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Vodafone’s new Pay Monthly and Business mobile plans mean customers no longer run out of data

Source: Vodafone serves up endless data for data-hungry customers

Vodafone’s new mobile plans are a clever charm offensive.

Instead of letting you get to the end of your monthly data and turning off the tap, Vodafone’s new plans slow the stream to a trickle. In the phone business this is known as throttling.

This, in itself, is hardly new. Spark and 2degrees both have high end plans where they throttle speeds when customers use too much data. The difference is this applies to all monthly account customers.

Vodafone calls this ‘endless data’.

For some people reading this, the second part is even more interesting. The new plans all allow hot spotting at no extra charge. Hot spotting, sometimes called tethering, is when you, in effect, turn your phone into a Wi-Fi router. Then you can hook up a tablet or a laptop to you phone.

Throttling means that when you’ve used all the data in your plan, you can still download. But those downloads take place at a much slower rate. The press release says speeds are up to 100mbps at normal times, but will drop to 1.2mbps.

As the release points out this is more than enough to check mail, messages or maps. It won’t be enough to stream HD video or play demanding games. If you use your phone for work and that work doesn’t involve video conferencing, you’ll probably be sweet.

The new plan is a kinder, gentler way of dealing with people who run over their paid-for data. It should pay off for Vodafone which seems to be have something of a renaissance at the moment with its early 5G launch and other initiatives.

It also gives Vodafone another rod to beat Spark with. As things stand the more generous plans are a reason to switch carrier. That is until Spark sharpens its pencil.

Laurence Millar:

I do all my banking, travel booking, shopping and communicating online.  Surely in the 21st century, I should be able to vote online? If you are voting to elect the president of your sports club, then online voting is convenient and easy. But it should never be used to elect our government[…]

Source: Online voting? No thanks! – NZRise

It’s comforting to see someone as knowledgable and experienced in government computing as Laurence Millar choses to speak out about the dangers of online voting.

He makes all the points you might expect: the risks are too high and the rewards for ratbags are too tempting. We know for certain that criminals and unfriendly governments have intervened in election campaigns. Some even boast about it. So it’s realistic to assume they will turn their attention to an actual vote.

The reality is almost no computer system is foolproof. And few are immune from attackers who are prepared to throw enough resources at breaching security.

But there’s more. Millar writes:

…the chimera of manipulated votes is in itself sufficient to undermine confidence in the result of the election.

And this is just as likely to be the goal of those who would attack elections. Yes, they’d love to manipulate the vote. But they also want to undermine the very idea of a democratic vote.

This suits their purposes almost as much.

Millar’s other points are all valid. It’s worth reading the original post.

Yet something else bothers me about the idea of an online election in New Zealand. Typically projects of this nature are put out to tender and awarded to the lowest bidder.

Tender writers may talk about how the project won’t just go to the cheapest bid, but also about the values, privacy, security and yada, yada, yada that need to be embodied in the system.

We all know the reality. Lower prices win.

We’ve seen this time and time again. Tender responses may be full of piety and goody two-shoes language about protecting this and respecting that.

Words are cheap.

When push comes to shove, saving a few bucks here and there will impress the organisation issuing the tender more than anything else.

It always does.

And even if money is no object and the first tender goes to a first class bidder who does everything right, when it comes up for renewal someone else will be purchasing.

Or the next time. Or the time after that.

Sooner or later cheapskates or, just as bad, companies that are better at lobbying governments than delivering on promises will get the job.

Before you know it there will be an argument for, say, using an overseas cloud provider or a well known brand that hasn’t done a sterling job managing its own digital security in the past.

It is in the nature of these things. Sooner or later we are disappointed.

CommsDay reports on the TelSoc NBN Futures Forum held yesterday in Melbourne. The focus was on ‘Learning from International Experience’.

Former Telstra executive and telecommunications consultant Dr Jim Holmes says looking at New Zealand’s UFB project from Australia was like “watching the carnival over the hill”.

Holmes says: “NZ is declaring victory. They have produced some very good results with much less overall government pain and suffering than we’ve had”.

He added that the country provided a model example of bipartisan policy development.

This is not the only reason UFB succeeded and outperforms NBN, but it is an important one. As former Chorus CEO Kate McKenzie told me in an interview two years ago; this country is good at “New Zealand Inc.”. That’s where everyone puts aside rivalries and works together for the national good.

New Zealand’s UFB project started under a centre-right National Party government. A centre-left Labour-lead coalition government finished the job.

It was a National election promise in 2008, but Labour went in to the election with a similar plan.

Although there were political rows, the UFB was never under a political threat.

This compares with Australia where the NBN was, and to a lesser degree, still is, a political football.

Australia’s usual narrative goes on to compare its low rank in international indices.

There is no question it under performs against other countries. Although this is often overstated.

And we should remember New Zealand’s UFB had a head start. When New Zealand began its fibre to the premises roll-out, a fibre to the node network was already in place. Australia, in effect started from zero.

What should be of more concern to Australia is the sheer amount of money it wasted with NBN. New Zealand’s project came in under budget. The government money used for the fibre build was in the form of soft loans, so the net cost was negligible.

Compare that with the NBN. The total cost depends on who you talk to. The official cost A$51 billion. That’s a lot of money for a network which underperforms the carnival over over the hill.

NZ game developers exportsNew Zealand interactive game developers earned $203.4 million dollars during the 2019 financial year – double the $99.9m earned only two years earlier in 2017. The success comes from targeting audiences around the world and 96% of the industry’s earnings came from exports.

Source: Interactive Game Exports Double in Two Years to $200m – NZGDA

Technology lets us export photons instead of atoms. The idea was a common theme in my writing 25 years ago when the internet took off. It took time for the reality of this to creep up on us. Now it is happening in a big way thanks to New Zealand’s game developers.

One hundred years ago farmers would load sheep carcasses onto the, then, latest technology; refrigerator ships. These would belch smoke as they steamed to the other side of the world. It meant exporters earned foreign currency. This kick-started New Zealand on the path to, fifty years later, being one of the world’s richest countries.

Sheep carcasses, milk powder, crayfish, apples and all those other exports were made of atoms. They weighed kilograms and they needed to be physically shifted. The products would often take weeks to reach their destination by ship. There were physical risks.

Game developers sell light particles

Today, when, say, Grinding Gear Games, makes a game sale on the other side of the world, photons, tiny particles of light, race to their new home in a fraction of a second.

There’s nothing wrong with physical exports, that’s been what we’ve done for as long as anyone can remember. Yet tomorrow’s rivers of gold are going to come from exporting photons. We need to start thinking of games exports in the same way we once thought of meat or dairy exports.

If the game industry grows at the same pace for the next five years it could be worth a billion dollars a year by 2025. That’s still less than, say, wine or kiwifruit, but with much better margins.

Samsung’s Galaxy Z Flip is a another take on the emerging foldable phone format.

Unlike earlier foldable phones which are the size of everyday phones that open to become an iPad mini-sized tablet, the Flip opens long ways. It resembles the flip phones that we are supposed to feel nostalgia for.

It’s neat, but not as useful as other folding phones for reading complex documents.

Samsung Galaxy Z Flip

But there’s something else about the Galaxy Z Flip that appeals to me. It goes a long way to protect you from notification hell.

There’s a tiny screen on the front of the phone which lights up when there is an incoming notification. This is a lot less distracting than having a conventional phone screen light up with with a notification message.

Moreover, because you have to physically open the phone to read the full notification, there is a lot more distance between you and the incoming distraction.

It is easier to ignore the notification and easier to park it for later when you are not trying to focus. It’s not much protection, but enough to ease the cognitive load for a moment or two.

Of course the other possibility is to turn notifications off. That would be cheaper.