Monday, November 28, 2011

T-Mobile USA is the same without AT&T

Things are getting tougher for AT&T and T-Mobile. Well, tougher for AT&T. Recently AT&T pulled their application to purchase T-Mobile USA due to increased resistance from the FCC and DOJ. Now that analysts are giving the deal only a 10% chance of being completed statements about T-Mobile's "dire situation" are beginning to surface. As the AT&T-Mobile deal falls apart I have to ask myself, what does the future look like for T-Mobile?

To start, what was really different for T-Mobile if AT&T successfully bought them? For T-Mobile it still meant they they would cease to exist as their own company. It's Deutsche Telekom, T-Mobile's current owner, that has the most to gain from the deal.

T-Mobile is the nation's fourth largest carrier with just over 30 million subscribers. While it's ranked as a nationwide provider it does not have any real growth options. There are plenty of regional carriers that T-Mobile could purchase to bolster their subscriber base and infrastructure, except there's one problem, most are CDMA based while T-Mobile is GSM based. It's not impossible for them to purchase a company with incompatible technology it just doesn't have the same benefits of a classic telco merger while being more expensive.

So there's no real turn around opportunity for T-Mobile which is why DT found a suitor to take the fledgeling company. AT&T has claimed that they are in desperate need of more spectrum to handle their increasing network traffic which is supposedly what prompted the deal to buy T-Mobile. On top of giving AT&T the spectrum it desired it would also allow them to take the title of "The Nation's Largest Carrier" from Verizon.

On top of paying a premium for T-Mobile, AT&T agreed to pay a 3 billion dollar fee if the deal didn't go through with close to 3 billion dollars worth of assets and roaming agreements to T-Mobile. The big winner was DT who was getting market value for what was losing them money.

Now as AT&T is scrambling to salvage the deal many are speculating what will happen to T-Mobile. It hasn't changed, T-Mobile will be sold. The only thing that has changed is what DT can get for the carrier that once sported Catherine Zeta Jones as it's spokesperson.

The termination fee (kind of ironic if you think about it) that AT&T has to pay won't really change things. There's no valuable regional GSM carrier for T-Mobile to buy. They could invest in their network or purchase/lease spectrum from another company but this would require time for them to turn things around. Granted the $3 billion gives them time but it doesn't hold off the inevitable.

The one option that's not likely is all out bankruptcy. What will probably happen if AT&T can't get approval is T-Mobile gets purchased by a private equity fund. The same happened to Alltel in 2007. TPG Capital and GS Capital Partners, a division of Goldman Sachs purchased Alltel for $27 billion. Valuable parts of Alltel were sold off and the remaining entity which still included an infrastructure and subscriber base were sold to Verizon Wireless.

It will be a while before something like this happen to T-Mobile especially after an injection of almost $6 billion. T-Mobile is in the twilight of it's existence with an end that will happen not with a bang but rather a whimper.

Best BlueTooths for Cyber Monday

If you're looking for some great stocking-stuffers this Cyber Monday let me help by suggesting a Bluetooth headset. Finding the right one can be difficult as I have experience over that past few years. Below is a list of Bluetooths I use personally and have come to love.

Jabra EXTREME2 Bluetooth Headset
This headset has become my all time favorite.

  • Noise Blackout 3.0 - Reduces ambient noise
  • HD Voice - Voice Guidance that helps you through setup, pairing, battery and connection status
  • Multiuse - Connect 2 devices at once
  • Ultimate-fit Eargels - 3 different eargels and one hook
  • A2DP - Listen to music or podcasts through headset
  • Up to 5.5 hours talk time and 10.5 days standby time
The Good
The performance of this device is incredible. One thing that really impressed me is that callers on the other end can hear me crystal clear. I have never had a bluetooth without a mic boom that allowed other people to hear me without issue.

Sound quality is also great. As much as I like my Plantronics Voyager Pro the Jabra Extreme beats it hands down on sound quality.

Rather than one multi-function button, the device has an on/off toggle switch and two volume buttons. This might not seem like a big deal but it definitely makes the device easier to use.

The Bad
The Ultimate-fit Eargels didn't do much for me. I think they're designed for a specific type of ear but that wasn't a big issue since it comes with a normal ear-piece and hook.

The Extreme2 did well in noisy environments but wind tended to give me issues. Just a breeze was able to hinder the other person's ability to hear me. That shouldn't be a big deterrent considering how small the device is.

Other than just a few hiccups the Extreme2 has become one of my all time favorite devices. A price tag of $60-$70 feels more than reasonable.

Plantronics Voyager PRO+ Bluetooth Headset
For when I absolutely have to be heard, this is best headset.

  • AudioIQ2 - Noise canceling technology
  • Vocalyst - Plantronic's voice and text services
  • A2DP
The Good
Because the mic actually comes down close to the mouth I never have issue with the other person hearing me. Additionally this bluetooth was able to handle moderate gusts of wind. Just when I was expecting to repeat myself I found that I had been heard.

While I never worry about battery life on a bluetooth since most last 3 times as long as my cell phone, this will last forever on a single charge.

The Bad
This is one of the largest bluetooths you can find. While some may not care about that there is no mistaking that you're wearing a bluetooth when its on. However the silver lining of this cloud is because of its over-the-ear design its one of the most secure fitting bluetooths.

Sound quality to the person on the other end was spectacular but the sound quality for myself wasn't. If you're in a noisy environment and turn up the volume, the sound becomes just the tiniest bit distorted. If not for this one issue this device would be at the top of my list.

LG Electronics HBM-235 Bluetooth Headset
This device won't blow your mind but its the best device for the money.

The Good
Its CHEAP! The $20 price-tag makes this a great headset to gift just don't let price scare you away. It still does better than some headsets I've payed more than triple for.

The Bad
The sound quality is ok. Again I can't stress enough that it does better than some higher priced bluetooths. However this is best for someone who will be using it in the car with windows up and radio off.

Hope this helps on Cyber Monday! Have you had any experiences with these? Let me know how they worked out for you!

And if you decide to buy one please support me by clicking on the device link.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Apple's Black Friday Deals

If you're looking to purchase an Apple product then Black Friday is the day to do it. At a tipster has revealed the planned discounts.

In case you can't read some of the prices the ad lists the following prices.
     iPad 2 starts at $458
     iPod nano starts at $118
     iPod touch starts at $178
     MacBook Air starts at $898
     MacBook Pro starts at $1098
     iMac starts at $1098

Apple will also be discounting their accessories and gift cards. $50 iTunes/ App Store/ iBookstore gift cards can be purchased for only $45.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Sprint's Terminal Problem

Four years ago Sprint was in serious trouble. Their stock was plummeting, subscribers were running to other carriers, and the acquisition of Nextel was being referred to as "the merger from hell." During this time mumblings began of Sprint's final days. Fortunately for Sprint they would put a man in charge who would be known as one of the best turnaround CEOs of all time.

Sprint is a completely different company today thanks to the efforts of Dan Hesse. Finding their footing in the wireless world as a value driven Tier 1 company, Sprint has not only survived the past four years but has had a bit of resurgence. However while Hesse has plenty to celebrate, Sprint's time is still running out.

Part of the turnaround strategy included a focus on prepaid. Boost Mobile has become one of the most profitable segments at Sprint after igniting a price war with its $50 monthly unlimited plan. Betting more on prepaid, Sprint acquired Virgin Mobile USA and further segmented the market by introducing Assurance Wireless for low-income families. Prepaid remains one of the largest growth engines for Sprint.

October 14th, 2011 Sprint announced a seemingly great triumph, they would be getting the iPhone. The red flags were raised almost immediately when it was revealed that Sprint agreed to purchase 30.5 million iPhones in the next four years at a cost of $20 billion. Currently Sprint has just over 27 million postpaid subscribers so the number of iPhones purchased was surprisingly high and the $20 billion price tag is going to effect Sprint's financials for a while. One other concern however is how will Sprint's network handle the load of 30 million iPhones?

Network capacity is more of concern today with the amount of data being used over wireless towers. AT&T was on the receiving end of many articles complaining of poor network performance. As data usage increases from iPhones and Android devices the race to keep up with demand will speed up.

This is where the final nail-in-coffin will happen, the network. Sprint has been partnered with Clearwire who provides for most of Sprint's smartphone traffic. Clearwire has been slow in the rollout of 4G services which has become glaringly obvious as Verizon Wireless is in the midst of it's aggressive LTE deployment. This isn't the only cause for concern as Sprint and Clearwire are currently engaged in brutal negotiations that puts Sprint's network at risk.

Hesse revealed that he believes that Sprint would do just fine if Clearwire was pushed towards bankruptcy. It may not be however as Sprint's license to spectrum was transferred to Clearwire as part of a previous deal. Wireless spectrum is becoming more valuable amongst wireless carriers as the amount of traffic grows. Clearwire has $240 million in interest obligations due and payable on December 1st, 2011. The threat of default on the interest payment makes a point to Sprint stopping short of interrupting service to smartphone users.

While losing data services is a huge threat to Sprint there's even more at stake. Just as Sprint found profitability through it's prepaid services it looks to increase revenues through other areas. Most carriers sell services at wholesale to Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MVNO). Sprint recently said that it plans on putting a greater emphasis on MVNO partners but this was just after Cox Communications announced that it would be abandoning it's wireless services.

Cox leaving the wireless business isn't too surprising as the cable company launched in very limited markets and found it difficult competing with entrenched wireless carriers. One notable reason for the failure mentioned was the acceleration of competitive 4G networks. Cox recognized that 4G is going to a huge factor in the competitive landscape of the wireless industry.

For Sprint, network innovation is no longer just about luring subscribers from Verizon and AT&T. Sprint has positioned itself as a discount carrier through it's prepaid offerings and has had tremendous success. That success could be multiplied through it's offerings towards MVNO partners but that hope seems to be dwindling as current partners are leaving partly because of the network.

The problems with Clearwire put a lot at risk for Sprint. Even if a deal is reached, innovation at Clearwire will be stifled from their own financial issues. The possibility of Sprint building out their own network to where it needs to be is almost impossible now as $20 billion is tied up in iPhone orders. The Sprint network has gone from a competitive disadvantage to writing on the wall.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Password Fatigue

I hear a lot of complaining from people that they have to remember too many passwords. With computers becoming more integrated into our every day lives we are having to deal with passwords more. The problem is that out of a fear for security, people are getting too crazy with their passwords.

Most people are good about following the rule of not using the same password for everything. If your password is compromised then all of your accounts and password protected assets are vulnerable. But it's common to have so many passwords that you can never remember the rarely used ones. Life Hacker's Gina Tripani has the answer by having a base password modified by rules for each application.

Say your base password is "asdf." (See how easy those keys are to type?). Then your password for Yahoo would be ASDFYHAO, and your password for eBay would be ASDFBYEA.

Another tool that I have used in the past when passwords such as alarm codes have been given to me is a password keeper program. You can download these on most smart phones for free. You enter all your passwords in but the list is protected by one master password. The vulnerability of course is if the one password is breached then your entire list is in the open.

On Twitter today you can find one of the trending topics is worst passwords. There's some creative and funny ones like "KimsWedding", too short and not strong enough. Some that you really want to stay away from though include "admin," "password," and your name. Although Twitter user @aYokka has found that if you use a boyfriend's name you have to figure out a new password when the relationship's over.

Have any password stories? Let us know in the comments and don't forget to follow me on Twitter!


Monday, November 14, 2011

CNN Leaves Out Minor Detail on $1 CEO

Today I saw an article on CNN about Tech CEO's who were compensated $1 a year. At the top of the list was Steve Jobs. Normally something like this wouldn't grab my attention except that I'm almost done with Steve Job's biography.

As I was reading the piece in more detail it became clear that the focus was on the $1 a year salary. It went into mentioning that Jobs was also compensated with an airplane and was worth over 7 billion dollars. What it failed to mention was that before coming back officially to Apple, Jobs negotiated a surprisingly high amount of stock options.

There was a list of other CEO's who supposedly worked for a dollar but after not seeing all of the facts I had no interest in viewing the rest.