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DirecTV Now Launches Free 20-Hour Storage DVR Service to Customers

Phillip Dampier May 15, 2018 AT&T, Competition, Consumer News, DirecTV, Online Video 3 Comments

AT&T’s DirecTV Now service has introduced its long-awaited cloud storage DVR service to its streaming customers, offering 20 hours of recording space for no additional charge.

“True Cloud DVR” has been in beta testing for about 10 months as AT&T built up its streaming platform and squashed several persistent bugs afflicting recordings. With today’s introduction, DirecTV Now customers will have access to a time-shifting DVR with true fast-forward and rewind features without having to pay extra for the service. But recordings will expire after 30 days.

Later this summer, AT&T will offer customers a $10 optional upgrade to 100 hours of DVR storage space and the ability to store recorded shows for up to 90 days.

DVR service is just one of several changes introduced today by DirecTV Now:

  • A complete app refresh, emphasizing the viewer’s favorite shows and networks.
  • The option to add a third concurrent stream for an additional $5 a month.
  • Over 25,000 on-demand titles and much faster availability of some TV shows for on-demand viewing – as little as minutes after airing.
  • Users will be able to access their local stations while traveling outside of the area.

The upgraded look and new features are available starting today for iOS and tvOS users and web users. Android, Fire TV, and Roku devices will see upgrades in the weeks ahead.

 

T-Mobile/Sprint Merger Promises Fake 5G Initially; Only Slightly Better Than 4G LTE

The head of T-Mobile USA claims a merged T-Mobile and Sprint will be the best positioned to quickly deliver 5G wireless service to Americans, despite claims from industry insiders Legere’s claim is little more than vaporware.

“Only the new T-Mobile will have the network and spectrum capacity to quickly create a broad and deep 5G network in the first few years of the 5G innovation cycle, the years that will determine if American firms lead or follow in the 5G digital economy,” T-Mobile CEO John Legere claimed during the April 29th merger announcement.

But the 5G network Legere is referring to is little better than T-Mobile’s existing 4G LTE network, and won’t be capable of delivering gigabit speeds or an in-home broadband replacement.

Broadband expert Dave Burstein characterizes T-Mobile’s audacious 5G claims as part of a campaign to “bamboozle D.C.” to win merger approval.

It turns out T-Mobile is not talking about the same 5G technology under development at AT&T and Verizon, which both use millimeter wave networks and small cell antennas.

T-Mobile’s version of 5G is a already appearing elsewhere around the world — a new definition incremental upgrade for 4G LTE, “70-90 percent slower than the good stuff — millimeter wave,” claims Burstein.

“Folks building LTE-speed networks wanted to be called ‘5G’ and take advantage of the massive hype,” Burstein wrote. “So they made ‘New Definition 5G’ with a PR campaign and a minor software tweak, dubbed ‘NR’ for New Radio. 4G LTE networks [suddenly] became ‘5G.’ Every engineer in the business knows this is a scam.”

T-Mobile’s version of ‘5G’ is likely to appear on its spectrum in the 600 MHz range, easily deployed from existing cell towers and relatively cheap and easy to launch. It won’t deliver anything close to the speed or capacity improvements being claimed by Legere and a few others in the industry.

“Legere is swearing to Washington the T-Mobile 640 MHz 5G NR network will be many times faster than LTE,” Burstein said. “That isn’t true, of course. It’s far more likely to be only 25%-50% faster, or perhaps less. It may even be slower than the 500 MHz LTE/LAA T-Mobile already has in Manhattan.”

China claims to be ahead of the United States — another issue being pushed by T-Mobile merger supporters to “regain” America’s “lead” on 5G — by deploying its own version of 5G similar to the ‘new definition’ version of 5G Burstein talks about. The Trump Administration has even contemplated nationalizing America’s 5G network infrastructure to share benefits among all leading wireless carriers, if only to speed deployment and generate new demand for network equipment produced in the United States — not China.

But a closer look at China Mobile’s version of 5G finds the company installing approximately two million “mid-band” 5G cellular antennas that will work at 3.7 GHz. It isn’t the millimeter wave 5G technology contemplated by AT&T and Verizon, and won’t deliver much faster speeds than China Mobile’s existing 4G LTE infrastructure. Instead, it will help China Mobile better manage its bandwidth demand with a network at least twice as large as that of AT&T or Verizon.

Critics of ‘new definition 5G’ call the technology “evolutionary, not revolutionary.”

What makes millimeter wave 5G technology superior is the wide swath of dedicated spectrum typically available for wireless broadband. Some companies will have 400 to 800 MHz of frequencies available to support millimeter wave 5G, while the maximum spectrum for LTE is around 100 MHz. That extra millimeter wave spectrum has delivered up to 20 Gbps speeds in the lab, and Verizon is contemplating selling gigabit speed service to its fixed wireless customers using the technology sometime this year.

Despite Legere’s boastful claims, Burstein warns politicians and regulators they need to learn that T-Mobile’s type of “5G” is no longer “a big thing in most cases.” Even seasoned regulators like Jessica Rosenworcel and Ajit Pai at the FCC have incorrectly confused new definition 5G with millimeter wave 5G. Others, including Andrus Ansip at the EU and several Chinese leaders, have made similar mistakes as part of boastful claims about future network performance.

Burstein says it is a case of not listening to network engineers, who know the difference.

“They have engineers at the FCC,” Burstein said. “If they listen to the engineers, they will know the [merger] deal is not in the public interest.”

Comcast Prepares All-Cash Bid to Acquire 21st Century Fox for $52 Billion

Phillip Dampier May 8, 2018 Comcast/Xfinity, Competition, Reuters 1 Comment

(Reuters) – U.S. cable operator Comcast Corp is asking investment banks to increase a bridge financing facility by as much as $60 billion so it can make an all-cash offer for the media assets that Twenty-First Century Fox Inc has agreed to sell to Walt Disney Co for $52 billion, three people familiar with the matter said on Monday.

Comcast Chief Executive Brian Roberts only plans to proceed with the bid if a federal judge allows AT&T Inc’s planned $85 billion acquisition of Time Warner Inc to proceed, the sources said. The U.S. Department of Justice has opposed the AT&T-Time Warner deal over antitrust concerns, and a decision from U.S. District Court Judge Richard Leon is expected in June.

Disney Chief Executive Bob Iger clinched an all-stock deal with Fox Executive Chairman Rupert Murdoch in December to acquire Fox’s film, television and international businesses, giving the world’s largest entertainment company an arsenal of shows and movies to combat growing digital rivals Netflix Inc and Amazon.com Inc.

Comcast, owner of NBC and Universal Pictures, has also made a 22 billion pound ($30 billion) offer to acquire the 61 percent stake in European pay-TV group Sky Plc that Fox does not already own. In doing so, it topped an earlier offer for the entirety of Sky by Fox.

Last November, Comcast offered to acquire most of Fox’s assets in an all-stock deal valued at $34.41 per share, or $64 billion, a regulatory filing showed last month. Like Disney, Comcast sought to buy Fox’s entertainment networks, movie studios, television production and international assets, the filing shows.

Fox ended up announcing an all-stock deal with Disney for $29.54 per share. In the regulatory filing, Disney and Fox cited regulatory hurdles as reasons to reject Comcast’s bid, even though they did not reference it by name.

The exact value of Comcast’s new bid for the Fox assets is not yet clear, although the $60 billion in new financing indicates it is seeking significant firepower to outbid Disney. Comcast already has a $30 billion bridge loan to finance its Sky offer.

The sources asked not to be identified because the matter is confidential. Comcast, Fox and Disney declined to comment.

Fox shares rose 5.13 percent to $39.99 on the news in after-hours trading in New York on Monday. Comcast shares were down 1.5 percent to $31.90, while Disney shares were down 0.5 percent to $102.00.

Murdoch, who owns close to a 17 percent stake in Fox and holds about 40 percent of the voting power, prefers to be paid in stock rather than cash for the Fox assets, because this makes the transaction non-taxable for shareholders, sources have said. It is not clear how receptive he would be to an all-cash offer.

Last month’s regulatory filing also showed that Fox viewed Disney’s stock as more valuable than Comcast’s, based on historic prices, and felt that a deal between Disney and Fox would generate greater long-term value. The Roberts family controls Comcast through a dual-class stock structure.

Comcast’s stock has dropped since then, from around $38 to about $32 now, giving the company a market capitalization of $149 billion.

Disney has committed to share buybacks as a way of returning cash to Fox shareholders. As a result, Comcast sees an opening in being disruptive to the deal by making an all-cash bid, according to the sources.

In its deal with Disney, Fox agreed to separate the Fox Broadcasting network and stations, Fox News Channel, Fox Business Network, its sports channels FS1, FS2 and the Big Ten Network, into a newly listed company that it will spin off to its shareholders.

Reporting by: Greg Roumeliotis and Liana B. Baker in New York; Additional reporting by Jessica Toonkel in New York; Editing by Tiffany Wu and Lisa Shumaker

Verizon FiOS Steps Up Promotions in Northeast: Free Chromebook or $200 Towards Samsung Tech

Phillip Dampier May 7, 2018 Broadband Speed, Competition, Verizon No Comments

With Charter Communications’ launch of gigabit internet speeds in dozens of cities and Comcast pushing its own gigabit offering in the northeastern U.S., Verizon has intensified its promotions to capture new customers with the lure of a free Samsung Chromebook 3 or $200 credit towards Samsung technology products when buying a gigabit internet connection bundled with Custom TV + Phone for $79.99/month.

To qualify for the free Chromebook, you have to sign a two-year contract, but unlike some other promotions, the $79.99 price remains the same during both years. Exact details:

Fios Triple Play – 2-year agreement
Samsung: Offer avail. 4/19 – 7/25 via redemption codes for a Samsung Chromebook 3 11.6” (2GB RAM) or a one-time $200 credit toward a 2018 Samsung sound bar over $300, UHD TV 40” class or above, Gear 360 camera, IconX ear buds, Gear Fit 2 Pro, Galaxy Tab E (32 GB), or Galaxy Tab S3. Must maintain qualifying FiOS services in good standing for 65 days after install. Redeem codes within 90 days from date of issuance and by no later than 1/31/19. Credit and/or credit balance not transferable or redeemable or refundable for cash. Samsung is a registered trademark of Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd.

Verizon: Availability varies. Gigabit network connection to your home. Actual speeds vary due to device limits, network and other factors. Avg. speeds betw. 750-940 Mbps download / 750-880 upload. Limited time online offer for new TV and Internet residential customers subscribing to a Fios Triple Play bundle. Promo rates via bill credits and increase after promo period. Price guarantee applies to base monthly rate only. 2-yr. agr. req’d. Beg. mo. 2, up to $350 ETF applies. $12/mo. STB, $10/mo. router charge, $4.49/mo. Broadcast, up to $7.89/mo. Regional Sports Network and $0.99/mo. FDV Admin. fees apply. Other fees, taxes, & terms may apply. Auto Pay (ACH or bank debit card only) & paper-free billing req’d. Subj. to credit approval & may require a deposit.

We have verified this promotion is targeted to customers in New York, New Jersey, Philadelphia, Richmond, Va., Hampton Roads, Va., Boston, Mass., Providence County, R.I., and the Washington, D.C. area. Not all locations will qualify.

Spectrum Enters the Wireless Business on June 30; Pricing Mirrors XFINITY Mobile

Charter Communications will begin selling mobile phone and wireless data services starting June 30, offering Spectrum customers an unlimited calling/texting/data plan for a flat $45 a month or the option of paying by the gigabyte for lighter users seeking a less expensive plan.

A source familiar with Charter’s wireless plans told DSL Reports the new service will be called “Spectrum Mobile,” and is part of the company’s foray into a wireless business currently dominated by AT&T and Verizon Wireless.

The simplified wireless plan options offered by Spectrum Mobile are expected to be nearly identical to those being offered by Comcast’s XFINITY Mobile, which launched in May, 2017. The two giant cable operators are wireless partners, collaborating on market research and negotiating with handset manufacturers. Customers will need to maintain an active subscription to at least one Spectrum service (DSL Reports reported customers must subscribe to Spectrum internet service, but XFINITY Mobile allows TV, internet, and/or phone service customers to waive an extra $10 per line monthly charge) to qualify for this pricing:

By the Gig ($12/GB):

  • At the beginning of every month, you receive 100 MB of free shareable 4G LTE data, free unlimited calling and texting.
  • Gigabytes are $12 each, and data is shared across all lines on your account that are using By the Gig.
  • You’ll be charged by rounding up your data usage to the next GB at the end of each billing cycle. This means that if you use 2.2 GB of data, you’ll be charged for 3 GB, or $36. Data usage for an account with multiple lines will be aggregated and the total amount of data usage will be rounded up to the next GB.
  • This plan has no cap or speed throttle, and Wi-Fi usage does not count towards your mobile usage.

“Unlimited Data” (20 GB of 4G LTE data for a flat rate of $45 per line)

  • Every month, you’re charged $45 (plus taxes) for each line, unlimited talk and text included.
  • “Unlimited data” means 20 GB of 4G LTE data at full speed. After 20 GB, download and upload speeds will be reduced to 1.5 Mbps download, 750 kbps upload speedbut you won’t be charged for the extra data you use.
  • Wi-Fi data usage does not count toward your 20 GB allowance.

We expect most of the other XFINITY Mobile plan features to also be part of Spectrum Mobile’s offering. XFINITY Mobile claims its customers save up to $400 a year. Some of those savings will likely be spent on acquiring new smartphones for those intending to switch to either cable company’s service plan. Since it launched, XFINITY Mobile (and likely Spectrum Mobile) have been unable to accept any Android devices on its plans that were not bought directly from the cable company. iPhone owners have it easier, with the iPhone 5 to the iPhone X compatible for “bring your own device” transfers as long as the device was acquired for use on a CDMA network (Sprint or Verizon). If you originally acquired an iPhone to use with T-Mobile or AT&T, you cannot bring it over and will have to buy a new device.

Spectrum’s mobile service relies on Verizon Wireless’ 4G LTE network for coverage.

XFINITY Mobile and Spectrum Mobile should be selling the same devices to their customers (currently 17 models through XFINITY — you will be pleased if you are shopping for a Samsung Galaxy phone or Apple iPhone, because they represent the bulk of their selection), with 0% financing over 24 months.

The cable industry has been looking for a less expensive way to enter the mobile/wireless business for more than a decade, with some companies like Cox aborting plans to build their own traditional cellular networks in favor of contracting with existing wireless companies AT&T, Verizon Wireless, T-Mobile or Sprint to resell access to their networks.

Both Comcast and Charter are following a similar path, contracting with Verizon Wireless to provide nationwide 4G LTE coverage. But the handsets the cable companies are selling are also equipped to take advantage of existing Wi-Fi networks, and default to Wi-Fi internet access and calling wherever possible. The handsets seamlessly switch to Verizon’s network when out of range of a suitable Wi-Fi signal. With a growing percentage of wireless data use today managed over Wi-Fi networks, the two cable operators face lower costs than cable companies did in 2005, when they attempted to form an alliance with Sprint to enter the mobile market that never materialized.

But Comcast’s early entry into the mobile business has not come cheap. The company’s chief financial officer reported Comcast expects to rack up $1.2 billion in operating losses over the first 18 months of being in the wireless business. In 2017, XFINITY Mobile lost $480 million. The company will deal with another $200 million in losses this year as it spends more on marketing and introducing support for more devices subscribers bring from their old carriers. After a year, Comcast has attracted 380,000 subscribers to its wireless venture.

Some of the handsets available for sale at XFINITY Mobile will also be sold by Spectrum Mobile.

Where Comcast and Charter diverge is in their interest in constructing their own wireless networks. Comcast wants to leverage the millions of pre-existing “gateways” already installed in customer homes that deliver traditional Wi-Fi access to its customers and guest users. Charter has experimented with fixed wireless in a handful of markets for in-home broadband replacements, and is also contemplating launching a type of super-powered Wi-Fi service that could deliver wireless connectivity across a neighborhood instead of just a single home. If Charter builds a wireless network utilizing frequencies in the 3.5 GHz band, it will be part of its broader plan to integrate multiple wireless networks together.

“Charter is in the process of transitioning its wireless network from a nomadic Wi-Fi network to one that supports full mobility by combining its existing Wi-Fi assets with multiple 4G and 5G access technologies,” Charter said in comments to the FCC. “In navigating this technological transition, Charter is concentrating on an ‘Inside-Out’ strategy, initially focusing on advanced wireless solutions inside the home and office, and eventually expanding outdoors.”

Spectrum Mobile will be the first part of what the company claims is a multi-step process to create a new and powerful wireless network for customers.

“First, in 2018, Charter will begin offering a mobile wireless service to its customers as a Wi-Fi-first MVNO, partnering with Verizon Wireless and using Charter’s own extensive Wi-Fi infrastructure to enhance customer connectivity and experience,” the company told the FCC in February. “In the second phase, Charter plans to use the 3.5 GHz band in conjunction with its Wi-Fi network to improve network performance and expand capacity to offer consumers a superior wireless service.”

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  • George: 802.11ax with 8x8:8 MIMO streams are hitting the market, and Comcast is stuck in the past with 2 stream MIMO on 802.11ac, playing ping-pong with high ...
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  • Ian Littman: Counterpoint: mmWave based 5G is going to be a bear to deploy, to the point that 5G NR from T-Mo et al will likely have nationwide coverage before mmW...
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