Xiaomi Becomes a Mobile Operator With the Launch of Mi Mobile

Apart from launching its Mi 4c smartphone, Xiaomi introduced the new Mi Mobile service in China. The company thus marks its entry into an all new segment where it will compete against other China-based carriers.

The new MVNO (or mobile virtual network operator) service from Xiaomi will be offering consumers voice and data services and utilising China Unicom or China Telecom networks.

Under Xiaomi Mi Mobile’s pay-as-you-go plan, consumers will be charged CNY 0.10 (approximately Rs. 1.10) per voice minute, SMS, and 1MB data. The plan supports China Unicom 2G, 3G, and 4G networks. It will be available for sale via the company online store (Mi.com) starting Wednesday.

Under the second scheme, consumers will get 3GB data bundle for CNY 59 (approximately Rs. 610) per month. Under this offer, consumers will have to pay equivalent to CNY 0.02/MB (approximately Rs. 0.30) for data and CNY 0.10 (approximately Rs. 1) per voice minute, SMS or 1MB data (after exceeding 3GB data cap). It supports China Telecom 2G, 3G, and 4G networks and will be available in public beta starting October.

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The Mi Mobile SIM cards will be available as triple-cut SIM card, which means it could instantly usable with phone supporting mini, micro or nano-SIM cards.

MVNOs, which purchase network capacity from large carriers and resell mobile plans under their own branding, have failed to gain traction in China, where three state-owned giants dominate the telecoms industry.

The launch comes less than six months after Google announced it would launch an MVNO service in the United States called “Fi” that piggybacks off Sprint and T-Mobile’s networks.

The Chinese company on Tuesday also unveiled its new Mi Bluetooth Speaker with aluminium body and 1500mAh built-in battery. The new speakers have been priced at CNY 199 (approximately Rs. 2,000). The speaker also comes with microSD card support.

Over 55,000 Villages to Get Mobile Coverage by 2018, Says Official

Government will provide mobile connectivity to 55,669 uncovered villages across the country by 2018.

According to a Communications Ministry official as part of the Digital India programme, 55,669 villages that do not have mobile coverage till now will be connected during 2014-18.

The official added that mobile services to uncovered villages will be provided in a phased manner with funding from universal service obligation fund (USOF). He further said majority of the initiatives under the Digital India programme will be realised within the next three years.

“Providing high speed internet and mobile connectivity across the country, providing government services online, promoting electronic manufacturing and creating jobs for youth are some of the priorities of government under Digital India programme. All these initiatives are underway with defined timelines,” he added.

The government has laid optic fibre cable (OFC) in 23,604 gram panchayats till July to provide high speed broadband connectivity under the NOFN project. The target, though, was to roll out the network across 50,000 village panchayats by March 31. As part of the project, all the 2.5 lakh panchayats will be connected by 2016 end.

The national optical fibre network (NOFN) project was conceived in 2011 and deadline to connect all panchayats was fixed by the end of 2013 which was then deferred to September 2015 by the UPA government.

The NDA government revised the timeline for completion of the project and also changed the name toBharatNet. To expedite the work, a committee was constituted to under former IT Secretary J Satyanarayana to suggest alternatives for faster implementation.

Call Drop Problem Improving, Says Telecom Minister

Communications and Information Technology Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad on Sunday asserted that telecom operators have been told to shape up on the issue of the growing problem of call drops and that the situation was improving.

“There is a problem about call drops, but the situation is improving,” Prasad told reporters here.

“All the telecom operators have been told to take steps to improve quality of services,” he said, adding that the department of telecommunications (DoT) had reviewed the situation on weekly basis for the past two months.

“DoT Secretary Rakesh Garg has spoken to the owners of the service providers at the highest level,” the minister said.

He said shortage of towers was the main problem for call drops and that a policy decision had been taken under which all buildings of government of India must allow installation of towers.

Post offices too had been directed to allow towers on rent at their buildings throughout the country, Prasad said.

He has also written letters to the chief ministers for installation of towers atop government buildings.

Earlier this month, Prasad, referring to telecom operators citing shutting down mobile towers due to radiation fears as well as lack of spectrum as major reasons for call drops, said the diverse complaints could not be linked together.

“The complaint against call drops and that against tower radiation cannot go together,” Prasad said answering questions at an event in Delhi organised by the Ficci-supported International Chamber of Commerce.

Telecom operators have said about 7,000 to 10,000 tower sites have been locked or shut down across major urban centres and have urged a national policy for installation of mobile towers.

The minister had a stern word for telecom operators on the issue of infrastructure and asked them to deliver “good services”.

“Spectrum has been given (with clearing of spectrum sharing and trading). Don’t now give the impression that you only want to collect customers and give no thought to good services,” he said.

“Operators should optimise their network, synchronise the network and also invest in the network,” he added.

Over 55,000 Villages to Get Mobile Coverage by 2018, Says Official

Government will provide mobile connectivity to 55,669 uncovered villages across the country by 2018.

According to a Communications Ministry official as part of the Digital India programme, 55,669 villages that do not have mobile coverage till now will be connected during 2014-18.

The official added that mobile services to uncovered villages will be provided in a phased manner with funding from universal service obligation fund (USOF). He further said majority of the initiatives under the Digital India programme will be realised within the next three years.

“Providing high speed internet and mobile connectivity across the country, providing government services online, promoting electronic manufacturing and creating jobs for youth are some of the priorities of government under Digital India programme. All these initiatives are underway with defined timelines,” he added.

The government has laid optic fibre cable (OFC) in 23,604 gram panchayats till July to provide high speed broadband connectivity under the NOFN project. The target, though, was to roll out the network across 50,000 village panchayats by March 31. As part of the project, all the 2.5 lakh panchayats will be connected by 2016 end.

The national optical fibre network (NOFN) project was conceived in 2011 and deadline to connect all panchayats was fixed by the end of 2013 which was then deferred to September 2015 by the UPA government.

The NDA government revised the timeline for completion of the project and also changed the name toBharatNet. To expedite the work, a committee was constituted to under former IT Secretary J Satyanarayana to suggest alternatives for faster implementation.

After Airtel, Idea to Shift All Prepaid Users to Per-Second Billing

Idea Cellular is shifting its 1.5 million prepaid customers who were on per minute billing (PMB) plan to per second billing (PSB), thus ensuring all its prepaid users pay only for the time they use the network.

Apart from the 1.5 million, who will be shifted over the next 30 days, the rest of its prepaid users are already on per second billing.

The company said that out of its total customer base of over 166 million, nearly 157 million are prepaid.

Bharti Airtel too announced earlier this week that all its prepaid customers will be put on per second billing. The move by mobile operators comes amid regulator Trai’s scrutiny whether there are any tariff plans by service providers wherein call drops actually incentivise or benefit the companies.

“We have always been customer-centric in our approach, offering choice and convenience to customers and hence, we have been providing both PMB and PSB plans to users so far. Henceforth, we will now be offering PSB plan, by default, to our entire base of nearly 157 million existing and new prepaid users,” Sashi Shankar, Chief Marketing Officer, Idea Cellular said in a statement.

With call drops on the rise, Telecom Secretary Rakesh Garg had also said plans where customers get some free minutes and billing is minute-based need to be examined.

The problem of call drops has become acute in the last 3-4 months. The scale was such that last week, Prime Minister Narendra Modi too voiced serious concern on the issue and asked the officials concerned to take urgent steps to address the problem.

(Also see:  Telcos Oppose Trai Proposal to Compensate Users for Call Drops)

Idea said it has spent Rs. 4,050 crores (excluding spectrum) in 2014-15 and has increased its capex plan for FY16 to Rs. 6,000-6,500 crores.

“The company will continue to invest in expanding its robust network of nearly 1,50,000 cell sites covering over 3,60,000 towns and villages with voice and data offerings on 2G and 3G and roll out 4G LTE services in 10 key markets, starting 2016,” it said.

The company has made a total investment of Rs. 65,094.7 crores in the Indian telephony market so far.

Uninor Changes Name to Telenor, Expands Call Drop Refund Plan

Telecom operator Uninor Wednesday changed the brand name to Telenor, the name of its parent company, while extending call drop reimbursement offers to all calls made from its network, in a move to position itself as “the most affordable service provider” in the country.

“The brand change is a reflection of our commitment to India and our mass market consumers as we promise to offer superior value in meeting their evolving needs through affordable, easy to use and fair means. To our 3,500 employees in India, today marks an important name change,” Telenor Group Head of Asia Region Morten Karlsen Sorby said.

It has changed its tagline to ‘Ab life full paisa vasool’ from ‘Sabse Sasta’. Telenor said the company has taken a strong customer-centric approach through initiatives like compensation for call drops.

“We take responsibility for a call drop as we commit quality service to our customers. Hence, we are extending Call drop reimbursements to all calls – local, STD and ISD. Earlier, it was being offered on local calls only,” Telenor India CEO Vivek Sood said.

The Norway-based Telenor entered India through a joint venture with Unitech Wireless, which was branded as Uninor. Unitech has now completely exited from the operations and last year, the Telenor group increased its stake in the Indian entity to 100 per cent.

Earlier this month, the company had changed the name of the company from Telewings Communications Services to Telenor (India) Communications.

The Telenor group has mobile operations in 13 markets in the Nordic region, Central and Eastern Europe and in Asia.

Telenor India operates in six circles – Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh East and West and ranks fourth in revenue and customer market share.

“We will continue to offer the most affordable services and deliver innovative solutions like call drop reimbursement and customised product offers. The customer wants us to be fair,” Sood said.

Telcos Oppose Trai Proposal to Compensate Users for Call Drops

Telecom operators have opposed telecom regulator Trai’s proposal to compensate users for call drops even as consumers backed it strongly.

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) had earlier this month floated a consultation paper seeking public comments on a proposal suggesting service providers should compensate mobile subscribers for call drops and poor quality of services.

This proposal of Trai has so far seen hundreds of individuals commenting through MyGov portal to protect their interest.

Citing the losses incurred to them due to call drops, people demanded that they should get double the cost for each lost call.

“Calls if dropped should not be charged because many times our villagers make call and it get dropped due to a lack of connectivity… they pay money without talking. It comes out to be a harassment,” a consumer commented on the proposal.

Many others complaint about absence of mobile towers around their villages. There are hundreds of comments from people seeking compensation for failure in mobile internet connection as well along with call drops.

Telecom operators, industry body Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) and Association of Unified Telcom Service Providers of India (AUSPI) have opposed the proposal to compensate consumers.

“We do not agree that calling consumers should not be charged for a call that got dropped within five second or any time later. The subscriber should be charged for the duration of the call session,” AUSPI Secretary General Ashok Sud said.

AUSPI represents mainly CDMA players like Tata Teleservices, Reliance Communications and Sistema Shyam Teleservices.

COAI, which represents pure play GSM mobile companies like Airtel, Vodafone, Idea Cellular, Reliance Jio Infocomm, Uninor etc, said, “We are of the view that consumer compensation will not resolve problem of the call drops, since the key factors resulting in the call drops such as non-availability of sites and spectrum constraints will still remain.”

Xiaomi Becomes a Mobile Operator With the Launch of Mi Mobile

Apart from launching its Mi 4c smartphone, Xiaomi introduced the new Mi Mobile service in China. The company thus marks its entry into an all new segment where it will compete against other China-based carriers.

The new MVNO (or mobile virtual network operator) service from Xiaomi will be offering consumers voice and data services and utilising China Unicom or China Telecom networks.

Under Xiaomi Mi Mobile’s pay-as-you-go plan, consumers will be charged CNY 0.10 (approximately Rs. 1.10) per voice minute, SMS, and 1MB data. The plan supports China Unicom 2G, 3G, and 4G networks. It will be available for sale via the company online store (Mi.com) starting Wednesday.

Under the second scheme, consumers will get 3GB data bundle for CNY 59 (approximately Rs. 610) per month. Under this offer, consumers will have to pay equivalent to CNY 0.02/MB (approximately Rs. 0.30) for data and CNY 0.10 (approximately Rs. 1) per voice minute, SMS or 1MB data (after exceeding 3GB data cap). It supports China Telecom 2G, 3G, and 4G networks and will be available in public beta starting October.

xiaomi_mi_mobile_sim_cards.jpgThe Mi Mobile SIM cards will be available as triple-cut SIM card, which means it could instantly usable with phone supporting mini, micro or nano-SIM cards.

MVNOs, which purchase network capacity from large carriers and resell mobile plans under their own branding, have failed to gain traction in China, where three state-owned giants dominate the telecoms industry.

The launch comes less than six months after Google announced it would launch an MVNO service in the United States called “Fi” that piggybacks off Sprint and T-Mobile’s networks.

The Chinese company on Tuesday also unveiled its new Mi Bluetooth Speaker with aluminium body and 1500mAh built-in battery. The new speakers have been priced at CNY 199 (approximately Rs. 2,000). The speaker also comes with microSD card support.

 

Aircel to Add 13,000 Mobile Sites by the End of 2015

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Mobile operator Aircel Monday said it will expand its network by adding 13,000 2G, 3G and 4G sites across the country by December 2015.

The company, which has pan-India 2G operations, said the plan is in line with the growing demand for mobile services and to offer better customer experience, uninterrupted services and enhanced data speeds.

The company has 3G spectrum in 13 circles and Broadband Wireless Access (BWA) or 4G airwaves in 8 circles. As a part of the plan, Aircel has already rolled out close to 7,400 sites this year and has added approximately 2.2 million hours per day of voice capacity and 200TB/day of data capacity to its network, it said in a statement.

“Aircel consistently upgrades and optimises its existing network to increase capacity, achieve higher efficiency and reduce existing pressure on networks,” the company said. The government has asked all mobile operators to invest in network capacity so as to check the call drops problem.

“Out of the 13,000 sites that will be rolled out, 5,300 sites are 2G and the remaining 7,700 are 3G and 4G sites combined. While the 3G sites are planned primarily in regions such as Chennai, TN, Kolkata, WB and Odisha; the focus for the 2G network expansion are regions such as Delhi, Bihar and Rajasthan to improve network performance,” Aircel Chief Technology Officer Sameer Dave said.

New US Federal Requirements on Cellphone Surveillance

Federal law enforcement officials will be routinely required to get a search warrant before using secretive and intrusive cellphone-trackingtechnology under a new Justice Department policy announced Thursday.

The policy represents the first effort to create a uniform legal standard for federal authorities using equipment known as cell-site simulators, which tracks cellphones used by suspects.

It comes amid concerns from privacy groups and lawmakers that the technology, which is now widely used by local police departments, is infringing on privacy rights and is being used without proper accountability.

“The policy is really designed to address our practices, and to really try to promote transparency and consistency and accountability – all while being mindful of the public’s privacy interest,” Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates told reporters in announcing the policy change.

The policy applies only to federal agencies within the Justice Department and not, as some privacy advocates had hoped, to state and local law enforcement whose use of the equipment has stirred particular concern and scrutiny from local judges.

The technology – also known as a Stingray, a suitcase-sized device – can sweep up basic cellphone data from a neighborhood by tricking phones in the area to believe that it’s a cell tower, allowing it to identify unique subscriber numbers. The data is then transmitted to the police, helping them determine the location of a phone without the user even making a call or sending a text message.

The equipment used by the Justice Department does not collect the content of communications.

Even as federal law enforcement officials tout the technology as a vital tool to catch fugitives and kidnapping suspects, privacy groups have raised alarms about the secrecy surrounding its use and the collection of cellphone information of innocent bystanders who happen to be in a particular neighborhood or location.

In creating the new policy the Justice Department was mindful of those concerns and also sought to address inconsistent practices among different federal agencies and offices, Yates said.

“We understand that people have a concern about their private information, and particularly folks who are not the subjects or targets of investigations,” Yates said.

The new policy requires a warrant in most cases, except for emergencies like an immediate national security threat, as well as unspecified “exceptional circumstances.” The warrant applications are to set out how the technology will be used.

In addition, authorities will be required to delete data that’s been collected once they have the information they need, and are expected to provide training to employees.

The policy could act as a blueprint for state and local law enforcement agencies in developing their own regulations. But it’s unclear how broad an impact Thursday’s announcement will have, since it does not directly affect local police agencies unless they’re working alongside federal authorities on a case or relying on their assistance.

Use of the technology has spread widely among local police departments, who have been largely mum about their use of the technology and hesitant to disclose details – often withholding materials or heavily censoring documents that they do provide.

Local departments have faced scrutiny from judges about how they deploy the equipment, though agencies have often insisted that non-disclosure agreements with the FBI limit what they can say.

The FBI has said that while specific capabilities of the equipment are considered sensitive, it did not intend for the agreements to prevent the police from disclosing to a court that the equipment was used in a particular case. Yates said she expected the FBI to revise any such agreements to be more transparent.

The American Civil Liberties Union called the policy a good first step, but expressed disappointment that it did not cover federal agencies outside the Justice Department or local police who use federal funds to purchase the surveillance equipment. It called on the Justice Department to close remaining loopholes, such as the one allowing for warrantless surveillance under undefined “exceptional circumstances.”

“After decades of secrecy in which the government hid this surveillance technologyfrom courts, defense lawyers, and the American public, we are happy to see that the Justice Department is now willing to openly discuss its policies,” ACLU lawyer Nathan Freed Wessler said in a statement.

Nate Cardozo, a staff attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a privacy group, praised the policy as an important step, though he said he suspected Justice Department attorneys saw “the writing on the wall” and recognized that judges would increasingly begin requiring warrants.

Though the policy does not require local police to follow the lead of federal agencies, “this is going to let the air out of state law enforcement’s argument that a warrant shouldn’t be required.”

“We think that given the power of cell-site simulators and the sort of information that they can collect – not just from the target but from every innocent cellphone user in the area – a warrant based on probable cause is required by the Fourth Amendment,” Cardozo said.