Parts of this year’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES) could have been mistaken for an auto show, given the number of vehicles and the manner in which they were displayed. Chevrolet featured a Corvette and a connected Impala; Ford showcased the Mustang in two locations, with a full line-up of cars occupying prime hall real estate; and Audi built a glistening pod beneath which it highlighted several of its high-end vehicles.
The connected car concept is simply building on our uber addictions to be in touch, all the time, anywhere we go (the truly hooked feel a phantom buzz even when their phones are off their hips). AT&T and Apple last week announced plans that up the ante by introducing full mobile video and increased access to Apple services, respectively.
AT&T is working with QuickPlay, a cloud video firm. AT&T plans to offer live and video-on-demand, which should simulatenously decrease incidences of “are we there yet” and potentially increase incidences of distracted driving. Apple recently introduced CarPlay, which intends to use automotive integration to link Apple services such as Siri through vehicle interfaces. Apple claims CarPlay is a “smarter, safer way” to use an iPhone in a car.
AT&T Mobility recently filed a patent application (US 20140010082) for a system that would enable the company to automatically charge subscribers more money for using file sharing, video and other bandwidth-intensive services.
The patent is entitled “Prevention of Bandwidth Abuse of a Communications System” and, just as the title suggests, its stated mission is to prevent a subscriber from “abusing a telecommunications system” by consuming more than his or her fair share of bandwidth.
The system would allot each user with a set amount of credits, and subscribers would dip into their credit total when they use select services or download certain types of content. The data being downloaded is then checked to determine if it is permissible or non-permissible based upon the user’s total available credits. AT&T explained that if the credit total is not sufficient, “[v]arious restriction policies also can be applied, such as levying additional fees and/or terminating the user’s access to the channel.”
The patent application was filed back in September 2013 but only made public in January 2014. To be fair, technology companies, AT&T included, file a lot of patent applications, and some are not granted while others are never put into practice. However, coming on the heels of AT&T’s sponsored data plan, and the Net Neutrality decision a few weeks ago, this will surely raise interest in the industry and concern from subscribers.
Speaking at an investor conference last week, AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson said that wireless carriers can no longer afford to subsidize their customers’ phones. Instead, he said that carriers need to focus on increasing customer use of their networks.
“When you’re growing the business initially, you have to do aggressive device subsidies to get people on the network,” Stephenson told attendees. “But as you approach 90% penetration, you move into maintenance mode. That means more device upgrades. And the model has to change. You can’t afford to subsidize devices like that.” Read more
Last week, AT&T and Crown Castle International Corp. announced a deal whereby Crown Castle will purchase or lease 9,700 of AT&T’s towers in exchange for $4.85 billion in cash.
Crown Castle plans to finance the deal through the sale of common stock. AT&T intends to use the cash for network upgrades and new spectrum.
Under the terms of the deal, Crown Castle—one of the world’s largest tower operators– will lease 9,100 towers from AT&T and will purchase an additional 600 outright. AT&T will lease a fixed amount of capacity from the towers and has an option to lease additional capacity, if needed.
“This deal is good for AT&T and our shareholders,” said AT&T senior vice president for network planning and engineering Bill Hogg. “This deal will let us monetize our towers while giving us the ability to add capacity as we need it.”
The deal will, in one fell swoop, double AT&T’s cash holdings. The company had previously announced plans to invest $14 billion over three years to improve its network.
Houston-based Crown Castle also will have an option to purchase the leased towers for $4.2 billion beginning in 2032. “We are very pleased with our agreement with AT&T, which strengthens our position as the largest provider of shared wireless infrastructure in the U.S.,” said Ben Moreland, Crown Castle president and CEO.
AT&T announced recently that it has agreed to buy Leap Wireless. Leap is best known for its Cricket brand, a low-priced, prepaid mobile wireless service that has approximately 5 million customers. AT&T has said that it will keep the Cricket name and service and expand it in certain markets.
The deal requires approval by the FCC and the Department of Justice. AT&T said that it expects the deal to close in six to nine months.
If approved, the AT&T purchase of Leap would continue the consolidation in the mobile wireless industry in the United States. T-Mobile recently acquired MetroPCS, and that newly combined company has about 43 million customers nationwide. Read more
A friend and I once argued about who was more OCD. After several minutes of parries and ripostes regarding who checks the stove before leaving the house or tugs the door handle to ascertain that is locked, my friend pulled his trump card: “Have you been medicated?” he asked triumphantly. Acknowledging that my habits are only merely inconvenient to myself or amusing to others, I acknowledged his victory. It’s a good thing we did not discuss paranoia.
A piece of advice I give new interns or freshly-minted colleagues is to assume that each piece of email will ultimately arrive at the in-box of their worst enemy. The inability to convey tone or inflection coupled with the “now it’s out there” nature of electronic communications demands extraordinary caution before either critiquing co-workers or confessing some otherwise embarrassing or potentially compromising matter via email or Facebook. On the Internet, it (everything) lasts forever. Read more
In New York City last week, AT&T, along with solar kit manufacturer Goal Zero, and Brooklyn’s Pensa Design unveiled Street Charge, a solar-based charging unit for mobile devices. The 25 solar-powered charging stations will be placed in parks, beaches and other outdoor areas around the five boroughs. This project began in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, where many city residents had to stand in long lines at shops and restaurants to charge their dying smartphones.
For all of Manhattan’s amenities, as AT&T spokesperson Neil Giacobbi puts it, “none of that works if you don’t have a charge on your phone after a 10-hour day at the office.”
Each Street Charge unit can accommodate up to six devices at a time, and has dedicated ports for iPhones, Androids and Blackberrys. Each unit also has three female USB ports for people who have their own cables. Street Charge is powered by Goal Zero’s powerful sun-fueled battery, which allows it to operate 24 hours a day, and charge as fast as most OEM wall chargers. Read more