Facbook tweaks News Feed again

As more and more people are watching “Facebook Live Videos,” the social networking giant has pushed its live video feature to top of its News Feed.

The company is considering Live Videos as a new content type — different from normal videos — and learning how to rank them for people in News Feed.

“As a first step, we are making a small update to News Feed so that Facebook Live videos are more likely to appear higher in News Feed when those videos are actually live, compared to after they are no longer live,” wrote Vibhi Kant, product manager and Jie Xu, software engineer at Facebook in a blog post.

“People spend more than 3x more time watching a Facebook Live Video on average compared to a video that’s no longer live. This is because Facebook Live Videos are more interesting in the moment than after the fact,” they wrote.

“Facebook’s Live Video” feature allows users to broadcast live video from their smartphones.

News Feed is made up of posts from the friends and Pages you have connected to. These posts can be status updates, photos, videos, links and now, Facebook Live videos.

“We rolled out Facebook Live on iOS in December and last week, we began rolling it out onAndroid in the US. Over the last three months, Facebook Live Video has become more and more popular and more and more people and Pages are creating and watching live videos,” the Facebook officials posted.

“As with any new type of content in News Feed, we are learning what signals help us show you the most relevant Facebook Live videos for you personally,” they added.

For example, a few years ago when more people began sharing and watching video on Facebook, the company listened to feedback to learn what signals helped them show people more of the videos they want to see and fewer of the videos they don’t.

“At first we updated News Feed ranking to take into account how many people watched a video and how long people watched for to help us personalise News Feed based on people’s preference for watching video,” the company said.

“Over time, we also learned that certain actions people take on a video, such as choosing to turn on sound or making the video full screen, are good signs they wanted to see that video, even if they didn’t choose to like it,” it noted.

Facebook Live is currently available for verified Pages and public figures using Mentions.

“We do not expect Pages to see significant changes as a result of this update. We will continue to learn how people are watching this new content type,” Kant and Xu added.

Idea may have to pay Rs 496-crore tax for Videocon’s 4G airwaves

Idea may have to pay Rs 496-crore tax for Videocon’s 4G airwaves
The government’s budget proposal to levy service tax on spectrum trading deals could compel Idea Cellular, India’s No. 3 telco, to fork out Rs 496 crore to the government for buying Videocon Telecom’s 4G airwaves in UP-West and Gujarat if it is unable to close the deal before June 1.

The “additional service tax would logically get subsumed within Idea’s overall costs in the context of the spectrum-trading transaction with Videocon, but there is a possibility that both companies may have to restructure the deal if it does not close before June 1,” said a person aware of the talks between the two companies.

Idea said in November it plans to buy Videocon Telecom’s 4G LTE airwaves in the 1800 MHz band in the two circles for Rs 3,310 crore (about $500 million), the country’s first such trading deal.

The No. 3 carrier had said the transaction would go through on completion of due diligence and written confirmation from the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) on the transfer of rights to use the frequencies.

Idea Cellular and Videocon Telecom, it is learnt, are yet to submit their joint intimation letter to DoT following completion of the due-diligence process.

“The only way Idea can skirt the additional service tax levy is by closing the spectrum trading deal with Videocon by May 31 latest, since the new rule will be effective June 1,” tax expert Dinesh Kanabar, CEO of Dhruva Advisors, told ET.

While presenting the Union Budget on Monday, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said assignment of the right to use radio frequency spectrum would not be taken as a sale of intangible goods and would be liable to service tax of 15%. If Idea ends up shelling out Rs 496 crore as service tax, the company will be able to partly offset the liability against accumulated central value added tax (cenvat) credits over a period. Experts point out that Idea could face interim cash flow challenges as it would have to pay the entire service tax upfront. “There could be some cash flow hiccups if the service tax burden is sizeable since subsequent cenvat credits will be in yearly instalments over the validity period of spectrum acquired,” said Dharmesh Panchal, Partner (Indirect Tax) at PwC.

Idea Cellular and Videocon did not immediately reply to ET’s queries. Idea generated over Rs 10,000 crore of cash profit in calendar 2015, Managing Director Himanshu Kapania said on an earnings call last month. “It may not be sustainable to deliver (+30%) cash profit but we expect to do 20% plus cash profit growth in the subsequent years, which will be sufficient to cover our capex needs,” he had said.

Industry and tax experts said the new service tax rule is unlikely to affect Reliance Jio Infocomm’s ninecircle spectrum trading pact with Reliance Communications since “the provisions are not retrospective and their deal is already done with relevant payments made by Jio.”

Anil Ambani-owned RCom agreed in January to sell its airwaves in the 800 MHz band to Jio – owned by elder brother Mukesh – for roughly Rs 4,500 crore in their bid to leverage each other’s spectrum resources for rolling out 4G services. Reliance Jio and RCom did not reply to ET’s queries.

Telcos to challenge HC order in Supreme Court over compensation for call drops

Telcos to challenge HC order in Supreme Court over compensation for call drops
Mobile operators are ready to challenge a Delhi High Court order in Supreme Court over compensating consumers for call drops, but are taking a cautious approach to first double-check the legal grounds since there are huge stakes involved for the debt-laden industry.

Executives at three top telcos told ET that the view is to challenge the Delhi High Court’s Monday ruling which upheld the sector regulator’s rules set last October which mandate carriers to compensate consumers Rs 1 for every call dropped on their networks, subject to a cap of three a day, starting January 1, 2016.

“Our members are unanimous as of now in seeking to review the Delhi HC order closely to determine if, and what the legal grounds are for any possible appeal to the Supreme Court, and we expect to take a decision in the next two or three days,” Rajan Mathews, Director General of Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) told ET. COAI represents mobile phone operators such as Bharti Airtel, Vodafone India, Idea Cellular, Telenor and newcomer Reliance Jio Infocomm.

If telcos agree to comply with Telecom Regulatory Authority of India’s (Trai) regulation, their collective monthly payouts towards compensation for call drops could range between Rs 830 crore and a massive Rs 4,500 crore based on consumer usage patterns, according to industry estimates. This, however, is much higher than the Rs 200 crore per quarter industry payout estimated by Trai.

The COAI members, Mathews said, are currently reviewing these issues with a senior counsel on framing the appeal in the Supreme Court, especially “since appeals to the apex court are limited to review of any flaws in application and interpretation of law and lapses in legal procedure”.

A Telenor India spokesperson said that the company was the first to initiate voluntary compensation for call drops. “We are studying details of the recent order and shall take necessary action. Telenor India has taken steps to reduce call drop and strengthened network efficiency by continuously investing in network infrastructure.”

Ashok Sud, secretary general of Auspi, in turn, said its members will be meeting the rest of the industry on Wednesday to chalk out the next course of action. Industry lobby body Auspi represents pure CDMA players such as Sistema Shyam Teleservices and dual-technology carriers like Reliance Communications and Tata Teleservices.

Auspi members are also likely to join hands with COAI, say people familiar with the matter.

Monday’s Delhi HC order was in response to several pleas challenging the Trai’s October 16 regulation that directed mobile carriers to compensate customers for call drops. The Trai regulation had come amid growing public anger against the call drops menace.

Telcos, Don’t Cut Your Nose To Spite Your Face

Telecom service providers need to step up investment in tele-towers and the like, even as they pursue litigation over call drops. In areas of highdensity telecom traffic such as high-rise buildings, boosters can help improve signal quality at low marginal costs. The lack of sufficient radio spectrum is indeed an issue that needs to be addressed. But operators can actually increase spectral efficiency by providing better supportive infrastructure. Doing otherwise would be wholly unwarranted. It makes absolutely no sense to cut one’s nose to spite one’s face.

UK government revises draft internet spy law after criticism

UK government revises draft internet spy law after criticism
The British government says it has amended a proposed internet surveillance law to strengthen privacy protections after criticism from lawmakers.

Home secretary Theresa May published the Investigatory Powers Bill on Tuesday, saying she hoped it would get parliamentary approval and become law by the end of the year.

The bill gives police and spies broad powers to obtain records of websites, apps and messaging services people have visited, and requires telecommunications companies to keep records of customers’ web histories for up to a year.

The bill was revised after lawmakers recommended changes to protect privacy and spell out authorities’ powers more clearly.

The new version clarifies the section on encryption, which had concerned Internet service providers. It says firms can only be asked to remove encryption when it is “practicable.”

Why Budget 2016 offers little cheer for telecom sector

Why Budget 2016 offers little cheer for telecom sector
Nation’s hero Shaheed Bhagat Singh once said:

“Bombs and pistols do not make a revolution. The sword of revolution is sharpened on the whetting-stone of ideas”.

With a promising growth rate of over 7%, the economy is at an inflection point where big ideas can make a dramatic impact and lead the emergence of the next global economic super power. As it happens to be, the Government’s annual national budget was expected to be ‘the idea’ that transpires into a growth revolution capable of steering the economy on a high trajectory.

Being one of the most critical events in the economic calendar of India, the Government’s showstopper for 2016, its union budget was anticipated to be a carefully balanced and growth oriented agenda with many tax reforms and policies to support the ease of doing business in India.

Programs such as Digital India, Make in India, Skill India, Start Up India had made global headlines and bolstered investor confidence. While these are great announcements, it was equally critical for the budget to provide support at the infrastructure and policy level to realise these dreams. The bucket list was expansive, and the industry certainly hoped for a simplified tax regime that included clarity on critical tax issues troubling the telecom sector. Considering several existing tax provisions were exerting additional burden on an already debt laden sector, the budget offered little relief.

The budget report card for telecom is a mixed bag with hits and misses

On doing a quick assessment of the announcements, here’s what we see:

On the direct tax front, the Finance Minister has sought to clear the ambiguity around the tax treatment of payments made by the telcos towards spectrum fees. A proposal has been made to provide for amortization of the fee payment over the period of life of spectrum. This announcement may not be welcome by telecom companies since it results in ambiguity and litigation risk in respect of spectrum fee paid for prior years, whereby the operators have largely taken the position that spectrum is an intangible asset liable for tax depreciation.

– Rationalization of withholding tax rate on commission from 10% to 5% should be seen as welcome step by telecom operators, although the expectation was that it would be reduced to 2%.

– Further, the industry has to deal with higher withholding tax rate on payments to non-residents who do not have a PAN. In case of tax protected contracts, this becomes cost for the payer. The proposal to reduce this compliance burden and do away with the requirement of a PAN in case of certain specified non-residents is a relief for all players in the industry.

– Certain other key proposals which may have a positive impact on the telecom sector are the proposals to introduce Dispute Resolution Scheme which provides for an option to tax payers to settle their existing tax litigation (including litigation caused due to retrospective amendments), deferment of applicability of POEM based residence test and other tax rationalization measures relating to processing of tax refunds, grant of stay of demand, etc.

– However, certain other key demands of the industry as regards bringing clarity on certain tax issues, have been ignored. Specifically, characterization of discounts offered to telecom distributors, exclusion of standard telecom services from ‘Royalty’, shall continue to haunt players in the industry.

– From an indirect perspective, it has been proposed that the right to use the radio-frequency spectrum and subsequent transfers is a service, and made liable to service tax. Certain amendments have also been made in the credit rules with effect from 1 April 2016, wherein the credit of service tax paid on the assignment of right to use spectrum shall be available in a phased manner over the number of years for which such right is assigned.

– Exemption from Basic Customs duty (‘BCD’) on specified telecom equipment was withdrawn vide amendment in July 2014. There was a parallel notification providing BCD exemption in respect of such telecom equipment. However, now that the exemption from BCD available under this notification has also been withdrawn, certain telecom equipment may be liable to BCD at peak rate of 10% effective 1 March 2016.

– With a view to incentivize Make in India, BCD, Countervailing Duty (‘CVD’), Special Additional Duty (‘SAD’) exemptions are being withdrawn on telecom goods, and, exemptions are being extended to import of parts of such goods. Further, concessional excise duty rates have also been prescribed for manufacture of these goods.

In the past few months, the telecom sector has gained fresh momentum with the introduction of many impactful reforms. While the 2016 Budget is a promising effort to steer the sector, the country’s digital transformation agenda will require catalytic efforts and for strengthening the business climate. On that note, 2016 has just begun and we keep our fingers crossed for a growth positive year in telecom.

Hyundai to develop mini electric car, electric scooter

Hyundai Motor will start developing a one-seater electric car and an electric scooter, according to a media report, as the South Korean automaker seeks to expand into the burgeoning “smart mobility” industry.

Devising smarter ways to get around — known in the industry as smart mobility — looks set to become a new battleground for automakers as urbanization grows, pollution worsens, and more cars clog up cities in emerging markets.

The plan is part of Hyundai’s future mobility project IONIQ unveiled by the automaker’s heir apparent and vice chairman Chung Eui-sun at the Geneva auto show on Tuesday, Korea Economic Daily said, citing a company official.

Hyundai is also working on a wearable robot to help senior citizens move around, the report said.

A Hyundai spokeswoman declined to comment on the report.


Robotics firm Systemantics gets next round of funding from Nandan Nilekani

Robotics firm Systemantics gets next round of funding from Nandan Nilekani
Robotics firm Systemantics, which builds industrial robots for the manufacturing sector, has raised another round of funding from venture capital giant Accel Partners and Infosys cofounder Nandan Nilekani, a few years after it received backing from investors such as Blume Ventures.

Systemantics, which was founded by IIT-Madras alumni Jagannath Raju in 1995, raised the latest round a few months ago. ET could not immediately verify the exact terms of the latest round of investment.

The latest investment in Systemantics will mark at least the seventh venture that has been backed by Nilekani, who has actively invested in early-stage startups that he believes are building disruptive ideas which are “highly impactful”.

Over the past 12 months, Nilekani has also backed Team Indus, Fortigo, Mubble, Juggernaut, Lets-Venture and Power2SME. Nilekani has co-invested in a number of these ventures with Accel, including Fortigo and Power2SME. “I do a few, very select investments. If I feel something is highly impactful, then I like to get involved — for example, look at Team Indus. An Indian company landing a rover on the moon is something great. Somebody who has a stretch goal like that or somebody who’s making an ecosystem or creating scale in some way, I look for those kind of things. And where there is an original idea. So I’m very selective about my investments,” Nilekani had said in an interview with ETlast July.

Anand Daniel, a partner at Accel Partners India, declined to comment. When contacted, Raju confirmed that Accel and Nilekani had recently backed Systemantics.

Over the course of the past two decades, Systemantics, which likes to keep a low profile, has quietly worked on custom robotics projects with the Government, as well as with companies such as Titan and Hindustan Aeronautics (HAL). Systemantics is currently building robotics products for the industrial and manufacturing sectors.

“Systemantics is Make In India truly at work — with India’s cost structure advantages and innovative design efficiency at full strength. This core belief drove our decision to back them. Their seasoned management team’s executional ability, coupled with deep-tech IP, could eventually challenge global incumbents,” said Sanjay Nath, managing partner at Blume Ventures, which had backed Systemantics in 2013.

The investment in Systemantics comes at a time when early-stage investing in India continues to scale new highs, although larger so-called “unicorns” including home-grown poster boys such as Flipkart are struggling to raise larger follow-on rounds, amid fears of a valuation bubble.

Deutsche Telekom puts sale of T-Mobile US on hold

Experian has raised $600 million share buyback programme by $200 million using proceeds from recent divestments.Deutsche Telekom has put the sale of T-Mobile US on hold to deal with an upcoming auction of radio airwaves, giving potential suitors time to wait for a more favourable political environment towards telecoms mergers, two sources said.

The US federal communications commission is due to start an auction for low-frequency airwaves at the end of this month, which industry observers expect could last for months.

“During that period, there will be no M&A activity in the US telecoms sector,” said one person familiar with the situation on Tuesday.

Auction participants are not allowed to engage in any partnership or merger talks during the weeks before and after the bidding process. T-Mobile US, which is 65.4% owned by Deutsche Telekom, has said it could spend up to $10 billion in the auction.

An auction of AWS-3 airwaves, which ended early last year, raised a record $44.9 billion.

Deutsche Telekom, which declined to comment, has been trying to sell the unit for years, hoping to cash in on a recovery in the business.

Last month T-Mobile US’s net profit nearly tripled in the fourth quarter after it added more than 2 million customers.

Last year it overtook Sprint to become the third largest provider.

An attempt to sell T-Mobile to Sprint in 2014 was blocked by US regulators and last year talks between T-Mobile US and Dish Network Corp stalled.

Deutsche Telekom has always said it was under no pressure to sell but that it would consider any offer.

Deutsche Telekom shares pared gains to stand 0.2% higher at 1429 GMT.

Delhi-NCR may generate 1 lakh metric tonnes e-waste per annum

The e-waste per annum in Delhi and NCR region will rise to 1,07,000 MT by next year.In the midst of focus on Swachh Bharat sanitation programme, the Delhi and NCR is likely to generate about 1,07,000 metric tonnes (MT) of e-waste per annum by next year from the current level of 68,000 metric tonnes, Assocham said.
The e-waste per annum in Delhi and NCR region will rise to 1,07,000 MT by next year from the current level of 68,000 metric tonnes, the industry body said in a study.

Factors like poor sanitation, low organised recycling, cross-border flow of waste equipment into India, limited awareness regarding disposal and lack of coordination between various authorities were responsible for the non-involvement of municipalities in E-waste management, it said.

It further said that the US is ranked top acquiring the highest share of exporting e-waste to India, followed by China and EU.

Computer equipment accounts for almost 68% of e-waste followed by telecommunication equipment (12%), electrical equipment (8%) and medical equipment (7%), it added

“Less than 2% of India’s total electronic waste gets recycled due to absence of proper infrastructure, legislation and framework. The country produces approximately 1.3 million metric tonnes of e-waste per annum,” Assocham Secretary General D S Rawat said.

The study also observed that domestic e-waste including computer, TV, mobiles and refrigerators contain over 1,000 toxic material, which contaminate soil and ground water. Exposure can cause headache, irritability, nausea, vomiting and eye pain. Recyclers may suffer liver, kidney and neurological disorders.

Japan court cites ‘right to be forgotten’ in Google case

Britain's largest listed property company Land Securities has agreed a deal with internet search giant Google to drive business to its shopping malls.A Japanese court has told internet giant Google to hide a man’s criminal past from its search results, saying he has “the right to be forgotten” to rebuild his life, according to reports.

The ruling parallels a move by the European Court of Justice, which said in 2014 that individuals have the right to ask Google to delete personal data produced by its search engine.

Local media said it was Japan’s first court decision that recognized “the right to be forgotten” in connection with internet search results, though successful bids to remove results have previously been made citing a right to privacy.

The Saitama district court, north of Tokyo, in December upheld an earlier, temporary injunction against Google to delete search results about a man convicted of child prostitution and pornography-related offences and who was fined 500,000 yen ($4,400), the Yomiuri Shimbun reported today.

Presiding judge Hisaki Kobayashi said that depending on the nature of the crime offenders have the “right to be forgotten about past crimes, after passage of a certain period of time,” the Yomiuri reported, without naming the man or details of the crime.

The internet company has appealed the case to Tokyo High Court, the Yomiuri said.

The district court declined to comment on reports on the closed-door session and Google did not immediately respond to a request for comment.