Bharat Bytes: Apple under investigation; Hughes-Airtel satellite JV; new internet exchanges in UP; data retention extended; 5G test bed

Bharat Bytes is Computerworld India’s weekly look at the world of IT.

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Apple investigated by Competition Commission for alleged App Store abuse

The Competition Commission of India is investigating a complaint that Apple violated the provisions of the Competition Act by forcing app developers to go through its App Store.

The CCI ordered the investigation following allegations made by an Indian nonprofit group Together We Fight. It alleged that “Apple imposes unreasonable and unlawful restraints on app developers from reaching users of its mobile devices” by forcing them to go through its App Store, for which it charges “exorbitant 30% fees,” according to CCI’s 20-page order.

Hughes, Airtel form joint venture for satellite broadband

It’s taken them over two years, but Hughes Communications India and Bharti Artel have finally received regulatory approval to merge their very small aperture terminal (VSAT) satellite communication businesses in India. The move will make it more efficient for them to deliver internet access via satellite to remote areas of the country without the need for laying cables or building masts for radio relays.

Hughes and Bharti Airtel rely on a small number of large satellites in geostationary orbit to deliver their service.

However, Bharti Airtel’s parent company Bharti Global has also invested in another satellite internet business, OneWeb, which is in the process of launching 648 satellites into low earth-orbit.

That’s also where SpaceX’s Starlink is putting thousands of its satellites. Starlink and OneWeb both plan to begin offering service in India this year.

Seven new internet exchanges open in Uttar Pradesh, extending connectivity

NIXI, the National Internet Exchange of India, has opened seven new internet exchanges in UP’s Agra, Gorakhpur, Kanpur, Lucknow, Meerut, Prayagraj, and Varanasi.

At the exchanges, or peering points, participant internet service providers (ISPs) can exchange data destined for their respective networks. More peering points means shorter routes and greater bandwidth for traffic between networks, improving service for Internet users.

NIXI already operated 12 exchanges, with two in Mumbai and others in cities including Bangalore, Chennai, Hyderabad, Kolkata, New Delhi and Noida.

Government extends call data archives to two years

Telcos and internet service providers (ISPs) must now archive records of call data and internet usage for two years instead of one.

The Department of Telecommunications released a circular with amendments to the Unified License Agreement, ordering telcos to extend the period for which they maintain commercial records, call detail records, exchange detail records, and IP detail records with regard to the communications exchanged on the network. “Such records shall be archived for at least two years for scrutiny by the Licensor for security reasons and maybe destroyed thereafter unless directed otherwise by the Licensor,” the DoT circular said, noting that it had the power to make such changes in the public interest or in the interest of the security of state.

It also ordered ISPs to maintain internet data records of login and logout details of all subscribers for services provided such as internet access, email, internet telephony, IPTV etc. for a minimum of two years.

Call detail records are not recordings of what was said, but they do allow telcos and investigators to map out exactly who called whom and when, which some consider an invasion of privacy.

Multi-crore 5G test bed project nears completion

India’s indigenous 5G test bed project has reached its final stages. The ₹224 crore project is funded by the Department of Telecommunications and involves institutes including the IITs of Madras, Delhi, Hyderabad, and Kolkata; IISc Bangalore; SAMEER, and CEWiT.

The goal of the project is to build a test bed that resembles a real-world 5G deployment so that Indian startups and industries can take an early lead in 5G. The test bed enables end-to-end testing of 5G user and network equipment by stakeholders developing 5G products and services.

Telcos have established 5G trials sites in 13 Indian cities, including Bangalore, Chennai, Delhi, Hyderabad, Kolkata, and Mumbai, making them likely to be the first places to receive commercial 5G services.

DoT sets up 6G technology innovation group

Even though 5G communications are not yet commercially available in India, the Department of Telecommunications is looking ahead to the next generation of mobile. It has constituted a technology innovation group to co-create and participate in the development of 6G services, with the goal of helping India’s manufacturing and services ecosystem to capitalize on them. The 6G TIG includes members from government, academia, industry associations and the Telecom Standards Development Society of India.

Help with cyber hygiene

Hygiene is a problem in India’s IT systems, and the Indian Cyber Crime Coordination Centre (I4C) wants to clean up. Union Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla released two manuals and a newsletter from the I4C to help prevent cybercrimes and inculcate cyber hygiene in rural areas, industrial bodies, and the general public.

The manuals are basic and advanced versions of “Cyber Hygiene for Cyber Space—Dos and Don’ts,” while the quarterly newsletter, “CyberPravah,” covers activities of the I4C and also cybercrime trends and patterns, statistics, and platforms for reporting and addressing cybercrimes.

The aim is to create awareness in stakeholders about recent developments in the field of cybercrimes and cybercrime terminology, and also help in prevention, detection, and investigation of the same. 

Award for Midnight’s Machines, a history of Indian technology

A book about technology has won the non-fiction category of the Ramnath Goenka Award.

Arun Mohan Sukumar’s “Midnight’s Machines—A Political History of Technology in India” looks at how Indian politics has influenced decisions to reject or accept particular technologies.

Examining the period since 1947, he covers India’s adoption of space, nuclear, and agricultural technologies—and also information technologies including big data.

The Ramnath Goenka Awards announced this week reward the top print, digital and broadcast journalism of 2019. The non-fiction book category is for published work that goes beyond the space and time limitations of newspapers and television.

PM-WANI reaches 50,000 Wi-Fi access points

Public access to Wi-Fi hotspots is proliferating, with more than 50,000 access points deployed under Prime Minister’s Wi-Fi Access Network interface (PM-WANI) scheme since it opened on 7 January, 2021.

The government-sponsored platform relies on a network of Public Data Office Aggregators (which provide authorization and accounting services to hotspot operators) and on providers of smartphone apps to register users and help them discover PM-WANI-compliant hotspots. By 23 November 2021, there were 125 PDOAs and 63 app providers in the network, with opportunities for more.

The service is especially useful in encouraging the development of broadband internet access in rural regions.

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