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Facebook’s second effort to bring internet access to India is going better than its first

Indian demonstrators of Free Software Movement Karnataka hold placards during a protest against Facebook’s Free Basics initiative, in Bangalore on January 2, 2016.

Facebook is launching a new scheme to bring cheap internet access to rural India, just months after net neutrality protestors blocked the companys plan to provide free internet to millions in the country.

The company is currently testing Express Wi-Fi in India. The service, according to Facebook, will allow people to buy fast, reliable and affordable data packages without shelling out hundreds of rupees each month.

In January, Indias telecoms regulator rejected Facebooks Free Basics program after more than a million people registered complaints abut the plan, which would have given free access to specific websites chosen by Facebook.

Hundreds of protestors took to the streets of major Indian cities demanding Free Basics be barred because it would give prominence to certain websites and news sources. They claimed it would also grant Facebook unchallenged control over the information.

Now, many of those who campaigned against Free Basics are celebrating Facebooks latest venture. Kiran Jonnalagadda, one of the co-founders of the net neutrality activist group Save the Internet, said that the new model could transform rural India.

We welcome Facebook’s initiative to expand internet access in India by providing neutral access without discrimination on what sites a user may visit,” he told Mashable. “We are glad to see that Facebook has learnt from their earlier mistakes and responded positively,

Meanwhile, Google has joined the race to get India online by offering free high speed WiFi at 100 railways stations by the end of 2016, the largest public WiFi service in the world.

In rapidly developing India, a mobile phone revolution has reached even the most remote villages. Smartphones are increasingly widespread, but data connections are slow, expensive and weak, especially in rural parts of the country.

Despite rising incomes and access to computers and smartphones, weak internet infrastructure means two-thirds of Indias 1.25 billion population are still not online. According to one report, internet usage in India could double to over 730 million by 2020.

For tech giants, Indias unconnected population is a vast, unreached market, especially for online advertising. While local telecom providers are failing to provide a good service, Google and Facebook are racing to get the next billion online.

Nikhil Pahwa, a net neutrality activist who also campaigned against Facebooks Free Basics program, wrote an essay arguing that companies like Facebook and Google were finally disrupting the dominance of Indias telecoms cartels.

The WiFi that Facebook is providing only relies on BSNL for backhaul: theyre putting up hotspots and allowing kirana stores (kiosks) to sell recharge cards for Internet access We need more of this: more ISPs, more wires carrying Internet traffic, more hotspots, he writes.

Tech analyst Rahul Chatterjee noted that the size of India’s market has caused tech companies and other industries to provide the necessary infrastructure to bring people online.

Tech companies are providing cheap or free internet to get millions of Indians used to the internet ecosystem, while exposing them to controlled advertising,” he said. “As the digital needs of ordinary rural Indians grow, there could be a huge market for paid services too.

It isnt just the tech giants that are eager for this to happen; financial institutions too are waiting for the day that they are able to correctly assess the lending-worthiness of a rural Indian. If the Indian John Doe suddenly decides to move his life online, then banks could start assessing credit-worthiness just by analyzing someones digital footprint. It could lead to huge economic growth in smaller cities and rural parts of the country.”

Facebook still has ambitions to bring Free Basics to India. In an interview with the Verge, Mark Zuckerberg said that Facebook would make another effort to bring the service to India once it was successfully rolled out in other parts of the world.

We have had setbacks in a couple of countries, India of course being the biggest. With a billion people in India not online, its the most important [country] to get right,” Zuckerberg said.

Weve learned a lot about how we need to interact with governments and the political system and regulators, and build support in order to have these things work,” Zuckerberg continued. “And I think well take those lessons forward on the future work were doing in Free Basics, which by the way is continuing to roll out around the world. One day, once weve shown that its a successful program around the world, I hope that well get another chance to come back to India and offer it there, too.”

Read more: http://mashable.com/2016/08/20/facebook-india-express-wifi/

Israeli startup Shine just signed an ad blocking deal with a third telecom

Image: Getty images/ditto

While mobile ad blocking has yet to catch on in the United States, one Israeli startup is doing its best to make sure it does everywhere else in the world.

Shine, a longtime tormenter of the ad industry, just inked a deal with South African telecom Econet Wireless that will provide each of the network’s 40 million subscribers with Shine’s aggressive brand of mobile ad blocking technology.

The agreement marks Shine’s third partnership of this kind, following a deal with Caribbean carrier Digicel last fall and another with European Three Group in February that’s still in a trial phase.

But Shine’s latest collaborator is bigger than either of those networks Digicel boasts just 13 million subscribers and Three Group has 30 million across its various European brands.

Zimbabwe, home to about a quarter of Econet’s subscribers, will be the first market to get the blocker, followed by Burundi, South Africa and Lesotho.

The deals come as the growing worldwide popularity of ad blockers has locked the media and advertising industries in a heated battle with the makers of the software that drains their revenue.

But in the United States and Europe, publishers have taken some solace in the fact that mobile ad blockers haven’t been widely adopted at least not yet.

Unlike most, if not all, of its competitors, Shine’s scorched-earth ad blocking method operates at the network level rather than on an individual device. Its software is installed in a given cell carrier’s data centers, where it uses a combination of “deep packet inspection” and algorithms to strip ads before they make it to a phone.

That means it can filter ads with discretion across apps and browsers pre-rolls and banners alike though it’s not entirely clear if it currently does so on social networks like Facebook and Twitter.

Its less encompassing mobile rivals are relegated to the Safari browser app, in which they operate at the mercy of Apple’s walled-garden rules.

Scarier yet for those who depend on ads for a living, Shine’s ad blocker is switched on by default for customers of Econet and Digicel, meaning one would need to consciously decide they want to see ads in order to opt out.

In Three’s case, stricter European regulators decided such a setting would be a violation of net neutrality (the legality of the entire deal also seems to remain an open question there).

Unsurprisingly, Shine’s approach has drawn a lot of ire from the industries it victimizes; its public face, chief marketing officer Roi Carthy, has been called the “most hated man in publishing.”

For his part, Carthy seems to relish the reputation. He’s an antagonistic fixture on the industry conference circuit, where he’s prone to describing his mission in militaristic terms Shine’s technology is “a nuclear weapon,” he has said, against the “consumer abuse” that is advertising.

Shine sees its ad blocker as a consumer savior, cutting out the immense waste of cell data spent loading clunky ads and fending off the malware sometimes cloaked within them. That’s also essentially the proposition it makes to its telecom partners.

But Shine will sooner or later run into the counter-intuitive reality that all ad blockers face that most of them make money not by doing what their name suggests, but by letting certain advertisers through their wall for a fee.

AdBlock Plus, the biggest player in the desktop ad blocking space, has couched these business ambitions in its “Acceptable Ads Program,” a nebulous master list of whitelisted advertisers who’ve either paid for the privilege of being there or been added on the merit of their clean and efficient ads.

Industry trade groups and consumer rights advocates have criticized the program for its lack of transparency.

Shine seems to be headed down this same path; its executives frequently claim that the company doesn’t want to block all ads only the irrelevant and dangerous ones and it recently began testing an ad verification service, according to Business Insider, effectively putting it in competition with many ad tech companies.

Such a business model could once again raise the specter of a net neutrality breach, since Shine’s ad blocker would ultimately be a floodgate controlling what web traffic people see.

Regardless, Shine’s game plan represents an unprecedentedly brazen threat to publishers, app companies and other ad-supported web entities at a time when much of the internet’s traffic has increasingly shifted to mobile.

Facebook, currently the most dominant force in the mobile ads industry along with Google, started cracking down on desktop ad blockers last week with a change to its code meant to render them ineffective. But the company now gets less than a fifth of its ad revenue from desktop a threat to its mobile app would no doubt be taken more seriously.

Shine has said in the past it doesn’t block ads within Facebook, but Carthy more recently hinted to TechCrunch that it now has the ability.

As the startup continues the drumbeat of its expansion, its battle with much of the rest of the internet can only heat up.

Have something to add to this story? Share it in the comments.

Read more: http://mashable.com/2016/08/19/ad-blocker-shine-deal-african-telecom/

T-Mobile wants to steal Verizon customers with a new approach to data

T-Mobile CEO John Legere.
Image: david a. grogan/cnbc/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

T-Mobile is ditching the data plan for an unlimited model that they hope will change how people use data and draw customers away from competitors like Verizon and AT&T.

The company announced Thursday the launch of T-Mobile ONE, a cell phone plan it says has no limits on data. Subscribers pay $70 a month for the first line, $50 for the second and $20 a month for additional lines.

The wireless provider already offers an unlimited data plan, but unlimited data is for an added price on top of the traditional cell phone plan. This plan instead incorporates unlimited data into the base price, and will be the only option for new customers.

“We are completely destroying the whole concept of the data plan. It’s gone,” T-Mobile CEO John Legere said in his video announcement.

Comparatively, Verizon offers five different size data plans ranging from 2GB for $35 to 24GB for $110 a month.

Previously, T-Mobile has offered four different size data plans, including its unlimited plan.

The T-Mobile ONE plan represents a big shift in how wireless companies approach data. Since Legere took over the company in 2012, T-Mobile has made an aggressive play for customers from the bigger wireless companies, Verizon and AT&T. Thursday’s announcement called out both networks.

T-Mobile claims that Verizon and AT&T couldn’t offer a totally unlimited plan because their networks are too outdated and overcrowded.

“Their networks are old. They built them with last generation technology for how people used phones back then just for phone calls,” Legere said.

But not everyone is excited by T-Mobile’s new approach to data. The Simple Choice Unlimited plan T-Mobile already offers is $95, with a $10 monthly discount for adding a tablet and phone line. Some customers claim it works out to a better deal than the new option.

Plus, data through T-Mobile ONE isn’t completely unlimited. Video streaming is limited to standard definition unless customers pay an additional $25 a month for access to high definition. Customers using more than 26GB of data a month have their traffic prioritized behind other users during high network demand after crossing a billing threshold. Tethering or turning on a wifi hotspot is capped at a 2G speed.

Analysts say that the new plan arrives as T-Mobile is combating slowing growth in new customers. But the starting price for new customers is now $20 higher than the cheapest plan previously available.

“T-Mobile is having less and less success with adding new customers and winning subscribers from competitors as time goes on, as its various Un-Carrier moves offer diminishing returns,” analyst Jan Dawson wrote on Medium.

Still, T-Mobile expects this plan to increase customer loyalty and pointed out in its release that the plans were taken into account for its guidance in its July 27 earnings call.

The T-Mobile ONE plan will take effect September 6.

“Who knows? Maybe there will be some cool new phones in September,” Legere said.

Read more: http://mashable.com/2016/08/18/tmobile-one-unlimited-data/

Cisco Systems to sack fifth of global workforce, says report

About 14,000 jobs could go as networking company moves away from hardware to focus on software and cloud technology

Cisco Systems is laying off about 14,000 employees, representing nearly 20% of the network equipment makers global workforce, technology news site CRN reported, citing sources close to the company.

San Jose, California-based Cisco was expected to announce the cuts within the next few weeks, the report said, as part of a transition from its hardware roots into a software-centric business.

Cisco, which had more than 70,000 employees as of 30 April, declined to comment.

Cisco has been investing in new products such as data analytics software and cloud-based tools for data centres to offset the impact of sluggish spending by telecom carriers and enterprises on its main business of making network switches and routers.

The company has already offered many early retirement package plans to Ciscos employees, according to CRN.

Cisco increasingly required different skill sets for the software-defined future than it did in the past, as it pushed to capture market share and boost margins, the CRN report, said citing a source familiar with the situation.

Up until Tuesdays close of $31.12 on the Nasdaq, the companys stock had risen about 15% in 2016, compared with a 10.5% increase in the Dow Jones US Technology Hardware and Equipment index.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2016/aug/17/cisco-systems-to-sack-fifth-of-global-workforce-says-report

Corey Ford and Matter want you to do the ‘drunken walk of the entrepreneur’

Matter’s sixth incubator class.
Image: Matter 

If you’ve got the next great idea in media, Corey Ford wants to hear about it.

Ford is the managing partner of media startup incubator Matter, which is currently fostering its sixth class of startups including its first group in New York City.

He joined the Biz Please podcast to talk about the incubator’s work, and brought along a few entrepreneurs to pitch their companies.

A former journalist for PBS Frontline, Ford now works to find and foster new media companies. Like most incubators, Matter offers entrepreneurs a $50,000 investment in return for a piece of the company they are building.

Ford promotes what he calls “the drunken walk of the entrepreneur,” which encourages founders to work quickly, make mistakes and learn from those errors.

“We really, really, truly believe that creating a safe space for entrepreneurs to fail, get feedback and iterate … that’s truly the environment we strive to create at Matter,” Ford said.

Ford doesn’t claim to have all the answers. He’s more interested in creating the right conditions for success.

“The way I like to think about it is, our job is to create what I call intentional serendipity,” he said. “We’re not sure exactly what will come out of it, but we can provide the culture, the structure, the people and the connections in order for more and more good things to happen and increase the likelihood of success.”

Entrepreneurs from three startups joined to pitch their companies:

Treepress: Managing director Laura Fisher joins to talk about why Treepress thinks there’s an opportunity to serve the multi-billion dollar theatre market.

Ballstar: Nigel Caldon co-founded Ballstar to provide a place for basketball players from around the world to find and organize games.

Scout: Scout’s goal is to predict the future by combining science fiction and journalism. Founders Berit Anderson and Brett Horvath speak to how the website is looking to provide a place for some of the brightest minds in technology to come together.

You can listen to the podcast below. If you enjoy it, please subscribe! You can find us here on iTunes, also here on Stitcher and even here on Google. And you can always find us @Biz_Please on Twitter.

Read more: http://mashable.com/2016/08/15/matter-startup-pitches/

Audi to sell cars that talk to traffic lights

Select models sold in US will show countdown to signals turning green and warn when its too late to beat a red

The German carmaker Audi is rolling out technology that will allow its vehicles to communicate with traffic lights.

Audi of America, which is owned by Volkswagen, said select 2017 Q7 and A4 models built after 1 June 2016 would be equipped with the system.

Audis version of technology known in the industry as V-to-I, or vehicle to infrastructure, displays a countdown before a red light turns to green, with a countdown also appearing when it is too late to get through an approaching signal before it turns red.

This is our foray into V-to-I, said Pom Malhotra, general manager of Audis connected vehicles division. This is designed not as a safety feature but a comfort and convenience feature.

The display would disappear a few seconds before the light turned green so the driver could pay attention to the intersection, said Malhotra.

Future versions could be it linked to a cars navigation system or its stop/start functions, or traffic signals could advise a vehicle to keep to a certain speed in order to match the flow of lights, executives said.

Audi said it planned to roll out the capability in five to seven US cities in 2016, with cities to be switched on one by one. The company would not disclose which cities would be first.

Carmakers are trying to bring in the technology alongside vehicle-to-vehicle communications (V-to-V) allowing cars to talk to each other to reduce accidents and relieve traffic congestion, as manufacturers move towards greater automation on the road.

But the systems require secure communications infrastructure as well as cooperation with municipalities and transportation agencies.

With Reuters

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2016/aug/16/audi-to-sell-cars-that-talk-to-traffic-lights

Here’s why Walmart just spent $3 billion on Jet.com

A Walmart customer exits from the store on February 19, 2015 in Miami, Florida.
Image: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

It took a big idea and just two years to ink a multi-billion dollar deal.

Walmart has acquired ecommerce startup Jet.com for $3 billion, the companies announced Monday. As both struggled to compete with ecommerce giant Amazon, it’s a move to bolster each of their efforts.

With the deal, Walmart gains more technology and talent including Jet founder and former Amazon employee Marc Lore while Jet.com secures more retail partnerships and cash.

There’s a lot to unpack in Walmart’s 54-year-old history within the retail industry that is worth $23 trillion. Here we breakdown some of the most notable numbers:

$3 Billion

The sale price was $3 billion in cash and $300 million in Walmart shares. That’s a pretty nice deal for a company that was expected to generate $1 billion in retail sales this year, according to Bloomberg.

It’s a quick exit for a two-year-old company and at an impressive price tag.

Josh Elman, a partner at venture capitalist firm Greylock Partners, noted that the deal surpassed Facebook’s $1 billion purchase of Instagram in 2012 and $2 billion purchase of Oculus in 2014. Both companies were also two years old at the time of acquisition.

384 Days

Jet.com first went live on July 21, 2015. So the deal was signed just over a year after the site was launched.

Lore founded the company in 2014 and did not keep his intentions quiet. In fact, Jet offered 100,000 stock options to whoever got the most users to sign up prior to the official launch.

In January 2015, Lore landed the cover of Bloomberg Businessweek.

$100 Billion

Amazon’s revenue for 2015 surpassed $107 billion, up from $89 billion in 2014. About $100 billion was generated from retail revenues while the rest came from sales of Amazon Web Services.

That places the ecommerce-turned-media company as the third-largest retailer in the world, underneath Walmart and Costco.

Yet, the important distinction here is that while Walmart achieved $482 billion in revenue in 2015, only $14 billion came from ecommerce sales. Growth in ecommerce sales fell from 17 percent to just 7 percent over the last year, The Huffington Post reported.

Hence, Marc Lore and Jet.com’s entry to focus on Walmart’s online business.

260 Million

Walmart has been working to add more products to its ecommerce business. Currently, Walmart’s site stocks 11 million products.

The company said it planned to add 1 million more each month. Even so, the current stock pales in comparison to Amazon’s 260 million.

Over its year in operation, Jet was already hosting 12 million products online.

$25 Million

To make a name for itself, Jet attributed a significant portion of its $800 million in venture capital funding on advertising. The company spent $20 to $25 million per month on advertising, Recode reported.

That included billboards, subway signs and online ads.

Jet initially drew a bunch of traffic to its site. At launch in July 2015, it had 6.8 million visits and climbed to 12.2 million the following month. By January, paid search ads contributed more than 50 percent of Jet.com’s desktop traffic, according to SimilarWeb.


$3.6 Trillion

Ecommerce isn’t due to overcome brick and mortar sales anytime soon, but the number is climbing.

In 2020, ecommerce will account for 12.8 percent of retail sales, or $3.578 trillion, according to eMarketer. That’s up from 7.4 percent in 2015, or $1.671 trillion.

Amazon is predicted to rise to second place in total retail sales, surpassing Kroger, Carrefour and Costco and coming just under Walmart, by 2020. Walmart’s total sales are expected to be $609 billion compared to Amazon’s $177 billion, according to eMarketer.

Read more: http://mashable.com/2016/08/08/walmart-jet-numbers/

Uber’s deal with Didi Chuxing looks like defeat, but it may be a shrewd move

After battling its Chinese rival for driver and rider loyalty, it appears that Uber has lost but the deal is not quite that simple

Uber has sold its Chinese operations to rival Didi Chuxing, the countrys biggest ride-hailing firm, signalling the end of a fierce price war waged between the two companies over the last two years.

Uber, last valued at around $68bn, lost an estimated $2bn fighting Didi Chuxing in China, giving out incentives for drivers and free rides in an attempt to compete for market share. Didi was doing the same, but had around 85% of the market share compared with Ubers 8%.

Didi, by all accounts, had the edge, which led Ubers investors to push for a deal rather than waste money on a futile and expensive rivalry that could have stood in the way of a much-anticipated initial public offering (IPO) in the US.

On the face of it, Uber appears to have lost the willy-waving competition, conceded defeat and accepted a deal in order to save face and cash. Yet the deal is not quite that simple.

By fighting so aggressively for two years, Uber secured a strong negotiating position. The San Francisco company will not only gain $1bn in investment from Didi through the deal, but will also take a 17.7% stake in Didi while still maintaining its brand in China.

Perhaps most importantly, the deal appears to trump the cosy relationship Didi has with Ubers competitors. Didi had been starting to form partnerships outside China, choosing to work with (and invest $100m in) Lyft in the US. That deal meant that when Didis Chinese customers were travelling in the US, they could summon a car through Lyfts app, and vice-versa for Lyfts customers in China. We dont know whats going to happen to Lyft now that Uber is one of Didis biggest investors, but its unlikely to be positive. Lyft spokeswoman Alexandra LaManna told CNBC: Over the next few weeks, we will evaluate our partnership with Didi.

Whatever happens, Uber can stop hemorrhaging cash in China to focus on its battle with Ola in India and regulators in the US, Europe and, well, pretty much everywhere.

Uber meanwhile may be able to help Didi improve the algorithms it uses to match drivers with passengers, particularly when it comes to carpooling, where multiple passengers with different destinations are grouped into the same journey. Didi has spoken about the challenges of recruiting data-science talent and launched a $100,000 prize for machine learning earlier this year.

Tech firms including Google, Facebook and Amazon have all struggled to succeed in China, a tantalizingly large and lucrative market. Partnering with the local incumbent relatively early on may be the smartest thing Uber could have done.

Now that the two companies are no longer fighting for driver and rider loyalty, theyll be able to charge customers slightly more more and pay drivers slightly less. And thats a good indication who the real losers in this deal may turn out to be.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2016/aug/01/uber-deal-didi-chuxing-china-analysis