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.

Mimosa Networks: Outdoor Multi-User MIMO

Mimosa Networks, a pioneer in gigabit wireless technology, has announced a new suite of outdoor 802.11ac 4×4 access points and client devices, to create “the world’s highest capacity low-cost outdoor solution and the first with MU-MIMO”. It’s targeting Wireless ISPs and enterprises, but their products won’t be available until Summer/Fall 2015.

Currently most 802.11ac access points use Single User MIMO where every transmission is sent to a single destination only. Other users have to wait their turn. Multi-User MIMO lets multiple clients use a single channel. MU-MIMO applies an extended version of space-division multiple access (SDMA) to allow multiple transmitters to send separate signals and multiple receivers to receive separate signals simultaneously in the same band.

With advanced RF isolation and satellite timing services (GPS and GLONASS), Mimosa collocates multiple radios using the same channel on a single tower while the entire network synchronizes to avoid self-interference.

Additionally, rather than relying on a traditional controller, the access platform takes advantage of Mimosa Cloud Services to seamlessly manage subscriber capacities and network-wide spectrum and interference mitigation.

“The next great advancement in the wireless industry will come from progress in spectrum re-use technology. To that extent, MU-MIMO is a powerful technology that enables simultaneous downlink transmission to multiple clients, fixed or mobile, drastically increasing network speed and capacity as well as spectrum efficiency,” said Jaime Fink, CPO of Mimosa. “Our products deliver immense capacity in an incredibly low power and lightweight package. This, coupled with MU-MIMO and innovative collocation techniques, allows our products to thrive in any environment or deployment scenario and in areas with extreme spectrum congestion.”

The A5 access points are available in 3 different options: A5-90 (90º Sector), High Gain A5-360 (360º Omni with 18 dBi gain) and Low Gain A5-360 (360º Omni with 14 dBi gain). The C5 Client device is small dish, available in 20 dBi gain. The B5c Backhaul leverages 802.11ac, 4×4:4 MIMO and is said to be capable of 1 Gbps throughput.

All four of the products will debut in wireless ISP networks in Summer/Fall 2015 and are currently available for pre-order on the Mimosa website. List Prices are: $1099 for A5-90, $999 for A5 360 18 dBi, $949 for A5 360 14 dBi, $99 for C5.

Mimosa Networks says the new FCC 5 GHz Rules Will Limit Broadband Delivery. New rules prohibit the use of the entire band for transmission, and instead require radios to avoid the edges of the band, severely limiting the amount of spectrum available for use (the FCC is trying to avoid interference with the 5.9 GHz band planned for transporation infrastructure and automobiles).

In addition, concerns about interference of Terminal Doppler Weather Radar (at 5600-5650 MHz) prompted the FCC to disallow the TDWR band. Attempting to balance the needs of all constituencies (pdf), the new FCC regulation adds 100 MHz of new outdoor spectrum (5150-5250 MHz), allowing 53 dBm EIRP for point-to-point links. At the same time, however, it disqualifies Part 15.247 and imposes the stringent emissions requirement of 15.407 ostensibly in order to avoid interference with radar.

Mimosa – along with WISPA and a number of other wireless equipment vendors – believes that the FCC’s current limits will hurt the usefulness of high gain point-to-point antennas. Mimosa wants FCC to open 10.0-10.5 GHz band for backhaul.

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 with MU-MIMO but enterprise and carrier-grade gear could be a year away, say industry observers.

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
.

WifiForward released a new economic study (pdf) that finds unlicensed spectrum generated $222 billion in value to the U.S. economy in 2013 and contributed $6.7 billion to U.S. GDP. The new study provides three general conclusions about the impact of unlicensed spectrum, detailing the ways in which it makes wireline broadband and cellular networks more effective, serves as a platform for innovative services and new technologies, and expands consumer choice.

Additional Dailywireless spectrum news include; Comcast Buys Cloud Control WiFi Company, Gowex Declares Bankruptcy, Ruckus Announces Cloud-Based WiFi Services, Cloud4Wi: Cloud-Managed, Geo-enabled Hotspots, Ad-Sponsored WiFi Initiatives from Gowex & Facebook,
FCC Moves to Add 195 MHz to Unlicensed 5 GHz band, Samsung: Here Comes 60 GHz, 802.11ad, Cellular on Unlicensed Bands, FCC Opens 3.5 GHz for Shared Access, FCC Commissioner: Higher Power in Lower 5 GHz, FCC Authorizes High Power at 5.15 – 5.25 GHz

Opensource Dronecode Project Announced

The Dronecode Project, administered by the nonprofit Linux Foundation, aims to establish common technology for use across the industry. The concept behind Dronecode is to create an open hardware and software stack, where companies can plug in modules for enhanced performance whether it be sensors, piloting, mission planning or other functions. The Android ecosystem is their model.

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Chris Anderson, who started DIY Drones and later 3D Robotics, is behind Dronecode. It utilizes open source hardware and software and includes the APM/ArduPilot UAV software platform and associated code. Examples of Dronecode projects include APM/ArduPilot, Mission Planner, MAVLink and DroidPlanner.

Founding members include 3D Robotics, Baidu, Box, DroneDeploy, Intel, jDrones, Laser Navigation, Qualcomm, Skyward.io, Squadrone System and others.

PX4 ​is an independent, open-source, open-hardware project aiming at providing a high-end autopilot. The PX4 from 3D Robotics, for example, features advanced processor and sensor technology for controlling any autonomous vehicle.

ArduPilot (also ArduPilotMega – APM), was created in 2007 by the DIY Drones community, based on the Arduino open-source electronics prototyping platform.

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, bring real-time video to all manner of displays.

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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“Open source software and collaborative development are advancing technologies in the hottest, most cutting-edge areas. The Dronecode Project is a perfect example of this,” said Jim Zemlin, executive director at The Linux Foundation.

“By becoming a Linux Foundation Collaborative Project, the Dronecode community will receive the support required of a massive project right at its moment of breakthrough. The result will be even greater innovation and a common platform for drone and robotics open source projects.”

See: Columbia River Drones

Tech Leaders: NSA Damages Digital Economy

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) convened a roundtable on “The Impact of Mass Surveillance on the Digital Economy,” at Palo Alto High School — the same gym where the Senator held a school record of leading scorer in basketball.

Wyden, now better known as chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, was flanked by executives and lawyers from some of U.S. tech’s biggest companies: Microsoft, Google, Facebook and Dropbox.

The hour-long session shifted from talk about the digital economy to the risks posed by government surveillance programs to human-to-human communications.

Wyden cited a study from Forrester Research that found that surveillance concerns could cost U.S. companies a quarter of their foreign revenue by 2016.

According to Microsoft general counsel Brad Smith:

“The fundamental issue is pretty straightforward. It’s all about trust. And it is personal to people. Just as people would not put their money in a bank they don’t trust, they will be reluctant to store their personal information in a data center or on a phone that they don’t trust. These issues have undermined people’s trust in American technology, and that’s a shame.”

“If you’re a consumer or a company, you own your email, your text messages, your photos and all the content that you create,” he said. “Even when you put your content in our data centers or on devices that we make, you still own it and you are entitled to the legal protection under our Constitution and our laws. We will not rebuild trust until our government recognizes that fundamental principle.”

Congress has been considering reforms to U.S. digital communication laws, particularly the USA FREEDOM Act. But those efforts have been slow going, reports the Washington Post. With only a bare majority of Americans opposed to U.S. government anti-terrorism surveillance, the event was likely a preview of how the issue will be framed when Congress returns to session: as a personal affront to American citizens, to U.S.-based technology entrepreneurs and to the global community.

“The simplest outcome is we’re going to end up breaking the Internet,” said Google’s Schmidt. Foreign governments, he said, are “eventually going to say, we want our own Internet in our country because we want it to work our way, and we don’t want the NSA and these other people in it.”

Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt said the spying scandal will continue to impact Google and other tech companies.

The impact is “severe and is getting worse,” Schmidt said. “We’re going to wind up breaking the Internet.”

FCC: Better Rural Broadband & 5G Spectrum

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler wants to see to the program that provides subsidies for Internet service in public schools and libraries known as E-Rate address broadband access by schools and libraries in rural areas, reports Roll Call.

In prepared remarks for an education technology event in Washington on Monday, Wheeler said that “75 percent of rural public schools today are unable to achieve the high-speed connectivity goals we have set.” He pointed to lack of access to fiber networks and the cost of paying for it when it’s available.

Wheeler says the FCC has set a clear target of $1 billion per year for Wi-Fi based internal networks for schools and libraries. “As a result, we will begin to see results in the next funding year, with expanded support for Wi-Fi to tens of millions of students and thousands of libraries”.

Wheeler’s speech comes after the FCC made changes to the E-Rate program this summer. Wheeler’s earlier plan to shake up the program was only partly successful — his FCC colleagues agreed to make more money available for Wi-Fi, as Wheeler proposed in June, but only if the money isn’t needed for basic Internet connections.

In other news, in announcing its agenda for its Oct. 17 open meeting, the FCC said it will vote on a Notice of Inquiry to “explore innovative developments in the use of spectrum above 24 GHz for mobile wireless services, and how the Commission can facilitate the development and deployment of those technologies.”

In a blog post, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler wrote that the inquiry is aimed at broadening the FCC’s “understanding of the state of the art in technological developments that will enable the use of millimeter wave spectrum above 24 GHz for mobile wireless services.”

“Historically, mobile wireless services have been targeted at bands below 3 GHz due to technological and practical limitations. However, there have been significant developments in antenna and processing technologies that may allow the use of higher frequencies – in this case those above 24 GHz – for mobile applications”, wrote the Chairman.

5G or 5th generation wireless systems is expected to be the next major phase of mobile telecommunications standards and use frequencies above 5-6 GHz (where more spectrum is available. 5G does not describe any particular specification in any official document published by any telecommunication standardization body, and is expected to deliver over 10 Gbps, compared to 1 Gbps in 4G. It is expected to be first utilized for backhaul to cell sites.

Currently, Ubiquiti’s AirFiber has set the standard in 24 GHz at $3K for 700 Mbps while SAF, Trango, and others have announced similar products at $5000 or less.

Regarding “net neutrality”, FCC chairman Tom Wheeler says financial arrangements between broadband providers and content sites might be OK so long as the agreement is “commercially reasonable” and companies disclose publicly how they prioritize Internet traffic.

Not everyone agrees. Netflix and much of the public accuses the FCC of handing the Internet over to the highest bidders. There is no deadline for the FCC to pass a new rule, and deliberations at the agency could continue into next year.

Proponents of government-owned broadband networks claim they introduce competition into the market, while critics say they are an inappropriate use of tax dollars and an example of government improperly competing with the private sector.

The 3G4G Blog, compiled by Zahid Ghadialy, is perhaps the most comprehensive site covering 5G technology news.

China iPhone Launch Delayed: Threat to National Security?

Apple is facing a potential setback in China, reports the NY Times, delaying the introductions of the new iPhone models in China.

On Wednesday, Apple told China’s three big state-owned mobile service providers that it would not release the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus in mainland China on Sept. 19, when sales start elsewhere. The carriers had already booked advertising campaigns for the phones.

Apple did not explain the delay, executives at the carriers said, but it appeared the phones had not received approval from Chinese regulators.

The Chinese leadership and the state-controlled news media grew wary of foreign technology providers after revelations last year by Edward J. Snowden of American cyberspying. In July, CCTV, the main state-controlled television network, broadcast a report saying that the iPhone could represent a threat to China’s national security. The accusations were promptly rejected by Apple.

Apple declined to comment on Wednesday, as did representatives for China’s three main mobile carriers, China Mobile, China Telecom, and China Unicom.

In 2012, the US Intelligence Committee declared Huawei & ZTE Security Threats.

Huawei and Bain Capital Partners were forced to give up their bid in 2008 for computer-equipment maker 3Com after the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States raised objections. Huawei dropped plans to buy certain assets from 3Leaf Systems, a computer services company, after more problems with the foreign investment panel. Sprint eliminated Huawei as vendor in its massive Network Vision upgrade, after pressure from the government.

Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR), an outspoken critic of N.S.A. surveillance, noted that the report flatly declared that the phone-logging program had not been necessary in stopping terrorist attacks.

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper condemned Snowden’s actions as having done “huge, grave damage” to US intelligence capabilities, while lying to Congress.

Related Dailywireless articles include; NSA Spying Threatens Global Internet?, Snowden Pursuaded Co-workers to Give Up Passwords, NSA Stores Social MetaData on US Persons, GCHQ Stores and Searches Oceanic Fiber Data, NSA Decrypts Everything, Concerns Linger over Huawei and ZTE, Huawei Before Intelligence Committee, CISPA Passes House, NRO: The Real Ice Station Zebra?, DEFCON 20, FISA Amendments Extended, ISPs Adopt Cyber Security Recommendations, Russians Not Controling Springfield Water Pumps,