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Carrier Wrap: iPhone 5C/5S set for regional expansion; Telefonica bolsters Telecom Italia control

Editor’s Note: Wireless operators are a busy bunch, and as such RCR Wireless News will attempt to gather some of the important announcements that may slip through the cracks from the world’s largest carriers in a weekly wrap-up. Enjoy!

–A handful of regional wireless carriers are set to begin offering Apple’s latest iPhone models next week, including C Spire Wireless, Nex-Tech Wireless, Bluegrass Cellular and GCI. Some of the operators have already begun taking pre-orders on the device, with delivery expected to begin on Oct. 1.

Pricing from the regional operators looks to be similar to that being offered by larger carriers that began offering the latest iPhone models on Sept. 20, with the “entry-level” iPhone 5C priced at $100 to $200 depending on memory, and the iPhone 5S priced at $200 to $400 depending on memory. A number of regional carriers offered the previous iPhone 4S model at a $50 discount to what larger carriers were selling the device for when they began offering that model early last year.

While the latest iPhone models support a greater number of LTE band classes, actual support of the latest in high-speed data capabilities will be limited by a carrier’s actual deployment. For those carriers still to launch LTE, the latest device will be limited to 3G speeds.

–Speaking of new devices, flat-rate, unlimited services provider Republic Wireless is set to begin offering Motorola’s latest Moto X smartphone across its unique service offering. The company is currently promoting the eventual launch of the Android-powered made-in-U.S. device, which was first announced last month.

For Republic, the device will double its current smartphone lineup that is limited to the Motorola Defy XT, which sells for $100. That expanded lineup should bolster interest in the company’s $19 per month offering, that provides for unlimited voice, messaging and data services relying heavily on Wi-Fi connectivity as well as back-up service from Sprint’s CDMA-based network.

–Regional wireless operator C Spire Wireless expanded its service offering this week, announcing plans to offer high-speed, fiber-based home Internet services to parts of Mississippi. The C Spire Fiber to the Home offering is expected to deliver speeds up to one gigabit per second, targeting consumers, enterprise, healthcare and government entities.

To suppor the service, C Spire said it has already installed 4,000 miles of fiber across its footprint, with plans to add 1,500 more miles. Launch dates and pricing were not announced.

–Spain-based Telefonica announced plans to bolster its stake in Telecom Italia, which could impact the wireless market in Brazil where both Telefonica and Telecom Italia control operations.

The deal for Telecom Italia will see Telefonica garner control of a holding company from a trio of partners that in total owns about 22% of Telecom Italia. Recent reports had indicated that Telecom Italia was in need of new funding, with interest coming from numerous parties, including AT&T in the United States.

Telecom Italia currently control’s Brazilian operator TIM, which has undergone a number of challenges in that market. Telefonica, meanwhile, controls Brazilian operator Vivo, which could bring up regulatory issues should the Brazilian government feel Telefonica has gained too much control over Telecom Italia’s operations.

AT&T this week unveiled its Suppler Domain Program 2.0, updating its previous 1.0 iteration that was launched in 2009. The 2.0 version brings to the table more reliance on a cloud-based architecture that the company said will “reduce the time required to pivot to this target architecture while accelerating time-to-market with technologically advanced products and services.”

AT&T said the program will separate hardware and software functionality; separate the network control plane and forwarding planes; and improve management of functionality in the software layer. AT&T said it plans to begin selecting vendors for the program later this year, and that it does not expect the program to drive additional expenses.

“Our goal is to ensure that each investment accelerates our move towards an advanced all-IP broadband, all-wireless, and all-cloud infrastructure, delivers on the full promise of game-changing technologies, provides an industry leading customer experience, and maintains focus on a capital-efficient network,” explained Tim Harden, president of AT&T Supply Chain, in a statement. “The Supplier Domain program has a proven track record of delivering cost performance and modern technologies, while dramatically reducing the time to market with our products and services. We fully expect Domain 2.0 to hasten our pivot.”

Verizon Wireless launched an LTE broadband router for the consumer market that provides access to data services backhauled through the carrier’s LTE network and voice calls linked over the carrier’s CDMA-based 3G network. The device sells for $50 with a two-year contract, or $200 without a contract.

Similar to a mobile hotspot device, the router can support multiple wireless devices using a Wi-Fi connection and up to three wired connections using an Ethernet cable. All data traffic is then transmitted over Verizon Wireless’ LTE network. A wired phone can also be plugged into the device providing home voice service over the carrier’s wireless network.

Usage can be tied into Verizon Wireless’ Share Everything plans that provide for unlimited voice calling a shared use of a data bucket. Adding the router to a rate plans runs $20 per month, or the same as a wireless hotspot and Verizon Wireless’ HomeFusion Broadband product.

The router allows Verizon Wireless to expand the reach of its wireless network into the home broadband and voice market, which is typically dominated by wireline and cable providers.

Additional carrier news can be found on the RCR Wireless News “Carriers” page.

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