Verizon, T-Mobile Make Progress on Temporary Extra Spectrum from FCC

The FCC has now granted Verizon, US Cellular, and T-Mobile permission to expand their 4G network capacity by temporarily using radio frequencies that are licensed to other companies, but had been sitting unused prior to the current pandemic. The unusual move by the FCC will help support the unprecedented number of people suddenly using wireless broadband to operate from home during the COVID-19 pandemic. T-Mobile was first to receive this special permission, and today announced that it has completed implementation, doubling the capacity of its 4G LTE network in band 71 (600 MHz). Yesterday, the FCC granted Verizon temporary use of idle spectrum in band 66 (also known as AWS-3). On Tuesday, the FCC granted similar permission to US Cellular.

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Samsung Galaxy S10 Lite for US Clears FCC

When Samsung announced the Galaxy S10 Lite at the start of the year, there were no indications it would come to the US. But the FCC has just approved a variant of the S10 Lite that appears to be designed specifically for the US market. It supports all major US 4G and 3G frequency bands, including ones that typically only appear on US-specific phones. This includes full support for Sprint’s unique CDMA voice network, as well as bands unique to Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile. It also has a model number ending in “U”, which, for a Samsung phone, indicates a US-specific model. The Galaxy S10 Lite has a 6.7-inch full-HD AMOLED display, 48 megapixel main camera, wide camera, macro camera, and a 4,500 mAh battery. It also has a memory card slot, fast charging, and an in-display fingerprint reader. US launch date and pricing has not been announced.

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World First: Satellite in Orbit Transmits Directly to a Standard Mobile Phone on Ground

Virginia startup Lynk Global has successfully demonstrated new spacecraft technology that allows satellites in low-earth orbit to communicate directly with standard, unmodified mobile phones on the ground. In multiple verified tests starting February 24th, Lynk was able to broadcast an emergency alert containing a text message from one of its test platforms orbiting in space, using standard GSM technology, which was successfully received by an off-the-shelf Android phone in the Falkland Islands. While satellite phones and GPS were designed for space–ground communication, common mobile phone standards such as GSM and LTE were not. Phones are specifically designed to connect only to land-based towers that are within a certain distance and not moving faster than certain relative speeds. Therefore it was thought that such space–ground cellular communication was impossible. Lynk is one of several startups working on this technology; Texas-based AST & Science is working on a similar concept. Lynk does not plan to compete with land-based mobile carriers, but rather to provide service only where there is no service from land-based mobile networks. It aims to connect people in extremely remote areas. It also hopes its technology can assist in emergencies, delivering emergency alerts to people in remote areas that would otherwise miss them, and offering connectivity to first responders when natural disasters have damaged land-based networks. With an initial fleet of several dozen satellites, the company should be able offer service to every point on earth at least once per hour. The company hopes to eventually offer continuous global coverage with a fleet of thousands of satellites.

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AT&T Closes 40% of Stores

Following T-Mobile, Sprint, and Verizon in temporarily closing many retail locations, AT&T today announced that it will close 40% of its company-owned stores, as well as AT&T Authorized Retail stores in indoor malls and “high traffic areas”. The company is also adjusting its store hours to be closed on Sundays, and 11am – 7pm the rest of the week. These measures are in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, where most people in the US are currently advised to stay home, and avoid congregating near others in public when possible.

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Across US Telecom: Late Fees Waived, No Disconnects

At the request of the FCC Chairman, essentially all US internet and telephone providers have pledged to waive all late fees, and not disconnect any service due to inability to pay bills, for the next 60 days. This includes Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint, US Cellular, and Comcast. The Pledge is designed to help people economically impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, and everyone needing additional connectivity as they work and study from home. Companies agreeing to the FCC’s pledge are also committed to opening up to everyone their wi-fi networks that were previously reserved for paying customers. On top of the pledge, both T-Mobile and Sprint are temporarily giving unlimited data to all customers on metered data plans, as well as 20 GB of mobile hotspot data.

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T-Mobile, Verizon, Sprint Temporarily Closing Many Retail Locations

T-Mobile is closing 80% of its stores until at least March 31st, including all indoor mall locations, to help slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus. Sprint will close 71% of its stores, including all indoor mall locations. Both closures take effect today. Verizon is also “reducing the number of Verizon stores that remain open”, although it was not more specific. T-Mobile will leave at least one store open within a 30-minute drive of most customers in each market. Sprint is leaving open “its most highly critical retail stores”. T-Mobile and Sprint are also reducing the hours their remaining stores are open. Most T-Mobile stores will now be open 10am – 6pm. Sprint’s new temporary store hours are 11am – 6pm Mon-Sat, and 12pm – 5pm on Sundays.

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LG V60 Launches Friday Starting at $800

US carriers have revealed launch plans for the new LG V60 ThinQ 5G flagship-class phone. T-Mobile will offer it starting March 20th for $800, or $900 in a bundle with LG’s Dual Screen accessory. T-Mobile is also offering a buy-one-get-one (BOGO) deal where customers with two or more lines can get a second V60 for free, if both phones are purchased on a 24-month payment plan. AT&T will start taking online orders for the V60 on Friday, March 20th. The phone will cost $900, which includes a free Dual Screen accessory from LG. AT&T is also offering a BOGO deal, but it requires a new line of service. Verizon’s version will be slightly pricier and ship later, reflecting that its unique variant supports mmWave 5G, which requires extra components and engineering. (Versions for other US carriers only support sub-6 5G, which is generally slower but offers broader coverage.) Verizon brands mmWave 5G as “Ultra Wideband”, which is why its unique variant will be called the LG V60 ThinQ 5G UW. Verizon will sell the phone for $950, with pre-orders starting March 26th. Like AT&T, Verizon is offering a BOGO deal for customers adding a new line, and Verizon customers purchasing a V60 are eligible for a free Dual Screen from LG.

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Mint Mobile Offers Unlimited High-Speed Data For Next Month

To help people unexpectedly operating from home during the COVID-19 pandemic, Mint Mobile is offering unlimited free high-speed data packs to its customers through April 14th. All new and existing customers can “buy” a 3GB add-on data plan that will be fully refunded within 24 hours. Customers can “buy” an additional free 3 GB plan when the current one is 95% exhausted, and repeat as many times as they need, through April 14th. Starting service with Mint Mobile requires a minimum three-month commitment at an introductory price of $15/month, which normally includes 3 GB of data per month.

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Focus-Free Flat Lens Could Shrink Phone Cameras

Researchers at the University of Utah have developed an entirely new type of lens that is thin and flat, yet has an extreme depth of focus compared to traditional lens designs. A single flat lens can replace multiple bulky curved lenses, while keeping in focus multiple objects that are up to 6 meters apart from each other. The lens surface is patterned with nano-structures that bend the light in new shapes compared to traditional lenses.

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FCC Grants T-Mobile Temporary Use of Additional Radio Spectrum

As the US deals with the COVID-19 pandemic and more workers and students operate from home, data networks are being pushed to the limit. To address this demand, T-Mobile has requested that the government temporarily let it use radio frequency bands that are sitting unused even though the company does not own licenses to those specific radio frequencies. On Sunday, the FCC granted Special Temporary Authority to T-Mobile to do just that. The relevant spectrum is in the 600 MHz band (AKA band 71). For licensing purposes, this band is divided into smaller sub-bands as well many small geographic regions. T-Mobile owns many of these licenses, but not all. Comcast, Dish, and other companies own some of the other licenses, and some that were never claimed at auction are held by the FCC. Those licenses that are sitting unused can be now be used by T-Mobile for the next 60 days to increase its network capacity. T-Mobile’s existing network equipment as well as phones with band 71 can be configured to use the new spectrum relatively quickly.

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