Did Verizon just leak the fact that the iPhone 5 will be LTE?

In a press release sent around to reporters that cover the wireless sector today, Verizon Wireless announced a new technology called “Viewdini.”

The 4G-LTE-only service “brings the power of Verizon Wireless’ 4G LTE network to the screen by streamlining access to videos from a wide range of content providers, including cable operators, websites and other popular video sources,” the company said.

Then it said something curious: “Viewdini is available to Verizon Wireless customers with 4G LTE-enabled Android™ devices, with support for other operating systems coming soon.”

What other operating systems would that be, exactly? 

It could possibly be Windows Phone, but Verizon’s not expected to support Microsoft’s OS until the WP8/Apollo update in the fall. It could be talking about BlackBerry, but… okay, it’s not talking about BlackBerry.

So you heard it here first (okay, that’s not remotely true): The next iPhone will be LTE-capable. Cool! -David

What the carriers have to say about CarrierCompare

Here are the carriers’ responses to SwayMarkets’ CarrierCompare iPhone app data.

AT&T: “While we haven’t reviewed the data, there are always puts and takes in these types of surveys. AT&T is the only wireless provider offering a 4G experience based on deployment of HSPA+ technology and new LTE services in many markets, which gives our customers access to the nation’s largest 4G network covering more than 260 million people.”

Sprint: “Sprint values this kind of customer-centric third-party speed testing and we are not surprised to see that Sprint’s speeds are the most consistent in the industry. Sprint understands that peak speeds are fun, but consistently fast speeds mean a better overall experience. While we know speed matters to customers, we also know they value the overall experience they get from their carrier: a combination of speed, consistent network quality, customer experience and value for the price they pay, and Sprint continues to invest in all aspects of the wireless experience. 

"We recognize, too, that as more and more customers embrace all the capabilities of wireless devices, data speeds will increase in importance and Sprint is deploying a brand new network to meet that demand now and into the future. The deployment is well underway and expected to be largely complete by the end of next year. The result will be not only the addition of 4G LTE but also improved 3G service: even better coverage, call quality and data speeds. Cell sites with the new equipment are popping up across the country now and will continue to come on air over the next 24 months covering the entire CDMA footprint."

Verizon: “Our own internal studies and other, major third-party surveys agree that the Verizon Wireless 3G outperforms competitors’ networks (whether they are called 3G or 4G)  in terms of reliability, consistent speeds, coverage, responsiveness and overall customer experience. We have a long-standing commitment to providing our customers an outstanding network experience, and it shows not only in our 3G network, which was tested here, but in our 4G LTE network as well.  The Verizon Wireless 4G LTE network is the nation’s largest and most advanced 4G LTE network.” 


How SwayMarkets compared the 3G network data

Our story on the best iPhone carrier relied heavily on data generated by users of CarrierCompare, an app developed by Boston-based startup SwayMarkets. Here’s what co-founder Amos Epstein had to say about the methodology behind the statistics: 

"SwayMarkets collected & analyzed between 15,000 and 40,000 data points across each city, with care taken to ensure representative sampling over both location & time. As opposed to more conventional drive testing or sponsored surveys, all our data is crowdsourced. Our results are more indicative of customers’ actual experience with their phones."

Why Verizon needs to stop offering unlimited data


Chart: CNNMoney

Wonder why unlimited data plans are going the way of disco? Mobile Internet usage is exploding. In just 4 years, global mobile data traffic will grow by more than 11-fold to 6.2 million terabytes per month, according to Cisco.

Meanwhile, it’s costing carriers $50 billion each year to upgrade their networks in an attempt to meet customers’ demand for more mobile data.

That cost is getting passed on to you. (It’s so kind of you to pick up your wireless company’s tab!) -David

This proposed takeover puts our mobile broadband future at a crossroads. We can choose the open, competitive road best traveled, and protect American consumers, innovation and our economy, or we can choose the dead end that merely protects only AT&T and leads the rest of us back down the dirt road to Ma Bell.

That’s Vonya B. McCann, senior vice president of government affairs for Sprint, doing her best to channel Robert Frost. Sprint formally asked the FCC to deny AT&T’s plan to acquire T-Mobile.

Sprint has much to gain from that merger not going through. As I wrote on Friday, the company is currently third in what’s shaping up as a two-horse race in wireless. Some think Sprint’s public stance against the T-Mobile deal is just an attempt to win some favorable concessions. 

But Sprint is disputing that cynical claim. In a press release about its FCC filing Tuesday, Sprint said it has “concluded the proposed acquisition cannot be remedied through divestitures or conditions.” Sprint, pulling no punches, also referred to AT&T and Verizon as the “Twin Bell duopolists.”

Sort of makes me wonder if AT&T and Verizon have powers like the Wonder Twins of “Super Friends” fame! Wonder Twin Bell powers … activate! Form of … an iPhone 4! Shape of … a water bucket! And if I take this tortured analogy one step further, is T-Mobile the equivalent of Gleek, the annoying space monkey sidekick?   

Anyway, Sprint may have a tough time stopping the marriage of AT&T with the house of Dwayne Wade and the polka dot dress-favoring spokesgirl. But this should be a fun battle to watch. — Paul

Hope you enjoy my $100, Verizon


Screenshot: Verizon Wireless. (So much for guarantees.)

Apparently, Verizon is serious need of cash, because the company just screwed me out of $100.

I’ve been a happy, very loyal Verizon Wireless customer for 11 years. I haven’t had a single complaint about my service or my experience with customer support. Despite the allure of the iPhone, I stuck with Verizon, Even after a Verizon Wireless PR rep once called me “such a baby,” in one of the more horrifying experiences I’ve had as a journalist, I never considered switching. 

Until yesterday. 

My wife and I both have Motorola Droids, and though we text a lot and fill them up with apps, we don’t really use them as phones too often. We have been averaging about 350 minutes combined each month.

Then, in January, our first daughter was born. It was like the 1990s all over again, with one or both of us constantly on the phone with parents, friends and relatives.

I smartly thought to look at our Verizon account one day (heaven forbid the My Verizon app would send me automated alerts), and I noticed we were dangerously close to our 550-minute allotment on just the 10th day of our billing cycle. 

But I wasn’t worried. Verizon has a nice feature on its website: It lets you upgrade your plan for free and backdate that so it’s as if you always had a better (albeit more expensive) plan. I switched to the 700-minute plan, backdated it, and we continued our calling spree.

Of course, weeks later, I noticed we had exceeded our 700 minutes. I should have thought of it earlier, but anyone who has ever cared for a small human in the first days of their lives knows that cell phone bills don’t often top the list of concerns for new parents. No worries, I just switched to the 1,400-minute plan online. 

Except, apparently, that’s not what I did. I mistakenly chose a second option, which started a new 1,400-minute plan on that date rather than backdating it like I had when I switched to the 700-minute plan. 

When my bill came in the next month, it was for $334, about $210 more than my normal bill. I expected my bill to go up by about $50-60 that month, but $210?

I called Verizon, and after explaining my surprise, the friendly customer support agent told me that I had incurred about $150 of overage charges. He gave me a $50 credit and said I would be credited back the rest in the next month. Problem solved, or so I was led to believe.

But then my February bill came in for $120. Surprised that I didn’t appear to get credited (that’s how much I normally pay), I called Verizon again. This time, the not as friendly but patient representative explained the full scope of what happened: by “credit back the next month,” Verizon meant I’d be receiving a credit for the advance that I paid on the 1400-minute plan but not the overage charges. 

(Don’t worry if you don’t understand that part — it took me a while too. The point is that I was left with $100 in overages that I thought would be taken care of).

I explained the situation again to the representative, figuring there was some miscommunication. No dice. I asked to speak to the manager.

"See, it was a mistake," I explained. "I didn’t mean to start a new plan, I clearly meant to backdate it like I did the first time. It’s a question of clicking the wrong button. Isn’t there anything you can do to help? I’ve been a loyal customer for 11 years, and I’ve never even come close to going over my minutes allotment."

"Sir, we already gave you a courtesy credit," the icy manager said. "It’s our policy not to renegotiate once we’ve negotiated a credit. We value all of our customers, and we can’t play favorites."

"Wait, wait, I’m not asking for any favoritism. Let’s just make sure you understand what I’m saying. Had I clicked on the right button, I would have paid about $150 less than I did, right?"

"Yes, sir, that’s correct."

"But you’re saying since I already received a $50 credit, there’s nothing else you can do. Can’t you understand the human element of this? It was clearly a mistake. I didn’t even come close to using 1400 minutes that month."

Bad move, bringing the human element in to this.

"Sir, I feel like this conversation is going in circles. We’ve been loyal to you and we hope you’ll stay loyal to us. Our decision has been made, which is based on our policy. There is nothing else we can help you with today. Is there any other issue we can help you with today?"

"Wow. I guess not."

So there you go. I hope my $100 was worth it to you, Verizon. When my contract’s up, I might be looking for another place to spend my next $100. How’s that for loyalty? -David

Verizon goes the Amazon Kindle route with iPhone

Amazon is notorious for not releasing Kindle sales figures. Their press releases love to tout phrases like “Record number of Kindles sold in 3rd quarter” and “Kindle is our best selling product” and other similar sentences they would really love to be accompanied with lots of brass instrument fanfare and/or a John Williams score.

However, Amazon has never released any hard numbers for Kindle sales. And now Verizon is doing the same thing! Check out some of the phrases from their press release, issued after they ran out of iPhone preorders:

"the most successful first day sales in the history of the company."
"In just our first two hours, we had already sold more phones than any first day launch in our history"
"unprecedented customer orders through our website"

Know what the press release doesn’t mention? Any numbers. At all. Which means now we all get to watch as every analyst, pundit, and blogger weighs in with their thoughts on the magic number.  -Matt

Fuzzy math: Verizon says 1.1 million customers = ‘just a few?’

Verizon said today it would throttle speeds for the top 5% of its data hogs, so that the other 95% don’t suffer due to the “inordinate data consumption of just a few users.”

How many is “a few?” Well, there are 94 million Verizon customers. 88% of those are postpaid retail subscribers. 26% of those are smartphone subscribers. 5% of those will have their data throttled.

94,000,000*0.88 = 82,720,000

82,720,000*0.26 = 21,507,200

21,507,200*0.05 = 1,075,360

So that means each month, Verizon will throttle down speeds for 1,075,360 subscribers. You know, “just a few.” -David