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Telecom Minister Asks Service Providers to Prepare for 5G Rollout

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By Press Trust of India | Updated: 19 August 2022

Telecom Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw on Thursday asked telecom service providers to gear up for the 5G launch post the issuance of spectrum allocation letters. In a first, the Department of Telecom (DoT) issued spectrum assignment letters on the same day the successful bidders of radio waves made upfront payments.

“5G Update: Spectrum assignment letter issued. Requesting TSPs to prepare for 5G launch,” Vaishnaw wrote on Twitter. The DoT has received payment of around Rs 17,876 crore from service providers — Bharti Airtel, Reliance Jio, Adani Data Networks and Vodafone Idea for the spectrum they won in a recent auction.

The country’s biggest ever auction of telecom spectrum received a record Rs 1.5 lakh crore worth of bids, with Mukesh Ambani’s Jio cornering nearly half of all the airwaves sold with an Rs 87,946.93 crore bid.

Bharti Enterprises founder and chairman Sunil Bharti Mittal said that his company Bharti Airtel received a spectrum allocation letter within a few hours of making an upfront payment to the DoT.

“In my over 30 years of first-hand experience with DoT, this is a first! Business as it should be. Leadership at work-Right at the top and at the helm of telecom. What a Change! Change that can transform this nation – power its dreams to be a developed nation,” Mittal said.

Airtel acquired 19,867.8 MHz spectrum by securing a pan-India footprint of 3.5 GHz and 26 GHz bands and selected purchase of radio waves in the low and mid-band spectrum for Rs 43,039.63 crore.

“Airtel paid Rs 8,312.4 crore towards spectrum dues and was provided the allocation letter for the designated frequency bands within hours.

“E band allocation was given along with spectrum as promised. No Fuss, No Follow Up, No running around the corridors and No tall claims. This is ease of doing business at work in its full glory,” Mittal said.

Airtel has said that it will launch the 5G service this month.

While all telecom operators have opted to make payments in 20 annual instalments, Bharti Airtel paid Rs 8,312.4 crore equivalent to four annual instalments.

Reliance Jio has made payments of Rs 7,864.78 crore, Vodafone Idea Rs 1,679.98 crore and Adani Data Networks Rs 18.94 crore.

Gautam Adani’s group has placed bids worth Rs 211.86 crore for 400 MHz in a band that is not used for offering public telephony services.

“On August 8, 2022, Adani Data Networks Ltd made a payment of Rs 18.9 crore to the Department of Telecommunications (Wireless Planning & Coordination Wing). This is the first of 20 equal annual instalments,” Adani Group spokesperson said.

Ficci Senior Vice President Subhrakant Panda said the ease, speed and transparency of the 5G spectrum auction process is a live example of much-improved ‘Ease of Doing Business’.

Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) said that approval processes across central ministries are getting speedier and more seamless.

“A series of facilitative reforms, aimed at rationalisation and digitisation of regulatory processes and procedures, have started yielding results at the ground level. The reform measures encompass the entire life cycle of a business, from start to exit, dealing with all crucial components of ease of doing business,” CII Director General Chandrajit Banerjee said.

Assocham Secretary General Deepak Sood said that India’s ease of doing business, as explicitly evident in the seamless and expeditious auction and allocation of the 5G spectrum, has improved significantly in the last few years.

“A series of reforms, coupled with a transparent regulatory environment under the dynamic leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has resulted in an EODB, which is being noted by global and domestic investors,” Sood said.

Technology

Elon Musk Set to Unveil ‘Optimus’ Humanoid Robot After Delay on Tesla Day: All Details

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By Reuters | Updated: 30 September 2022

Tesla CEO Elon Musk has said a robot business will be worth more than its cars, and on Friday investors, customers and potential workers expect to see a prototype at Tesla’s “AI Day” that could prove whether the bot named “Optimus” is ready for work.

The robot will be the star of the AI show, but Musk is also expected to discuss Tesla’s long-delayed self-driving technology. In May, Musk said that the world’s most valuable carmaker would be “worth basically zero” without achieving full self-driving capability, and it faces growing regulatory probes, as well as technological hurdles.

“There will be lots of technical detail & cool hardware demos,” Musk wrote on Twitter late on Wednesday, adding the event was aimed at recruiting engineers.

Tesla’s live demonstration record is mixed. Launches typically draw cheers, but in 2019 when Musk had an employee hurl a steel ball at the armored window of a new electric pickup truck, the glass cracked.

The key test for the robot is whether it can handle unexpected situations.

Musk announced Tesla’s plan for humanoid robots at its AI day in August last year and delayed this year’s event from August to have its robot prototype working, with a plan to start production possibly next year.

Tesla teased the unveiling of the bot on social media with an image of metallic robotic hands making a heart shape. But building human-like, versatile hands that can manipulate different objects is extremely challenging, said Heni Ben Amor, a robotics professor at Arizona State University.

Initially, Optimus, an allusion to the powerful and benevolent leader of the Autobots in the Transformers media franchise, would perform boring or dangerous jobs, including moving parts around Tesla factories or attaching a bolt to a car with a wrench, according to Musk.

“There’s so much about what people can do dexterously that’s very, very hard for robots. And that’s not going to change whether the robot is a robot arm or whether it’s in the shape of a humanoid,” Jonathan Hurst, chief technology officer at Agility Robotics, a humanoid robot firm, told Reuters.

Musk has said that in the future robots could be used in homes, making dinners, mowing the lawn, and caring for the elderly, and even becoming a “buddy” for humans or a sex partner.

He is due at Friday’s event to give updates on Tesla’s much-delayed plan to launch self-driving cars, and on its high-speed computer, Dojo, which was unveiled last year and the company has said is integral to its development of self-driving technology.

Musk has said he expects Tesla will achieve full self-driving this year and mass produce a robotaxi with no steering wheel or pedal by 2024.

At an “Autonomy” event in 2019, Musk promised 1 million robotaxis by 2020 but has yet to deliver such a car.

© Thomson Reuters 2022

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Internet

Amazon, Five Publishers Win Dismissal of Lawsuits Alleging Conspiracy to Fix Book Prices: Details

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By Reuters | Updated: 30 September 2022

A federal judge on Thursday dismissed two antitrust lawsuits accusing Amazon.com Inc and five large publishers of illegally conspiring to fix US prices of electronic and traditional books, causing consumers and bookstores to pay more.

US District Judge Gregory Woods in Manhattan accepted a magistrate judge’s recommendations to end both cases against Amazon, Hachette Book Group, HarperCollins Publishers, Macmillan Publishing Group, Penguin Random House and Simon & Schuster.

Consumers accused the defendants of signing agreements that let the publishers inflate e-book prices by locking in a 30 percent “agency” fee for Amazon on each sale, and guaranteeing that Amazon’s prices would not be undercut.

Retail booksellers, meanwhile, alleged that Amazon had been awarded a “discriminatory discount” on hardbacks, paperbacks and mass-produced books, forcing them to pay higher wholesale prices to the publishers and depressing book sales.

According to the plaintiffs, Amazon commands 90 percent of retail e-book sales and 50 percent of print trade book sales, while the publishers account for 80 percent of both kinds of books.

But in two opinions totaling 113 pages, US Magistrate Judge Valerie Figueredo recommended last month that both lawsuits be dismissed, citing a lack of evidence of collusion.

She found it “telling” in the e-book case that the consumers offered “no plausible explanation for why the publishers would have been motivated to participate in a conspiracy that further entrenched Amazon’s dominance as an e-book retailer.”

Woods adopted Figueredo’s reasoning in full. The lawsuits were dismissed without prejudice, meaning the plaintiffs can try amending their complaints.

Lawyers for the plaintiffs did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Amazon had no immediate comment.

The trade book case was led by Bookends & Beginnings, a bookseller in Evanston, Illinois.

The cases are In re Amazon.com Inc e-Book Antitrust Litigation, US District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 21-00351; and Bookends & Beginnings LLC v Amazon.com Inc et al in the same court, No. 21-02584.

© Thomson Reuters 2022

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Technology

New York to Ban New Gas Vehicles by 2035, Gradually Tighten Emissions Standards for ICE Vehicles: All Details

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By Agence France-Presse | Updated: 30 September 2022

New York advanced a plan Thursday to require that all new vehicles sold in the state by 2035 be zero emissions, state Governor Kathy Hochul said.

After signing legislation last year, Hochul announced officials were putting their “foot down on the accelerator” after having been required due to a federal law to wait for California to pass its own legislation.

California ruled in August that an ever-increasing percentage of new cars sold to the state’s 40 million inhabitants must produce no tailpipe pollutants, until their total ban in 2035.

Following that decision, Hochul directed New York authorities to move on regulatory steps to ensure all new passenger cars, pickup trucks and SUVs sold in the state are zero emissions by 2035.

The directive sets interim targets of 35 percent of sales by 2026 and 68 percent by 2030.

“We actually have benchmarks to achieve to show we’re on the path to get there,” Hochul said in a speech in the city of White Plains.

The regulations will also gradually tighten emissions standards for vehicles with internal combustion engines.

To offset costs of EVs, Hochul announced further funding for a rebate program for purchasers and touted advances in the state’s charging infrastructure.

The state is also due to receive $175 million (roughly Rs, 1,430 crore) from the federal government for its charging network.

California and New York join jurisdictions around the world that have set their sights on the polluting automobile sector to combat climate change in recent years.

Britain, Singapore and Israel are eyeing 2030, while the European Union wants to end the sale of new petrol and diesel cars by 2035.

Last year, the Associated Press reported that US President Joe Biden had announced a commitment from the auto industry to produce electric vehicles for as much as half of US sales by the end of the decade, while declaring the US must “move fast” to win the world’s carmaking future.

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Science

NASA, SpaceX to Explore Methods to Boost Hubble Telescope Orbit to Extend Lifespan

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By Agence France-Presse | Updated: 30 September 2022

NASA and SpaceX have agreed to study the feasibility of awarding Elon Musk’s company a contract to boost the Hubble Space Telescope to a higher orbit, with a goal of extending its lifespan, the US space agency said Thursday.

The renowned observatory has been operating since 1990 about 335 miles (540 kilometers) above Earth, in an orbit that slowly decays over time.

Hubble has no on-board propulsion to counter the small but still present atmospheric drag in this region of space, and its altitude has previously been restored during Space Shuttle missions.

The proposed new effort would involve a SpaceX Dragon capsule.

“A few months ago, SpaceX approached NASA with the idea for a study whether a commercial crew could help reboost our Hubble spacecraft,” NASA’s chief scientist Thomas Zurbuchen told reporters, adding the agency had agreed to the study at no cost to itself.

He stressed there are no concrete plans at present to conduct or fund such a mission until the technical challenges are better understood.

One of the main obstacles would be that the Dragon spacecraft, unlike the Space Shuttles, does not have a robotic arm and would need modifications for such a mission.

SpaceX proposed the idea in partnership with the Polaris programme, a private human spaceflight venture led by payments billionaire Jared Isaacman, who last year chartered a SpaceX Crew Dragon to orbit the Earth with three other private astronauts.

“This would certainly fit within the parameters we established for the Polaris programme,” Isaacman said in response to a question about whether reboosting Hubble could be the goal for a future Polaris mission.

Asked by a reporter whether there might be a perception that the mission was contrived in order to give wealthy people tasks to do in space, Zurbuchen said: “I think it’s only appropriate for us to look at this because of the tremendous value this research as

set has for us.”

Arguably among the most valuable instruments in scientific history, Hubble continues to make important discoveries, including this year detecting the farthest individual star ever seen — Earendel, whose light took 12.9 billion years to reach us.

It is currently forecast to remain operational throughout this decade, with a 50 percent chance of de-orbiting in 2037, said Patrick Crouse, Hubble Space Telescope project manager.

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Social Networking

Elon Musk’s Messages to Twitter CEO Parag Agrawal, Jack Dorsey Revealed Ahead of October Takeover Trial

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By Associated Press | Updated: 30 September 2022

Newly disclosed text messages between Elon Musk and Twitter CEO Parag Agrawal showed that the two men briefly bonded in the spring over their love of engineering — at least until Musk publicly tweeted this message early on April 9: ‘ Is Twitter dying? ‘”

That soured a relationship that appeared to bloom around the time Twitter offered the billionaire Tesla CEO a board seat after learning that he had purchased a huge stake in the company. In the texts, Agrawal questioned Musk about public criticism of Twitter, describing the comments as unhelpful and distracting within the company.

“What did you get done this week?” Musk tersely responded less than a minute later. “I’m not joining the board. This is a waste of time. Will make an offer to take Twitter private.”

The messages revealed in Delaware court filings ahead of a high-stakes trial offer a window into Twitter’s delicate negotiations with Musk. At the time, he had not only invested heavily in Twitter shares, he was publicly proposing ideas for improving it or starting an alternative.

Twitter and Musk are due in court October 17 for a trial that will decide whether the world’s richest man will be forced to complete his agreed-to $44 billion (roughly Rs. 3,58,800 crore) acquisition of Twitter. The documents were first revealed on @chancery_daily, a Twitter account that closely follows the Delaware Chancery Court, where the five-day trial will take place.

“I have a ton of ideas, but lmk if I’m pushing too hard,” Musk texted Agrawal on April 7, shortly after Twitter offered him the board seat. “I just want Twitter to be maximum amazing.”

Agrawal invited Musk to “treat me like an engineer” instead of a CEO as they worked through technical questions together. At one point, Musk wrote, “I love our conversations!”

Two days after the blowup about Musk’s “Twitter dying” tweet, on April 11, Agrawal announced Musk would not be joining the board after all. On April 14, Twitter revealed in a securities filing that Musk had offered to buy the company outright for about $44 billion (roughly Rs. 3,58,800 crore) . After first trying to thwart the hostile takeover, Twitter ended up agreeing to the deal on April 25.

The text exchanges were included in redacted documents that Musk lawyers filed early Thursday after challenging a Twitter claim that they couldn’t be made public because they contained sensitive information. Several of the “public versions” of those Twitter documents contain wholesale redactions and are almost entirely blacked out. The documents containing the Musk and Agrawal texts, by contrast, were not.

The collection of text messages also includes Musk’s conversations with Jack Dorsey, a Twitter co-founder and former CEO. Dorsey was enthusiastic about Musk’s involvement, telling him that while the board was “terrible,” Agrawal was an “incredible engineer.”

The texts also include Musk’s opinions on Twitter with a host of people in his orbit, including podcaster Joe Rogan, Oracle co-founder Larry Ellison, venture capitalists and Musk’s own brother.

While the lawyers tussle over which documents will be allowed as trial evidence, more witnesses are showing up for depositions.

Among those deposed Thursday was whistleblower Peiter “Mudge” Zatko, a former Twitter security chief who testified to Congress earlier this month about what he described as Twitter’s weak cyber defenses. Musk’s legal team hopes Zatko’s knowledge about Twitter’s problems with fake and spam accounts will bolster Musk’s key argument for terminating the deal.

Musk could be deposed as early as next week.

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Games

Google Stadia to Shut Down in January 2023, Company to Refund Hardware Purchases: All Details V

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By Agence France-Presse | Updated: 30 September 2022

Google on Thursday said it is shutting down Stadia, the cloud video game service it launched three years ago to let people access console-quality play as easily as they do email.

“It hasn’t gained the traction with users that we expected so we’ve made the difficult decision to begin winding down our Stadia streaming service,” Google vice president Phil Harrison said in a blog post.

Google said it will refund purchases of Stadia hardware, such as controllers, as well as game content bought through its online store, and that players will have access to the service through January 18 of next year, he added.

“They had a great idea and a bad business model,” Wedbush Securities analyst Michael Pachter said of Stadia.

“They tried to offer the service as a subscription without games.”

Xbox-maker Microsoft, meanwhile, offered a rival Game Pass service “with a ton of games,” making it a more tempting option for players, Pachter said.

Game Pass has some 25 million subscribers, while Stadia has fewer than a million, the analyst noted.

Microsoft is considered the streaming video game heavyweight with its Xbox Game Pass service and large community of players who use its consoles and desktop computers.

The Redmond, Washington-based company also has a stable of video game studios.

And while Microsoft makes Xbox video game consoles, it has been leading a shift to letting people play titles on Internet-linked devices of their choosing with titles hosted in the cloud.

Microsoft recently announced that the ability to play Xbox games will be built into Samsung smart televisions in its latest cloud gaming move.

“We’re on a quest to bring the joy and community of gaming to everyone on the planet, and bringing the Xbox app to smart TVs is another step in making our vision a reality,” Microsoft Gaming chief Phil Spencer said in a post.

Microsoft catapulted itself into the big league in one of the world’s most lucrative markets early this year by announcing a $69 billion (roughly Rs. 5,62,730 crore) deal to take over video game maker Activision Blizzard – the biggest acquisition in the sector’s history.

Amazon early this year launched its Luna video game streaming service for the general public in the United States, aiming to expand its multi-pronged empire into the booming gaming industry.

Luna allows players to access games directly online with no need for a console as part of the cloud gaming technology that is seen as a future direction of the industry.

Luna takes on Microsoft and PlayStation-maker Sony as well as Stadia.

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