Convergence Plus
Tuesday, January 19, 2021
Twitter Warns Users Against Breach of Data

Twitter said it has fixed a vulnerability within its app for Android that could have allowed a bad actor to see non-public account information or control its users account such as sending Tweets or Direct Messages.

Twitter, in a blogpost on Saturday night, said prior to the fix, through a complicated process involving the insertion of malicious code into restricted storage areas of the Twitter app, it may have been possible for a bad actor to access information including Direct Messages, protected Tweets, location information from the app.

“We don’t have evidence that malicious code was inserted into the app or that this vulnerability was exploited, but we can’t be completely sure so we are taking extra caution,” it said. Twitter said the company has taken steps to fix this issue and are directly notifying people who could have been exposed to this vulnerability either through the Twitter app or by email with specific instructions to keep them safe.

The company declined to comment on whether Indian users were affected by the vulnerability.

Nine out of ten users in India use a smartphone that runs on Google's Android platform.

“We are not able to comment on the locations of those affected,” it said.

It asked users to update to the latest version of Twitter for Android. It added that the issue did not impact Twitter for iOS.

“We’re sorry this happened and will keep working to keep your information secure on Twitter. You can reach out to our Office of Data Protection through this form to request information regarding your account security,” it said. (Source: Economic Times)

Bharti Infratel-Indus Merger may not Get Govt Nod in Time

DECEMBER 24 DEADLINE Officials blame dispute with Vodafone Group over withholding tax. The government is unlikely to clear the proposed merger of Bharti Infratel with Indus Towers by the December 24 deadline, which may force the three major signatories — Bharti Airtel, Vodafone Group Plc and Vodafone Idea — to call off the deal and explore other options to monetise their stakes.

“The proposal is stuck in the DoR (Department of Revenue),” said a senior executive with direct knowledge of the matter. “We don’t expect the approvals to come in by the 24th (of December).”

A government official cited the withholding tax case against Vodafone Group as being the stumbling block.

“There are concerns over the withholding tax raised by India on Vodafone Group, which is yet to be resolved,” said the official. The merger aims to create one of the world’s largest telecom tower companies with more than 163,000 towers.

Vodafone and the Indian government are locked in an international arbitration over a longstanding ₹22,000-crore tax dispute related to the UK company’s entry into India by buying out Hutchison Whampoa’s majority stake in a telecom venture in 2007 in an $11-billion deal.

Currently, Indus Towers is a three-way joint venture between Bharti Infratel, UK-based Vodafone Group and Vodafone Idea, with the first two holding 42% each. Vodafone Idea has 11.15% and the remaining 4.85% is with private equity firm Providence. Bharti Airtel owns a majority stake (53.51%) in Bharti Infratel.

‘Spectrum Sale may Fetch Only ₹40kcr’

The Centre is expected to sell well below 10% of spectrum — worth ₹5.22 lakh crore at base price — in the March-April auction, netting just about ₹40,000 crore, say analysts. The steep price of 5G spectrum and 700 MHz airwaves may lead to tepid bidding. Kalyan Parbat reports. ››11 Deal Signed in Apr 2018

All three parties are now looking at revisiting their original plan of a transaction that includes the sale of Bharti Airtel’s controlling stake in Bharti Infratel and Vodafone Group divesting its entire 42% stake in Indus Towers along with Vodafone Idea’s 11.15% stake, said people familiar with the discussions.

A similar transaction was in the making in 2017 when the Bharti Group and Vodafone Group were in advanced discussions with a consortium of investors led by private equity firm KKR. However, the transaction fell through due to lastminute differences over price.

Bharti Airtel declined to comment. Vodafone Group and Vodafone Idea didn’t respond to queries.

The Bharti Infratel and Indus Towers merger deal was signed on April 23 last year and was to have been completed by October 24 this year. This was extended to December 24 after the companies didn’t get government clearance by the initial deadline.

The delay in closure has already hit the quantum of funds that Vodafone Idea would have generated by exiting the merged company if the deal had been completed in time.

Bharti Infratel’s shares declined to ₹253.50 at the Friday close from ₹328 on April 23 last year, and its net debt and liabilities have increased. According to a formula to calculate the cash consideration payable to any partner seeking to exit, Vodafone Idea now stands to get roughly ₹4,500 crore, compared with ₹6,500 crore, as per the April 2018 announcement.

URGENT NEED The Vodafone Group-Aditya Birla Group joint venture needs to urgently raise funds to pay more than ₹53,000 crore in adjusted gross revenue (AGR)-related dues to the government after an apex court order, the deadline for which is just over a month away. It also needs funds to expand its network and compete against Bharti Airtel and Reliance Jio Infocomm.

Besides the tower stake, Vodafone Idea is also hoping to sell its optic fibre and data centre assets.

Bharti Airtel, which has to pay more than ₹35,500 crore in AGR dues, has already announced plans to initially raise $3 billion through equity and bond sales. Sources say it’s aiming to raise funds by the first or second week of January with global roadshows having started.

Both Vodafone Idea and Airtel have filed limited review pleas in the Supreme Court, in the hope of softening the AGR blow. The court is yet to consider the pleas. “The priority is to deal with the AGR ruling… the stake sale in towers can happen later,” said a person familiar with the Bharti Group’s thinking.

If Bharti and Vodafone Group agree to the revised deal structure — which means both exit simultaneously to the same set of buyers — it will help the acquirer undertake a leveraged buyout by pledging Indus Towers’ entire ownership. “This will make the deal more attractive for the acquirer as the net cash outgo will be much lower,” said a senior banker with knowledge of the matter.

Vodafone Group was hoping to free up its pledged stake in Vodafone Idea by selling shares in the Indus Towers and Bharti Infratel merged entity. (Source: Economic Times)

Data Policy Tweaks Set to Keep India Inc Busy in 2020

FORECAST 2020 Personal data protection bill and setting up of Data Protection Authority will be the key developments to watch out for the next year

As 2019 comes to an end with the introduction of the long-awaited Personal Data Protection Bill, India Inc awaits yet another year of hectic technology policymaking that will seek to regulate everything from personal and nonpersonal data, technology intermediaries, ecommerce companies, over-the-top platforms, cloud services and digital taxation.

Technology companies will have their hands full in 2020 with the implementation of the Personal Data Protection Bill, which has gone to a joint parliamentary committee for a thorough review.

“The Personal Data Protection Bill and the setting up of the Data Protection Authority (DPA) will be the key developments to watch out for the next year. Codes of practice set by the DPA will be critical for businesses and a lot of time will be spent on that,” said Nikhil Narendran, a partner at Trilegal.

The Bill, aimed at giving individuals more control over their data, has not proposed a timeline for the implementation of the rules. Government sources have stressed that since the Bill was based on the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation, foreign technology companies may not need more than two years.

Heated debate is expected in the coming year on the most controversial provisions of the Bill, which are the right given to the central government to exempt itself from the obligations of the Bill, including seeking consent to collect and process personal data, powers be- VILHELM HAMMERSHOI Interior, Strandgade 30

stowed upon it to seek non-personal data from companies for the purposes of policymaking, and the verification of social media users.

“Hopefully we should see extensive consultation on the PDP Bill next year. It remains to be seen what the government does on wide exemptions granted to them in the Bill,” said Nehaa Chaudhari, director, public policy, at Ikigai Law. “There are many moving parts. Most issues that grappled policymakers and companies will remain alive in 2020.”

Experts said other technology policies on the governance of non-personal data, ecommerce companies, cybersecurity and cloud that are work in progress may also get finalised in the coming year. Many of these are in various stages of drafting and consultation. Also, India could probably see a lot more debate around regulatory overlaps among the Ministry of Electronics and IT, Ministry of Information and Broadcast and the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India.

“Now we are moving into the next stage to see how it will all pan out. In 2020, we will see the start of the implementation of what has been in the works,” said Ashish Aggarwal, a senior director and the head of public policy at the National Association of Software and Services Companies (Nasscom), which counts Indian IT companies as well as US technology firms such as Google and Facebook as members.

Another critical technology policy development expected in early 2020 is the finalisation of the proposed amendments to the Intermediaries Guidelines Rules, which originally provided a legal shield to technology platforms against the content shared on their platform. (Source: Economic Times)

How a ₹40,000 crore IPO could have spared BSNL its current troubles

The death warrant of Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL) was signed nearly a decade ago when the government of the day, the Congress-led UPA, did not push for the company’s proposed Rs 40,000 crore initial public offer (IPO). Had the IPO happened, the company would have been saved of the predicament that it has to go through currently, experts in India’s stock market told BusinessLine.

BSNL, which was India’s largest telecom operator in 2008, purely failed as it could not upgrade its technology to retain customers, and lost to the competition from private companies Bharti Airtel and Vodafone. The money that it could have raised from the IPO would have helped it retain the top position, as it would have been able to compete, experts say.

In 2006-07, BSNL’s total income stood at around Rs 40,000 crore, with profits after tax of Rs 8,000 crore. At the end of 2007, BSNL’s value was nearly pegged at Rs 4,00,000 crore. Comparatively, Bharti Airtel’s market capitalisation then was Rs 1,70,000 crore and that of Reliance Communications Rs 1,60,000 crore.

While private sector companies keep raising money via various instruments, BSNL was choked for funds. From 2007-08 onwards, the PSU’s profits first started falling, and two years later, it turned into losses.

In the financial year ended March 2012, BSNL’s post-tax losses almost touched Rs 9,000 crore, with its income also falling below Rs 28,000 crore, a 30 per cent decline over that in 2006-07.

In January 2008, the then BSNL chairman Kuldeep Goyal told a business newspaper, “An IPO may be necessary in the medium term to finance our massive expansion plans. After all, BSNL has already lined up a capex of around Rs 60,000 crore till 2010, of which Rs 18,000 crore will be invested in 2008-09. Its reserves stand at Rs 30,000 crore till date. Incidentally, it is not expecting a quantum jump in revenue due to fall in number of fixed lines and falling tariff.”

BSNL IPO plans put off

In September 2010, the Telecom Department (DoT) told a parliamentary committee, which scrutinises the accounts of the government and state-owned companies, that BSNL’s listing will be taken up only after the company’s performance improves in order to get the right valuation. This killed all the hope for India’s largest telecom operator, brokers say.

The fact that the government should sell 30 per cent stake in BSNL through an IPO and also raise funds from the sale of its infrastructure, such as signal towers and real estate, was suggested by a panel, whose members included banker Deepak Parekh.

In July 2010, the Telecom Commission, the highest decision-making body of the DoT, that had met to clear the IPO, but shied away from taking any decision.

Also read: At final call, around 92,700 BSNL, MTNL staffers opt for VRS

Just last month, the government has now approved a Rs 69,000 crore revival package for BSNL and MTNL — this includes merging the two loss-making firms, monetising their assets and giving VRS to employees — so that the combined entity turns profitable in two years. The package includes infusion of Rs 20,140 crore for purchase of 4G spectrum and Rs 3,674 crore for GST to be paid on spectrum allocation. (Source: The Hindu Businessline)

Oppo weaves growth strategy around ‘Make in India’ drive

Chinese tech giant Oppo is looking to cash in on the “incredible” opportunities thrown by untapped millennial population in the Indian market and charting out strategies to back the government’s ‘Make in India’ mission by extending support to startups and bringing India-centric innovations.

Keeping ‘Make in India’ mission at the core of its growth strategy, Oppo is aiming to manufacture 100 million smartphone units locally by the end of 2020 and bring world-class technological products that meet the needs of the ever-evolving Indian consumers.

With fast-changing technology landscape in India, Oppo is also shifting its focus towards next generation innovations like 5G and Internet of Things (IoT) to drive its next leg of growth in the country.

On the future course, Oppo India Vice President (R&D) Tasleem Arif told PTI, “India is a promising market when it comes to the roll out of 5G. India’s new National Digital Communications Policy (NDCP) presents a positive vision for the industry and country, with the goal of creating the digital infrastructure that supports the next generation of digital services.”

At Oppo, he said, work on 5G network has already begun at its Hyderabad research and development (R&D) centre and as soon as the ecosystem gets in place, the company will bring in innovative 5G technology-enabled smartphones.

5G network is being seen as the next battleground in the telecommunications space where service providers and equipment manufacturers are waging an all-out war to prove their dominance in the entire mobile ecosystem.

In the backdrop of muted smartphone sales in recent months in many countries, India becomes even more important for manufacturers in their global growth strategy as the Indian market with its large untapped millennial population presents an exciting opportunity for these players.

Oppo India Vice President (Product & Marketing) Sumit Walia said, “There are half a billion users still on feature phone that will potentially upgrade to smartphones, and that coupled with 4G penetration, availability of affordable devices and cheap data along with a strong ecosystem will continue to help the industry grow.

As per the latest IDC report, Oppo has achieved a market share of 11.8 per cent in Q3 2019, he said, adding that the company has also doubled its sales with an overall solid 92.3 per cent year-on-year growth. It has become the second-largest vendor in the fast-growing $ 300-500 segment following the recent launch of Reno2 series.

Walia further said that Oppo would like to pace up growth with “a continued focus on ‘Make in India’ and we expect to manufacture 100 million units by the end of next year”. Also, the key focus areas would be the development of differentiated form factors and meaningful innovation for all, while delivering premium experience to consumers, he added.

Acknowledging India’s importance in Oppo’s scheme of things going forward, Arif said the company is “committed to the development of the country and recognises that innovation and entrepreneurship are crucial for the future growth of the economy. Our commitment to ‘Make in India’ is a shining example of our endeavour to co-opt with the local authorities in achieving their objectives“. (Source: The Hindu Businessline)

convergence plus