ANALYSIS

AT&T Spreads Rollover Data Cheer to GoPhone

AT&T Mobility introduced Rollover Data early this year. The offering is very similar to its successful Rollover Minutes for voice calls, which it began offering a few years ago. The question is, will it be just as successful for data? It looks like the answer is yes, as it is now expanding the perk to GoPhone.

GoPhone is an AT&T Mobility prepaid brand. Prepaid is a rapidly growing wireless segment, and AT&T is determined to be a winner. That’s why it has several unique brands, like GoPhone and Cricket, under its master AT&T brand.

Carriers still need to separate their prepaid brands from the universe of other wireless brands competing for your business. That’s why they all try to implement attractive customer solutions.

Making Lightning Strike Twice

It’s interesting how wireless is becoming a brand and master brand universe for AT&T. Several years ago, before wireless data was a fast-growing segment, wireless voice minutes were how the carriers competed. AT&T introduced its Rollover Minutes, letting customers keep unused minutes and roll them over to the next month.

It was successful, so why not try it with data? I loved the Rollover Data idea when it was launched back in January, but the question was, could AT&T get lightning to strike twice?

So far, it seems that Rollover Data is successful because AT&T is expanding it beyond the Mobile Share Value plans to the GoPhone.

I think GoPhone customers should love Rollover Data. Prepaid customers are focused on reducing costs, and this plan helps them reduce the cost of wireless data services. That’s the whole point — reducing costs to keep users happy.

Wireless Is Changing

This is a great time to stop and take a look at how the industry is growing and changing. Several years ago carriers competed on voice minutes. Today however, they compete on wireless data. Voice is almost a second thought.

The wireless world is a tough place to do business. You not only have to attract new customers, but also must retain your existing customers, who are being courted by the competition. To do that, carriers have been improving the customer experience and offering advanced services and features.

Not every company is successful in the wireless world. Sure, AT&T Mobility and Verizon Wireless keep hitting it out of the park, but for years it seemed Sprint and T-Mobile kept striking out. Now, however, both Sprint and T-Mobile are getting their form back and are growing once again. That’s good to see.

However, other companies have flamed out — like Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Cox, Facebook and even Amazon — after struggling to succeed in wireless. They were like shooting stars — they looked great for a moment, before burning up and fading away into oblivion.

Do It Again

Leadership in the industry has changed dramatically too. On the handset side, BlackBerry and Nokia once ruled, but now it’s Apple and Samsung. Leadership can change very quickly. That’s the challenge for today’s leaders — and that’s one reason underlying AT&T’s rollover idea. Customers love it — so they will remain customers.

Wireless is not a world where the successful can kick back and enjoy their winnings, either on the network side or on the handset side. Wireless is a dog-eat-dog industry where you must stay strong and innovative or you lose.

Success in wireless is based on what you did yesterday. Today the question is, what have you done for me lately?

Wireless carriers deliver lots of different ideas to the marketplace. Some are successful, while others fall flat. AT&T is proving that some great ideas — updated and reintroduced — can win for the second time, even in a competitive marketplace.

When you have a great idea that customers love, you might just as well update it and run it again. It seems good ideas can make a comeback. Keep your eyes on the wireless industry. Innovation and change are the hallmarks of this rapidly growing space.

E-Commerce Times columnist Jeff Kagan is a wireless analyst, telecom analyst, industry analyst, consultant and speaker who has been sharing his colorful perspectives on the changing industry for 25 years. Email him at [email protected].

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Study Finds Best US Mobile Internet Connectivity in Northeast

Eight of the top 10 states for mobile Internet coverage are in the Northeast, according to an analysis released by a consumer product and services comparison website.

The best mobile Internet coverage, though, isn’t in a state at all but in the District of Columbia, WhistleOut revealed in its analysis.

Placing behind D.C. were Delaware, New Jersey, Rhode Island, New York, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Ohio, Maryland and North Dakota.

WhistleOut also identified the worst states for mobile Internet connectivity. That dubious distinction goes to Alaska, followed by Wyoming, Nebraska, Mississippi, Maine and Vermont.

In ranking the states, 75 percent of the score was based on median mobile download speeds and 25 percent by 5G coverage.

Economics of Connectivity

Regional variations in service are related to the economics of connectivity, explained Anshel Sag, a senior analyst with Moor Insights & Strategy. A single cell tower in New York City can serve many more users than a similar tower built in a rural area.

What’s more, he told TechNewsWorld, “In rural areas, there is more need to dig infrastructure to support new cell towers and it takes more time and money to send engineers to update or deploy infrastructure.”


US Mobile Internet connection speed ranked by state

Mobile Internet connections ranked by state [Credit: WhistleOut]

Those economics mean that rural areas won’t be at the head of the line to receive the latest technology.

“Not surprisingly, wireless vendors are focusing their initial 5G efforts on urban and suburban areas that have the greatest concentration of customers and users,” Charles King, the principal analyst at Pund-IT, told TechNewsWorld. “But that means that smaller towns and rural areas can remain underserved for years, and some places effectively never get access to new service.”

Craving Connection

King added that the 3G networks that first enabled effective mobile Internet connectivity nearly 20 years ago massively changed communications and entertainment.

“For the vast majority of people and organizations, mobile connectivity represents the norm today,” he said. “Just consider what happens when mobile networks or services are disrupted.”

Just how important the mobile Internet is became apparent during the ongoing pandemic.

“People are staying connected with their family and friends, who they can’t see because of the pandemic, through the mobile Internet,” observed Sherri Riggs,the social media specialist at WhistleOut. “That connection is something we’re all craving and needing right now.”

“We’ve also seen a huge strain on broadband connections in the United States during the pandemic,” she told TechNewsWorld. “Having a mobile broadband Internet connection to back that up is something lots of people have been relying on the last few months.”

Lifestyle Changer

Sag maintained that mobile connectivity drives a lot of the economy and gives people and companies the mobility and access to information that they need to make better decisions more quickly.

“COVID-19 has exposed how important mobile Internet connectivity has become when cellular operators had to borrow fallow spectrum from players like Dish to prevent significant slowdowns to their networks due to significantly increased usage,” he said.

The mobile Internet will also be important for the lifestyle of the future, noted Atlanta-based technology analyst Jeff Kagan.

“We need to remember three things when we leave the house today — our keys, out wallet and our cell phone,” he told TechNewsWorld.

“Going forward, we’re only going to have to carry our smartphones because it will do everything,” he said. “In order for that to work, we’re going to need the mobile Internet.”

5G’s Contribution

What’s more, the mobile Internet is going to need 5G to keep technological development going forward.

“The significant boost in download speeds offered by 5G will clearly impact mobile entertainment and gaming,” King observed.

“In addition,” he continued, “5G is likely to lead to the development of ever more robust mobile applications, as well as newer or emerging solutions, including IoT and connected homes.”

“In other words,” King added, “next gen mobile solutions absolutely need 5G.”

Sag asserted that 5G connectivity will take the mobile Internet to more than just smartphones and tablets.

“While it does exist in many other places like planes, trains and automobiles, those implementations are bespoke in many scenarios and do not scale in a way that can be implemented everywhere,” he explained.

“5G enables all types of devices and services to access the Internet and become more intelligent and aware of their surroundings to maximize efficiency or improve the efficacy of the service itself,” Sag continued.

The mobile Internet powered by 5G will become faster, more reliable and available in more places, he added.

“New applications and services that were previously unthinkable or impossible with 4G will be possible with 5G,” he said, “and I believe many of those will exist in the factory, on the farm, in the classroom, in the car or even inside of a headset.”

Game of Hype

Riggs pointed out that 5G is more than just about speed. “The biggest advantage 5G offers over the other generations of the mobile Internet is capacity,” she explained.

“A single 5G tower will be able to support many more people than a 4G tower,” she continued. “The sheer capacity 5G offers consumers will greatly improve everyone’s Internet connections.”

She predicted that by the end of 2021 the majority of the country will have access to 5G from every carrier.

“Will it be 5G with gigabit download speeds?” she asked. “No. But the high-band 5G will be available in most major cities across the country.”

Before 5G’s potential to improve the mobile web is realized, though, consumers will have to put up with a lot of sizzle and not much steak.

“To put it kindly, the carriers’ claims have been optimistic and tend to paper over the fact that reliably constant 5G connectivity is fairly rare,” King observed.

Kagan noted that whether it’s 3G, 4G or 5G, the carriers are in a marketing game. “They have to win against their competitors,” he said. “A carrier can’t say that it’s not moving at lightening speeds. If it does, customers will go elsewhere.”

“They offer 5G, but it’s not available everywhere yet,” he continued. “And where they offer 5G, it’s not as fast as it’s going to be. It’s just the game. That’s the way it’s always been played in the wireless game for decades.”

John P. Mello Jr. has been an ECT News Network reportersince 2003. His areas of focus include cybersecurity, IT issues, privacy, e-commerce, social media, artificial intelligence, big data and consumer electronics. He has written and edited for numerous publications, including the Boston Business Journal, theBoston Phoenix, Megapixel.Net and GovernmentSecurity News. Email John.

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OPINION

Qualcomm’s Powerful Preview of 2021’s Premium Smartphones

Qualcomm last week launched its Snapdragon 888 platform which will show up in premium phones next year — and this promises to take the high-end of Android smartphones to levels of performance they’ve never seen before.

While Qualcomm provided critical help to Apple by enabling the company to bring its first iPhone to market, Apple broke up with Qualcomm in a spectacular fashion months ago. Now the two are competing with each other, and the rivalry is resulting in some impressive advancements on both sides.

Now we won’t know what Apple is bringing to market next year before an announcement, but Qualcomm has to drive demand to its solutions, and since its products make it into phones, the company is an excellent source for what is on the way.

Let’s talk about what is coming to market in Android phones — and likely iPhones — next year, because you’ve got to believe Apple watched this launch and is now furiously working to create similar functions.

We’ll close with my product of the week, the coming line of Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 Sony Xperia phones.

Better 5G

In many locations 5G has been disappointing because available bandwidth isn’t only about the radio link connection — it also involves the connectivity of the cell sites which are still being upgraded. The pandemic has slowed the rollout, but by the middle of next year we should finally be seeing the benefits in most areas we have been promised.

Verizon was at the event arguing that it is well ahead of competitors with both 5G and millimeter wave (mmWave). The latter provides for better coverage in areas like inside buildings that may not now get even good 4G coverage. Verizon is also aggressive with dynamic spectrum sharing (DSS), potentially providing up to 2x performance improvements, even on the older 4G networks.

Currently, Verizon provides 4-gigabit per second levels of performance, and it has 5-gigabit performance working in the lab, suggesting that will be available next year. Ten-gigabit performance should come to market in the next 3 to 5 years. In Japan, Docomo represented that it will have the fastest network, and has already begun rolling out mmWave technology.

Massively Improved Photographs

Photography is getting a considerable advancement. Xu Jian, a leading wildlife photographer and documentary producer, showcased his work with prototype phones using the Snapdragon 888 solution. He shared several still pictures that he took both himself and while the camera was attached to a drone.

To my eye, and I used to be a professional photographer, the images were equivalent to what you’d get with a typical SLR professional camera. Granted, the quality you’d likely get would depend on the quality of your camera lens. Still, Qualcomm’s computational camera technology appears to do a great job automatically optimizing the resulting image.

The new cameras can take images without a flash in as little as .1 Lux, which translates to one-tenth the light of a candle one meter away on a one-square-meter surface. These cameras will have something called “staggered HDR,” which takes three images at the same time: one underexposed, one overexposed, and one appropriately done — and then merge them to bring out all of the hidden detail.

Finally, the cameras can take 120 images per second, allowing for incredible slow motion and the ability to capture just that right instance in an action shot.

Gaming

Another area that will see a huge improvement is gaming. Esports on mobile devices have been taking off, and at the premium end of the phone market, smartphones are going to get a substantial performance and battery life increase. This performance increase is excellent for the one billion people currently gaming on their phones.

New phones will handle up to 90 frames per second with HDR turned on, and the lowest latency ever on a smartphone platform (Qualcomm has demonstrated 144 frames per second in the lab). This performance increase should provide a significant competitive advantage for gamers playing on one of the new Snapdragon 888 phones.

Except for screen size, this performance advancement is expected to bring smartphone gaming in range of console gaming — and Xbox Game Pass Ultimate will support these new gaming enabled phones. Don’t think you won’t still get great battery life, because Qualcomm uses a technology called VRS to increase performance by 30 percent, while reducing GPU loading by 40 percent (GPUs pull a ton of power). This benefit showcases one of those rare times where performance and energy savings come hand in hand.

One of the more exciting demonstrations was using two professional RC car racers one mile away connected to a phone on a remote control 4×4 that raced all over the Qualcomm campus by drivers using smartphones both as controllers and for car control and video. The lack of latency allowed them to drive at speed on the specially-constructed off-road remote control vehicle track.

Finally, these new phones will have a new feature called “Quicktouch,” which removes the touch screen latency and allows smartphone gamers who use these new phones to be far more competitive.

I immediately think the next “Mission Impossible” episode will need to use these new phones.

Artificial Intelligence

Qualcomm has made an enormous advancement in AI. Today over one billion devices are already enabled with Qualcomm’s 15 TOPS (trillions of operations per second) technology. Still, next year with the Snapdragon 888 part, the new AI should jump to 26 TOPS performance levels.

One of the related areas getting a boost is natural language processing (NLP). This improvement should allow you to better interface with your phone features via voice, and you’ll also be able to do translations in real time, even if your phone doesn’t initially know the new language.

I hope that this advanced AI technology will be applied to spam calls because I am truly getting tired of hearing that I need a new extended warranty for some obscure car the caller doesn’t know I have. We will see things like automatic picture framing, AI-driven autofocus (where the system, based on training, picks the aspects of an image where detail is more interesting), and provide reliable guidance back to where you forgot you parked your car.

Oh, and they did showcase the ability to use the camera’s infrared aspects to help you pick better makeup or even diagnose an illness, which could be rather exciting and, given the pandemic, most timely.

Qualcomm Sensing Hub

This feature is probably the most exciting technology out of the entire event, and it speaks to my comment above about finding a misplaced car. The Hub aggregates the phone sensors and then actually uses the data to help you answer critical questions like, ‘where the hell did I leave my car?’. I imagine it would help you retrace your steps if you lost something and needed to recover it.

The camera has to be out and see stuff for full utility, suggesting a future head-mounted camera as a requirement for full functionality. Still, we’ve been paying for many phone sensors for years that we mostly never used. This is the first application where suddenly those sensors have essential utility.

A phone that is increasingly aware of its surroundings could automatically call for help if you were injured, warn you away from dangerous locations, and during a disaster guide you to safety. That last, with the increasingly hostile weather events, could be life saving.

Wrapping Up

The next generation of phones is going to be far smarter, far better, far more useful, and far more able to keep us safe than anything we’ve so far seen in the market. They’ll have more performance and better battery life, better connectivity, way better gaming capability, massively improved imaging, and far better sound.

Granted, you’ll only get the full extent of these features with a new premium phone that isn’t even shipping until around mid-2021, but given 2020, I think that having something to look forward to next year alone is worth it.

Next year the smartphone is taking another big step to becoming more than a communications device as it evolves into the perfect digital companion. Qualcomm is driving a revolution. It will be interesting to see if Apple can keep up.

Rob Enderle's Technology Product of the Week

The Future Sony Xperia Phones With Qualcomm Snapdragon 888

If we take the Snapdragon 888 and showcase it as Qualcomm’s primary weapon against Apple dominance, you need to pick an OEM to carry it. Given that Steve Jobs based his Apple redesign on Sony, and Sony’s similar focus on entertainment, Sony would be my choice as the primary OEM to fully take on Apple.

Sony has always had beautiful, well-designed products that were often hampered because it doesn’t compete as a company but as a group of divisions under the same brand.

If Sony put the same effort into understanding Apple’s model that Jobs put into understanding Sony’s, I’m convinced that Sony is one of the few firms that could fully take Apple across the board.

Sony teased its coming line of Xperia phones based on the Snapdragon 888, and they have the most potential to provide a better experience than Apple users get from their iPhones. The question is, as it always has been with Sony: Will it step up next year? Its uniquely beautiful designs, coupled with this new Snapdragon solution’s full power, could redefine this fight.

As a result, the coming line of Xperia smartphones based on the Snapdragon 888 is my product of the week. However, since they aren’t out yet, they’ll be competing for the 2021 product of the year, rather than this year’s.

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ECT News Network.

 

Rob Enderle has been an ECT News Network columnist since 2003. His areas of interest include AI, autonomous driving, drones, personal technology, emerging technology, regulation, litigation, M&E, and technology in politics. He has an MBA in human resources, marketing and computer science. He is also a certified management accountant. Enderle currently is president and principal analyst of the Enderle Group, a consultancy that serves the technology industry. He formerly served as a senior research fellow at Giga Information Group and Forrester. Email Rob.

1 Comment

  • Its very informative and I will surely boast.

    It seems like yesterday when 855+ and 865+ shook the decade with its latest advancement as 5G.

    Now it is just normal. We all know we might get 999 or 1010 anytime.

    I fear, what Elon Said in recent tweet and Interview. I wish AI keeps itself neutral.

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