AT&T

US Lawmakers Urge AT&T To Cut Commercial Ties With Huawei and Oppose China Mobile Citing National Security Concerns (reuters.com) 50

U.S. lawmakers are urging AT&T, the No. 2 wireless carrier, to cut commercial ties to Chinese phone maker Huawei Technologies and oppose plans by telecom operator China Mobile to enter the U.S. market because of national security concerns, two congressional aides told Reuters. From the report: The warning comes after the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump took a harder line on policies initiated by his predecessor Barack Obama on issues ranging from Beijing's role in restraining North Korea to Chinese efforts to acquire U.S. strategic industries. Earlier this month, AT&T was forced to scrap a plan to offer its customers Huawei handsets after some members of Congress lobbied against the idea with federal regulators, sources told Reuters. The U.S. government has also blocked a string of Chinese acquisitions over national security concerns, including Ant Financial's proposed purchase of U.S. money transfer company MoneyGram International.
Google

Why Uber Can Find You but 911 Can't (wsj.com) 193

Accurate location data is on smartphones, so why don't more wireless carriers use it to locate emergency callers? From a report, shared by a reader: Software on Apple's iPhones and Google's Android smartphones help mobile apps like Uber and Facebook to pinpoint a user's location, making it possible to order a car, check in at a local restaurant or receive targeted advertising. But 911, with a far more pressing purpose, is stuck in the past. U.S. regulators estimate as many as 10,000 lives could be saved each year if the 911 emergency dispatching system were able to get to callers one minute faster. Better technology would be especially helpful, regulators say, when a caller can't speak or identify his or her location. After years of pressure, wireless carriers and Silicon Valley companies are finally starting to work together to solve the problem. But progress has been slow. Roughly 80% of the 240 million calls to 911 each year are made using cellphones, according to a trade group that represents first responders. For landlines, the system shows a telephone's exact address. But it can register only an estimated location, sometimes hundreds of yards wide, from a cellphone call. That frustration is now a frequent source of tension during 911 calls, said Colleen Eyman, who oversees 911 services in Arvada, Colo., just outside Denver.
Intel

Researcher Finds Another Security Flaw In Intel Management Firmware (arstechnica.com) 87

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Meltdown and Spectre are not the only security problems Intel is facing these days. Today, researchers at F-Secure have revealed another weakness in Intel's management firmware that could allow an attacker with brief physical access to PCs to gain persistent remote access to the system, thanks to weak security in Intel's Active Management Technology (AMT) firmware -- remote "out of band" device management technology installed on 100 million systems over the last decade, according to Intel. [T]he latest vulnerability -- discovered in July of 2017 by F-Secure security consultant Harry Sintonen and revealed by the company today in a blog post -- is more of a feature than a bug. Notebook and desktop PCs with Intel AMT can be compromised in moments by someone with physical access to the computer -- even bypassing BIOS passwords, Trusted Platform Module personal identification numbers, and Bitlocker disk encryption passwords -- by rebooting the computer, entering its BIOS boot menu, and selecting configuration for Intel's Management Engine BIOS Extension (MEBx).

If MEBx hasn't been configured by the user or by their organization's IT department, the attacker can log into the configuration settings using Intel's default password of "admin." The attacker can then change the password, enable remote access, and set the firmware to not give the computer's user an "opt-in" message at boot time. "Now the attacker can gain access to the system remotely," F-Secure's release noted, "as long as they're able to insert themselves onto the same network segment with the victim (enabling wireless access requires a few extra steps)."

Wireless Networking

FCC Undoing Rules That Make It Easier For Small ISPs To Compete With Big Telecom (vice.com) 98

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Motherboard: The Federal Communications Commission is currently considering a rule change that would alter how it doles out licenses for wireless spectrum. These changes would make it easier and more affordable for Big Telecom to scoop up licenses, while making it almost impossible for small, local wireless ISPs to compete. The Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) spectrum is the rather earnest name for a chunk of spectrum that the federal government licenses out to businesses. It covers 3550-3700 MHz, which is considered a "midband" spectrum. It can get complicated, but it helps to think of it how radio channels work: There are specific channels that can be used to broadcast, and companies buy the license to broadcast over that particular channel. The FCC will be auctioning off licenses for the CBRS, and many local wireless ISPs -- internet service providers that use wireless signal, rather than cables, to connect customers to the internet -- have been hoping to buy licenses to make it easier to reach their most remote customers.

The CBRS spectrum was designed for Navy radar, and when it was opened up for auction, the traditional model favored Big Telecom cell phone service providers. That's because the spectrum would be auctioned off in pieces that were too big for smaller companies to afford -- and covered more area than they needed to serve their customers. But in 2015, under the Obama administration, the FCC changed the rules for how the CBRS spectrum would be divvied up, allowing companies to bid on the spectrum for a much smaller area of land. Just as these changes were being finalized this past fall, Trump's FCC proposed going back to the old method. This would work out well for Big Telecom, which would want larger swaths of coverage anyway, and would have the added bonus of being able to price out smaller competitors (because the larger areas of coverage will inherently cost more.)
As for why the FCC is even considering this? You can blame T-Mobile. "According to the agency's proposal, because T-Mobile and CTIA, a trade group that represents all major cellphone providers, 'ask[ed] the Commission to reexamine several of the [...] licensing rules,'" reports Motherboard. The proposal reads: "Licensing on a census tract-basis -- which could result in over 500,000 [licenses] -- will be challenging for Administrators, the Commission, and licensees to manage, and will create unnecessary interference risks due to the large number of border areas that will need to be managed and maintained."
Windows

Microsoft Announces First Mobile Carriers To Support Always Connected PCs (zdnet.com) 108

An anonymous reader shares a report: The push behind the Always Connected PC vision has been ramping up in recent weeks, with manufacturers like HP, ASUS, and Lenovo all joining the fray with their own LTE PCs based on Qualcomm's Snapdragon platform. Now, Microsoft and Qualcomm have announced the first batch of mobile operators that will actively support Always Connected PCs around the world. These initial carriers will help to bring "easy and affordable connectivity plans to consumers on advanced LTE wireless networks," Microsoft and Qualcomm said in a press release. Throughout the first half of 2018 and beyond, the companies say, mobile operators in China, Italy, the UK, and the U.S. will officially support Always Connected PCs. Here's a look at the carriers you can expect to roll out support in each region: China -- China Telecom, Italy -- TIM (Telecom Italia), U.K. -- EE, U.S. -- Sprint, Verizon. In addition to supporting connected PCs on their LTE networks, you can expect each operator to stock Always Connected PCs in their retail store, Qualcomm and Microsoft say.
Wireless Networking

With WPA3, Wi-Fi Security is About To Get a Lot Tougher (zdnet.com) 121

One of the biggest potential security vulnerabilities -- public Wi-Fi -- may soon get its fix. From a report: The Wi-Fi Alliance, an industry body made up of device makers including Apple, Microsoft, and Qualcomm, announced Monday its next-generation wireless network security standard, WPA3. The standard will replace WPA2, a near-two decades-old security protocol that's built in to protect almost every wireless device today -- including phones, laptops, and the Internet of Things.

One of the key improvements in WPA3 will aim to solve a common security problem: open Wi-Fi networks. Seen in coffee shops and airports, open Wi-Fi networks are convenient but unencrypted, allowing anyone on the same network to intercept data sent from other devices. WPA3 employs individualized data encryption, which scramble the connection between each device on the network and the router, ensuring secrets are kept safe and sites that you visit haven't been manipulated.
Further reading: WPA3 WiFi Standard Announced After Researchers KRACKed WPA2 Three Months Ago
Power

Wireless Charging Nears Unification As Powermat Cedes To Qi (engadget.com) 37

Powermat, the only contender to the dominant format Qi, has joined the Wireless Power Consortium (WPC) and now backs its rival. "Qi has become the dominant wireless charging standard on the market and the recently launched Apple iPhone lineup is evidence of this success," Powermat said in a statement. "[We] will share technology innovation to further unlock wireless charging potential, and will expedite the growth of the wireless charging infrastructure." Engadget reports: Powermat was barely hanging on as a standard, but as it mentioned, Apple's favoring of Qi for its upcoming chargers pretty much sealed its fate. The company was forced to upgrade its chargers to support Qi at Starbucks locations, for instance, so that Apple's Qi-supported iPhone X- and 8-owning clients could juice up. Until a few years ago, there were essentially three standards, the Alliance for Wireless Power, the Power Matters Alliance (no joking), and Qi, which was already the dominant player. The first two merged to form the Airfuel alliance in 2015, of which Powermat was the main player.
Networking

Can Mesh Networks Save a Dying Web? (thenextweb.com) 201

From an anonymous reader: "The web is dying, but mesh networks could save it," writes open source hacker Andre Staltz. He warns that Facebook, Google, and Amazon plan to "grow beyond browsers, creating new virtual contexts where data is created and shared," and predicts the next wave of walled gardens will be a "social internet" bypassing the web altogether. "The Web may die like most other technologies do, simply by becoming less attractive than newer technologies."

He wants to build a mobile mesh web that works with or without internet access to reach the four billion people currently offline, adding that all the tools we need are already in our hands: smartphones, peer-to-peer protocols, and mesh networks. His vision? "Novel peer-to-peer protocols such as IPFS and Dat help replace HTTP and make the web a content-centered cyberspace... Browsers can be made to work like that, and although it's a small tweak to how the web works, it has massive effects on social structures in cyberspace... Now that we have experience with some of the intricacies of the social web, we can reinvent it to put people first without intermediate companies... We can actually beat the tech giants at this game by simply giving local and regional connectivity to people in developing countries. With mobile apps that are built mesh-first, the smartphones would make up self-organizing self-healing mobile ad-hoc networks... In internet-less regions, there is potential for scaling quickly, and through that, we can spawn a new industry around peer-to-peer wireless mesh networks."

He cites mega-projects "to rescue the web from the internet", which include progress on peer-to-peer and mesh networking protocols, followed by adoption on smartphones (and then a new wave of apps) -- plus a migration of existing web content to the new protocols, "to fix the overutilization of the wirenet and the underutilization of airnets, bringing balance to the wire-versus-air dichotomy, providing choice in how data should travel in each case...But it can only happen if the web takes a courageous step towards its next level."

Advertising

Your Car May Soon Start Serving You Ads (siliconbeat.com) 308

An anonymous reader quotes SiliconBeat: Santa Clara auto-tech firm Telenav has just announced an "in-car advertising platform" for cars that connect to the internet. Telenav wants to sell the system to major auto manufacturers. And although it's probably the last thing many consumers want, vehicle owners will pay more for connected-car services if they decline the ads. "This approach helps car makers offset costs related to connected services, such as wireless data, content, software and cloud services," a spokeswoman for Telenav said Jan. 5. "In return for accepting ads in vehicles, drivers benefit from access to connected services without subscription fees, as well as new driving experiences that come from the highly-targeted and relevant offers delivered based on information coming from the vehicle."

Auto makers including Toyota, Lexus, Ford, GM and Cadillac already use the company's connected-car products, the spokeswoman said. Telenav CEO H.P. Jin in a press release called the ad platform "an exciting new opportunity" for vehicle manufacturers to "monetize connectivity to cover service costs and even drive healthy profits while enriching the consumer experience with safely delivered, engaging and relevant offers"...

To prevent driver distraction, "ads only appear when the vehicle is stopped, such as at car startup, traffic lights and upon arrival," Telenav said... Of course, driver distraction won't be an issue in self-driving cars, and this technology suggests the captive audiences in those vehicles will likely be subjected to an ad barrage in robotic ride-sharing vehicles and automated cars whose owners decline to pay more to avoid in-car advertising.

Cloud

New US Customs Guidelines Limit Copying Files and Searching Cloud Data (theverge.com) 71

The U.S. Customs and Border Protection Agency has updated its guidelines for electronic border searches, adding new detail to border search rules that were last officially updated in 2009. The Verge reports: Officers can still request that people unlock electronic devices for inspection when they're entering the U.S., and they can still look through any files or apps on those devices. But consistent with a statement from acting commissioner Kevin McAleenan last summer, they're explicitly banned from accessing cloud data -- per these guidelines, that means anything that can't be accessed while the phone's data connection is disabled. The guidelines also draw a distinction between "basic" and "advanced" searches. If officers connect to the phone (through a wired or wireless connection) and copy or analyze anything on it using external devices, that's an advanced search, and it can only be carried out with reasonable suspicion of illegal activity or a national security concern. A supervisor can approve the search, and "many factors" might create reasonable suspicion, including a terrorist watchlist flag or "other articulable factors."
Government

The FCC Is Preparing To Weaken the Definition of Broadband (dslreports.com) 217

An anonymous reader quotes a report from DSLReports: Under Section 706 of the Telecommunications Act, the FCC is required to consistently measure whether broadband is being deployed to all Americans uniformly and "in a reasonable and timely fashion." If the FCC finds that broadband isn't being deployed quickly enough to the public, the agency is required by law to "take immediate action to accelerate deployment of such capability by removing barriers to infrastructure investment and by promoting competition in the telecommunications market." Unfortunately whenever the FCC is stocked by revolving door regulators all-too-focused on pleasing the likes of AT&T, Verizon and Comcast -- this dedication to expanding coverage and competition often tends to waver.

What's more, regulators beholden to regional duopolies often take things one-step further -- by trying to manipulate data to suggest that broadband is faster, cheaper, and more evenly deployed than it actually is. We saw this under former FCC boss Michael Powell (now the top lobbyist for the cable industry), and more recently when the industry cried incessantly when the base definition of broadband was bumped to 25 Mbps downstream, 4 Mbps upstream. We're about to see this effort take shape once again as the FCC prepares to vote in February for a new proposal that would dramatically weaken the definition of broadband. How? Under this new proposal, any area able to obtain wireless speeds of at least 10 Mbps down, 1 Mbps would be deemed good enough for American consumers, pre-empting any need to prod industry to speed up or expand broadband coverage.

Network

Asus Is Turning Its Old Routers Into Mesh Wi-Fi Networks (theverge.com) 30

Asus' new AiMesh system lets you repurpose your existing Asus routers as part of a mesh network, potentially saving you lots of money since you won't have to replace your whole network with a bunch of new devices. The Verge reports: For now, the mesh support is coming to a few routers today in beta, including the ASUS RT-AC68U, RT-AC1900P, RT-AC86U, RT-AC5300, and the ROG Rapture GT-AC5300, with additional support planned for the RT-AC88U and RT-AC3100 later this year. The setup looks pretty simple, too. Once your main router is set up and updated to the latest firmware, just take your other routers that are going to be the mesh nodes, plug them in near the main router, and run a factory reset, after which they'll automatically pop up in the Asus Router app to add to your mesh.
Wireless Networking

Roombas Will Soon Build a Wi-Fi Coverage Map While They Clean (techcrunch.com) 58

An anonymous reader quotes a report from TechCrunch: The feature is arriving later this month on the iRobot app, making it possible for WiFi-enabled Roombas to create a map of indoor signals. The map exists alongside the existing Clean Map feature, letting users toggle between the two, like they would, say, satellite and standard imagery in Google Maps. The maps themselves won't go into too much detail -- no upload and download speeds like you see on many mobile speed test apps. Instead, the information will show up as decibel readings. Really, it's intended as a handy way of showing off where you might want to toss a range extender, to help get rid of dead spots. All of Roomba's vacuums, save for the lowest-end model, will support the feature. The beta program launches January 23rd and appears to only be available for U.S. users.
Communications

Postcard From Pyongyang: The Airport Now Has Wi-Fi, Sort of (apnews.com) 141

Eric Talmadge, writing for AP: North Korea is one of the least Wi-Fi-friendly countries in the world. Having a device that emits Wi-Fi signals can result in detention and a major fine. Worse, if you are a North Korean. Public use of the internet is a concept that just makes North Korean officials really nervous. But here's a sign that might be changing. North Korea's main internet provider appears to have put up a Wi-Fi trial balloon at the international departure area of Pyongyang's airport. It's a logical place to start. The service is only available, or even visible, to travelers who have already cleared customs, which included me last week. The reporter was unable to actually get the Wi-Fi to work, however.
Power

FCC Approves First Wireless 'Power-At-A-Distance' Charging System (engadget.com) 138

The FCC has approved the first wireless charger that works from up to three feet away. Engadget reports: San Jose-based startup, Energous, announced on Tuesday that it has received the first such FCC certification for power-at-a-distance wireless charging with its WattUp Mid Field transmitter. The transmitter converts electricity into radio frequencies, then beams the energy to nearby devices outfitted with a corresponding receiver. This differs from the resonant induction method that the Pi wireless charging system relies upon and offers a greater range than the Belkin and Mophie chargers that require physical contact with the device. The WattUp can charge multiple devices simultaneously and should work on any number of devices, from phones and tablets to keyboards and earbuds, so long as they're outfitted with the right receiver. What's more, the WattUp ecosystem is manufacturer-agnostic -- like WiFi -- meaning that you'll still be able to, for example, charge your Samsung phone even if the transmitter is made by Sony or Apple.
China

China Is Building a Solar Power Highway (electrek.co) 131

China is building roadways with solar panels underneath that may soon have the ability to charge cars wirelessly and digitally assist automated vehicles. "This second solar roadway project -- part of the Jinan City Expressway -- is a 1.2 mile stretch," reports Electrek. "The building technique involves transparent concrete over a layer of solar panels." From the report: Construction is complete and grid connection is pending, but is expected to be complete before the end of the year. The Jinan City solar highway is formed with three layers. The top layer is a transparent concrete that has similar structural properties with standard asphalt. The central layer is the solar panels -- which are pointed out as being "weight bearing." The bottom layer is to separate the solar panels from the damp earth underneath. The road will be durable enough to handle vehicles as large as a medium sized truck. It was noted by engineers that wireless vehicle charging could soon be integrated and automated car functions could take advantage of the inherent data in this this already wired roadway. No details were given on which solar panels being used. Two separate sizes could be seen from the images. It looks like the solar panels are covered with a film to protect them from workers moving over them. Notice in one picture there is an individual sitting down with wires showing between the solar panels connecting them.
Businesses

Amazon Acquires Connected Camera and Doorbell Startup 'Blink' (slashgear.com) 18

In an effort to push further into smart home and connected security products, Amazon has acquired Blink -- a wireless security camera company that launched back in 2014 and then subsequently closed a million-dollar Kickstarter campaign. SlashGear reports: The deal was announced today, and for the moment will see Blink continue to operate as-is, with no changes to the company's line-up. That includes the recently announced Blink Video Doorbell. Blink first broke cover back in 2014, then the following year announced a crowdfunding campaign aiming to raise $200k for its entirely wire-free security camera. Unlike rival systems that require a wired power connection, or the few battery-powered cameras already on the market which generally had relatively short battery life, Blink's promised more than a year of home monitoring from a single charge. The campaign was a success, with Blink raising five times the amount it initially targeted.

It's not hard to see, therefore, why Amazon might have been interested. Financial terms of the deal have not been disclosed at this stage, but the retailer is making a serious push into smart home and connected security products. That started with the Amazon Cloud Cam, a streaming video camera that requires mains power, and which is an instrumental part of Amazon Key, its home delivery service.

Wireless Networking

Airlines With the Best In-Flight Wi-Fi (latimes.com) 52

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Los Angeles Times: In the heated competition between airlines in the U.S., JetBlue Airways offers an extra perk that is pretty alluring to most travelers: Free, high-speed wireless internet. For that reason, an internet comparison site named JetBlue as the top domestic airline for overall WiFi service, followed by rivals Southwest Airlines, Delta Air Lines and Virgin America. The ranking by Highspeedinternet.com considered not only the speed of the connection but the cost and the availability on every plane. JetBlue won the top spot because the New York-based carrier offers free WiFi with speeds of 15 megabits per second on 78% of its fleet, according to the ranking. Southwest Airlines ranked second because it offers WiFi at speeds of up to 10 Mbps for $8 per flight on 90% of its fleet.

If you want to be assured to have WiFi on your next flight, Virgin America is the only domestic carrier that offers internet connections on 100% of its fleet, for a price of up to $25, depending on the length of the flight. Virgin America's WiFi speed is 15 Mbps, which is considered fast enough to stream movies and television shows. Don't care about connecting to the internet? Frontier, Hawaiian and Spirit Airways are the only three major U.S. carriers that offer no onboard WiFi at all, according to the ranking.

Businesses

Amazon Files For 'AmazonTube' and 'OpenTube' Trademarks As Fight With YouTube Gets Pettier (theverge.com) 81

"Amazon applied for an 'AmazonTube' trademark earlier this week, according to a filing found by TV Answer Man, as the company's public feud with Google over accessing YouTube content on Amazon's devices continues to escalate," reports The Verge. "While there's not a lot of information about what AmazonTube might be, based on the trademark application's description of 'providing non-downloadable pre-recorded audio, visual and audiovisual works via wireless networks on a variety of topics of general interest,' it sure sounds like a YouTube competitor." From the report: TechCrunch notes that Amazon has also applied for a trademark on "OpenTube," as well, which, if anything, is a more blatant name for what Google is looking to accomplish here. It's also not the first time that Amazon has been rumored to be working on its own, free video service -- earlier this year there were rumors that Amazon was planning a "freemium" version of Prime Video, although the company released a statement saying that it had no plans to do so.
Cellphones

Your Phone May Send You 'Blue Alerts' To Warn You When Local Police Are In Danger (androidpolice.com) 318

The FCC recently announced a new alert program called "Blue Alert" that will notify the public of threats to law enforcement in real time. "With the creation of a dedicated Blue Alert event code in the Emergency Alert System, state and local law enforcement will have the capability to push immediate warnings out to the public via broadcast, cable, and satellite providers, as well as to consumer smartphones through the Wireless Emergency Alert system," reports Android Police. From the report: Much like both the SILVER and AMBER alert programs, and utilizing the same notification system, Blue Alerts aim to warn the general public of threats to public safety and/or imminent danger. However, the police force focused alert system provides timely information to the public when police officers may be in danger. Chairman of the FCC and recent deregulator of the internet, Ajit Pai detailed the new FCC order saying, "Similar to the Amber Alerts that many are familiar with, Blue Alerts will enable authorities to warn the public when there is actionable information related to a law enforcement officer who is missing, seriously injured or killed in the line of duty, or when there is an imminent credible threat to an officer."

The December 14 order from the FCC activates the Blue Alerts service for one calendar year to deliver the notifications over the Emergency Alert System, and for 18 months over the Wireless Emergency Alert system.

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