AT&T

AT&T, Verizon Under US Investigation For Collusion To Lock In Customers (nytimes.com) 13

bongey writes: AT&T and Verizon are currently under investigation for colluding with the GSMA standards group to thwart eSIM technology and hinder consumers from easily switching wireless carriers. eSIM technology lets people remotely switch wireless providers without having to insert a new SIM card into a device. According to The New York Times, the two companies "face accusations that they colluded with the GSMA to try to establish standards that would allow them to lock a device to their network even if it had eSIM technology." The Justice Department opened the investigation roughly five months ago after at least one device maker and one wireless carrier filed formal complaints.
Wireless Networking

Planet Fitness Evacuated After WiFi Network Named 'Remote Detonator' Causes Scare (windsorstar.com) 168

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Windsor Star: A Michigan gym patron looking for a Wi-Fi connection found one named "remote detonator," prompting an evacuation and precautionary search of the facility by a bomb-sniffing dog. The Saginaw News reports nothing was found in the search Sunday at Planet Fitness in Saginaw Township, about 85 miles (140 kilometers) northwest of Detroit. Saginaw Township police Chief Donald Pussehl says the patron brought the Wi-Fi connection's name to the attention of a manager, who evacuated the building and called police. The gym was closed for about three hours as police responded. Pussehl says there's "no crime or threat," so no charges are expected. He notes people often have odd names for WiFi connections. Planet Fitness says the manager was following company procedure for when there's suspicion about a safety issue.
Google

Google Is in Talks to Buy Nokia's Airborne Broadband System: Bloomberg (bloomberg.com) 12

Google is in advanced talks to buy Nokia's airborne broadband system, Bloomberg reported on Tuesday. Google would use Nokia's system, the report claimed, to tap into new services and reach more users by offering in-flight high-speed internet. From the report: Nokia's technology could help Google offer a faster alternative to existing Wi-Fi on airplanes, said the people. Talks are advanced and an agreement may be reached soon, the people said. A final decision hasn't been made and the companies could still decide against a deal, the people said. Nokia's LTE A2G cellular-based system creates a direct link between an aircraft and the ground instead of bouncing the signal off of a satellite, enabling in-cabin high-speed internet services using Wi-Fi, according to its website.
The Almighty Buck

Russia Debuts Postal Drone, Which Immediately Crashes Into Wall (futurism.com) 107

On Monday, Russia's postal service tested a delivery drone in the city of Ulan-Ude, Siberia, -- and it went horribly wrong. According to Futurism, soon after launch it crashed violently into the wall of a nearby building, "turning the UAV into a mess of jumbled parts." From the report: Here was the original plan for Monday's test. The $20,000 drone was supposed to pick up a small package and deliver it to a nearby village, Reuters reports. Instead the device failed spectacularly, only making it a short distance before crashing into a three-story building. The small crowd gathered to watch the test can be heard uttering expletives, according to Reuters. No one was injured in the crash, and it didn't do any damage, except to Russia's pride. The organizers aren't quite sure what went wrong, but they suspect the 100 or so nearby wifi spots could have had something to do with it.
United States

US Suspects Listening Devices in Washington (apnews.com) 137

For the first time, the U.S. government has publicly acknowledged the existence in Washington of what appear to be rogue devices that foreign spies and criminal could be using to track individual cellphones and intercept calls and messages. From a report: The use of what are known as cellphone-site simulators by foreign powers has long been a concern, but American intelligence and law enforcement agencies -- which use such eavesdropping equipment themselves -- have been silent on the issue until now. In a March 26 letter to Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden, the Department of Homeland Security acknowledged that last year it identified suspected unauthorized cell-site simulators in the nation's capital. The agency said it had not determined the type of devices in use or who might have been operating them. Nor did it say how many it detected or where.

The agency's response, obtained by The Associated Press from Wyden's office, suggests little has been done about such equipment, known popularly as Stingrays after a brand common among U.S. police departments. The Federal Communications Commission, which regulates the nation's airwaves, formed a task force on the subject four years ago, but it never produced a report and no longer meets regularly. The devices work by tricking mobile devices into locking onto them instead of legitimate cell towers, revealing the exact location of a particular cellphone. More sophisticated versions can eavesdrop on calls by forcing phones to step down to older, unencrypted 2G wireless technology. Some attempt to plant malware.

AT&T

Verizon Has Been the Fastest US Mobile Carrier in Last Six Months: Wirefly (wirefly.com) 33

Verizon was the fastest mobile carrier in the United States during Q4 2017 and Q1 2018, according to 2018 Internet Speed Rankings Report published by Wirefly. According to the report, Verizon Wireless offered its subscribers 19.92 Mbps "overall" Internet speed, followed by AT&T at 18.26 Mbps, T-Mobile at 17.29 Mbps, and Sprint finishing at last with 14.77 Mbps. (The report defines overall speed capability as a summation of download speed with a 90% weight, and upload speed with a 10% weight.) T-Mobile was ranked as the fastest Internet service provider by Wirefly in Q1 and Q2 2017.

Verizon was also the carrier with fastest average download and upload speeds during the aforementioned period. It offered 20.44 Mbps (down) and 15.26 Mbps (up), compared to AT&T, which offered an average of 19.11 Mbps download speed and 10.53 Mbps as its average upload speeds. You can read the full report here. The results were collected from the results of users using the Wirefly Internet Speed Test.
The Internet

Ajit Pai Faces Heat Over Proposal To Take Away Poor People's Broadband Plans (arstechnica.com) 196

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Democratic senators yesterday asked Ajit Pai to abandon a proposal that the senators say would take subsidized broadband plans away from "millions of Americans." The Federal Communications Commission chairman's plan for the Lifeline subsidy program would force most users of the program to find new providers. But such users could have trouble finding replacement plans or similar prices because Pai's proposal would prevent all telecom resellers from offering Lifeline-subsidized service. "Your proposal impacts over 70 percent of current Lifeline-recipient households by eliminating their wireless providers from the program, leaving less affordable and fewer Lifeline options, while making it more difficult for the companies trying to serve Lifeline customers," Senate Democrats wrote in the letter to Pai yesterday. "Instead of cutting the program, we should ensure Lifeline reaches more Americans in need of access to communication services." The letter was written by Sens. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Edward Markey (D-Mass.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), and Cory Booker (D-NJ).
Space

FCC Authorizes SpaceX's Ambitious Satellite Internet Plans 102

The Federal Communications Commission on Thursday approved an application by Elon Musk's SpaceX, allowing the aerospace company to provide broadband services using satellites in the U.S. and worldwide. "With this action, the Commission takes another step to increase high-speed broadband availability and competition in the United States," the FCC said in a statement. CNBC reports: This marks the first time the FCC has allowed a U.S.-licensed satellite constellation to provide broadband services through low-Earth orbit satellites. "We appreciate the FCC's thorough review and approval of SpaceX's constellation license. Although we still have much to do with this complex undertaking, this is an important step toward SpaceX building a next-generation satellite network that can link the globe with reliable and affordable broadband service, especially reaching those who are not yet connected," Gwynne Shotwell, President and Chief Operating Officer at SpaceX said in a statement.

SpaceX will begin launching the constellation it dubbed "Starlink" in 2019. The system will be operational once at least 800 satellites are deployed. Starlink will offer broadband speeds comparable to fiber optic networks.The satellites would offer new direct to consumer wireless connections, rather the present system's redistribution of signals, transforming a traditionally high-cost, low reliability service.
Wireless Networking

Raspberry Pi 3 Model B+ Benchmarks Show Significantly Improved Performance (phoronix.com) 85

fstack writes: Pi Day was marked this year by the launch of the Raspberry Pi 3 Model B+ as the next evolution to this $35 ARM single-board computer. Phoronix has now put out Raspberry Pi 3 B+ benchmarks showing that the Ethernet performance is indeed much faster now but still doesn't stack up to other high performance boards, the SoC temperature is noticeably lower than the very warm Raspberry Pi 3, and the overall performance is a nice upgrade while retaining the same price point as its predecessors. Follow up tests looking at the Wi-Fi performance also show the new 802.11ac dual-band wireless to be much faster as well.
Biotech

Researchers Test Tooth-Mounted Sensor-Enabled Chips (go.com) 28

Researchers at Tufts University are testing tooth-mounted RFID chips which sense and transmit data on what goes in your mouth. ABC News reports: The sensors looks like custom microchips stuck to the tooth. They are flexible, tiny squares -- ranging from 4 mm by 4 mm to an even smaller size of about 2 mm by 2 mm -- that are applied directly to human teeth. Each one has three active layers made of titanium and gold, with a middle layer of either silk fibers or water-based gels. In small-scale studies, four human volunteers wore sensors, which had silk as the middle "detector" layer, on their teeth and swished liquids around in their mouths to see if the sensors would function. The researchers were testing for sugar and for alcohol.

The tiny squares successfully sent wireless signals to tablets and cell phone devices. In one of their first experiments, the chip could tell the difference between solutions of purified water, artificial saliva, 50 percent alcohol and wood alcohol. It would then wirelessly signal to a nearby receiver via radiofrequency, similar to how EZ Passes work. They demonstrated that different concentrations of glucose, a type of sugar, could be distinguished, even in liquids that had sugar concentrations like those found in fruit drinks.

The Internet

FCC's New 5G Rules Favor Fast Setup Over Federal Reviews (cnet.com) 53

In a 3-2, party-line vote Thursday, FCC commissioners passed a measure that exempts small cell radio deployments from federal environmental and historical preservation reviews originally meant for large cell phone towers. The vote didn't affect reviews from towns and cities, but the agency may consider exemptions for those reviews later this year. CNET reports: Republican FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr has been leading the agency's charge in promoting 5G. He said the exemptions are sorely needed because reviews have been costing wireless operators too much and have slowed deployments. In 2017, these federal reviews cost providers $36 million. He anticipates that as 5G deployments increase in the coming year they could cost providers as much as $241 million. Meanwhile, he said FCC records show that less than 1 percent of cases reviewed resulted in any changes to planned deployments.

"The disproportionate fees are the product of a broken and outdated system," Carr said. "This threatens to hold us back in the race to 5G or limit the business case to densely populated or affluent areas." He added that with Thursday's rule change, the FCC "can flip the business case for thousands of communities." Democratic Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, however, said that though the current reviews process does involve red tape, Thursday's change "misses the mark" and also runs afoul of key environmental and historic preservation values.

Communications

About a Quarter of US Adults Say They Are 'Almost Constantly' Online (pewresearch.org) 56

As smartphones and other mobile devices have become more widespread, 26 percent of American adults now report that they go online "almost constantly," up from 21 percent in 2015, according to a Pew Research Center survey conducted in January 2018. From the study: Overall, 77 percent of Americans go online on a daily basis. That figure includes the 26 percent who go online almost constantly, as well as 43 percent who say they go online several times a day and 8 percent who go online about once a day. Some 11 percent go online several times a week or less often, while 11 percent of adults say they do not use the internet at all.
The Courts

Entire Broadband Industry Will Help FCC Defend Net Neutrality Repeal (arstechnica.com) 88

The biggest lobby groups representing broadband providers will help the FCC defend the repeal of net neutrality rules in court. Ars Technica reports: Yesterday, three trade groups that collectively represent every major home Internet and mobile broadband provider in the U.S. filed motions to intervene in the case on behalf of the FCC. The motions for leave to intervene were filed by NCTA--The Internet & Television Association, CTIA--The Wireless Association, and USTelecom--The Broadband Association. NCTA represents cable companies such as Comcast, Charter, Cox, and Altice. CTIA represents the biggest mobile carriers, such as AT&T, Verizon Wireless, T-Mobile, and Sprint. USTelecom represents wireline telcos with copper and fiber networks, such as AT&T and Verizon. All three groups also represent a range of smaller ISPs.

As intervenors in the case, the groups will file briefs in support of the net neutrality repeal order and may play a role in oral arguments. NCTA's motion noted that its members would once again be subject to "common-carriage regulation under Title II of the Communications Act" if the FCC were to lose the case. CTIA said that its members "would be adversely affected if the [net neutrality] Order were set aside and the prior Title II Order classification and rules were reinstated."

Wireless Networking

Ask Slashdot: Are There Any USB-C Wireless Video Solutions? 127

jez9999 writes: Sometimes it feels like we're on the cusp of a technology but not quite there yet, and that's the way it feels for me after searching around for USB-C wireless video solutions. There are several wireless video solutions that use HDMI on the receiver end, of course, but these aren't ideal because HDMI can't provide power. This means you need a separate receiver box and power cable going into the box, but cables are what you're trying to get away from with wireless video!

So the answer to this would seem to be USB-C. It supports HDMI video as well as power, so in theory you could create a receiver dongle that just plugged into a TV (or monitor with speakers) and required no external power cable. Unfortunately, I haven't been able to find anything like this on the market.

There is Airtame, but that doesn't work with a 'dumb' TV -- it needs to plug in to a computer that you can install software on to stream the video. What I'd like is to be able to wall-mount a new TV and just plug in a wireless dongle to stream the video with no extra setup required on the receiver end.

Does anyone know of a solution like this that exists right now, or one that's being developed?
Communications

Verizon Will Fix Broadband Networks, Landlines To Resolve Investigation (vice.com) 74

Joel Hruska reports via ExtremeTech: Verizon has reached an agreement with the Communications Workers of America and the New York State Public Service Commission to begin repairing infrastructure and restoring service across New York State. The agreement requires Verizon to extend broadband service to tens of thousands of New York State households and to begin repairing facilities it has previously neglected. As in Pennsylvania, Verizon has been neglecting its fixed wired infrastructure in its bid to first sabotage copper service, then force customers to adopt alternative solutions. It's also been mired in an ongoing lawsuit with the state of New York over its breach of a 2008 contract requiring it to provide fiber service within New York City.

This new agreement appears to settle these issues, provided it's followed. Under its terms, Verizon will extend fiber to 10,000 to 12,000 households not currently served by it in Long Island and Verizon's "Upstate Reporting Region" (these are Verizon-specific regions, not geographical areas, so "Long Island" may mean more than just the island). It will begin immediately replacing copper lines in certain specific NYC buildings with high failure rates and transitioning them to fiber optic cable, repairing operations within 50 upstate wireless centers with high failure rates, allow plant technicians to report plant failures and maintenance needs more accurately, and begin inspecting and replacing the batteries that provide critical connectivity in the event of a power outage when said batteries are deployed for specific customers (hospitals, police stations, and other emergency facilities). It will also begin removing so-called "double poles." A double pole is when an old telephone pole is stapled (metaphorically speaking) to a newer one. Some examples of a double pole from PA are shown below; Verizon has been hauled into court to force it to do its job in more than one state.

Government

Lawmakers Continue Fighting For Net Neutrality in the US Senate, Courts, and States (cnet.com) 57

Here's the latest developments in the ongoing fight over net neutrality rules:
  • CNET reports that Democrats in the Senate "have been pushing to use the Congressional Review Act to roll back the FCC's repeal of net neutrality rules. They've gotten the support of 50 senators for the measure, including one Republican, Susan Collins of Maine. Sen. John Kennedy from Louisiana , who's been undecided in his support of the CRA bill, was being courted by Democrats as the tie-breaking vote to pass the measure in the Senate...

    "On Wednesday, Kennedy introduced a piece of legislation that would ban companies like AT&T and Comcast from slowing down or blocking access to websites or internet services. But the bill wouldn't prevent these broadband and wireless companies from offering paid prioritization, which many critics fear could lead to so-called internet 'fast lanes.'"
  • The Associated Press reports that on Monday, Washington became the first state to set up its own net-neutrality requirements. But they add that governors in five states -- Hawaii, New Jersey, New York, Montana and Vermont -- "have signed executive orders related to net-neutrality issues, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Montana's order, for instance, bars telecommunications companies from receiving state contracts if they interfere with internet traffic or favor higher-paying sites or apps."

The Internet

Google Fiber Is a Faint Echo of the Disruption We Were Promised (vice.com) 173

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Motherboard: Some eight years on and Google Fiber's ambitions are just a pale echo of the disruptive potential originally proclaimed by the company. While Google Fiber did make some impressive early headway in cities like Austin, the company ran into numerous deployment headaches. Fearing competition, incumbent ISPs like AT&T and Comcast began a concerted effort to block the company's access to essential utility poles, even going so far as to file lawsuits against cities like Nashville that tried to expedite the process. Even in launched markets, customer uptake wasn't quite what executives were expecting. Estimates peg Google Fiber TV subscribers at fewer than 100,000, thanks in large part to the cord cutting mindset embraced by early adopters. Broadband subscriber tallies (estimated as at least 500,000) were notably better, but still off from early company projections. Even without anti-competitive roadblocks, progress was slow. Digging up city streets and burying fiber was already a time-consuming and expensive process. And while Google has tried to accelerate these deployments via something called "microtrenching" (machines that bury fiber an inch below roadways), broadband deployment remains a rough business. It's a business made all the rougher by state and local regulators and lawmakers who've been in the pockets of entrenched providers like Comcast for the better part of a generation.
Transportation

Airbus, Delta, and Sprint Are on a Quest for In-Flight Wi-fi That Actually Works (fortune.com) 48

It's 2018, so why is it still seemingly impossible to get a decent wi-fi on an airplane? From a report: Well, a lot of reasons, it turns out. The Wall Street Journal recently enumerated them: hardware, software, government regulation, aviation regulation, and rivalries between wireless and satellite companies. Despite the obstacles, a new alliance between Airbus, Delta Air Lines, Sprint, and two U.S. satellite companies is trying to find a way to provide faster Internet and a better user experience. Japan's SoftBank, which owns 80% of Sprint, and India's Bharti Airtel are also reportedly supporting the project. The group, which calls itself Seamless Air Alliance, envisions a world where a variety of devices could easily connect to the Internet while in flight at industry-leading speeds, rivaling cable and 5G. The businesses that are either involved in or backing the alliance pack a punch: they already serve about 150 million airline passengers and 450 million mobile users around the globe.
Communications

FCC Will Auction 5G-ready 3.7-4.2GHz and mmWave Spectrum (venturebeat.com) 64

Jeremy Horwitz, writing for VentureBeat: Speaking at the Mobile World Congress today in Barcelona, Spain, U.S. FCC chairman Ajit Pai today announced that the commission is prepared to quickly make 5G-ready wireless spectrum available in two critically important ranges: Mid-frequency, including both 3.5GHz and 3.7-4.2GHz ranges, and high-frequency, including 24GHz and 28GHz millimeter wave (mmWave) ranges. Pai suggested that the FCC is ready to auction the spectrum in the near future, but requires Congressional cooperation by May 13 to make the 24GHz and 28GHz allocations happen.
Android

Samsung Announces the Galaxy S9 With a Dual Aperture Camera, AR Emojis (arstechnica.com) 137

Samsung has taken the wraps off of its latest flagship, the Galaxy S9, at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain. The S9 features a familiar body with an upgraded camera, relocated fingerprint scanner, and newer processor. As usual, there are two versions: the Galaxy S9 and Galaxy S9+. Ars Technica reports: The S9 is one of the first phones announced with the new 2.8Ghz Snapdragon 845 SoC in the US, while the international version will most likely get an Exynos 9810. Qualcomm is promising a 25-percent faster CPU and 30-percent faster graphics compared to the Snapdragon 835. The rest of the base S9 specs look a lot like last year, with 4GB of RAM, 64GB of storage, a 3000mah battery, and a 5.8-inch 2960x1440 OLED display. The S9+ gets the usual bigger screen (6.2 inches @ 2960x1440) and bigger battery (3500mAh), but one improvement over last year is a RAM bump to 6GB. Neither RAM option is really outstanding for a phone this expensive, considering the much cheaper OnePlus 5T will give you 6GB and 8GB options for RAM at a much lower price. Both S9 models have headphone jacks, MicroSD slots, a new stereo speaker setup (one bottom firing, one doubles as the earpiece), IP68 dust and water resistance, wireless charging, and ship with Android 8.0 Oreo.

Both the Galaxy S9 versions are getting a main camera with two aperture settings. Just like a real camera, the Galaxy S9 has a set of (very tiny) aperture blades that can move to change the amount of incoming light. On the S9 they're limited to two different positions, resulting in f/1.5 and f/2.4 apertures. In low light the aperture can open up to f/1.5 to collect as much light as possible, while in normal or bright light it can switch to f/2.4 for a wider depth of field. Samsung is also answering Apple's Animojis with "AR Emoji." They work just like Apple's Animoji: using the front sensors to perform a primitive version of motion capture, the phone syncs up a character's facial expressions to your facial expressions.
The Galaxy S9 clocks in at $719.99 and the S9+ is going for $839.99. In the U.S., preorders start March 2 at all four major carriers, and the phones ship out on March 16.

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