Carriers jockey for mobile pole position as competition ramps

It’s hard to remember a time when New Zealand’s mobile sector was this competitive.

Monday morning got off to a flying start with Telecom NZ trumpeting six sites with carrier aggregation able to deliver fibre-like broadband speeds to mobile users.

A nice publicity coup even if the company acknowledges the devices customers need to use the technology don’t arrive in New Zealand until the end of the year.

Not to be outdone, Vodafone responded the following day with a press release about the company’s Dual-Band 4G. This combines 2500 MHz and 1800 MHz spectrum for faster mobile data speeds.

Vodafone’s press release ends with a note saying “Vodafone has carrier aggregation live in parts of Auckland”. However, the company says its focus will be on dual-band, not carrier aggregation.

Wednesday saw Vodafone score its own PR win with the launch of a $5 flat fee for mobile roaming. The deal gets a big thumbs up from Steve Biddle who writes on his blog Vodafone up the ante in the mobile market with new roaming deals:

This offering gives Vodafone a massive advantage over Telecom or 2degrees, both of whom have roaming offers now very much pale in comparison to what Vodafone has on offer.

Later in the day Telecom NZ responded to Vodafone’s offer in comments made to the NBR’s Chris Keall (behind paywall) who editorialises saying Telecom NZ’s criticisms are “a bit of a stretch”.

Meanwhile 2degrees popped its head over the parapet on Tuesday announcing a ‘worry free’ data plan. Effectively, once you’ve run out of plan data, you can’t use any more until you pay for another data pack — that way you don’t get hit with high charges for off-plan data.

Welcome to the new era of mobile competition. Barely a week goes by without a fresh announcement.

Yet while the market is busy and on one level competition is fierce, 2degrees argues it’s still hard for business and on account customers to move between cellular companies.

Paul Brislen explores this point at the Tuanz blog and concludes part of the problem is down to handset subsidies. It’s a fair point and one that may need addressing, but we’ve come a long way in the five years since 2degrees began operation. It’s important not to underestimate the role 2degrees has played in ramping up competition across the entire mobile market.