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Communications

T-Mobile Promises Big LTE Boost From 5GHz Wi-Fi Frequencies (arstechnica.com) 23

"T-Mobile USA is ready to deploy a new LTE technology over the same 5GHz frequencies used by Wi-Fi following U.S. government approval of the first 'LTE-U' devices," reports Ars Technica. "The Federal Communications Commission today authorized the first LTE-U (LTE for unlicensed spectrum) devices after a controversial process designed to ensure that cellular network use of the 5GHz band won't interfere with Wi-Fi networks." From the report: LTE-U will help T-Mobile achieve its goal of offering gigabit LTE speeds, the carrier said. Verizon Wireless is also planning to use LTE-U. The company said in September that it is "eager to deploy" the technology and developed an equipment testing plan, but it's not clear when a Verizon deployment will happen. Cellular carriers in the US generally hold exclusive licenses to spectrum, while Wi-Fi operates in unlicensed frequencies. Anyone can operate in unlicensed spectrum without an FCC license as long as they use certified radio equipment and comply with power limits and other technical requirements. The plan to bring LTE to unlicensed Wi-Fi spectrum set off an industry fight. LTE-U deployment plans drew opposition in 2015 from cable companies and the Wi-Fi Alliance, an industry group that certifies equipment to make sure it doesn't interfere with other Wi-Fi equipment. Industry groups worked together to develop a "Coexistence Test Plan" to prevent interference, and the Wi-Fi Alliance said it's satisfied with the result even though the new testing is voluntary rather than required by the FCC.
Verizon

Verizon To Begin 5G User Trials in 11 Markets by Middle of Year (bloomberg.com) 33

Verizon will test faster fifth-generation (5G) mobile broadband service in 11 markets in the first half of this year as the nation's largest wireless carrier tries to take the lead in the 5G race. From a report on Bloomberg: Working with equipment partners including Ericsson and Samsung, Verizon will beam 5G signals to a test group of homes and businesses in Ann Arbor, Michigan; Atlanta; Bernardsville, New Jersey; Brockton, Massachusetts; Dallas; Denver; Houston; Miami; Sacramento, California; Seattle; and Washington, D.C., according to a statement released as part of Mobile World Congress, which starts this week in Barcelona. While 5G service isn't expected to be commercially available until 2020, Verizon and its closest rival, AT&T, are bringing the technology out of the lab and into the hands of actual users to spur development.
Verizon

Verizon Revises Its Deal With Yahoo, Reduces Price Of Acquisition By $350M (techcrunch.com) 49

Ingrid Lunden, writing for TechCrunch: After the disclosure of two massive data breaches last year, today Yahoo and Verizon finally confirmed new terms for the sale of Yahoo to Verizon: Verizon will pay $350 million less than originally planned, working out to a price of $4.48 billion to acquire Yahoo. The two have also agreed to share legal and regulatory liabilities after the massive data breach at Yahoo, which affected some 1.5 billion users across two hacks, one revealed in September 2016, and another in December 2016.
Businesses

SoftBank Is Willing To Cede Control of Sprint To Get T-Mobile Merger Done, Says Report (phonedog.com) 28

According to Reuters, SoftBank is willing to cede control of Sprint to make a T-Mobile-Sprint merger happen. The company controls 83 percent of Sprint, but it'd reportedly be willing to surrender control of Sprint and retain a minority stake in a merger with T-Mobile. PhoneDog reports: It's said that SoftBank is growing frustrated with Sprint's lack of major growth in the U.S. market, and so it wants to merge with T-Mobile in order to better compete with Verizon and ATT. No talks between SoftBank and Deutsche Telekom are currently happening because of the FCC's 600MHz spectrum auction that prevents collusion between competing companies. Once the auction ends in April, though, it's expected that SoftBank will approached Deutsche Telekom about a deal.
AT&T

AT&T Is the Latest Carrier To Offer Unlimited Data For All Its Customers (phonedog.com) 62

Earlier this week, Verizon announced it is bringing back unlimited data plans after years of selling capped data packages. Now, ATT will be doing the same. ATT will let any current or potential customer buy an unlimited data plan. Until now, only DirecTV customers were able to purchase unlimited data from the carrier. PhoneDog reports: ATT says that starting tomorrow, February 17, its Unlimited Plan will be available to all customers. The plan will include unlimited data, talk, and text, and customers with the plan will also be able to travel to Canada or Mexico and use their plan just as they would at home, with zero roaming charges. ATT's Unlimited Plan also includes Stream Saver, which will optimize video streams to 480p. However, Stream Saver can be disabled if you'd like. One feature that's missing from ATT's Unlimited Plan is mobile hotspot usage, which is notable because the unlimited plans from the other three major U.S. carriers do include some mobile hotspot. Finally, it's worth noting that after 22GB of usage, ATT Unlimited Plan customers may have their speeds slowed during times of network congestion. This policy is also in place at the other three major U.S. carriers, with Verizon's threshold being 22GB, Sprint's 23GB, and T-Mobile's 26GB. A single line on the ATT Unlimited Plan will cost $100 per month. Each additional line will cost $40, but ATT will offer the fourth line free, making the cost for a family of four $180 per month.
Verizon

Sprint's New Unlimited Plan Adds HD Streaming, Four Lines For $90 (zdnet.com) 84

Take that, Verizon! Sprint's unlimited data plan now has HD video too. From a report: On February 16, Sprint upped its unlimited plan, launching the "best unlimited HD plan ever", according to its press release. The new plan matches Verizon Wireless' new unlimited plan by offering unlimited calls, text, data, HD video streaming, and 10 GB of mobile hotspot for $22.50 per line, for four lines. That equates to $90 per month for four lines, or half of what Verizon Wireless is charging. Sprint's plan requires the account owner to enable AutoPay, ensuring the bill is paid on time each month. For those who don't need four lines, the first line will set you back $50 per month, two lines of service will bump it $90 per month.
Security

Yahoo Notifying Users of Malicious Account Activity as Verizon Deal Progresses (techcrunch.com) 17

Kate Conger, writing for TechCrunch: Yahoo is continuing to issue warnings to users about several security incidents as it moves toward an acquisition by Verizon. Users are receiving notifications today about unauthorized access to their accounts in 2015 and 2016, which occurred due to previously disclosed cookie forging. "As we have previously disclosed, our outside forensic experts have been investigating the creation of forged cookies that could have enabled an intruder to access our users' accounts without a password. The investigation has identified user accounts for which we believe forged cookies were taken or used. Yahoo is in the process of notifying all potentially affected account holders. Yahoo has invalidated the forged cookies so they cannot be used again," a Yahoo spokesperson told TechCrunch.
Network

T-Mobile Responds To Verizon By Improving Its Own Unlimited Data Plan (theverge.com) 48

It didn't take long for T-Mobile to respond to Verizon's recently announced unlimited data plans. T-Mobile's CEO John Legere announced two improvements to the carrier's T-Mobile One unlimited plan that both take effect this Friday, reports The Verge. "Beginning February 17th, the plan will include HD video, an upgrade to the 480p/DVD-quality 'optimizations' that are currently in place." From the report: The other change Legere announced is related to the hotspot feature of T-Mobile One, which lets you share your smartphone's data connection with other devices. As of Friday, the plan will let customers use up to 10GB of high-speed data each month for tethering. That matches Verizon's plan, which also allows for 10GB of LTE tethering. But again, prior to today, T-Mobile One only allowed 3G hotspot speeds unless you paid extra for the T-Mobile One Plus plan. Lastly, Legere announced a promotion that will offer two lines of T-Mobile One for $100. A two-line family plan usually costs $120 per month. Unlike other carriers, T-Mobile includes taxes and fees in its advertised price -- so that should be all you pay month to month. Verizon charges $140 (plus taxes and fees) for a two-line unlimited plan. Assuming there's no sneaky fine print or trickery here, T-Mobile has at least for now regained its feature-for-feature price advantage compared against Verizon Unlimited. The company also has a higher threshold (28GB versus Verizon's 22GB) before its users might experience reduced speeds when the network is congested. In a long series of tweets, John Legere announced the new improvements/promo and took several jabs at Big Red. In one tweet, Legere wrote: "... And we all know no one was falling for [Verizon's] 'you don't need unlimited' bullshit. Hey @verizon - your ads are still up..."
Cellphones

Shamed In Super Bowl Ads, Verizon Introduces Unlimited Data Plans (theverge.com) 172

A surprise announcement Sunday revealed that tomorrow Verizon will begin offering introductory plans with unlimited data.*

* Customers "will get full LTE speeds until they reach 22GB of usage," reports The Verge, "after which they'll be subject to reduced data speeds and de-prioritization."

An anonymous reader writes: Other carriers have similar limits. "For Sprint it's 23GB. T-Mobile has a slightly higher threshold of 26GB... AT&T matches Verizon at 22GB," reports The Verge. Verizon says their cap is "to ensure a quality experience for all customers... While we don't expect to do that very often, network management is a crucial tool that benefits all Verizon customers." The $80-a-month plan also includes hotspot tethering -- up to 10 gigabytes -- and "includes 'HD' video as opposed to the 480p/DVD-quality video that T-Mobile One customers get by default."

In a Sunday YouTube video, the head of Verizon's wireless effort says customer interviews found "Some of the heavier users of data -- the power users -- had data anxiety." But it's still a surprising move. Engadget reports that in the past Verizon "frequently tried its hardest to discourage unlimited data users," but today is "facing stiff competition from T-Mobile, which engineered a dramatic comeback in recent years and upped the ante by making unlimited data standard through the One plan."

Verizon's pricing was also targeted heavily last week in a barrage of Super Bowl ads by both Sprint and T-Mobile just last Sunday. T-Mobile showed a masochistic woman calling Verizon just to enjoying hearing about the overages, taxes and fees she incurred by exceeding her data limit, while Sprint showed a man who was trying to escape his Verizon contract by faking his own death.
Networking

College Network Attacked With Its Own Insecure IoT Devices (zdnet.com) 53

An anonymous reader writes:An attacker compromised over 5,000 IoT devices on a campus network -- including vending machines and light sensors -- and then used them to attack that same network. "In this instance, all of the DNS requests were attempting to look up seafood restaurants," reports ZDNet, though the attack was eventually blocked by cybersecurity professionals. Verizon's managing principal of investigative response blames the problem on devices configured using default credentials -- and says it's only gong to get worse. "There's going to be so many of these things used by people with very limited understanding of what they are... There's going to be endless amounts of technology out there that people are going to easily be able to get access to."
The article suggests "ensuring that IoT devices are on a completely different network to the rest of the IT estate." But it ends by warning that "until IoT manufacturers bother to properly secure their devices -- and the organizations which deploy them learn to properly manage them -- DDoS attacks by IoT botnets are going to remain a huge threat."
Network

Verizon and T-Mobile Are In a Virtual Tie For the Best Network In the US (androidcentral.com) 105

Verizon has tied T-Mobile for the fastest carrier in the United States and both carriers are virtually tied for the "best" in overall LTE download speeds, according to Open Signal's State of Mobile Networks: USA report. Android Central reports: Using data collected from 169,683 users, 4,599,231,167 data points were used to measure network speeds on both 4G and 3G, network availability and latency. The data is collected by users installing the Open Signal app from Google Play or the App Store and going about their daily routine. In their analysis of the collected data, they say that Verizon has improved their 4G network speeds to pull even with T-Mobile who has traditionally done well in this category. They also mention that the average overall network speeds in the U.S. have risen slightly, and over 81% of U.S. residents have access to LTE networks. Availability of high-speed data services shows that all four carriers have improved, but T-Mobile (86.6%) is now within two percentage points of Verizon (88.2%) when it comes to finding an LTE signal. The company with the most improvement here is Sprint, who jumped from covering 69.9% in August to 76.8% in February 2017.
Advertising

Comcast Should Stop Claiming It Has 'Fastest Internet,' Ad Board Rules (arstechnica.com) 36

The advertising industry's self-regulation body said Comcast should stop saying in advertisements that it "delivers the fastest internet in America" and the "fastest in-home Wi-Fi." The evidence Comcast uses to substantiate those claims is not sufficient, ruled the National Advertising Review Board (NARB). Ars Technica reports: Verizon had challenged Comcast's advertising claims, leading to today's ruling. Comcast said today that it disagreed with the findings but will comply with the decision. Comcast used crowdsourced speed test data from Ookla to make its claim about Xfinity Internet speeds. "Ookla's data showed only that Xfinity consumers who took advantage of the free tests offered on the Speedtest.net website subscribed to tiers of service with higher download speeds than Verizon FiOS consumers who took advantage of the tests," today's NARB announcement said. The Ookla data's accuracy wasn't questioned, but it was judged to be "not a good fit for an overall claim that an ISP delivers 'America's fastest Internet.'" The ad review board said Comcast's "America's Fastest Internet" claims gave the impression that Comcast offers "overall Internet speed superiority in all tiers of service that it provides." The Comcast ads also give the impression that Comcast "delivers the fastest download and upload speeds," whereas the Ookla data showed that the top 10 percent of Verizon FiOS customers had higher upload speeds than the top 10 percent of Comcast customers.
AT&T

FCC Rescinds Claim That AT&T, Verizon Violated Net Neutrality (arstechnica.com) 197

jriding writes: The Federal Communications Commission's new Republican leadership has rescinded a determination that ATT and Verizon Wireless violated net neutrality rules with paid data cap exemptions. The FCC also rescinded several other Wheeler-era reports and actions. The FCC released its report on the data cap exemptions (aka "zero-rating") in the final days of Democrat Tom Wheeler's chairmanship. Because new Chairman Ajit Pai opposed the investigation, the FCC has now formally closed the proceeding. The FCC's Wireless Telecommunications Bureau sent letters to ATT, Verizon, and T-Mobile USA notifying the carriers "that the Bureau has closed this inquiry. Any conclusions, preliminary or otherwise, expressed during the course of the inquiry will have no legal or other meaning or effect going forward." The FCC's Wireline Competition Bureau also sent a letter to Comcast closing an inquiry into the company's Stream TV cable service, which does not count against data caps. The FCC issued an order that "sets aside and rescinds" the Wheeler-era report on zero-rating. All "guidance, determinations, and conclusions" from that report are rescinded, and it will have no legal bearing on FCC proceedings going forward, the order said. ATT and Verizon allow their own video services (DirecTV and Go90, respectively) to stream on their mobile networks without counting against customers' data caps, while charging other video providers for the same data cap exemptions. The FCC under Wheeler determined that ATT and Verizon unreasonably interfered with online video providers' ability to compete against the carriers' video services.
AT&T

Even Sprint Beat AT&T and Verizon in Customer Growth (cnet.com) 78

Customers are turning to Sprint again. From a report on CNET: In fact, they're starting to look to the nation's fourth-largest wireless carrier over stalwarts like AT&T and Verizon Wireless. The company said it added 405,000 net new post-paid subscribers -- people who pay at the end of the month and tend to be more loyal. Of that total, 368,000 were phone customers, Sprint's highest rate of growth in four years. The numbers suggest Sprint is starting to pull itself out of a death spiral, reversing years of losses, customers faced with poor service and a network that lagged behind the competition. Sprint's customer growth came at a time when all the carriers were aggressive with holiday promotions. It's a trend that will likely continue, resulting in more potential deals for consumers. "Sprint is turning the corner," CEO Marcelo Claure said in the company's fiscal third-quarter report on Tuesday.
United States

Yahoo Sale To Verizon Delayed After Hack Disclosures (securityweek.com) 12

wiredmikey quotes a report from SecurityWeek: Yahoo said Monday that the closing of a $4.8 billion deal to sell its core internet assets to U.S. telecom titan Verizon has been delayed several months. A close originally set for this quarter has been pushed into next quarter, and has been thrown into doubt following disclosures of two huge data breaches. Yahoo announced in September that hackers in 2014 stole personal data from more than 500 million of its user accounts. It admitted another cyberattack in December, this one dating from 2013, affecting over a billion users. The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission has opened an investigation into whether Yahoo should have informed investors sooner about the two major data breaches.
Government

Yahoo Faces SEC Probe Over Data Breaches (wsj.com) 21

New submitter Linorgese quotes a report from The Wall Street Journal (Warning: paywalled; alternate source): U.S. authorities are investigating whether Yahoo Inc.'s two massive data breaches should have been reported sooner to investors, according to people familiar with the matter, in what could prove to be a major test in defining when a company is required to disclose a hack. Last month, the Federal Bureau of Investigation said it had begun an investigation into a 2013 data breach that involved more than 1 billion users' accounts. That followed Yahoo's disclosure that a 2014 intrusion involved about 500 million accounts. As part of its investigation, the SEC last month requested documents from Yahoo, the Journal said, citing persons familiar with the situation. The agency has been seeking a model case for cybersecurity rules it issued in 2011, legal experts told the Journal. In a November 2016 SEC filing, Yahoo noted that it was cooperating with the SEC, Federal Trade Commission and other federal, state, and foreign governmental officials and agencies including "a number of State Attorneys General, and the U.S. Attorney's office for the Southern District of New York." When Yahoo reported the 2014 breach it said that evidence linked it to a state-sponsored attacker. It has not announced a suspected responsibility for the larger 2013 intrusion, but the company has said it does not believe the two breaches are linked.
Android

Thousands of Note 7 Phones Still in Use On Verizon, All Non-911 Calls To Be Rerouted To Customer Service (cnet.com) 139

Thousands of Verizon customers continue to use the Galaxy Note 7 smartphone, the carrier said. This despite the widely publicized recalls spurred by battery fire concerns and a software upgrade designed to kill the phone by preventing it from recharging. From a report: "In spite of our best efforts, there are still customers using the recalled phones who have not returned or exchanged their Note 7 to the point of purchase," a Verizon spokeswoman said. "The recalled Note 7s pose a safety risk to our customers and those around them." So now Verizon is fighting fire with fire, so to speak. The carrier plans to reroute all non-911 outgoing calls to its customer service line, and it might bill the holdouts for the full retail cost of the phone.
Businesses

Verizon Looking To Buy Comcast or Charter, Says Report (nypost.com) 82

"Two well-placed sources" told The New York Post that Verizon is considering purchasing a big cable company to help it grow demand for its wireless data products. The source said the most likely targets would be "Charter or Comcast." New York Post reports: Verizon Chief Executive Lowell McAdam may be getting ready to answer rival ATT's moves to buy DirecTV and Time Warner. To be sure, Verizon is not in talks with any cable company and may not ever make such a move. Still, McAdam has been under pressure recently with Verizon's deal to acquire Yahoo still a question mark months after two major hacks of the internet portal were revealed. The wireless giants operate on 4G wireless networks but are preparing to become a real alternative to the cable company with phone, TV and data services. To do that more effectively, the phone companies are pouring money into 5G connections that can work with cable systems to provide more stable coverage for consumers. McAdam has already given Wall Street analysts and investors big hints that he's looking at a combination with, say, a Charter Communications. In a mid-December meeting with Wall Street analysts, McAdam said a get-together between the two "makes industrial sense." Three weeks later, at CES, his comments to friends make it clear that cable distribution is a path he is exploring, perhaps more seriously than first thought. "For regulatory reasons, Verizon can't dominate in FiOS and cable, so it appears to have to set its sights on cable," an industry source said. Charter could be a seller under the right conditions, the source added, emphasizing that Malone and Charter CEO Tom Rutledge are just getting going on their vision for Charter.
AT&T

New FCC Report Says AT&T and Verizon Zero-Rating Violates Net Neutrality (theverge.com) 74

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: Just a week and a half before he is set to leave office, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler has issued a new report stating that the zero-rated video services offered by ATT and Verizon may violate the FCC's Open Internet Order. Assembled by the FCC's Wireless Telecommunications Bureau, the report focuses on sponsored data programs, which allow companies to pay carriers to exempt exempt their data from customers' data caps. According to the report, many of those packages simply aren't playing fair. "While observing that ATT provided incomplete responses to staff inquires," Wheeler wrote to Senators, "the report states that the limited information available supports a conclusion that ATT offers Sponsored Data to third-party content providers at terms and conditions that are effectively less favorable than those it offers to its affiliate, DirecTV." In theory, sponsored data should be an even playing field, with providers bearing the costs and making the same charges regardless of who's footing the bill. But according to the report, ATT treats the DirectTV partnership very differently from an unaffiliated sponsored data system, giving the service a strong advantage over competitors. "ATT appears to view the network cost of Sponsored Data for DIRECTV Now as effectively de minimis," the report concludes. While ATT still bears some cost for all that free traffic, it's small enough that the carrier doesn't seem to care. The report raises similar concerns regarding Verizon's Go90 program, although it concludes Verizon's program may be less damaging. Notably, the letter does not raise the same concerns about T-Mobile's BingeOn video deal, since it "charges all edge providers the same zero rate for participating."
Businesses

The End of Yahoo: Marissa Mayer To Resign; Yahoo To Change Its Name To Altaba (arstechnica.com) 401

maxcelcat writes: Spotted on The Register's twitter feed: Yahoo! Submission to The SEC. Most of the board is leaving, including CEO Marissa Mayer. The company has been bought by Verizon and is changing its name to Altaba Inc. I'm old enough to remember when Yahoo was a series of directories on a University's computers, where you could browse a hierarchical list of websites by category. And here I am watching the company's demise. According to the regulatory filing, the changes will take place after the sale of its core business is completed with Verizon for roughly $4.8 billion. The Wall Street Journal notes: "Verizon officials have indicated all options remain possible, including renegotiating the terms of the deal or walking away."

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