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Monday, March 30, 2020
Apple to host WWDC 2020 event online owing to coronavirus outbreak

Airtel, Vodafone Idea, Tata Tele likely to pay AGR dues on Monday: DoT source Apple on Friday announced that it will host its annual Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC), which was scheduled to be held in California in June 2020 “on an entirely new online format.” The announcement came amid the news of many tech giants cancelling on-ground activities for mega tech events, and moving them entirely online.

Apple’s WWDC 2020 event will be conducted entirely virtually for the first time in 30 years. The announcement has been made keeping in mind the “current health situation across the globe.” “We are delivering WWDC 2020 this June in an innovative way to millions of developers around the world, bringing the entire developer community together with a new experience,” said Phil Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of Worldwide Marketing. “The current health situation has required that we create a new WWDC 2020 format that delivers a full program with an online keynote and sessions, offering a great learning experience for our entire developer community, all around the world. We will be sharing all of the details in the weeks ahead.”

“The online event will be an opportunity for millions of creative and innovative developers to get early access to the future of iOS, iPadOS, macOS, watchOS and tvOS, and engage with Apple engineers as they work to build app experiences that enrich the lives of Apple customers around the globe,” Apple said in an official statement.

The tech major had pledged $1 million to local San Jose organisations to offset associated revenue loss as a result of WWDC 2020’s new online format.

The event is meant for 23 million registered iOS developers in more than 155 countries and regions. Another tech giant Microsoft, earlier this week, announced that it will also be shifting one of its biggest events of the year, the annual Build developer conference’ online due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The event was earlier scheduled to be held in Seattle from May 19.

Apart from this, Facebook, Amazon, Cisco-20 and more have transitioned to virtual events keeping in mind the health risks.

The death toll from the coronavirus worldwide has surpassed 5,000 with confirmed cases around the world topping 134,000, according to reports. (Source: The Hindu Businessline)

Apple closing all stores outside China until March 27 due to virus

HealthifyMe Apple is closing all of its stores outside China until March 27 in a bid to slow the spread of the new coronavirus outbreak, CEO Tim Cook said. Cook said the firm had learned from steps taken in China, where the tech giant has just reopened its retail stores.

“One of those lessons is that the most effective way to minimize risk of the virus’s transmission is to reduce density and maximize social distance,” he said in a statement Friday.

“As rates of new infections continue to grow in other places, we’re taking additional steps to protect our team members and customers.” (Source: The Hindu BusinessLine)

Coronavirus: Nasscom seeks easing of Work From Home norms as Covid-19 cases surge

Pre-Bookings open for Samsung Galaxy S20, S20+, and S20 UltraAs the number of Covid-19 cases in India surges, the IT industry’s apex body Nasscom has sought easing of regulatory restrictions for a month to enable Work From Home (WFH) for the sector. Under the prevailing other service providers (OSP) regime, IT and ITeS firms require multiple levels of compliance -- ranging from technical to high-security deposits -- for WFH. This the main impediment before the WFH culture in the country.

The Covid-19 outbreak in India has forced the industry to look at ensuring business continuity. Industry players have also echoed a similar sentiment and believe that there must be cognisance in providing WFH to employees under the OSP regime, Nasscom said in a letter to Telecom Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad.

Indian IT-ITeS companies are evaluating several options to ensure business remains up and running and one such option is to offer WFH to their employees to minimise any threat to people and business. Today, it is possible for employees to work from anywhere in the world, while remaining within the ambit of organisational information and data access protocols, and organisational security practices, the letter written by Nasscom President Debjani Ghosh said.

Accordingly, keeping in mind the current situation and in the interest of public health and the safety of people employed in the technology industry, Nasscom has sought urgent intervention to waive requirements pertaining to WFH under the OSP regime for one month, as an “interim emergency measure”. The move is important as despite the availability of technology, companies under the OSP regime continue to struggle in operationalising WFH for their employees due to the “onerous” compliance and technical requirements under the prevailing regime. These include setting up Provider Provisioned Virtual Private Networks (PPVPN) connectivity, sharing pre-defined locations of extended agents (employees) and providing “high” monetary security deposits among others.

Last year, licensor Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) had conducted extensive consultation on an other service providers regime and recommended the need to remove restrictions. However, DoT is yet to take these into consideration, it said.

“At a time when the world is looking for the cure of Covid-19, it is essential for technology companies to be able to support global efforts by ensuring adequate uptime, and thereby support initiatives that have the potential for saving thousands of lives around the world,” the letter added. (Source: The Hindu Businessline)

IT Firms Seek Client Waivers so Staff Can Work from Home

Sony India Feels the Heat from Chinese Cos, Cuts Over 120 JobsHELPING HAND Covid-19 scare is changing the business landscape, with many looking to adopt no-contact WFH & ehealth consultations. Mazumdar-Shaw says industry ready to help

Indian IT companies have asked their clients for waivers to let employees on projects work from home and are testing their systems, a key requirement before they can implement any widespread measure to allow their lakhs of employees to stay home. Business continuity plans typically allow a subset of employees to work from home, with work also getting distributed to other cities as employees travel between them. But the spread of Covid-19 to multiple metro cities could result in centres across the country shutting down, requiring broader work-from-home authorisations. “We need the waivers because some service agreements stipulate a high level of security in the development centre. Some employees have WFH (work-fromhome) authorisations, but we have not prepared country-wide work-from-home requirements,” a senior IT services executive said. He said clients were open to issuing the waivers but there were some projects that were governed by stricter privacy and data security laws that were harder to transition.

The spread of the coronavirus is causing issues for IT services companies and they are just beginning to evaluate the impact

Genpact, one of the largest business process management companies, said it was unsure of the impact the spread of the virus would have on its 2020 guidance and warned about the risks of its spreading in a major delivery location like India.

“It could impair our ability to manage day-today service delivery for certain clients or at certain sites and result in, among other things, losses of revenue and inadvertent breaches of our client contracts if a large number of our employees, or a group of employees in the same service line or who serve the same clients, were unable to work at the same time,” Genpact told the US Securities and Exchange Commission earlier this month.

Tech services firms Wipro, Infosys and Cognizant said they had contingency plans, but did not specifically answer ET’s queries whether they had sought waivers from clients to allow WFH. A Wipro spokesperson said the company had scheduled situation assessment calls periodically with teams in affected geographies.

IT services experts expect to see more companies seeking waivers as the intensity of the pandemic increases. “Given the current scenarios, many firms have requested waivers from their clients and received such. We expect this to increase as the spread continues, except for situations with privacy and security requirements at a country-to country specific basis,” Constellation Research principal analyst Ray Wang said. Analysts said most work, though, was easy to move to a work-from-home model and that contracts had ‘force majeure’ clauses that would allow for it. “There may be some instances where the client would feel that the work could not be protected and in these cases no work would be done. However, this is likely to be only a very small portion of the work,” said Peter Bendor-Samuel, the CEO of IT consultancy Everest Research.

He added that IT companies had been preparing for the contingency by upgrading their networks and testing procedures. “One of the critical challenges will be to establish the necessary management and oversight procedures and to ensure that their workforce has adequate in home network connections,” Bendor-Samuel said. (Source: Economic Times)

EGoM may be Set up for Telecom Relief Measures

Telcos Estimate AGR Dues at Half the DoT DemandGovt likely to request SC to allow staggered AGR payments over 20 years at reduced interest rate of 8%. The government is considering setting up an empowered group of ministers (eGoM) to oversee steps to tide over the adjusted gross revenue (AGR) crisis in the telecom sector.

The eGoM will look at ways to lower levies such as licence fees and spectrum usage charge (SUC) to help retain a three-private player market, as well as attract investments from new players. The government is also likely to request the Supreme Court to allow affected telcos to stagger payment of AGR liabilities over up to 20 years on net present value basis, at a reduced interest rate of 8%, against the 12% that is usually charged on dues, a senior government official told ET.

Other steps expected to be announced include giving a sovereign guarantee for telcos to raise up to 15% of their AGR dues from state-owned banks, and the freezing of interest and penalty components as on October 24, the date on which the Supreme Court ruled in favour of the government’s calculation of AGR. Several of these measures were discussed at the Cabinet meeting last week. “The Cabinet has to find a middle path to ensure the Supreme Court’s judgement is upheld and honoured, while the sector isn’t reduced to a duopoly, and the banking system doesn’t see another massive default, as it could have a domino effect on the economy, including job losses,” said the official quoted earlier.

The director general of the Press Information Bureau, did not respond to an email seeking comment till press time on Sunday.

SC Final Call Tomorrow

The Supreme Court will take a final call at the next hearing on March 17 on the number of years over which the payment could be spread, the official said. It is, however, unclear if the hearing will be held as scheduled because of the precautions taken over the Covid-19 outbreak. The package being considered would provide immediate relief to telecom companies — primarily Vodafone Idea that is on the brink of collapse —prevent the sector from being reduced to a duopoly, and save banks from massive loan defaults, the official said.

The move to stagger the payments may also help Bharti Airtel and Tata Teleservices, in case they face higher AGR demands from the telecom department (DoT) than they have estimated and paid and if those additional demands are upheld by the courts, the officials added. The government is trying to make the sector attractive to investors as at the highest levels, the government is “convinced” that India needs at least three, and probably more, private telecom players to establish a strong, robust and competitive digital infrastructure, a second official said.

“Despite moving to the auction regime, we still have such high licence fees, SUC. And then there is GST on all payments telcos make to the government … it cascades and inflates the burden … the eGoM could also explore rationalisation of levies,” the official said.

Historically, the finance ministry has pushed back the telecom ministry’s calls to reduce levies for improving health of the sector, hurt badly by over three years of price wars, coupled with debt of more than Rs7 lakh crore.

The Supreme Court ruling that AGR includes non-core items, left 15 telcos — including that are now defunct — facing more than Rs 1.47 lakh crore in licence fees, SUC, interest and penalties, further adding to the gravity of the sectoral situation. Licence fees and SUC are paid on the basis of AGR. Vodafone Idea has warned it will shut shop unless given some relief on its AGR liabilities, leaving just Bharti Airtel and Reliance Jio.

“(It’s) not an ideal situation and the government realises that,” the second official said, adding that encashing bank guarantees of Vodafone Idea would force it to shut down, leaving over 300 million customers in chaos.

Moreover, banks have an exposure of over Rs 35,000 crore in Vodafone Idea, which would then turn into another non-performing asset.(Source: Economic Times)

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