T-Mobile

T-Mobile customers report outage, can’t make calls or send text messages

Posted by | Mobile, mobile phone, privacy, Security, T-Mobile, telecommunications, text messaging, United States | No Comments

T-Mobile customers across the U.S. say they can’t make calls or send text messages following an apparent outage — although mobile data appears to be unaffected.

We tested with a T-Mobile phone in the office. Both calls to and from the T-Mobile phone failed. When we tried to send a text message, it said the message could not be sent. The outage began around 3pm PT (6pm ET).

Users took to social media to complain about the outage. It’s not clear how many customers are affected, but users across the U.S. have said they are affected.

A T-Mobile support account said the cell giant has “engaged our engineers and are working on a resolution.”

In a tweet two hours into the outage, chief executive John Legere acknowledged the outage, adding that the company has “already started to see signs of recovery.”

T-Mobile is the third largest cell carrier after Verizon (which owns TechCrunch) and AT&T. The company had its proposed $26.5 billion merger with Sprint approved by the Federal Communications Commission, despite a stream of state attorneys general lining up to block the deal.

Updated with acknowledgement by chief executive John Legere.

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AT&T and T-Mobile team up to fight scam robocalls

Posted by | ajit pai, AT&T, authentication, caller id, Comcast, Federal Communications Commission, Mobile, scams, T-Mobile, technology, telecommunications, telemarketing, telephony | No Comments

Two major U.S. carriers, AT&T and T-Mobile, announced this morning a plan to team up to protect their respective customer bases from the scourge of scam robocalls. The two companies will today begin to roll out new cross-network call authentication technology based on the STIR/SHAKEN standards — a sort of universal caller ID system designed to stop illegal caller ID spoofing.

Robocalls have become a national epidemic. In 2018, U.S. mobile users received nearly 48 million robocalls — or more than 150 calls per adult, the carriers noted.

A huge part of the problem is that these calls now often come in with a spoofed phone number, making it hard for consumers to screen out unwanted calls on their own. That’s led to a rise in robocall blocking and screening apps. Even technology companies have gotten involved, with Google introducing a new AI call screener in Android and Apple rolling out Siri-powered spam call detection with iOS 13.

To help fight the call spoofing problem, the industry put together a set of standards called STIR/SHAKEN (Secure Telephony Identity Revisited / Secure Handling of Asserted information using toKENs), which effectively signs calls as “legitimate” as they travel through the interconnected phone networks.

However, the industry has been slow to roll out the system, which prompted the FCC to finally step in.

In November 2018, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai wrote to U.S. mobile operators, asking them to outline their plans around the implementation of the STIR/SHAKEN standards. The regulator also said that it would step in to mandate the implementation if the carriers didn’t meet an end-of-2019 deadline to get their call authentication systems in place.

Today’s news from AT&T and T-Mobile explains how the two will work together to authenticate calls across their networks. By implementing STIR/SHAKEN, calls will have their Caller ID signed as legitimate by the originating carrier, then validated by other carriers before they reach the consumer. Spoofed calls would fail this authentication process, and not be marked as “verified.”

As more carriers participate in this sort of authentication, more calls can be authenticated.

However, this system alone won’t actually block the spam calls — it just gives the recipient more information. In addition, devices will have to support the technology, as well, in order to display the new “verification” information.

T-Mobile earlier this year was first to launch a caller verification system on the Samsung Galaxy Note9, and today it still only works with select Android handsets from Samsung and LG. AT&T meanwhile, announced in March it was working with Comcast to exchange authenticated calls between two separate networks — a milestone in terms of cooperation between two carriers. T-Mobile and Comcast announced their own agreement in April.

The news also follows a statement by Chairman Pai that says the FCC will sign off to approve a T-Mobile/Sprint merger, as has been expected.

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Ajit Pai formally recommends T-Mobile/Sprint merger approval

Posted by | ajit pai, FCC, M&A, Mobile, Policy, sprint, T-Mobile | No Comments

Ajit Pai has long signaled that he would approve a T-Mobile/Sprint merger, but today the FCC chairman made it official. In spite of widespread opposition suggesting that the combining of the country’s third and fourth largest carriers would reduce competition in the marketplace, Pai takes the stance that such a move would actual promote competition.

“After one of the most exhaustive merger reviews in Commission history, the evidence conclusively demonstrates that this transaction will bring fast 5G wireless service to many more Americans and help close the digital divide in rural areas,” Pai said in a statement. “Moreover, with the conditions included in this draft Order, the merger will promote robust competition in mobile broadband, put critical mid-band spectrum to use, and bring new competition to the fixed broadband market. I thank our transaction team for the thorough and careful analysis reflected in this draft Order and hope that my colleagues will vote to approve it.”

Today, I circulated an order that would approve, subject to conditions, the proposed merger of T-Mobile and Sprint . The deal would advance fast #5G across the country, help close #digitaldivide, and put critical mid-band spectrum to use. My full statement: https://t.co/fBKvLnPgmm pic.twitter.com/21r3Us9cUG

— Ajit Pai (@AjitPaiFCC) August 14, 2019

Pai’s statement echoes that of many conservatives on the topic. While T-Mobile and Sprint are in third and fourth place, respectively, AT&T and Verizon are significantly ahead in terms of subscriber bases. Pai and other have suggested that combining the two under the T-Mobile umbrella would help the carriers get a leg up when it comes to competing on a 5G roll out.

Consumers will directly benefit from improvements in network quality and coverage, which in turn will foster innovation in a wide variety of sectors and services (itself creating significant public interest benefits),” Pai’s team writes.Moreover, the transaction will help to close the digital divide by bringing robust 5G deep into rural areas, with enforceable conditions in the draft Order requiring coverage of at least 99% of Americans within six years.”

Last month, the proposed merger was given the go-ahead by the U.S. Department of Justice on the condition that Sprint sell its prepaid assets (including Boost) to Dish network. A growing number of state attorneys general, meanwhile, have opposed the merger. Oregon joined the lawsuit yesterday, bringing the total up to 15 states and the District of Columbia.

“If left unchallenged, the current plan will result in reduced access to affordable wireless service in Oregon — and higher prices,” Oregon AG Ellen Rosenblum said. “Neither is acceptable.”

Pai noted earlier this year that he planned to approve the $26.5 billion deal, which would knock the country’s premium carriers down to three. No word yet on when the Commission will formally vote on the deal.

FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel had a different take on things, noting, “The FCC’s draft order approving the largest wireless merger in history just landed in my inbox. I believe we need more competition, not less. I am not convinced that removing a competitor will lead to better outcomes for consumers. But what I am convinced of is that before the FCC votes on this new deal negotiated by Washington, the public should have the opportunity to weigh in and comment. Too much here has been done behind closed doors.”

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Oregon joins lawsuit opposing T-Mobile/Sprint merger

Posted by | Mobile, sprint, T-Mobile | No Comments

Oregon this week became the 15th state (plus the District of Columbia) to sign onto a lawsuit seeking to stop a T-Mobile/Sprint merger. The suit, co-signed by 16 attorneys general, argues that a merger between the country’s third and fourth largest carriers would greatly reduce competition in the wireless industry.

“It’s important that Oregon join other states in opposing the Sprint -T-Mobile merger,” said Oregon AG Ellen Rosenblum said in a statement. “If left unchallenged, the current plan will result in reduced access to affordable wireless service in Oregon — and higher prices. Neither is acceptable.”

Texas joined the suit earlier this month, marking one of only two Republican AGs who have signed onto the deal. Conservative voices have largely come out in favor of a merger, suggesting that by joining forces the new company (also named T-Mobile) would increase competition for AT&T and Verizon by getting a leg up in the race to implement 5G.

New York State AG Letitia James says the signee has added “momentum” to push against the merger, which was greenlit by the U.S. Department of Justice in late July.

“Oregon’s addition to our lawsuit keeps our momentum going, and ensures that there isn’t a single region of this country that doesn’t oppose this anticompetitive megamerger,” said James. “We welcome Attorney General Rosenblum to our 16-member coalition that now includes states representing almost half of the U.S. population. We remain committed to blocking the merger of T-Mobile and Sprint because it would bad for consumers, bad for workers, and bad for innovation.”

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Texas joins growing list of AGs looking to block T-Mobile/Sprint merger

Posted by | Mobile, Policy, sprint, T-Mobile | No Comments

Late last week, the DOJ greenlit T-Mobile and Sprint’s $26 billion deal to become the nation’s No. 3 carrier. The deal isn’t officially official just yet, with some prominent opposition facing the merger. A growing list of attorneys general have sued to block the merger, and another big name just came on board.

With the addition of Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, the number moves to 15, including the District of Columbia. California, Colorado, Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Maryland, Michigan, Mississippi, New York, Virginia and Wisconsin filed the initial suit in June and were soon joined by Hawaii, Massachusetts, Minnesota and Nevada.

Notably, Paxton is one of only two Republicans on the list — probably not surprising, as many conservative lawmakers have suggested that a merger of the third and fourth largest carriers might actually promote competition. Trump-appointed DOJ antitrust chief Makan Delrahim agreed with carrier suggestions that a merger would help a larger T-Mobile accelerate 5G growth.

Paxton disagreed with the sentiments.

“After careful evaluation of the proposed merger and the settlement, we do not anticipate that the proposed new entrant will replace the competitive role of Sprint anytime soon,” Paxton said in a statement provided to TechCrunch. “It is the Attorney General’s responsibility to preserve free market competition, which has proven to result in lower prices and better quality for consumers. The bargain struck by the U.S. Department of Justice is not in the best interest of working Texans, who need affordable mobile wireless telecommunication services that are fit to match the speed and technological innovation demands of Texas’ growing economy.”

T-Mobile has also come under scrutiny for intense lobbying, including $195,000 spent at Trump’s D.C. hotel since last April.

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T-Mobile and Sprint get DOJ approval for $26 billion merger deal

Posted by | M&A, Mobile, sprint, T-Mobile | No Comments

The U.S. Department of Justice this morning gave the green light to T-Mobile US and Sprint for their proposed $26 billion merger. The deal, which would combine the nation’s third and fourth largest carriers (by subscriber number) has been green lit on the condition that Sprint sell its prepaid assets (including Boost Mobile) to Dish Network.

As part of the deal, some nine million prepaid subscribers will move over to Dish, which will also have access to T-Mobile/Sprint’s network for a period of seven years.

The proposed merger has been under regulatory scrutiny for some time now, as the deal will leave three major wireless carriers accounting for more than 95% of U.S. mobile phone customers. Last month, a group of attorneys general led by New York and California sued to block the deal over concerns that limiting competition would ultimately drive up prices for consumers.

“The promises made by Dish and T-Mobile in this deal are the kinds of promises only robust competition can guarantee,” New York Attorney General Letitia James said in a statement offered to TechCrunch. “We have serious concerns that cobbling together this new fourth mobile player, with the government picking winners and losers, will not address the merger’s harm to consumers, workers, and innovation.”

A spokesperson for California’s AG tells TechCrunch that the office is currently reviewing the settlement. As it stands, the lawsuit could still present a hurdle for the deal.

“The reported deal would eliminate Sprint, an established competitor in the wireless marketplace, and replace it with Dish, an unproven newcomer that has no experience in building its own wireless network, which it will need to build essentially from scratch,” George Slover, senior policy counsel for Consumer Reports said in a statement. “The deal reportedly gives DISH some of the building blocks it will need to make a go of it. But it could take years for DISH to get to the point where Sprint is now — if it ever gets there.”

Proponents of the deal, meanwhile, have argued that the merger will actually make a combined T-Mobile/Sprint more competitive with category leaders Verizon and AT&T. Under the deal, T-Mobile (as it will be known) will represent around 80 million consumers in the U.S., making it a much closer third place to the around 100 million subscribers both top carriers currently have. They have argued separately that a deal would make it easier to compete with AT&T and Verizon in the push to deploy 5G, a sentiment with which the DOJ appears to agree.

“With this merger and accompanying divestiture, we are expanding output significantly by ensuring large amounts of currently unused or underused spectrum are made available to American consumers in the form of high quality 5G networks,” DOJ antitrust chief Makan Delrahim told The Wall Street Journal.

T-Mobile has been particularly aggressive in its lobbying attempts, after years of suggesting a proposed merger. Notably, its CEO John Legere and other executives have spent a combined $195,000 at D.C.’s Trump International Hotel since last April.

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The PureCam Connected Car Security System is a dashcam with extras

Posted by | automotive, cameras, connected car, dashcam, Gadgets, T-Mobile, technology, wi-fi, wireless data | No Comments

Thanks to a rash of YouTube videos of traffic stops, wild crashes and wacky antics, dashcams are becoming more and more popular with drivers. But does the world need one that shoots at 1080p and beams every minute of your drive back to a central storage device and can work as a Wi-Fi hotspot?

PureGear thinks so.

Their latest camera, the PureCam Connected Car Security System, shown at CES 2019, features front and back-facing cameras and is 4G LTE connected. In the unit we tested, it used T-Mobile for data transfer.

The device connects to your car’s OBD port, a diagnostics port that sends data to the camera and powers it. It has a full 1080p camera in front, a small VGA screen and a 720p rear-facing camera. It mounts to the window via a suction cup. It also can shoot in the dark and will sense when someone is breaking into your vehicle and begin recording.

This last part is critical. Because it is always connected, the PureCam will send footage of crashes and break-ins to the cloud. In this way, you have a video record inside and outside of the car.

The system requires a data plan, so you’ll have to head down to the cellphone shop to pick up a spare SIM card, but it also can record footage to the included 16 GB card.

The kit costs $249.99 and includes three months of wireless data and 7 GB of cloud storage for 12 months. Because it has its data provider, you can connect up to three devices to the PureCam’s hotspot.

This camera is mostly designed for peace of mind. Because the screen is relatively small and automatically dims while driving, you won’t notice the system until you need it. Because it uses the OBD port you don’t have to run cables to a cigarette lighter power port or USB port, thereby freeing things up for phones and the like. Finally, because it wakes up when your car is parked, it adds an extra layer of security.

The PureCam is surprisingly easy to install — you have to find your OBD port — but you do need a modern car and be willing to spend a bit on the data plan. While it’s not a perfect system, it’s one of the cleverest and most useful dashcams we’ve tried.

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Select FCC leaders announce support for T-Mobile, Sprint merger

Posted by | FCC, M&A, Mobile, Policy, sprint, T-Mobile | No Comments

It’s been more than a year since T-Mobile and Sprint formally announced a merger agreement. This morning, members of FCC leadership have issued statements voicing their support for the $26 billion proposal.

Ajit Pai was first out with a statement, suggesting that the pricey consolidation of two of the Unites States’ largest carriers would help accelerate his longstanding desire to provide more internet coverage to rural areas.

“Demonstrating that 5G will indeed benefit rural Americans,” Pai wrote, “T-Mobile and Sprint have promised that their network would cover at least two-thirds of our nation’s rural population with highs peed, mid-band 5G, which could improve the economy and quality of life in many small towns across the country.”

The FCC chairman went on to suggest that the merger “is in the public interest,” adding that he would recommend fellow members of the commission’s leadership approve it. Commissioner Brendan Carr followed soon after with his own statement of approval, suggesting that a merger would actually increase competition.

“I support the combination of T-Mobile and Sprint because Americans across the country will see more competition and an accelerated buildout of fast, 5G services,” the Commissioner writes. “The proposed transaction will strengthen competition in the U.S. wireless market and provide mobile and in-home broadband access to communities that demand better coverage and more choices.”

A number of ground rules have been laid out for approval. In a bid for approval, Sprint has promised to sell off prepaid brand Boost Mobile. “[W]e have committed to divest Sprint’s Boost pre-paid business to a third party following the closing of the merger,” T-Mobile CEO John Legere said in a blog post following the statements of support. “We’ll work to find a serious, credible, financially capable and independent buyer for all the assets needed to run – and grow – the business, and we’ll make sure that buyer has attractive wholesale arrangements.”

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A year after outcry, carriers are finally stopping sale of location data, letters to FCC show

Posted by | AT&T, FCC, Government, Mobile, privacy, sprint, T-Mobile, Verizon | No Comments

Reports emerged a year ago that all the major cellular carriers in the U.S. were selling location data to third-party companies, which in turn sold them to pretty much anyone willing to pay. New letters published by the FCC show that despite a year of scrutiny and anger, the carriers have only recently put an end to this practice.

We already knew that the carriers, like many large companies, simply could not be trusted. In January it was clear that promises to immediately “shut down,” “terminate” or “take steps to stop” the location-selling side business were, shall we say, on the empty side. Kind of like their assurances that these services were closely monitored — no one seems to have bothered actually checking whether the third-party resellers were obtaining the required consent before sharing location data.

Similarly, the carriers took their time shutting down the arrangements they had in place, and communication on the process has been infrequent and inadequate.

FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel has been particularly frustrated by the foot-dragging and lack of communication on this issue (by companies and the commission).

“The FCC has been totally silent about press reports that for a few hundred dollars shady middlemen can sell your location within a few hundred meters based on your wireless phone data. That’s unacceptable,” she wrote in a statement posted today.

To provide a bit of closure, she decided to publish letters (PDF) from the major carriers explaining their current positions. Fortunately it’s good news. Here’s the gist:

T-Mobile swiftly made promises last May, and in June of 2018, CEO John Legere said in a tweet that he “personally evaluated this issue,” and pledged that the company “will not sell customer location data to shady middlemen.”

That seems to have been before “T-Mobile undertook an evaluation last summer of whether to retain or restructure its location aggregator program… Ultimately, we decided to terminate it.” That phased termination took place over the next half a year, finishing only in March of 2019.

AT&T immediately suspended access to location data by the offending company, Securus, but continued providing it to others. One hopes they at least began auditing properly. Almost a year later, the company said in its letter to Commissioner Rosenworcel that “in light of the press report to which you refer… we decided in January 2019 to accelerate our phase-out of these services. As of March 29, 2019, AT&T stopped sharing any AT&T customer location data with location aggregators and LBS providers.”

Sprint said shortly after the initial reports that it was in the “process of terminating its current contracts with data aggregators to whom we provide location data.” That process sure seems to have been a long one:

As of May 31, 2019, Sprint will no longer contract with any location aggregators to provide LBS. Sprint anticipates that after May 31. 2019, it may provide LBS services directly to customers like those described above [i.e. roadside assistance], but there are no firm plans at this time.

Verizon (the parent company of TechCrunch) managed to kill its contracts with all-purpose aggregators LocationSmart and Zumigo in November of 2018… except for a specific use case through the former to provide roadside assistance services during the winter. That agreement ended in March.

It’s taken some time, but the carriers seem to have finally followed through on shutting down the programs through which they resold customer location data. All took care to mention at some point the practical and helpful use cases of such programs, but failed to detail the apparent lack of oversight with which they were conducted. The responsibility to properly vet customers and collect mobile user consent seems to have been fully ceded to the resellers, who as last year’s reports showed, did nothing of the kind.

Location data is obviously valuable to consumers and many services can and should be able to request it — from those consumers. No one is arguing otherwise. But this important data was clearly being irresponsibly handled by the carriers, and it is probably right that the location aggregation business gets a hard stop and not a band-aid. We’ll likely see new businesses and arrangements appearing soon — but you can be sure that these too will require close monitoring to make sure the carriers don’t allow them to get out of hand… again.

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T-Mobile’s mobile TV service to include Viacom channels like MTV, Nickelodeon, Comedy Central & more

Posted by | cord cutting, Media, Mobile, mobile tv, streaming service, T-Mobile, television, tv, Viacom, Video | No Comments

T-Mobile and Viacom this morning announced a deal that will bring Viacom’s TV channels — like MTV, Nickelodeon, Comedy Central, BET, Paramount and others — to T-Mobile’s new mobile video service planned for later this year. The agreement will allow T-Mobile to offer live, linear feeds of the Viacom channels as well as on-demand viewing.

To date, the carrier’s mobile video plans have been murky. Last year, T-Mobile acquired the Denver-based startup Layer3 TV in order to launch a new over-the-top video service in 2018. It missed that window, saying that it needed more time to work on features and make “quality improvements.”

The company later said that it didn’t want to offer another Amazon Channels-like “skinny bundle” consisting of individual subscriptions to various channels, but wanted to offer something more differentiated where customers could create their own media subscriptions in “smaller pieces,” like “five, six, seven or eight dollars at a time.”

Today, T-Mobile says it still plans to move forward with both its home and mobile TV offerings, made possible by the acquisition of Layer3 TV. The in-home TV service is designed to leverage 5G technology to replace cable. Meanwhile, Viacom will be a “cornerstone launch partner” for T-Mobile’s mobile TV efforts, on track for a launch this year.

“Viacom represents the best of the best, most-popular brands on cable, so they are an amazing partner for us,” said John Legere, CEO of T-Mobile, in a statement. “TV programming has never been better, but consumers are fed up with rising costs, hidden fees, lousy customer service, non-stop BS. And MacGyvering together a bunch of subscriptions, apps and dongles isn’t much better. That’s why T-Mobile is on a mission to give consumers a better way to watch what they want, when they want,” he said.

Not much is known about T-Mobile’s mobile TV plans at this point, like a more specific launch time frame or price points. It’s also unclear if T-Mobile will go the route of bundling in its TV service with its mobile plans. That’s been a popular strategy for AT&T, which today operates two over-the-top services — a low-end service called WatchTV designed for bundling and its more premium service DirecTV Now. (It also plans to launch another featuring Warner Bros. content.)

Viacom has deals with other carriers besides T-Mobile, having recently renewed its contract with AT&T for DirecTV Now carriage. It also participates in various other streaming services, including its own service (by way of acquisition) Pluto TV, and has invested in Philo.

“Today’s landmark announcement marks a major step forward in our strategy to accelerate the presence of our brands on mobile and other next-generation platforms,” said Bob Bakish, Viacom president and CEO, in a release. “We’re so excited to partner with T-Mobile to provide millions of subscribers with access to our networks and more choice in a new service that will be unlike any other in the market.”

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