Bandwidth prices: Why we pay more for internet services – Source The Economic Times

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How easy is it to disconnect India from the internet? That question received an answer of sorts last week, when not one, not two, but four cables connecting Asia with the key ‘content’ centres of Europe and the US were severed due to multiple reasons.

Three of them were severed near Egypt and the fourth, the ‘I-ME-WE’ cable, was severed near the coast of Mumbai. If you live in India and felt little impact apart from perhaps brief slowdowns now and then, that’s because Indian carriers most affected by the outage —BhartiBSE -1.77 %, Tata, and Vodafone — rapidly switched their traffic to alternative, trouble-free routes.

“Not all that easy, thankfully,” seems the brief answer to the question posed in the first sentence of this feature.

“Indian users have been less affected, at least so far,” says Punit Garg, president and chief executive of global enterprise business unit of Reliance CommunicationsBSE 8.02 %, which owns the FLAG cable system, which remained unaffected by the recent incidents. However, he points out that a number of holidays in the week meant that corporate networks were less tested than they normally would have been.

“The true effects on corporate customers and corporate networks will only be known from Monday or Tuesday,” he says. “We have activated 300 Gbps of capacity for carriers affected by the outages and provided them alternative backup routes to Europe from India and the Middle East,” claims Garg.

Staying Connected
Late last year, Renesys, a consultancy that looks at connectivity and other issues around the internet and business, published a map that rates countries on the risk they faced of being disconnected altogether.

The basis of their ranking was the number of domestic internet service providers (ISPs) in each country which can directly access foreign providers. Given the relatively larger number of such providers in this country, Renesys ranked India as being at ‘low’ risk of disconnection.

That’s good news, but it’s not the whole story. There are around 175 ISPs listed on the telecom regulator’s website, but there are actually far fewer submarine cables (12 in number) through which these service providers physically connect to the internet, with more than one provider sharing a cable. Cutting a single cable can knock out subscribers of more than one provider.

“In locations like India, where all international traffic is handled over a handful of submarine cables, it is important to understand that multiple providers have access to multiple submarine cables in the event one of them goes down,” says Doug Madory, a senior analyst at Renesys. “If a company has two ISPs but they are both dependent on the same submarine cable, then the company has not achieved much in the way of internet transit diversity.”

But there are actually even more bottlenecks and to understand why, it’s perhaps more helpful to put that question of risk of disconnection in a different way. Disconnecting the internet for an entire country, after all, is a fairly dramatic event. So, how much does it cost to connect to the internet, in India, as compared with the West?

Where do the Costs Lie?

Retail competition over the years has reduced prices of bandwidth sharply. But India is still well behind other countries when it comes to the relative cost of a broadband plan.

According to International Telecommunication Union’s annual Measuring the Information Society report, the cost of an entry-level broadband plan in India accounts for about 5.5% of Indian per capita income. In comparison, a similar plan accounts for 0.5-0.8% of per capita income in countries such as Singapore, the US or the UK. India lags behind countries such as Sri Lanka (2.9%) and Malaysia (3.2%)

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End of the line for Roadrunner supercomputer – Source The Economic Times

It’s the end of the line for Roadrunner, a first-of-its-kind collection of processors that once reigned as the world’s fastest supercomputer. 

The $121 million supercomputer, housed at one of the premier US nuclear weapons research laboratories in northern New Mexico, will be decommissioned Sunday. 

The reason? The world of supercomputing is evolving and Roadrunner has been replaced with something smaller, faster, more energy efficient and cheaper. Still, officials at Los Alamos National Laboratory say it’s among the 25 fastest supercomputers in the world. 

“Roadrunner got everyone thinking in new ways about how to build and use a supercomputer,” said Gary Grider, who works in the lab’s high performance computing division. “Specialized processors are being included in new ways on new systems and being used in novel ways. Our demonstration with Roadrunner caused everyone to pay attention.” 

In 2008, Roadrunner was first to break the elusive petaflop barrier by processing just over a quadrillion mathematical calculations per second. 

Los Alamos teamed up with IBM to build Roadrunner from commercially available parts. They ended up with 278 refrigerator-size racks filled with two different types of processors, all linked together by 55 miles (89 kilometers) of fiber optic cable. It took nearly two dozen tractor trailer trucks to deliver the supercomputer from New York to northern New Mexico. 

The supercomputer has been used over the last five years to model viruses and unseen parts of the universe, to better understand lasers and for nuclear weapons work. That includes simulations aimed at ensuring the safety and reliability of the aging US arsenal. 

As part of the US nuclear stockpile stewardship program, researchers used Roadrunner’s high-speed calculation capabilities to unravel some of the mysteries of energy flow in weapons. 

Los Alamos has been helping pioneer novel computer systems for decades. In 1976, the lab helped with the development of the Cray-1. In 1993, the lab held the fastest supercomputer title with the Thinking Machine CM-5. 

“And to think of where we’re going to be in the next 10 to 15 years, it’s just mindboggling,” said lab spokesmanKevin Roark

Right now, Los Alamos _ along with scientists at Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California _ is using a supercomputer dubbed Cielo. Installed in 2010, it’s slightly faster than Roadrunner, takes up less space and came in at just under $54 million. 

Roark said in the next 10 to 20 years, it’s expected that the world’s supercomputers will be capable of breaking the exascale barrier, or one quintillion calculations per second. 

There will be no ceremony when Roadrunner is switched off Sunday, but lab officials said researchers will spend the next month experimenting with its operating system and techniques for compressing memory before dismantling begins. They say the work could help guide the design of future supercomputers.

Saudi Arabia may try to end anonymity for Twitter users: Report – Source The Economic Times

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Saudi Arabia may try to end anonymity for Twitter users in the country by limiting access to the site to people who register their identification documents, the Arab News daily reported on Saturday.

Last week, local media reported the government had asked telecom companies to look at ways they could monitor, or block, free internet phone services such as Skype. 

Twitter is highly popular with Saudis and has stirred broad debate on subjects ranging from religion to politics in a country where such public discussion had been considered at best unseemly and sometimes illegal. 

Early this month, the security spokesman for Saudi Arabia’s Interior Ministry described social networking, particularly Twitter, as a tool used by militants to stir social unrest. 

The country’s Grand Mufti, Saudi Arabia’s top cleric, last week described users of the microblogging site as “clowns” wasting time with frivolous and even harmful discussions, local newspapers reported. 

“A source at (the regulator) described the move as a natural result of the successful implementation of (its) decision to add a user’s identification numbers while topping up mobile phone credit,” Arab News reported. 

That would not necessarily make a user’s identity visible to other users of the site, but it would mean the Saudi government could monitor the tweets of individual Saudis. 

The English-language daily and sister paper to the Saudi-owned pan-Arab Asharq al-Awsat newspaper, did not explain how the authorities might be able to restrict ability to post on Twitter. Both newspapers belong to a publishing group owned by the ruling family and run by a son of Crown Prince Salman. 

Internet service providers are legally obliged to block websites showing content deemed pornographic. 

One of the big investors in Twitter is Saudi Arabian billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, a nephew of King Abdullah who also holds significant stakes in Citi Group, News Corp and Apple through his Kingdom Holding Company. 

The country’s telecom regulator, Communications and Information Technology Commission (CITC) did not immediately responded to requests for comment on the report. Last week it did not comment on the report it was seeking to restrict Skype use. 

A spokeswoman for Kingdom Holding said Prince Alwaleed was not available to comment. 

“There are people who misuse the social networking and try to send false information and false evaluation of the situation in the kingdom and the way the policemen in the kingdom are dealing with these situations,” said Major General Mansour Turki, the security spokesman, at a news conference on Mar 8. 

At a separate interview with Reuters this month, Turki argued that a small number of supporters of al Qaeda and activists from Saudi Arabia’s Shi’ite minority used social media to stir wider sympathy for their goals and social unrest. 

However, he also argued against banning the site. 

Two weeks ago one of Saudi Arabia’s most prominent clerics, Salman al-Awdah, who has 2.4 million followers on the site, used Twitter to attack the government’s security policy as too harsh and call for better services. He warned it might otherwise face “the spark of violence”. 

Two leading Saudi human rights activists were sentenced to long prison terms this month for a variety of offences including “internet crimes” because they had used Twitter and other sites to attack the government. 

Some top princes in the monarchy now use Twitter themselves and Crown Prince Salman, King Abdullah’s designated heir and also Defence Minister, recently opened an official account.

Changing trends: How Nokia failed to connect – Source The Economic Times

 

Apple redefined smartphones with touchscreen and Blackberry with email. Android proved that software matters more than hardware. Nokia was slow to respond to these trends. 

 

In India, local brands stole the lead on dual SIMs, low-end Qwerty and long-battery-life phones. And thenSamsung Galaxy happened. In a nutshell, that’s how Nokia, which enjoyed a 60% market share in India, ended up with a mere 7-8% in 2013.

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Apple patents iPhone with wraparound display – Source The Economic Times

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Apple is seeking a patent for an iPhonethat has a display that wraps around the edges of the device, expanding the viewable area and eliminating all physical buttons. 

The patent application reveals that Apple has put some thought into a device that takes advantage of a new generation of displays, which don’t have to be flat and rigid like today’s liquid-crystal displays, or LCDs. At a trade show in January, chief competitor Samsung Electronics Co. showed off a prototype phone with a display that is bent around the edges, presenting “virtual buttons” for the user’s touch. 

Apple Inc.’s patent filing shows a phone similar to a flattened tube ofBSE -3.62 % glass, inside of which a display envelops the chips and circuit board. This allows “functionality to extend to more than one surface of the device,” the filing said. The design also means there’s no frame or bezel surrounding the display, meaning it can take up more of the device’s surface area. 

The company filed for the patent in September 2011, though the application became public only Thursday. Like others, Apple often files for patents on designs that never come to fruition. It also doesn’t comment about future products until it’s ready to launch. 

The Patently Apple blog wrote about the filing earlier.

Online advertising in Asia Pacific to grow to $60 billion by 2017 – Source The Economic Times

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By 2017, marketers advertising with online display and search media in India, Australia, South Korea, Japan, and China will grow their investments at a 23 per cent compound annual growth rate (CAGR) to nearly $60 billion. This growth rate is steeper than the rate we see in Western markets, says research and consultancy firm Forrester in a release. But it is tempered by the fact that Asia Pacific marketers still maintain investments in traditional media and have limited access to good digital skills, tools, and proven metrics. 

Below are a few key takeaways from the Forrester report: 

> Asia Pacific online advertising will grow to $59.6 billion by 2017 

> Spend on display and paid search media in India, Australia, South Korea, Japan, and China will grow at a 23 per cent compound annual growth rate between 2012 and 2017 to nearly $60 billion by 2017. 

> China will dominate the Asia Pacific online advertising market 

> China will account for 58 per cent of all Asia Pacific online ad spend by 2017 — up from a share of 48 per cent today — because of increased competition to reach its vast online population, marketer familiarity with paid media, and consumer trust of search ads. 

> India, Australia, South Korea, and Japan will grow at varied rates 

> The other Asia Pacific markets have different population, economic, and technology nuances affecting their respective growth trajectories. India will grow at the fastest CAGR but will still represent the smallest market. Japan will see the slowest growth. And Australia and South Korea will pace similarly to online ad growth in the US.

‘Facebook phone’ may ring true on April 4 – Source The Economic Times

 Facebook fueled fresh talk on Friday about its own mobile phone after the leading social network scheduled a press announcement for next week.

Shortly after the Facebook invitation went out for the April 4 event, the technology news site TechCrunchreported the announcement would be a modified version of the Google Android operating system with “deep native Facebook functionality.”

Another report on “9 to 5 Google” said Facebook designing the software for the new smartphone, which would be made by Taiwan’s HTC.

Facebook’s invitation said only “Come See Our New Home On Android.”

The reports, if accurate, could explain the long speculation about a “Facebook phone” to help the social network better monetize its mobile platform by featuring Facebook prominently on the phone.

Facebook has long held firm it has no intention of building its own smartphone, saying instead it would rather weave access to the social network into software running the gamut of handsets.

News of the April 4 event at social network’s main campus in the Silicon Valley city of Menlo Park came as the research firm IDC released a Facebook-backed study showing that smartphones have become people’s close friends in the US.

US smartphone owners tend to be connected from the instant they rise until they fall sleep and revel in every minute of it, according to the study.

A weeklong IDC survey of more than 7,000 people ranging in age from 18 to 44 years old with iPhones or Android-powered smartphones showed that four out of five check their handsets within 15 minutes of waking.

The top three applications used were for messaging; Web browsing, and Facebook, in that order, according to IDC.

“People have a universal need to connect with others, especially those they care deeply about,” IDC researchers said.

“This coupled with mass market adoption of smartphones means that social engagement via phones has become mainstream.”

At a TechCrunch Disrupt conference in San Francisco in September, Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg said the social network giant is focused on mobile devices.