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Vodafone Australia joins Google ad boycott; Samsung to reuse Note 7 smartphones

TOP NEWS

* Vodafone Australia and Nestlé suspended advertising with Google Inc., a move sparked by concerns that their ads may appear next to inappropriate content, the Australian Financial Review reports. Holden, Kia and other companies have also started pulling ads from the Alphabet Inc. unit's video-sharing platform YouTube Inc. Vodafone Australia is a joint venture of Vodafone Group Plc and CK Hutchison Holdings Ltd.

* South Korean tech giant Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. plans to refurbish and resell its discontinued Galaxy Note 7 smartphones, Yonhap News Agency reports. The Samsung Group unit will later confirm when and where the refurbished phones will be put back on the market as it works with regulators and telcos. Some reusable parts like the semiconductors and camera modules will be extracted for other uses.

JAPAN

* Ericsson AB said it and SoftBank Group Corp. will demonstrate 5G in the 28 GHz spectrum in Japan. The companies have completed basic 5G trials in the 15 GHz and 4.5 GHz spectrums. Spectrum allocations in 4.5 GHz and 28 GHz are leading candidates for 5G services in Japan, the company said.

* Toshiba Corp. is seeking to sell troubled U.S. nuclear unit Westinghouse Electric Co. LLC to Korea Electric Power Corp., as Westinghouse moves toward a Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing as early as Tuesday, Kyodo reports. KEPCO support could allow Westinghouse restructure while keeping its workers.

* As expected, Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corp. and Toyota Motor Corp. announced a partnership to develop autonomous cars based on 5G wireless technology, incorporating artificial intelligence and big data. The Nikkei on March 23 reported on the alliance.

* Panasonic Corp. invested in Drivemode, a California-based startup developing an app enabling drivers to safely use smartphones behind the wheel, according to the Nikkei. Panasonic bought the largest portion of Drivemode's US$6.5 million funding round.

SOUTH KOREA

* South Korean telco SK Telecom Co. Ltd. will create an artificial intelligence unit with a direct reporting line to the CEO to focus its capabilities on the AI business, Money today reports. Under the leadership of SK Planet CTO Lee Sang-ho, the new unit will be in charge of all AI-related functions, such as securing technological resources and developing services.

* Naver Labs Corp., the research and development arm of South Korean Internet company Naver Corp., will acquire South Korean 3D tech company Epipolar to strengthen its 3D mapping technology, which is needed for augmented and virtual reality services and 3D content generation, ZDNet Korea reports.

* Naver Corp. reconfigured the homepage of its web portal to adapt to an increasingly diverse device environment, Newsis reports. The update gave the main page a higher resolution as more users access the site on wide-screen gadgets. It also allows users to design their main page by choosing topics in the settings.

CHINA, HONG KONG AND TAIWAN

* Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. and Italian regional energy and broadband company Alperia struck a partnership to build a fiber-optic network for advanced digital services in Italy's Trentino-Alto Adige region, Telecompaper reports. The deal is part of a five-year agreement between the two companies to develop Internet of Things, smart grid and Smart City projects.

* China Unicom has started to switch off 2G networks in the country, Sohu reports. To minimize the inconvenience for existing 2G users, China Unicom plans to offer a series of benefits to those users, including reduced-price 4G smartphones.

* Chinese film studio Huayi Brothers expects to continue and even expand a partnership with STX Entertainment, Variety reports, citing Bloomberg. The current partnership between the two companies, which allows them to co-produce and co-finance movies, expires in March 2018, and Huayi wants to renew the contract and expand it to other areas like television and multimedia.

* Wang Jin, senior vice president at Baidu Inc. who oversees its self-driving segment, will leave the company in April, Sina reports. Wang will run his own self-driving startup, which has already received financing from third-party investors.

SOUTHEAST ASIA

* Singapore will complete a shutdown of its 2G network by April 18, industry website Telecompaper reports. Remaining 2G users will be able to use their 2G network numbers and subscribe to 3G and 4G network plans without additional cost.

* Google Play gift cards are now available in Indonesia and can be purchased in the Indomaret chain of convenience stores in the Greater Jakarta area, news site Kompas.com reports. The gift cards are expected to be available in other main cities such as Bandung, Yogyakarta, Surabaya and Medan in April.

* Thailand's National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) suspended Voice TV's digital license for seven days for broadcasting content critical of the ruling military junta, Prachachat reports. In a company statement, Voice TV executives pledged to take civil and administrative action against the NBTC and to continue broadcasting the regular program schedule via Facebook Inc. and the company website.

* PLDT Inc.'s mobile division Smart Communications is accelerating its deployment of 4G LTE services across the Philippines, targeting coverage of 785 municipalities by the end of 2017, the company said.

* Thai telco Advanced Info Service (AIS) will invest 2 billion baht this year to develop its digital customer service channels as part of the AIS Live 360° project, Manager reports. The AIS call center is now handling around 7.9 million inquiries per month via interactive voice response technology.

* The Indonesian Ministry of Transportation affirmed that as of April 1 app-based public transport cars, or locally known as online taxis, are required to put on a special sticker, industry website Indotelko reports. The government allows a transitional period of three months to comply with other requirements, such as instituting a price floor and price ceiling, certain drivers' license requirements and setting a maximum number of drivers in a region.

* Thai state telco TOT Public Co. Ltd. revealed that six companies, including Total Access Communication Public Co. Ltd. (Dtac) and Advanced Wireless Network, submitted partnership proposals for an unused 60 MHz of bandwidth on the 2300 MHz spectrum, Manager reports. TOT has hired two consultancy firms, Detecon Asia-Pacific and PrimeStreet Advisory, to assess the six proposals. A winning bidder will be announced by the end of May.

AUSTRALIA AND NEW ZEALAND

* Australia's Qantas has again postponed the scheduled test flight of its in-flight Wi-Fi service after citing "stability issues," news.com.au reports. The WiFi service utilizes NBN Co. Ltd.'s Sky Muster satellite signal, which ViaSat Inc. delivers to the aircraft. Qantas is working with both companies to resolve the matter and is eyeing a service rollout to its domestic fleet in mid-2017.

* Israel-based Votiro is raising A$10 million for its plan to launch an IPO in Australia, making it the third cybersecurity company to announce its intention to list on the ASX in recent weeks. According to the Australian Financial Review, the company is targeting not only Australian investors, but also those based in Hong Kong and Singapore.

* Tata Consultancy Services Ltd. is looking to hire an additional 250 Australian employees for the company, 150 of which will be full-time IT professionals, a few days after it announced that it is hiring in the U.S. as well, The Australian reports.

INDIA AND SOUTH ASIA

* Facebook is planning to work with Indian telecom operators to connect the country's underserved communities through its Express WiFi program, The Economic Times (India) reports.

* Amazon Prime Video will add Marathi films "Fugay" and "Autograph" to its platform, Television Post reports. "Autograph" will be available to stream in June.

* Panasonic Corp. launched two new smartphones in India, the Eluga Ray Max and Eluga Ray X. According to India Today, the devices are equipped with Arbo, the company's proprietary AI virtual assistant.

FEATURED NEWS

Price war looms as Vodafone, Idea merger takes shape in India: Vodafone Group is set to become India's largest operator once the merger between Vodafone India and Idea Cellular closes.

House preps vote on overturning FCC privacy order: The House Committee on Rules is set to vote on a joint resolution providing for official congressional disapproval of the FCC's 2016 privacy order. A vote by the full House of Representatives is expected to soon follow.

FEATURED RESEARCH

Wireless Investor: M2M and postpaid are source of future growth in French mobile industry: The French mobile market is mature, with penetration of mobile subscriptions having already topped 128% of total pops at the end of 2016.

Broadcast Investor: Retrans database update: Raycom, AT&T ink deal as Hearst locks horns with DISH: Fifteen signal disruptions announced in 2017 have so far affected 15.1 million estimated subs across 128 markets, compared to seven publicly declared carriage disputes as of March 9, 2016, involving 4.8 million subs across 41 markets.

Joji Sakurai, Myungran Ha, Frances Wang, Patrick Tibke and Ed Eduard contributed to this report. The Daily Dose has an editorial deadline of 7 a.m. Hong Kong time. Some external links may require a subscription.