpoint-certified smartphones, tablets, and laptops tied to different service providers to roam across different hotspot networks. Authentication will be tied to the original service provider, but connectivity will be delivered through the local hotspot.

In June, Comcast said its Xfinity WiFi footprint had expanded to about 3 million hotspots nationwide, getting it closer toward a goal of expanding that footprint to 8 million hotspots by the end of 2014.

If Comcast’s strategy is to take over the lower 5GHz band with “free” public WiFi (for cable modem subscribers), they’ll have competition from T-Mobile US which wants to “privatize” as much as 500 MHz of the unlicensed 5 GHz band for “unlicensed LTE, aka LTE-U.

Qualcomm championed the so-called “LTE-U” or unlicensed LTE back in November 2013, before the 3GPP switched to the term “License Assisted Access.” According to Fierce Wireless, Macquarie Research analysts Kevin Smithen and Will Clayton said that after having met with T-Mobile CTO Neville Ray, they expect T-Mobile will use LAA “extensively on the 500 MHz of 5 GHz spectrum, with handsets becoming available at the end of 2015.”

A spokesperson at T-Mobile confirmed the plan to use 5 GHz unlicensed technology to FierceWirelessTech, although the timing remains unclear.

Hotspot 2.0 is a new set of protocols to enable cellular-like roaming. A variety of partnerships are developing nationwide and world-wide, including:


According to Ruckus Wireless, a recent survey of 400 U.S. small businesses with retail places of business, commissioned by Devicescal, found [to nobody’s surprise] that providing free Wi-Fi is good business for increasing:

  • Customer foot traffic
  • The time spent on premises (and most importantly),
  • The amount customers spend.
  • The study focused on independent “mom and pop” retail stores, including bars, nightclubs, restaurants, fast food places, coffee shops, clothing boutiques, book shops, and salons.

A good night’s sleep isn’t as important as good hotel Internet connectivity, according to a recent report.

Infrastructure providers are also enabling small businesses and organizations to “roll their own” Hotspot 2.0 network. Ruckus Wireless gathered a bunch of interesting WiFi stats in a holiday-themed slide show.

Multi-User MIMO promises to handle large crowds better then Wave 1 802.11ac products since the different users can use different streams at the same time.

Public Hotspots serving large crowds will benefit most from MU-MIMO. Several enterprise and carrier-grade infrastructure providers are beginning to roll out their equipment (and backend software) now. LTE using the unlicensed 5GHz band is likely to be several years away, say most industry observers.

How large corporate takeovers of the unlicensed 5GHz band will (or will not) affect any truly “free” municipal network remains to be seen.

The FCC has increased Wi-Fi power in the lower 5 GHz band at 5.15-5.25 GHz, making Comcast and mobile phone operators happy since they can make use of 802.11ac networks, both indoors and out, even utilizing all four channels for up to 1 Gbps wireless networking.

The FCC’s 5 GHz U-NII Report & Order allowed higher power in the 5.150 – 5.250 GHz band.

These FCC U-NII technical modifications are separate from another proposal currently under study by the FCC and NTIA that would add another 195 MHz of spectrum under U-NII rules in two new bands, U-NII 2B (5.350 – 5.470 GHz) and U-NII 4 (5.850 – 5.925 GHz).

Commercial entities, including cable operators, cellular operators, and independent companies seem destined to blanket every dense urban area in the country with high-power 5 GHz service – “free” if you’re already a subscriber on their subscription network

Related Dailywireless articles include; Ruckus Announces Cloud-Based WiFi Services, Cloud4Wi: Cloud-Managed, Geo-enabled Hotspots, Ad-Sponsored WiFi Initiatives from Gowex & Facebook, FCC increases Wi-Fi power in the lower 5 GHz band at 5.15-5.25 GHz, Comcast Creates Hotspot 2.0 National Network,Cloud4Wi Annouces Cloud-Controlled WiFi , PowerCloud: Cloud-based WiFi: $100 a Pop , WiFi & Hotspot 2.0 at MWC, Hotspot 2.0 Moves Out, NYC & Cable Provide Hotspot 2.0 Service, Cities of San Jose and Santa Clara Get Free WiFi, Free Google WiFi for NYC Chelsea Neighborhood,Cloud-based WiFi: $100 a Pop , Meraki Cloud Managed Security

Qualcomm Facing $1B Potential Chinese Fine

Qualcomm could be hit with a fine as high as $1 billion, reports Fierce Wireless. The San Diego-based company could also be forced to make concessions that would negatively impact its licensing business. At least 30 foreign firms have come under the scrutiny of China’s 2008 anti-monopoly law, reports Reuters. Qualcomm is the only major ongoing antitrust case in China involving a U.S. company and royalty fees.

Qualcomm’s prospects have been hampered by the National Development and Reform Commission’s (NDRC) 13-month investigation into the firm. An imminent decision in the case could force the company to pay fines potentially exceeding $1 billion and require concessions that would hurt its highly profitable business of charging licensing fees on phone chipsets that use its patents.

Qualcomm derives most of its profit from licensing fees and most of its revenue from sales of chipsets and modems. Qualcomm reportedly earned about half of its global revenue of $26.5 billion in China for the fiscal year that ended Sept. 28. Some observers believe that Qualcomm controls some 21% of LTE royalties.

President Barack Obama, during his recent visit to China, pushed his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, on the use of Chinese antitrust policy to limit royalty fees for foreign companies. The push by Obama could alter China’s calculus on the issue, but it could just as well backfire. reports Fierce Wireless. It underscores the importance Washington places on China’s investigation.

The former deputy head of NDRC, Liu Tienan, was sentenced to life in prison earlier this month after convicting him of taking bribes and abusing his power, reports the NY Times.

China Mobile recently said it had 50 million LTE subscribers, with plans to have 150 million customers on the network by the end of next year and 300 million customers by the end of 2016. Their LTE network runs across a total of 130 megahertz of spectrum in the 1880-1900 MHz, 2320-2370 MHz and 2575-2635 MHz bands. China Unicom, the country’s No. 2 wireless carrier, said its 3G and LTE network attracted 4.9 million customers during Q3, while China Telecom, the country’s third-largest mobile operator, had 1.33 million LTE customers.

The latest edition of Ericsson’s Mobility Report predicts that 90 percent of the world’s population over six years old will have a mobile phone by 2020, with smartphone subscriptions forecast to top 6.1 billion by then.

Aerohive AP1130: Apocalypse-Proof AC Router

Aerohive Networks, a leader in Wi-Fi and cloud-managed mobile networking, today announced a new outdoor Gigabit Wi-Fi 802.11ac access point designed to provide highly resilient network access in challenging environments and can even be solar powered.

The AP1130 provides high-performance dual band concurrent (2.4GHz and 5GHz) 802.11ac (2×2:2) MIMO and has a 10/100/1000 Ethernet port.

Aerohive says it developed the AP1130 for two reasons:

  • To provide high-speed Wi-Fi to every mobile user, device and application, regardless of location.
  • To create highly resilient, high-speed backhaul connectivity between buildings or campuses.

Aerohive says it reduces obstacles to 802.11ac adoption by offering Gigabit Wi-Fi beyond the constraints of the office walls — and that it’s designed to survive the apocalypse.

The AP1130 is said to provide powerful tools to create connectivity anywhere – including long distance Point-to-Point and Point-to-Multipoint links. With an integrated buzzer to assist with antenna alignment and latency controls to assure high-speed transmission across distance, as well as certified omni-directional and high-power directional antennas, the AP1130 is said to be ready for any type of deployment. They added a directional antenna to ensure highly focused signal between two APs, increasing bandwidth potential.

Aerohive says their solution creates a unified wireless infrastructure for both backhaul and WiFi access. For organizations this means that a single management platform can be used to design, deploy, and support both indoor and outdoor wireless deployments. The AP1130 is available today starting at $1399 US list price.

Computational Photo Chips in Huawei Smartphone

Huawei’s new Honor 6 Plus features a dual camera on the back and sub-$400 price tag, at least in China.

The Honor 6 Plus is equipped with two rear shooters, dubbed “Symmetrical dual camera technology“. The rear camera can take 13 MP shots, but actually consists of two 8 MP sensors with huge 1.85 micron pixel size, and a dedicated ISP tasked with merging and interpolation. One of the cameras features an f/2.0 autofocus lens, while the other sports f/2.4 and fixed focus.

Huawei claims 0.1s focusing time – the use of two sensors with two lenses allows more light to be gathered and improves focusing speed.

The Honor 6 Plus features a 5.5″ 1080p display, 1.8 GHz octa-core Kirin 925 chipset, 3 GB of RAM, a microSD slot for expansion, and a 3600 mAh battery along with a dedicated image signal processor (ISP).

The HTC One (M8) also has a Duo Camera system, but HTC uses their second, 2-megapixel camera for depth of field information. The sensor analyzes the distance and position of elements within a photo, and generates a depth map, which is embedded within each photo.

Computational photography chips such as the Movidius Myriad 2 aim to bring high-end vision and computational imaging applications to smart phones with features such as melding still and video panoramas, real-time HDR, synthetic zooming, depth perception and other features. Movidius claims that using its technology adds less then $10 to the cost of a mobile device.

H.265 encoding, available on Qualcomm’s 810 smartphone processor can reduce HD bandwidth by 50%. Portland’s Elemental Technologies can do the number crunching in the cloud, which could bring real-time computational video to all manner of devices. SpaceCurve continuously fuses geospatial, sensor, IoT, social media, location, and other streaming and historical data while making the data immediately available for analytics.

OpenVX provides mobile developers with an industry standard API to deliver embedded computer vision and computational imaging chipsets that can keep UAVs on track.

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The Honor 6 Plus will be up for preorder as soon as tomorrow from the Huawei mobile shop, with shipping starting a week after. Pricing is pegged at 1999 yuan (~$323) for the 3G version, and 2499 yuan (~403) for the 4G LTE one. No word on availability in the United States, but expect a bunch of smart phones with computational chips that feature synthetic zooming and other features next month at CES in Las Vegas.

T-Mobile Rolling Over Unused Data

T-Mobile today announced its Un-carrier 8.0 Data Stash, for postpaid (contract) customers where unused data automatically automatically rolls over to the next month for up to a year. Data Stash is included at no extra charge for new and existing T-Mobile customers – individual, family or business – on an eligible postpaid Simple Choice plan who buys extra high-speed data for their smartphone or tablet.

T-Mobile will start every Data Stash with 10 GB of 4G LTE data – for free. Once you’ve used up that Free Data Stash, any unused high speed data − rounded up to the nearest megabyte – will start to roll into your Data Stash automatically every month. T-Mobile says there’s no limit to how much data you can collect in your Data Stash.

T-Mobile US also announced:

  • Their LTE footprint now reaches 260 million Americans, expanding to reach an additional 10 million people in just the last 60 days.
  • Wideband LTE (with bandwidths in excess of 10 MHz), is now available in 121 metropolitan areas, including New York City, giving customers more capacity and up to a 50 percent boost in speeds.
  • T-Mobile’s newly acquired 700Mhz spectrum is now available in Cleveland, Colorado Springs, Minneapolis and Washington, D.C., improving in-building coverage and extending coverage .

According to Chief Technology Officer Neville Ray, 2015 will be the year their low-band spectrum comes fully to life, more than doubling their LTE geographic coverage and adding support for many more devices on 700 MHz (Block A) spectrum. He says their smartphone customers are now using an average of 3.5 GB per month, leading all other wireless providers.

Yesterday, C Spire announced Pay-As-You-Go Rolling Data plans for pre-paid users. Their three new plans offer consumers with no annual contract a choice of price points – $40, $55 and $65 a month – for 2 GB, 4 GB and 6 GB of rolling data and unlimited talk, text and photos along with automatic data overage protection and optional top-up data passes on the company’s nationwide 4G + LTE mobile broadband network. C Spire is the sixth largest wireless provider in the United States and the largest privately held wireless provider in the United States.

Cricket Wireless is hoping a $100 bill credit will attract customers from Cincinnati Bell, MetroPCS, Boost Mobile, Virgin Mobile, Sprint, and T-Mobile. New customers must switch from the aforementioned carriers, purchase a new device, and activate a new line of service on a qualifying rate plan in order to receive the credit. The credit will be applied at the end of the first billing cycle. Cricket’s service plans cost $40-$60 per month, depending on options.