Ericsson seeks US iPad, iPhone ban as it sues Apple over patents

Last month Apple and Ericsson went to war over the fees Ericsson is trying to charge Apple for the use of its mobile broadband patents. Apple sued Ericsson in an attempt to have the patents declared non-standard-essential (meaning they don’t automatically command royalties) or, if they are found standard-essential, to have Ericsson’s fees declared unreasonably high.

At the time, Ericsson merely went to the Eastern District of Texas district court in search of a judgement saying the patents are indeed essential to 4G standards. Now, however, it’s stepped up its campaign in a big way.

On Thursday Ericsson filed two complaints with the International Trade Commission, asking the ITC to hit Apple’s iPhone and iPads with an exclusion order for “infringing Ericsson patents that are essential to the 2G and 4G/LTE standards.” It also filed multiple complaints with the Eastern District of Texas court, looking for damages and injunctions over the infringement of 41 patents.

These patents cover many things, according to an Ericsson statement:

The patents include standard essential patents related to the 2G and 4G/LTE standards as well as other patents that are critical to features and functionality of Apple devices such as the design of semiconductor components, user interface software, location services and applications, as well as the iOS operating system.

According to Ericsson intellectual property chief Kasim Alfahali, the networking technology firm has “acted in good faith to find a fair solution [but] Apple currently uses our technology without a license and therefore we are seeking help from the court and the ITC.”

Apple has previously said it had “always been willing to pay a fair price to secure the rights to standards essential patents covering technology in our products [but had] not been able to agree with Ericsson on a fair rate for their patents” and was therefore asking the courts for help. I’ve sought fresh Apple comment on Ericsson’s suits and will add it in as and when I receive it.

Qualcomm’s new mid-range phone chips get high-end features

The lines between an average and a flagship phone are going to blur this year as Qualcomm trickles current high-end features down to its newest mid-range chips. The company on Wednesday provided details of its four newest Snapdragon chips that will power phones as soon as the first half of this year.

The new chip quartet is the evolution of both the Snapdragon 400 and 600 chips, which are currently used for budget and sub-flagship phones: Say hello to the [company]Qualcomm[/company] Snapdragon 415, 425, 618 and 620. Devices with the 415 are expected to launch by the end of June, while the other three chips will find homes in products by year-end.

 

Many features previously found in the Snapdragon 800 line — the chips used for the cream of the [company]Google[/company] Android crop such as the Galaxy S5, Nexus 6, HTC One M8 and G Flex 2 — are getting crammed into the cheaper chips. For comparison: phones such as the $179 Moto G shown below use a current Snapdragon 400 variant.

Moto G

Qualcomm’s new X8 LTE modem, for example, brings carrier aggregation and category 7 LTE to the Snapdragon 425, 618 and 620, offering peak download speeds of up to 300 Mbps and upload speeds of up to 100 Mbps. I’m surprised that modem is part of the 425 chip as that line of silicon can be found in phones today that cost under $200; that’s a low-cost entry point for high-speed connection capabilities.

The bigger changes come to the more expensive chips, the new Snapdragon 618 and 625. Both get new Cortex A72 chips — a dual-core configuration in the former, a quad-core setup in the latter — for improved performance and power efficiency. Support for 4k video capture and playback is included with support for a pair of 13-megapixel cameras if device makers choose. And audiophiles won’t have to spend a bundle for a device that can handle 192kHz/24bit music playback; both of the new 600-level chips can decode and play those tunes.

While chip evolution is expected on a yearly basis, it’s good to step back every once in a while and appreciate the bigger picture. The high-end features found only on smartphones costing $600 or more a year or 18 months ago are finding a home in the next iteration of handsets that will cost around one half to one-quarter as much.

New T-Mobile prepaid unlimited talk and text plans start at $40

T-Mobile announced on Thursday that it’s introducing a new class of prepaid plans called Simply Prepaid. It’s a monthly plan that includes unlimited minutes, texts, and 3G data — you simply pay for how much 4G LTE data you expect to use.

There are three Simply Prepaid tiers, starting at $40 per month, which nets you 1GB of LTE data, all the way up to $60 per month, which comes with 5GB of 4G LTE data. Once you’ve used up your LTE allotment, you’ll be throttled to 3G speeds until the end of the month.

While Simply Prepaid customers can tap into some T-Mobile bells and whistles like Wi-Fi calling,  these plans don’t include T-Mobile’s data exception for music streaming or cheap international data options that come with T-Mobile’s postpaid Simple Choice plan.

Simply Prepaid joins T-Mobile’s Pay As You Go prepaid plan, which starts at a much less expensive $10 but has metered minutes and texts, and users have to buy expensive one-day or seven-day data passes. Simply Prepaid plans will become available through [company]T-Mobile[/company] and authorized dealers on January 25.

Apple and Ericsson go to court over LTE patents

Thought Apple and Samsung’s truce meant the patent wars were dying down? Think again: now Apple and Ericsson have launched a new legal battle.

After a license agreement for [company]Apple[/company]’s use of [company]Ericsson[/company] cellular technology expired, and two years of negotiations failed, Apple sued Ericsson on Monday in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California.

The iPhone maker seems to be taking two approaches. On the one hand, according to reports, it’s claiming that Ericsson is wrong to say the relevant LTE patents (covering things like bandwidth efficiency and signal management) are “standards-essential” — something that would mean Apple is automatically infringing by including LTE/4G functionality in its devices. On the other, Apple is saying that if these are standards-essential patents (SEPs), Ericsson is demanding too much because SEPs are supposed to be licensed on “fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory” (FRAND) terms.

Apple said in its complaint that Ericsson is trying to calculate royalties based on the total phone price, rather than the price of the LTE chip. An Apple spokeswoman told the Wall Street Journal:

We’ve always been willing to pay a fair price to secure the rights to standards essential patents covering technology in our products. Unfortunately, we have not been able to agree with Ericsson on a fair rate for their patents so, as a last resort, we are asking the courts for help.

Sweden’s Ericsson said on Wednesday that it launched a complaint with the District Court for the Eastern District of Texas, asking the court to determine whether the royalties Ericsson wants to levy in its “global license offer” comply with its FRAND commitments.

Here’s what Ericsson chief intellectual property office Kasim Alfalahi said in a statement:

Our goal is to reach a mutually beneficial resolution with Apple. They have been a valued partner for years and we hope to continue that partnership. Global sharing of technology has created the success of the mobile industry and allowed new entrants to quickly build successful businesses. We believe it is reasonable to get fair compensation from companies benefitting from the development we have made over the course of the last 30 years.

Here’s Ericsson’s filing:

Ericsson v Apple

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This article was updated at 3.30am PT to include more detail about Apple’s complaint and again at 5.15am PT to include Ericsson’s filing.

UK to clear 700MHz spectrum for mobile broadband use by 2022

As expected, the British telecommunications regulator Ofcom has decided to free up spectrum in the 700MHz for mobile broadband use. Already used for 4G/LTE in the U.S. and Asia, this spectrum is great for long-range deployments and providing in-building coverage, and it’s a couple of years since an EU-level report recommended freeing it up across Europe. In the U.K., the spectrum will be available for mobile broadband use by the start of 2022 at the latest. Free-to-view digital TV and wireless broadcast microphones will need to switch to other frequencies, though. Ofcom also recently decided to free up more high-capacity 2.3GHz and 3.4GHz spectrum for mobile broadband use in a couple years’ time.