The UpStream

Watch Out, T-Mobile, Sprint May Be Gunning for MetroPCS Again

posted Saturday Oct 6, 2012 by Scott Ertz

Watch Out, T-Mobile, Sprint May Be Gunning for MetroPCS Again

The announcement of T-Mobile's planned purchase of MetroPCS may have come as a surprise to most of the industry, though it shouldn't have. It has also stirred up some old emotions with an ex-suitor of MetroPCS, Sprint. A few months ago, we found out that Sprint had considered purchasing the carrier.

Apparently jealousy has reared its ugly head and Sprint's board of directors will spend the weekend and early next week discussing whether or not to outbid T-Mobile for the country's 5th largest carrier. While the purchase won't quite knock anyone out of its ranking position like Verizon's purchase of Alltel, it would help Sprint in expanding its LTE network quicker than its current strategy. It would also prevent T-Mobile from creeping into Sprint's territory, both in 3rd place ranking and in prepaid marketshare, which is something that is very important to Sprint's survival in the overly competitive wireless industry.

A T-Mobile buyout of MetroPCS would put them in a position to challenge Virgin Mobile and Boost Mobile's ownership of the prepaid industry. Sprint relies on their prepaid offerings to help deal with the financial disaster that has been the Clearwire partnership. The last thing they need is T-Mobile offering a service that could challenge their WiMax escape plan. This story will be more interesting to follow than the failed AT&T buyout of T-Mobile.

What the T-Mobile/MetroPCS Merger Means to the Industry [Editorial]

posted Thursday Oct 4, 2012 by Scott Ertz

What the T-Mobile/MetroPCS Merger Means to the Industry [Editorial]

While the news of T-Mobile purchasing MetroPCS has come as a bit of a shock to some people, it really shouldn't. At first it does seem surprising that a GSM carrier would be interested in a CDMA network, especially considering the absolute disaster that was the Sprint/Nextel merger. This is where the sense starts to be made. T-Mobile said they would use AT&T's money to establish an LTE network, and it looks like they have. This purchase has less to do with customers, though it will combine the 4th and 5th largest carriers in the country into a new but still 4th largest network (42.5 million), and more to do with picking up MetroPCS's existing LTE network.

While MetroPCS's LTE coverage isn't massive, it is infinitely larger than that of T-Mobile. Metro currently offers LTE coverage in 14 major markets, though they consider their markets differently than everyone else, such as North Florida, Central Florida and South Florida as opposed to Tampa, St. Petersburg/Clearwater and Orlando all being considered separate for everyone else. With 0 markets for T-Mobile, adding the LTE network of Metro into the fold will give them a leap on their commitment to provide LTE service in 2013, all without having to add to their existing 35,000 towers.

Now, that isn't the only reason to add Metro to the T-Mobile family. Currently, Sprint absolutely owns the prepaid market. Virgin Mobile and Boost Mobile are both Sprint-powered prepaid brands and together have more customers than MetroPCS has currently. Combining the T-Mobile brand with the MetroPCS pricing structure could give T-Mobile's prepaid offering the push to knock Virgin and Boost off of their high horses quickly. While prepaid is not as profitable as the contract phones are, it is a quickly growing market that even Apple has recognized it as a market to be in and offers the iPhone through Virgin Mobile. It is important to note that T-Mobile and MetroPCS both do not offer the iPhone.

So, while the varied technologies might seem like a bad idea to base a merger on, there are some very good reasons for T-Mobile to make this move now. The wireless industry is not one that does well with minor players, and both of these carriers have been considered minor players for a very long time. This move will get them closer in subscriber count (T-Mobile: 41.5 million combined, Sprint: 56 million, AT&T: 95.5 million, Verizon: 107.7 million) to the big players without the massive cost of trying to get involved with, say, Sprint. With the higher subscriber count it will be easier to negotiate handset deals and could even possibly add the iPhone to its lineup for the first time.

Of all of the carriers, Sprint should be the most worried, obviously. There is only a 15 million subscriber difference between the carriers, so long as you remove the prepaid numbers from the count. The networks will be closest in LTE coverage, Sprint currently offers 25 markets, but is adding another 100 in short order, and both companies will have a strong prepaid focus, with Sprint having over 10 million prepaid subscribers and MetroPCS having just under 10 million subscribers to its almost entirely prepaid network. With the 3rd and 4th largest carriers being so close in size, philosophy and market focus, it will be interesting to see how each carrier differentiates itself from the other in the coming two years.

So, the real question here is, does this announcement make you more or less interested in joining the T-Mobile/MetroPCS brand? Let me know in the comments.

Assassin's Creed III Gets a Season Pass, Fight the Tyranny of King Washington

posted Wednesday Oct 3, 2012 by Nicholas DiMeo

<i>Assassin's Creed III</i> Gets a Season Pass, Fight the Tyranny of King Washington

If the all-white PlayStation Vita bundle and the new PS3 bundle wasn't convincing enough for you to pick up your copy of Assassin's Creed III, Ubisoft upped the ante this week by announcing a couple of interesting things in one short and sweet blog post. Taking a small page out of EA Sports' Season Ticket book, Ubisoft is introducing what they call the Season Pass.

The Season Pass will unlock access to all five up Ubisoft's DLC for the game, which will be released within six months after ACIII hits shelves on October 30th. This is very similar to how the Battlefield 3 Premium works, in that you are saving money by buying all of the DLC upfront, essentially getting a DLC or two for free. More importantly out of this announcement is that some of the DLC revolves around a story in which our hero George Washington gives into the temptation of becoming a King himself, which is sure to be an epic story told by the Creed team.

From the blog post,

The Season Pass will give you access to all five upcoming downloadable content packs which are slated for release within six months after launch. Assassin's Creed III downloadable content will feature an all-new single-player campaign told through three episodic content packs in which players will experience an alternate history of the American Revolution dubbed "The Tyranny of King Washington". As the revolution comes to a close, a new and most unexpected enemy emerges. Driven by the desire to secure the fate of the colonies, the Revolution's greatest hero, George Washington succumbs to the temptation of infinite power a new King is born.

In addition to this all-new single player experience, the Assassin's Creed III downloadable content will feature new maps and characters for an even more expansive multi-player experience as well as other single-player missions.

All of this great extra content will only run you 2400 Microsoft Points, or $29.99 on the PlayStation Network. You can head over to the respective sites or to your local game stores to pick up your copy. Are you interested in the tale of Washington-gone-bad as much as I am? Have you gotten your special ACIII PS3 bundle pre-ordered yet? Let us know in the comments below.

MetroPCS to Merge with T-Mobile

posted Wednesday Oct 3, 2012 by Nicholas DiMeo

MetroPCS to Merge with T-Mobile

T-Mobile has a weird way of staying in the news, whether it be for good or for bad. Two years ago they started the deceitful trend of lying about 4G networks and it kind of has snowballed from there. They were able to make $4 billion off the failed AT&T merger and while they waited for the spectrum transfer to be approved, closed seven call centers. Now, the company looks ahead in order to save itself from potential implosion and has inked a deal with MetroPCS to merge forces.

The deal will give MetroPCS shareholders $1.5 billion in cold, hard cash and they will also get 26 percent stake in the new company. Deutsche-Telekom, parent company of T-Mobile, will keep hold of the rest of the 74 percent. Depending on how slowly or quickly the FCC and Department of Justice care to move on this, the deal is expected to be finalized by June of next year if no problems should arise. It should be noted that back in February Sprint was rumored to have a lot of interest in buying MetroPCS, but nothing ever came of it.

Rene Obermann, CEO of Deutsche-Telekom, said,

We are extremely pleased to announce this transaction with MetroPCS, which enhances Deutsche Telekom's position in the expanding U.S. wireless market. The T-Mobile and MetroPCS brands are a great strategic fit - both operationally and culturally. The new company will be the value leader in wireless with the scale, spectrum and financial and other resources to expand its geographic coverage, broaden choice among all types of customers and continue to innovate, especially around the next-generation LTE network. We are committed to creating a sustainable and financially viable national challenger in the U.S., and we believe this combination helps us deliver on that commitment.

This is surely an interesting move and will put T-Mobile back in contention with the bigger guys like AT&T and Verizon Wireless, and MetroPCS actually has a few of their own 4G LTE light towers. So, while T-Mobile works until the middle of next year to roll out their first 4G tower ever, they will merge into a company who's already established an LTE footprint in several markets. In the end, it is a win for T-Mobile and by 2014 they will no longer have to lie to their customers unless they'd like to say that the merger allows them to have the nation's largest 5G network. It could happen, you know.

Apple's Tim Cook Issues Public Apology for Apple Maps, Suggests Using Bing Instead

posted Saturday Sep 29, 2012 by Nicholas DiMeo

Apple's Tim Cook Issues Public Apology for Apple Maps, Suggests Using Bing Instead

There was a product launch two weeks ago that swept the world in a haze of infectious nanobot technology. At least, that's the only explanation we can come up with as to why everyone is so head-over-heels in love with the iPhone 5. As mentioned last week, every Apple release has problems that most turn a blind eye to and the latest Apple product is no exception. However, while we mentioned scratches and dents being included with your new gadget purchase, we didn't really cover the software side of the new iPhone operating system, iOS 6. Why is that? Well, I'm not really sure why we missed the ball on that one.

Everyone and their parents (who are loving the iPhone 5, by the way) knew that Apple was moving away from Google Maps as the map provider for the new software and everyone knew that the app was so bad that it if you pulled up the Hoover Dam, Apple considered the structure to be a road, all the way down to the bottom of the dam. That, on top of the app simply not loading, the random restarts and having customers lose all of their data when launching the app, caused even the most in-love supporter of the fruit to turn their head and question what Apple was doing. So much so, that Tim Cook, Apple's CEO, had to issue a public apology this week for the debacle that is Apple Maps.

What did Tim have to say and what are customers supposed to use while this app is completely broken? We have all of that information after the break.

Spotify Users Buy Lots of Music Compared to People Who Aren't Down with the Green

posted Saturday Sep 29, 2012 by Nicholas DiMeo

Spotify Users Buy Lots of Music Compared to People Who Aren't Down with the Green

Despite the company's love for Windows Phone, an open platform and great partnerships with big names, Spotify still manages to get a bad rap. Be it the lack of pay for the artists who deliver the content to the platform or due to the periodic outages, vinyl lovers everywhere are always quick to knock the European-based company more than the rest of the music streaming services. The good news is that the NPD recognizes that people listen to digital music and look at guys like Pandora and Spotify with an unbiased eye. This week, NPD had some good news for the boys in green as far as what Spotify's subscribers end up doing after they listen to a track on the service.

One of NPD Group's analysts, Russ Crupnick, said that since the landing of Spotify here in the States just over a year ago, Spotify listeners are actually twice as likely to go and purchase a song on iTunes or Amazon that they've heard. The best part? Those listeners are not the paid subscribers and are listening free.

I can tell you that we see Spotify (I'm talking free) users more than twice as likely to be buying digital downloads compared to non-users, and that ratio has not changed since the introduction in Q3 '11.

So while an artist may only make pennies per play on Spotify each time a user presses play on a song, they're getting 40% of whatever purchases that same user may make. It's time to chow down on some stats.

  • 38% of Spotify users report buying a song download in the past 3 months, compared to 17% for non-users (of Spotify).
  • 36% of the tracks that Spotify users acquire are from paid download stores, a 'reasonably steady' number. (The rest is CDs, borrowing and burning/ripping, BitTorrent, etc.)
Crupnick says once NPD is able to trend a full year of Spotify's growth and usage, it will be able to drill-down more specifics on how much Spotify is impacting sales in the music industry. I'm just excited to see a company that I absolutely stand behind do so well. The service is great, they show a tremendous amount of love and support to their developers and they offer up a ridiculous amount of music and podcasts that listeners otherwise wouldn't know about. Click the source link below to read up on the entire report, which does include stats about Pandora's usage, the iTunes user experience and more. I just felt it was only right to be one of the few who will give the positive nod to Spotify when they're doing well.

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