October 23, 2017

New receiver technology may allow low-cost broadband speeds of up to 10 Gbps

Delhi/India/Politics by

For a super-fast yet low-cost broadband connection At Home in Britain, the new receiver technology can enable dedicated data rates at more than 10,000 Mbps from the current 36 Mbps, noted researchers from the University College London.

Representational image. Getty Images

“Although 300 Mb/s may be available to some, average UK speeds are currently 36 Mb/s. By 2025, average speeds over 100 times faster will be required to meet increased demands for bandwidth-hungry applications such as ultra-high definition video, online gaming and the Internet of Things (IoT),” explained lead researcher Sezer Erkilinc.

“The future growth in the number of mobile devices, coupled with the promise of 5G to enable new services via smart devices, means we are likely to experience bandwidth restrictions; our new optical receiver technology will help combat this problem,” he added in a paper published in the journal Nature Communications.

The receiver is used in optical access networks – the links connecting Internet subscribers to their service providers. The new receiver retains many of the advantages of coherent receivers but is simpler, cheaper and smaller – requiring just a quarter of the detectors used in conventional receivers.

Simplification was achieved by adopting a coding technique to fibre access networks that was originally designed to prevent signal fading in wireless communications. This approach has the additional cost-saving benefit of using the same optical fibre for both upstream and downstream data.

“This simple receiver offers users a dedicated wavelength, so user speeds stay constant no matter how many users are online at once. It can co-exist with the current network infrastructure,” said Erkilinc.

The receiver was tested on a dark fibre network installed between Telehouse (east London), UCL (central London) and Powergate (west London). The team successfully sent data over 37.6 km and 108 km to eight users who were able to download or upload at a speed of at least 10 Gbps.

Published Date: Oct 23, 2017 06:35 pm | Updated Date: Oct 23, 2017 06:35 pm

Investors are avoiding Bitcoin due to its volatile and unregulated nature

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Bitcoin is booming, digital currency hedge funds are sprouting at the rate of two a week and the value of all cryptocurrencies has surged tenfold this year to more than $170 billion.

Representational image: AFP

Yet for all the hype, mainstream institutional investors are steering clear of the nascent market, taking the view that it is too lightly regulated, too volatile and too illiquid to risk investing other people’s money in.

Bitcoin, the biggest and most well-known cryptocurrency, has outperformed all the world’s traditional currencies each year since 2011, except for 2014. But many investors still view it as an opaque, esoteric instrument used by gun-runners and drug-dealers on the Dark Web that should be avoided.

This year, though, a flood of new hedge funds focused on cryptocurrencies has offered institutional investors who might be unfamiliar with the market a potential route into the world of digital currencies.

According to Autonomous NEXT, a financial technology research house, 84 so-called crypto hedge funds have been launched this year, taking the total to 110 with about $2.2 billion in assets altogether.

But the fact most of the funds are relatively small with a limited track record – and that cryptocurrency price swings have been so pronounced – means the world’s pension funds, insurance companies and large mutual funds are staying away.

“While cryptocurrencies are probably here to stay, they are difficult to analyze, wildly volatile and some may be prone to fraud,” said Trevor Greetham at Royal London Asset Management (RLAM), part of the Royal London life insurance company.

“Diversification is a good thing but that doesn’t mean investing in everything just because it’s there. We favor assets with a long track record in producing returns or reducing risks,” said Greetham, who heads RLAM’s multi asset team.

Autonomous NEXT partner Lex Sokolin said there were probably only a couple of funds worth several hundred million dollars with most in the $5 million to $20 million range – well below the threshold most institutional investors would consider.

“For many institutional, discretionary fund managers, those funds wouldn’t get cleared because the big question would be around liquidity,” said James Butterfill, head of investment strategy at ETF Securities in London.

Bubbles, Booms and Busts

One way mainstream money managers could get exposure is by investing in a basket of hedge funds that includes a crypto fund. But the head of hedge funds at a major European bank that invests in more than 100 hedge funds said there were no crypto funds in his portfolio.

“It’s a very controversial proposition,” said the banker, who declined to be named. “It’s unlikely that the most established hedge funds will make big bets on this because you could put your core business at risk.”

Determining the value of bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies is tricky. There are almost 17 million bitcoins in existence now but the total supply is limited to 21 million, and that won’t be reached until the next century.

Bitcoin’s total value, or market capitalization, is close to $100 billion, bigger than U.S. investment bank Morgan Stanley. At the start of the year it was just $15 billion. Ethereum, the second-biggest cryptocurrency, is now worth almost $30 billion.

“If the supply is truly fixed then the price of these securities are determined purely by demand which, in turn, is determined largely by sentiment,” said Ken Dickson, investment director, money markets and FX at Aberdeen Standard Investments.

“This means huge price swings with bubbles, booms and busts. Unless the supply processes of these instruments are reformed then it is unlikely that they will play any part of an investment portfolio,” he said.

Bitcoin has been on a rollercoaster ride this year. After hitting what was then a record high just below $5,000 in early September it lost about a third of its value in less than two weeks. It has since almost doubled in price again, to new highs near $6,000.

Ethereum has been even more erratic. Its price surged almost 50 times from the start of the year to June, before falling back by about a fifth, according to industry website CoinDesk.

That kind of volatility means committees at institutional investment firms looking at the relative risks of asset classes are likely to rule out cryptocurrencies, asset managers said.

“Your risk-budgeting committee will say: you can’t hold a lot of that because of the amount it increases risk in your portfolio,” said Butterfill. “I do expect volatility to decrease over time but risk budget teams tend to look historically.”

Early Days

For now, those investing in crypto funds are high-net worth individuals, companies managing money for wealthy families, private wealth managers and some venture capital investors.

“It’s clear there’s money piling into these funds,” said Emad Mostaque, co-chief investment officer at the London office of South African hedge fund firm Capricorn Fund Managers. “There’s just not that institutional investor comfort yet.”

Alistair Milne, co-founder of the Mayfair-based Altana Digital Currency Fund, likens investment in crypto funds to the start of the hedge fund boom in the early 1990s, when wealthy individuals were the first to invest in a raft of new funds making high returns.

“It always starts with the high-net worth individuals,” he said. “It wasn’t until 2004-2005 that institutional investors started getting involved in those.”

The new crypto hedge funds take a variety of approaches, betting on new coins issued to raise funds via so-called initial coin offerings (ICOs), price direction or differentials between rates on the many cryptocurrency exchanges.

One new fund, the London-based BitSpread, says its $25 million market-neutral fund — which trades on price differentials alone — gives major investors a way into the market without exposing them to violent price swings.

The fund is up 32 percent so far this year, having managed to exploit the kind of arbitrage possible in a young market where large price gaps exist. “(Institutional investors) haven’t invested in this ecosystem yet because they haven’t yet found the right vehicle,” said Cedric Jeanson, BitSpread’s founder.

Published Date: Oct 23, 2017 06:33 pm | Updated Date: Oct 23, 2017 06:33 pm

Rajasthan govt’s Criminal Laws Bill is bound to fail test of constitutionality under Articles 14, 19

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The decision of the Vasundhara Raje government to promulgate the Criminal Laws (Rajasthan Amendment) Ordinance, 2017 in the Rajasthan Assembly, which amends Section 156 (3) of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) among other provisions, has landed it in controversy.

The said provision of the CrPC has consistently been used in situations where the police refuse to entertain a complaint and don’t register an FIR (First Information Report). The Supreme Court had recently held that the police is obligated to register an FIR even when the Magistrate has explicitly not ordered it to do so and has only ordered an investigation. The law has been settled – that there is no meaning of an investigation without an FIR.

A file image of Rajasthan chief minister Vasundhara Raje. PTI

Law and Order is a state subject under the scheme of distribution of powers under the Indian Constitution, between the Union and the state governments. Therefore, the states can change the criminal laws as per their own requirements.

The Bill seeks to curtail the power of the Magistrate under Section 156 (3), in cases where the investigation relates to serving and former judges, magistrates and public servants. In such cases, a sanction from the government will now be required, as per the bill, before such investigations are ordered.

The Bill also amends Section 190 of CrPC, which deals with Cognizance by Courts. Here also, the power is curtailed and no cognizance of an offence can now be taken in cases which involve serving and former judges, magistrates and public servants.

It is important to bring to light provisions contained under Section 197 of CrPC in this regard. This provision also makes an exception for the above-mentioned officials. But this provision, importantly, deals with prosecution of the offences and not the investigation.

The difference being, prosecution under Section 197 has been held to mean as not including investigation and filing of an FIR. Therefore, this means that investigation and filing of an FIR can happen even if there is no sanction to prosecute under Section 197. This is changed by the new Rajasthan Bill which by its operation will also put a bar on the investigation, in addition to placing a bar on the prosecution.

Moreover, the most controversial provisions of this Bill relate to restrictions on the media. The bill provides that there can’t be disclosure of the identity of the persons against whom the sanction is pending under the provision. The disclosure provision is wide enough to prevent any kind of reporting by the media relating to the accusation. This is something which is dangerous and absolutely untenable under the law and the scheme of liberty as enshrined in our Constitution.

With respect to the curtailment of freedom of speech of media by the establishment, we have to place this measure of the Rajasthan government in a series of enactments by various successive governments. This dangerous trend was started by the Jawaharlal Nehru government. In a famous caseRomesh Thapar versus the Union of India, the Supreme Court had upheld the right of an individual to criticise the Nehruvian government of that time. In order to neutralise the effect of this, Article 19(2) was amended in the Constitution with a retrospective effect.

This added the words ‘reasonable restrictions’ for the first time and to this date have been used by successive governments to gag the media in one form or the other, or to restrict individual liberty. This amendment also extended to the government the power to make future laws which violate the Right to Freedom of Speech and Expression in the name of reasonable restrictions. The original Constitution, without the first amendment, did not protect any future laws, which can be framed in violation of Article 19(1)(a), it excluded only the existing laws.

The Rajiv Gandhi government too once tried to curb the freedom of the press by introducing the infamous Defamation Bill in 1988. Thankfully the Supreme Court held that the Right to Freedom of Speech and Expression under Article 19(1) contains right to press too, even though the Constitution expressly doesn’t include it in the letter.

The Rajasthan government’s Bill, in its current form, is sure to fail the test of constitutionality both under Article 14 and under Article 19.

Article 14 prohibits any arbitrary action by the government. There can’t be a more arbitrary legislative action as has been contemplated by the Rajasthan government.

Article 19 guarantees freedom of press, as held by the Supreme Court. This is directly violated by the enactment. As is common knowledge, no government can frame a law in contravention to the Fundamental Rights guaranteed by the Constitution, therefore, the enactment in all probability will fail the test of constitutionality.

Due to the aforementioned reasons, it can be hoped that the state government of Rajasthan either completely drops the idea of enacting such a law or sufficiently alters its provisions to make it constitutionally viable.

The author is research fellow with the Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, IIT Bombay. He can be reached at raghav10089@gmail.com

Published Date: Oct 23, 2017 06:32 pm | Updated Date: Oct 23, 2017 06:35 pm

Bundesliga: Bayern Munich’s Thomas Mueller ruled out for 3 weeks, Mats Hummels doubtful for RB Leipzig clash

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Berlin: Bayern Munich have new injury concerns for this week’s double-header against RB Leipzig with Mats Hummels joining Thomas Mueller on the walking wounded list, according to German daily Bild.

Bayern’s stand-in captain Mueller limped out of Saturday’s 1-0 win at Hamburg with with a tear in his right hamstring which will rule him out for up to three weeks, the club confirmed on Monday.

File image of Bayern Munich’s Thomas Mueller.Reutersa

It means he is set to miss Germany’s friendlies against England in London on 10 November and against France four days later in Cologne.

The Germany star was injured trying to use his heel to make a pass during his ten minutes on the field before going off injured in Hamburg.

Hummels also picked up an ankle injury in the narrow win, according to Bild.

However, there is still hope the centre-back can play in Wednesday’s German Cup, second-round, clash at RB Leipzig and Saturday’s Bundesliga clash against third-placed Leipzig in Munich, which Muller will miss.

He is the second Bayern captain to succumb to injury in recent weeks with goalkeeper Manuel Neuer ruled out until January with a fractured foot.

In Mueller’s absence, Spain star Thiago Alcantara is set to fill the attacking midfield role.

Bayern winger Arjen Robben said they need their Germany star fit as quickly as possible, but he will miss their key league game at Bundesliga leaders Borussia Dortmund on 4 November.

“It’s always a worry when a player drops out with injury,” said the Dutchman.

“We don’t need that at the moment. Thomas is now our captain and is very important.”

Published Date: Oct 23, 2017 06:31 pm | Updated Date: Oct 23, 2017 06:31 pm

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