AT&T is already dreaming up ways to milk 5G for every possible cent

After literal years of breathless hype, 5G is finally set to arrive. Verizon is rolling out the first sorta-5G network in a handful of neighborhoods starting October 1st, and AT&T will be following closely behind. Verizon has already announced the pricing for its fixed home 5G internet, and it’s actually surprisingly reasonable — just $50 for existing Verizon wireless subscribers, which gets you speeds of at least 300Mbps and no data caps, thresholds, or throttling.

But good prices when a service first rolls out is exactly what you expect. Far more telling is what AT&T is plotting for the future, when 5G is more ubiquitous and it turns from a fun new technology into a key revenue generator. So, it shouldn’t surprise you at all to learn that AT&T is already coming up with pricing schemes to extract the largest possible blood sacrifice from its customers to access 5G.

According to Fierce Wireless, AT&T executives spent some time at the Mobile World Congress Americas trade show last week talking about the potential pricing strategies for 5G. David Christopher, President of the AT&T Mobility and Entertainment Group, said that there are two new pricing strategies AT&T is currently experimenting with for its wireless network: selling service bundled with a device (which tends to be for low-bandwidth applications like a tracker), and add-on charges for a device, like the $10-a-month service fee for the Apple Watch.

What’s more telling is that Christopher also said there would be “different tiers” of service provided, and AT&T reportedly mentioned offering a low-latency service for gaming as one potential option. It’s telling because under the net neutrality rules enforced by the previous FCC, AT&T wouldn’t have much flexibility to offer those kinds of different plans. Paid prioritization or discrimination based on the type of traffic generally ran afould of the FCC’s rules, pushing carriers towards offering a simple per-GB service.

But as we’ve seen over the course of the last year, wireless plans have actually been exploding with complexity. Most carriers now offer a selection of different “Unlimited” plans with different maximum speeds, video streaming options, and priority on the network. If 5G lives up to its promise and starts to replace wired internet, you can expect the same kind of traffic discrimination to extend into our home internet as well — and AT&T is clearly stoked about the prospect.

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Apple barely got FDA approval for the Watch 4’s ECG in time for the unveiling last week

In the days leading up to Apple’s splashy fall product event last week, members of the company’s watch team were probably sweating bullets. Because the signature new feature of the watch, the ability to take an electrocardiogram reading, apparently didn’t get the all-important green light from the Food and Drug Administration until … less than 24 hours before show time.

That’s according to Fast Company writer Mark Sullivan, who apparently overheard an Apple employee talking about how close they cut it outside the Steve Jobs Theatre after the event. “I understood the man’s anxiety better when I saw that the FDA’s classification letters to Apple were dated September 11,” Mark wrote in a piece online today. “Apple’s event was September 12.”

During the event itself, as we all saw, Apple COO Jeff Williams told the assembled crowd the ECG feature embedded in the watch had won a de novo clearance from the FDA. It’s a type of designation the company won for being unlike other products on the market — and, as Mark notes, Jeff wouldn’t have been able to say that, which seemed to put some official government heft behind the new feature, if the letter hadn’t come the day before.

FDA commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb and Center for Devices and Radiological Health Director Dr. Jeff Shuren, released a joint statement last week saying the FDA had “worked closely” with Apple as it developed and tested its new watch tech. You can read a copy of the FDA’s Sept. 11 letter to Apple here, which walks through exactly how the company is allowed to market the new watch.

As a reminder, when the Watch 4 goes on sale on Friday it won’t be able to take an ECG reading right away. That feature will be added via a software update later this year. Getting FDA approval, meanwhile, removed an important hurdle in between Apple and getting this out to the public the way it wanted.

According to the FDA letter, the agency didn’t actually look at the hardware itself — just a notification feature and an app, as Mark notes in his FastCo piece.

“The first app, called the ‘Irregular Rhythm Notification Feature,’ looks at the Apple Watch wearer’s heartbeat rhythm and can send a notification if it detects patterns reminiscent of atrial fibrillation or some other arrhythmia. The second app, which the FDA calls electrocardiograph software for over-the-counter use, creates an electrocardiograph and provides analysis on whether it shows signs of cardiac arrhythmias.”

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