Connect with us

Technology

TRAI Asks Airtel, Vodafone Idea to Hold Priority Plans Promising Faster Internet Speeds

Avatar

Published

on

By Press Trust of India | Updated: 13 July 2020

The telecom regulator has asked Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea to put on hold specific plans that promised faster speeds to certain priority users, as it questioned whether the network preference came at the cost of deterioration of services for other subscribers. A source said the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has asked the two operators to withhold the specific plan for the interim period. The TRAI has written to the two operators — Airtel and Vodafone Idea — and questioned them about their individual plans that promised faster speeds to certain priority users.

The regulator has asked if priority to high-paying customers in those specific plans came at the cost of service deterioration for other subscribers. It has asked the operators how they are protecting the interest of other general subscribers.

When contacted, an Airtel spokesperson said: “We are passionate about delivering the best network and service experience to all our customers.”

“This is why we have a relentless obsession to eliminate faults, and have been consistently recognised by international agencies as the best network in terms of speed, latency, and video experience.

“At the same time, we want to keep raising the bar for our postpaid customers in terms of service and responsiveness. This is an ongoing effort at our end,” the Airtel spokesperson added.

Airtel had announced last Monday that it would give preference to platinum mobile customers, who pay Rs. 499 and above per month for post -paid connection, on its 4G network.

The platinum customers will get better 4G speed on the Airtel network compared to other customers.

The TRAI has given Airtel seven days to respond to its questions, a person privy to the development said.

In case of Vodafone Idea, the company had launched a postpaid plan, REDX, promising up to 50 percent faster data speeds, besides other benefits and privileges.

Asked about TRAI’s latest move, a Vodafone Idea spokesperson said: “Vodafone REDX plan offers a range of benefits including unlimited data, calls, premium content, international roaming pack etc. for our valued postpaid customers who want more.”

“VIL is committed to serve its customers with the best in class offerings and high speed 4G data across all markets. VIL’s fastest 4G speed in many markets, including metros, has been verified by global testing agencies, such as Ookla and OpenSignal amongst others,” the VIL spokesperson said.

Meanwhile, a VIL source, who did not wish to be named, said the company was taken aback at the TRAI’s letter over the weekend asking it to block the plan without any opportunity to respond on an important matter such as tariff.

The company source said that the REDX plan was filed with TRAI in November and further modifications to the plan were, once again, duly filed in May. The plan has been in the market for last eight months and customers are already onboarded.

The VIL source said the company was of the view that there was no violation of tariff regulation on this plan.

Continue Reading
Advertisement
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Apps

WeChat, Signal US Downloads Spike After Trump Threatens Ban: Sensor Tower

Avatar

Published

on

By Reuters | Updated: 14 August 2020

More users in the United States downloaded chat app WeChat and its encrypted alternative Signal, after President Donald Trump threatened to ban WeChat, owned by Chinese company Tencent, according to Sensor Tower data shared with Reuters on Thursday.

WeChat users in the United States rushed to install the app before it could disappear from the app stores. Others, especially in China, sought alternatives like the encrypted Signal, owned by non-profit Signal Foundation.

WeChat app downloads in the United States rose 41 percent in a six-day average from the week prior to the US ban announced last Thursday, according to Sensor Tower. Signal app downloads in US and China app stores separately jumped by 30 percent and 90 percent.

“Not only are alternatives like WhatsApp and Telegram officially blocked in China, but Signal has an inherent advantage in that it’s well known for being strongly encrypted,” Stephanie Chan, Mobile Insights Strategist at Sensor Tower told Reuters. Signal did not immediately respond to request for comment.

WeChat users have also turned to another Tencent-owned chat app, QQ, as the ban did not specifically cover this product. Its downloads in the United States have tripled in the past week, Sensor Tower data showed.

Some Chinese immigrants and expats worry losing access to the popular WeChat could cut off contact with family and friends in China, where most popular US instant messaging apps including Facebook, Whatsapp, and Telegram have been blocked by the Chinese government’s Great Firewall.

It was unclear how the administration could implement the ban on WeChat in mid-September. It could order Apple and Alphabet’s Google to remove WeChat from their app store, or order the apps to stop offering access or updates to US users.

Some users said they planned to access WeChat in the United States using a virtual private network (VPN), a common tool people in China use to hide IP address to evade government restrictions.

© Thomson Reuters 2020

Continue Reading

Science

Computer Scientist, Pixel Inventor Russel Kirsch Dies Aged 91

Avatar

Published

on

By Associated Press | Updated: 14 August 2020

Russell Kirsch, a computer scientist credited with inventing the pixel and scanning the world’s first digital photograph, died August 11 at his home in Portland, Oregon, The Oregonian reported. He was 91.

Pixels, the digital dots used to display photos, video and more on phone and computer screens, weren’t an obvious innovation in 1957, when Kirsch created a small, 2-by-2-inch black-and-white digital image of his son, Walden, as an infant. That was among the first images ever scanned into a computer, using a device created by his research team at the US National Bureau of Standards (now the National Institutes of Science and Technology).

This work “laid the foundations for satellite imagery, CT scans, virtual reality, and Facebook,” said a 2010 Science News article about Kirsch, subsequently republished by Wired. That first square image, that article said, measured a mere 176 pixels on a side — just shy of 31,000 pixels in total. Today, the digital camera on the iPhone 11 can capture roughly 12 million pixels per image.

Though computers have become exponentially more powerful and can now fit in our pockets, science has ever since been coming to terms with the fact that Kirsch made his pixels square. The square shape of the pixels meant that image elements can look blocky, clunky or jagged — just generally not as smooth as real life. There’s even a word for this effect: “pixelated.”

“Squares was the logical thing to do,” Kirsch told the magazine in 2010. “Of course, the logical thing was not the only possibility … but we used squares. It was something very foolish that everyone in the world has been suffering from ever since.”

Kirsch later developed a method to smooth out images by using pixels with variable shapes instead of the squares.

Born in Manhattan in 1929, Kirsch was the son of Jewish immigrants from Russia and Hungary. He was educated at the Bronx High School of Science, New York University, Harvard and MIT and worked for five decades as a research scientist at the US National Bureau of Standards.

Russell Kirsch is survived by his wife of 65 years, Joan; by children Walden, Peter, Lindsey and Kara; and by four grandchildren.
Comments

For the latest tech news and reviews, follow Gadgets 360 on Twitter, Facebook, and Google News. For the latest videos on gadgets and tech, subscribe to our YouTube channel.

Continue Reading

Apps

TikTok and Its Employees Prepare to Fight Trump Over App Ban

Avatar

Published

on

By Associated Press | Updated: 14 August 2020

TikTok and its US employees are planning to take President Donald Trump’s administration to court over his sweeping order to ban the popular video app, according to a lawyer preparing one of the lawsuits.

The employees’ legal challenge to Trump’s executive order will be separate from a pending lawsuit from the company that owns the app, though both will argue that the order is unconstitutional, said Mike Godwin, an internet policy lawyer representing the employees.

Trump last week ordered sweeping but vague bans on dealings with the Chinese owners of TikTok and messaging app WeChat, saying they are a threat to US national security, foreign policy and the economy. The TikTok order would take effect in September, but it remains unclear what it will mean for the apps’ 100 million US users, many of them teenagers or young adults who use it to post and watch short-form videos.

It’s also unclear if it will make it illegal for TikTok to pay its roughly 1,500 workers in the US, which is why some of them came to Godwin for help, he said. The order would prohibit “any transaction by any person” with TikTok and its Chinese parent company ByteDance.

“Employees correctly recognize that their jobs are in danger and their payment is in danger right now,” Godwin said.

TikTok said in a statement last week that it was “shocked by the recent Executive Order, which was issued without any due process.” It declined to comment Thursday on whether it is pursuing its own lawsuit.

“We have no involvement with and are not coordinating on” the employee-led initiative, said TikTok spokeswoman Hilary McQuaide said via email. “We respect the rights of employees to engage in concerted activity to seek due process of law.”

The Fifth and 14th Amendments to the US Constitution safeguard life, liberty and property from arbitrary government action lacking “due process of law.”

Microsoft is in talks to buy parts of TikTok, in a potential sale that’s being forced under Trump’s threat of a ban.

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany defended Trump’s TikTok and WeChat orders Thursday, telling reporters he was exercising his emergency authority under a 1977 law enabling the president to regulate international commerce to address unusual threats.

“The administration is committed to protecting the American people from all cyber threats and these apps collect significant amounts of private data on users,” said McEnany, adding that the Chinese government can access and use such data.

TikTok said it spent nearly a year trying to engage in “good faith” with the US government to address these concerns.

“What we encountered instead was that the Administration paid no attention to facts, dictated terms of an agreement without going through standard legal processes, and tried to insert itself into negotiations between private businesses,” the company’s statement said.

Godwin said he was retained by Patrick Ryan, who joined TikTok from Google earlier this year as a technical program manager. Ryan posted a public fundraising pitch on GoFundMe this week to raise money for attorneys who can “fight this unconstitutional taking.”

“This is unprecedented,” Ryan wrote. “And it’s frankly really uncool.”

Unlike other Chinese tech companies targeted by Trump, such as telecom giant Huawei, TikTok’s widespread popularity among Americans adds a layer of complexity to its legal and political challenges. The looming ban has annoyed TikTok users, some of them Trump supporters like Pam Graef of Metairie, Louisiana.

The 53-year-old fitness instructor found nearly instant TikTok fame after downloading the app this summer and posting a video of herself dancing frenetically in a kitchen as someone pretending to be her embarrassed daughter shouts that she’s doing it wrong. The video has nearly 3.5 million views.

“I don’t want it to be banned. It’s just a blast,” Graef said. “It’s a way for me to promote my virtual training and virtual classes.”

She said Trump won’t lose her vote over this, but she doesn’t understand all the fuss about the app’s Chinese ownership. “What are they gaining by spying on us?” Graef said. “We’re just doing stupid videos and having fun.”

The Wall Street Journal reported on Tuesday that, until late last year, the TikTok app was able to track users of Android phones without their consent by collecting unique phone identifiers in a way that skirted privacy safeguards set by Google. TikTok responded that the technique it used is a common way to prevent fraud and said it no longer collects the unique identifier.

The company has repeatedly said that the way it collects data is typical for thousands of mobile apps. “We have made clear that TikTok has never shared user data with the Chinese government, nor censored content at its request,” said its statement last week.

Trump’s actions follow the lead of India, which has expressed similar security concerns and earlier this summer banned TikTok and dozens of other Chinese apps amid a military standoff between the two countries.

Godwin said the employees’ legal challenge will be focused on worker rights, not on the national security claims underlying Trump’s order.

The civil rights lawyer, known in early internet culture for coining “Godwin’s law,” which posits that all online debates will eventually devolve into the use of Nazi analogies, said employees can’t afford to wait.

“We have to proceed very quickly,” he said Thursday. “If we wait around for the order to be enforced, which it will be on September 20, then the workers will lose their chances to be paid.”

Continue Reading

Games

Fortnite Maker Epic Games Sues Apple, Google After Removal of Game From App Stores

Avatar

Published

on

By Reuters | Updated: 14 August 2020

Apple and Alphabet’s Google on Thursday removed popular video game Fortnite from their app stores for violating the companies’ in-app payment guidelines, prompting developer Epic Games to file federal antitrust lawsuits challenging the two companies’ rules.

Apple and Google cited a direct payment feature rolled out on the Fortnite app earlier on Thursday as the violation.

Epic sued in US court seeking no money from Apple or Google but rather injunctions that would end many of the companies’ practices related to their app stores.

“Apple has become what it once railed against: the behemoth seeking to control markets, block competition, and stifle innovation. Apple is bigger, more powerful, more entrenched, and more pernicious than the monopolists of yesteryear,” Epic said in its lawsuit, filed in the Northern District of California.

Epic also attacked Apple on social media, launching a campaign with the hashtag #FreeFortnite, urging players to seek refunds from Apple if they lose access to the game, and creating a parody of Apple’s famous “1984” television ad.

In the parody, which quickly garnered hundreds of thousands of views, a female Fortnite fighter hurls a unicorn-shaped club to smash a screen on which an Apple-headed character speaks of “the anniversary of the platform unification directives.”

Apple takes a cut of between 15 percent and 30 percent for most app subscriptions and payments made inside apps, though there are some exceptions for companies that already have a credit card on file for iPhone customers if they also offer an in-app payment that would benefit Apple. Analysts believe games are the biggest contributor to spending inside the App Store, which is in turn the largest component of Apple’s $46.3 billion-per-year (roughly Rs. 3.46 lakh crores) services segment.

In a statement, Apple said Fortnite had been removed because Epic had launched the payment feature with the “express intent of violating the App Store guidelines” after having had apps in the store for a decade.

“The fact that their (Epic) business interests now lead them to push for a special arrangement does not change the fact that these guidelines create a level playing field for all developers and make the store safe for all users,” Apple said in a statement.

Google also removed Fortnite from its Play Store, but did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the lawsuit. “However, we welcome the opportunity to continue our discussions with Epic and bring Fortnite back to Google Play,” Google spokesman Dan Jackson said in a statement. Jackson said Epic had violated a rule requiring developers to use Google’s in-app billing system for products within video games.

Apple and Google were among the major American technology companies to come under anti-competition scrutiny in a hearing before lawmakers last month. During the hearing, Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook argued that Apple is not anti-competitive because it does not have majority market share in any markets where it operates, including mobile phones, where devices powered by Alphabet’s Android have greater market share.

Epic’s lawsuit, however, argues that app distribution and in-app payments for Apple devices constitute their own distinct market for anti-competition purposes because Apple users rarely leave its “sticky” ecosystem, according to Epic’s filing. Epic’s free-to-play battle-royal videogame Fortnite has reached massive popularity among young gamers since its launch in 2017, and competes with Tencent Holdings’ PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds. The title’s removal from the App Store means that new players will not be able to download it and that exiting players cannot receive updates, but the game should continue to work on devices where it is already installed.

Epic Games does not disclose how many iOS users Fortnite has. Many fans play the game primarily on PCs or gaming consoles while using their mobile phones as a backup, but iPhone users generate far more revenue for Epic.

In both Apple’s App Store and Google’s Play Store, Fortnite had about 2 million downloads in July 2020, according to mobile analytics firm SensorTower. But Apple users spent about $34 million (roughly Rs. 254 crores) while Android users spent only $2 million (roughly Rs. 14.96 crores), according to SensorTower data.

Because Android functions differently from iOS, users can still download Fortnite from Epic’s website and other non-Google stores such as the one run by Samsung and install it on their devices, Epic said in a blog post earlier on Thursday.

“Epic is not seeking any monetary relief, but rather only an order enjoining Google from continuing to impose its anti-competitive conduct on the Android ecosystem,” it said in its lawsuit.

In a statement, Spotify, a streaming music rival to Apple that has filed an antitrust complaint against the iPhone maker in Europe, applauded Epic’s move.

“Apple’s unfair practices have disadvantaged competitors and deprived consumers for far too long,” Spotify said.

© Thomson Reuters 2020

Continue Reading

Computers

Lenovo Posts Jump in PC Sales on Remote Working Trend

Avatar

Published

on

By Reuters | Updated: 13 August 2020

Lenovo Group, the world’s biggest PC maker, smashed expectations with a 31 percent leap in first-quarter net profit, as the coronavirus pandemic spurs businesses to shift to remote work and schools to switch to online learning.

Consumers stuck at home are also spending more on PCs and other smart devices for entertainment purposes, the Chinese giant said.

Net profit came in at $213 million (roughly Rs. 1,593 crores) for the April-June quarter, nearly double market estimates while revenue grew 7 percent to $13.3 billion (roughly Rs. 99,512 crores).

In particular, China sales surged, climbing 17 percent while those in Europe, the Middle East and Africa jumped 28 percent. Sales in the Americas however dropped 9 percent, hit by a declining demand for smartphones in Latin America and a shortage of components for Chromebooks in North America.

“Chinese government is driving domestic consumption – for sure we should leverage that to grow our business. Last quarter results can prove that we have very strong position in China,” Lenovo Chairman Yang Yuanqing told a briefing.

Yang told Reuters in a later interview that demand still had far more room to grow in China, where the penetration rate for PCs was still somewhere between 20 percent and 30 percent compared to that in the United States of 70 percent.

He said Lenovo’s sales during China’s June 18 shopping festival – which is heavily promoted by e-commerce platforms – had doubled over the previous year. “We really see the strong rebound after the COVID-19,” he said.

According to research firm Gartner, worldwide shipments of personal computers rose 2.8 percent in the April-June quarter, as vendors restocked their channels and mobile PC demand increased.

Lenovo retained its lead in PCs with 25 percent of the market, ahead of HP and Dell Technologies which had 24.9 percent and 16.4 percent respectively.

Lenovo shares ended down 3 percent, having jumped earlier this week in the lead up to the earnings release on anticipation of a strong performance.

© Thomson Reuters 2020

Continue Reading

Social Networking

Facebook, Twitter Step Up Fight Against Misinformation on US Elections

Avatar

Published

on

By Reuters | Updated: 13 August 2020

Social media platforms stepped up fight against misinformation on the US elections, with Facebook starting a hub to help users with poll-related resources and Twitter expanding rules against misinformation on mail-in ballots and early voting.

The move comes as online social networks have been drawing flak for what has been called a lax approach to fake news reports and misinformation campaigns, which many believe affected the outcome of the 2016 presidential election.

Twitter’s move will involve coming up with new policies “that emphasise accurate information about all available options to vote, including by mail and early voting.”

“We’re focused on empowering every eligible person to register and vote through partnerships, tools and new policies,” Jessica Herrera-Flanigan, Twitter’s vice president for public policy in the Americas, told Reuters in an email.

Facebook, meanwhile, launched a Voting Information Center to help users with accurate and easy-to-find information about voting wherever they live.

The company said in a blog it was also speaking with officials about misinformation surrounding election results as an emerging threat.

Twitter said it would roll out measures on new tools, policies and voting resources in the next month. It is exploring how to expand its “civic integrity policies” to address mischaracterisations of mail-in voting and other procedures.

The finer details of the step are still being finalised.

US President Donald Trump has repeatedly claimed without evidence that voting by mail, which is expected to increase dramatically due to the coronavirus outbreak, is susceptible to large-scale fraud.

The process is not new in the United States — nearly one in four voters cast 2016 presidential ballots that way.

Many experts have said that routine methods and the decentralised nature of US elections make it very hard to interfere with mailed ballots.

© Thomson Reuters 2020

Continue Reading

Trending