Huawei Technologies, �Bruce Einhorn, with Bhuma Shrivastava
thinking goes—what users need is a bigger pipe.
Much bigger. From 2014 to 2019, Cisco Systems estimates, India’s monthly mobile data traffic will swell 13-fold, to 1.1 billion gigabytes, and by 2019 streaming video will account for three-quarters of total Internet use, up from about half today. Netflix launched its India service in January.
Among the companies proposing piecemeal solutions are Google, Microsoft, and the Chinese maker of wireless equipment. Google is installing free Wi-fi in 100 railway stations throughout India this year, beginning in Mumbai. Microsoft is testing whether unused slices of the TV spectrum can reliably deliver Wi-fi instead. Huawei is working with mobile operators to improve the efficiency of their existing networks. Huawei says it’s been able to increase speeds for clients by as much as 30 percent, in part by replacing outmoded equipment.
For companies that offer streaming video, that probably won’t be enough. Yet some providers are finding ways to cope. Vuclip, a Silicon Valley subsidiary of Hong Kong telecom company PCCW, delivers videos to 9 million customers in emerging markets, more than half of whom are in India, where networks may officially be 3G but in reality “vary all over the place,” says Chief Executive Officer Nickhil Jakatdar. “It’s like it depends on the phases of the moon.” Because unreliable networks can easily lead to long buffering delays, Vuclip’s system automatically adjusts the resolution of its video stream to match the conditions of the network so there are no interruptions. In one three-minute video, Jakatdar says, Vuclip may change the quality about a dozen times. The goal, he says, is to “provide a buffer-free experience for the consumer.”
Other companies are using similar strategies. Star India, part of Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox, launched a video streaming service called Hotstar last year that the company says is designed to play “on mobile networks with inconsistent throughput.” Sony, Warner Bros., and Singapore Telecommunications last June rolled out HOOQ, another video service, with an offline mode and a bandwidth indicator that tells users how good the connection is. In November the Indian arm of Norwegian mobile operator Telenor introduced a streaming service that makes it easy for users to download content during off-peak hours and watch it later without Net connections.
To reduce delays, some companies are turning to data center operators such as New York-based GPX Global Systems. GPX will expand its Mumbai center to help customers including Amazon Web Services connect with Indian consumers locally rather than via servers in locations such as Singapore. “The pace has picked up because customers are now demanding a better experience,” says Manoj Paul, president and chief operating officer of GPX in India. By using locally based servers, he says, “the pipe is bigger and cheaper.”
One question is whether India’s government will allow the traffic to flow. Cloudflare, a data center operator based in San Francisco, avoided India for years because of worries about government policies toward foreign companies. “We heard horror stories,” says CEO Matthew Prince. “For a very long time we saw a huge amount of customer demand, but we were spooked a little bit by the regulatory risk.” The pro-business rhetoric of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who took office in mid2014, encouraged Cloudflare to put those worries aside. Over the past seven months the company has opened three data centers in the country. Prince says India’s rejection of Free Basics has introduced new uncertainty for foreign companies. “A lot of people are trying to figure out what will play out given what happened to Facebook,” he says.
So far, the government isn’t providing much reassurance. Although it’s allowed Google and Microsoft to proceed with some trials, Telecommunications Department spokesman N.N. Kaul says the regulator isn’t ready to say whether it will approve their plans to expand Internet access in the countryside. “Let the technology be ready for adoption by the country,” he says. “Then we’ll decide.”
10% Roughly the share of the world’s 1.4 billion Android phones that are encrypted, experts told the Wall Street Journal for a March 14 report
India’s estimated monthly mobile data traffic in gigabytes
by 2019 of iphones are encrypted, the
experts said The bottom line India’s mobile data traffic may grow 13-fold by 2019, so foreign tech giants are learning to live with regulatory uncertainty.
into a dumpster on her street. A robot also warns Mascitelli about a possible gas leak and later brings her a glass of water and a bottle of vitamins.
These scenes are from a video promoting the European research project Robot-era, which recently concluded the world’s largest real-life trial of robot aides for the elderly. About 160 seniors in Italy and Sweden tested the robots during the fouryear project, which received €6.5 million ($7.2 million) from the European Commission and €2.2 million from partners including Italian manufacturer Robotech and Apple supplier Stmicroelectronics. Now Robot-era manager Filippo Cavallo and fellow professors at the Biorobotics Institute at the Sant’anna School of Advanced Studies outside Pisa have started a company called Co-robotics to commercialize the technology. “The robots in the video are ready” for more testing, says Cavallo, who plans to start selling them as soon as next year.
As part of a plan to strengthen the region’s robotics industry, the European Commission is investing tens of millions of euros annually in technology to help the elderly. The projects may not be as sensational as Toshiba’s android, Chihiraaico, which resembles a Japanese woman, or Honda’s humanoid assistant, Asimo, but the results are on “the same level or even more advanced,” says Uwe Haass, a former secretary- general of Eurobotics, a nonprofit advocacy group in Brussels that works with the commission.
Backed by €4.3 million from the European Commission and partners such as Siemens and Telecom Italia, a project called Acanto launched in February 2015 to make robotic walkers that encourage seniors to exercise and socialize. About 100 seniors in Spain, Italy, and the U.K. will test the devices before the experiment concludes in 2018. The goal is to have a version of the walker for hospitals and a less expensive one for families priced for less than €2,000, says Luigi Palopoli, the University of Trento computer engineering professor overseeing the
“The commission has very clear goals around the use of robotics in the field of active and healthy aging.” �Andy Bleaden, external evaluator for projects seeking European Commission funding