Ban Over Internet Calls Lifted in Saudi Arabia

 

The ban that Saudi Arabia had imposed on call applications has been removed. The lift over the ban will be effected from Wednesday onwards. The nation has banned Whatsaap and Skype and other similar apps as they did not comply with their “regulations.” These apps fall under the Voice over Internet Protocol ( VoIP), which the ministry of communications has finally made available to the conservative country.

Since 2011, the restrictions over the internet have increased. In 2013 the Saudi government even explained the reason for the ban stating that they wished to protect their society from negative aspects that harm public interest. They also justified the ban saying it would boost the economical conditions of the state. Reportedly, resident of Saudi Arabia found a way around the ban by using a virtual private network (VPN). But the calls faced connectivity issues often.
Saudi’s three major telecom companies will expectantly take a hit, because of the volume of international calls that are made by a population of 12 million foreigners living there. Saudi Arabia is famous for having blocked several websites and its online censorship- not just pornographic sites but also several other sites that are not supportive of Israel or their country. This is in accordance with the strategy of the crown prince, Mohmmed Bin Salman to breathe some fresh air into all sectors of the economy.
Source: BBC, Telegraph

Google Tez records 4 lakh active users within 24 hours of its launch

Google Tez, digital payment app launched in India touched the benchmark of lakh active users on within 24 hours. The app launched by Finance Minister, Arun Jaitley on Monday saw a total of nearly 1.8 crore gross merchandise, a Google spokesperson said in a statement.

Google tez, an app which allows the users to make the digital payments free of charge from their Bank accounts is being designed on Unified Payments Interface (UPI) and is being made to work on the smartphones in the country. With a view of supporting the agenda of Digital India, the app is being made available in English and seven major Indian languages namely Hindi, Bengali, Gujarati, Kannada, Marathi, Tamil and Telegu.

In the partnership with four major banks – Axis bank,  HDFC Bank, ICICI Bank and State Bank of India Google has put a step forward to explore the potential in the field of Digital payments in a developing nation.

On the occasion of launch Arun Jaitley said that the idea of Tez was in talks with Sundar Pichai, CEO Google from Januay, 2017. D.D Mishra, the Research Director, Tez stated that “It is too early to say whether it can be a game changer as evolution in this business is going to continue, but yes it has the capabilities to bring some disruption as of now.”

SOURCES: NDTV  , TOI

Snapchat blocks Al Jazeera on its app in Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia has requested Snapchat to block access to Al Jazeera’s content within its country. Al Jazeera’s news articles and videos now cannot be viewed on the app’s Discover feature.

Saudi Arabia told Snap Incorporated, that the Al Jazeera Discover Publisher Channel violated local laws. Al Jazeera’s Arabic language channel on Snapchat Discover had been available since May 2017.

On September 17, 2017 a Snapchat spokesperson in a statement said, “We make an effort to comply with local laws in the countries where we operate.”

Saudi Arabia has one of the largest users for Snapchat nearing eight million. While Al Jazeera is a state funded media company of Qatar, which has been the subject of a boycott by many of the Gulf countries. The boycott was incidentally led by Saudi Arabia. One of the specific complaints against Qatar to justify the boycott was the use of Al Jazeera by the country.

Wall Street Journal was the first to report on the decision to remove the channel. According to Wall Street Journal, ‘the conflict is the latest example of a technology company being pinned in the crosshairs of geopolitics as it navigates censorship of content on its platforms.’

Sources: Al Jazeera, CNBC

 

After Paytm, Now We Have Tez

Everyone seems to be capitalising on the after effect of the gaffe made by the Indian government last year. If it isn’t clear, the gaffe in question is demonetisation, where the Indian government banned the 1000 and 500 rupee notes, forcing a large chunk of the country’s population to steer away towards digital payments. As a result of this preference for digitised payments, Paytm, the most popular online payments app soared to new heights of popularity and recorded massive profits which allowed its owner to buy an expensive house, while the rest of the profits went to Alibaba, the Chinese company that owns the larger part of Paytm.

Looking to enter this profitable playing field and make a cut of the massive profits themselves, Google has launched their own payment app in India, named Tez (Hindi for fast). Tez, a United Payments Interface (UPI)-based digital app, goes a step beyond Android Pay, by allowing users to link payment apps from Indian banks. Tez also allows bank-to-bank payments and is comfortably protected by Tez Shield, Google’s own data security platform with the ability to detect fraud and protect user identity. Conveniently, Tez has a contact list that will give transaction history organised, somewhat like a chat app. According to Google, the app also allows small businesses to accept payments directly into their bank accounts.

“Send money home to your family, split a dinner bill with friends, or pay the neighbourhood chaiwala. Make all payments big or small, directly from your bank account with Tez, Google’s new digital payment app for India,” is Google’s official statement regarding their newest venture on its information portal.

But what makes Tez special, particularly in India, is that it uses Audio QR. This basically means that the app does not use user payment information but instead transfers money based on sounds. Twi devices can pair using these ultrasonic sounds, eliminating the need for payee and payer personal information. This will also make the process more rapid and frictionless and also bypasses the need for an NFC chip, since phones with NFC are still relatively rare and expensive.

The app will be available on both Android and iOS and Google is planning to release it in other emerging countries.

Sources: The Verge, TechCrunch 

Dubai invests $3.9 billion to build the world’s largest solar power project

In a bid to increase its share of clean energy, Dubai is all geared to build its largest Concentrated Solar Project (CSP) that would run a 700 megawatt (MW) solar power station and feature the world’s tallest tower measuring 260 metre to receive focussed sunlight. CSP technology uses mirrors or lenses to focus the sun’s light energy into heat to create steam that can run a turbine to generate electricity. A consortium consisting of Shanghai Electric and Saudi Arabia’s ACWA Power have been awarded a $3.9 billion contract by Dubai Electricity and Water Authority. The consortium proposed to supply electricity to the country at 7.3 U.S. cents per kilowatt hour.

The project is expected to be completed by late 2020, just in time for World Expo to be held in Dubai. It is part of the Dubai Clean Energy Strategy 2050 and would be located at the Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum Solar Park – the single site renewable energy project which is expected to generate 1,000MW by 2020 and 5000MW by 2030. The government targets to strategically increase its share of clean energy to 7 percent by 2020, 25 percent by 2010 and 75 percent by 2050.

News Sources- Economic Times, Reuters

LG, Philips loses appeal against EU’s price-fixing fine.

LG Electronics lost its final appeal against the ruling of European Union and has been asked to pay more than EUR 540 million.

The European Commission (EC) in 2012 had slapped seven top electronics companies with total EUR 1.5 billion for running up a price-fixing cartel for cathode ray tubes (CRTs).

Philips took the harshest penalty of €313.3 million, followed by a €295.6 million fine for LG. The companies were also hit with an additional €391.9 million penalty for the conduct of their joint venture.

Samsung was penalized €150.8 million, Panasonic got hit for €157.5 million and the other offending companies received smaller fines ranging from €7.8 million to €86.7 million.

The commission stated the fact that the companies had fixed prices, shared markets, allocated customers and restricted the output of color display tubes used in computer monitors and color picture tubes used in television sets.

Between 1996 and 2006, the EC said, the companies manipulated the market for cathode ray tubes, the central component in most older televisions and monitors.

CRT-based displays have largely been replaced by monitors using liquid crystal display and plasma technology in recent years, and the decline of the technology was one of the driving forces behind the cartel.

Source: NDTV , Law 360

Image Source: The IPKat

WhatsApp co-founder Brian Acton to quit company by November

WhatsApp co-founder Brian Acton will be leaving the messaging service firm to work on his own organization. Acton took to Facebook on Tuesday to announce his exit and wrote: “I’ve decided to start a nonprofit focused at the intersection of nonprofit, technology and communications.” Sharing insights on his forthcoming non-profit entity, Acton stated that he has been thinking about this for a while, and has now finally decided to focus and make it a reality.

Brian co-founded the company in 2009 with Jan Koum, and has since dedicated 8 years of his service to it. As per the report in Recode, Acton has been in charge of the company’s engineering team until now.

Acton’s decision has come a week after WhatsApp launched monetization efforts that had been in the pipeline for quite some time. Moreover, the news of his departure has come at a time when the service messaging firm is trying to make money by setting up multiple enterprise products that will help in interacting with customers; and is also hiring vital business positions.

Brian Acton will be officially leaving the firm by November, this year.

Source: Business Insider, Firstpost