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Rs 2 lakh crore and counting: Telecom fees mount for Indian firms

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NEW DELHI:The government of India is seeking at least $30 billion in overdue telecom fees from mobile-phone service providers to energy companies and fertilizer makers as it struggles to meet its budget deficit target with economic growth foundering.

Gujarat Narmada Valley Fertilizers & Chemicals Ltd. on Wednesday said the telecom ministry has ordered it to pay Rs 15,020 crore ($2.1 billion) by January 23, more than 20 times the company’s annual profit. This follows a $3 billion demand from Vodafone Group Plc’s Indian unit, another $3 billion from Bharti Airtel Ltd., and reports that GAIL India Ltd. has been asked for $24 billion.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi must arrest a deterioration in public finances if he’s to boost spending and stimulate an economy that’s slumped to a six-year-low. India’s budget deficit hit 115% of the full-year target with four more months to go. A Supreme Court verdict is helping the government in its hunt for funds – at least from companies that bought any form of telecom licenses.

“The emphasis on non-tax revenue is not surprising given weak tax collections,” said Priyanka Kishore, head of India and south-east Asia economics at Oxford Economics in Singapore. “If current trends persist it is likely that the Modi government’s fiscal deficit target will slip to 3.7% of GDP” in the year ended March 2020 compared with the 3.3% target.

Gujarat Narmada said it will seek legal advice in the matter, which pertains to licenses for satellite phones and internet services held between 2005 to 2019.
GAIL India is also facing a ₹1.7 trillion demand, Press Trust of India reported Dec. 22 without saying from where it got the information. GAIL has told the government it owes nothing more than what it has already paid, according to the report. Vodafone’s local unit in December said it will cease operations if it doesn’t get government support.

Modi’s administration has been asking companies with telecom licenses to pay dues after the nation’s Supreme Court said it can take into account a firm’s entire revenue for calculating licensing fees.

Gujarat Narmada is a joint venture by the government of the western Indian state of Gujarat and the Gujarat State Fertilizers & Chemicals Ltd., according to its website.

Source: Bloomberg

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Ericsson signs $8.3 billion 5G deal with Verizon

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NEW DELHI:Ericsson said that it has signed $8.3 billion agreement with Verizon to provide its industry-leading 5G solutions to accelerate the deployment of Verizon’s world-class next-generation 5G network in the U.S.

Niklas Heuveldop, President and Head of Ericsson North America, says: “This is a significant strategic partnership for both companies and what we’re most excited about is bringing the benefits of 5G to U.S. consumers, enterprises and the public sector. We’re looking forward to working with Verizon to leverage solutions like Cloud RAN and our Street Macro, adding depth and versatility to 5G network rollouts across the U.S.”

“With this new agreement, we will be able to continue driving innovation and widespread adoption of 5G,” said Kyle Malady, Chief Technology Officer for Verizon. “We are pleased to continue this work through our long-standing relationship with Ericsson.”

Under this $8.3 billion USD agreement, Verizon will deploy Ericsson’s 5G MIMO C-band, low-band and millimeter wave (mmWave) solutions to enhance and expand Verizon’s 5G Ultra Wideband coverage, network performance and user experience. Ericsson’s technology solutions, including Massive MIMO, Ericsson Spectrum Sharing and Ericsson Cloud RAN, complement the high-performing Ericsson Radio System portfolio to support 5G services. Ericsson’s industry-leading software functionality provides end-users with the speed and performance they expect from 5G networks.

In 2020, Verizon was the first communications service provider to receive a commercial 5G mmWave Street Macro base station from Ericsson’s award-winning new state-of-the-art U.S. smart factory in Lewisville, Texas. Ericsson is committed to building and accelerating the nationwide build-out of 5G across the country.

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Comviva launches next gen digital wallet and payment platform-mobiquity Pay X

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NEW DELHI: Comviva, the global leader in mobility solutions, today announced the launch of mobiquity Pay X, its next generation digital wallet and payment platform.

Mobiquity Pay is amongst the world’s largest digital financial services platforms, powering over 70 digital wallets and payment services for 130+ million consumers and processing over 7 billion transactions exceeding USD 130 billion annually in more than 50 countries.

With its new next generation mobiquity Pay X platform, Comviva has enhanced all aspects of digital financial solution, including scalability, faster deployment and time to market, simpler user lifecycle management & experience and enhanced security.

This new platform is completely built on microservices based architecture with fully independent and reusable components. The enhanced modularity facilitates faster time to market and greater scalability.

Mobiquity Pay X has enabled Open APIs to easily integrate with third party systems and extended financial ecosystem. To enhance user experience, the platform now offers a revamped slicker mobile app for consumers, agents, merchants and other business users and provides an advanced User Management System (UMS) that allows back-office users to easily manage the complete lifecycle of consumers, agents, merchants, and other business users seamlessly. Its intuitive user-interface, predefined templates and real-time feedback help quickly perform operations.

The new platform significantly strengthens security with robust authentication and authorization modules. It provides complete flexibility to easily configure various PIN, password and access rules as per the requirements. Its advanced session management capabilities help identify all active sessions and logins from a user through multiple devices and takes corrective action to prevent frauds.

Speaking on the launch, Srinivas Nidugondi, EVP and Chief Growth and Transformation Officer at Comviva, said, “COVID has significantly accelerated the growth of digital financial services and the entire financial ecosystem is growing at its fastest pace ever. Customer demand and public health priorities are pushing contactless payment adoption and our next generation mobiquity Pay X platform shall help financial service providers scale their digital wallet and payment services faster and seamlessly. With this new platform, Comviva has completely automated the software delivery process. The time to market has improved significantly with continuous product development, integration, testing, release and deployment.”

Mobiquity Pay X offers Order and Payment System that provides consumers a unified view of transactions performed by various payment instruments. It provides end-to-end tracking of entire payment transaction across all stages. It also enables back-office users to view status of payment transactions and identify failed and ambiguous transactions to take corrective actions like refund to complete the order-payment cycle.

The new mobile app is built using best-in-class design practices and has rich features including self-registration, biometric login, profile personalization, payment through multiple instruments (prepaid wallet, card, bank account), favourite transactions, multi-currency support, currency conversion, real time transaction tracking, referral bonus, merchant/agent locator, dynamic QR Code and many more.

With an enhanced monitoring and alerting system, mobiquity Pay X quickly aggregates system logs and key performance indicator data and provides a real-time bird’s eye view of critical operational parameters through visual dashboards. mobiquity Pay X has capability of proactive disaster management by identifying threshold breaches for critical application and system parameters in advance and providing real-time notifications for corrective actions.

Comviva has pre-integrated best-in-class technology in the areas of digital KYC and Personal Financial Management (PFM) to offer unparalleled value to consumers. These pre-integrated solutions in addition to offering enhanced experience to consumers, also significantly cut down cost and time to market while launching a digital wallet service. The platform also offers a document management system that provides flexibility to back-office users to quickly retrieve KYC documents a centralized repository for regulatory and business purpose.

 

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JioPhone Next, co-developed with Google, to be most affordable smartphone globally: Mukesh Ambani

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NEW DELHI: Reliance Industries Chairman Mukesh Ambani on Thursday said Jio and Google have jointly developed Made for India ‘JioPhone Next’, a power-packed and affordable smartphone that will be available from September 10.
Ambani promised that JioPhone Next will be the most-affordable smartphone, not just in India but globally, although the pricing was not disclosed.
The companies have also expanded their partnership, wherein Jio and Google Cloud will collaborate on 5G technology.
Speaking at RIL’s 44th annual general meeting, Ambani asserted that an ultra-affordable 4G smartphone is essential to make India ‘2G-mukt’ (free of 2G). India still has nearly 300 million mobile users who are unable to escape from inefficient and exorbitant 2G services since most basic 4G smartphones remain unaffordable, he added.
“I am pleased to announce that Google and Jio teams have jointly developed a truly breakthrough smartphone that we are calling, JioPhone Next that has been jointly developed by Jio and Google especially for the Indian market,” he said.
To be available from September 10 on Ganesh Chaturthi, JioPhone Next packs a punch with cutting-edge features including voice assistant, language translation, automatic read-aloud of screen text, and smart camera with augmented reality filters and security updates.
“As you have come to expect from Jio, it is my promise that JioPhone Next will be, by far, the most-affordable smartphone not just in India but globally,” Ambani said.
Last year, Google had announced an investment of Rs 33,737 crore for a 7.7 per cent stake in Reliance Industries’ technology venture Jio Platforms. The tech giant had teamed up on technology initiatives, including development of affordable smartphones for the price-sensitive yet tech-savvy Indian market.
The fully-featured smartphones will support the entire gamut of applications from both Google and Jio, as well as Android PlayStore through which users will have access to the full universe of Android apps.
“This is a testimony to a global technology giant and a national technology champion working jointly to make a breakthrough product… that can be first introduced in India and then taken to the rest of the world,” Ambani said.
Jio has democratised digital connectivity in India, offering the highest quality, most affordable 4G broadband services in the world, he added.
“Sundar (Google CEO Sundar Pichai) and I had talked about Google and Jio co-developing a next-generation, feature-rich, but extremely affordable smartphone aimed at providing first-time internet access for 2G users,” Ambani said while making the JioPhone Next announcement on Thursday.
Pichai said an optimised version of the Android OS has been developed especially for this device.
“It’s built for India and it will open up new possibilities for millions of new users, who will experience the internet for the first time,” he said.
Pichai said Google’s vision is to bring affordable access to information for Indians in their own language, to build new products and services for India’s unique needs, and empower businesses with technology.
The smartphone is built for India and will open up new possibilities for millions of new users who will experience the internet for the very first time, he added.
For users who might not be able to read content in their language, the phone will allow users to translate what’s on their screen with a tap of a button, and even have it read back to them in their own language.
‘Read Aloud’ and ‘Translate Now’ are now operating system (OS)-wide features that will work with any text on users’ phone screen, including web pages, apps, messages, and even photos.
The smartphone comes equipped with a fast, high-quality camera that will yield clearer photos at night and in low-light situations. Google has also partnered with Snap (parent company of photo sharing app Snapchat) to integrate India-specific Snapchat Lenses directly into the phone’s camera.
Rival Bharti Airtel, meanwhile, welcomed the low-end smartphone initiative announced by Reliance Jio and Google.
“We support every effort that triggers the upgradation of feature phones to smartphones so as to bring more Indians online,” it said in an e-mail response claiming that as customers with entry-level devices upgrade to quality smartphones (priced over Rs 7,000), they demonstrate a strong preference for Airtel.
India is among the biggest smartphone markets globally with devices under Rs 10,000 accounting for a significant share. According to Counterpoint Research, India’s smartphone shipments grew 23 per cent year-on-year to reach over 38 million units in the March 2021 quarter, the highest-ever first quarter shipments.
New product launches, promotions and financial schemes, as well as higher demand on account of work and study from home amid the pandemic have been strong drivers for the market in the last few quarters. The top-five players in the Indian market include Xiaomi, Samsung, Vivo, Oppo and Realme.

The feature phone market registered a 14 per cent y-o-y growth during the quarter driven by strong shipments of JioPhone under its new model and subsequent promotions, as per Counterpoint.

 

Source: Press Trust of India

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