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Massive US Wireless-Spectrum Auction Opens with Huge Bids

After 32 rounds of bidding, offers by mobile-service providers in what is shaping up to be a massive auction of US wireless spectrum licenses have reached $36.4 billion. This far surpasses the minimum $10.07 billion the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) said it will accept before distributing licenses. The ongoing auction is for licenses to use the AWS-3 spectrum band—frequencies between 2155 and 2175 MHz—in various parts of the US. The spectrum is typically utilized for cellular-telephone and Internet services and other types of fixed and mobile communications. Carriers have expressed particular interest in using the available spectrum to bolster high-speed LTE networks in major cities such as New York City, Los Angeles, and Chicago. The FCC doesn’t release the identity of bidders until the auction ends in a few weeks, but participants reportedly include most of the major national and some regional telecommunications providers. Notably, though, national carrier Sprint isn’t taking part. Some of the auction proceeds will be used to create the $7 billion FirstNet (First Responder Network Authority), a national broadband network for first responders to disasters and emergencies. The US government will use other proceeds to decrease its budget deficit. Industry observers note that the high bids in the current auction may be a sign of things to come in future similar events. (re/Code)(Fierce Wireless)(CTIA-The Wireless Association Blog)(The United States Federal Communications Commission)

Chinese Supercomputer Remains the World’s most Powerful

The Tianhe-2 supercomputer—based at China’s National University of Defense Technology—remains in first place in the Top500 list of the world’s most powerful high-performance machines. This is the fourth consecutive time the Tianhe-2—which performs 33.86 petaflops—has topped the semiannual list. Also for the fourth consecutive time, Titan, a Cray supercomputer housed at the US Oak Ridge National Laboratory, remained in second place with a performance of 17.59 petaflops; and IBM’s 17.17-petaflops Sequoia, at the US Lawrence Livermore National Lab, was in third place. The only new computer in the top 10 was an unnamed US government Cray machine in tenth place that runs 3.58 petaflops. Researchers from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory; the University of Tennessee; and Prometeus, a German company that runs high-performance computing conferences, update the Top500 list in June and November of each year. (re/Code)(HPC Wire)(Top500 Blog)(Top500)

Starbucks Rolls Out Wireless-Charging Mats

Starbucks customers can now power up while getting caffeinated. The coffee chain introduced 1,500 wireless charging spots in 200 San Francisco Bay area locations, the beginning of a chain-wide rollout next year. The company is using Powermat Technologies mats, which utilize the Power Matters Alliance standard for wireless charging. Starbucks stores will also sell adapters for different devices for $9.99 but are offering loaners during the rollout. The company first tested the technology in Boston and San Jose, California. In a statement, it said it undertook the project “after years of watching customers get on their hands and knees searching for outlets.” (Geek Wire)(re/Code)(Market Watch)

Microsoft Azure Problems Create Ripple of Outages

Recent problems with the Microsoft Azure cloud computing platform, which allows customers to store and manage data remotely, took down several third-party sites on 18 November 2014. The problems were global in scope, affecting, the Microsoft Office 365 suite, Sharepoint, email, and Xbox Live services. Customers—including social media activity tracking firm SocialSafe and Dutch healthcare organization Viva Zorggroep—reported problems with their websites and were not able to access storage or analytic tools. Some observers expect the issue may undermine Azure’s attempts to compete with rivals such as Amazon Web Services, particularly as Microsoft says Azure offers a 99.9 percent availability. No details about the origin of the problem were offered once service was restored. (BBC)(Gigaom)(Reuters @ The Economic Times)

Finnish Firm Developing Crowdfunded Tablet Computer

Jolla, a Finnish start-up created by ex-Nokia software developers, announced plans to create a crowdfunded tablet computer. The company was founded by Nokia’s former MeeGo software team, jettisoned by Nokia in 2011 when it moved to Microsoft Windows Phone software. Jolla launched its first smartphone last year. The new tablet’s open operating system is based on Meego technologies, and is now named Sailfish. It works via swipe and enables users to see multiple live apps simultaneously. Within hours of the announcement, Jolla raised more than $500,000 for the tablet on Indiegogo, though its goal was only $380,000. The company is using crowdfunding as a means to get user feedback for additional tablet features and other improvements. Early investors were able to able to purchase a tablet for $189. The tablets—available in Europe, the US, India, China, Hong Kong, and Russia—should be shipped in Spring 2015. (Reuters)(CNET)(Jolla @ Indiegogo)

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