This Week In Tech And Telco: DuckDuckGo Hits All Android Phones

Welcome back to your weekly roundup of tech and telco news. CES happened this week, meaning headlines have been flooded with proof of concepts and new releases as well as all things weird and wonderful in tech.

I’m sure you’re fed up with or have seen enough of those stories, so I’ve tried to avoid them in this blog. But if you haven’t had a chance to catch up with the latest CES announcements yet, TechRadar has a really good roundup.

Android users to choose default search engine

Android users will soon be given a choice between four search engines as their default, including Google, when setting up new devices.

The move follows a $5 billion fine from European Union competition regulators, which, in 2018, found Google had used its operating system to hinder other search engines – a decision Google has appealed.

The four options were determined by a blind bidding process in each market, meaning consumers across the globe will have different search engines to choose from. The process will be repeated every quarter.

Although Microsoft’s Bing will only appear in the UK, DuckDuckGo, which is powered by Bing, will appear in all 31 regions.

Info.com has also bagged a spot in all 31, a search engine company founded in 1996 by a former Microsoft employee.

Despite DuckDuckGo’s success, it joined other search engines in criticizing the auction.

“We believe a search preference menu is an excellent way to meaningfully increase consumer choice if designed properly,” a spokesperson said in a statement. “However, we still believe a pay-to-play auction with only 4 slots isn’t right because it means consumers won’t get all the choices they deserve and Google will profit at the expense of the competition.”

private browser DuckDuckGo to be an option on Android phones - tech
Photographer: Dawit | Source: Unsplash

Internet Disruption Report – December 2019

December’s Internet Disruption Report is here. It’s a long one, looking at DDoS attacks, power outages, and government direction, as well as cable, fiber, and network issues that hit the global internet in 2019.

There were a good few outages, cuts and attacks over the last month, including a nationwide power outage across the whole of Malta, just two days before Christmas.

Connectivity across the board looks disrupted, especially in emerging markets.

After an attack in September and again in December on South African provider Cool Ideas, South Africa’s Internet Service Providers’ Association (ISPA) has published its own report, detailing how it will tackle DDoS attacks in the future. DDoS needs to be taken seriously as the African connectivity market continues to grow.

  • The sixth annual review of telecoms infrastructure development in Africa has also been released. It looks at undersea cables, terrestrial backbone fiber, fiber-to-the-home licensed spectrum and much more. Read it here.

Almost everyone in tech and telco should be reading the Internet Disruption Report, given the internet is central in everything you do. Is your provider reliable? What are your competitors up to?

How disrupted has the internet been this month? Photographer: Leon Seibert

Ofcom begins major review of UK full fiber

Telecoms regulator Ofcom has launched its first combined Wholesale Fixed Telecoms Market Review (FTMR), suggesting major changes to boost investment in full fiber broadband and high capacity leased line services.

The release, which sets out proposals for the next five years, 2021-26, looks at both residential and business connectivity together, unlike previous reviews which tackled the markets separately and over a shorter time frame.

Setting out an in-depth, four-point plan, Ofcom’s suggestions support the Government’s efforts to boost 5G and full fiber connectivity.

They include the need for improving the business case for fiber investment, protecting customers and driving competition, supporting networks to deliver connectivity in more rural areas, and retiring copper networks for fiber without hindering customers.

Scotland: Will the UK's rural communities get full fiber? Photographer: Joe Gardner

Walmart to rival Amazon with edge computing and 5G

Walmart is taking a page from Amazon’s playbook with its latest plan to leverage edge computing and 5G tech to transform its supercenters.

The American supermarket giant, which owns British chain Asda, will install 5G antennas on its roof among other things, aimed at “providing customers with experiences they could not get from Amazon”.

According to Bloomberg, Walmart plans to convert stores into a catch-all solution with everything from rapid grocery and product deliveries to edge computing, for increasingly growing linked systems and potential colocation, while providing social experiences for customers not provided by rival Amazon.

Amazon Pickup & Returns on South St. in Philadelphia
Will Walmart take over Amazon? Photographer: Bryan Angelo

US advocates hands-off approach to AI in list of principles

The White House has unveiled 10 principles that federal agencies should bear in mind when legislating for artificial intelligence in the private sector, warning against regulatory “overreach.”

Any new laws or rules established by agencies should encourage “fairness, non-discrimination, openness, transparency, safety, and security”, among others, says the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP).

The OSTP is hoping Europe and other allies follow suit and “avoid heavy-handed innovation-killing models.”

“The best way to counter authoritarian uses of AI is to make sure America and our international partners remain the global hubs of innovation, shaping the evolution of technology in a manner consistent with our common values,” said the OSTP, quoted in The Verge.

Take My Hand robot tech
How much regulation does AI need? Photographer: Franck V.

Uber Air – Could we see flying taxis in just three years?

Hyundai and Uber are partnering to deliver flying taxis – named Uber Air – as early as 2023, the Korean carmaker revealed at CES.

Uber has partnered with several aerospace companies to develop concepts for its flying taxi dream, but Hyundai is the first automaker to get involved. And given Hyundai’s manufacturing experience, especially with electric vehicles, it’s easy to see how the partnership could flourish.

Under their partnership, Hyundai will produce and deploy the aircraft and Uber will manage the aerial rideshare network, including connections to ground transportation, reported Axios.

Credit: NBC

Other tech news we’re reading

  • SpaceX has launched a further 60 satellites into orbit, bringing the total number in its Starlink constellation to 180. This means SpaceX now operates the largest commercial satellite network, which will only grow further as plans to launch 60 Starlink satellites every two weeks moves forward. (Space)
  • Okay, I said no CES news, but this tech upgrade isn’t one you want to miss. New features are being rolled out to Bluetooth so the signal can operate better with low energy, with greater capabilities to manage and share audio streams between devices without overworking your devices. (Wired)
  • Dan Ball, who led the tech/telecom team as deputy policy director for the US Senate Commerce Committee, is moving over to Facebook as a director of connectivity and access. (Axios)
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