Vodafone India to Roll Out 4G Mobile Services by December

Vodafone India has announced it will launch its 4G mobile services by December 2015. Bengaluru, Delhi, Kochi, Kolkata, and Mumbai – the five circles it had acquired additional spectrum for in the February 2014 auctions – will be part of the first wave of the rollout.

The telecom operator will also roll out 3G networks in seven additional circles – Assam, Karnataka, Kerala, North East, Rajasthan, UP West, and Odisha – taking its overall 3G footprint to 16 circles across the country. Vodafone India in a statement added that testing of its 4G services had already begun, and said it is looking to build a “robust and resilient network architecture” to support the volume of customers.

Vodafone India said the five circles it is rolling out its 4G LTE networks in together contribute close to 50 percent of the total data revenues for the company currently. The operator said its current overall network footprint was more than 131,000 sites, and has been at work modernising its radio network and switching systems. It points out the group offers 4G services in 18 countries, with over 20 million customers.

“Given the expertise and experience of launching in so many global markets, Vodafone understands the needs of the 4G customer and is well positioned to launch 4G pan India at an appropriate time,” the statement added.

Airtel early this month announced the rollout of 4G mobile services in 296 towns across the country. The commercial launch follows the telecom operator’s 4G trials in major cities across the country over the past year. These cities included Delhi, Hyderabad, Visakhapatnam, Madurai, Chennai, Coimbatore, and Mumbai.

Airtel, Idea Hike Postpaid Mobile Data Tariffs

Telecom operators Bharti Airtel and Idea Cellular have hiked charges for postpaid customers by 20 percent in various circles, including the national capital.

As per information posted on the companies’ websites, Airtel has raised data tariffs in Delhi, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Maharashtra, Punjab, Rajasthan, UP East, and UP West circles.

Idea Cellular has done the same in Delhi, Punjab, and UP West.

Postpaid customers of both operators in the designated circles will now have to pay Rs. 300 for 1GB 3G data usage, as against Rs. 250 earlier.

Vodafone, however, has not raised data charges in the postpaid category and continues to offer 1GB 3G data for Rs. 250.

Airtel, Idea, and Vodafone had raised prepaid data tariffs for 2G and 3G services in Delhi by up to 47 percent in June following the spectrum auctions in March, when operators acquired airwaves worth Rs. 1,01,000 crores.

In a bid to improve profitability, telcos have been cutting back on discounts and freebies. Last year also, firms including Bharti Airtel, Vodafone and Idea had increased data as well as call tariffs. After the March spectrum auction, industry associations had said there would be hike in tariffs as operators have to meet the commitment to the government.

Vodafone last week said it aims to roll out 4G mobile services by December, in five circles – Bengaluru, Delhi, Kochi, Kolkata, and Mumbai. The company had started 4G trials in selected areas in July.

Droom Lets Users Buy, Rent, and Sell Private Planes, Helicopters Online

Droom, an online marketplace for automobiles, will now let its users buy or sell private planes and choppers on its platform.

Droom’s platform will also be available for rental and chartering of private planes and choppers, it said in a statement.

Claiming to be the largest online automobile marketplace in India at present, Droom has product offerings in 14 different automobile categories, including auto services, over 10,000 sellers and more than 6,000 listings.

“The addition of the aerial vehicle segment gives the company the opportunity to tap into the ever-expanding private aviation segments by utilising JetSetGo’s resources,” it said.

Sandeep Aggarwal, founder and CEO of Droom, said with the introduction of the new category, users can now can buy and sell everything on wheels, right from bicycles to planes.

“At Droom, we have always endeavoured to provide our consumers with the widest selection in the automobile segment. By partnering with JetSetGo and adding this new category into our list of product offerings, we are poised to leverage the growing spending power of the Indian consumers to provide them with need-based private aviation solutions,” he added.

Backed by venture investors like Lightbox and BEENOS, Droom plans to expand its operations to add 20 automobile and 12 service categories hosting over 50,000 sellers and 200,000 listings in the next 18-24 months.

IBM Demoes Cloud, Analytics, and Mobile Innovations at ConnectIn 2015

IBM showcased its latest innovations designed to help companies drive growth and productivity using cloud, analytics, mobile and social technologies at ConnectIn 2015, at the IBM Campus in Bengaluru on Monday.

Some of the new innovations to emerge from the IBM Labs included a personalized learning on cloud solution, which combines predictive analytics to provide comprehensive guidance to each student, Apatani, an mHealth solution for community health workers, and IBM Kenexa BrassRing on Cloud, a SaaS-based enterprise hiring platform used by 25 of the Fortune 50 companies.

Kaushik Bhaskar, Vice President, India Software Labs at IBM India said that his firm was embracing open source technologies and ecosystems, and working with partners to deliver IoT solutions like the Digital Locker. He also cited examples of IBM’s partnership with Twitter, Facebook, and Apple.

“The educational industry is at a tipping point and there’s a lot of opportunity for IBM to innovate in this space. The possibilities are enormous. India being a mobile-first country, there’s plenty to be learned from this region that’s also applicable to the world, from applying cognitive and mobile technologies and social data, and bringing all that together.” he said.

Over the last three years, IBM has invested over $19 billion (roughly Rs. 1,26,000 crores) on R&D globally. Bhaskar said that IBM was aligned with the initiatives launched by the Indian government, citing Digital India, Startup India, and Make in India initiatives. “Skilling and digital literacy is one of the key areas of focus for us, and we see a huge gab in between supply and demand,” he said.

IBM showcased a prototype of a Watson-powered cognitive health monitor that helps psychiatrists and healthcare workers predict through disorders or psychotic episodes before they occur, for early intervention. The software used machine learning and natural language processing algorithms to analyse psychiatric conditions. The India software lab developed a prototype that works through mobile and cloud-based platform via a smartphone interface designed for healthcare workers.

The firm also demoed a research project that tries to understand an image and articulate its content in words, generating descriptive sentences that could have wide-ranging applications. A Track-N-Trace solution built on IBM’s Bluemix IoT foundation used Bluetooth and Wi-Fi tags to label valuable assets and alert the user if they move. The firm also showcased a mobile testing solution that enables remote access, letting service companies perform a wider array of tests and scenarios.

Oracle Launches New Enterprise-Grade Flash Storage System

Enterprise IT-solution provider Oracle on Monday launched a new enterprise grade flash storage system that it claims will deliver superior performance than existing technology, capacity scaling and quicker responses while handling mixed workloads.

Called All Flash FS1, the new storage system can work faster in mixed workload scenarios like handling online transaction processing (OLTP) and high-speed data backup in an enterprise storage area network (SAN) environment as well as in private or public cloud storage systems.

While OLTP is a class of information systems that facilitate and manage transaction-oriented applications, SAN is a dedicated network that provides access to consolidated, block level data storage.

“It delivers input-output prioritisation based on business value and can scale to nearly 1 petabyte (PB) of raw flash capacity,” the company said in a statement.

“High latency has impacted customers on shared storage platforms for years, slowing down OLTP response times and preventing mixed workloads from running at full speed. Customers are looking to flash to address these issues. Our new storage system will take of these specific problems,” said Mike Workman, senior vice president, flash storage systems, Oracle.

Latency is a time interval between the stimulation and response which in the IT world can be treated as input and output.

iPhone 6s, iPhone 6s Plus Pricing Tipped; Leaks Point to New Features

With less than two weeks left for Apple’s mega event where it is expected to launch the iPhone 6s and the iPhone 6s Plus, plenty of new interesting information about the flagship smartphones has surfaced on the Web. New leaked images give us a glimpse at the changes the company has made to the FaceTime camera, alongside showcasing what seems to be Force Touch parts. Also a new report claims that the price of the new iPhone models will remain the same as its last year’s counterparts.

Previous reports have suggested that the iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus will offer support for Force Touch technology, a feature that senses the level of force exerted on a touchpad (or display) and responds accordingly. New leaked images (via ) show off what seems to be the display components that power Force Touch. Previous reports have suggested that the Force Touch feature will be used in the new iPhone models to access shortcut options, turning on new functions and pull-up menus.

The images also show off a larger camera sensor on top of the new iPhone models, suggesting that the FaceTime camera is receiving some improvements. The development is in line with several reports that have previously suggested that the FaceTime camera will see some improvements. Previous reports also claim that Apple plans to introduce software-based flash photography capabilities to improve selfies.

iphone_6s_force_12.jpg

More interestingly, a new report also suggests that the two anticipated iPhone models – iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus – won’t cost you more than last year’s models. The report citing purported plans of a Dutch-based carrier, reveals that the iPhone 6s will start at EUR 699 (roughly Rs. 52,000) while the iPhone 6s Plus will start at EUR 799 (roughly Rs. 59,500). The report also reveals that Dutch telecom carriers will start the pre-orders on September 11, and will start shipping the phone on September 25 (a week after the USA, and other European nations). The new information also insists that the 16GB variant in the new iPhone is here to stay, despite the introduction of 4K video shooting capability in the new iPhone (which eats up a large chunk of data).

Flipkart Customers to Now Get Refunds Within 24 Hours

E-commerce major Flipkart on Monday launched its instant refund mechanism facility, a move that will help its customers get refunds as early as within 24 hours of returning the product. Previously, the refund process used to take three to five business days.

“Continuing the innovation journey by announcing this newly launched payment mechanism, Flipkart aims to ensure that refunds for Cash on Deliver (CoD) orders are credited back to customers instantly, as soon as the product reaches the Flipkart hub,” Flipkart said in a statement.

The instant refund will be completed using Immediate Payments System (IMPS) transfers, it said adding that the CoD IMPS return facility is currently active for banks having IMPS transaction capability.

Entitled customers will be regularly notified about the status of their refund via SMS and emails, it said.

“Our return procedure is already one of the fastest in the country. In the last two months, we have extended this further by piloting the IMPS refunds programme, which has seen positive adoption and traction from our end users,” Flipkart Chief Product Officer Punit Soni said.

An instant, hassle-free refund experience, combined with consistent and accurate communication to the customer is definitely going to be a breakthrough, and a way forward for all future payment innovations, he added.

“We strongly feel that enabling our fast-growing product IMPS with Flipkart’s quicker refund strategy will create a benchmark experience to customers,” National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI) COO Dilip Asbe said.

Transactions on IMPS can be accessed and initiated across different channels like mobile phones, PCs, NUUP, ATM and at bank branches.

Lenovo Phab Plus Stretches Smartphone Definition With 6.8-Inch Display

Lenovo has launched the Phab Plus smartphone in China. Priced at CNY 2,599 (approximately Rs. 27,000), the new Lenovo Phab Plus will be available via China Mobile, China Telecom, and China Unicom telecom providers in China. So far, there is no word whether Lenovo will be launching its Phab Plus smartphone outside China.

The new Phab Plus smartphone features a 6.8-inch full-HD (1080×1920 pixels) display offering a pixel density of 326ppi, the highlight of the smartphone. Lenovo’s new Phab Plus can be expected to compete against Huawei’s Ascend P8max, which also features a similar 6.8-inch full-HD display.

The Lenovo Phab Plus packs a 64-bit octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 615 processor clocked at 1.5GHz coupled with an Adreno 405 GPU and 2GB of RAM. The handset features 32GB inbuilt storage and also supports expandable storage support via microSD card.

Running Android 5.0 Lollipop with the Vibe UI skin, the Phab Plus sports a 13-megapixel rear camera with dual-LED flash and also comes with a 5-megapixel front camera. The dual-SIM based Phab Plus supports one Micro-SIM card and the other Nano-SIM.

Connectivity options on the new phablet from Lenovo include 4G, 3G, GPS/ A-GPS, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and Micro-USB. Under the hood, Lenovo packs a 3500mAh battery which the company claims can deliver up to 24 hours of talk time and up to 350 hours of standby time. It also features a rear speaker powered by Dolby Atmos. The Lenovo Phab Plus measures 186.6×96.6×7.6mm and weighs 220 grams. The smartphone will be available in Metallic Grey and Midnight Blue colours.

The company has also launched cases for the new Lenovo Phab Plus smartphone, though there is no word on pricing. The launch was first reported by reported Gadgetblaze.

US Academics Raise Concerns Over ‘Digital India’ Campaign

Ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Silicon Valley to promote ‘Digital India’ campaign, more than 100 prominent US-based academics have raised privacy concerns about the project.

In a statement, these academics, said ‘Digital India’ seems to ignore key questions raised in India by critics concerned about the collection of personal information and the near certainty that such digital systems will be used to enhance surveillance and repress the constitutionally-protected rights of citizens.

“We are concerned that the project’s potential for increased transparency in bureaucratic dealings with people is threatened by its lack of safeguards about privacy of information, and thus its potential for abuse,” said the statement signed by about 137 academics, a significant majority of whom are of Indian-origin.

“Those who live and work in Silicon Valley have a particular responsibility to demand that the government of India factor these critical concerns into its planning for digital futures,” the statement

“We urge those who lead Silicon Valley technology enterprises to be mindful of not violating their own codes of corporate responsibility when conducting business with a government which has, on several occasions already, demonstrated its disregard for human rights and civil liberties, as well as the autonomy of educational and cultural institutions,” the two-page statement added.

Among prominent signatories to the statement are Meena Alexander, Distinguished Professor of English, Hunter College and the Graduate Center, City University of New York; Arjun Appadurai, Paulette Goddard Professor of Media, Culture, and Communication, New York University; Shahzad Bashir, Professor of Religious Studies, Stanford University; Akeel Bilgrami, Sidney Morgenbesser Professor of Philosophy and Director, South Asian Institute, Columbia University and Partha Chatterjee, Professor of Anthropology and South Asian Studies, Columbia University.

The views expressed by these academicians were dismissed by Indian-origin entrepreneurs in the Silicon Valley, who hailed ‘Digital India’ and said that India under Modi has finally woken up to the potential that innovation and technology can bring to the country.

“Only technology and innovation can enable massive changes that are needed in India. Prime Minister’s visit to Silicon Valley is a long overdue acknowledgement that the government in India has finally woken up to the potential that innovation and technology can bring to India,” Venktesh Shukla, president of TiE Silicon Valley, told PTI.

TiE or The Indus Entrepreneurs is one of the most powerful and prestigious organisations in the Silicon Valley. Top Silicon Valley companies and entrepreneurs are its members.

Shukla said the entire Indian American community in Silicon Valley is geared up to welcome the Prime Minister. “We are delighted that, for the first time after Independence, there is a government in India that won the election on the platform of growth and development and not based on identity politics or competitive populism,” he said.

“We at TiE stand for wealth creation through entrepreneurship. A government in India that espouses growth, development and entrepreneurship is well aligned to our mission of creating wealth and fostering entrepreneurship,” he said.

In their statement, the academics also raised the issue of Gujarat riots, and also allegations related to restrictions on non-governmental organisations, and freedom of media.

“Under Mr. Modi’s tenure as Prime Minister, academic freedom is also at risk: foreign scholars have been denied entry to India to attend international conferences, there has been interference with the governance of top Indian universities and academic institutions such as the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, the Indian Institutes of Technology and Nalanda University; as well as under-qualified or incompetent key appointments made to the Indian Council of Historical Research, the Film and Television Institute of India, and the National Book Trust,” they alleged.

“A proposed bill to bring the Indian Institutes of Management under direct control of government is also worrisome. These alarming trends require that we, as educators, remain vigilant not only about modes of e-governance in India but about the political future of the country,” the statement said.

Quick Heal Reports New Malware Designed to Infect Protected Networks

Security software maker Quick Heal has identified a new malware sample that is able to breach the ‘sandbox’ protection in computers of many small, medium, and large companies, a senior company official has said.

Detailed analysis of the malware sample – APT-QH-4AG15- revealed that it has been designed to infect highly protected networks. It also has several anti-sandbox tricks implemented within it, Quick Heal’s Chief Technology Officer

Sanjay Katkar said.

Malware is an umbrella term used to refer to a variety of forms of hostile or intrusive software, including computer viruses, worms and other malicious programs. It can take the form of executable code, scripts, active content, and other software.

“The early success of sandbox-based appliances can be attributed to the fact that malware variants were never designed with such protection mechanisms in mind. Instead, these samples were focused on breaching traditional anti-virus and firewall solutions. This enabled them to breach traditional security solutions with zero-day (quick) attacks very frequently,” Katkar said.

“But now that more enterprises are using these advanced threat protection sandbox-based appliances, new malware variants are being designed with an aim of penetrating this specific protection mechanism,” he said.

He said companies need to consider and implement multiple layers of protection to safeguard networks.

“FireEye and others believe that the current anti-virus solutions and endpoint protections (EPS) are useless. In reality, the current malwares have been designed keeping in mind only End Point Security (EPS) and their main challenge is to pass EPS security and that is how the malwares have been designed/tested and released,” he said.

With more organisations starting to use sandboxed appliance like FireEye or FortiSandbox, the newer malwares are being designed with these protection in mind, he said.

“Thus, new malware can easily bypass these security solutions and land up in user’s inbox and network,” Katkar added