Jul 2, 2018

Axios Login

By Ina Fried
Ina Fried

Hi faithful readers. I just wanted to let you know that Login will be in your inbox today and tomorrow, but we're taking Wednesday through Friday off to watch fireworks and mull the state of our union.

1 big thing: The scramble for 5G spectrum

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The scramble among mobile carriers to amass airwaves for fifth generation wireless networks is picking up steam, and the frenetic pace will continue, even as industry players promise to begin rolling out 5G networks to consumers as soon as next year. Axios' David McCabe has a look at the landscape.

Why it matters: Regulators are rushing to make more spectrum available for what the industry promises will be super-fast speeds and quick response times perfect for applications like virtual reality and self-driving cars.

The big picture: There is no single approach to bringing 5G connections to consumers. Effectively, wireless carriers intend to cobble together chunks of different kinds of airwaves to build cohesive networks.

The high-band spectrum: These are airwaves that deliver the key promises of 5G — high speeds, low latency — but with a catch: they can't go that far. That means they’re best suited to dense environments, like cities, where carriers can group small antennas closely together to blanket an area with signal.

  • The Federal Communications Commission plans to auction swathes of these airwaves to carriers later this year.
  • There are other groups of high-frequency airwaves that could be used by providers, according to a wireless executive interviewed by Axios, meaning that the effort to open them up could continue.

Mid-band spectrum: This is where carriers will turn to make up for the coverage gaps in the dense but narrow high-band networks.

  • These airwaves can also handle more traffic at any given time compared to current wireless networks, making it possible to deliver some of what providers have promised with 5G while also covering a wider area than the high-frequency airwaves.
  • The FCC will vote this month on whether to formally consider how to expand how providers can use a section of mid-level spectrum.

Lower-frequency airwaves: These aren't typically seen as useful for 5G, but as such signals carry far and help with rural coverage, there are still some efforts underfoot to apply them to the race.

  • T-Mobile bought large portions of these airwaves in an auction that concluded last year, and says it can use them to bolster a 5G network that also includes higher-frequency airwaves.
  • Others are skeptical. “The channel sizes just aren’t big enough to provide a big 5G benefit as compared to LTE,” said the wireless executive.

Yes, but: 5G, for now, is an abstract bundle of standards and technologies that could one day deliver the ultra-fast mobile data carriers have promised. But it hasn’t yet been commercially deployed, and its structure remains a work in progress.

  • T-Mobile and Sprint, however, have made the competition for 5G a key part of their argument for why they should be able to merge.

Of note: The scramble to get to 5G has also been highlighted lately by concerns aired by President Trump’s inner circle that the U.S. would be in a better position against China with a centralized — and maybe nationalized — 5G network. For now, that is not the network U.S. telecoms are building, and it would take some radical shifts in both technology and policy to get there.

Go deeper: Our primer on how 5G works.

2. The most popular iOS apps of all time

A wall of app icons at Apple's WWDC 2018. Photo: Ina Fried/Axios

App Annie is out with a fresh look at the most popular and profitable iOS apps and games of all time. It's a list that includes Clash of Clans and Candy Crush, as well as a number of apps from Facebook and Google.

Why it matters: The app economy is huge. Consumers spent $42.5 billion in the iOS App store last year.

  • Most downloaded games: Candy Crush Saga, Subway Surfers, Fruit Ninja, Clash of Clans and Honor of Kings.
  • Top-grossing games: Clash of Clans, Candy Crush Saga, Monster Strike, Puzzles & Dragons and Honor of Kings.
  • Most downloaded apps: Facebook, Facebook Messenger, YouTube, Instagram and WhatsApp.
  • Top-grossing apps: Netflix, Spotify, Pandora, Tencent Video and Tinder.

Context: In 2010, when App Annie began tracking apps, 10% of apps were paid, compared to less than 1% now. And instead of games, the top-grossing apps were things like Documents To Go, Shazam and LogMeIn.

  • App Annie's report has a look at all the top downloaded and top-grossing apps year by year as well as a number of interesting trends over time.

Here are some highlights:

  • The Asia Pacific region accounts for nearly 60% of consumer spending, compared to 27% for the Americas and 14% for Europe, the Middle East and Africa.
  • Games account for 31% of downloads, but three-quarters of spending.
  • More than 4.5 million apps have been released over time, three-fourths of which were games. However, the proportion of non-game apps being released is on the rise.

What's next: App Annie projects that spending in the iOS app store will reach $75.7 billion in 2022, up 80% from 2017.

3. House Dems: Facebook's responses lacking

Facebook’s difficult year isn't over, as evidenced by the unsatisfied responses from House lawmakers as they released the social network's latest responses to their questions on Saturday, David reports.

Highlights from Facebook's answers include:

  • The full list of the device makers and others who had access to Facebook data through partnerships with the company. It said the majority of the 52 listed were previously discontinued, and only 6 will remain active after October of this year.
  • The list of developers who had access to Facebook friends data after 2015 policy changes supposedly cut off access. Some got extensions to adjust to the changes, others were part of a beta test that involved the data. When disclosed by WSJ last month, these arrangements undercut Facebook’s argument that the policy changes provided a hard stop to the behavior that drove the Cambridge Analytica scandal.

What they’re saying:

  • Rep. Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), ranking member of the Energy and Commerce committee, said:
“After initial review, I am concerned that Facebook’s responses raise more questions than they answer. It’s disconcerting that four months after this scandal became public, Facebook still has no idea how many others have its users’ data and how that data is being used today.”

The big picture: The hundreds of pages of questions — and the fact that, months after CEO Mark Zuckerberg's hearings, Facebook is still dodging some of them — show that the spotlight isn't coming off the company anytime soon.

4. Apple boosts its investment in maps

Apple's current Maps uses a variety of third-party data. Photo: Apple

TechCrunch had an important (and lengthy) story on Friday noting how Apple is stepping up its maps game.

Among the key points:

  • Apple is using iPhone data as well as its own LiDAR and GPS-equipped vans to gather map data. It's also using a Mac Pro and iPad to acquire and store the information.
  • The company plans to roll out the homegrown data first in Northern California starting with the San Francisco Bay Area in an upcoming beta version of iOS 12.
  • Apple made the decision to do its own map data gathering four years ago. “We said, ‘Where do we want to take Maps? What are the things that we want to do in Maps?’" Apple SVP Eddy Cue told TechCrunch. "We realized that, given what we wanted to do and where we wanted to take it, we needed to do this ourselves."

Our thought bubble:

  • TomTom shares cratered on the report, but it's worth remembering that Apple is focusing on key markets, starting with just a single area. It's a reasonable bet that it will still need the kind of data it is getting from TomTom to offer global coverage.
  • Maps are incredibly strategic to Apple, both for helping power the iPhone apps of today as well as the augmented reality and autonomy products of the future.
5. Take Note

On Tap

  • The bad news is obvious; it's Monday. The good news is that with July 4 in the middle of the week, expect little business to get done all week. Even better news, there's a World Cup to watch.

Trading Places

ICYMI

  • ZTE shook up its board as it seeks to end the U.S. export ban that effectively amounts to a death penalty, WSJ reports.
  • Dell Technologies is close to a complex deal that will see the company acquire its publicly traded VMWare tracking stock, per CNBC.
  • The NYT reports that the NSA is deleting all the phone records it has gathered since 2015 after determining some were obtained improperly due to a technical glitch.
6. After you Login

Here's what it might sound like if golf announcers switched sports with those who call soccer games.

Ina Fried