May 21, 2020

Axios Login

By Ina Fried
Ina Fried

Reading Login has its perks. Among them, you will be better prepared to solve crossword puzzles. (Check out 14 across.)

Meanwhile, today's Login is 1,500 words, a 6-minute read.

1 big thing: Meet Jio, everyone's favorite Indian tech investment

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

It's been no secret that India's Jio Platforms has very big ambitions, but now it's getting support from some of the biggest tech heavyweights in the world, Axios' Kia Kokalitcheva reports.

Driving the news: In less than a month, the company has raised nearly $9 billion from private equity firms Silver Lake, Vista Equity Partners, and General Atlantic, as well as Facebook — which invested more than the three others combined — bringing Jio's total valuation now to $65 billion.

Why it matters: Tech investors looking for big returns and tech giants looking for new markets have fewer places to turn than ever before, and China, the biggest market of all, has been difficult to access. India is the next biggest prize on the planet.

The big picture: Jio Platforms is a subsidiary of Reliance Industries, created in 2019 to house the industrial and retail conglomerate's digital and telecom business.

  • Reliance first ventured into the telecom industry in 2010 with the acquisition of Infotel Broadband Services.
  • Today, Jio Platforms houses Reliance's broadband assets, along with a bevy of digital apps and services for everything from chat to e-commerce and work tools. It is also making investments in and acquiring other services like Savaan, a music streaming app.

By the numbers: Jio Platforms now has 388 million users in India, according to Reliance Industries' most recent financials, representing about 35% of market share.

  • It added 17.5 million wireless subscribers during the first calendar quarter, and its average revenue per user was 130.6 rupees ($1.73) per month.
  • It had revenue of $2.3 billion for the quarter, and a net profit of about $308 million, up 178% year-over-year.

Between the lines: Unlike most telecom companies in the world that control only one portion of the chain, "Jio is the only company that is omnipresent across all of them," Counterpoint Research senior analyst Hanish Bhatia tells Axios.

  • "It owns the digital ecosystem right from the network, devices, apps to retail. So Jio is much more than just a telecom firm now, it is a technology firm," he adds.
  • "Investors are betting on Jio being the infrastructure for India's shift to digital, and becoming a local mobile champion in a country dominated by foreign players like Facebook/WhatsApp and Google," Axios' Dan Primack recently noted.

Facebook's motives for forging a close partnership with Jio are not hard to imagine — that is, further solidifying its presence in the Indian market.

  • The companies already plan a partnership to let people use Facebook-owned Whatsapp — hugely popular in India — to shop via JioMart, which lets users order online from local businesses like grocery stores.
  • As for Jio Platforms, "social media is still a missing part of the puzzle," says Bhatia. "Facebook will further bolster Jio's capability to leverage these anonymized data trends and enable Jio to leverage the same to drive new revenue streams."

Yes, but: Jio still faces some challenges — namely, that it's still only getting started.

  • Jio's ambitions to touch every digital part of Indian consumers' lives means it'll have to go beyond smartphones.

What's next: Expect the company to take on a few more large investors and to go public within a couple of years.

2. Apple, Google release coronavirus notification tech

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Apple and Google said on Wednesday that they have finished the initial version of their exposure notification technology and are making it available to health authorities to build their apps. Both companies pushed the technology out through operating system updates.

Why it matters: The Bluetooth-based technology is designed to augment human contact tracing and offer a way for people to find out when someone they have been in close proximity with has tested positive for COVID-19.

Where it stands: Apple and Google said they have provided access to a number of U.S. states and 22 countries and expect more health authorities to take advantage of the technology in the coming weeks.

  • "Today, this technology is in the hands of public health agencies across the world who will take the lead and we will continue to support their efforts," the companies said.
  • North Dakota and Alabama were among the states that plan to quickly make use of the technology. It's not immediately clear how many states plan to use the technology or over what time frame.

Between the lines: The key question now is how broadly people will adopt the apps that use the technology. Apple and Google have sought to maximize privacy, in part to get the critical mass of users necessary to make the technology effective.

  • To protect privacy and limit the potential for abuse, the rules set by the companies require that no location data can be used, individuals have to voluntarily participate, and only health authorities are permitted to access the technology.

How it works: Under the Apple-Google technology, each participating user's phone will send out a random and frequently changing key to identify itself. If someone later reports they tested positive, their phone broadcasts out the keys it came in contact with, allowing those other users to be notified.

Separately: The same update that adds support for the exposure notification technology, iOS 13.5, also brings another COVID-19 related update. Apple has made it easier for users wearing masks to bypass the iPhone's face recognition technology and just enter a passcode.

3. Ad panel finds AT&T's "5GE" misleading

Screenshot: AT&T.com

For months now, AT&T has used the label "5G Evolution" and a 5GE logo on phones to describe a version of its LTE network. On Wednesday, the U.S. ad industry's review board found the designations misleading and recommended AT&T stop using the terms in advertising.

Why it matters: The designation was long bemoaned by journalists, analysts, competitors and even quietly by some at the company. AT&T said it has already stopped using the term in its advertising.

Background: T-Mobile had complained to the National Advertising Division about the ads and an initial review came down against AT&T. AT&T then appealed to the National Advertising Review Board, which upheld the earlier decision.

What they're saying: In a statement, AT&T said it respectfully disagrees with the ruling, but says that "as a supporter of the self-regulatory process" it will comply with the group's decision.

Yes but: It's unclear whether it will also stop displaying the 5GE logo on consumer devices. My iPhone still shows "5GE" as the network type when connecting here in San Francisco, for example.

Our thought bubble: It is not uncommon in the wireless industry for one or more companies to jump the gun and try to market something incremental as "the next G" — but the entire industry suffers when that happens. It will be hard enough for consumers to sort out the multiple flavors of 5G that really are 5G.

4. Accelerator aims to streamline airport security

A new consultancy run by former customs and homeland security officials is teaming with Dcode, a government tech accelerator, to help spur new technologies to modernize security in air travel.

Why it matters: As they look to return to more typical volume, airlines face the tricky task of needing to securely screen passengers for both security and health risks, while also ensuring they don't create long lines and crowds that themselves are a risk for coronavirus transmission.

Details:

  • Pangiam, run by former Customs, TSA and Homeland Security official Patrick Flanagan, is teaming with Dcode on Trade & Travel, an eight-week startup accelerator that will help incubate companies that have tech aimed at improving the passenger experience.
  • The partnership was formed before the coronavirus pandemic, but the task has taken on increased urgency in the COVID-19 era, Flanagan said. Securing air travel is further complicated because the sector is governed by a mix of agencies, airlines and airport authorities who often don't communicate, resulting in duplicative efforts, such as requiring travelers to pull out their IDs multiple times.

How it works: Trade & Travel's first cohort will consist of companies with technology approaches focused on passenger health and safety.

  • "You have no choice but to take some of these actions or the industry will struggle to get back on its feet," said Dcode CEO Meagan Metzger.
  • Applications will be accepted through mid-June, with a goal of starting the accelerator in September, likely online, perhaps transitioning to in-person.
  • Pangiam and Dcode are both for-profit efforts, with the accelerator charging participating companies.
5. Take Note

On Tap

  • T-Mobile CEO Mike Sievert is expected to announce the company's next "5G for Good" move later this morning.

Trading Places

  • Kelly Waldher, formerly of Qualtrics and Microsoft, has joined Google as VP of marketing for G Suite, per GeekWire.
  • Educational robot maker Sphero named former LittleBits President Paul Copioli as its new CEO, at the same time announcing it would spin off Company Six, a unit focused on robots for first responders. Former CEO Paul Berberian will be chairman of both companies.

ICYMI

  • Some students are failing their AP tests because the College Board can't process photos taken in the iPhone's native file format. (The Verge)
  • Researchers say nearly half of COVID-19 tweets are likely coming from bots. (NPR)
  • Parking thousands of airplanes all around the world is harder than you think. (CNET)
  • Magic Leap's Seattle landlord is suing over $52,000 in back rent. (GeekWire)
  • The FCC appears skeptical of the performance claims SpaceX is making of its planned satellite broadband network. (Ars Technica)
  • Amazon is reportedly bumping Prime Day, normally held in July, to September as it works to bring operations back up to speed. (Wall Street Journal)
  • Twitter has rolled out its option to let people limit who can reply to their tweets to select users on a testing basis. (Twitter)
  • A former Apple contractor has asked EU privacy officials to probe tech firms’ collection, storage and use of voice recordings. (Politico)
  • Facebook is using AI to notify users if a message they receive appears to come from a scammer or impostor. (Vox)
6. After you Login
via Twitter.com/pandamoanimum

Sometimes you have to look hard to find joy. Other times, it finds you, like this "Angela Lansbury as teapot" thread on Twitter.

Ina Fried