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Wednesday, February 20, 2019
Amazon’s deep bench calms investors despite Bezo's scandal NYC rift

Amazon’s deep bench calms investors despite Bezo's scandal NYC rift Amazon still has more than 100 million Prime members, whose subscription fees make them more loyal to the company because they can capitalize on shipping discounts. Its been a rough few weeks for the worlds wealthiest man. Amazon.com’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Jeff Bezo’s announced his divorce.

He became engulfed in a tabloid scandal complete with blackmail allegations. On Thursday, his company abruptly scrapped plans to invest $2.5 billion and hire 25,000 people for a giant new office in New York City (NYC).

Yet investors don’t seem to be spooked just yet. Strip out Bezo’s and Amazon from the headlines and the stories are more mundane. A 25-year marriage ends. A publicly subsidized office park deal falls apart. A rich guy accuses someone of blackmailing him with embarrassing photos. Amazon still has more than 100 million Prime members, whose subscription fees make them more loyal to the company because they can capitalize on shipping discounts. It has fast-growing cloud computing and advertising businesses that have made the company increasingly profitable. Even if Bezo’s gets distracted, the e-commerce giant has a deep bench of executives who oversee day-to-day operations in the shadow of their boss. Most notable are cloud chief Andy Jassy and retail chief Jeff Wilke, who were promoted to division CEO roles almost three years ago.

They have got a deep management team, said RJ Hottovy, a senior analyst. Jeff Wilke and Andy Jassy keep the business running pretty smoothly at this point, even though they might not get the credit.

Bezo’s, 55, who founded the company in his Seattle garage in 1994, remains the key visionary and the public face of Amazon. The company’s growth has forced the notoriously detail-oriented CEO to delegate more day-to-day operations. That also frees Bezos up for side endeavors like his space exploration company, Blue Origin, and the Washington Post, which he purchased in 2013.

Jassy, 51, shadowed Bezos earlier in his career as one of the CEO’s technology advisers. He runs Amazon Web Services (AWS), the cloud-computing group. In a company full of semi-autonomous units, AWS is its own universe, with its own set of technologists, sales representatives and marketing people focused on the fast-growing business of renting processing power and software services.

Since his elevation to CEO, Jassy has raised his public profile and amassed the clout to break some of Amazons rules. The company preaches an obsessive focus on customers with little public regard to its competitors. Yet Jassy trades barbs on Twitter and the conference circuit with Oracle Corp Chairman Larry Ellison. His leadership is working well for AWS. If it was an independent business, AWS would likely rank among the worlds largest technology companies. It had revenue of $25.7 billion in 2018, up 47 per cent from the previous year.

Wilke, 52, who joined Amazon nearly 20 years ago, oversees global retail operations, which includes the company’s online marketplace and delivery system, Amazon Prime membership and a growing physical store presence, including Whole Foods supermarkets and AmazonGo cashierless stores. Beyond the United States (US), where Amazon makes most of its revenue, Wilke is in charge of a global expansion that includes new consumer markets such as India, Australia and Brazil. Like Jassy, Wilke has also become more visible as a company representative in public. He participated in discussions with New York officials regarding the company’s now abandoned expansion plans.

Other notable long-time Amazon executives include Dave Limp, whose role as senior vice president of devices includes expanding the line of gadgets running on Amazons Alexa voice-activated platform; Jeff Blackburn, senior vice president of business development, and Dave Clark, senior vice president of operations, who will help build out Amazons new hub in Nashville, Tennessee, where the company plans to hire as many as 5,000 people. Some investors and analysts think Amazons decision to pull out of New York City may have lasting effect. Not expanding there will hurt Amazons recruiting efforts, especially in advertising, said Tom Forte, an analyst at DA Davidson & Co.

Since Bezo’s announced his divorce in early January, the company’s shares have declined 2.9 per cent, missing Wall Streets early 2019 rally. The S&P 500 has jumped 6.9 per cent during the same time. (Source: The Hindu BusinessLine)

After snub from Twitter CEO, house panel considering sending a "strong" message

After snub from Twitter CEO, house panel considering sending a Parliamentary standing committee to explore tough action against company for not sending CEO to its meeting. The parliamentary standing committee on information technology is exploring ways of expressing its frustration, including declaring breach of privilege, at being unable to get Twitter CEO Jack Dorseyor his secondin-command to attend its hearing on Monday, said people with knowledge of the matter. This may include sending a “strong” recommendation to the government seeking adverse action, they said. The committee will decide what “action” can be taken against Twitter, they added.

The panel had summoned representatives of Twitter and the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology to be present before it on Monday at 3 pm to examine the issue of “safeguarding citizens’ rights on social media/online news platforms”.

Twitter said it wouldn’t be able to get Dorsey, who was recently in India, to the country on time.

“Given the short notice of the hearing, we informed the committee that it would not be possible for senior officials from Twitter to travel from the United States to appear on Monday,” Twitter had said on Saturday. “Our CEO, Jack Dorsey, and other senior Twitter executives visited India in recent weeks because it is an important market for Twitter and we value the growing interest in Twitter in India.”

BJP lawmaker Anurag Thakur, who heads the panel, told ET, “The committee decided to call the head of Twitter because it felt it should interact with the person who could be held responsible for actions of the company rather than people who do not have powers for any policy making or enforcement.” The panel members have taken strong exception to Twitter seeking to defer the “interaction” to March-April, said sources.

“They are fully aware that nobody will be available during that time because of the crucial Lok Sabha elections,” said a government official.

The committee had initially decided to hold the interaction on February 7 and it was pushed to February 11 to give Twitter more time, said another member of the committee.

“But even 10 days’ time seems to be short notice for them (Twitter). This only shows that they are shying away from their responsibility and perhaps have a lot to hide. They must be mindful of the fact that the committee, if push comes to shove, can go to any lengths to ensure accountability,” he said. “This is perhaps happening for the first time that someone does not have the time for an established institution of Parliament. They appear to be running away from their responsibility.”

The panel chose to call Dorsey or his deputy because of a communication from Twitter on February 7.

“The letter clearly indicated that the Indian representatives (of Twitter) do not have the authority to frame policy or its enforcement,” said a member of the committee who didn’t want to be named. “The committee, thus, felt it futile to interact with such representatives and decided to interact with the company’s CEO or his deputy.”

The panel has a track record on taking up matters of public interest, he said. “It needs to be appreciated that it took a parliamentary panel to set the ball rolling on a debate on net neutrality in Parliament, something which was latched on to by the public three months later,” he said.

“In the instant case, the parliamentary committee wants to debate on the rising false propaganda on Twitter, which is not only influencing mainstream media but is also influencing opinions of people.”

When asked about allegations of trolls being on the payroll of political parties, the member of the committee cited above said, “It is not about ideology or individuals. It is about who shoulders the responsibility for allowing false propaganda to be peddled in the garb of opinion. If a fake handle of the Indian Army is being made (on Twitter) and lies are being spread, somebody has to be held accountable. Twitter cannot be allowed to be misused on the pretext that it is a platform to discuss ideas.”

On Saturday, Twitter said: “We appreciate and respect the committee’s focus on the issue of user safety and user rights… we have indicated that we are willing to participate in such a broad hearing process.”

In its previous reply on February 7, Twitter had said, “No one who engages publicly for Twitter India makes enforcement decisions with respect to our rules for content or accounts in India.(Source: Economic Times)


Poland could limit use of Huawei products after worker arrested

Poland could limit use of Huawei products after worker arrestedPoland could consider banning the use of Huawei products by public bodies, a senior government official said on Sunday, following the arrest of a Chinese Huawei official in the east European country last week. The Polish government could also look to tighten legislation to allow the authorities to limit the availability of products made by any company deemed to pose a threat to security. Poland arrested a Chinese employee of Huawei and a former Polish security official on spying allegations, officials and sources told Reuters on Friday, a move that could fuel Western security concerns about the telecoms equipment maker.

A government official who is responsible for cyber security told Reuters “abrupt” policy changes towards Huawei were not warranted after the arrests. But he said the use of the company's products by state entities could be reviewed.

“We will analyse whether...our decision can include an end to the use...of Huawei products,” Karol Okonski told Reuters. “We do not have the legal means to force private companies or citizens to stop using any IT company's products. It cannot be ruled out that we will consider legislative changes that would allow such a move,” he added.

A spokesman for Poland's security services said on Friday the Polish official arrested by the country's Internal Security Agency (ISA) had been responsible for issuing security certificates for equipment used by public administration. “(He) used to work for a number of public institutions, held important managerial positions and was also connected with...institutions that protect internal security,” he told public broadcaster TVP.

Seeking to distance itself from the incident, Huawei said on Saturday it had sacked its employee, adding his “alleged actions have no relation to the company”.

Increasing scrutiny
Huawei, the world's biggest producer of telecommunications equipment, faces intense scrutiny in the West over its relationship with China's government and US-led allegations that its devices could be used by Beijing for spying.

No evidence has been produced publicly and the firm has repeatedly denied the accusations, but several Western countries have restricted Huawei's access to their markets.

Poland's Internal Affairs Minister, Joachim Brudzinski, called for the European Union and NATO to work on a joint position over whether to exclude Huawei from their markets. “We are examining the readiness of the (EU and NATO) countries to work on a joint position,” Okonski told Reuters referring to the new generation of 5G telecoms infrastructure. (Source: The HindubusinessLine)

COAI wants single audit to meet requirements of multiple agencies

COAI wants single audit to meet requirements of multiple agenciesCOAI’s views come at a time when the telecom department is in the process of appointing at least 4-5 auditors to conduct the planned special audit of private telecom companies for period 2011-12 to 2017-18

Ahead of the planned special audit of telecom operators, industry body COAI has favoured a single audit exercise that meets the requirements of multiple stakeholders like the telecom department and sector regulator Trai. “The DoT is entitled to do audits and we can’t argue with that. But can we get to a point where a single audit exercise is conducted by one entity that is agreed to by all parties as competent, to do detailed checks required by various stakeholders like CAG, telecom department and Trai,” Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) Director General Rajan Mathews told PTI.

Mathews said the authorities that require audits to be conducted can spell out their requirements and the details they need, to the firm selected from the pre-qualified list. The firm that audits can then issue reports based on the individual specifications of various agencies that require such audits to be conducted.

“Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai), for instance, requires billing audit to be conducted and that ties also into the revenues (revenue aspect is something that government’s audit will dwell into as well) ...these are inter-twined issues and a single audit makes sense,” Mathews said. He noted that under the current dispensation, Trai for the purpose of audit of billing systems has a list of pre-qualified auditors which operators can choose from.

COAI’s views come at a time when the telecom department is in the process of appointing at least 4-5 auditors to conduct the planned special audit of private telecom companies for period 2011-12 to 2017-18.

The bids are expected to be submitted by December 18 by interested auditors that are empanelled under Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG), and the appointment is likely to take place by the month-end, an official familiar with the entire process had told PTI earlier.

The Department of Telecom (DoT)-initiated audit will be carried out to check for any under-reporting of revenue by telecom companies, and is expected to be wrapped up by middle of next year.

Audits will be conducted for all large private telecom companies as also those which have announced an exit or are in the process of merging with bigger rivals. In all likelihood, the work on auditing will start from January.

Telecom service providers pay licence fees and spectrum usage charges to the government on the basis of their income.

The telecom sector has been bruised by falling tariffs, eroding profitability, and mounting debt in the face of stiff competition triggered by disruptive offerings by Reliance Jio, owned by Mukesh Ambani. The industry has been seeking urgent relief measures entailing debt restructuring, cut in levies, and release of GST input tax credit locked up with the government.

Reflecting the financial stress of the industry, the gross revenue of telcos and licence fee paid to the government declined by around 10 per cent to Rs 58,401 crore and Rs 2,929 crore, respectively, in April-June 2018 compared to the year-ago period, according to recent data by Trai.

“Gross revenue (GR) and adjusted gross revenue (AGR) of the telecom service sector for the quarter ended June 2018 has been Rs 58,401 crore and Rs 36,552 crore, respectively,” Trai had said in its Indian Telecom Services Performance Indicator report released in October this year.

The year-on-year fall of 8.11 per cent in AGR -- which is revenue earned from sale of telecom services alone -- led to decline in licence fees paid to the government by around 10 per cent to Rs 2,929 crore. (Source: Mint)


China says U.S. should withdraw arrest warrant for Huawei executive

China says U.S. should withdraw arrest warrant for Huawei executiveChina's foreign ministry called in the U.S. ambassador on Sunday to lodge a "strong protest" over the arrest in Canada of Huawei Technologies Co Ltd's chief financial officer, and said the United States should withdraw its arrest warrant.

China's foreign ministry called in the U.S. ambassador on Sunday to lodge a "strong protest" over the arrest in Canada of Huawei Technologies Co Ltd's chief financial officer, and said the United States should withdraw its arrest warrant.

Meng Wanzhou, Huawei's global chief financial officer, was arrested in Canada on Dec. 1 and faces extradition to the United States, which alleges that she covered up her company's links to a firm that tried to sell equipment to Iran despite sanctions.

The executive is also the daughter of the founder of Huawei.

Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Le Yucheng told U.S. ambassador Terry Branstad that the United States had made an "unreasonable demand" on Canada to detain Meng while she was passing through Vancouver, China's Foreign Ministry said.

"The actions of the U.S. seriously violated the lawful and legitimate rights of the Chinese citizen, and by their nature were extremely nasty," Le told Branstad, comments similar to those he made to Canada's ambassador the night before.

China strongly urges the United States to pay attention to China's solemn and just position and withdraw the arrest warrant on Meng, Le added.

"China will respond further depending on U.S. actions," he said, without elaborating. Le also told the Canadian ambassador on Saturday that there would be severe consequences if it did not immediately release Meng.

The United States has been looking since at least 2016 into whether Huawei shipped U.S.-origin products to Iran and other countries in violation of U.S. export and sanctions laws, Reuters reported in April.

Companies are barred from using the U.S. financial system to funnel goods and services to sanctioned entities.

U.S. Senator Marco Rubio told CBS "Face the Nation" on Sunday he would "100 percent absolutely" introduce something in the new Congress that would ban Chinese telecom firms from doing business in the United States.

"We have to understand Chinese companies are not like American companies. OK. We can't even get Apple to crack an iPhone for us in a terrorist investigation," he said.

"When the Chinese ask a telecom company, we want you to turn over all the data you've gathered in the country you're operating in, they will do it. No court order. Nothing like that. They will just do it. They have to. We need to understand that."

Rubio was a strong critic of China's ZTE Corp, which pleaded guilty in 2017 to violating U.S. laws that restrict the sale of American-made technology to Iran.


Niger shuts Airtel telecom offices over unpaid taxes

Niger shuts Airtel telecom offices over unpaid taxes Niger on Saturday ordered the closure of the offices of the country's biggest telecoms operator Airtel, a subsidiary of India's Bharti Airtel group, for unpaid taxes of 107 million dollars. Airtel has been present in Niger since 2001 and holds a 51% market share, according to the national telecoms regulator.

"The tax people sealed our headquarters and we were forced to leave the premises," an Airtel employee told AFP in the capital Niamey.

Airtel had a Friday deadline to pay 15 million euros in fines. The company was slapped with tax arrears and a fine totalling 94 million euros, according to the Tamtam info News website.

Neither the company nor the tax authorities were immediately available for comment.

Three other firms have also been hit by tax fines - Orange Niger, a subsidiary of the French firm; the public Niger telecoms and Moov Niger, a subsidiary of Morocco's Maroc Telecoms.

There are around 7.7 million cellphone subscribers in Niger, which has a population of 19 million.

On November 30, the offices of Orange Niger were closed by tax authorities seeking 33 million euros in arrears.(Source: News24)

Telecom companies urge TRAI to make 4G more affordable

Telecom companies urge TRAI to make 4G more affordable Telecom companies have urged the regulator to make 4G airwaves more affordable and unveil a long-term road map of the periodicity of auctions to provide clarity on spectrum availability and discourage irrational bidding. Top executives of Vodafone Idea, Bharti AirtelNSE 0.72 %, Reliance Jio Infocomm and state-run Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd. and Mahanagar Telephone Nigam LtdNSE 0.78 %. met Telecom Regulatory Authority of India Chairman RS Sharma on Wednesday. They sought an early reduction in the starting price of airwaves across the 900 MHz, 800 MHz and 1800 MHz bands to ensure there is enough money left to invest in broadband network rollouts, a person aware of the discussions said.

The Trai boss said the regulator would engage in a holistic consultation process with the industry next year on spectrum issues and look at how reserve prices are assessed. However, he is said to have clarified that the deliberations would not affect Trai’s recommendations in August on the pricing of 4G and 5G spectrum for the next sale, which the government is yet to finalise.

Sharma said the regulator has received “suggestions on a host of spectrum-related issues, including policy around future auctions, reserve price valuation methodology and matters linked to leasing, trading and surrendering of airwaves.”

The discussions with Sharma were open and constructive and related to spectrum issues, implementation of the National Digital Communications Policy 2018, opening up of new technology areas and challenges in setting up telecom infrastructure, P Balaji, chief regulatory & corporate affairs officer at Vodafone Idea who participated in the meeting, told ET.

“The telecom regulator conducted a transparent discussion on the opportunities and challenges for the telecom sector and we look forward to actively working and supporting the government and the regulator’s digital agenda,” Balaji said.

The executives are said to have reiterated their call for early rationalisation of hefty telecom levies — about Rs 32 of every Rs 100 they get goes to the government — especially when the sector continues to reel under almost Rs 8 lakh crore of debt and continuing price wars. They urged the regulator to suggest ways to speed up right-of-way approvals to achieve broadband connectivity at 50 Mbps speed to all Indians by 2022, as outlined in the new telecom policy.

Right of way refers to the legal right to set up network infrastructure such as towers and optic fibre cables along a specific route. (Source: Economic Times)

Govt starts facility for security testing of telecom products

Govt starts facility for security testing of telecom products The Department of Telecom has set the deadline of April 2019 for mandatory testing of some telecom products including mobile phones and equipment. The government has started a facility for testing telecom products and equipment to ensure security in digital communications at the national level, Telecom Minister Manoj Sinha said Friday. “Yesterday, we inaugurated state-of-art of facility for preparation of security assurance standard putting us at the forefront of technology. This facility will work for security from the national perspective and also facilitate the development of testing and certification ecosystem in the country,” Sinha said at an Assocham event.

The Department of Telecom has set the deadline of April 2019 for mandatory testing of some telecom products including mobile phones and equipment. This will be applicable on all equipment that are imported to India or are sold in the country. However, there are some other telecom gears that would go through the mandatory testing starting January 1, 2019. These equipment include modem, audio conferencing, fax machines, satellite equipments etc.

The minister said that there has been huge growth in uptake of telecom services in the country since 2014 and is the right of our consumers to be provided quality services efficiently and in secured manner. “Due to success of our efforts, broadband subscribers have grown seven times from 61 million in 2014 to 447 million in 2018. Average data consumption has grown 51 times from 62 MB per month in 2014 to 3.2 GB in June 2018. As a result, India today has the highest mobile data consumption in the world at the most competitive rates seen anywhere in the world,” Sinha said. He said that as per the industry reports, India is also one of the fastest growing mobile phone markets. He said that India’s dream of a pioneering position in the rollout of 5G has already started taking wings. “The National Digital Communications Policy 2018 targets ubiquitous fibre and tower infra rollout in the country. We should not miss 5G bus. The economic impact of 5G in India is expected to be over $1 trillion and the consequent multiplier effect is expected to be exponential,” he said. (Source: The Indian Express)

Huawei gets government nod for 5G trials

Huawei gets government nod for 5G trialsTo start tests from December, says CEO Jay Chen NEW DELHI, OCTOBER 5. Chinese telecom-gear maker Huawei said it will start 5G trials in India from December with a leading telecom operator, as it recently received the ‘go-ahead’ from the Department of Telecommunications (DoT). On September 27, the DoT invited the company for the trials. Huawei is awaiting for 100MHz of 3300-3600 MHz bands for the initial trials, Jay Chen, Chief Executive Officer of Huawei India told BusinessLine.

“We have got the invitation for the 5G trials from the government and through the proposed trials, we plan to contribute for development of timely and high-quality 5G technology and use cases that will enable social and economic development,” he said. The initial trials will begin with fixed wireless access, enhanced mobile broadband, Augmented Reality (AR), Virtual Reality (VR), WTTx (advanced wireless access), which is delivering fibre quality broadband in wireless mode, and ultra high definition video transfer in one of the metro cities (Delhi), followed by a few more cities, Chen said.

Laboratory testing
The company had already partnered with Bharti Airtel in February to complete 5G laboratory testing and is in talks now with other operators including Reliance Jio.

Chinese vendors including Huawei and ZTE were barred by the government for various telecom projects including the 5G trials because of security concerns.

However, now the government has given a ‘thumbs up’ to Huawei along with its local partners. There is no clarity about ZTE yet. Both the Chinese companies were recently barred by the US and Australia from 5G roll-outs due to possible cyber snooping by China.

On asked about such concerns, Chen said the Indian government is open and transparent and, Huawei also abides by the law of the land.

“There is a close relationship between the government, operators and the vendors to grow the ecosystem in the industry. Huawei is committed to ‘Digital India’ and will actively cooperate with the 5G planning and preparation of Indian government and industry,” Chen said adding that there lies a lot of opportunities in the telecom industry in the next five years.

Other players
Apart from Huawei, the DoT has already approached other telecom gear makers including Ericsson, Nokia, Samsung, Cisco and NEC for development of 5G applications and running trials on the suggestion of Stanford University Professor Emeritus Arogyaswami J Paulraj.

Paulraj is a member of the 5G panel that recently suggested spectrum roadmap for the technology. The TRAI has recommended auction of about 8,644 MHz of telecom frequencies at an estimated base price of ₹4.9 lakh crore. The government is expected to auction spectrum in various bands including those for 5G towards the end of next year. (Source: The Hindu BusinessLine)

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