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#TBT: T-Mo kills contracts, launches LTE; Oracle buys Tekelec; Global LTE momentum … this week in 2013

Editor’s Note: RCR Wireless News goes all in for “Throwback Thursdays,” tapping into our archives to resuscitate the top headlines from the past. Fire up the time machine, put on the sepia-tinted shades, set the date for #TBT and enjoy the memories!

T-Mobile US kills contracts, offers iPhone and launches LTE
T-Mobile USA is shaking up wireless pricing, offering the iPhone 5 off-contract starting April 12. The nation’s fourth largest carrier is the last of the big four to get the iPhone, but it’s getting it in a big way. Consumers will be able to get the latest iPhone for $99, and then will pay $20 per month for 24 months. After that they’ll own the phone. Users will have to pay for service on top of that, but T-Mobile has cut those prices as well. T-Mobile’s new “Simple Choice” pricing was unveiled yesterday. “If you come to T-Mobile you have signed your last contract. They are gone. No more,” said T-Mobile USA CEO John Legere at a press conference today. “We’re canceling our membership in the carrier club,” Legere told his audience today, adding that “this is just the start.” He said that through contract pricing, consumers are paying much more than the value of a smartphone during the life of the phone, but that they will no longer have to do that. Legere said that an iPhone 5 purchased through T-Mobile USA would cost a customer $1,000 less over two years than it would through AT&T. The price war extends to other smartphones too. “T-Mobile is significantly undercutting its rivals on price,” said Informa Telecoms & Media in a research note. “With the new plans, customers buying a Samsung Galaxy SIII smartphone and unlimited voice, text and data plan from T-Mobile would save $1,330 over two years compared with the closest package from Verizon Wireless and $510 over two years compared with Sprint.” Those calculations are for two years using the 16GB Galaxy S III. The iPhone 5 will run on T-Mobile’s just-announced LTE network, which the carrier says is live in Houston, San Jose, Baltimore, Washington, D.C., Las Vegas, Phoenix and Kansas City. … Read more

Leadership change-up at the FCC
Following weeks of speculation, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski announced today that he would be holding a meeting with staff members to inform them he would be leaving his position in the “coming weeks.” Genachowski’s announcement follows that of fellow commissioner Robert McDowell, who announced earlier this week that he would be leaving the FCC “sometime soon.” Washington, D.C., observers were expecting an announcement from Genachowski, with some noting the approval process for bringing on an expected Democratic chairman and Republican commissioner would likely happen in parallel. Genachowski was initially sworn in as chairman in 2009, having been nominated by the Democratic administration of President Obama. Genachowski has been touted for bringing a more open view into the FCC and a pro-consumer leaning to FCC decisions. A few of the major wireless initiatives handled under Genachowski’s watch was the implementation of the National Broadband Plan that seeks to free up 500 megahertz of new spectrum to support commercial services and the implementation of the tower-siting shot clock. … Read more

LTE gains global momentum
LTE networks continue to be unveiled around the world, with the Global mobile Suppliers Association reporting that 156 carriers have launched commercial LTE services in 67 countries, with 98 commercial launches happening in the past year. The GSA predicts that by the end of the year, 244 commercial LTE networks will be operational across 87 countries. Bolstering its forecasts, the GSA notes that 412 operators are “investing in LTE technology in 125 countries,” with 357 operators having made “firm deployment commitments in 113 countries,” and that 55 operators are “engaged in trials and studies in 12 additional countries.” The association has found that the 1.8 GHz spectrum band continues to be the prime driver of LTE deployments, with 44% of commercial networks using the Band 3 spectrum, which in an increase from 37% using that band four months ago. European and Asian operators are using that band for their deployments. “With a strong supporting ecosystem already established including several smartphones, 1800 MHz is likely to remain the prime band for LTE in the foreseeable future, and a key enabler for international roaming,” the GSA noted. … Read more

Galaxy S4 on deck
The Samsung Galaxy S4 is already generating an almost iPhone-like buzz, and the hype is likely to accelerate next month as carriers prepare to sell the phone. But while Samsung has been trumpeting the smartphone’s features it has had less to say about the components inside its new flagship device, with the exception of the new “octo-core” processor that will ship in some models. The “octo-core” Exynos 5 processor is widely believed to be made by Samsung using a 28-nanometer process. It will ship in HSPA+ versions of the phone; the LTE models will use the Qualcomm quad-core Snapdragon 600, as well as Qualcomm’s LTE radio solution. The LTE model also relies on Qualcomm for its wireless LAN/Bluetooth/FM/GPS subsystem, according to analysts at IHS iSuppli who have taken apart both an HSPA+ model and an LTE model of the Galaxy S4. IHS iSuppli believes that the HSPA+ version of the phone uses a Broadcom connectivity chipset, as well as Broadcom’s global navigation GPS solution. This chipset is able to “wake up” the phone when it enters an active “geofence,” meaning that it can constantly monitor GPS signals without draining battery life. When the chip goes into receive mode, businesses within a “geofence” can push special offers and coupons to smartphone users. … Read more

Concern over Huawei equipment
House Intelligence Committee Chair Mike Rogers (R-Michigan) says Softbank and Sprint Nextel are telling his committee they will try to phase out Chinese network equipment used by Clearwire. Sprint owns the majority of Clearwire and is trying to buy the rest. The concern about Chinese equipment arises from a recent Congressional warning about potential national security risks. That report named Chinese vendors Huawei and ZTE as possible threats, and Huawei is a supplier of network equipment to Clearwire. Japan’s Softbank, which is in the process of buying a 70% stake in Sprint Nextel, is also a Huawei customer. According to the Wall Street Journal, Washington may not approve the Softbank-Sprint deal unless the companies promise to notify the government about plannned core network equipment purchases. Huawei’s equipment is typically less expensive than competing products from other major suppliers, so the Chinese vendor has had some success with smaller U.S. carriers looking for economical network upgrades. Now U.S. security concerns are opening the door for another low-cost supplier. Startup Range Networks, funded by investors who wanted to help bring cellular service to rural areas, competes directly with Huawei in rural markets. The company makes cellular radio access networks based on open source software, and is also providing core network components based on another open source software product. It has deployed 2G networks and is testing 3G and LTE systems. CEO David Burgess said his company’s LTE networks will be deployed this year. He sees a significant opportunity for a new low-cost provider. … Read more

FirstNet progresses on absorbing pilot projects
FirstNet is making progress in its negotiations with seven public safety pilot projects that are to be folded in under the umbrella of its future national first-responder LTE network. The recipients of the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP) grants had their funding partially suspended when the FirstNet board was created, to ensure a blank slate for the national network. But FirstNet board member Sue Swenson was tasked with negotiating use of FirstNet’s 700 MHz spectrum leases and plans for each network to eventually be subsumed by the larger, nationwide project. The BTOP grantees include Adams County Communications Center (Colo.); the city of Charlotte (N.C.); the executive office of the state of Mississippi; the Los Angeles Regional Interoperable Communications System Authority; Motorola Solutions Inc. (San Francisco Bay area); the New Jersey department of the treasury, and the New Mexico department of information technology. “These jurisdictions and FirstNet’s team have had some very productive discussions on the draft framework for a lease agreement,” Swenson said. “After we receive the projects’ written feedback on the current draft, we will be in a position to move forward in earnest with more individualized negotiations.” … Read more

Oracle buys Tekelec
Oracle continues to make its way aggessively into telecom software, this time with the purchase of Tekelec, a provider of diameter signaling and policy control solutions. Tekelec has been privately held for just over a year; it was taken private in January 2012 by Siris Capital in a deal that valued the company at $780 million. Analysts at Exact Ventures expect the market for diameter signaling controllers to grow about 50% a year through 2017, propelled by the accelerating pace of LTE rollouts. The firm says that Tekelec currently has a 75% – 85% market share. The purchase of Tekelec is meant to complement Oracle’s other recent mega-purchase in the telecom software space: the $2.1 billion acquisition of Acme Packet announced last month. Oracle said that by combining the capabilities of Tekelec and Acme Packet with its own software expertise, it expects to provide the “most complete communications offering that will enable service providers to engage with customers, improve operations, control network resources and deploy innovative communications services.” Oracle’s purchases of Tekelec and Acme Packet highlight three key industry trends, according to … Read more

Check out the RCR Wireless News Archives for more stories from the past.


Kelly Hill
Kelly Hill
Kelly reports on network test and measurement, as well as the use of big data and analytics. She first covered the wireless industry for RCR Wireless News in 2005, focusing on carriers and mobile virtual network operators, then took a few years’ hiatus and returned to RCR Wireless News to write about heterogeneous networks and network infrastructure. Kelly is an Ohio native with a masters degree in journalism from the University of California, Berkeley, where she focused on science writing and multimedia. She has written for the San Francisco Chronicle, The Oregonian and The Canton Repository. Follow her on Twitter: @khillrcr

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