Anusha Rehman misses YouTube hearing again

LAHORE:  Federal minister for Information Technology Anusha Rehman, again failed to appear before the court and submit a written statement on the government’s position and intention with regard to lifting the ban on YouTube.

The court wishes to hear the government’s official stance on YouTube among other internet freedoms in the country before issuing a verdict in the Bytes for all vs. The Federation on Pakistan case that is more commonly referred to as the YouTube case.

The broad natured petition filed by Bytes for All seeks the courts protection on several digital rights to which lifting the ban on YouTube is only one part.

The court has now ordered to meet again on Thursday, 13th March for the 19th hearing

Why Facebook is buying WhatsApp for $19 Billion?

 

WhatsApp Facebook Secure Chat app

Popular Smartphone Messaging app WhatsApp’s $19 billion acquisition by Social Network giantFacebook made Headlines this week.

While Some are applauding the move, and many other users are worried about WhatsApp’s future and their privacy after this acquisition.
Why So Serious?
WhatsApp currently having 450 million active users and processes 50 billion messages a day. Service charges a nominal service fee of $1/year, that means Facebook is buying at $42.22 per user.

$19 Billion / 450 million users  = $42.22 per user

These figures show, obviously future revenue from WhatsApp can’t cover the acquisition cost in the short or mid-term.
You can still count on absolutely no ads interrupting your communication. There would have been no partnership between our two companies if we had to compromise on the core principles that will always define our company, our vision and our product.” WhatsApp founder said in a blog post.
So, What Facebook is planning for?

Facebook is by far the world’s most popular social network, with over 1.2 billion users worldwide, but all WhatsApp users may not have an account on Facebook. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg posted on his wall, “Our mission is to make the world more open and connected“, that means Facebook could merge WhatsApp data with them, but Mark also said, “WhatsApp will continue to operate independently within Facebook“.

Facebook Mobile Messenger is widely used for chatting with your Facebook friends, and WhatsApp for communicating with all of your contacts and small groups of people. Since WhatsApp and Messenger serve such different and important uses, we will continue investing in both and making them each great products for everyone.” Mark Zuckerberg added.

Mark said,’Making them each great products for everyone’
By design, WhatsApp collects all contact information from phones and uploads that information to the company’s servers. This is hugely valuable data that Facebook has apparently been after from last two years. In simple words, ‘Facebook Just Bought 450 Million Phone Numbers in $19 Billion‘.
WhatsApp claim that users’ messages are never stored on their server after delivery to the recipient. So we are expecting that Facebook could never dig into our private messages history, but that doesn’t mean — it will not store in the future.
Can we trust Facebook and WhatsApp?
Well, 70% users don’t trust Facebook with their personal information, whereas a large percentage of users still trust WhatsApp for sharing personal information.
WhatsApp has many Security issues as well as privacy issues, but that hasn’t scared off its more than 450 million users around the world.
Alternate Secure & Encrypted messaging Smartphone apps? 
If you care about your privacy a lot and don’t want to hand your communication to Facebook, you might want to look into secure messaging solutions, like – Surespot an open-source Android and iOS messaging solution and Threema, end-to-end encrypted app for Android and iOS.
What would be the next in Facebook’s shopping list? A mobile handset company?

Samsung 5G Test ‘Hundred Times Faster’ Than 4G

Samsung Debuts Its New Flagship Smartphone, The Galaxy S IV

The company says its test on next- generation mobile technology give speeds several hundred times faster than current 4g network.

Samsung has developed 5G mobile technology which could let users download a film to their phone in just one second.

The electronics giant claims it is “several hundred times faster” than current 4G services and will allow users to send massive data “practically without limitation”.

“As a result, subscribers will be able to enjoy a wide range of services such as 3D movies and games, real-time streaming of ultra high-definition (UHD) content, and remote medical services,” the company said on its blog.

Unfortunately for smartphone fans, the technology is still early in its development phase with Samsung saying it is unlikely to appear in a handset before 2020.

Customers using 4G services – currently provided in the UK by EE – get average speeds of between eight and 12 megabits per second (Mbps), with some cities to be boosted to 20Mbps this summer.

Other UK networks are preparing to launch their own 4G services.

However, Samsung’s research puts those speeds in the shade and offers a glimpse of a future where data arrives almost instantly.

Its 5G tests, using “adaptive array transceiver technology”, gave speeds of “up to 1.056 gigabytes (Gbps)” – but only over a distance of two kilometres.

The South Korean firm, the world’s top smartphone maker, hopes its work will prompt other groups to step up their own 5G research.

China set up a government-led 5G research group in 2012, while the European Commission is also lining up millions of euros of funding into the technology.

The love chatroom crackdown

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan has cracked down on “immoral” love chat services offered by mobile phone companies, stifling hopes of illicit romance in the conservative Muslim country, where dating is frowned upon.

The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) said the ban was enforced last month due to protests from parents and lawmakers, but critics warn it is the latest attempt at creeping censorship.

The PTA first pulled the plug on dirt-cheap chat rates and late-night discounts in November, but operators simply started offering the services under different names.

So the regulator tightened the ban late last month, ordering telecommunication companies to scrap immediately “all kinds of chat services, irrespective of the time of day”.

In a country where parents keep young people on a tight leash and dating is considered inappropriate, late-night chatting over the phone or Internet can be a way to find love below the radar.

In Pakistan girls can be beaten or even killed by male relatives if there is any hint they are having a relationship and parents like to strictly control the marriages of their offspring.

A 20-year-old university student who did not want to give his name said that the ban had hit him hard as he is now unable to chat with random girls and find new dates.

“The cruel world has once again conspired against lovers and made it difficult for them to communicate,” he declared.

“It was so inexpensive and an easy way to find a date,” he added.

The 25-year-old manager of a boutique in Islamabad stated that he had found the “love of his life” through the service.

“I am going to marry her,” he said.

“We chatted, we exchanged numbers, we started talking and I was surprised to find out that she lived nearby,” he said.

There is no public data about how many people used the romantic chat, but of the 68.6 percent of the population with access to a mobile phone, it is likely to have been a small number.

Normal call charges are about two rupees ($0.02) a minute and 1.50 rupees for a text message, but chat services were offered at an hourly rate for a fraction of those rates.

A customer would dial a particular number after which a computer generated voice or text message guided subscribers through various options.

For example, if you want to chat to a girl press 1, a boy press 2, then you select your preferred age group before being connected to another caller by SMS conforming to your criteria.

Two of Pakistan’s five mobile phone companies said they had shut down romantic chat rooms, but would continue to offer calling services that stick to general interests, such as hobbies.

Another company said they had shut down all chat rooms, while two others were not reachable for comment.

Saeeda Khan, a 45-year-old mother of three, welcomed the ban.

“I am worried as they’re busy all night on the phone with their friends and cousins,” she said.

Khan said she worried about “what kind of people” are in the chat rooms and that children “are exposed to strangers”.

“I would never approve of chatting with unknown people,” the mother of three added.

Meanwhile, mobile phone companies have filed petitions in the Supreme Court against the ban, but no date has been set for a hearing.

Pakistan’s oldest English-language newspaper Dawn earlier accused the PTA of acting as an “unwanted morality brigade”.

“The intermingling of young men and women is not a matter that should concern the state which has nothing to gain except opprobrium by acting as self-appointed guardian of society’s morals,” DSS wrote in an editorial earlier this month.

“It (the PTA) should mind its own business.”

The PTA defends the move as a response to public anger, but the ban has raised fears about growing censorship in Pakistan.

The government frequently shuts down mobile networks to prevent militant attacks and access to YouTube has been blocked for a year over a low-budget American film deemed offensive to Islam.

In November 2011, the PTA also tried to ban nearly 1,700 “obscene” words from text messages, which included innocuous terms such as “lotion”, “athlete’s foot” and “idiot”.

In 2010, Pakistan shut down Facebook for nearly two weeks over blasphemy and continues to restrict hundreds of online links.

Independent technology think-tank Bytes for All, Pakistan stated that the fresh ban was a violation of human rights.

“Any regulation on the basis of ‘morals’ falls under moral policing, which is unjustified, undemocratic, dictatorial and a violation of fundamental rights,” said Furhan Hussain, Coordinator Advocacy and Outreach at Bytes for All, Pakistan.

One engineering graduate, when asked if he had ever used the chat service, said he regretted only hearing about it after the ban.

“Damn! I could have been dating girls, now I regret it.”

BlackBerry says to explore strategic alternatives

Toronto – Struggling smartphone maker BlackBerry will consider selling itself.

The company said Monday that its board has formed a special committee to explore “strategic alternatives” in hopes of boosting the adoption of its BlackBerry 10 smartphone.

The company said its options could also include joint ventures, partnerships, or other moves.

The Canadian company’s stock jumped 5.7 percent to $10.32 Monday morning.

BlackBerry Ltd. has been hammered by increased competition from its Apple and Android-based rivals. In January, BlackBerry unveiled new phones running a revamped operating system called BlackBerry 10 designed to better compete, but its market share continues to lag.

BlackBerry also announced Monday that board member Prem Watsa, the company’s largest investor, resigned from the board“due to potential conflicts that may arise during the process.”

Watsa has said that he’s a “big supporter” of current CEO Thorsten Heins, and he would be an obvious bidder for BlackBerry. He has said that he believes BlackBerry can turn itself around, but that it might take three to five years. He’s the founder of insurance company Fairfax Financial Holdings Ltd. and is one of Canada’s best-known investors.

The BlackBerry, pioneered in 1999, had been the dominant smartphone for on-the-go business people and other consumers before the iPhone debuted in 2007 and showed that phones can handle much more than email and phone calls.

The company faced numerous delays modernizing its operating system with the BlackBerry 10. During that time, it had to cut more than 5,000 jobs, and shareholder wealth declined by more than $70 billion.

Monday’s announcement marks the second time Blackberry has said it has hired bankers to help weigh its options since Heins became CEO in early 2012. Heins had said then he was not actively looking to sell BlackBery, but said he wanted to be prepared.

BGC Financial analyst Colin Gillis said if BlackBerry is able to go private this time it would allow management to focus on a turnaround and get out of the glaring public spotlight.

Watsa, partnered with some financial backers like a pension fund, are likely bidders, Gillis said. He said technology companies like Apple, Google or Microsoft would not be interested because already have their own mobile platforms.

“Anyone who is a player in the space has taken a sniff and moved on,” Gillis said. “Now you’ve got financials.”

Gillis also said he doesn’t see Canadian or US regulators allowing BlackBerry to be owned by a Chinese company. Major clients like the US Department of Defense would abandon the company, he said.

“Its core reputation for security would fall apart really fast,” Gillis said.

BlackBerry said in its release that there can be no assurance that the exploration process will result in any transaction and declined further comment unless and until its board approves a specific sale or concludes a review of strategic alternatives.

JP Morgan Chase & Co. is serving as its financial adviser and Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP and Torys LLP are legal advisers.

Delays hang over Pakistan 3G lifeline

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s cash-strapped government has promised to sell 3G mobile telephone licenses to raise revenue, match regional rivals and drive prosperity, but the process has been beset by delays.

Even Afghanistan, Pakistan’s far less developed western neighbour with a weaker economy and more fragile state, has the technology.

But Pakistani consumers struggle to transfer data by phone, video streaming is often interrupted — although technically YouTube is banned — and video calls problematic.

Two months after the new government took office, there is little sign that the process will start soon.

Pakistan’s state minister for information technology Anusha Rehman told DSS that the auction alone could take six to eight months.

“The base price for 3G licenses is not set yet. Only once it is done will I be able to give a figure on how much revenue will be generated by the licenses sale,” she said.

But first the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) needs to be constituted and Rehman conceded there could be substantial delays.

“I am not sure how long it is going to take because the appointment of members have to be made by the cabinet,” she said.

A senior civil servant initially told DSS that key appointments to the PTA were expected to be finalised in July. The first half of August in Pakistan is dominated by religious and national holidays.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, elected for a historic third term in May, faces the daunting challenge of bringing down an 8.8 per cent budget deficit, yet his first budget was conservative.

He offered no major tax reforms and within weeks, his government was forced to seek a $5.3 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund: enough only to keep on top of old loan repayments.

Finance Minister Ishaq Dar sought to fend off some criticism about the lack of tax reform by saying that a 3G auction would fetch a “considerable amount of foreign exchange”.

Cheap mobile phone telephony took Pakistan by storm in the early 2000s and according to the PTA there are more than 122 million mobile phone subscribers — or 68.6 per cent of the population.

PTA officials estimate that a 3G auction could raise $1 billion in annual license fees, which could be ploughed back into reducing the crippling $5 billion circular debt in the energy sector.

But delays are not the only problem.

“The previous government could not auction 3G licenses because it wanted to bypass the standard tendering practices,” the official said on condition of anonymity.

“There was infighting within the PTA over the auctioning of licenses as the previous government wanted to bypass standard procedures and there was resistance by the members which delayed the process,” the official said.

Raza Rabbani, a leading senator from the opposition Pakistan Peoples Party, has criticised the inclusion of 3G license sale proceeds in the first budget of the Sharif government.

“These are illusionary figures. There is nothing concrete,” he told DSS

Of the five mobile phone companies in Pakistan, only Oslo-based Telenor has so far expressed public interest in acquiring a 3G license, saying it could be operationally ready at the end of 2013.

“Telenor Pakistan is presently going through a massive network modernisation exercise which is expected to finish by the end of this year and is essential in making our state-of-the-art network 3G, 4G and LTE enabled,” a company official told DSS.

He said the technology would drive prosperity and that increasing Internet penetration by just 10 per cent would raise GDP by 1.5-1.6 per cent.

“It is a paradigm shift from voice to data that will open many doors for GSM operators in the country to serve their customers through innovative avenues,” the official said.

Shahzad Ahmad, country director of Bytes for All, an independent technology think tank, says Pakistan should forget 3G and move directly to more advanced 4G LTE bands.

But he also called for clean bidding.

“The process should be transparent so that Pakistan gets a better price for its asset and ensure that there is no corruption,” he told DSS.

“So far there is no transparency in the process, nobody knows how many licenses are going to be auctioned and to whom?” he added.

Ahmad said that 4G technology will speed up telecommunication in Pakistan and create new jobs in online media content creation.

Consumers seem unfazed, saying they already have to pay more than 40 per cent taxes and service charges on recharges and calls.

“The amount of taxes on mobile phone calls is insane. I recharge a 100 rupee card and get only 60 rupees credit. The rest all goes into taxes, duties and service charges,” construction worker Mohammad Afzal, 35, told DSS

WhatsApp introduces voice messaging feature; monthly users top 300 million

WhatsApp, the undoubted leader in the field of ubiquitous global messaging apps, has confirmed reports first published on the popular technology website, AllThingsD, that it will introduce ‘voice messaging’, a new feature that allows users to record and transmit voice messages using its platform.

The Mountain View, California based company also announced that their subscriber base had grown to above 300 million active users per month with approximately 31 billion messages and 325 million photos exchanged per day. To give you a further insight into its behemoth nature, Whatsapp enjoys market penetration of approximately 99% in Spain, 90% in Brazil and 96% in Hong Kong measured amongst smartphone messaging apps.

Voice messaging in smartphones is not a new phenomenon, with apps such as BBM (used on Blackberry OS 5.0 and higher), WeChat and Line (popular in Asian markets) already offering these services to its users.

However, the most striking feature of the new addition in WhatsApp is the simplicity with which users can record and send a voice message. As compared to the voice feature in the Facebook Messenger app, which requires three taps to make a recording, the WhatsApp voice feature starts recording with a single push which is transmitted once the user lifts his finger. If the user decides to discard the message, all they have to do is to simply swipe their finger to the left and the recording is deleted.

Other nifty additions to the voice messaging feature are that the volume automatically switches to speaker if held at an arms’ length and softer when put to the ear. Also, there is no limit on the length of the recorded message, and similar to WhatsApp text messages, there is a notification in the form of a blue microphone that lights up when the message has been played.

The new feature is technically referred to as ‘Push-to-talk messaging’, and was a personal initiative by WhatsApp co-founder and CEO Jan Koum who worked in close conjunction with the company’s engineers to launch the project. It is expected to be rolled out on all WhatsApp compatible platforms and devices within the next 24 hours.

Despite its enormous potential, CEO Koum vehemently refuses to allow advertisements on WhatsApp. His extreme distaste for corporate advertising money can be viewed here. The business model is simple; with the app being free for the first year and simply $0.99 per year after that. Despite these seemingly low revenue lines, WhatsApp maintains that it is a profitable company, but as it is not publicly listed, it is not legally required to publish its accounts.

The next step for WhatsApp, according to Koum, is to focus on developing other features such as photo sharing. He is quick to emphasize that at its core, WhatsApp is a communications company, not simply just a text messaging app.

 “We’re definitely going to improve various ways of messaging.  Said Koum.

whatsapp me at : +92334-311-2191

Usman Hashmi