This and more in today’s edition of ETtech Top 5.
Also in this letter:
■ Byju’s in funding talks with TPG, sovereign funds
■ Spend four hours with Bard: Pichai to Google staff
■ ETtech Explainer: Why is Apple facing a CCI probe?
Telcos ask Trai to bring OTT communication platforms under its regulatory purview
The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) recently held an “informal consultation” to discuss sectorial issues such as communication over-the-top (OTT) regulation with telecom carriers and ecosystem players.
Quote unquote: “In an informal discussion, we talked broadly on matters such as OTT regulation, flexible use of satellite communication (satcom spectrum) and Universal Service Obligation Fund levy,” TRAI chairman PD Vaghela told us.
He added that operators sought application of ‘same service, same rules’ while asking to bring OTT players under the regulatory ambit.
The participants included representatives from Reliance Jio, Bharti Airtel, Vodafone Idea, Tata Communications, Tata Teleservices and Tejas Networks.
Industry demands: The industry has long been demanding a level-playing-field with communications OTTs, emphasising that regulatory conditions and licence treatment must be made uniformly applicable for similarly placed players.
Who are OTT players: OTT communication services include the likes of WhatsApp, Signal, Google Meet, Telegram and other similar apps.
These companies, however, oppose the move to be included under telecom laws, saying they are already regulated by the Information Technology Act and further regulation will stifle innovation.
Byju’s in funding talks with TPG, sovereign funds as debt weighs
Edtech giant Byju’s is in negotiations with investors including TPG to raise more than $500 million, a much-needed capital infusion that could help the world’s most valuable edtech startup stave off potential debt issues.
Details: Several investment firms, including TPG and two Middle Eastern sovereign wealth funds, have begun due diligence on the company, which is hoping to keep its valuation steady at about $22 billion during the financing, people familiar with the matter said.
Renegotiation on $1.2-billion loan pact: Byju’s, which grappled with mounting losses after the pandemic-era boom in online tutoring petered out, is in separate talks with creditors to renegotiate an agreement governing a $1.2 billion loan that’s in breach of covenants.
Losses, layoffs: The company in 2022 filed its audited financial results for the year ending March 2021, showing steep losses. Last year, it had said it would shed 2,500 workers ,or about 5% of its total workforce, and lower its marketing and sales costs, pledging to become profitable by March.
2,767 complaints against influencers processed: ASCI
The Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) on Thursday said it has processed 2,767 complaints since it came up with influencer guidelines in May 2021.
Most violations on Instagram: More than half of the violations were found on Meta-owned Instagram, followed by YouTube which contributed a third of them, the self-regulatory organisation for the advertising industry said. Modifications are needed in over 90% of the cases, it added.
Over 1,500 violations in FY22: The total violations stood at 1,592 in FY22, while in the first nine months of FY23, there were 1,175 complaints received. Instagram accounted for 53% of the violations in FY22, which rose to 65% in the first nine months of FY23, while in the case of YouTube, this declined from 37.8% to 27%.
Trust on influencers: The body also conducted a survey of 820 respondents. As much as 79% of them said they trust influencers and 90% said they have made purchases based on influencer endorsements.
Spend four hours with Bard: Pichai to Google staff
Days after Google’s AI chatbot Bard made a factual error in a demo video, Alphabet and Google CEO Sundar Pichai asked employees to spend two to four hours to test its responses. Meanwhile, Prabhakar Raghavan, Google’s vice president for search, asked staffers in an email on Wednesday to help the company make sure Bard gets answers right, according to the report.
Bard learns best by example: “Bard learns best by example, so taking the time to rewrite a response thoughtfully will go a long way in helping us to improve the mode,” the document to staff said. Staffers are encouraged to rewrite answers on topics they understand well. Google also instructed employees to give a “thumbs down” to answers that offer “legal, medical, financial advice” or are hateful and abusive.
Bard’s $100-billion blunder: Google’s generative AI chatbot Bard made a factual error on a query during a promotional video earlier this month after which shares in Google’s parent company Alphabet fell 7.7%, wiping $100 billion off its market value.
Employees stage walkout: About 250 employees from Alphabet Inc. subsidiary Google in Zurich walked out Wednesday to protest the company’s decision last month to cut about 6% of its global workforce.
The workers, with support from trade union Syndicom, walked away from their desks before lunchtime and assembled with placards outside one of two Google offices in the Swiss city, according to union spokesman Dominik Fitze.
Tweet of the day
ETtech Explainer: Will Apple meet the same fate as Google in CCI probe?
After Google, Apple may find itself in trouble as the Competition Commission of India (CCI) is close to completing its investigation into the app store and billing policies of the tech giant. The CCI may also ask the iPhone maker to change its app store billing and commission policies, like it did in the case of Google.
Reasons for probe: In December 2021, the competition regulator opened an investigation against Apple’s business practices in India following allegations by Together We Fight Society, a not-for-profit organisation, of “high” commission the company charges and the lack of third-party payment options.
CCI’s observation: In its order, CCI said the mandatory use of Apple’s in-app payment solution for paid apps and in-app purchases “restrict the choice available to the app developers to select a payment processing system of their choice especially considering when it charges a commission of up to 30% for app purchases and in-app purchases”
Commission levied by Apple: Apple levies a 30% commission from the sale of paid apps and in-app purchases of digital goods and services.
The Google precedence: Apple is anticipating that CCI will follow a similar trajectory in its case as the competition regulator did with Google. The company may be forced to reduce the commission it charges from developers, and provide third-party billing options. Google faced a similar investigation by CCI over the mandatory use of its Play Store’s payment system for paid apps and in-app purchases.
Today’s ETtech Top 5 newsletter was curated by Megha Mishra in Mumbai and Erick Massey in New Delhi. Graphics and illustrations by Rahul Awasthi.
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