Wed, Apr. 22, 8:29 PM
- Google's Project Fi wireless MVNO (mobile virtual network operator) service will piggyback on the networks of Sprint (S +2%) and T-Mobile (TMUS +2.2%) when it's not using Wi-Fi to route calls and data -- and while traffic is better than "no traffic," analysts at Cowen and Evercore say it won't mean much benefit for the two wireless firms.
- Colby Synesael of Cowen says that financial gains will be limited for the two (and for Google): It's all about Google trying to shape the market in ways that might eventually pay off. The offer is "compelling" on price and technology and could make a monetary difference if device support grows, but it's more likely about carriers making Fi's practices mainstream, he says.
- On price, the data giveback and international aspects of Fi could pressure AT&T (NYSE:T), Sprint and Verizon (NYSE:VZ) to follow suit, Synesael writes.
- Evercore's Jonathan Schildkraut found the announcement in line with expectations, though "we also would not rule out a potential relationship between GOOG and the MSOs' Wi-Fi networks as another way to dis-intermediate the traditional carrier," he writes. "Not as Bad as Expected for T and VZ. We view the higher than expected toll to get on the network ($20) as likely better for carriers than anticipated."
- Previously: Google launches Fi mobile service - $20/month for voice/text, $10 per GB (Apr. 22 2015)
Wed, Apr. 22, 5:35 PM
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Wed, Apr. 22, 2:07 PM
- As rumored, Google's (GOOG +1.1%) anticipated U.S. mobile service has launched today with the help of network partners Sprint (S +1.7%) and T-Mobile (TMUS +2.2%). Also as rumored, Google is pricing aggressively and providing free roaming for the service, which is known as Project Fi.
- Google is charging just $20/month for voice, SMS, Wi-Fi tethering, and international roaming in 120+ countries. Each GB of data (also comes with roaming) costs an extra $10/month; notably, any unused data is refunded. Users automatically connect to more than 1M Wi-Fi hotspots when they're available, and rely on Sprint/T-Mobile's 4G networks when they're not.
- The big catch (also as expected): The service is only available for now via Motorola Mobility's huge Nexus 6 phablet (6" 2K display). iPhone owners and those preferring smaller Android phones are out of luck. That limits the near-term threat posed to U.S. carriers by Fi, which (as the Nexus line does for hardware) aims to showcase Google's vision of what mobile services should be like.
- Also: Much like many Google Web services launching in beta, Fi is launching as an invite-only service. U.S. consumers can request an invite on Google's Fi site.
Tue, Apr. 21, 8:06 PM
- Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) is ready to push out its wireless phone service as soon as tomorrow, the WSJ reports, and it's expected to allow customers to pay only for data used.
- That could put pressure on existing providers who have pocketed excess fees spent on data "buckets" that typically waste a reported $28/month per subscriber.
- As previously reported, the service will work only on Google's latest Nexus 6 devices and will use Wi-Fi nets to route calls and data. Wireless service will be via Sprint (NYSE:S) and T-Mobile (NYSE:TMUS) networks, switching between them depending on stronger signal.
- The deal represents a threat to the wireless status quo, even as transit agreements are good for Sprint and T-Mobile. The decision in Sprint's case to go along reportedly went all the way to Chairman Masayoshi Son.
- Previously: WSJ: Google's phone service to initially have just one (giant) phone (Mar. 05 2015)
Fri, Apr. 17, 7:54 PM
- Mobile phone consumers might be happy, but the industry's price war is showing up as average revenue per account is dropping, according to Cowen's quarterly wireless survey.
- Bills fell for a second straight quarter, to an average of $136/month, down from Q4's $141. The biggest drop came to Sprint (NYSE:S), whose "Cut Your Bill in Half" promotion is taking hold by reducing its average bill 14% Q/Q to $132/month.
- Verizon (NYSE:VZ) is below $150 for the first time in the survey, slipping 5% to $143.
- On the other hand, AT&T (NYSE:T) was essentially flat at $143/month and T-Mobile (NYSE:TMUS) actually increased ARPA 4% to $121.
- Sprint may face a churn problem: 24% of subscribers whose contracts are up in the next six months say they'll leave, above the industry average of 13%.
- Subscribers without contracts are up to 34.5% from Q4's 30.5%, spurred by T-Mobile's huge contract-less base.
Thu, Apr. 16, 10:54 AM
- With the Obama administration relaxing regulations on dealings with Cuba, Boost Mobile -- the unit of Sprint (NYSE:S) -- has launched a prepaid plan for U.S. subscribers to call/text the country.
- The $50/month plan features unlimited texting and per-minute call rates and will roll out in Cuban-American core Miami.
- The phone market in Cuba could turn into the largest in the Caribbean. Only about 2M of the population of 11M have mobile phones; officials say they want to reach 60% access by 2020.
- IDT last month set a deal with Cuba's Etecsa to directly exchange U.S.-Cuba long-distance phone traffic, as the U.S. made telecom a priority in liberalizing relations with Cuba.
Tue, Apr. 14, 7:17 PM
- With the FCC's new net neutrality rules published in the Federal Register, AT&T (NYSE:T) and three industry trade groups representing cablecos and wireless carriers have filed separate lawsuits challenging the rules, which subject firms to heavier "telecom services" regulations.
- AT&T is the first large individual challenger, joined by the National Cable and Telecommunications Association, wireless group CTIA and the smaller American Cable Association. The NCTA has hired former solicitor General Ted Olson, who argued Bush v. Gore before the Supreme Court.
- Publication in the Federal Register means the rules take effect 60 days from yesterday -- which is why affected companies had their briefs warmed up.
- Represented/related companies: VZ, TMUS, S, CMCSA, CHTR, TWC, CVC, CTL, FTR, CCOI, DISH, DTV
Mon, Apr. 13, 9:00 AM
- The latest move for a ready-to-please Sprint (NYSE:S) in a competitive wireless market: The company will start hand-delivering new phones to subscribers, using a 5,000-car Sprint-branded fleet.
- Sprint is up 1.2% premarket.
- The company's starting in Kansas City and then spreading the plan to Miami and Chicago, and eventually nationwide.
- Customers eligible for upgraded or new phones will be notified that Sprint can bring the phone to them, and they can arrange to meet the rolling Sprint rep at home or a convenient location.
- It's not the first delivery go-round for Sprint CEO Marcelo Claure, who used home delivery as a small phone store owner in Boston in the late 1990s.
- It's only the latest move from Sprint in a newly pitched battle for the No. 3 spot in subscribers with T-Mobile. And a 5,000-car fleet would build off what is a significant change in Sprint distribution, with 1,400 new Sprint-branded stores coming online via the RadioShack transition.
- Company press release
- Previously: Sprint to test home delivery service (Apr. 13 2015)
Mon, Apr. 13, 5:08 AM
- The U.S. war for wireless subscribers is bringing Sprint (NYSE:S) to offer a hand-delivery cellphone program, which will begin its rollout to current customers in the Kansas City area and expand to new customers across the U.S.
- The firm declined to say how much it was spending on the program, which will deliver new phones and upgrades using 5,000 Sprint branded cars driven by company contractors.
- On Friday, Sprint began rebranding about 1,400 RadioShack stores as part of an effort to double the footprint of its retail locations.
Fri, Apr. 10, 9:21 PM
- Sprint (NYSE:S) is working to match T-Mobile (NYSE:TMUS) by rolling out free international data roaming in 15 countries, a year after T-Mobile introduced a similar service.
- All Sprint customers can add the plan to their domestic plan for free, and they'll get unlimited texts and $0.20/minute calls in the 15 countries.
- Data speeds will be "up to 2G," though Sprint is selling data roaming passes that bump the speeds to 3G.
- T-Mobile offers 2G speeds as well, and says less than 1% of the 2M users so far have upgraded from there to higher speed roaming.
Thu, Apr. 9, 7:58 PM
- T-Mobile (NYSE:TMUS) and Sprint (NYSE:S), along with Dish Network (NASDAQ:DISH), might fail in their bid to get a bigger set-aside in a crucial early-2016 auction of low-band wireless spectrum -- but what they get might be better than nothing, which is a risk if the auction's delayed, Guggenheim's Paul Gallant notes.
- The companies have argued for rule changes that would set aside 40 MHz of an expected 70-80 MHz for smaller firms (i.e.: not AT&T or Verizon), rather than the 30 MHz currently set aside. But that's an uphill battle, and "just holding the auction in early 2016 would be a very good development for them, because slipping into 2017 creates risk that the set-aside disappears completely," notes Gallant.
- AT&T and Verizon argue that Softbank (OTCPK:SFTBY) and Deutsche Telekom (OTCQX:DTEGY) have the resources to help Sprint and T-Mobile respectively with their bids, but the foreign firms don't appear to be willing.
- The FCC's AWS-3 auction set a record with nearly $45B in bids, but the low-band auction may be even more critical to the competitive landscape, as the signals travel over longer distances and through buildings' walls in cities.
- Previous FCC auction news
Thu, Apr. 9, 11:16 AM
- Sprint (NYSE:S) sets tomorrow as the date to open 1,435 new co-branded Sprint/RadioShack (OTCPK:RSHCQ) stores, more than doubling its company-owned store footprint.
- Sprint will work as a "store-within-a-store," but previous reporting has its name most prominent on the storefront and in marketing materials, and its staff will manage all mobile device sales.
- The company says it means 3,500 new jobs and that it will actively recruit a workforce to fill them.
- Previously: Simpler RadioShack taking form (Apr. 06 2015)
- Previously: Details emerging on new RadioShack/Sprint retail (Apr. 01 2015)
Wed, Apr. 8, 7:40 PM
- Through a software update, Sprint (NYSE:S) is allowing its iPhone subscribers to start using free Wi-Fi calling from their own number.
- Sprint's pitching the move as "like a major expansion of our network." Wi-Fi call switching has proved to have difficulties, but the new offering could bring dramatic coverage gains for customers in high-rise offices, where cellular coverage can be spotty.
- Wi-Fi calling is proliferating a bit in a competitive wireless industry as availability grows. Cable provider Cablevision (NYSE:CVC) launched its Freewheel calling network earlier this year, offering unlimited talk, text and data for a no-contract $30/month, vs. similar unlimited costs of $50-$70/month on cell networks.
- Google is pursuing a hybrid Wi-Fi/cellular strategy with its upcoming MVNO offering.
- Previously: WSJ: Google's phone service to initially have just one (giant) phone (Mar. 05 2015)
- Previously: Google confirms coming wireless phone service (Mar. 02 2015)
Tue, Apr. 7, 7:58 PM
- Based on momentum, analysts seem convinced that T-Mobile (NYSE:TMUS) will pass Sprint (NYSE:S) to become the No. 3 carrier in the U.S. -- though the question is exactly when that will happen: in upcoming Q1 results, or a bit later.
- If you believe T-Mobile CEO John Legere, it's already happened, since he thinks Sprint miscounts "dead" MVNO accounts.
- Nomura's Adal Ilkowitz is with him in thinking T-Mobile's already bigger based on Q1, and so is Jefferies' Mike McCormack, who believes T-Mobile grew by 2.15M subscribers in Q1, and Sprint by only 397K.
- MoffettNathanson's Craig Moffett thinks the pass will happen, but not until the end of May.
- The particular ranking is clearly a bigger deal to Legere and T-Mobile, as Sprint is likely heavily focused on a network buildout to increase speed, reach and reliability. Sprint's expected to detail its plans with its earnings report, due May 11.
Sun, Apr. 5, 8:47 AM
- Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) is in talks with Hutchison Whampoa (OTCPK:HUWHY, OTCPK:HUWHF) for a deal that would allow Americans to use their phones abroad at no extra cost. Hutchison could give Google access to mobile service in the UK, Ireland, Italy, and several more markets.
- Google's goal, sources say, is to create a global network with the same cost for calls, texts, and data no matter where a customer is located. Hutchison would be a natural partner for Google, because it has also sought to eliminate roaming charges for its customers.
- Google has so far described its mobile network aspirations as "small scale." A serious move by Google or Apple to enter the mobile market would be feared by U.S. giants AT&T (NYSE:T), Verizon (NYSE:VZ), Sprint (NYSE:S) and others.
Thu, Apr. 2, 3:52 PM
- Sprint (S +2.4%) has issued a statement to clarify that it is in discussions with Jay-Z's streaming music service Tidal -- but only to determine how to smooth the service's availability for Sprint customers.
- The New York Post reported that Sprint and parent Softbank (OTCPK:SFTBY) had bought a minority stake in the subscription service that valued Tidal at $250M. Sprint is denying its investment and "confirms that, similarly, its parent company Softbank Corp. has not purchased a stake in Tidal."
- At Jay-Z's big Tidal rollout event this week, the company's CIO Vania Schlogel said Tidal had been working closely with Sprint CEO Marcelo Claure.
- Tidal claims to have signed up 100K subscribers since Monday's event.
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