FTC Sues AT&T Over “Unlimited” Plan

The U.S. government sued AT&T Inc on Tuesday, alleging the No. 2 U.S. wireless carrier sold consumers unlimited data plans but would reduce their Internet speeds once they exceeded a certain amount of data.

The Federal Trade Commission said this throttling of Internet feeds was deceptive and that in some cases data speeds were slowed by nearly 90 percent.

FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez said that AT&T wanted to retain longtime customers and so allowed them to buy unlimited data plans, in some cases after new customers were no longer offered unlimited plans. Then they unilaterally changed the terms, she said.

“They stopped providing the service that customers understood they had purchased when they entered into their contract,” she said. “Customers would be subject to an early termination fee if they wanted to get out of their existing contract.”

AT&T called the allegations “baseless” and said the practice was needed to manage network resources.

“We have been completely transparent with customers since the very beginning,” said Wayne Watts, AT&T’s general counsel. “This program has affected only about 3 percent of our customers, and before any customer is affected, they are also notified by text message.”

More than 3.5 million customers with legacy unlimited data plans had their Internet speeds slowed more than 25 million times by AT&T’s practice, which began in October 2011, the FTC said.

The mobile industry in the United States has commonly used the term “unlimited” to mean whatever they want. Today, “unlimited” often means LTE speed is limited to around 4GB/month, then throttled down to 3G speeds or below.

Prepaid data plans now offer LTE services and a broad range of plans — with no 2 year committment.

Verizon Wireless, a predominately postpaid company, offers a prepaid brand, AllSet, but offers only one smartphone plan, a couple of feature phone plans, and different tablet and mobile hotspot options, reports Fierce Wireless.

At the other end of the spectrum TracFone, a subsidiary of América Móvil, operates as an MVNO, buying wholesale voice and data from all four Tier 1 carriers. TracFone is 100 percent prepaid with over seven brands, including Telcel America, Simple Mobile, Page Plus, Net10, and Straight Talk, all with multiple plan levels.

Sprint prepaid brands include Boost Mobile and Virgin Mobile while T-Mobile has MetroPCS and GoSmart Mobile monthly plans. The AT&T-branded GoPhone includes Leap Wireless‘ 4.5 million Cricket customers which compete directly against MetroPCS, Boost and Virgin Mobile without using its brand.

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

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

Intel Announces Tiny 3G Modem

Intel just unveiled a tiny 3G data modem about the size of a penny. OEMs often use WiFi or Bluetooth for Internet of Things applications, but the Intel modem should enable direct connections to cellular providers, inexpensively.

The new XMM 6255 delivers connections that don’t have to rely on a phone or hotspot to get online. Intel says it enables connections inside parking garages and other poor signal areas.

The modem has its heritage in the Infineon wireless group Intel acquired in 2010 and supports downlink speeds up to 7.2 Mbits/second. Smart sensors and security systems are expected to be target markets.

Intel will support GPS and WiFi links to the modem, said Will Strauss, president of market watcher Forward Concepts (Tempe, Ariz.). Intel may be the only manufacturer to allow for multiple connectivity configurations on a small footprint, Strauss said.

Beyond LTE: Rysavy Explains Broadband Explosion

A new white paper, Beyond LTE: Enabling the Mobile Broadband Explosion, and its accompanying slide presentation (pdf), was created in collaboration with Rysavy Research and member companies at 4g Americas.

It’s a handy summary of mobile broadband networks, past, present and future. Mobile broadband is becoming one of the most successful and fastest-growing industries of all time.

According to Rysavy, computing itself is transitioning from a PC era to a mobile era. Many users will never interact with a PC.

The wireless industry is addressing exploding data demand through a combination of technologies.

Newer releases of LTE will feature more efficient technology, denser deployments, small cells, HetNets, self-configuration, self-optimization, use of unlicensed spectrum with Wi-Fi, and the LTE operation in unlicensed bands.

Initial LTE deployments have been faster than any wireless technology previously deployed.

LTE Release 12, with completion expected by the end of 2014, will feature improved small cells/HetNets, LTE multi-antenna/site technologies (including Active Antenna Systems), Dual Connectivity, enhancements for interworking with Wi-Fi, support for emergency and public safety, device-to-device communication (also referred to as proximity services), addition of Web Real Time Communication (WebRTC) and more flexible carrier aggregation.

Mobile broadband has become the leading edge in innovation and development for computing, networking, and application development.

The explosive success of mobile broadband mandates ongoing capacity increases. The industry has responded by using more efficient technologies, deploying more cell sites, off-loading onto Wi-Fi, and working with government on spectrum-sharing.

In the U.S., a number of initiatives could improve industry prospects—AWS-3, television incentive auctions for 600 MHz spectrum, the 3.5 GHz small-cell band, more unlicensed spectrum at 5GHz.

Rysavy concludes that obtaining more spectrum remains a critical priority and that LTE/LTE-Advanced will be the most widely chosen technology platform for the remainder of this decade.

2014 LTE Coverage: 30% of World’s Population

The total number of subscribers for LTE and LTE Advanced is expected to grow to nearly 411 million and 22 million, respectively, by year’s end, according to ABI analysts Jake Saunders and Cheri Wong.

About 337 mobile networks worldwide already have deployed LTE with LTE network coverage expected to cover more than 30% of the world’s population by the end of 2014. ABI estimates that nearly 482 million LTE handsets will be shipped in 2014, up by nearly 150 million units from the previous year. It expects that number will grow to 1.34 billion by the end of 2019.

Ericsson’s Mobility Report guesses world-wide mobile subscriptions will reach 9.3 billion by 2019, with more than 60% of these – 5.6 billion – smartphones.

LTE Advanced provides carrier aggregation and heterogeneous network capabilities, where low-power small cells can be coordinated with the macro network.

Smartphone makers shipped 301.5 million devices during the second quarter of 2014, reports IDC. Of those, Android accounted for a commanding 84.7% of the worldwide smartphone market, up from 79.6% a year-ago.

Apple’s iOS platform shipped only 35.2 million of the 301.3 million devices, giving it a share of 11.7%. That’s down from 13% a year-ago. Windows Phone and BlackBerry are barely holding on. Microsoft and Nokia shipped 7.4 million Windows Phones during the second quarter, down from the 8.2 million shipped a year-ago.

MarketsandMarkets forecasts the global Wi-Fi Market to grow from $12.89 billion in 2014 to $26.19 billion by 2019. North America is expected to be the biggest market, while Asia pacific and Latin America are expected to grow quickly. The global outdoor Wi-Fi market revenue is forecasted to reach $37.2 billion in 2018 from $15.41 billion in 2013, at an estimated CAGR of 15.8%.