The soapy revolution

Pakistan’s political crisis remains at fever pitch as thousands of anti-government protesters remain camped out in front of the parliament building, demanding Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif resignation.

A supporter of Tahirul Qadri bathes during an anti-government protest near the prime minister's residence in Islamabad. - Photo by AFP

A supporter of Tahirul Qadri bathes during an anti-government protest near the prime minister’s residence in Islamabad.

Supporters of  Tahirul Qadri wash clothes during an anti-government protest in front of the Parliament in Islamabad. - Photo by AFP

Supporters of Tahirul Qadri wash clothes during an anti-government protest in front of the Parliament in Islamabad.

Protesters bathe at a leaking water supply line close to the parliament building where they are camped in Islamabad. - Photo by AP

Protesters bathe at a leaking water supply line close to the parliament building where they are camped in Islamabad.

Women supporters of Tahirul Qadri arrange their makeshift camp in front of the parliament building in Islamabad. - Photo by AP

Women supporters of Tahirul Qadri arrange their makeshift camp in front of the parliament building in Islamabad.

Protesters bathe at a leaking water supply line close to the parliament building where they are camped in Islamabad. - Photo by AP

Protesters bathe at a leaking water supply line close to the parliament building where they are camped in Islamabad.

Supporters of Tahirul Qadri cook food in front of the parliament building where they have camped in Islamabad. - Photo by AP

Supporters of Tahirul Qadri cook food in front of the parliament building where they have camped in Islamabad.

Supporters of Tahirul Qadri and Imran Khan play near the prime minister's residence during an anti-government protest in Islamabad. - Photo by AFP

Supporters of Tahirul Qadri and Imran Khan play near the prime minister’s residence during an anti-government protest in Islamabad.

Supporters of Tahirul Qadri distribute food to supporters of Imran Khan in front of the parliament building in Islamabad. - Photo by AFP

Supporters of Tahirul Qadri distribute food to supporters of Imran Khan in front of the parliament building in Islamabad.

Supporters of Tahirul Qadri wash clothes during an anti-government protest near the prime minister's residence in Islamabad. - Photo by AFP

Supporters of Tahirul Qadri wash clothes during an anti-government protest near the prime minister’s residence in Islamabad.

Supporters of Tahirul Qadri camp in the vicinity of the parliament building in Islamabad. - Photo by AP

Supporters of Tahirul Qadri camp in the vicinity of the parliament building in Islamabad.

Supporters of Tahirul Qadri camp in the vicinity of the parliament building in Islamabad. - Photo by AP

Supporters of Tahirul Qadri camp in the vicinity of the parliament building in Islamabad.

A protestor bathes at the roadside during an anti-government protest near the parliament building in Islamabad. - Photo by AFP

A protestor bathes at the roadside during an anti-government protest near the parliament building in Islamabad.

Supporters of  Imran Khan and Tahirul Qadri remove a container during an anti-government protest near the parliament building in Islamabad. - Photo by AFP

Supporters of Imran Khan and Tahirul Qadri remove a container during an anti-government protest near the parliament building in Islamabad.

Supporters of Imran Khan and Tahirul Qadri rest during an anti-government protest in front of the parliament building in Islamabad. - Photo by AFP

Supporters of Imran Khan and Tahirul Qadri rest during an anti-government protest in front of the parliament building in Islamabad.

Supporters of Imran Khan and Tahirul Qadri rest during an anti-government protest in front of the parliament building in Islamabad. - Photo by AFP

Supporters of Imran Khan and Tahirul Qadri rest during an anti-government protest in front of the parliament building in Islamabad.

Supporters of  Imran Khan and Tahirul Qadri rest during an anti-government protest in front of the parliament building in Islamabad. - Photo by AFP

Supporters of Imran Khan and Tahirul Qadri rest during an anti-government protest in front of the parliament building in Islamabad.

Microsoft’s Xbox One console to go on sale in China in September

— Reuters Photo

SAN FRANCISCO: Microsoft Corp will begin selling its Xbox One video game console in China in September through its partnership with Chinese Internet TV company BesTV New Media Co.

The partners will also kickstart a program to help developers create, publish and sell Xbox One games in China and other markets where the console is sold, Microsoft said in a statement.

In September last year, Microsoft and BesTV, a subsidiary of Shanghai Media Group, formed a joint venture and invested $237 million in “family games and related services.”

Last week, Shanghai’s government said console makers such as Microsoft, Sony Corp and Nintendo Co will be able to manufacture and sell consoles in China through “foreign-invested enterprises” in Shanghai’s free trade zone.

China had banned game consoles in 2000, citing their negative effect on the mental health of its youth. It temporarily lifted the ban in January.

Pirated and smuggled consoles have been available in China during the ban, but they sold poorly as Chinese gamers predominantly play PC and mobile games.

Microsoft has sold more than 5 million Xbox One video game consoles to retailers since its launch in November.

 

Pakistan joins the 3G club

- File Photo

ISLAMABAD: The four cellular service providers bidding on licences for next generation mobile technology emerged the winners of Wednesday’s bidding war, with Mobilink, Telenor and Ufone picking up licences for 3G services while Zong being the only bidder to acquire a licence for both 3G and 4G services.

Mobilink and Zong bid for the ‘superior’ 10MHz band, while Telenor and Ufone preferred to bid on the cheaper 5MHz band. Although Mobilink, having acquired the 10MHz band, qualified for a 4G licence too, they opted not to go all the way.

This means one 4G licence is still up for grabs. Minister of State for Information Technology Anusha Rehman said that the licence would soon go under the hammer again.

Bidding began at 10am and continued until a little after 7pm at the Marriott Hotel. Bidders competed in eight rounds of 45 minutes each. A total of four 3G licences were auctioned and both Telenor and Ufone got the ‘shorter end’ of the spectrum.

“It was a strategic decision. We want to provide internet services for all our customers but at low costs. The 5MHz frequency is all that is required at the moment,” said Telenor Pakistan Chief Corporate Affairs Officer Muhammad Aslam Hayat.

Ufone had also shown an interest in acquiring both 3G and 4G licences, but on the day, they did not qualify. Under PTA rules, Ufone has to purchase the 10MHz band to be eligible for a 4G licence.

According to a Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) spokesperson, cellular companies with weaker frequencies would have to install more booster towers in their coverage areas, depending on how many cities they wanted to cover.

A taste of things to come

Visitors to the auction got a taste of next-generation mobile speeds at the stalls of various cellular vendors. Telecom reps showed off the astonishing speeds boasted by 3G services and demonstrated the power of high speed internet services on compatible mobile handsets.

Cellular companies will have to offer a minimum download speed of 256 kilobytes per second (kbps) under the stipulations of the 3G licence, which is four to eight times faster than current download speeds of 30-100 kbps that are currently on offer.

PTA Chairman Dr Ismail Shah said: “Meeting the budgetary targets is just one small aspect of this sale. We are looking at bigger benefits such as the creation of nearly 900,000 jobs and the development of newer, faster applications that will contribute to the improvement of educational, health and financial standards.”

Faster Wi-Fi on flights leads to battle in the sky

NEW YORK: Wi-Fi in the sky is taking off, promising much better connections for travelers and a bonanza for the companies that sell the systems.

With satellite-based Wi-Fi, Internet speeds on jetliners are getting lightning fast. And airlines are finding that travelers expect connections in the air to rival those on the ground – and at lower cost.

But the fast evolution of rival systems and standards, such as Ku band and Ka band, pose a big question for airlines: which one to choose?

Equipping fleets can cost hundreds of millions of dollars, and airlines don’t want to see their investment quickly become outdated due to newer technology. That’s made some cautious about signing up.

“We don’t want to end up with a Betamax,” said Peter Ingram, chieffinancial officer of Hawaiian Airlines, referring to the Sony video format that eventually lost out to the VHS standard, leaving many consumers with obsolete systems.

Hawaiian is still considering which system to use.

The drive for in-flight connectivity also has intensified after the disappearance on March 8 of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 with 239 people aboard. Search teams are scouring parts of the Indian Ocean for the missing aircraft, and it might have been better tracked if a satellite system capable of streaming cockpit data had been on board.

Global market

The US market for airborne Internet got a big boost last November after the US Federal Aviation Administration allowed passengers to use smartphones, tablets and e-readers throughout a flight, ending a long-standing ban on their use during takeoff and landing.

While the change hasn’t been adopted worldwide, the FAA’s move is expected to lead to greater use of devices, and bandwidth, on planes.

About 40 percent of US jetliners already have some Wi-Fi, but the race is on to wire the rest of a growing global fleet, and to make the existing connections better.

The number of commercial planes worldwide with Wi-Fi, cell service or both is expected to more than triple over the next 10 years, to 14,000 from about 4,000 currently, with much of that growth in Asia, according to research firm IHS.

Even with a tripling, only half of the worldwide fleet will be wired in 2022, suggesting demand for new systems will last longer.

Much of the US fleet will need upgrades to access satellites, since many planes currently are equipped for ground-based transmission, which is typically slower than satellite.

“Passengers of the future want to be connected when they want,” Chris Emerson, senior vice president of marketing at Airbus, told Reuters during the Aircraft Interiors Expo in Hamburg.

“Everyone wants Internet the way they have it on the ground, so it has to be cheap or free.”

Greater speed

Satellite technology will speed up onboard connections sevenfold, to about 70 megabits per second next year, fast enough to download a two-hour high-definition movie in about four minutes. Of course, that bandwidth will be shared among all of the users on the flight, which could number 200 or more.

Satellites also will allow service to reach developing markets in Asia and Latin America, and to offer expanded service in the U.S. and European markets.

Investors expect the global expansion and faster speeds will fuel greater use of services, with revenue split between the providers and the airlines.

It also will drive hardware sales, as airlines outfit aircraft with antennas, radios and routers. Honeywell, for example, makes fuselage-top antennas that link to the Global Xpress network provided by Inmarsat PLC, which operates on the Ka band.

In demonstrating the GX system at the Hamburg show, Honeywell said the system can deliver up to 50 megabits per second consistently around most of the globe, and it plans to test it on its own plane this summer, while Air China is expected to start trials with it in late 2014 or early 2015.

“GX is going to be a real game changer for airlines and their passengers from 2015 when the service comes online,” John Broughton, director of product marketing for GX at Honeywell, said in an interview.

A rival standard, Ku band, operates in a lower frequency band. While it may be able to achieve higher bandwidth than Ka band in certain areas, its overall connectivity is not as consistent, especially on long-haul flights over oceans, experts said.

Gogo used the Hamburg show to announce its 2Ku system, that will use a special dual antenna made by ThinKom Solutions Inc to raise the capacity of the Ku band system to 70 mbps, a leap from its current systems that operated at 3 to 10 mbps. Gogo also offers Ka band satellite connectivity and built its business on ground-based cell-tower technology in the United States.

“Betamax” risk

The improving systems mean customers will demand better connections. Some frequent fliers with status on several airlines say they choose flights based on Wi-Fi availability.

“It becomes an ante at the table,” said Jonathan Schildkraut, an analyst at Evercore Partners, which co-managed Gogo’s IPO last June.

But the variety of systems poses tough decisions for airlines, which risk choosing a technology that could become outdated.

Ingram, the CFO of Hawaiian Airlines, said the choice and cost of a system is especially important for his fleet since it mostly carries people on vacation – people who don’t want to be tethered to the office.

“The technology in the Wi-Fi space for trans-Pacific flying is still evolving,” he said, “so we haven’t made any final decisions yet.”

German airline Deutsche Lufthansa AG knows the perils. It originally worked with Connexion, a Boeing unit developing in-flight Wi-Fi that operated a decade ago but failed to attract enough customers.

“We were a little bit unfortunate,” CEO Christoph Franz said in an interview. “We had spent millions to equip our aircraft.”

Lufthansa has since outfitted more than 90 percent of its long-haul planes with satellite connectivity.

But it is taking a step-by-step approach for other planes, outfitting about 30 Airbus A321 aircraft with a system that can stream content from an onboard server to handheld devices, but doesn’t connect to the internet.

“We need a decent provider for that, but we didn’t want our customers to wait,” Franz said. He expects a “triple-digit-million” euro investment to outfit the full fleet.

“We are ready to do this,” he said. “But we have to look at the bill. We will see which system at the end of the day turns out to be the most affordable and the fastest.”

 

Sri Lanka offers $1 mln bonus to win T20

COLOMBO: The Sri Lankan team will be handed a million dollar bonus if they can shake off their reputation as chokers in the final of the World Twenty20 this weekend, the country’s cricket board announced Friday.

The day after the players won a rain-affected semi-final against the West Indies, Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) said it would treble the money it had previously promised if they return home from Bangladesh with the trophy.

“The Executive Committee of SLC which met at an emergency meeting this morning decided to offer $ 1.5 million (including the original fee of $500,000) to the national team players in the event that they win the final,” the board said in a statement.

Sri Lanka — who will meet in Sunday’s final in Dhaka — were the beaten finalists last time round when they lost to the West Indies even though they were the tournament hosts.

They have also been beaten in the final of the last two 50 over World Cups, meaning they have not won a major trophy since their victory in the 1996 World Cup under skipper Arjuna Ranatunga.

 

Creator says game over for maddening Flappy Bird

HANOI, Vietnam: The young Vietnamese creator of hit mobile game Flappy Bird has removed it from the App Store and Google Play saying it ruined his life.

The game which was uploaded in 2013 but only surged to the top in downloads earlier this year was removed early Monday.

The success of the game that based its appeal on being simple and also maddeningly difficult made its creator Nguyen Ha Dong, 29, a minor celebrity.

The game was downloaded more than 50 million times on App Store alone. In an interview with The Verge website, Dong said Flappy Bird was making $50,000 a day in advertising revenue

But tech blogger Carter Thomas said the sudden popularity of Flappy Bird might have been due to use of fake accounts run by computers to create downloads and reviews.

Thomas said he couldn’t prove his suspicion and that the success of Flappy Bird might also be explained by it being “just a wildly viral game.”

Dong, from Hanoi, wrote on Twitter on Saturday that the Internet sensation caused by the game “ruins my simple life” and he now hated it.

“I will take Flappy Bird down. I cannot take this anymore,” he wrote.

Dong had agreed to talk to The Associated Press about the game in an interview scheduled for Friday, but canceled.

On Twitter he didn’t address the inflated downloads allegation but denied suggestions he was withdrawing the game because it breached another game maker’s copyright.

“It is not anything related to legal issues. I just cannot keep it anymore,” he wrote.

Chelsea go top as Arsenal crushed at Liverpool

Eden Hazard Chelsea

An Eden Hazard hat-trick swept Chelsea back to the top of the Premier League on Saturday as they beat Newcastle United 3-0 at Stamford Bridge after morning leaders Arsenal were thrashed 5-1 at Liverpool.

High-scoring Manchester City, who started the day in second place and could have gone top, slipped to third after failing to find the net for the second successive game in a 0-0 draw at Norwich City who defended heroically.

With 13 games remaining Chelsea are top with 56 points followed by Arsenal on 55, Manchester City with 54 and Liverpool on 50.

Everton (45) and Tottenham Hotspur (44), fifth and sixth respectively, meet at White Hart Lane on Sunday.

Chelsea, described by manager Jose Mourinho this week as “the little horse” competing against the “big horses” of Arsenal and City, got their noses in front in the most open title race for years with a comprehensive victory over Newcastle.

The visitors had no answer to Hazard’s artistry with the Belgium winger scoring in the 27th and 34th minutes. His third goal came from the penalty spot after striker Samuel Eto’o was fouled by substitute Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa.

Mourinho though was unhappy with Chelsea’s first half performance despite them leading 2-0 at the break although he praised Hazard and said he could not understand why he had not won a Player of the Month award yet this season.

“We gave them too much freedom to play,” he told Sky Sports, “but after that we completely controlled the game”.

ARSENAL CRUSHED

Liverpool made a mockery of Arsenal being top, crushing them with a stunning display of attacking football that produced four goals in an astonishing first 20 minutes from Martin Skrtel (2), Raheem Sterling and Daniel Sturridge.

Sterling added a fifth early in the second half before Mikel Arteta scored a consolation for the Gunners from the penalty spot.

The victory put Liverpool back in the title race and, as manager Arsene Wenger conceded, raised questions about Arsenal’s ambitions.

Arsenal had conceded just four goals in eight unbeaten league matches before Liverpool went on the rampage.

Despite the emphatic win and Liverpool’s total dominance, which led bookmakers to cut the Merseyside club’s championship odds from 25-1 to 12-1, coach Brendan Rodgers played down title talk.

“Everything about our game was incredible today, it was an amazing performance against an outstanding team. The title has not been a target but we are improving and everything we did today was outstanding,” said Rodgers.

Wenger said: “It was a very poor day. It raises some questions today because we were caught many times and were naive.”

Arsenal will have a quick chance of avenging their first league defeat at Anfield since 2007 when the two sides meet in an FA Cup fifth-round tie at the Emirates next weekend.

MORAL VICTORY

Although Norwich and Manchester City failed to produce a goal at Carrow Road, the result was something of a moral victory for the Canaries who lost 7-0 at the Etihad Stadium in November.

The visitors, with 115 goals in all competitions this season, also failed to score in a 1-0 home defeat by Chelsea on Monday and only had two shots on target on Saturday.

Coach Manuel Pellegrini told the BBC: “We are frustrated because we could not win. We did all we could do but in front of us there was a team who defended very well.”

Although there were no goals at Norwich there were plenty elsewhere, leaving the bottom 11 teams separated by just eight points.

There were wins for Crystal Palace, who beat visiting West Bromwich Albion 3-1 with debutants Thomas Ince and Joe Ledley among the scorers, while West Ham United improved their chances of staying up with a Kevin Nolan double sinking Aston Villa 2-0.

Swansea City, playing their first match under caretaker coach Garry Monk following the departure of Michael Laudrup on Tuesday, beat arch-rivals Cardiff City 3-0 in the South Wales derby.

Goals from Wayne Routledge, Nathan Dyer and Wilfried Bony sent Swansea up to 10th in the table.

Palace climbed to 14th and West Ham to 15th but Sunderland’s relegation fears increased with a 2-0 home defeat by Hull City.

Sunderland were disadvantaged as early as the fourth minute when defender Wes Brown was sent off for the third time this season.

Despite their recent improvement Sunderland are fourth from bottom, one point and one place above West Brom who slipped into the drop zone with 23 points.

Cardiff are below them on 21 followed by bottom club Fulham (19) who visit Manchester United on Sunday.