Sprint buys $480M in spectrum/customers from US Cellular, FCC fines AT&T $700K for overbilling

A couple carriers are making headlines today for different reasons. Sprint, which could soon be scooped up by Softbank, announced today (via Engadget) it is spending $480 million to acquire PCS spectrum and 585,000 customers from U.S. cellular across the Midwest. As always, the deal is subject to approval from government officials in the U.S. Department of Justice and Federal Communications Commission, but Sprint could take over the spectrum and customers in “parts of Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Missouri and Ohio including the Chicago and St. Louis markets” by sometime next year:

Under the terms of the agreement, Sprint will acquire 20 MHz of PCS spectrum in the 1900 MHz band in various Midwest markets including Chicago, South Bend, Ind. and Champaign, Ill. and 10 MHz of PCS spectrum in the St. Louis market.

AT&T is also making the news today with the FCC announcing the carrier will pay a $700,000 fine to put an end to the agency’s investigation into how the carrier handled its transition to mandatory monthly data plans (via BGR). The investigation followed complaints from consumers that AT&T had switched them from grandfathered pay-as-you-go plans to its new monthly plans as far back as 2009. According to the FCC, as part of the settlement, AT&T “has agreed to refund excess charges paid by individual customers, which could be as much as $25 to $30 a month, depending on data use”: Read more

Verizon iPhone 5 update eliminates carrier data usage while connected to a Wifi Network

An update is going to Verizon iPhone 5 owners this evening that resolves an issue where, under certain circumstances, the iPhone 5 may use Verizon cellular data while connected to a Wi-Fi network. We are not sure how much data leaks, or why and if Verizon will offer a refund, but we reached out to the carrier for a statement.

Update: Torod Neptune, spokesperson for Verizon Wireless, provided the following statement:

“Under certain circumstances, iPhone 5 may use Verizon cellular data while the phone is connected to a Wi-Fi network. Apple has a fix that is being delivered to Verizon customers right on their iPhone 5. Verizon Wireless customers will not be charged for any unwarranted cellular data usage.”

Instructions to install the update.

  1. Tap Settings > General > About.
  2. Wait for the following alert to appear:
  3. Tap OK to install the update.
  4. Hold the Sleep/Wake button down until you see “slide to power off”.
  5. Slide to power off.
  6. After the device powers off, hold the Sleep/Wake button to turn your phone back on.

Note: To finish the installation of the update, your iPhone 5 must be turned off and then turned on again.

After your iPhone restarts, tap Settings > General > About, and then scroll down to Carrier and verify “Verizon 13.1″ is displayed.

The issue may be a carryover from the Wi-Fi+Cellular feature that was in the betas of iOS 6 but was eliminated in the final version. One reader below mentions the data leak seems to have occurred while the device is asleep.

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AT&T now out of opening day iPhone 5 stock, orders now pushed back to ’14-21 business days’

AT&T just ran out of Sept. 21 stock for the iPhone 5. The delivery page has now pushed sales to “14-21 business days,” which equals almost three to five weeks. Verizon ran out of stock earlier today, but it is hard to determine if this shows demand per carrier since AT&T is such a big legacy iPhone carrier and Apple obviously gave it a lot more stock than others.

Both big carriers have downsides: AT&T will not run FaceTime unless you buy a Mobile Share plan, while Verizon will run FaceTime on all of its iPhones—but new customers must sign up for a Mobile Share plan (no matter what). In addition, the CDMA version of the iPhone, which Verizon and Sprint both carry, will not support simultaneous talk and data. Speaking of Sprint, it is still advertising ship dates of Sept. 21.

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Which iPhone carrier has the fastest network in your area? AT&T, Verizon, & Sprint get accurate comparison by city

The argument over which carrier has the fastest network speed in any given location in the United States is still up for debate. Putting network speed comparisons aside, which are often not an accurate representation of speeds, you will receive in your specific area, a new app from startup SwayMarkets aims to provide a more realistic comparison.

The app, CarrierCompare, allows users to test the network speed of their current carrier against the two other major iPhone providers. CNNMoney went hands-on when the app released last month and just posted the user data it obtained that compares major iPhone carriers in multiple locations.

Analyzing user-generated data from Boston, New York, Washington, Chicago, San Francisco, and Los Angeles, these were the results:

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Sprint CEO: iPhone users are more loyal, use less data

Reports from the Wall Street Journal last October revealed Sprint’s Chief Executive Officer Dan Hesse convinced the company’s board to take on a staggering commitment of approximately $20 billion to purchase 30.5 million iPhones over four years. At the time, Hesse said Sprint “would likely lose money on the deal until 2014. ″ He also claimed not having the iPhone was “the No. 1 reason customers leave or switch.” In an interview with Mobile World Live (via BGR), Hesse defended the decision and claimed, among other things, that iPhone users are “more profitable than the average smartphone customer.”

 Subsidies are heavy for the iPhone. This is the reason why a high percentage of new customers is important… But iPhone customers have a lower level of churn and they actually use less data on average than a high-end 4G Android device. So from a cost point of view and a customer lifetime value perspective. They’re more profitable than the average smartphone customer.”

Hesse went on to claim that Sprint was “pulling a lot of customers” from AT&T and Verizon during the fourth quarter by noting four out of every 10 iPhones the carrier sold were new customers. According to Hesse, that is around double the rate of the other carriers.
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40 percent of Sprint’s 1.8M iPhone sales last quarter were to new customers

United States carrier Sprint, the nation’s third-largest wireless telecommunications network, announced today holiday quarter earnings containing a couple interesting tidbits related to Apple’s iPhone, which helped bring in most of its new customers. Sprint reportedly ponied up $20 billion to land Apple’s iconic smartphone last October, calling the handset launch in today’s statement “successful.”

Forty percent of Sprint’s 1.8 million iPhone sales in the fourth quarter were to new customers. 

This means some 720,000 Sprint iPhones went into the hands of new customers—once again highlighting Apple device’s proven ability to attract new consumers. Sprint only added 539,000 net additions to the postpaid base, so it would likely have lost around 200,000 customers without the iPhone in its lineup.

According to Sprint’s internal estimates, high costs associated with subsidizing the iPhone —combined with the impact of iPhone and Network Vision costs— are to blame for wider than expected short term loss, which reached an astounding $1.3 billion in Q4 2011 and $2.9 billion for 2011. These factors also reduced fourth-quarter adjusted operating income before depreciation and amortization (OIBDA) of $842 million by approximately $684 million.

Reuters reported in October 2011 that Sprint paid about 40 percent higher subsidy to Apple than the industry average, amounting to $200 more per device.

Sprint CEO Dan Hesse has some nice words for Apple’s phone:

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