Idea to Launch 4G Services Across Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh

Telecom network operator Idea Cellular announced Monday it is working on a plan to launch 4G services in Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh circles in early 2016. “We’ve already acquired spectrum to launch 4G services in the circle. We are going to launch it in early 2016. We are working on it,” Idea Cellular (MP and Chhattisgarh Circle) Chief Operating Officer (COO) Rajesh Naik told reporters in Indore. Idea Cellular has more than 20 million customers in MP and Chhattisgarh, he said.

According to the result of the first quarter of the current fiscal, the revenue share of the company has been 41.2 percent in the circle, he said. The COO said that the company plans to expand its base in remote areas of MP and Chhattisgarh, adding services would be launched at 400 to 500 places, mostly in rural areas, during this fiscal.

Last week, Idea said it is shifting 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 earlier in September also said 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.

Vital to Get Net Neutrality Debate Right in India: Facebook’s Zuckerberg

Social media giant Facebook has said it’s important to get the debate on Net neutrality “right” in India as the country is home to the world’s largest population of the “unconnected”.

The US-based company faced severe criticism over alleged violation of Net neutrality by Internet.org even as Facebook has continued to defend the initiative that offers free access to basic Internet services to consumers.

India has over 8 lakh users under the Internet.org initiative.

Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg said the regulatory framework needs to protect Net neutrality for consumers and also ensure that companies are allowed to work on new models for stepping up Internet access.

“There is this big struggle, debate in India now on how you balance these two things and this is an incredibly important debate because India is the country in the world with the most unconnected people,” he said.

He added that connecting everyone to the Internet is a large national and global priority as it will help with job creation and elevating people from poverty.

“I think we need to make sure the regulatory framework that enables both of those things – Net neutrality protection that folks need and the ability to work on new models for (Internet) access,” he said.

As part of its Internet.org initiative, Facebook had partnered with telecom major RelianceCommunications in India to offer free access to over 30 websites without data charges to users.

Internet.org, which has recently been rebranded as Free Basics, is now available in 20 countries.

The firm faced massive criticism for the platform as it was seen violating the principle of Net neutrality, which is against any priority being accorded to an entity in the Internet traffic flow on account of payments to service providers like telecom companies.

“Let’s say, we roll out Free Basics everywhere in the world and are successful. But if something goes wrong in India and we don’t get the debate right and the balance isn’t struck correctly, that will hold the whole world back from helping grow their economy, from all the ideas that people who don’t have Internet yet,” Zuckerberg said.

The young billionaire said the company believes in Net neutrality “very strongly”. Citing an example, he said it is not fair if an operator charges extra for some services. “But at the same time, if you have a student in a classroom looking up information for free to do her homework, it is hard to see why there is an issue for that,” he said. Zuckerberg had, in the past too, come out in defence of the programme, saying that it did not block or throttle services and is not in conflict with Net neutrality.

Facebook Vice-President of Communications and Public Policy, Elliot Schrage said the company has made the changes in response to the discussion that has happened in India and throughout the world.

“We changed the name of the service to make sure there was no confusion that this is a set of free basic services and not the whole Internet,” he said. Schrage added that the platform is open to all developers and operators.

“We are a company which goes, tests, learns and then takes feedback from the entire community and our goal here is to grow the whole Internet,” he said.

Microsoft Launches Cloud Services Powered by Datacenters in India

Redmond-based technology major Microsoft on Tuesday launched its public cloud services from local data centres which will aid business and organisations to fuel inclusive growth and spur innovation.

As part of the new launch, Microsoft will inaugurate three data centres – Chennai, Pune and Mumbai – in the country. The new centres will start operations after the facility is inaugurated by the respective state chief ministers – J Jayalalithaa and Devendra Fadnavis – on Tuesday.

“Governments, large businesses, small and medium businesses (SMBs) and citizens can use the massive computing power now available locally to fuel India’s inclusive growth, spur innovation and accelerate digital transformation,” Tyler Bryson, general manager, marketing and operations, Microsoft India, said.

“More organisations and governments will adopt the public cloud which will open up more opportunities for Microsoft,” he added explaining the launch.

Market research firm Gartner claims that the public cloud market will be at $838 million (roughly Rs. 5,527 crores) by end of 2015, an increase of 33 percent over 2014, and finally reach $2 billion (roughly Rs. 13,193 crores) by 2018.

It also adds that the Indian government spending will go up to $6.88 billion (roughly Rs. 44,856 crores) by end of 2015, an increase of 5.2 percent over 2014.

The research firm also said that more than 60 percent of all banks will process majority of their transactions on the cloud.

A public cloud is based on the standard cloud computing model, in which a service provider makes resources, such as applications and storage, available to the general public over the internet. Public cloud services may be free or offered on a pay-per-usage model.

The cloud services launched includes Microsoft Azure services, dynamics customer relationship management (CRM) online suite and Office 365. “While Office 365 services are slated for availability in October 2015, dynamics CRM online services will follow in the first half of 2016,” Tyler said.

Galaxy ‘Fossils’ Reveal the Formation, Evolution of Massive Galaxies

An international team has observed massive “dead” galaxies in the universe four billion years after the Big Bang which can reveal the formation and evolution of huge galaxies today.

Furthermore, they identified progenitors of these dead galaxies when they were forming stars at an earlier cosmic epoch.

This study establishes a consistent picture of the history of massive galaxies over 11 billion years of cosmic time.

“We would like to explore galaxy evolution in more detail by carrying out an object-by-object study and by extending the method to an even earlier epoch,” said Dr. Masato Onodera from Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich, Switzerland.

In the local universe, massive galaxies hosting more than about 100 billion stars are predominantly dead elliptical galaxies, without any signs of star-formation activity.

The team used Subaru Telescope at the summit of Mauna Kea, Hawaii, to observe multiple objects simultaneously, efficiently observing a sample of 24 faint galaxies.

They created a composite spectrum that would have taken 200 hours of Subaru Telescope’s time for a single spectrum of comparable quality.

They discovered that the stellar content of these galaxies is strikingly similar to that of massive elliptical galaxies seen locally.

The analysis shows that the age of the galaxies is already one billion years old when observed four billion years after the Big Bang.

They host 1.7 times more heavy elements relative to the amount of hydrogen.

The results reveal that these massive dead galaxies have evolved without further star formation.

The research was published in The Astrophysical Journal.

Robot Olympiad 2015 in Gurgaon Sees Over 700 Contestants Participate

Robots scoring goals and competing for titles at the Robot Olympiad 2015 held here was an amalgamation of fun and hi-tech learning.

In Sunday’s competition, the robot entered by team Lionel Messi from Delhi came first by scoring the maximum number of goals.

The olympiad had five different categories, Robo Soccer being one of them.

The rest of the teams that won in different categories included Robo Kids from Bengaluru, Dark Dinos from Delhi, and The Knights and Knowtillus from Mumbai.

A total of 709 contestants from across the country aged between 9 to 18 years participated in the event.

Rahesh Sarah, a member of the winning team Knowtillus in the open category with their robot “Manthan” that can sniff ores 6,000 feet below the ground and explore minerals, said: “I have been participating for the last four years but this time we have won it and now we will represent the country in the World Robot Olympiad.”

Twenty teams would represent the country this year at the World Robot Olympiad, which takes place at Doha, Qatar, in November.

Deputy Commissioner of Gurgaon T.L. Satyaprakash said: “The idea of Robotics is to hasten the process of transforming the investment-driven economy to innovation-driven economy.”

Indian STEM Foundation, a non-governmental organisation, has established a robot laboratory in Vidya School here that has helped the students to new levels of using modern technology.

Vishal Paudel, 12, a student of Vidya school and a participant, said: “Representing our school on this platform is itself an achievement. Next year, we will work harder and learn more.”

EU, China Sign Landmark 5G Telecommunications Deal

The European Union (EU) on Monday announced that it has signed a key fifth generation (5G) telecommunication system agreement with China, a move aimed to seek an edge in the global digital competitiveness.

“Both parties are committed to reciprocity and openness in terms of access to 5G networks research funding, market access as well as in membership of Chinese and EU 5G associations,” an official statement said.

Signed during Monday’s EU-China high level economic and trade dialogue in Beijing, the agreement was described by the EU as a “milestone” in the global race to develop 5G networks.

“It’s a crucial step in making 5G a success,” said Gunther Oettinger, EU commissioner for the digital economy and society.

“With today’s signature with China, the EU has now teamed up with the most important Asian partners in a global race to make 5G a reality by 2020.”

5G is expected to be commercially available from 2020.

Under the agreement, the EU and China will seek to reach a global understanding by the end of 2015 on the concept, basic functionalities, key technologies and time plan for 5G.

They also decided to cooperate on joint research actions and to promote bilateral participation of enterprises in 5G research projects. Meanwhile, they will work to facilitate the identification of the most promising radio frequency bands to meet the new spectrum requirements for 5G.

Besides, the possibilities will be jointly explored on services and applications for 5G, especially in the area of the Internet of Things (IoT) which connects traditional devices, including home appliances to the internet.

The EU stressed that the agreement is “very timely” as the 5G standardisation race will start in 2016 together with discussions on spectrum requirements for 5G that should culminate during the World Radio Conference in 2019.

The EU’s executive body, the European Commission, is investing EUR 700 million (roughly Rs. 5,156 crores) through the Horizon 2020 Programme to support 5G research and innovation.

Google, Nasa Announce Installation of New D-Wave 2X Quantum Computer

Google and Nasa have announced the installation of a new state-of-the-art quantum computer, D-Wave 2X, at their Quantum Artificial Intelligence Lab (QuAIL) that will solve some “impossible” calculations for them.

A joint project between Google, Nasa, and the Universities Space Research Association, QuAIL is the hub for an experiment to assess the potential of quantum computers to perform calculations that are difficult or impossible using conventional supercomputers.

Beginning with the D-Wave 2X quantum computer, Nasa’s QuAIL team is evaluating various quantum computing approaches to help address challenges faced by the US space agency.

Initial work focuses on theoretical and empirical analysis of quantum annealing approaches to difficult optimisation problems.

Quantum annealing is a quantum-mechanical paradigm to solve combinatorial optimisation problems.

“Working with the D-Wave processors has helped us develop and fine-tune models of quantum annealing,” Google’s Hartmut Neven, head of the Quantum Artificial Intelligence Lab, said in a statement.

“We look forward to the continued advancements coming from each generation of D-Wave systems,” he added.

Over the next five years, the team will also develop quantum AI algorithms, problem decomposition and hardware embedding techniques, and quantum-classical hybrid algorithms.

“The hope is that quantum computing will vastly improve a wide range of tasks that can lead to new discoveries and technologies, and which may significantly change the way we solve real-world problems,” Nasa added.

According to Nasa, the research team is also studying how the effects of noise, imprecision in the quantum annealing parameters, and thermal processes affect the efficacy and robustness of quantum annealing approaches to these problems.

Public Invited to Name China’s Dark Matter Probe Satellite

China’s public will have a chance to name a dark matter probe satellite expected to be launched by the end of this year, the media reported.

The competition to name the Dark Matter Particle Explorer (DAMPE) was announced at the Purple Mountain Observatory (PMO) of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) in Nanjing on Tuesday, Xinhua news agency reported.

Entries from any country will be accepted until October 31 and can be submitted online athttp://scitech.people.com.cn/DAMPE.

There will be five grand prize winners, 20 first prize winners, 50 second prize winners, 100 third prize winners, and 500 memorial award winners. Grand prize winners will be able to watch the satellite launch live at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Centre.

DAMPE will be the first in a program consisting of five research satellites and its development is supported by the space science program of CAS, said Chang Jin, chief scientist of the project and PMO researcher.

Scientists believe dark matter exists based on the law of universal gravitation, but have never directly detected it.

Accounting for over a quarter of the universe’s mass-energy balance, it can only be observed indirectly through its interaction with visible matter.

DAMPE looks like an expensive and complicated four-layer cake turned upside down. It weighs 1.9 tonnes and its payload is 1.4 tonnes. The DAMPE project costs $100 million and its lifespan is over three years.

It will observe the direction, energy and electric charge of high-energy particles in space in search of dark matter.

The probe will orbit the earth to study the origin of cosmic rays and observe high-energy gamma rays. Original data from DAMPE could provide solid evidence for the existence of dark matter particles.

DAMPE will have the widest observation spectrum and highest energy resolution of any dark matter probe in the world.

The Digital Makeover of McGraw-Hill Education

American educational publisher McGraw-Hill, known for long in India for its books published in collaboration with the Tatas, is now independently charting out the new course of the future – in digital learning.

With the international publishing market being flat for a while, McGraw-Hill, under its new owners, private equity firm Apollo Global Management, which acquired the business from McGraw-Hill Companies in March 2013 for $2.4 billion (roughly Rs. 15,842 crores), has invested heavily in digital education.

The recently appointed chief marketing officer of McGraw-Hill Education, Chris Marjara, hired to lead the marketing team through the business model transformation, told IANS in an interview in New Delhi about the changes in the company’s 125 year old publishing business.

“It is a time of transformation and change in McGraw Hill Education, with the firm completely repositioning the brand from a book publisher to a learning science company,” Marjara said.

“Here in India, we became independent, bought out the Tatas and invested heavily in digital education,” he said.

From being a traditional textbook publisher, McGraw-Hill Education is now known as a learning science company that delivers personalized learning experiences that help students, parents, educators and professionals improve results. Its learning solutions are available in nearly 60 languages.

“In the last couple of years we’re really seeing the digital transformation of education picking up pace all the way around the world,” Marjara said.

“Through software, the company now gives learning tools that provides one to one, personalized, tailored, education experiences, or learning experiences,” he said.

Marjara said that McGraw-Hill, which has proven content and learning expertise, now has the technology to provide advanced scientific learning. Its products are bettering learning outcomes for students, educators and administrators via e-learning solutions.

“The use of technology is helping professors, instructors, teach and assess the progress of their classroom,” he said.

“Software and online tools are bringing dramatic changes in education that is improving student outcomes for all levels of students. Students all over are getting better results, in the US, for instance, by a full grade,” he added.

Last year, McGraw-Hill Education generated $321 million (roughly Rs. 2,119 crores) in earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization on revenue of $1.3 billion (roughly Rs. 8,581 crores).

Earlier this month, the company announced it has filed a registration statement with the US Securities and Exchange Commission for a proposed initial public offering.

“India has huge internet penetration and looking for online learning tools. The software is available on smartphones, laptops and ties in well with the Digital India initiative,” Marjara said.

The McGraw-Hill group owns McGraw-Hill Financial whose businesses include the ratings agency Standard & Poor, and Platts, the risk managers and analysts.

Quikr Launches New Vertical for Entry-Level Jobs, Touts Missed Call Service

Online classifieds website Quikr on Tuesday announced the launch of its new vertical, QuikrJobs, a recruitment platform for blue collar, grey collar and entry-level jobs across India.

The vertical is a rebranding of their jobs category, which already had close to 2.5 million active candidate profiles, and over 1.6 million jobs listed, said Pranay Chulet, Founder & CEO, Quikr.

Quikr will use its missed call service to connect workers with recruiters on its platform, and has been using QuickrJobs internally to drive recruitment for its call centre operations, sales force, and delivery needs, the company said in an emailed statement.

Quikr operates in over 10 categories, including mobile phones, household goods, cars, real estate, jobs, services and education.

Its latest vertical, follows the launch of QuikrCars and QuikrHomes as part of the company’s verticalisation strategy. The company claimed over 30 million unique users a month and a presence in a thousand cities in India.

In July, Swedish investment company Kinnevik acquired an additional $20 million (roughly Rs. 132 crores) stake in Quikr through a secondary share purchase that values the company at $900 million (roughly Rs. 5,941 crores).

Other competitors in the entry-level jobs space include BabaJobs, ClickJobs, TimesJobs, and Nano Jobs.