A Foolish Week of Telecom

Apple (NAS: AAPL) ended up with egg on its face after it suspended sales of its iPhone 4S on the very first day it was offered in China. Customers who had waited all night at one of its two Beijing stores became angry when it didn't open as expected Friday morning, and at least one disappointed person started throwing eggs at the building. Fighting also broke out.

Apple said the demand for the iPhones has far outstripped available units, and "to ensure the safety of our customers and employees, [the] iPhone won't be available in our retail stores in Beijing and Shanghai for the time being."

Siri, what is the best way to remove hardened egg yolk?

Give me an L-T-E
LTE is the name of the game, according to AT&T (NYS: T) , which announced at the Consumer Electronics Show earlier this week that it will be adding eight new LTE devices to its stable. Two of the phones will run on Microsoft's Windows Phone OS, including the Nokia (NYS: NOK) Lumia 900.

Carriers have been eyeing the Windows Phone offering with great interest, as a third smartphone ecosystem would be a welcome sight.

Verizon (NYS: VZ) has drawn a line in the sand regarding LTE, according to CNET, which reported that the carrier has declared that henceforth every device it offers will come with 4G LTE access. Even Research In Motion's BlackBerry must comply. And why not? Verizon does have the biggest LTE footprint in the country, covering 190 markets, compared to AT&T's 26 LTE markets.

Sprint Nextel (NYS: S) also introduced two LTE devices for its network, even though it does not yet have an LTE network up and running. It plans to begin LTE service in 10 markets by midyear.

Is there an iPhone in T-Mobile's future?
And what about T-Mobile, now that its star-crossed affair with AT&T has been annulled? Can it pull itself back up and be a viable competitor to the three other top-tier mobile carriers? T-Mobile CEO Philipp Humm told reporters at the CES that his company is "alive and ... back in fighting spirit."

Well, that's good, but T-Mobile needs something a bit more tangible than "spirit" to get back those thousands of customers it lost since the AT&T-Mobile merger was proposed last March. That something would have to be the iPhone. T-Mobile is the only one of the big three carriers that doesn't carry it. The latest on that possibility came from T-Mobile CTO Neville Ray, who told CNET of his belief that Apple will indeed put a chipset in the next iPhone that will support the Advanced Wireless Service spectrum that T-Mobile uses for its 3G network.

There's only so much spectrum
Speaking at CES, Federal Communications Commission chairman Julius Genachowski warned of "a looming spectrum crunch," one which will strangle the growth of our country's 4G mobile service. His remarks were really aimed at Congress, imploring them to authorize a wireless spectrum auction. Without this incentive, he said, "We're going to get swamped by an ocean of demand," resulting in reduced service and higher prices.

In other words, we can have all the high-speed networks and the fastest and coolest LTE devices in the world, but without that spectrum, we can't do anything.

Where unlimited doesn't really mean all-you-can-eat
Sprint advertises that it is the only mobile carrier that offers "truly unlimited" data usage, in order to compete against AT&T's and Verizon's tiered-data usage plans. But for Sprint CEO Dan Hesse, "unlimited" must have a different definition than the one most people use. Last week, Hesse said that "For the vast majority of customers -- your 98%, 99% -- to them, it's an unlimited experience, but for people that really want to run up big data charges, we can knock them off."

But this Friday, a spokesman for Sprint said "we don't throttle" users unless they use too much of the carrier's resources. I feel throttled already.

That's all, folks. Until next week.

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At the time thisarticle was published Fool contributorDan Radovskyowns shares of AT&T. The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple.Motley Fool newsletter serviceshave recommended buying shares of and creating a bull call spread position in Apple. Try any of our Foolish newsletter servicesfree for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe thatconsidering a diverse range of insightsmakes us better investors. The Motley Fool has adisclosure policy.

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