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Reliance Jio Top Bidder in 5G Spectrum Auction, DoT Receives Bids Worth Record 1.5 Lakh Crore

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By Press Trust of India | Updated: 1 August 2022

A record over Rs.1.5 lakh crore worth of 5G telecom spectrum was sold in a seven-day auction ending on Monday, which saw billionaire Mukesh Ambani’s Jio emerging as the top bidder to consolidate its leadership position. Sources with direct knowledge of the matter said provisional data puts the total bids at Rs. 1,50,173 crore.

The mop-up from the 5G spectrum, capable of offering ultra-high speed mobile Internet connectivity, is almost double at Rs. 77,815 crore worth 4G airwaves sold last year and triple of Rs. 50,968.37 crore garnered from a 3G auction in 2010.

Reliance Jio was the top bidder to the airwaves capable of offering speeds about 10 times faster than 4G, lag-free connectivity, and can enable billions of connected devices to share data in real-time. It was followed by Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea.

New entrant Adani group is said to have bought 26 Mhz spectrum for setting up a private telecom network.

The sources said details of which company bought how much spectrum would be known once the data from the auction is fully compiled.

Both Bharti and Jio have likely built a pan-India spectrum footprint for 5G, with Vodafone Idea’s selective participation.

The government had put on offer spectrum in 10 bands but received no bids for airwaves in 600 MHz, 800 MHz and 2300 MHz bands. About two-thirds of the bids were for the 5G bands (3300 Mhz and 26 GHz), while more than a quarter of the demand came in the 700 Mhz band – a band that had gone unsold in the previous two auctions (2016 and 2021).

In the auction conducted last year – that had lasted two days – Reliance Jio picked up spectrum worth Rs. 57,122.65 crore, Bharti Airtel bid about Rs. 18,699 crore, and Vodafone Idea bought spectrum worth Rs. 1,993.40 crore.

This year, a total of 72 GHz (gigahertz) of radiowaves worth at least Rs. 4.3 lakh crore was put on the block. The auction was held for spectrum in various low (600 MHz, 700 MHz, 800 MHz, 900 MHz, 1800 MHz, 2100 MHz, 2300 MHz, 2500 MHz), mid (3300 MHz) and high (26 GHz) frequency bands.

In addition to powering ultra-low latency connections, which allow downloading full-length high-quality video or movie to a mobile device in a matter of seconds (even in crowded areas), Fifth Generation or 5G would enable solutions such as e-health, connected vehicles, more-immersive augmented reality and metaverse experiences, life-saving use cases, and advanced mobile cloud gaming among others.

The auction garnered bids worth Rs. 1.45 lakh crore on the first day on July 26, with subsequent days seeing only marginal incremental demand in some circles.

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Optus Data Breach: Australian Police Investigate Purported Hacker’s $1 Million Ransom Demand

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By Associated Press | Updated: 27 September 2022

Australian police were investigating a purported hacker’s release of the stolen personal data of 10,000 Optus customers and demand for a $1 million (roughly Rs. 8 crore) ransom in cryptocurrency, the telecommunications company’s chief executive said Tuesday.

The Australian government has blamed lax cybersecurity at the nation’s second-largest wireless carrier for the unprecedented breach last week of the personal data of 9.8 million current and former Optus customers.

Jeremy Kirk, a Sydney-based cybersecurity writer, said the purported hacker, who uses the online name Optusdata, had released 10,000 Optus customer records on the dark Web and threatened to release another 10,000 every day for the next four days unless Optus paid the ransom.

Asked if the hacker had threatened to sell the remaining data if Optus did not pay the $1 million within a week, the company’s chief executive Kelly Bayer Rosmarin told Australian Broadcasting Corp.: “We have seen there is a post like that on the dark Web.”

Australian Federal Police said Monday their investigators were working with overseas agencies, including the FBI, to determine who was behind the attack and to help shield the public from identity fraud. Police declined further comment Tuesday as the investigations were ongoing.

“They’re looking into every possibility and they’re using the time available to see if they can track down that particular criminal and verify if they a bona fide,” Bayer Rosmarin said.

Kirk wrote in his website Bank Info Security that Optusdata later deleted the post along with three samples of the stolen data.

Optusdata sent Kirk a link to the new post that withdrew the ransom demand, claimed the stolen data had been deleted and apologized to Optus as well as its customers.

“Too many eyes. We will not sale (sic) data to anyone,” the post said, adding that Optus had not paid a ransom.

Kirk said he asked why Optusdata had changed their mind but received no response.

Australian Information and Privacy Commissioner Angelene Falk, the national data protection authority, said the latest post “indicates … this is a very fast-moving incident.”

“It’s a major incident of significant concern for the community. What we need to focus on here is ensuring that all steps are maintained to protect the community’s personal information from further risk of harm,” Falk said.

Earlier Tuesday, Kirk said the released personal data appeared to include health care numbers, a form of identification not previously revealed publicly to have been hacked.

Cybersecurity Minister Clare O’Neil urged Optus to give priority to informing customers of what information had been taken.

“I am incredibly concerned this morning about reports that personal information from the Optus data breach, including Medicare numbers, are now being offered for free and for ransom,” O’Neil said. “Medicare numbers were never advised to form part of compromised information from the breach,” she added.

O’Neil on Monday described the hack as an “unprecedented theft of consumer information in Australian history.”

Of the 9.8 million people affected, 2.8 million had “significant amounts of personal data,” including driver’s licenses and passport numbers, breached and are at significant risk of identity theft and fraud, she said.

Kirk said he used an online forum for criminals who trade in stolen data to ask Optusdata how the Optus information was accessed.

Optus appeared to have left an application programming interface, a piece of software known as an API that allows other systems to communicate and exchange data, open to the public, Kirk said.

“It looks like it was a failure to secure the software system, so anybody on the Internet could find it,” Kirk said.

The Australian Financial Review said the theory that Optus “left open an API” had been widely reported.

Bayer Rosmarin rejected such explanations.

“Given we’re not allowed to say much because the police have asked us not to, what I can say — that hopefully will help people understand that it’s not as being portrayed — is that our data was encrypted and we have multiple layers of protection,” Bayer Rosmarin said.

“So it is not the case of having some sort of completely exposed API sitting out there,” she added.

O’Neil didn’t detail how the breach occurred, but described it as a “quite a basic hack.”

Optus had “effectively left the window open for data of this nature to be stolen,” O’Neil said.

Australia’s government is considering tougher cybersecurity rules for telecommunications companies as a result of the hack.

Current cyberprotection law doesn’t allow for Optus to be fined for the breach, though O’Neil noted fines of hundreds of millions of dollars would be possible if it had occurred in other countries.

O’Neil said a potential AUD 2 million (roughly Rs. 10 crore) fine under privacy law was inadequate.

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5G Services Rollout Expected ‘Very Soon’, Aiming for Pan-India Coverage in 2 years, IT Minister Says

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By ANI | Updated: 26 September 2022

5G telecom services in India will be launched very soon and the government’s target will be to cover the entire country within 2 years, said Union Electronics and Information Technology minister Ashwini Vaishnaw at an event on Sunday.

India is gearing up for the rollout of 5G services by October, the minister had earlier said.

The government in mid-August issued spectrum allocation letters to telecom service providers while asking them to prepare for the rollout of 5G services.

With this spectrum allotment, India is in the final stage of rolling out high-speed 5G telecom services.

Reliance Jio has already announced it will launch high-speed 5G telecom services by Diwali this year in multiple key cities such as Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, and Chennai. Subsequently, it intends to expand its 5G network to each and every town, tehsil and talukas across the country by December of 2023, which is nearly 18 months from now.

What is 5G, and how is it different from the current 3G and 4G services?

5G is the fifth-generation mobile network capable of transmitting a large set of data at a very rapid speed.

In comparison to 3G and 4G, 5G has a very low latency which will enhance user experiences in various sectors. Low latency describes the efficiency to process a very high volume of data messages with a minimal delay.

The 5G rollout is also expected to bring more development in remote data monitoring in sectors such as mining, warehousing, telemedicine, and manufacturing, among others.

Who were the participants in the auction?

Reliance Jio, Adani group, Bharti Airtel, and Vodafone Idea are the four major participants in the spectrum auction.

How much revenue did the government make from the auction?

Department of Telecom received total bids worth Rs. 1.50 lakh crore from the recently concluded auction. Revenue from the auctions was initially estimated to be Rs. 80,000-90,000 crore.

Speed:

5G services are expected to be about 10 times faster than 4G.

Rollout:

High-speed 5G telecom services are expected to be offered in several cities in the county by the end of the year 2022.

Adani Group forays into the telecom sector:

This is the first time that the Gautam Adani-led Adani group, which recently forayed into the telecom sector, participated in the bidding process of the 5G telecom spectrum auction.

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Elon Musk to Activate Starlink After US Guidance on Expanding Internet Access to Iranians Amid Protests

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By Reuters | Updated: 26 September 2022

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said on Friday that he would activate the firm’s satellite Internet service, Starlink, in response to US Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s tweet that the United States took action “to advance Internet freedom and the free flow of information” to Iranians.

The US Treasury Department on Friday issued guidance expanding Internet services available to Iranians despite US sanctions on the country, amid protests around Iran following the death of a 22-year-old woman in custody.

A Treasury official briefing reporters said: “Our understanding of Starlink is that what they provide would be commercial grade, and it would be hardware that’s not covered in the general license; so that would be something they would need to write into Treasury for.”

A US State Department spokesperson later said of Friday’s updated license that it was self-executing and that “anyone who meets the criteria outlined in this general license can proceed with their activities without requesting additional permissions.”

Musk could not be reached for comments or clarification regarding Starlink’s clearance to operate in Iran.

Iranians have been protesting over the death of Mahsa Amini last week while in police custody after being arrested by the morality police for wearing “unsuitable attire”.

Musk said on Monday that the company wanted to provide Starlink satellite broadband service – already provided to Ukraine for its fight against Russia’s invasion – to Iranians, and would ask for a sanctions exception.

The US State Department spokesperson added that if SpaceX were to determine that some activity aimed at Iranians requires a specific license, “OFAC would welcome it and prioritize it”.

“By the same token, if SpaceX determines that its activity is already authorized and has any questions, OFAC also welcomes that engagement,” the State Department spokesperson said.

© Thomson Reuters 2022

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Telecom Bill to Provide Roadmap for Industry Restructuring, Innovation, Says IT Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw

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By Press Trust of India | Updated: 22 September 2022

Telecom Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw on Thursday said that the new telecom bill will provide a clear roadmap for industry restructuring and promote innovation.

While speaking at a Public Affairs Forum of India event, the minister said in the next one-and-a-half years to two years, the government should be able to completely revamp the entire digital regulatory framework which aims to balance the societal objectives, duties and rights of individuals, and technology agnostic framework.

“Industry does go through various phases. Sometimes because of business environments, technology changes and various other factors. There is a need for restructuring. How do you put that in the bill so that the industry gets a very clear roadmap? If restructuring has to happen then these are the things that have to be taken care of. These are the things which are my rights, so that kind of clear framework has been put in this bill,” Vaishnaw said.

He said that the digital world needs a comprehensive set of legislations and the Prime Minister has given the telecom ministry the target that India’s digital legal framework regulatory framework should be globally benchmarked.

“That doesn’t mean that we simply go around and copy whatever is best in the world. That means we have to aim at creating a digital legal framework, which the world should come and study. That’s a very big objective, but it’s possible,” Vaishnaw said. According to the draft Telecommunication Bill 2022, over-the-top players like WhatsApp, Zoom and Google Duo —which provide calling and messaging services — may require licences to operate in the country.

The draft bill has included OTT as part of the telecommunication service. The government in the bill has proposed a provision to waive fees and penalty of telecom and internet service providers.

The ministry has also proposed a provision for the refund of fees in case a telecom or internet provider surrenders his license.

Vaishnaw said that the next 25 years will be a period of inclusive growth and investment will be the primary tool for the growth and there will be focus on manufacturing, innovation, simplification of rules and reforms in social infrastructure like education and health.

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Musk’s SpaceX and T-Mobile plan to connect mobile phones to satellites, boost cell coverage

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By Reuters | Updated: August 26, 2022

Aug 25 (Reuters) – U.S wireless carrier T-Mobile US Inc (TMUS.O) will use Elon Musk-owned SpaceX’s Starlink satellites to provide mobile users with network access in parts of the United States, the companies announced on Thursday, outlining plans to connect users’ mobile phones directly to satellites in orbit.

The new plans, which would exist alongside T-mobile’s existing cellular services, would cut out the need for cell towers and offer service for sending texts and images where cell coverage does not currently exist, key for emergency situations in remote areas, Musk said at a flashy event on Thursday at his company’s south Texas rocket facility.

Starlink’s satellites will use T-Mobile’s mid-band spectrum to create a new network. Most phones used by the company’s customers will be compatible with the new service, which will start with texting services in a beta phase beginning by the end of next year.

SpaceX has launched nearly 3,000 low-Earth-orbiting Starlink satellites since 2019, handily outpacing rivals OneWeb and Amazon.com Inc’s (AMZN.O) Project Kuiper.

SpaceX’s next-generation Starlink satellites, the first of which are planned to launch on SpaceX’s next-generation Starship rocket whenever it is fully developed, will have larger antennae that will allow connectivity directly to mobile phones on the T-mobile network, Musk said.

“We are constructing special antenna. … They are actually very big antenna that are extremely advanced,” he said. “The important thing is you will not need to get a new phone. The phone you currently have will work.”

Aug 25 (Reuters) – U.S wireless carrier T-Mobile US Inc (TMUS.O) will use Elon Musk-owned SpaceX’s Starlink satellites to provide mobile users with network access in parts of the United States, the companies announced on Thursday, outlining plans to connect users’ mobile phones directly to satellites in orbit.

The new plans, which would exist alongside T-mobile’s existing cellular services, would cut out the need for cell towers and offer service for sending texts and images where cell coverage does not currently exist, key for emergency situations in remote areas, Musk said at a flashy event on Thursday at his company’s south Texas rocket facility.
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Starlink’s satellites will use T-Mobile’s mid-band spectrum to create a new network. Most phones used by the company’s customers will be compatible with the new service, which will start with texting services in a beta phase beginning by the end of next year.

SpaceX has launched nearly 3,000 low-Earth-orbiting Starlink satellites since 2019, handily outpacing rivals OneWeb and Amazon.com Inc’s (AMZN.O) Project Kuiper.
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SpaceX’s next-generation Starlink satellites, the first of which are planned to launch on SpaceX’s next-generation Starship rocket whenever it is fully developed, will have larger antennae that will allow connectivity directly to mobile phones on the T-mobile network, Musk said.
T-Mobile CEO Sievert gestures during news conference at SpaceX Starbase in Brownsville, Texas
Musk and Sievert at SpaceX Starbase in Brownsville, Texas
Aerial of SpaceX Starbase in Brownsville, Texas SpaceX Chief Engineer Elon Musk and T-Mobile CEO Mike Sievert take part in a joint news conference at the SpaceX Starbase, in Brownsville, Texas, U.S., August 25, 2022. REUTERS/Adrees Latif

“We are constructing special antenna. … They are actually very big antenna that are extremely advanced,” he said. “The important thing is you will not need to get a new phone. The phone you currently have will work.”
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Meanwhile, U.S telecom firms are in a race to build up the mid-band portion of their 5G networks to catch up with T-Mobile, which bagged a chunky 2.5 GHz of mid-band spectrum thanks to a buyout of rival Sprint.

Mid-band or C-Band has proven to be perfect for 5G, as it provides a good balance of capacity and coverage.

The carrier said it aims to pursue voice and data coverage after the texting services beta phase.

Satellite communications firm AST SpaceMobile Inc (ASTS.O) is also building a global cellular broadband network in space that will operate with mobile devices without the need for additional hardware.

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Mobile Internet Services Suspended in 25 Assam Districts Over Exam Malpractice Concerns

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By Press Trust of India | Updated: 22 August 2022

Mobile Internet services across 25 districts of Assam were suspended for four hours on Sunday to prevent possible malpractices as the state government conducted written examinations for Grade-IV posts in its various departments.

Besides, prohibitory orders under Section 144 CrPC were promulgated in the districts where the examinations were on, a top government official said.

The principal of Cachar College in Silchar was detained by the police for alleged gross negligence of duty in conducting the examination.

Police said the deputy commissioner of Cachar district had filed an FIR at the Silchar Police Station this morning against the principal, Siddhartha Sankar Nath, after visiting the institution.

The DC claimed that the principal had failed to conduct the examination as per the guidelines issued for the purpose.

Nath was detained on basis of the complaint, police said.

More than 14.30 lakh candidates are expected to appear for nearly 30,000 Grade-III and -IV posts, with the examinations scheduled for August 21 and 28, and September 11.

While the Grade-IV examinations took place on Sunday in two shifts, tests for Grade-III posts will be held on the other two dates. All examinations are being conducted by the Board of Secondary Education, Assam (SEBA).

Senior officials of private telecom operators Airtel and Jio told PTI that internet services were suspended in 25 districts for four hours as per directions of the Assam government.

“Dear customers, as per government directive, mobile Internet services are being temporarily stopped in your area between 10am to 12pm and between 2pm to 4pm,” read an Airtel SMS to its subscribers.

Similar messages were sent by other operators to their customers across the state.

On August 17, Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said internet services would be suspended during the examination hours to avoid possible malpractices during the recruitment process.

Meanwhile, Assam Police said in a tweet that Section 144 of CrPC has been promulgated in and around the examination venues for all three days to conduct the tests in a “free, fair and transparent manner”.

As per an official order, the gathering of people within a radius of 100 metre of each examination centre other than candidates, scribes, and officials engaged in conduct and monitoring has been prohibited.

Carrying mobile phones to the examination centres has also been barred.

Prohibitory orders under Section 144 of CrPC have also been imposed within a radius of 100 metre of the SEBA office at Guwahati till receiving, depositing, and scrutinising the answer scripts are over.

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