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October 14, 2014

Going Abroad? AT&T Reveals New International Plans

AT&T

Traveling out of the country, and don't want to rack up insane roaming charges? AT&T has a new solution.

The carrier on Monday morning launched AT&T Passport, its "best-ever value plan for international travel." AT&T is offering three different packages that can keep you connected while abroad for up to 30 days.

All plans offer unlimited text, picture, and video messaging, but you'll pay more or less depending on how much cellular data you think you'll need.

The cheapest AT&T Passport plan costs $30 and comes with 120MB of cellular data, with overages running 25 cents per MB, and calls priced at $1.00 a minute. Upgrade to the $60 Passport Plus plan and you'll get 300MB of data, with a 5-cent discount on overages (20 cents per MB), and calls for 50 cents a minute.

The priciest plan, dubbed Passport Pro, costs $120 and comes with 800MB of data, with overages at 15 cents per MB, and calls for 35 cents a minute. For a quick look at the plans, check out the chart below.

AT&T Passport

Unlike some other carrier's international plans, these are valid for just 30 days and expire automatically, meaning you won't have to remember to cancel once you're back home from your trip. To sign up, visit myAT&T or call 800-335-INTL (4685) to add a plan.

The new AT&T plans come after rival T-Mobile last year dropped international data and text roaming charges in more than 100 countries, allowing U.S. customers to update Facebook, check Google Maps, or send an email while traveling without incurring a massive roaming bill.

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October 8, 2014

AT&T to Pay $105 Million for Bogus Cell Phone Fees

AT&T Logo Building AT&T has agreed to pay $105 million for adding unauthorized cell phone charges to its customers bills, the Federal Trade Commission and Federal Communications Commission announced today.

AT&T will pay $80 million to the FTC, which will be used for customer refunds; affected customers can go to ftc.gov/att to seek a refund. AT&T Mobility will also pay $20 million to state governments participating in the settlement, and will make a $5 million penalty payment to the U.S. Treasury.

At issue are bogus charges for monthly subscriptions to things like ringtones, wallpaper, and text messages with horoscopes, flirting tips, celebrity gossip, and more. Most of these charges were $9.99 per month, though in some cases they were as high as $60 per month.

In many cases, customers did not agree to these charges, which were hidden on phone bills, the FTC said. Meanwhile, AT&T colluded with these third-party services to make sure users did not get refunds since AT&T got a 35 percent cut of all sales.

"AT&T told these companies that it would 'help lower refunds' by only providing refunds up to two months worth of charges," Edith Ramirez, Chairwoman of the FTC, said during a Wednesday press conference.

The move comes several months after the FTC filed suit against T-Mobile for failing to stop bogus charges on customers' bills, also known as cramming - charges T-Mobile denies. Will other carriers - like Sprint or Verizon - get also be hit with cramming charges? "Stay tuned," FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said today.

Chairman Wheeler said the deal is the largest cramming settlement and largest FCC enforcement action in history. It is notable, he said, because it is co-signed by 51 state attorneys general.

"For too long, consumers have been charged on their phone bills for things they did not buy," Wheeler said today. "It's estimated that 20 million consumers per year are caught in this type of [cramming] trap, [but] it stops today for AT&T."

"Today, we reached a broad settlement to resolve claims that some of our wireless customers were billed for charges from third-parties that the customers did not authorize," AT&T said in a statement. "This settlement gives our customers who believe they were wrongfully billed for PSMS [Premium Short Messaging Services] services the ability to get a refund."

AT&T pointed to a pledge it made alongside Sprint and T-Mobile last year to stop charging for spam or "premium" texts.

"In the past, our wireless customers could purchase services like ringtones from other companies using Premium Short Messaging Services (PSMS) and we would put those charges on their bills," AT&T said. "While we had rigorous protections in place to guard consumers against unauthorized billing from these companies, last year we discontinued third-party billing for PSMS services."

When asked about that pledge today, Chairwoman Ramirez said that "the carriers agreed to stop the premium text messaging services as of January 2014," but today's settlement "applies to all forms of billing...like direct-carrier billing, so this continues to be an issue."

As part of the deal, AT&T committed to the FCC that it will obtain express consent from consumers about third-party billing going forward, and revise its billing practices so consumers can easily see what they are paying for, and offer the option on block all third-party services.



October 1, 2014

Sprint Fires Back at AT&T’s Double-the-Data Offer

Sprint Logo The wireless carrier wars are alive and well.

Sprint on Wednesday fired back at rival AT&T's new promotion, which offers double the amount of data on certain mobile share plans, with a promise to double that amount for its own Family Share Pack plans. The promotion is available to new and existing Sprint customers today through Oct. 31 — the same day AT&T's deal expires.

As part of the new offer, Sprint customers can get "virtually double" the sharable data for the same price as AT&T, the carrier said. AT&T's promotion, announced over the weekend, offers 30GB of shared data for $130, 40GB for $150, or 60GB for $225. For the same prices, you'll now get 60GB, 80GB, or 120GB of shared data on Sprint.

Once you sign up, you can keep the shared amount you chose at the promotional pricing until you switch data allowances or change plans, Sprint said.

"This is yet another example of Sprint standing behind its commitment to offer the best value in wireless," CEO Marcelo Claure said in a statement.

The company is also extending the offer to businesses. Starting Friday and through Oct. 31, business customers can get double the sharable data on Sprint Business Share Plans. This gives customers 80GB of data for $135, 120GB for $200, 160GB for $270, or 200GB for $330.

On top of that, Sprint is waiving its monthly access charge for customers who switch over their number from another carrier. These offers are available in Sprint stores, or if you're an existing customer, you can just dial *2 on your device to sign up.



September 25, 2014

DirecTV Shareholders OK AT&T Deal

AT&T Logo Building DirecTV stockholders today voted almost unanimously to approve the company's proposed merger with AT&T.

The final results indicated more than 99 percent of votes cast were in favor of the deal, which is still subject to government regulatory review and approval.

AT&T in May announced plans to acquire DirecTV in a deal worth $48.5 billion. The move, according to AT&T, will provide more customers with mobile, broadband, and pay-TV service bundles.

"This is a unique opportunity that will redefine the video entertainment industry and create a company able to offer new bundles and deliver content to consumers across multiple screens—mobile devices, TVs, laptops, cars and even airplanes," AT&T chairman and CEO Randall Stephenson said in the spring.

The deal, if it passes muster with the Department of Justice and FCC, is expected to be complete in the first half of 2015.

Though each company is a heavyweight in its own division, neither has the equipment to provide the full package: DirecTV lacks broadband capabilities, and AT&T's limited U-Verse video service reaches fewer than 6 million customers.

But together, they can supply high-speed broadband and high-quality videos from a single carrier, fostering what AT&T said would be increased industry competition by offering consumers more choices.

One key aspect of the deal that appears to be unresolved is the acquisition rights to DirecTV's Sunday Ticket package, which provides subscribers with the full slate of National Football League games on their TV, tablet, and game console during the season.

"U.S. consumers will have access to a more competitive bundle; shareholders will benefit from the enhanced value of the combined company; and employees will have the advantage of being part of a stronger, more competitive company," DirecTV CEO Mike White said in May.

Together, AT&T and DirecTV will be "well positioned to meet the evolving video and broadband needs of the 21st century marketplace," he added.



September 23, 2014

AT&T Appeals to Cord Cutters With $40 HBO, Amazon Deal

AT&T Logo Building AT&T is looking to entice cord cutters with a new $40-per-month package, complete with high-speed Internet, HBO and HBO GO access, and a one-year subscription to Amazon Prime.

Following in the footsteps of Comcast, which launched a $40 broadband-plus-HBO deal last year, AT&T is throwing in a year of Amazon programming.

With broadband speeds up to 45Mbps, customers can catch up with Girls and binge-watch The Leftovers without a full cable subscription, and try out online-only fare like Amazon's Betas.

Just remember to read the fine print: The arrangement requires users to sign up for a full year of service, and includes taxes, equipment costs, and a $49 activation fee, among other charges.

Of course, the bundle is available only in areas where AT&T has launched U-verse; interested consumers can check their availability online.



September 13, 2014

DirecTV Sees Smooth Path to AT&T Merger

AT&T Logo Building DirecTV CEO Mike White told investors Friday that his company's acquisition by AT&T should be complete by April 2015, according to reports.

"We are optimistic that we will be able to get this deal closed in the first half of next year. My best guess right now is early April," White said during an investors conference, according to Reuters.

In May, AT&T announced its intention to acquire the satellite TV provider for $48.5 billion.

One key aspect of the deal that appears to still be unresolved for AT&T is the acquisition of rights to DirectTV's Sunday Ticket package, which subscribers can purchase to receive the full slate of National Football League games on their TVs, tablets, and game consoles during the NFL season.

"We have made good progress on the (NFL) deal," Reuters quoted White as saying. AT&T and the NFL are expected to reach a deal on Sunday Ticket by the end of 2014, according to the DirecTV chief.

As part of deal, AT&T said in May that if it is greenlighted by regulators, the carrier and Internet service provider would commit to expanding the reach of its high-speed broadband service to 15 million customers, largely those in rural areas, within four years.

"This is a unique opportunity that will redefine the video entertainment industry and create a company able to offer new bundles and deliver content to consumers across multiple screens–mobile devices, TVs, laptops, cars, and even airplanes," AT&T chairman and CEO Randall Stephenson said when the deal was announced.

White said Friday that the merger would also "allow the combined company to explore opportunities in Latin America it would not have otherwise pursued," according to Reuters.

"I wouldn't look at acquiring wireless as a stand-alone company in Latin America just from a risk perspective. That is just not our core competency," White was quoted as saying. "But with AT&T and DirecTV together, I think we are going to have enormous opportunities."



August 27, 2014

AT&T CEO Pick Shows It’s Looking Beyond Phones

AT&T Logo Building

AT&T Mobility's new CEO, Glenn Lurie, has been ahead of the curve for quite some time.

When Verizon Wireless reportedly balked at Apple's pricing terms, Lurie helped cut a deal: his company Cingular (now AT&T) traded Apple's control of the iPhone experience for a five-year U.S. exclusive on every future iPhone model.

With the iPhone cemented as the foundation of AT&T's smartphone success, Lurie then moved on to head AT&T's "emerging devices" unit - basically, everything except phones. Since his appointment in 2008, AT&T has become the leader in connecting random things to its network - and not just the obvious cars and tablets. Lurie's division has helped bring us connected pill bottles, connected luggage, and connected golf swing monitors.

That makes him perfect to lead a company into the post-smartphone era.



August 20, 2014

AT&T Gigabit Internet Coming to Cupertino

AT&T Austin Gigapower

AT&T today confirmed plans to light up the heart of Silicon Valley with gigabit Internet: Cupertino, California.

Home of Apple, and neighbor to Google and Facebook, Cupertino is the first California city to receive AT&T's gigabit broadband speeds.

"Cupertino is leading the way in creating an environment that fosters innovation, and the deployment of ultra-high-speed broadband service will further support innovation in our community, spur our local businesses, and result in even greater economic development in our city," Mayor Gilbert Wong said in a statement. "We are very pleased to work with AT&T to offer this unprecedented service to our residents and small businesses."

The enhancements ensure customers have access to AT&T's fastest Internet speeds, as well as new TV services, like the ability to watch and record five simultaneous HD streams on a 1TB DVR.

"The ultra-fast speeds of the AT&T GigaPower network open up a whole new world of possibilities for our customers in Cupertino," said Ken McNeely, president of AT&T California. "From our wireless network to our broadband network, we are proud to empower entrepreneurs, developers, artists, and creative thinkers of every strip to build and shape the future of California."



August 13, 2014

AT&T Offers iPhone Buyers $200 Off iPad

Apple Unveils New iPad Air, Retina iPad Mini

AT&T is offering $200 off the price of an iPad for those who are buying an iPhone 5c or 5s.

To get the deal, shoppers must sign on for AT&T Next when buying their smartphone, which lets people pay off the cost of a phone over 12 or 18 months rather than locking them into a two-year contract, potentially allowing them to upgrade to a newer smartphone faster.

If you buy a 16GB iPhone 5s, for example, you will pay $27.09 per month via AT&T Next 18 or $32.50 per month using AT&T Next 12. It's $199.99 with a two-year contract and $649.99 unlocked.

A colorful 16GB iPhone 5c will cost you $22.92 per month on AT&T Next 18 and $27.50 on AT&T Next 12. It's $99.99 with a two year-contract and $549.99 unlocked.

To get the iPad discount, however, buyers must sign on for a two-year contract for the tablet. Data plans for an AT&T tablet range from $14.99 to $50 per month, depending on how much cellular data you intend to consume.



July 28, 2014

T-Mobile Targets AT&T With Data-Heavy Family Plan

T-Mobile CEO John Legere John Legere is not a fan of AT&T, and he's certainly not shy about it.

The outspoken T-Mobile CEO on Monday morning took to the company's blog to unveil a new family plan promotion, blasting AT&T and other rival carriers in the process. Under the new Simple Choice promotion, a family of four paying $100 a month can share up to 10GB of LTE data, with each person getting 2.5GB. Even better — there are no overage fees.

Currently, those in the Simple Choice plan get just 1GB of high-speed data per line. The promotion kicks off on July 30, and Legere says it's a way better deal than what you'll get on AT&T.

"Leaving my office last week, I pulled alongside a bus covered with yet another ad for AT&T's 'Best-Ever Pricing' for families," he wrote. "These ads are everywhere. AT&T's sinking some serious dough into marketing their latest-greatest family pricing, which strikes me as funny. Because their deal is no deal at all, and next to T-Mobile's Simple Choice Family Plan, AT&T's 'Best-Ever Pricing for Families' is a joke."

In comparison, AT&T's "Best-Ever" Mobile Share plan offers 10GB of monthly data for $160 a month.

"It infuriates me that they're selling this to hardworking families who could use that money for more important things," Legere wrote. "And they have the nerve to call it 'Best-Ever Pricing.' I just couldn't stand by without speaking up and calling them on their BS."

And while Legere specifically called out AT&T, he added that "Big Red and the Framily aren't any better," referring to Verizon and Sprint. Check out the chart below to see what he means.

T-Mobile's new family promotion will be available until September, and those who sign up can lock in the increased data allotment through 2016.

T-Mobile Simple Choice promotion