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April 22, 2014
Earlier today, AT&T has announced a new plan that could see Gigabit high-speed fiber Internet networks rolled out in as many as
one-hundred U.S. cities, in 21 metro regions.
It's a move that places the wireless carrier in a head-to-head battle with Google, which has begun its own charge to dramatically
increase internet speeds in various cities throughout the United States.
The network, called 'AT&T U-Verse with GigaPower' is capable in delivering Gigabit broadband speeds. That's roughly 100 times
faster than current speeds in many parts of the U.S.
The company plans to enter discussions with local leaders in areas it has already identified as having suitable existing networks
and likely a high demand for the faster service.
"This initiative continues AT&T's ongoing commitment to economic development in these communities, bringing jobs, advanced technologies and
infrastructure," the company said in a news release.
The metropolitan areas being considered are-- Atlanta; Augusta, Georgia; Charlotte, North Carolina; Chicago; Cleveland; Fort Worth, Texas;
Fort Lauderdale, Florida; Greensboro, North Carolina; Houston; Jacksonville, Florida; Kansas City, Kansas; Los Angeles; Miami; Nashville;
Oakland, California; Orlando, Florida; San Antonio, Texas; San Diego; St. Louis; San Francisco and San Jose.
AT&T had already announced plans to install the high-speed network in Austin and Dallas and says it is in "advanced discussions" with
Raleigh-Durham and Winston-Salem, North Carolina.
However, it's worth underlining that none of this is a guarantee yet. More likely, it's AT&T publicly pointing out locations it thinks
are good candidates for network upgrades, but there could be some changes in the planning, and none of this has been confirmed yet.
Meanwhile, Google first launched Google Fiber in 2012. That service also promises speeds of 1 gigabit per second, which the company
says could allow someone at full capacity to download an entire feature-length movie in about 38 seconds.
Google has already brought the service to Kansas City, Kansas; and Provo, Utah and plans to roll it out as well in Austin, Texas, by the
end of 2014.
Google connects fiberoptic cables directly to a home or office in order to give users broadband Internet and television service.
In Kansas City and Provo, Google's ultra-fast Internet service costs $70 a month for Internet, or $120 if you add streaming video.
In February, Google said it is currently exploring plans to lay down the special cables in nine additional metro areas-- Atlanta, Charlotte,
Nashville, Phoenix, Portland, Raleigh-Durham, Salt Lake City, San Antonio and San Jose.
That includes 34 cities in those regions. We'll keep you posted on these and other stories as they happen.
In other mobile news
If you're not sure what a so-called 'NFC Ring' is supposed to do, you're probably not alone.
An NFC (Near Field Communication) Ring is actually a small piece of jewellery with two NFC tags embedded in it that pass information to nearby phones, tablets and other electronic
devices using low power radio waves.
However, given the fact that NFC has been a bit of a flop so far, this may seem a little pointless, but we will tell you what
it can do just the same.
But as a ring, it may start to make a bit of sense. For starters, it turns the model around. Rather than expecting you to use
your phone to pay-by-tap, it uses the ring to control the phone.
But most importantly, it can replace the lock code or swipe pattern by just holding the phone while wearing the ring. Tap the ring
against the phone and you're in-- the code to unlock the device is sent wirelessly from the ring.
The NFC Ring is the brainchild of John McLear, a British citizen. Initially described by some as a 3D device, the first prototypes
turned out to be made of plastic and didn't work too well.
In theory, an NFC ring can replace a contact-less payment card, but these things are never quite that straightforward. McLear
wants to support payments, but that will need expertise in global payment-card standard Europay-MasterCard-Visa (EMV).
In Britain, it canít be used as an 'Oyster Card' as thatís proprietary MiFare technology, although the London Underground is
also moving to EMV which is why Tube-dwelling Londoners are getting constant warnings to keep their payment cards and Oyster cards
Other similar applications include NFC door locks. There are a few around, principally targeted at the hotel market, but Yale
has shown off a domestic version. With two chips in the ring, one can be used for public functions, such as handing over a Bitcoin
wallet address, while the other can be private.
The two chips are denoted by white and black areas on the ring. McLear is applying the Etherpad open-source ethos to NFC Ring,
opening up the technology for third-party developers.
So for the moment, itís just a pair of NXP NTAG 203 chips, especially made for the NFC Ring and tuned to the titanium they are
using for the band. A special polymer coating protects the silicon.
Remember, this has to survive a much harsher environment than is usual for electronics. You donít shower with a phone or use it
to do the washing up. Future models will cater for gold, platinum and then silver rings.
McLear adds that he's discovered that phone hardware varies a lot from one device to the other, and he's the first person weíve met
who doesnít like the metal back on the HTC One M8-- ďThe only place where the NFC works is by the camera lensĒ.
And then of course, the software is also a big issue. Clearly there is no iPhone option. Itís rumored for the iPhone 6 but then
it was for every past generation as well...
McLear's NFC Ring supports Android and Windows Phone. Overall, Android works better because you can use it to unlock the phone,
whereas Windows' proximity API doesnít allow access when the phone is locked.
The best utilization for an NFC Ring, as a Windows Phone user, is to link to a web page. For an Android user itís an elegant solution
and has certainly captured the imagination of some people.
The successfully completed Kickstarter project sold 10,000 rings and they have sold 5,000 more since, partly thanks to backing from
There are major investments in the production and quality control of NFC Rings, with the initial manufacturing in China. McLear
is keen to find British companies with the technology, particularly for the polymer coating.
The current ring is just passive but future plans include active devices with inductive charging. This is much more ambitious as
a ring needs to last much longer than the technology we are used to.
Jewellery is a very different market to technology. Itís attractive because the margins are so much higher but brings other
issues- ďAbout 10 percent of people get their size wrong when they orderĒ said McLear, but with experience, and as with anything, heís getting on top of
In other mobile news
Nokia said earlier today that it expects to close the sale of its devices and services business to Microsoft on Friday, April
25. Nokia added that the deal is now subject only to certain customary closing conditions.
Initially, the sale was expected to close by the end of March, but Microsoft said last month that the deadline would be delayed
as the deal was still being reviewed by certain antitrust authorities in Asia.
Announced last September, the transaction will also give Microsoft custody of certain Nokia patents as well.
Once the deal is completed, Microsoft plans to rename Nokia's mobile business from Nokia Oyj to Microsoft Mobile, according to
a letter sent to suppliers.
The new subsidiary will also function as Microsoft's mobile devices and services division, the letter added.
In other mobile news
T-Mobile USA is once again looking to seize headlines in the wireless carrier segment by going forward with a campaign to end
data, text and voice overage fees.
T-Mobile said that as of May 1st it will no longer charge users an additional fee when the data limit on a device has been reached.
Similarly, the company has eliminated overage charges for users who are still on voice and text plans that carry fixed limits
on messages or minutes.
In announcing the new plan, T-Mob CEO John Legere also challenged the company's rivals to follow suit and eliminate data overage
penalties for all their wireless customers.
Legere has even started an online petition for customers of other carriers to request the end of overage charges. "The old carriers'
entry-level plans lure you in with a low monthly cost for a fixed amount of domestic minutes, texts or data. Once you go over those
limits Ė even by a little Ė you're hit with bill shock," Legere wrote.
"On behalf of all U.S. wireless consumers, we're putting an end to the fear of getting one too many pics or clicking on one too
many links Ė and bam. You're hit with overages," he added.
Legere then took to Twitter to further his campaign and sent a few shots across the bow of his company's rivals.
The move is the third and final installment of a series of customer initiatives T-Mobile US is rolling out in the latest phase of
its Uncarrier campaign.
Last week, the company on successive days rolled out a plan to offer a $40 entry-level monthly service plan and a post-paid
mobile data plan that included discounts of up to $130 on the company's tablet offerings.
The Uncarrier campaign has seen T-Mobile USA roll out a series of customer-friendly initiatives in the past year. While the wireless carrier has
taken a short-term cash hit, T-Mobile is also reporting a subscriber increase which the company hopes will bring a long-term financial
In other mobile news
The rumors have been flying for a while already, and Amazon's soon-to-be-expected smartphone will have to come with all the latest bells
and whistles, along with maybe a feature or two that rivals don't offer.
However, as with most Amazon products, its selling price will ultimately determine if Jeff Bezos' latest idea will be successful or not.
If Amazon wants to make a real difference in the smartphone market, it should double-down on what it's done so well in the past-- offering
a product that undercuts competitors.
The only way to really get attention in a world dominated by Apple's iPhone and Samsung's Galaxy S devices is to go full steam ahead
with a budget-minded device aimed at the average consumer.
That's because most people won't see an Amazon-branded smartphone as a high-end competitor, said Carolina Milanesi, a wireless industry
Working closely with wireless carriers that often subsidize the price of smartphones when subscribers sign up for a two-year contract
is just one of the obstacles for smartphone makers. And we all know that AT&T and Verizon are really good at that.
Let's face it-- the smartphone business is an extremely competitive market that even successful technology giants such as Amazon
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