Home » Competition » Recent Articles:

Amazon Introduces a “Cord-Cutters” DVR to Record Over-the-Air Channels

Phillip Dampier September 24, 2018 Competition, Consumer News, Online Video, Video 3 Comments

The Fire TV Recast DVR is among several new products Amazon is preparing to release for this year’s holiday shopping season, and it was a runaway favorite for Amazon-watchers given a preview of Amazon’s newest products last week.

The Recast is designed to appeal to cord-cutters who miss their cable-TV DVR box. Amazon’s TV recording solution is strictly designed to record over-the-air/free TV broadcasts, and won’t work with satellite, telco, or cable television. Oddly, it does work with one streaming cable-TV alternative: PlayStation Vue, but for the most part, Recast will make sense if you spend a lot of time watching and recording local TV stations. In larger cities, this means the ability to record 35-50 different stations and their digital subchannels. In smaller markets, a dozen or so stations ‘worth recording’ is more likely.

During brief demonstrations given to reporters, it quickly became clear Amazon designed Recast to work best within Amazon’s own product ecosystem, which means it requires at least an Amazon’s Fire TV stick ($29.99 each, when bought bundled with Recast) for each television. The Fire TV home screen adds a “DVR” menu automatically to the list of user options when it senses the presence of a Recast device. Amazon promises Recast playback will also work on tablets and phones, but not web browsers.

Recast is a larger-than-expected device, about the size of a shoebox, and contains TV tuners and a 500 GB hard drive. Customers will also need to supply an antenna (or buy the $24.99 ’50 mile’ window antenna offered by Amazon as an accessory). The box is designed to be placed anywhere out of sight, and has just three ports — one for power, another for USB to power the antenna, and an Ethernet connection. Amazon says Recast will work best placed where television reception is the strongest. Received signals are sent via Wi-Fi to Fire TV, PlayStation Vue, and the appropriate Amazon Fire apps for iOS and Android. Recast also offers built-in Wi-Fi Direct, which works with Fire TV and Amazon’s Echo Show, but Recast also supports traditional Wi-Fi. Amazon claims videos stream up to 1,440 x 720 at 60 frames per second.

Amazon Fire TV Recast

Recast’s standard configuration ($229) has two tuners and a 500GB hard drive, supporting two concurrent recordings and up to 75 hours of stored HD content. A deluxe version containing four tuners capable of recording four different shows/channels at the same time and a 1 TB drive doubles storage capacity for just $50 more, and will go on sale Nov. 14 for $279.99. Amazon is accepting pre-orders for both now.

PROS:

  • Finally a mainstream DVR that works for over-the-air recordings without expensive monthly service fees.
  • Amazon has kept the box simple, and has a tutorial/setup procedure to help you find the best place to locate the DVR to receive as many channels as possible.
  • Reviews indicate recordings were of good quality, assuming one gets reasonably good TV reception.
  • Integrates well with PlayStation Vue and Amazon’s Fire TV.
  • Box can be placed anywhere, out of sight, because it connects with your other devices wirelessly.
  • Deluxe box offers four tuners and lots of recording space for just $50 more than the base unit.

CONS:

  • Amazon should have just bundled an antenna in the box because it is required to assure good reception.
  • Recast is clearly designed for use with Fire TV, which means it is not a great option for other box owners.
  • Recast limits playback to its own apps and Fire TV. No browser support.
  • It only works with one streaming service (PlayStation Vue) and over the air stations. No support for cable, satellite, or telco TV.
  • It’s big and bulky.
  • Asking $229 for a box that only records over the air stations may be a high hurdle for some.
Size 7.1” x 7.1” x 2.9” (180 mm x 180 mm x 73 mm)
Weight 2.4 lbs (1066 g)
Processor Dual Core
ATSC Tuners 2 Tuners
Transcoders (for playback) 2
Storage 500 GB up to 75 hours of HDTV
Memory 2 GB
Wi-Fi Connectivity 2.4 G Wi-Fi 2×2 Wi-Fi b/g/n and 5 G Wi-Fi 2×2 Wi-Fi a/n/ac
Voice support Fire TV Recast can be controlled using voice through supported Alexa endpoints like Echo Show, and the Alexa Voice Remote on Fire TV devices and Fire TV Edition televisions.
Ports 1 x Type A USB 3.0 (does not support storage), TV Antenna Input, Gigabit Ethernet, Power
System requirements Fire TV streaming media player, Fire TV Edition television, or Echo Show, and compatible mobile device.
Setup requirements Fire TV mobile app (available on Amazon Appstore, Google Play Store, or iOS Appstore) on a Fire tablet (5th Gen or newer), an iOS device running iOS10 or higher, or an Android device running Android 4.4 or higher
Required for playback Any one of the following: Fire TV streaming media player, Fire TV Edition television, Echo Show, Fire tablet (5th Gen or newer), an iOS device running iOS10 or higher, an Android device running Android 4.4 or higher
Warranty and service 1-Year Limited Warranty and service included. Optional 2-Year and 3-Year Extended Warranty available for U.S. customers sold separately. Use of Fire TV is subject to the terms found here.
Regional support U.S. only
Accessibility features VoiceView screen reader enables access to the vast majority of Fire TV Recast features for users who are blind or visually impaired. Watch videos and TV shows with closed captioning displayed. Captions are not available for all content.
Included in the box Fire TV Recast, 50W Power Supply, Quick Start Guide

Amazon introduces Amazon Fire TV Recast, a home DVR for over the air television stations that works best with Amazon’s own Fire TV. (1:14)

T-Mobile Rebrands MetroPCS “Metro by T-Mobile;” Introduces New Plans

MetroPCS is getting a new name and new unlimited plans as its owner T-Mobile rebrands the provider “Metro by T-Mobile” starting today.

Current MetroPCS customers are largely attracted to the carrier for its simple, budget-priced mobile plans that offer 2-10 GB of data for $30-40 a month. In an effort to boost average revenue per customer, Metro will introduce two new plans that offer “unlimited” LTE data, mobile hotspot usage with data allowances from 5-15 GB, Google One cloud storage and mobile backup, and for its $60 plan, Amazon Prime membership:

T-Mobile USA John Legere argues that Metro’s new plans will change the perception that prepaid wireless plans are lacking.

“In the past, being a prepaid customer meant subpar devices, service and coverage. No more,” a press release from T-Mobile says. “Metro has been quietly changing the prepaid landscape for years, and wireless users have noticed. In the past five years, the number of people choosing Metro has doubled. Metro by T-Mobile offers a wide variety of both Android and iOS smartphones for every price point, including the absolute latest releases.”

The carrier, formerly an independent provider with its own cellular network serving 15 cities, was acquired by T-Mobile five years ago and today is run like a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) on T-Mobile’s nationwide network. The company takes care to protect its lucrative base of T-Mobile postpaid customers by giving them absolute priority on T-Mobile’s network. If a cell tower becomes congested, Metro customers will be the first ones to feel the impact.

“When the network gets busy in a particular place, Metro by T-Mobile customers may notice a difference in speed compared to T-Mobile customers, but otherwise, they get the same T-Mobile network,” T-Mobile warns in its press release. In the fine print, T-Mobile also discloses it throttles speeds for unlimited customers using more than 35 GB of data per month until the next billing cycle begins. It also limits video streaming to 480p resolution all the time.

In an effort to differentiate itself from similar prepaid offers, Metro has teamed up with Amazon to give its premium plan customers a free month-to-month membership in Amazon Prime, which in addition to free two-day shipping, also bundles Amazon Prime Video, Music, and Photos.

T-Mobile CEO John Legere introduces a makeover of MetroPCS, now called Metro by T-Mobile. (3:03)

Investigation: Spectrum’s Best Discounts Go Only to Areas With Robust Competition

Spectrum customers living in areas wired for fiber optics get substantially better discounts for longer periods of time than those living in areas where anemic phone company DSL service is the only competition.

Charter Communications, like many cable operators, asks all prospective customers to enter their complete mailing address, claiming prices “vary per location.” What the company does not say is that it maintains a database of addresses where fiber-fast competition is currently available and only offers the best deals to those locations.

In Rochester, N.Y., Spectrum competitor Greenlight Networks has made headway installing fiber to the home service in select neighborhoods in the city and suburbs. As fiber service becomes available, some Spectrum customers start switching to Greenlight, which markets 100/20 Mbps service for $50/mo, 500/50 Mbps for $75/mo, or 1,000/100 Mbps for $100/mo. In response, to keep customers, Spectrum offers 24 months of reduced pricing on its internet package. But your address must match Spectrum’s database as being within a competitive service area. Otherwise, the deals will not be so good.

Stop the Cap! found dramatic differences in prices between addresses nearly across a street from one another – one wired for Greenlight Fiber, the other not.

Competitive Area (Spectrum, Frontier DSL, Greenlight fiber-to-the-home service)

Spectrum Ultra (400 Mbps): $44.99/month for 24 months (free upgrade from Standard 100 Mbps package)

All promotions last 24 months

Free Wi-Fi Service

No installation or set up fee*

Non-Competitive Area (Spectrum, Frontier DSL)

Spectrum Standard (100 Mbps): $44.99/month for 12 months (for Ultra 400 Mbps, add $25/mo)

All promotions last 12 months

Wi-Fi Service is $5/month

$49.99 professional installation fee required for Ultra 400 Mbps service*

In Greenlight service areas, Spectrum now undercuts Greenlight’s pricing by offering Spectrum Ultra 400 Mbps service for $5 less than what Greenlight charges for 100 Mbps.

“Racerbob,” a DSL Reports reader in Webster, N.Y., discovered the same “enhanced offers” as an ex-Spectrum customer. He switched to Greenlight three months ago. He discovered if he added a Spectrum cable TV package, the price for 400 Mbps Ultra internet service dropped even lower, to $39.99 a month for two years.

In all, a sample package he assembled delivered dramatic savings, but only if a robust competitor like Greenlight was also offering service to his address:

Addresses used for comparison were in zip code 14618, with verified access to Greenlight at a street address to represent the “competitive” service area and verification Greenlight was not available at the address used for “non-competitive” service area. *-Although a setup fee was found on the final checkout page in both competitive and non-competitive service areas, it was only actually charged in non-competitive service areas during our investigation.

Verizon Starts Taking Orders Thursday for 5G Home Internet in Houston, Indianapolis, LA and Sacramento

Verizon 5G Home will begin accepting new customer orders for its in-home wireless broadband replacement as of this Thursday, Sept. 13, with a scheduled service launch date of Oct. 1.

The new high-speed wireless service will be available in select parts of Houston, Indianapolis, Los Angeles, and Sacramento.

Verizon CEO Hans Vestberg is calling the service part of Verizon’s 5G Ultra Wideband network. Initial reports indicate speed will range between 300-1,000 Mbps and existing Verizon Wireless customers will get a $20 price break on service — $50 a month instead of $70 for non-Verizon Wireless customers. We are still waiting word on any data caps or speed throttle information. Verizon informs Stop the Cap! there are no data caps or speed throttles. Service is effectively unlimited, unless hidden terms and conditions introduce unpublished limits.

Interested customers can determine their eligibility starting at 8 a.m. ET on Thursday from the Firston5G website. If you are not eligible initially, you can add your email address to be notified when service is available in your area.

Early adopters will be awarded with a series of goodies:

  • Free installation (a big deal, since it could cost as much as $200 later. An external antenna is required, as well as in-home wiring and equipment.)
  • 90 days of free service (a good idea, considering there may be bugs to work out)
  • 90 days of free YouTube TV (a welcome gift for cord-cutters)
  • Free Chromecast or Apple TV 4K (a common sign up enticement with streaming cable-TV replacements)
  • Priority access to buy forthcoming line of 5G-capable mobile devices

Customers in the first four launch cities will be using equipment built around a draft standard of 5G, as the final release version is still forthcoming. Verizon is holding off on additional expansion of 5G services until the final 5G standard is released, and promises early adopters will receive upgraded technology when that happens.

Verizon is clearly providing a greater-than-average number of enticements for early adopters, undoubtedly to placate them if and when service anomalies and disruptions occur. Although Verizon has done limited beta testing of its 5G service, it is very likely the 5G network will get its first real shakeout with paying customers. Unanticipated challenges are likely to range from coverage and speed issues, unexpected interference, network traffic loading, the robustness of Verizon’s small cell network, and how well outside reception equipment will perform in different weather conditions, particularly heavy rain and snow. With a large number of freebies, and no charges for 90 days, customers are likely to be more forgiving of problems, at least initially.

Chromecast

Verizon’s 5G network depends on millimeter wave spectrum, which means it will be capable of providing very high-speed service with greater network capacity than traditional 4G LTE wireless networks. But Verizon will have to bring 5G antennas much closer to subscribers’ homes, because millimeter wave frequencies do not travel very far.

Verizon will combine a fiber backhaul network with small cell antennas placed on top of utility and light poles to reach customers. That explains why Verizon’s initial 5G deployment is unlikely to cover every customer inside city limits. There are substantial deployment costs and installation issues relating to small cells and the optical fiber network required to connect each small cell.

Verizon’s existing FiOS network areas will offer an easier path to introduce service, but where Verizon does not offer its fiber to the home service, it will need to bring fiber optic cables deep into neighborhoods.

AT&T sees a similar challenge to 5G and is openly questioning how useful wireless 5G can be for urban/suburban broadband service, considering it can simply extend fiber optic service to those homes and businesses instead, without a costly 5G small cell deployment.

Verizon introduces 5G wireless in-home broadband in four U.S. cities and starts taking new customer orders on Thursday. (1:00)

Article updated at 6:28pm ET with information about data caps and speed throttles provided by Verizon.

Altice Launches Optimum Fiber on Long Island; Gigabit Service $79.99/Month

Phillip Dampier September 11, 2018 Altice USA, Broadband Speed, Competition, Consumer News No Comments

Altice USA this week launched symmetrical gigabit broadband over its new fiber-to-the-home network in parts of Long Island.

The cable company, which acquired Cablevision a few years ago, is gradually mothballing its part-copper wire network and going all-fiber across its footprint in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut. The fiber buildout will allow Altice to increase internet speeds and have more flexibility providing television, broadband, and phone service.

Where the fiber network has been switched on, customers are being offered 940/940 Mbps (near-gigabit) internet-only service at a price of $79.99 a month. Stop the Cap! has confirmed with our readers that parts of Central Islip now have gigabit fiber service available.

“Altice USA is focused on offering the best network and connectivity experience, and the activation of our full-fiber network with smart Wi-Fi, the most advanced of its kind in the nation, demonstrates our commitment to creating converged customer experiences,” said Hakim Boubazine, Altice USA co-president and chief operating officer. “Delivering our symmetrical Altice Gigabit fiber service is just the start as we continue to scale our fiber network to bring our customers up to 10 gigabit internet speeds to support the explosive growth of data usage while laying the groundwork for the future of the connected universe.”

The company is keeping its precise fiber rollout schedule a closely guarded secret, as it competes with Verizon FiOS across much of its service area. Because the fiber upgrade project will take five years to complete, existing customers still served by Optimum’s older HFC network will not have to wait to get speed increases thanks to DOCSIS 3.0. The company is introducing 400 Mbps speeds this year with gigabit service anticipated in early 2019. Altice will not deploy DOCSIS 3.1, preferring fiber to the home service as a better choice.

Search This Site:

Contributions:

Recent Comments:

  • Dylan: I better be getting 200mbps instead of 100 soon then if I do get a increase from $55 to $60 for bundle internet services. I understand the investments...
  • Charles Dennett: Just looked at my bill dated October 14. I'm in the Rochester, NY market. I have Spectrum TV select ($64.99/month), DVR Service ($12.99/month) and 10...
  • Gale Blue: It’s sounds good until u paid ur money and then u get an email saying they need additional info smh I am a mother who lives wit my daughter and the ca...
  • Victor Bosnich: Have been trying to return this junk and get my refund of $100+ for months, finally had chat with technician, told him situation, he sent me to next p...
  • Jr: Can I still use the same wifi router they gave me? I'm going to get the Netgear but it says I need a router to get WiFi so what do I do?...
  • RJ: I get great service from Charter with Internet. Their upload speed sucks so they need to upgrade, innovate and get Full duplex going. I'd love to have...
  • Inga Nobles: Forgot password and username I'm enquiring about the promotion samsung chromebook...
  • fhall1: The PSC should also make a point of extending other "conditions" that were agreed to as part of the TWC buyout. For example - data caps. Spectrum ag...
  • Frontier Employee: I am a current Frontier Employee and I can promise you that the company's lack of concern for those less fortunate does not solely reside with its cus...
  • JayS: The MVNO US Mobile has just changed their 'Unlimited talk & Text + data plans' similar to what you have indicated. The Unlimited Talk & Text ...
  • Peter: I made three appointments over a period of three weeks ... the tech serviceman never showed ... and they never contacted me to tell me why. When I ca...
  • Joe: liveTexas, how much did YouTube pay you for that ridiculous post?...

Your Account: