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PUBG Mobile plots return to India following ban

PUBG Mobile, the sleeper hit title that was banned in India two months ago over cybersecurity concerns, is plotting to make a return in the world’s second largest internet market, two sources familiar with the matter told TechCrunch.
The South Korean firm has engaged with global cloud service providers in recent weeks to store Indian users’ data within the country to allay New Delhi’s concerns about user data residency and security, one of the sources said.
The gaming giant has privately informed some high-profile streamers in the country that it expects to resume the service in India before the end of this year, the other source said. Both the sources requested anonymity as they are not authorized to speak to the press. PUBG Corporation did not respond to a request for comment Thursday.

The company could make an announcement about its future plans for India as soon as this week. It also plans to run a marketing campaign in the country during the festival of Diwali next week, one of the sources said.
In recent weeks, PUBG has also engaged with a number of local firms, including SoftBank-backed Paytm and telecom giant Airtel, to explore whether they would be interested in publishing the popular mobile game in the country, an industry executive said. A Paytm spokesperson declined to comment.
Chinese giant Tencent initially published PUBG Mobile apps in India. After New Delhi banned PUBG Mobile, the gaming firm cut publishing ties with Tencent in the country. Prior to the ban, PUBG Mobile’s content was hosted on Tencent Cloud.
Late last month, two months after the ban order, PUBG Mobile terminated its service for Indian users. “Protecting user data has always been a top priority and we have always complied with applicable data protection laws and regulations in India. All users’ gameplay information is processed in a transparent manner as disclosed in our privacy policy,” it said at the time.

PUBG Mobile to terminate access for users in India on October 30 following ban order

With more than 50 million monthly active users in India, PUBG Mobile was by far the most popular mobile game in the country before it was banned. It helped establish an entire ecosystem of esports organisations and even a cottage industry of streamers that made the most of its spectator sport-friendly gameplay, said Rishi Alwani, a long-time analyst of Indian gaming market and publisher of news outlet The Mako Reactor.
PUBG Mobile’s return, however, could complicate matters for several industry players, including some that are currently building similar games to cash in on its absence and their conversations with venture capital firms over ongoing financing rounds.
It would also suggest that more than 200 other Chinese apps that India has banned in recent months could hope to allay New Delhi’s concerns by making some changes to where they store their users’ data. (That was also the understanding between TikTok and Reliance when they engaged in investment opportunities earlier this year.)

ByteDance in talks with India’s Reliance for investment in TikTok

PUBG Mobile plots return to India following ban

PUBG Mobile to terminate access for users in India on October 30 following ban order

PUBG Mobile, the sleeper hit mobile game, will terminate all service and access for users in India on October 30, two months after New Delhi banned the game in the world’s second largest internet market over cybersecurity concerns.
India on September 2 banned PUBG Mobile Nordic Map: Livik and PUBG Mobile Lite, along with more than 100 apps with links to China. The ban came after India banned TikTok and dozens of other popular Chinese apps in late June.
These apps were “prejudicial to sovereignty and integrity of India, defence of India, security of state and public order,” the country’s IT Ministry said on both the instances.

India bans PUBG Mobile, and over 100 other Chinese apps

But unlike other affected apps that became unavailable within days — if not hours — PUBG Mobile apps remained accessible in the country for users who already had them installed on their phones, tablets and PCs. In fact, according to one popular mobile insight firm, PUBG Mobile had retained more than 90% of its monthly active users in the country, a mobile-first market where 99% of smartphones run Android, in the weeks following New Delhi’s order.
(Following the ban, Google and Apple pulled PUBG Mobile apps from their app stores in India. But soon enough, guides on how to work around the ban and obtain and install the apps became popular on several forums.)
PUBG Mobile had about 50 million monthly active users in India, tens of millions of users ahead of Call of Duty: Mobile and Fortnite and any other mobile game in the country.
“PUBG Mobile kickstarted an entire ecosystem — from esports organisations to teams and even a cottage industry of streamers that made the most of its spectator sport-friendly gameplay,” said Rishi Alwani, a long-time analyst of Indian gaming market and publisher of news outlet The Mako Reactor.
“Granted Tencent did a lot of the heavy lifting in building it out, but the game’s quality itself was heads and shoulders above what most Indians were used to on smartphones. And that’s a reason many kept coming back, some eventually monetising as well,” he added.

India bans TikTok, dozens of other Chinese apps

South Korea-headquartered PUBG Mobile attempted to assuage New Delhi’s concern by cutting ties with Tencent, the game’s publishing and distribution partner in India.
On Thursday, PUBG Mobile said, “protecting user data has always been a top priority and we have always complied with applicable data protection laws and regulations in India. All users’ gameplay information is processed in a transparent manner as disclosed in our privacy policy.”
“We deeply regret this outcome, and sincerely thank you for your support and love for PUBG Mobile in India,” it added.

PUBG cuts publishing ties with Tencent Games in India a week after ban

PUBG Mobile to terminate access for users in India on October 30 following ban order

US beat China on App Store downloads for first time since 2014, due to coronavirus impact

The U.S. App Store’s downloads have surpassed China’s downloads for the first time since 2014. According to data from Sensor Tower’s Q2 2020 report, out today, the U.S. App Store saw 27.4% year-over-year growth in the quarter, compared to the 2.1% growth for the China App Store. During the quarter, the U.S. App Store generated 2.22 billion new installs compared with China’s 2.06 billion downloads, to regain the top position. This then translated to the U.S. beating China on App Store consumer spend, as well.
Contributing to the shift was the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on both China and the U.S.
The U.S. surpassed China on installs beginning in April and lasting all the way through June, the firm found.
China in Q2, meanwhile, was coming down from its own abnormally high number of downloads in March and April, due to COVID-19. But as its download figures began to normalize, the pandemic was wreaking havoc in the U.S., where it hit slightly later.
This led to the U.S. to see a surge in downloads, as suddenly the population was forced to work from home, attend school from home and entertain themselves at home with apps, games and streaming services.
Image Credits: Sensor Tower
Sensor Tower tells TechCrunch there was particularly significant growth in U.S. business and education apps in Q2, as a result. These categories were the largest contributors to the U.S. surpassing China’s installs.
Business app downloads grew 133.3% in Q2, followed by education (84.4%), health & fitness (57.7%), news 44.9%) and social networking (42.4%).
Image Credits: Sensor Tower
Video conferencing app Zoom, in particular, had a breakout quarter and even shattered the record for App Store installs, with nearly 94 million total downloads in a single quarter. The prior record had been set by TikTok, which had in Q1 2020 seen 67 million downloads in a single quarter. No other non-game app has ever surpassed 50 million installs in a quarter, Sensor Tower noted.
TikTok still had a strong Q2, with nearly 71 million App Store downloads in the quarter, representing 154% year-over-year growth. Its top two download markets were both the U.S. and China — the latter where it’s known as Douyin.
Image Credits: Sensor Tower
Mobile gaming was also a big hit in the U.S., as people stayed home under government lockdowns. Top mobile games by App Store downloads included titles like Save The Girl, Roblox, Go Knots 3D, Coin Master, Tangle Master 3D, Fishdom, ASMR Slicing, Call of Duty: Mobile and others.
On this front, Roblox had a stellar quarter as kids stayed at home and went online gaming, due to being disconnected from school and their playmates in real life. Roblox’s gaming app shot up the U.S. rankings from No. 11 in Q1 2020 to No. 2 in Q2, and achieved a new high of 8.6 million downloads in the quarter.
Rollic Games had two hits in the quarter, Go Knots 3D and Tangle Master 3D, each with over 5 million App Store downloads. Its Repair Master 3D title also came in at No. 20.
Both Zoom and Rollic Games were the only new top publishers to find themselves in the top 10 on the App Store in Q2, the report found.
Image Credits: Sensor Tower
Though the U.S. surpassed China in the quarter for the first time in years, the rest of the top five — Japan, Great Britain and Russia — remained the same as last quarter, though growing on a year-over-year basis.
Related to the surge of new downloads, the U.S. also surpassed China on consumer spending on the App Store for the first time since Q4 2018 — but that was only by 1.6% (around $53 million). In Q2 2020, the U.S. surpassed China by 14%, or about $717 million.
The U.S. also saw more significant quarter-over-quarter growth in spending during the COVID-19 outbreak, growing 20% between Q1 and Q2. In China, the consumer spending growth on the App Store was just 5% between Q4 2019 and Q1 2020, when it felt the full impact of the virus.

US beat China on App Store downloads for first time since 2014, due to coronavirus impact

Rapid Huawei rip-out could cause outages and security risks, warns UK telco

The chief executive of UK incumbent telco BT has warned any government move to require a rapid rip-out of Huawei kit from existing mobile infrastructure could cause network outages for mobile users and generate its own set of security risks.
Huawei has been the focus of concern for Western governments including the US and its allies because of the scale of its role in supplying international networks and next-gen 5G, and its close ties to the Chinese government — leading to fears that relying on its equipment could expose nations to cybersecurity threats and weaken national security.
The UK government is widely expected to announce a policy shift tomorrow, following reports earlier this year that it would reverse course on so called “high risk” vendors and mandate a phase out of use of such kit in 5G networks by 2023.
Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today program this morning, BT CEO Philip Jansen said he was not aware of the detail of any new government policy but warned too rapid a removal of Huawei equipment would carry its own risks.
“Security and safety in the short term could be put at risk. This is really critical — because if you’re not able to buy or transact with Huawei that would mean you wouldn’t be able to get software upgrades if you take it to that specificity,” he said.
“Over the next five years we’d expect 15-20 big software upgrades. If you don’t have those you’re running gaps in critical software that could have security implications far bigger than anything we’re talking about in terms of managing to a 35% cap in the access network of a mobile operator.”
“If we get a situation where things need to go very, very fast then you’re in a situation where potentially service for 24M BT Group mobile customers is put into question,” he added, warning that “outages would be possible”.
Back in January the government issued a much delayed policy announcement setting out an approach to what it dubbed “high risk” 5G vendors — detailing a package of restrictions it said were intended to mitigate any risk, including capping their involvement at 35% of the access network. Such vendors would also be entirely barred them from the sensitive “core” of 5G networks. However the UK has faced continued international and domestic opposition to the compromise policy, including from within its own political party.
Wider geopolitical developments — such as additional US sanctions on Huawei and China’s approach to Hong Kong, a former British colony — appear to have worked to shift the political weather in Number 10 Downing Street against allowing even a limited role for Huawei.
Asked about the feasibility of BT removing all Huawei kit, not just equipment used for 5G, Jansen suggested the company would need at least a decade to do so.
“It’s all about timing and balance,” he told the BBC. “If you wanted to have no Huawei in the whole telecoms infrastructure across the whole of the UK I think that’s impossible to do in under ten years.”
If the government policy is limited to only removing such kit from 5G networks Jansen said “ideally” BT would want seven years to carry out the work — though he conceded it “could probably do it in five”.
“The current policy announced in January was to cap the use of Huawei or any high risk vendor to 35% in the access network. We’re working towards that 35% cap by 2023 — which I think we can make although it has implications in terms of roll out costs,” he went on. “If the government makes a policy decision which effectively heralds a change from that announced in January then we just need to understand the potential implications and consequences of that.
“Again we always — at BT and in discussions with GCHQ — we always take the approach that security is absolutely paramount. It’s the number one priority. But we need to make sure that any change of direction doesn’t lead to more risk in the short term. That’s where the detail really matters.”
Jansen fired a further warning shot at Johnson’s government, which has made a major push to accelerate the roll out of fiber wired broadband across the country as part of a pledge to “upgrade” the UK, saying too tight a timeline to remove Huawei kit would jeopardize this “build out for the future”. Instead, he urged that “common sense” prevail.
“There is huge opportunity for the economy, for the country and for all of us from 5G and from full fiber to the home and if you accelerate the rip out obviously you’re not building either so we’ve got to understand all those implications and try and steer a course and find the right balance to managing this complicated issue.
“It’s really important that we very carefully weigh up all the different considerations and find the right way through this — depending on what the policy is and what’s driving the policy. BT will obviously and is talking directly with all parts of government, [the National] Cyber Security Center, GCHQ, to make sure that everybody understands all the information and a sensible decision is made. I’m confident that in the end common sense will prevail and we will head down the right direction.”
Asked whether it agrees there are security risks attached to an accelerated removal of Huawei kit, the UK’s National Cyber Security Centre declined to comment. But a spokesperson for the NCSC pointed us to an earlier statement in which it said: “The security and resilience of our networks is of paramount importance. Following the US announcement of additional sanctions against Huawei, the NCSC is looking carefully at any impact they could have to the U.K.’s networks.”
We’ve also reached out to DCMS for comment. Update: A government spokesperson said: “We are considering the impact the US’s additional sanctions against Huawei could have on UK networks. It is an ongoing process and we will update further in due course.”

Rapid Huawei rip-out could cause outages and security risks, warns UK telco

China’s GPS competitor is now fully launched

For decades, the United States has had a monopoly on positioning, navigation and timing technology with its Global Positioning System (GPS), a constellation of satellites operated by the military that today provides the backbone for location on billions of devices worldwide.
As those technologies have become not just key to military maneuvers but the very foundation of modern economies, more and more governments around the world have sought ways to decouple from usage of the U.S.-centric system. Russia, Japan, India, the United Kingdom and the European Union have all made forays to build out alternatives to GPS, or at least, to augment the system with additional satellites for better coverage.

The GPS wars have begun

Few countries, though, have made the investment that China has made into its Beidou (北斗) GPS alternative. Over 20 years, the country has spent billions of dollars and launched nearly three dozen satellites to create a completely separate system for positioning. According to Chinese state media, nearly 70% of all Chinese handsets are capable of processing signals from Beidou satellites.
Now, the final puzzle piece is in place, as the last satellite in the Beidou constellation was launched Tuesday morning into orbit, according to the People’s Daily.
It’s just another note in the continuing decoupling of the United States and China, where relations have deteriorated over differences of market access and human rights. Trade talks between the two countries have reached a standstill, with one senior Trump administration advisor calling them off entirely. The announcement of a pause in new issuances of H-1B visas is also telling, as China is the source of the second largest number of petitions, according to USCIS, the country’s immigration agency.

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While the completion of the current plan for Beidou offers Beijing new flexibility and resiliency for this critical technology, ultimately, positioning technologies are mostly not adversarial — additional satellites can offer more redundancy to all users, and many of these technologies have the potential to coordinate with each other, offering more flexibility to handset manufacturers.
Nonetheless, GPS spoofing and general hacking of positioning technologies remains a serious threat. Earlier this year, the Trump administration published a new executive order that would force government agencies to develop more robust tools to ensure that GPS signals are protected from hacking.

Trump administration aims to protect GPS with new exec order

Given how much of global logistics and our daily lives are controlled by these technologies, further international cooperation around protecting these vital assets seems necessary. Now that China has its own fully working system, they have an incentive to protect their own infrastructure as much as the United States does to continue to provide GPS and positioning more broadly to the highest standards of reliability.

China’s GPS competitor is now fully launched