Internet bans cost India’s mobile carriers millions in lost revenue

Internet services were suspended in Kashmir in a bid to end protests. (AFP)
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Updated 28 December 2019

Internet bans cost India’s mobile carriers millions in lost revenue

  • On Friday, mobile Internet was ordered shut in at least 18 districts in northern Uttar Pradesh state

NEW DELHI: Indian mobile operators are losing around 24.5 million rupees ($350,000) in revenue every hour they are forced to suspend Internet services on government orders to control protests against a new citizenship law, a top lobby group said on Friday.

Countrywide protests have raged for three weeks after India’s Parliament passed legislation that gives minorities from neighboring Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh a path to citizenship but excludes Muslims.

That, coupled with a plan for a national register of citizens, are seen by critics as anti-Muslim moves by the Hindu nationalist government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

To quell protests, the government has deployed thousands of police and intermittently ordered mobile data shutdowns at a time people have used social media such as Instagram and TikTok to wage a parallel battle online.

Such Internet suspensions have been criticized by Internet freedom activists.

On Friday, mobile Internet was ordered shut in at least 18 districts in northern Uttar Pradesh state.

A Reuters witness received a text message from an Internet service provider announcing that home broadband services on the outskirts of capital New Delhi will be unavailable for 24 hours, till the morning of Dec 28.

FASTFACT

9.8GB

Indians consume an average 9.8 gigabyte of data per month on their smartphones, the highest in the world.

Indians consume an average 9.8 gigabyte of data per month on their smartphones, the highest in the world, according to Swedish telecoms gearmaker Ericsson. The country is the biggest market by users for social media firm Facebook and its messenger WhatsApp.

Internet shutdowns should not be first course of action, said the Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI), which counts mobile carriers Bharti Airtel, Vodafone Idea and Reliance Industries’ Jio Infocomm among its members.

“We’ve highlighted the cost of these shutdowns,” COAI director-general Rajan Mathews said.

“According to our computation at the end of 2019, with the increase in online activities we believe the cost (of Internet shutdowns) is close to 24.5 million rupees for an hour of Internet shutdown.”

The revenue losses will add to the woes of India’s telecoms sector, bruised by a price war and saddled with a combined $13 billion in overdue payments following a Supreme Court ruling in October.

Bharti, Vodafone Idea and Reliance Jio did not respond to emails seeking comment.

The bans follows an unprecedented shutdown of Internet and text messaging services in parts of New Delhi last week, widening a communications clampdown in areas stretching from disputed Kashmir to the northeast.

Internet services in Indian Kashmir were suspended for over 140 days after New Delhi relegated its status to a federal administered territory from a state, making it the longest such shutdown in a democracy, according to digital rights group Access Now.


Aramco international listing ‘still on the cards’: Saudi finance minister

Updated 46 min 38 sec ago

Aramco international listing ‘still on the cards’: Saudi finance minister

  • The minister said that he was “very confident” that the Saudi economy was picking up speed
  • He said that international investors had responded positively to ongoing reforms in the Kingdom

LONDON: Saudi Finance Minister Mohammed Al-Jadaan said that an international listing of Saudi Aramco was “still on the cards” but likely won’t happen soon.
He made the disclosure in an interview with Bloomberg News at the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland on Wednesday.
The minister also said that he was “very confident” that the Saudi economy was picking up speed, as the Kingdom successfully completed a $5 billion bond sale this week after receiving orders for four times as much.
“Yesterday showed very clearly that demand for Saudi credit is very high and very healthy. We are very pleased not only with the level of debt but also the pricing,” he said. “Demand is very positive. We are starting seeing results of Vision 2030. The numbers are proving that reform is working. We are basically cashing on the successes.
The minister said that international investors had responded positively to ongoing reforms in the Kingdom.
“I think investors are focusing on fundamentals,” he said. “They see the growth they see the potential. We are seeing a growth in FDI, a growth in the number of applications for licenses. The confidence is back in a strong way.”