Xiaomi’s In-House Pinecone Processor Gets an Official Weibo Page

Chinese electronics firm Xiaomi has been working on its in-house processor for quite some time. The Xiaomi 5c smartphone has been tipped to be the first to come with the in-house Pinecone processor, and is now expected to be unveiled sometime this month. Ahead of its rumoured launch, the official page of Xiaomi’s Pinecone processor is now live on social networking site Weibo. The official Pinecone page has minimal information, and apart from the processor name and logo, it reveals little else as of now.

Xiaomi's In-House Pinecone Processor Gets an Official Weibo Page

China site Anzhou.cn reports that the new Weibo page of the Pinecone processor indicates that the Xiaomi Mi 5c is not far away. Xiaomi’s partnership with chipmaker Leadcore has given birth to Pinecone. A few years ago, the company did launch the Redmi 2A with a Leadcore chipset, and now looks like it is finally ready to ship devices with its own chipset. Rumours indicate that Xiaomi will launch two processor models – the Pinecone 1 with an octa-core Cortex-A53 CPU, and the Pinecone 2 with four Cortex-A73 cores and four Cortex-A53 cores. There’s no clarity on the GPU, but the chip is expected to be made in the cutting edge 10nm process.

As is the case with most OEMs, Xiaomi has been relying on Qualcomm and MediaTek for processors till now; however, it looks to introduce one more offering with Pinecone, joining the ranks of Samsung, Apple, and Huawei. As mentioned, the first smartphone tipped to launch with the new Pinecone processor is the Xiaomi Mi 5c – the affordable variant of the Xiaomi Mi 5 smartphone. However, the device is also been alternatively rumoured to sport a Snapdragon 625 processor as well.

Past leaks further indicate that the upcoming Xiaomi smartphone will sport 3GB of RAM and offer 64GB of inbuilt storage. As for optics, the Mi 5c is tipped to sport a 12-megapixel sensor at the rear, and an 8-megapixel sensor at the front for selfies. The Xiaomi smartphone is said to pack a 3200mAh battery and run on MIUI 8 out of the box.

The Xiaomi Mi 5c is tipped to come with really narrow bezels, and a 5.5-inch full-HD display with 2.5D curved glass protection. Live images of the device have also been leaked showing us how the Xiaomi budget smartphone is supposed to look from all angles. The smartphone was first tipped to launch in December, but that didn’t happen, and we now expect it to see the light of day this month.

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.

ET VIEW
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.

Ericsson eyes VoLTE contracts in India by year end

Ericsson eyes VoLTE contracts in India by year end
Ericsson expects to win a few Voice over LTE (VoLTE) contracts in India by this year end, using similar deployments in advanced markets such as Japan, South Korea and North America, and added that the upcoming spectrum sale will drive more network investments next fiscal.

“We are working hard on it, and hope to get new deals during this year,” Paolo Colella, head of Region, Ericsson India, told ET. Ericsson’s arch rival Nokia has managed to grab all the initial VoLTE contracts in India — from Reliance Jio Infocomm, Bharti Airtel and Vodafone India.

While the Jio contract is for a pan-India deployment, the deals from leading two telcos — Airtel and Vodafone — are smaller in nature and are focused on a few tier-1 service areas.

In a VoLTE scenario, voice calls, typically, will be provisioned over a 4G LTE data network, instead of the circuit switched 2G or 3G networks which are commonly used. The VoLTE technology allows voice to become just another app that rides on an LTE data network.

Besides VoLTE, Colella said that other areas such as mobile broadband, telecom services, OSS/BSS, IP transport are likely to grow in the next fiscal starting April 1, given telcos’ investment plans for 3G and 4G deployments. He also feels that the upcoming spectrum auction likely in June-July will also drive telcos’ network investments in India.

“Operator investments will remain at least the same pace as last year with continued focus on deployment of 3G and 4G,” he said. India is considering putting up for sale airwaves in the traditional 850 MHz, 900 MHz, 1800 MHz, 2100 MHz, 2300 MHz and 2500 MHz bands. Besides, the sector regulator wants the government to also auction the most efficient but expensive 700 MHz band, used for 4G.

“There is a big demand emerging in the market as smartphone penetration reaches 100 million. We have been surprised by the availability of more and more 4G smartphones at decent prices, and this will further accelerate demand for mobile broadband,” he said. “So the operators will continue to roll out.”
Ericsson, which is working with Jio on the OSS front, expects to further deepen its ties with the telecom operator, which is likely to launch commercial services around April.

Why can’t you fix call drops, SC asks telecom operators

(Representative image)The Supreme Court on Thursday agreed to hear a plea of Cellular Operators’ Association of India to exempt telecom firms from paying compensation to consumers for call drops but asked why the companies were not fixing the problem.

The association approached the court challenging the Delhi high court order which had upheld Telecom Regulatory Authority of India’s (Trai) decision of October last year that made cellphone service providers liable to compensate consumers for dropped calls.

Appearing before a bench headed by Chief Justice T S Thakur, senior advocate Kapil Sibal mentioned the case and pleaded for an urgent hearing saying that the telecom companies had to pay crores of rupees to consumer as compensation which would adversely affect their operation.

“Why don’t you correct your system itself so that you won’t have to pay compensation?” the bench asked while posting the case for Friday.

 Trai had on October 16, 2015 said that every originating service provider (providing cellular mobile telephone service) was liable to credit the calling consumer (a consumer who initiates a voice call) by one rupee for each call drop within its network for a maximum of three call drops per day. The telcom companies claimed that the additional compensation would cost the companies Rs 54,000 crore a year.
The association had first challenged Trai’s decision before the Delhi high court which dismissed its plea on February 29. “Petitioners are bound to comply with regulation 16 of the Telecom Consumers Protection Regulations, 2012, as inserted by the impugned notification dated 16.10.2015, with effect from 01.01.2016 and Trai is at liberty to take appropriate steps in accordance with law for compliance of the same,” the HC had said.

Telecom PSUs to invest Rs 16,815 crore in 2016-17

Telecom PSUs such as BSNL have earmarked an investment of Rs 16,815 crore for the next fiscal in a host of projects, including setting up of Wi-Fi hotspots, enhancing network quality and expanding broadband coverage.

BSNL has earmarked capital expenditure of Rs 7,317 crore for 2016-17, while Bharat Broadband Network Limited, which is implementing the national optical fibre network, has investment plans of Rs 9,418.67 crore for the next fiscal.

“We have capex plan for Rs 7,317 crore. This includes setting up of 40,000 wifi hotspots, 10 times enhancement of core network capacity and Rs 2,000 crore of add-on equipment under phase 7 of network expansion,” BSNL chairman and managing director Anupam Shrivastava told .

Loss making PSU MTNL will spend Rs 649.03 crore and Centre for Development of Telematics (C-DOT) will invest Rs 100 crore, according to the budget documents.

The budget indicates there will be progress in Rs 773.13 acre surplus land of government left with Videsh Sanchar Nigam Ltd (VSNL), currently Tata Communications, after disinvestment in 2002. Special purpose vehicle Hemisphere Properties India Ltd (HPIL) created to resolve this issue will invest Rs 1 crore in 2016-17.

The government has decided to allocate Rs 18,413 crore to the Department of Telecom in 2016-17 which includes provisions for public sector units as well.

In the budget, government has decided to allocate Rs 2,200 crore as a refund for surrendering broadband wireless spectrum (4G) in six circles and CDMA spectrum in the coming fiscal.

MTNL surrendered 5Mhz of CDMA spectrum that was put up for auction in Delhi and Mumbai and BSNL in around 8-10 telecom service area.
The Budget has provisioned for financial support of Rs 428.91 crore for loss making telecom firm MTNL in 2016-17. The support includes refund for minimum alternate tax (MAT), payment of interest on bonds and surrender of CDMA spectrum by MTNL.
In current fiscal government has refunded Rs 492 crore as MAT to MTNL.

Telecom operators fined Rs 323 crore in April-December 2015

A penalty of Rs 73.76 crore has been imposed on BSNL, Rs 50.25 crore on Vodafone, Rs 43.73 crore on Tata, Rs 41.76 crore on Idea, Rs 40.20 crore on Reliance, Rs 38.70 crore on Airtel and Rs 1.44 crore on Uninor, among others.
The government has imposed fines of Rs 323.56 crore on telecom operators in nine months of the current fiscal for violating rules pertaining to verification of subscribers.

It has however recovered only Rs 62.15 crore from them.

“Total financial penalty imposed on different telecom service providers (TSPs) for violation of customer acquisition form (CAF) verification norms during current financial year 2015-16 (from April 1, 2015 till December 31, 2015) is Rs 323.56 crore,” telecom minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said in a written reply to Lok Sabha.

He said a penalty of Rs 73.76 crore was imposed on BSNL, Rs 50.25 crore on Vodafone, Rs 43.73 crore on Tata, Rs 41.76 crore on Idea, Rs 40.20 crore on Reliance, Rs 38.70 crore on Airtel and Rs 1.44 crore on Uninor, among others.

The government has recovered Rs 62.15 crore from the operators for the reported period, he added.

“Telecom Enforcement Resources and Monitoring (Term) Cells carry out sample verification of CAF and related documents of the acquired customers, by all TSPs, which brings out non-compliant cases where DoT guidelines pertaining to verification of subscribers were violated by TSPs,” Prasad said.

The minister further said for non-compliant cases, TERM Cells impose applicable financial penalties on erring TSPs as per the guidelines issued from time to time.

Regarding a query on quality of service provided by operators, Prasad said sectoral regulator Trai has been monitoring the performance of service providers.
“Wherever the quality of service benchmarks are not met, Trai has also been imposing financial disincentives on service providers for failure to comply with the benchmarks, in accordance with the provisions of the regulations,” he said.
He added to create further deterrent against consecutive non-compliance with the benchmarks, Trai had recently notified ‘The Standards of Quality of Service of Basic Telephone Service (Wireline) and Cellular Mobile Telephone Service (Fourth Amendment) Regulations, 2015’ on October 15, 2015, providing for increased financial disincentive in such cases.
“The penalties amounting to Rs 10.70 crore has been imposed so far on defaulting service providers for not meeting the QoS benchmarks,” he added.

11 crore mobile handsets being locally made now: Telecom minister Ravi Shankar Prasad

11 crore mobile handsets being locally made now: Telecom minister Ravi Shankar Prasad
Rationalization of duty structure for making mobile phones has led to doubling of the number of phones made in India, from 5.4 crore in 2014-15 to 11 crore units in 2015-16, telecom and IT minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said Monday.

The incentives offered in the last budget has encouraged local manufacturing, with 16 new plants set up for making mobile phones locally during the financial year.

“Due to the initiatives taken up in the last budget, especially duty rationalisation, we have notice a remarkable acceleration in field of electronics manufacturing,” Prasad said Monday, while appreciating the new reforms announced in the Union Budget 2016-17.

The minister added that electronics manufacturing proposals worth Rs 1,290,294 crore were received till date, up from Rs 11,800 crore in June 2014, when the government came to power. “Proposals worth Rs 18,000 crore have been approved,” the minister said.

Welcoming the new proposal of duty advantage of 8.5% to routers, broadband modems and set top boxes, digital video recorder and CCTV cameras among other products in the Union Budget, the minister said the move will give a boost to the telecom sector, which uses many of these products.

Domestic value addition in mobile phones, battery, wired headsets, speakers would enjoy a duty advantage of 10.5% compared to imported goods, the minister added.

“We’re happy to note that FM has announced moving a legislation to give statuary backing to Aadhar, for delivery of services, subsidies, benefits coming out of Consolidated Fund of India,” he said.

On IT and IT enabled services, the minister said that India’s share in the global IT outsourcing has increased to 56%, while the services export has crossed $100 billion in the last 20 months.

Separately, about 1000 ATMs will be installed by March 2016, while 576 ATMs have already been installed. India Post has overtaken the State Bank of India to become the largest core banking network with 18,231 branches, the minister added

Thai telecom firm True 2015 profit surges, expands mobile market share

True, controlled by Thai billionaire Dhanin Chearavanont's Charoen Pokphand Group, also forecast service revenue to rise 13-17% this year, compared to 10.8% growth in consolidated service revenue in 2015.True Corp Pcl, Thailand’s largest telecoms provider, said on Monday net profit surged nearly two-thirds in 2015, boosted by rising income from its mobile business and a substantial drop in interest expenses.

True, controlled by Thai billionaire Dhanin Chearavanont’s Charoen Pokphand Group, also forecast service revenue to rise 13-17% this year, compared to 10.8% growth in consolidated service revenue in 2015.

Its market share of the mobile business rose to 20.8% in the fourth quarter, it added.

True, 18% owned by China Mobile, reported a net profit of 4.4 billion baht ($123.5 million) in 2015, a 58% increase from a year ago, and its second consecutive profit. Interest expenses fell for the year 41.9% after a large debt repayment.

Revenue from the mobile business jumped 17.3% in 2015, outperforming the industry growth rate of 0.3% and helping the mobile unit to contribute profit of 1.1 billion baht, the company said.

Fourth-quarter net profit, however, dropped 79% to 398 million baht due to an absence of gains from asset sales.

True group, the country’s third-largest mobile operator, won a 4G licence for 76.3 billion baht ($2.1 billion) in a December auction, in addition to another licence that it won in a November auction.

The company is due to sign a contract of credit guarantee facilities for the licence with banks on Tuesday, and some analysts expect True to post a net loss this year due to an increase in debt.

Net debt to earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) rose to 3.67 times in 2015 from 1.61 times after the company paid the first installment for the 4G licence it won in November.
The company is in the process of raising 60 billion baht from an equity issue, which should help keep its net debt to EBITDA ratio to less than two times, it said.

AT&T Jumps Into the 5G Race

AT&T on Friday announced plans to start testing 5G technology, with a possible limited commercial rollout before the end of 2016. 5G offers the promise of besting the speeds of today’s fastest wireless networks by a factor of 10 to 100, through the use of millimeter waves, network function virtualization, and software-defined networking.

 

Through a collaboration with Ericsson and Intel, AT&T will be ramping up its efforts to bring 5G to market starting in the second quarter of this year. The planned tests follow extensive research, patent filings, and the development of software-defined networking, which allows AT&T to update systems without touching the hardware — a faster, more efficient method of introducing new versions of programs and technology, the company said.

Bumps in the 5G Road

The race to 5G isn’t without its challenges, however. It’s no small feat to create a working fixed broadband network that delivers at least a gigabit of speed to consumer and business customers.

“Some of the things AT&T will be testing for are power and performance in rain or other disruptive weather conditions, like cold,” said Fletcher Cook, AVP of global media communications at AT&T.

“If it goes well in the summer, you could start seeing point-to-point limited commercial availability for limited fixed broadband soon after,”.

However, “that isn’t for the wireless phone, wide-area network type 5G,” Cook pointed out. “That’s much longer term, because we have the standards that need to be sorted.”

AT&T is working diligently with IEEE to establish uniform standards, he said. “The standards piece is the biggest hurdle. Identifying how networks between carriers will work and how those standards are set are two things we’ve got to figure out.”

Driving Forces

Advances in new technologies, coupled with the rise in using smartphones for bandwidth-gobbling video consumption, are propelling AT&T and other companies to get 5G networks up and running.

“The combination of connected cars, the Internet of things, speed, and new technology like virtual reality is driving this,” Cook said.

Marketing agencies also are jumping on the new tech bandwagon.

“Ever since CES, especially, the stage has been set for 2016 to be the year virtual reality becomes a household name,” Cook noted. “It’s become a checkbox for marketers and creative directors to have in their marketing strategies. For example, there are a lot of Fortune 500 brands that are making content for YouTube360, Facebook360 and Little Star; this is a new way to get their message out.”

The trick will be finding enough bandwidth to seamlessly deliver all that content. As more and more people are investing in affordable means of watching VR content — like Google Cardboard which requires only a viewer (priced as low as US$6.99) and a smartphone — the demand for faster speeds and more bandwidth is growing exponentially.

“Streaming a lot of virtual reality content requires a lot of bandwidth,” observed Austin Mace, CEO of Subvrsive.

“The introduction of a 5G network would definitely accelerate the mass adoption of virtual reality because it gets content to people faster,” he told TechNewsWorld. “One of the biggest bottlenecks we face in live-streaming VR content is data speeds, so I can see this really alleviating that.”