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Coronavirus Lockdown Parenting Help is Here: Audible Audiobooks Are Free With a Cool Library For Kids

The ongoing Coronavirus pandemic has forced the nation into a lockdown, specifically for 21-days (Till April 14) as announced by PM Narendra Modi. While some have confined themselves to the comfort of social media, others are learning new recipes, working out at home or just ranking up on PUBG Mobile. If the lockdown hasn’t been very pleasant for you, especially if you have kids, here’s something interesting for you.

Audible has announced that it is making hundreds of its audiobooks in six languages free of cost. The free collection is primarily aimed at children and families and includes popular titles like Aladdin, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Winnie the Pooh and many more.

“For as long as schools are closed, we’re open. Starting today, kids everywhere can instantly stream an incredible collection of stories, including titles across six different languages, that will help them continue dreaming, learning and just being kids. The stories were hand-picked by our Audible editors and offer a mix of education, entertainment and general-interest titles, from the classic to the contemporary, with a focus on stories that are suitable for children,” said Audible in its announcement.

One can access the free catalogue through a web browser and users don’t require to enter any payment or personal details. Categories that fall under the free section include littlest listeners, elementary, tween, teen, and literary classics. The six languages that are currently available are – English, Spanish, French, German, Italian and Chinese Mandarin.

“I am using it much more now to keep my 7-year old engaged, who is addicted to hearing stories. The collection for kids is quite good. The best part is it keeps kids off-screen, giving them ample scope for igniting their imagination,” said Ranita Sengupta, Mother & IT professional.

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Mobile Networks Expected to Improve During Coronavirus Lockdown

Image for Representation.

Image for Representation.

The digital industry has decided to act immediately in the larger national and consumer interest and to ensure the robustness of the cellular network.

  • IANS
  • Last Updated: March 25, 2020, 4:03 PM IST

The Prime Ministers call for social distancing and now a total lockdown has led to people staying at their homes. This has caused an unprecedented surge in mobile internet consumption. As a result, the government and the telecom operators are concerned about its potential impact on the cellular network infrastructure.

The digital industry is acutely aware of this challenge and is committed to ensuring that all citizens are able to access mobile networks wherever and whenever they want. In order to achieve this, a meeting was organized on Tuesday by Uday Shankar, Chairman, Star & Disney India, with key stakeholders of the digital industry. The meeting, held virtually, was attended by NP Singh (Sony), Sanjay Gupta (Google), Ajit Mohan (Facebook), Sudhanshu Vats (Viacom18), Gaurav Gandhi (Amazon Prime Video), Punit Goenka (Zee), Nikhil Gandhi (Tiktok), Ambika Khurana (Netflix), Karan Bedi (MX Player) and Varun Narang (Hotstar).

The digital industry has decided to act immediately in the larger national and consumer interest and to ensure the robustness of the cellular network. It was unanimously agreed that as an exceptional measure, all companies will immediately adopt measures, including temporarily defaulting HD and ultra-HD streaming to SD content or offering only SD content, at bitrates no higher than 480p on cellular networks. These voluntary measures will be in effect until April 14. All participants are immediately taking measures.

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Apple Shuts Production of iPhone in India Due to Coronavirus Lockdown

Apple is reportedly suspending iPhone production in India up until April 14. The decision comes after PM Narender Modi announced a nationwide lockdown on Tuesday evening. This essentially means that Foxconn and Wistron, manufacturers for iPhones in the country, are shutting down their production facilities to comply with orders.

While Foxconn has confirmed to suspend its operations until April 14, a representative from Wistron has also confirmed the shutdown without giving any broad details. Now since Foxconn or Wistron haven’t provided any information as to what all devices will be impacted, it is assumed only the older iPhone models will be affected which include the iPhone XR and iPhone SE among others.

The two manufacturers not only produce smartphones for Apple, but also for the number smartphone seller in the country, Xiaomi. As of now there hasn’t been any information from the company regarding the production shutdown. Various other smartphone makers are also said to be impacted due to the Coronavirus nationwide lockdown including the likes of the Vivo, Oppo and Realme.

The ongoing Coronavirus pandemic has also restricted smartphone companies to restrict their launches to online-only events. But the recent nationwide lockdown is definitely going to have a big impact on inventory and production.

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#StayHome: Netflix is Reducing Video Quality to Ease Internet Access in India

It was reported yesterday that the Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) had written to over-the-top (OTT) streaming platforms requesting them to temporarily move to SD (Standard Definition) rather than HD (High Definition) streaming. As a response, Netflix has announced that it is lowering video quality in India for the next 30 days. The move has been taken by the streaming company to reduce network traffic. The ongoing Coronavirus pandemic has led to an increased need for internet services as people have been advised to isolate themselves at home.

According to Netflix, this will not affect the video resolution so you will still get HD and 4K quality depending on the plan you have paid for. The company is lowering bitrates which is expected to cut traffic by 25 percent. A similar change was implemented by the company in Europe last week.

“Given the crisis, we’ve developed a way to reduce Netflix’s traffic on telecommunications networks by 25 percent while also maintaining the quality of our service. Consumers should continue to get the quality that comes with their plan, whether it’s ultra-high, high- or standard-definition. We believe that this will provide significant relief to congested networks and will be deploying it in India for the next 30 days,” said Netflix’s VP of content delivery, Ken Florance in a statement.

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Your Video Streaming Quality Could Soon Drop Due to the Coronavirus Outbreak

As of now, Netflix is the only streaming platform that has pledged to make changes to its service so as to help in reducing internet traffic in India. A majority of Indians have been using Netflix’s mobile plan priced at Rs 199 that streams only in standard-definition (SD) on their mobile phones. Even Hotstar, which is one of the most popular OTT players in India said that most of its users are streaming at SD since they are on the basic ad-supported tier.

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Chinese Factories Running Round The Clock Making Ventilators For the World

For representation: A child being treated for coronavirus in China. (Reuters)

For representation: A child being treated for coronavirus in China. (Reuters)

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo had said last week that the state had about 5,000 to 6,000 ventilators but it might need 30,000 of them.

  • News18.com
  • Last Updated: March 24, 2020, 1:44 PM IST

Chinese company Beijing Aeonmed has reportedly been working 24/7 since January 20 to make ventilators in a bid to combat the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. While it managed to meet the country’s needs two weeks ago, the factory continues to work non-stop on various orders from overseas. The company has employed three shifts with research and development staff also put on the production line.

As the death toll rises, one of the biggest requirements of doctors from Milan to New York is ventilators. A ventilator can help a Covid-19 patient breathe and determine if he lives or dies. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo had said last week that the state had about 5,000 to 6,000 ventilators but it might need 30,000 of them.

Business is at an all-time high as orders are rolling-in from dozens of countries, some of which are chartering planes or using military aircraft to pick up the machines. “There’s literally no country in the world that doesn’t want to buy a ventilator from China right now. We have tens of thousands of orders waiting. The issue is how fast we can make them,” said Li Kai, director of Beijing Aeonmed.

Aeonmed isn’t the only Chinese company pushing the boundaries to build ventilators. “All the ventilator factories in China have reached their maximum capacity, occupied fully by foreign demand,” said Wu Chuanpu, director of supply chain at Vedeng.com. Vedeng is one of the main platforms in China connecting medical equipment suppliers and buyers. Factories have orders to keep them at full capacity until May, adds Wu. Vedeng is getting over 60 to 70 new orders every day, each asking for hundreds or thousands of ventilators.

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Coronavirus Oubreak: Extra-Marital App Gleeden Subscriptions Jump by 70% in India

In COVID-19 times, love seems to be blossoming on online dating platforms and extra-marital dating app Gleeden has seen subscriptions increased by over 70 percent in India as more people stay home, the company said on Monday. Gleeden which has registered a longer time spent on the website globally said it expects subscriptions to rise further in India as most parts of the country are observing lockdown till March 31.

The extra-marital dating app Gleeden has seen longer threads in chats (2.5 times longer than usual), an increase in the upload of pictures in both public and especially private albums and in the number of members who are updating their profiles with a new description. Gleeden started its operations in India in 2017 and now claims to have over 8 lakh active Indian users.

In Italy, where mandatory quarantine started on March 4, the platform has seen a boom in subscriptions after the first week that has tripled in the past two weeks. “The traffic on the website has been increasing by 300 percent and the time spent on the website went from an average of 2 hours to a current average of 3 hours every day in Italy,” said Gleeden. More and more people are using Gleeden to meet strangers (online) or spending their time in order to know people in a better way than they were already talking to. In France and Spain, where the lockdown started a few days ago, the platform is witnessing a surge in subscriptions.

“Discreet platforms like Gleeden that put members’ privacy in the first place and guarantees privacy and secrecy is in high demand these days. This is because it’s easier and more discreet to connect from the phone, where members can activate the “discreet mode” where Gleeden’s interface looks like Facebook’s,” said the company. Gleeden is also witnessing an increase of sudden disconnections because members are taking advantage of the “Shake To Exit” function, which allows them to disconnect immediately and close the Gleeden app with just a quick shake of their device. “Very useful when the spouse sneaks up on you!” said the company.

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#StayHome: MTNL Announces Double Data Offer on All Broadband Plans in Delhi and Mumbai

Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) recently announced its Work@Home broadband plan, and now Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Limited (MTNL) has reportedly introduced double data offer on all of its broadband plans in Delhi and Mumbai. The benefit includes both landline and mobile broadband plans to encourage people to work from home.

The company made the announcement on Twitter saying that it will offer double data on broadband plans for landline and mobile for a month. Soon after, IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad also tweeted the same update to encourage users to work from home during the epidemic. The benefits will be available for all existing customers and notably, the MTNL broadband double data offer will be available in the Delhi and Mumbai circles only for a month. There is also news that MTNL will wave off installation charges for new customers opting for copper-based connection. These new customers will, however, have to pay for the modem that will be required for the service.

Recently BSNL launched its new “Work@Home” promotional broadband plan offering Internet access to its landline customers without any charge. This special plan offers 10Mbps download speeds with a 5GB per day data cap for all BSNL landline subscribers. After finishing 5GB, users will get Internet speeds at 1Mbps. The plan also offers a free email ID account with 1GB storage space. This promotional plan is available for customers across all circles, including the Andaman and Nicobar. The new plan can be availed without any security deposit.

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#StayHome: Reliance Jio 'Work From Home' Pack Offers 2GB Data and 51 Days Validity at Rs 251

The spread of novel Coronavirus in India has called for lockdown in a number of states. While most of the private and public officers already declared work from home facility for most of their staff, the complete lockdown has mandated working from home for the rest as well. As the usage of data has increased, the customers are looking for interactive plans to facilitate the smooth working of operations. In order to make this easier for customers, Reliance Jio has introduced a new plan.

The telecommunication service has launched the all-new Work From Home plan at Rs 251. The Reliance Jio Work from Home plan offers 2GB data every day and comes with a validity of 51 days. However, this plan only comes with internet benefits, so there are no special benefits on calling or SMS. If the customer exhausts the daily limit of 2GB internet, he/she can continue to browse the internet at the speed of 64kbps. The reduced speed data will not have any limit.

Along with this, the company has also made changes to some of its existing 4G data extension offers. The Rs 11, Rs 21, Rs 51 and Rs 101 prepaid plans now offer double the data that they previously offered. The Rs 11 extension pack, which earlier offered 400MB data, has now been modified to 800MB data and 75 minutes of calling benefits. The Rs 21 plan now offers 2GB data along with 200 minutes of calling. Meanwhile, the Rs 51 data booster pack offers 6GB data and 500 minutes calling benefits. Rs 101 plan comes 12GB data and 1000 minutes calling. Calling benefits can be used for Jio to non-Jio calls, while Jio to Jio calls are free of cost. The validity of these plans depends on the usage of the customer.

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Your Video Streaming Quality Could Soon Drop Due to the Coronavirus Outbreak

The Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) has written to over-the-top (OTT) streaming platforms to ensure smooth video streaming across the country as people are staying indoors and taking to work-from-home amid the coronavirus crisis. The industry body has also written a letter to the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) urging the government to issue advisories to the players concerned on this issue.

In its letter to the market players, the telecom industry body noted that in the past few days, government advisories have been issued to stay indoors and work from home and the role of digital means of communications, transactions, and entertainment increases. “This sudden surge in digital use is already putting pressure on the network infrastructure of the telecom service providers (TSPs). The TSPs are taking requisite steps to manage this load and facilitate the smooth functioning of the networks during this critical time,” it said.

It noted that due to lockdown or quarantine measures in various parts of the country, a sudden surge in demand for online video streaming is expected to rise substantially and during this period it is “absolutely essential for the streaming platforms to cooperate with TSPs so as to manage the traffic distribution patterns”. “It is pertinent to note that the need of the hour is that companies offering streaming platform service and TSPs take joint responsibility to take steps to ensure smooth functioning of the data communication networks to align with other measures being taken in this battle to curb the propagation of the virus,” the COAI said in the letter to industry players.

This joint action from all the players to suitably the pressure on infrastructure and to facilitate remote working, online education, digital healthcare, payments, and other critical services at a time of region-wide public health crisis would go a long way in helping the citizens and country at large, it said. The COAI further said that there are various measures that the streaming platform companies can undertake in the current situation to provide a suitable level of service to their customers at the most appropriate bitrate required.

One such measure is temporarily moving to SD (Standard Definition) rather than HD (High Definition) streaming, it said, adding that there may be other such technical measures that may be taken to ease the pressure on infrastructure. Also, during this period, advertisements and pop-ups, which usually consume high bandwidth should be removed and if required, may be replaced with public announcements on awareness regarding the virus, COAI said. The letter pointed out that similar measures are being taken by various streaming platforms internationally — in the US and Europe — as more and more countries enter lockdown to combat the spread of the virus. In its letter to the DoT, COAI has also given a list of the OTT platforms active in India – Amazon Prime Video, Youtube, Hotstar, Zee5, Alt Balaji, Voot, Sony Liv, Viuclip, Hoichoi, Netflix, and SunNXT.

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Much of the Essential Work we do Cannot be Done From Home: Jeff Bezos

Amazon Founder and CEO Jeff Bezos has replied to US Senators who raised questions on his warehouse employees’ safety amid the growing COVID-19 pandemic. Four US Senators, including Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, sent a letter to Bezos last week, asking him how the company is keeping its warehouse staff safe as an Amazon warehouse worker was tested positive for COVID-19 at the company’s Queens, New York facility last week.

“There is no instruction manual for how to feel at a time like this, and I know this causes stress for everyone. My list of worries right now like yours,” Bezos said in a company blog post late Saturday. “Much of the essential work we do cannot be done from home. We’ve implemented a series of preventative health measures for employees and contractors at our sites around the world,” the Amazon CEO said. Several warehouse employees have told CNN Business they feel the company should be doing more to shield those at the core of its business who can’t do their jobs from home.

Bezos said the company is ensuring everything from increasing the frequency and intensity of cleaning to adjusting the company’s practices in fulfilment centers to ensure the recommended social distancing guidelines. “We are meeting every day, working to identify additional ways to improve on these measures,” he stressed. According to him, Amazon has changed its logistics, transportation, supply chain, purchasing, and third party seller processes to prioritize stocking and delivering essential items like household staples, sanitizers, baby formula and medical supplies. In a letter sent to Bezos on Friday, US Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Sanders and Sherrod Brown (D-OH) said. “Any failure of Amazon to keep its workers safe does not just put their employees at risk, it puts the entire country at risk. This isn’t business as usual, and it’s a time of great stress and uncertainty. It’s also a moment in time when the work we’re doing is its most critical,” said Bezos.