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Ready to switch wireless carriers? Answer these 6 important questions first

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Changing your wireless carrier is an important (and potentially expensive) decision. Before you make the switch, answer these simple questions to make sure you make the move that’s right for you.

1. Are you free to go?

While carrier contracts in the U.S. are quickly becoming things of the past, you still have to make sure you’re free and clear of obligations to start up somewhere new without getting hit with penalty fees. If you’ve bought a phone from another carrier, double-check to make sure you’ve paid it off in full, or else you may need to pay the rest of what you owe before you can cancel your service.

2. Will you need to buy a new phone, or do you have one already?

Unless you’re bringing your own existing cellphone to your new network, you’ll need to buy one, which means you’ll be paying for the whole thing up front, or via monthly installments. These are payments you’ll need to factor in as you calculate how much you want to pay your new carrier each month.

If you plan to bring your own phone, make sure it’s unlocked and works on your new carrier’s network (GSM, such as AT&T and T-Mobile versus CDMA, like Sprint and Verizon). When in doubt, give their customer service departments a call.

3. Individual or family plan?

Are you looking for yourself or for a group? A shared plan or family plan, which splits a monthly allotment of data among multiple phone lines, usually winds up being cheaper per month than going solo. The downsides? You get a smaller amount of data for yourself, and you can’t predict how much everyone else on your plan will use. Carriers can also vary widely on how much they charge for adding extra lines to your account, so be sure to compare to find the best price.

4. Is low price something or everything?

How important is price to you? If you simply need the lowest rate, look for seasonal sales or promotional offers. Some carriers will cut you a better deal if you bring your number over from a previous carrier or trade in your old phone. Occasionally, you’ll find a deal that pairs a specific phone model with a particular rate plan. And sometimes you’ll flat out find a great overall deal: Consumer Cellular, for instance, regularly receives top recognition in independent consumer surveys for its low-priced, no-contract service, as well as its outstanding customer support.

5. How flexible do you need to be?

Carriers have largely done away with two-year contract pricing, but you can still get it if you want, which often comes with a free or reduced-price device. You can also buy your phone outright in a lump sum, or through monthly installment pricing. As a benefit of this, the dreaded early termination fees of yesterday are gone, though you’re still on the hook for paying off the hardware before you switch (see number one above).

It’s also a good idea to find out if the new carrier offers a grace period, just in case things don’t work out. Many provide a 14- to 30-day trial, so if it turns out the service doesn’t meet your needs, you can cancel without penalties.

6. How good is carrier coverage in your area?

The fanciest phone on the market won’t get you anywhere if you can’t get data or voice service. Ask your friends, colleagues and neighbors how good their reception and signal strength are where you work and live.

There’s no shortage of competition for your cellphone dollars these days. By finding the right answer to these questions, you’re sure to find a carrier that fits your needs, and at a price you’re satisfied with.

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Beeline and Huawei Conduct the First 5G Holographic Call in Russia

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5G Holographic Call Between Vasyl Latsanych, CEO of VimpelCom, and Aiden Wu, CEO of Huawei in Russia

VimpelCom (Beeline brand) and Huawei held a demonstration showcasing the latest fifth generation (5G) mobile connection technologies. The Moscow Museum exhibition hall was used as the demonstration zone and the dialogue between the speakers was conducted using a hologram – a digitized image transmitted through Mixed Reality glasses (MR). Holographic communication technology requires high bandwidth and low latency, which will only be made possible by the mass deployment of 5G networks.

During the demonstration, the companies used frequencies between 26,600–27,200 MHz that had been temporarily allocated to Beeline. This spectrum range is within the 3GPP standardized band n258.

A commercially available Huawei 5G base station – the gNodeB – was used to make the holographic call. The base station consists of an active antenna array (HAAU 5213) and a new generation of BBU5900 digital processing module with a 5G board. The radio interface uses TDD mode in the 100 MHz frequency band and MIMO 64×64 technology. One of the first commercially available 5G CPE devices based on the Huawei Balong5G01 chipset is selected as the subscriber terminal, which includes an RF module (ODU) and 5G/WiFi router (IDU).

Beeline and Huawei also demonstrated a practical 5G virtual reality (VR) use case using an online broadcast from a 360-degree camera housed in a VR helmet. The technology can potentially be used to enhance user experience in terms of remote travel. For example, Beeline customers can visit an operator’s shop, acquire a tariff plan, or buy a smartphone, while physically located in the comfort of their own home.

Vasyl Latsanych, CEO of PJSC VimpelCom, said, “The rapid development of modern technologies sets a precedence for operators to provide subscribers with high-quality mobile communications at high speeds. That’s why Beeline is already preparing its network infrastructure and is conducting research on how to make a rational transition to 5G technologies. We simply wish to offer our subscribers an understanding of how such technologies can become an integral part of their daily lives, and how they can simplify and improve their user experience. That is why it is growing increasingly important for Beeline to test real business use cases and explore the potential client capabilities of fifth-generation mobile technologies.”

Aiden Wu, CEO of Huawei in Russia, said, “This May 2018, Beeline and Huawei signed an agreement to pursue the joint development of 5G in Russia. Our cooperation has been extremely productive, which today’s demonstration has quite clearly shown. We will continue working together to bring the implementation of a new communication standard closer to becoming a worldwide phenomenon and speed up the process of creating new technologies and services based on this standard.”

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Samsung AKG N700NC Wireless Headphones Now Available in the US

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Following the launch of a new lineup of first-class wireless AKG headphones last month, Samsung Electronics America today announced the new AKG N700NC Wireless Headphones are now available for purchase just in time for the holiday season.

Combining the best in design with AKG’s award-winning sound technology, the AKG N700NC Wireless are the ideal over-ear headphones for music lovers who want best-in-class audio.

With adaptive noise cancelling, users can control how much surrounding noise they want to let in – so they can immerse themselves in the music or keep an ear open to the world around them – all with the push of a button.

World-class audio technology eliminates echoes, striking the perfect balance between noise cancellation and ambient awareness and resulting in crystal clear voice calls. And with battery life that lasts up to 20 hours, users can listen to music throughout the day without having to worry about charging.

The AKG N700NC Wireless are now available for purchase at AKG.com, Amazon and Samsung.com for $349.95.

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The Inside Story of Hilton’s New High-Tech Hotel Rooms – And What It Will Mean For Travelers

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Imagine being able to set your favorite TV channels, optimal room temperature and turn the lights off from the comfort of your hotel room bed, all on your own mobile device. It’s not a pipe dream: Welcome to Hilton’s Connected Room.

Through the award-winning Hilton Honors app, guests can use their mobile device as the in-room remote to control their television programming, lighting, and temperature controls –personalizing their preferences just as they do at home.

Josh Weiss, Vice President of Brand and Guest Technology at Hilton, explains how and why Connected Room came to life and where it’s going next:

Q: What inspired the Connected Room concept?

Global travel is growing, and travelers increasingly expect an experience as good as, and ideally better than, what they are accustomed to at home. Hospitality companies have an exciting challenge to find new ways to offer guests the control, connectivity and personalization they increasingly want when they’re on the road. Hilton has answered the call with our Connected Room platform, which is rooted in the unique needs of each guest. Guests in a Connected Room can:

  • Click on “favorites” – and their preferred viewing channels and streaming apps will appear first in the Hilton Honors app.
  • Set their preferred temperature, so when they return to their room they’re not too cold or hot.
  • Access their favorite streaming media brands from their in-room TV to continue watching the show or movie they were streaming before their trip, for example.  Through our industry-first relationship with SHOWTIME, guests don’t need any credentials to stream hundreds of hours of shows and movies.

Q: Who came up with the Connected Room concept?

Connected Room was created by Hilton’s IT and Digital team to address a wide range of opportunities. These include delivering an outstanding guest experience, providing operational efficiencies to hotel owners and operators, and enabling better troubleshooting and support, including pushing software updates through the platform to create new experiences and offer new features.

Q: Where can I find a property with Connected Room technology?

We have deployed the technology in nearly 500 rooms to date across four hotels near Memphis, and we will soon expand to thousands of additional rooms across five more brands, in multiple locations.

While some of the features are immediately available, we’re taking a dynamic approach to identify, create, and deliver many others in the future, based on what’s most important to our guests. The platform was designed to evolve throughout its rollout and will ultimately scale to Hilton’s global operation across more than 100 countries and 14 current brands.

Q: Hilton recently announced that it will cut its environmental footprint in half and double its social impact investment by 2030 through its Travel with Purpose corporate responsibility strategy. Does Connected Room have an environmental benefit?

Absolutely. For example, when guests aren’t physically in their booked rooms – typically around 70% of the time – hotels can power down devices such as the television, HVAC, and lights, dramatically reducing energy consumption.

We apply AI and machine learning to optimize energy efficiency and guest comfort; we do not view these as a tradeoff.  We believe that through Connected Room, we can open up new, advanced ways of tracking and reducing energy consumption around the world, and continue to be a leader in sustainability.

Q: Do I need the Hilton Honors app to access Connected Room functions and features?

The Hilton Honors app is the only way to access Connected Room controls and other technology conveniences from your mobile device. For example, Hilton Honors members are already able to use the app to check in digitally before arrival, select their room from a digital map, and open their hotel room’s door with their mobile phone thanks to the app’s Digital Key function. In addition, Hilton Honors members can also enjoy instant benefits, including an exclusive member discount that can’t be found anywhere else, and free standard Wi-Fi.

However, the app isn’t mandatory to enjoy Connected Room TV features – Hilton will continue to enhance the television remote and TV user experience and build room controls into the TV so all guests can access all features of Connected Room.

Q: How does Connected Room technology influence future innovations?

Hilton began beta testing Connected Room in 2017 and it will evolve throughout its rollout. Because it is a platform, much like with an Apple or Android mobile device, we can push new features, apps, and functionality to existing devices over time without the need to deploy additional hardware. For guests, this means that in the longer term they’ll be able to do things such as upload their photos and art to display digitally in the room, or connect to new devices. They’ll also be able to enjoy new features much faster than we could roll out these capabilities today. They may also be able to use voice commands to control their room’s features or to access their content.

There’s a benefit to Hilton franchise owners too, who sometimes face challenges implementing new technology due to high costs and operational challenges. Connected Room will make it easier for them to keep pace with the rapid change in technology and easily integrate new innovations seamlessly into the guest experience.

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