The business and culture of our digital lives,
from the L.A. Times

Category: T-Mobile

AT&T again ranks lowest in customer satisfaction

AT&T's cellphone service was pegged with the lowest satisfaction rating for the second year in a row in an annual Consumer Reports survey of wireless providers in the U.S.

"In the newest satisfaction survey of Consumer Reports online subscribers, a provider called Consumer Cellular topped the Ratings -- and AT&T found itself at the bottom of the Ratings for the second year in a row," the magazine said in an article about its survey, which will be published in its January 2012 issue.

The survey also offers rankings for mobile carriers in 22 major metropolitan markets, the L.A.-area among them.

"Of the four major U.S. national cell-phone standard service providers, Verizon again scored the highest in this year's Ratings, followed closely by Sprint. Survey respondents gave very good scores to Verizon for texting and data service satisfaction, as well for staff knowledge," Consumer Reports said.

"T-Mobile was below Verizon and Sprint but continued to rate significantly better than the higher-priced AT&T, which recently withdrew its application to the FCC to merge with its better rival."

For AT&T's part, Andy Shibley, the carrier's vice president and Los Angeles general manager, said the complaints noted in the Consumer Reports survey aren't being ignored.

"We hear our customers and we are committed to getting better and better," Shibley said in an emailed statement. "And that will continue as we deploy 4G LTE technology to millions of more customers. We have turned a corner, and we are making progress toward our goal to offer our customers the best experience anywhere."

AT&T also said in a separate statement that it has made more than 1,700 network improvements in the Los Angeles area this year and that dropped-call rates in the L.A.-area have fallen 41% over the past year.

Subscribers of prepaid and smaller carriers "are happiest overall with their cell-phone service," Paul Reynolds, electronics editor for Consumer Reports, said in the article. "However, these carriers aren't for everyone. Some are only regional, and prepaid carriers tend to offer few or no smartphones. The major carriers are still leading options for many consumers, and we found they ranged widely in how well they satisfied their customers."

The Consumer Reports survey was put together using the survey responses of 66,000 of the magazine's subscribers and focused on experiences with their carrier's customer service and support.


FCC allows AT&T to withdraw application to purchase T-Mobile

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-- Nathan Olivarez-Giles

Nathan Olivarez-Giles on Google+

Image: A screen shot of Credit: Consumer Cellular Inc.

Carrier IQ, T-Mobile, Sprint, RIM face class-action suits


Joining the growing parade of class-action lawsuits against cellphone software company Carrier IQ Inc., suits have been filed by a group of five California plaintiffs alleging that the Mountain View, Calif., company and affiliated wireless carriers and phone makers violated state law by "surreptitiously intercepting communications" of smartphone customers.

The plaintiffs are all clients of Century City attorney Susan Yoon, who filed the class-action suits Friday in Los Angeles County Superior Court against Carrier IQ, T-Mobile USA, Sprint Nextel Corp., Motorola Mobility Holdings Inc., Samsung Telecommunications America and BlackBerry-maker Research in Motion Ltd. Each suit alleged that the companies secretly recorded user cellphone activities.

"In violation of California's Invasion of Privacy Act, defendants herein secretly intercepted, received, recorded and/or monitored" the plaintiff's communications without alerting the plaintiff, the suit against T-Mobile alleges

The suit also alleges that Carrier IQ's software "records and transmits to defendants keystrokes, content of text messages and passwords."

That assertion has been disputed by Carrier IQ and a group of security researchers, who said that a video purporting to show the capturing of keystrokes and text messages had been incorrectly analyzed by the amateur security researcher who made it.

Nevertheless, the company has stopped short of offering details about the specific types of smartphone user data it collects, saying only that "a great deal of information is available to the Carrier IQ software inside the handset."

Doubts about the types of information the company and its clients collect have led to a series of state and federal class-action suits, as well as questions from federal legislators and privacy activists.

A Carrier IQ spokeswoman declined to comment on the California actions.

"The company has not seen or been served on any lawsuit, so we cannot comment on the allegations at this time," she wrote in an email.

When reached by telephone, Yoon, the attorney, declined to discuss the suits, including whether one of the named plaintiffs, Steve Yoon, was a familial relation.

The T-Mobile suit seeks both liquidated damages ($5,000 per violation to each class member) and an injunction to prevent further alleged violations of California's Invasion of Privacy Act.


Carrier IQ defends itself in privacy flap

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-- David Sarno

Verizon expanding 4G LTE network to cover area with 200 million people

Motorola's Droid Razr, one of Verizon's latest 4G LTE phones

As of Monday, Verizon's 4G LTE network is 1 year old.

It's also the largest 4G LTE network in the U.S., with AT&T having launched its LTE service in November, while Sprint uses a WiMax 4G network and T-Mobile's 4G service runs on a HSPA+ network.

Sprint and T-Mobile are planning to move over to LTE sometime in the future, but when they do, the two carriers will have some catching up to do, as AT&T does now.

On Dec. 15, Verizon's 4G LTE network will expand to a coverage area of 190 markets, populated by about 200 million people, the company said in a statement.

So what's the difference between 4G in an LTE flavor versus WiMax or HSPA+?

LTE networks, from both AT&T and Verizon, offer higher top speeds than the other networks and can be as much as 10 times faster than 3G service, with theoretical peaks of 300 megabytes per second for downloads and 75 megabytes per second for uploads.

HSPA+ networks have theoretical top speeds of 42 megabytes per second for downloads and 23 megabytes per second for uploads. Sprint's WiMax 4G lists a theoretical top speed of more than 10 megabytes per second for downloads and 1 megabyte per second for uploads.

But, as always, just how fast and how reliable a phone or tablet runs on any cellular network varies by city, by device and by carrier.


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-- Nathan Olivarez-Giles

Photo: The Motorola Droid Razr, one of Verizon's latest 4G LTE phones. Credit: Armand Emamdjomeh / Los Angeles Times

FCC allows AT&T to withdraw application to purchase T-Mobile


The Federal Communications Commission agreed to allow AT&T Inc. to withdraw its application for approval of its proposed $39-billion purchase of T-Mobile USA Inc.

The agency also potentially dealt a further blow to the teetering telecommunications deal by announcing Tuesday it would release a report detailing its staff findings that the purchase was not in the public interest.

FCC officials said the 109-page report, which would be posted on the FCC's website later today, found that the combination of two of the nation's largest wireless providers -- AT&T has the second-most subscribers and T-Mobile is fourth -- would harm competition and despite the company's public claims would do little to expand high-speed Internet access and would not lead to more jobs.

The FCC staff analysis, which took six months and was based on more than 200,000 pages of documents, found that AT&T's acquisition of T-Mobile would lead to job losses, agency officials said. 

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski signaled last week he opposed the deal when he moved to seek a hearing and review by an administrative law judge -- the steps the agency takes to oppose a transaction.

Afterward, AT&T and T-Mobile's parent company, Deutsche Telekom AG of Germany, said Thursday they intended to withdraw their FCC application to focus on winning an antitrust suit filed by the Justice Department to block the deal. 

Both the FCC and the Justice Department must approve the purchase. FCC officials said they will provide their staff analysis to Justice Department officials. If AT&T wins the suit or reaches a settlement, it can reapply for FCC approval. But the usual six-month review would start over from the beginning, FCC officials said.

AT&T objected to the planned release of the FCC report, which it said it has not had the opportunity to rebut.

"This report is not an order of the FCC and has never been voted on," said Jim Cicconi, AT&T's senior executive vice president for external and legislative affairs. "It is simply a staff draft that raises questions of fact that were to be addressed in an administrative hearing, a hearing which will not now take place. It has no force or effect under law, which raises questions as to why the FCC would choose to release it." 


AT&T withdraws T-Mobile merger plan from FCC

FCC chairman opposes AT&T takeover of T-Mobile

Justice Department sues to block AT&T takeover of T-Mobile

-- Jim Puzzanghera

Photo: AT&T offices in Detroit. Credit: Associated Press


AT&T: We don't need FCC's approval to withdraw merger request


A day after AT&T withdrew its request to the Federal Communications Commission to acquire T-Mobile USA for $39 billion, the company is saying it doesn't need the FCC's permission to back out of the application, a possibility that reports, including The Times', suggested.

"We have every right to withdraw our merger from the FCC, and the FCC has no right to stop us," said Wayne Watts, AT&T's general counsel, in a statement on Friday. "Any suggestion the agency might do otherwise would be an abuse of procedure which we would immediately challenge in court.”

AT&T and T-Mobile both withdrew their merger applications from the FCC, and an agency spokeswoman told The Times on Thursday that the agency would "consider the request."

Consumer advocacy groups including Public Knowledge suggested that the FCC had several options available regarding AT&T's withdrawal request.  The FCC could dismiss the application "with prejudice," effectively barring AT&T from submitting the approval request later.  The agency could continue its earlier plan to send the case to its own administrative law judge, allowing the judge to rule on the withdrawal request.  Or the FCC could simply grant the withdrawal, said Harold Feld, the legal director of Public Knowledge.

He and others have suggested AT&T is withdrawing its request to prevent publication of documents that would reveal "reams of information not only about AT&T and T-Mobile but about the state of the telecom industry that those and other companies might not want to be made public."

Still, AT&T says the suggestion that it needs permission to pull its application "is not accurate."

"The FCC’s own rules give us this right and provide that the FCC 'will' grant any such withdrawal. Further, this has been the FCC’s own consistent interpretation of its rules."


AT&T withdraws bid for FCC merger approval

FCC chairman opposes AT&T takeover of T-Mobile

Justice Department sues to block AT&T takeover of T-Mobile

-- David Sarno

Photo: Executives at AT&T in March to announce the company's plan to buy T-Mobile. Credit: Spencer Platt / Getty Images.

AT&T, T-Mobile temporarily withdraw bid for FCC merger approval


Acknowledging the mounting difficulties in obtaining government consent for their merger, AT&T Inc. and the parent company of T-Mobile USA Inc. said Thursday they had temporarily withdrawn their application to the Federal Communications Commission and will focus first on battling the Justice Department for approval of the deal.

AT&T also said it expected to take a pretax accounting charge of $4 billion in the fourth quarter of this  year "to reflect the potential breakup fees" it must pay to T-Mobile parent Deutsche Telekom AG of Germany if the deal doesn't get regulatory approval.

The moves highlight the growing unlikelihood the huge telecommunications deal ever will be consummated.

The announcements came after FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski on Tuesday came out in opposition to AT&T's proposed $39-billion purchase of T-Mobile, moving to refer the deal to an administrative law judge for a hearing that could sink its approval.

Facing a lengthy delay and the possible release at such a hearing of confidential information it had provided to the FCC, the two companies said they had electronically withdrawn their FCC application late Wednesday.

AT&T and Deutsche Telekom "are continuing to pursue the sale of Deutsche Telekom’s U.S. wireless assets to AT&T," the companies said in a statement posted on AT&T's website Thursday. But given the FCC move, the companies said they would "focus their continuing efforts on obtaining antitrust clearance for the transaction from the Department of Justice either through the litigation pending before the United States District Court for the District of Columbia ... or alternate means."

In August, the Justice Department filed a civil antitrust lawsuit seeking to block the deal, arguing it would harm competition in the wireless market. AT&T is second in subscribers only to Verizon Wireless, and the Justice Department said the acquisition of the fourth-largest carrier, T-Mobile, would lead to higher prices and fewer choices for consumers.

If AT&T and Deutsche Telekom win the lawsuit, or obtain approval through other means such as a settlement, they said they would then file again with the FCC "as soon as practical." Both the Justice Department and the FCC must OK the deal.

Gigi B. Sohn, president of advocacy group Public Knowledge, which opposes the deal, said the companies withdrew their FCC application to avoid disclosing just how bad the deal would be for consumers.

"AT&T's move will, for the moment, prevent the FCC from making public its many, well-documented findings that the deal is not in the public interest and will prevent the judge overseeing the antitrust lawsuit from seeing the FCC's conclusions," Sohn said.

She and Andrew Jay Schwartzman, policy director of nonprofit law firm Media Access Project, said AT&T should simply give up on its proposed acquisition of T-Mobile.

"This turkey is too big to be hidden by releasing it on Thanksgiving," Schwartzman said of the Thanksgiving Day announcement by the companies. "It is an act of desperation which will only hurt their shareholders by delaying the inevitable. It is time for vainglorious managers at AT&T to accept that there is no way that this deal can obtain approval of the FCC and the courts."


AT&T delays expected close for T-Mobile takeover

 FCC chairman opposes AT&T takeover of T-Mobile

Justice Department sues to block AT&T takeover of T-Mobile

-- Jim Puzzanghera

Photo: Sign at AT&T company store in Chicago. Credit: Bloomberg.

Samsung Galaxy S II in white coming soon to T-Mobile

Samsung Galaxy S II in white, from T-Mobile

The Samsung Galaxy S II in white is on its way to T-Mobile USA -- same phone as before, same price, just a different color.

The Galaxy S II -- my current favorite all-around Android smart phone on the market -- launched on T-Mobile back in October in a sharp shade of black with a gunmetal-gray band around the side of the phone, at a price of $229.99 after a $50 mail-in rebate card and a two-year voice-and-data plan.

And now, like the iPhone 4 and 4S, the HTC Evo and Evo 3D, and the Samsung Nexus S (among many other phones out there), the Galaxy S II is being released in a simple white plastic casing too.

A T-Mobile spokeswoman emailed an image of the white Galaxy S II, saying the phone doesn't yet have a solid release date but that "it will be available in time for the holidays."

The specs of the white Galaxy S II are the same as the black model -- a 4.52-inch touchscreen with an 800 x 480 pixel resolution, a 1.5-gigahertz dual-core processor, 1 gigabyte of RAM, 16 gigabytes of built-in storage, an 8-megapixel camera on the back that can shoot 1080p video, and a 2-megapixel camera up front.

The Galaxy S II is 0.37 inches thick, weighs 4.77 ounces and runs on T-Mobile's 4G network.


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Down payment needed for Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.0 Plus on T-Mobile

-- Nathan Olivarez-Giles

Image: The Samsung Galaxy S II, in white, from T-Mobile. Credit: T-Mobile

Down payment needed for Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.0 Plus on T-Mobile

Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.0 Plus

The Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.0 Plus is coming to T-Mobile USA on Nov. 16 and all it'll take to get in in your hands is a $249.99 down payment (after a $50 mail-in rebate) and a two-year data plan.

That's right, a down payment. Once the contract is agreed to and the down payment is paid, Galaxy Tab 7.0 Plus ownership will include "20 interest free monthly payments of $10 on approved credit," T-Mobile said in a statement.

After the down payment, mail-in rebate and 20 $10 payments, the total cost of the Galaxy Tab 7.0 Plus  hits $449.99.

Those already on contract for a T-Mobile phone will get a $10 discount off of their monthly data plan cost.

The Galaxy Tab 7.0 Plus on T-Mobile, like the Wi-Fi only version of the tablet, will run Google's Android Honeycomb operating system, feature a 7-inch touch screen with a resolution of 1024 x 600 pixels and a 1.2-gigahertz dual-core processor.

The new Samsung device will also feature 16-gigabytes of built-in storage, a microSD card slot for those looking for more storage space, a 3-megapixel rear camera that can shoot up to 720p video and a 2-megapixel camera out front.


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-- Nathan Olivarez-Giles

Image: The Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.0 Plus from T-Mobile. Credit: T-Mobile USA

AT&T delays expected close for T-Mobile takeover


AT&T has delayed into the middle of next year the expected closing of its bid to take over T-Mobile USA for $39 billion.

Federal regulators are scrutinizing the deal, which would sell the nation's fourth-largest wireless carrier to the nation's second-largest wireless carrier. AT&T had originally planned to get regulatory approval and close the deal by about March.

On Friday, the Dallas-based company is said in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission that it plans to have everything completed "in the first half of 2012."

The AT&T takeover of T-Mobile was challenged by the Justice Department in August when it sued to block the deal, arguing that it would lead to higher prices and less choice for consumers.

"We dispute the allegations and intend to vigorously contest the matter," AT&T said of the DOJ suit in its SEC filing. A trial date for the suit has been set for Feb. 13, 2012.

If AT&T's purchase of T-Mobile falls through, the company would be required to pay a "breakup fee" of $ billion and then enter into a broadband roaming agreement and transfer to Deutsche Telekom (T-Mobile USA's parent company) "certain wireless spectrum."


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-- Nathan Olivarez-Giles

Photo: AT&T Inc. signage at a company store in Chicago. Credit: Tim Boyle/Bloomberg

LG's MyTouch and MyTouch Q: $80 T-Mobile smartphones

The LG MyTouch and MyTouch Q

T-Mobile's MyTouch smartphone line is growing by two Wednesday with the launch of LG's MyTouch and MyTouch Q.

Both of the new phones will sell for $80 after a mail-in rebate and on a two-year data plan from T-Mobile. They will run on a simplified version of Google's Android operating system designed to make the MyTouch phones easy to use and ideal for those who've never had a smartphone.

The two handsets built by LG have simple, blacked-out styling, but there are differences. The LG MyTouch features a 3.8-inch touch screen, while the LG MyTouch Q features a smaller 3.5-inch display and a slide-out keyboard.

Both phones will run on T-Mobile's 4G HSPA+ network and make use of a single-core 1-gigahertz processor from Qualcomm and feature a 5-megapixel camera on the back -- no high-end specs, but still respectable.

The LG MyTouch and the MyTouch Q will sit on the lower end of T-Mobile's MyTouch range which at the top has the MyTocuh 4G Slide by HTC, which sells for $200 with a two-year contract.


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-- Nathan Olivarez-Giles

Image: The LG MyTouch and MyTouch Q from T-Mobile. Credit: T-Mobile


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