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Download Weekly – $60 million for more rural connections

A Rural Connectivity Group tower

Digital economy and communications minister earmarks $60 million for more rural connections. 

Budget gives Clark $60 million for more rural connections

David Clark, the digital economy and communications minister, announced the government will spend $60 million to further improve rural connectivity over the next few years.

He says $43 million of that is set aside to “improve network capacity and speeds where rural users have been experiencing slow broadband. This includes, but is not limited to, settlements in the Far North, Gisborne, Manawatu-Whanganui region, Taranaki, Southland and the Waikato.”

This is on top of the earlier Rural Capacity Upgrades Clark announced in February and brings the current round of spending on rural network upgrades to $90 million.

Clark says tens of thousands of rural residents will benefit from the spending and that is on top of the second phase of the Rural Broadband Initiative which has another year to run.

Remote users scheme

Government will spend a further $15 million on its new Remote Users Scheme. This scheme aims to provide broadband services in some of New Zealand’s most remote locations. These are areas where there is either no coverage at present or where there is only voice calling and text messaging.

Clark says the Remote Users Scheme will formally launch later this year.

There is another $2 million to extend the connected marae programme for up to two years. Clark says the extra money will allow for more marae to connect.

He says: “More than 560 marae have been connected through this initiative so far, with most of them located in rural areas, serving as hubs for their communities. I look forward to seeing more marae connected in the coming months”.

The government’s goal is for new or improved braodband to reach 99.8 percent of New Zealanders by the end of 2023.


Billing, customer service, network performance continue to rankle says TDR

In its 2021 second half report, the Telecommunications Dispute Resolution services says the number of enquiries the organisation fielded remained stable and user’s main concerns are unchanged.

The TDR deal with 941 incidents, compared with 935 in the previous half year. Billing, customer service and network performance remain the most complained about issues. Over the course of the year these areas saw fewer complaints as new problems emerged.

Enquiries about installation and transfers increased. The TDR says this is because of people moving to fibre and experiencing delays.

In the fourth quarter of the year the number of mobile complaints and enquiries from 2degrees customers doubled, while Vodafone and Spark’s numbers were much the same. There was a smaller leap in activity for 2degrees’ broadband complaints. Spark, Vodafone and Vocus all registered an increase in the number of complaints in Q4 when compared to Q3.

Complaints about home phones have trended down over time as people switch from traditional copper connections to fibre connections.


Measuring broadband report ticks fibre and HFC for streaming

Telecommunications Commissioner Tristan Gilbertson says the latest Measuring Broadband Report shows consumers enjoy world-class broadband. The report, prepared each quarter for the Commerce Commission by UK-based SamKnows says performance on all networks remains high, but this is particularly true for fibre and HFC connections.

One finding in the latest report is that peak download speeds on MyRepublic’s Fibre Max plans have dropped by around 95 mbps since the last report. The company’s users see peak download speeds of around 650 mbps compares with an average across the industry of 824 mbps. The company says it is working on improvements to fix this.


Sky TV will not be proceeding with MediaWorks takeover

A week after suggesting the deal may not proceed (see Download Weekly June 10), Sky TV issued a statement to the NZX confirming that the company is not going ahead with the MediaWorks acquisition.

Sky says: “As previously communicated, in parallel with its evaluation of potential investment opportunities, Sky has been exploring options to return capital to shareholders and accelerate organic investment in the business to drive further growth.”

The company says it will update shareholders on its capital management plans no later than the full year results announcement which is due on August 25.


Satellites remain vital in Tonga

CommsDay writes about the key role satellite continues to play in Tonga six months on from the tsunami. Grahame Lynch quotes SES Networks director John Turnbull talking at the Australasia Satellite Forum: “We will still play a key role in connecting Tonga. Will continue to play a role with the other nations in the Pacific where there’s only a single fibre as a backup there. And we’ll continue to play a role in connecting the secondary territories in each of the Pacific nations and also in Asia as well, where there’s a lack of fibre backup.”


Spark adds MacLeod, Broadbent to board

Spark has appointed Gordon MacLeod and Sheridan Broadbent as independent, non-executive directors. Both join the board on August 1. MacLeod will move onto Spark’s Audit and Risk Management Committee while Broadbent will join the Human Resources and Compensation Committee. Boardman is chair at Kordia, a role that ends when she moves to Spark. Paul Berriman will retire from Spark’s board at the next Annual General Meeting.


Kordia security unit Aura hires Abby Mainini

Kordia’s security business unit Aura Information Security has hired Abby Mainini as account director. The job will involve selling consultancy, managed security services and security products. Mainini joins Kordia from the government’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC). She has previously worked at Vodafone.


TVNZ ON Demand rebrands as TVNZ+

TVNZ has changed the name of its On Demand streaming service to TVNZ+. The move coincides with a launch of new content including 300 movies and new TV series. The company says its streaming service now reaches a million viewers each week.


Chorus updates capex guidance

Chorus says it has updated its capital expenditure guidance for the 2022 financial year. The change reflects the effect of the Covid pandemic on fibre installations and other network investments. It says it expects capex to be between $480 million and $500 million. At the half year result in February the company estimated the budget to be between $520 and $560 million. The earlier EBITDA guidance of $665 to $685 million remains unchanged.


In other news…

Gartner forecasts worldwide government IT spending will grow five percent in 2022. The report says Gartner expects all kinds of government technology spending to increase except internal services and telecommunications.

A report from the Dell’Oro Group says the telecom equipment market grew between four and five percent during the first quarter of 2022. It says demand for ‘wireline’ equipment is robust while growth in wireless is modest. Huawei remains the largest vendor despite the ban by western nations although it is losing market share.

Japan has introduced a law that makes online insults a criminal offence that could land people with a year in prison. The law was introduced after a TV personality killed themselves after receiving images of self harm and hateful comments on social media.

Background information. A recent YouTube video featuring NCSC director Lisa Fong provides a quick, articulate overview of the cyber security centre’s work.


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Truly Ergonomic Cleave: Odd, comfortable keyboard

Truly Ergonomic Cleave keyboard showing handsTruly Ergonomic’s marketing claims the Cleave is the most comfortable keyboard on the planet and will improve your productivity. The claim is far from ridiculous, but there should be a few qualifiers in there. You may see a benefit, but don’t bank on it.

Truly Ergonomic Cleave keyboard at a glance

For:Well built, solid key action with feedback, can stop you from getting a painful injury
Against:Does not include number pad, expensive. It’s not easily portable.
Maybe:Could be hard to learn but worth the effort if you persist. No wireless connection.
Verdict:If you find typing painful, you need to consider the Cleave keyboard.
Rating:4 out of 5
Price:US$330 – with cheaper options – see below.
Web:Truly Ergonomic

 

The Truly Ergonomic Cleave Keyboard looks like no other computer keyboard. It is narrower and deeper. The keys rise higher out of the backplate and, unlike traditional typewriter styles keyboards there’s no offset between the rows.

This, says, Truly Ergonomic is all deliberate. The design will reduce your risk of carpal tunnel syndrome.

Carpel tunnel syndrome

Carpel tunnel syndrome is as nasty as a it sounds. You can get it from spending hours typing with a poorly designed keyboard. It is a painful infliction and hard to treat.

If you get it, you may not be able to type again for weeks or months. For many people it can mean looking for a new job away from computers and keyboards.

Anything that stops carpel tunnel syndrome is welcome.

Sturdy design

The keyboard is sturdy and heavy by modern standards. You can carry it with a laptop in a backpack, but it’s not for mobile computing as we know it.

It has a solid aluminium backplate. At the front there are padded, but firm, wrist rests on both sides. While the keyboard is smaller than many Windows computer keyboards, it is massive next to the Apple Magic Keyboard.

Compared to a standard desktop keyboard it is narrow. There are no number keys. Truly Ergonomic says a narrow keyboard means less reaching for the mouse, which is, bad for your hands and wrist.

Key layout

Keys are laid out symmetrically with a small split down the centre. Letter keys are arranged in the familiar Qwerty pattern. in rows and columns.

Back in the first paragraph of this review it says: …”there’s no offset between the rows”. This needs an explanation.

Traditional mechanical typewriter keyboards were designed to stop keys jamming. Part of that meant the keys in each row are offset by a few millimetres from the keys in the row above. The A key is the first key on the second row. It sits below and slightly to the right of the Q key which is the first key on the top row.

The Cleave keyboard doesn’t have this offset. Each key sits directly below the key in the row above. This means a grid-like pattern of columns and rows.

The photo should make this clear.

Truly Ergonomic Cleave keyboard sideways view

The rest of the keys

Truly Ergonomic has moved certain other keys from where you might expect to find them.

A row of function keys sits across the top in the usual manner. There are left and right return keys and two space keys instead of a bar. There is also a set of arrow keys on both halves of the keyboard.

The backspace key sits near the centre, again there are left and right versions. The function key is here too.

This arrangement says Truly Ergonomic keeps your wrists straight. And that is how you can avoid carpal tunnel syndrome.

In practice it takes a lot of time to adjust to the alternative key positions.

Construction

The keyboard construction is solid, bordering on rugged. It’s heavier than many of the cheaper ergonomic keyboards, but that’s down to the robustness. You’ll get more years out of this keyboard than a cheaper ergonomic alternative.

It’s not a pretty keyboard. Although ergonomic keyboards never are. You can have comfort and health or looks. Pick one.

Truly Ergonomic doesn’t use Bluetooth. You’ll have to connect it to a computer using an old style USB 2.0 port with a metre long cable. That can be a problem with, say, a modern laptop where there is a limited selection of USB C ports. In that case you’ll need to buy an adaptor.

A smart move would be for Truly Ergonomic to switch to using USB-C like the rest of the world and include an adaptor in the box for people who need an older connector.

Clicky

The review keyboard came with the “clicky” key option. It gives a satisfying noise when you hit a key along with tactile feedback. It’s a welcome reminder of when all keyboards where made this way. There are options for a silent keyboard without the tactile feedback and silent with the feedback.

Truly Ergonomic says the keys are waterproof and dust proof. It wasn’t practical to test this during the review, but the opened out design does make it easy to clean up crumbs if you get them between the keys.

One important upgrade from the earlier Truly Ergonomic keyboard is backlighting.

How does all this work in practice? The simple answer is that it can mean a significant adjustment on your part. Retraining those mental and physical muscles is far from trivial.

Hard work for a touch typist

It is 40 years since I learnt to touch type on a manual typewriter. If my fingers can find the home keys on a keyboard I can type without looking at what my hands are doing. There are fumbles, but it works. My speeds aren’t great but they are good.

What’s more, I now “think with my fingers”. By that I mean there’s no barrier between my thoughts and seeing words appear on the screen. My typing is unconscious.

That was not the case when I tested the Cleave. My typing speed slowed right down. I needed to look at the keyboard all the time and returned to two finger typing. My fingers could no longer automatically find the keys. The result was my flow was ruined. I can’t use this keyboard.

Hunt and peck typing is different

It’s not all about me. You may not have years of touch typing drilled into your brain.

The Cleave could be a perfect fit for you, but what I can’t tell you is that it improved anything for me. I couldn’t use it long enough to be sure. After a couple of days of not being productive, I gave up.

The words you are reading here were not typed on the Cleave. I’ve gone back to my old, standard not even remotely ergonomic Apple keyboard.

Same product, range of prices

The Cleave’s official list price is US$330 and, frankly, the price structure is odd. There is an option of paying US$249. The cheaper price means a two year guarantee and a 60 day trial instead of three years and 90 days.

At the time of writing there is a limited time offer of US$199 with a one year guarantee and a 30 day trial period. With each option you get exactly the same keyboard.

While the price is expensive by everyday keyboard standards, the amount Truly Ergonomic asks for is reasonable if it delivers a clear benefit. US$330 is a bargain if it keeps you out of surgery.  And anyway, the price is in line with other upmarket ergonomic keyboards with mechanical switches.

Verdict: Truly Ergonomic Cleave keyboard

If you find typing painful, the Cleave has to be on your list.

As the experience outlined above shows, Cleave doesn’t work for everyone. Yet it could be the answer for you.

The biggest barrier to buying the keyboard, is that you won’t know if it is right until you’ve used it for a while. Truly Ergonomic offers options with a trial period, which makes a lot of sense to customers in North America. It may be harder to manage those trial options if you live elsewhere in the world.

There are alternative keyboards, the best known is the cheaper Microsoft Ergonomic keyboard which is widely available in retail stores and costs about half the price of the Cleave. The Microsoft keyboard can help, but the Cleave is much better for people with serious carpel tunnel symptoms.  If you’ve tried the Microsoft keyboard and not seen an effect, then you should consider the Cleave.

Hard to respect flawed Network Readiness Index

Tuanz and Vodafone remind us that New Zealand needs to focus on digital performance. See New Zealand tech slipping behind.

There is no room for complacency. Every other nation wants a competitive digital economy. They are all running towards the same goals.

Standing still is not an option. Any nation not keeping up with the pack risks becoming uncompetitive.

To make a case for more action, Tuanz draws on the Portulans Institute’s Network Readiness Index.

An alarming picture?

On the surface the index paints an alarming picture of New Zealand falling behind the rest of the world.That is until you look closer at the details and the league tables of digital performance.

There are places where the data and tables do not pass a basic sniff test. Many of the measures in the report are meaningless. In other cases, the writers infer a huge amount from the slimmest evidence.

New Zealand’s access story

Take “Access”. The report table shows New Zealand dropped from 16th in the world for access in 2020 to 42nd in the world in 2021. That’s a huge drop.

Keep in mind this is at a time service providers introduced the world-class 8 Gbps Hyperfibre. 2021 saw the Rural Connectivity Group plug rural broadband and mobile network gaps. Many New Zealanders moved to better broadband plans in the year.

By any standard New Zealand ‘access’ moved forward in 2021.

It’s possible the drop in the table is because 26 other countries moved forward faster than New Zealand.

Possible, but not likely.

Fractions of percentage points

Let’s dig deeper into the Portulans Institute’s “access” index. It notes “at least a 3G mobile network” covers a mere 99.46 percent of New Zealand’s population.

This puts us at 70 in the world in this category. It is our worst performing area in the access index.

If 3G covers 99.46 percent of New Zealanders, that means 0.54 percent are not covered. That’s a total of 28,000 people.

Compare with Australia

Australia ranks at number one in the world for “access”. That is the country where, if you are lucky, you may have a 25 Mbps fibre connection. Remember 85 percent of New Zealanders can get gigabit fibre or even Hyperfibre. Another 10 percent can get good fixed wireless broadband.

We have world class access, yet Portulans Institute ranks New Zealand 70 places behind Australia.

Australia is 44 in the world for the percentage of population covered by “at least a 3G mobile network”. Its 3G coverage figure is 99.87 percent. This implies there are 43 countries on that list have an even higher proportion with 3G coverage.

Feel the shame?

No doubt there will be people reading this who think the difference between 99.46 and 99.87 percent 3G coverage shames New Zealand.

In practice the gap between 99.46 and 99.87 percent doesn’t make any difference on a day to day basis.

And that’s before you think about the likely margin of error in those numbers. Hint: It’s likely to be more than one in a thousand.

The reality is that both countries have good 3G coverage scores. Neither is perfect, but New Zealand’s 99.46 percent is no handicap.

Singapore

It won’t surprise you to learn Singapore is top in this category with 100 percent coverage. The Portulans Institute doesn’t include the Vatican in its index. It it did, it would be another country with 100 percent coverage.

That’s because both countries are cities. Smothering a city in 3G is not the same as providing services throughout a country.

It’s a safe bet that Auckland and Melbourne are closer to 100 percent coverage than the countries they sit in.

Where is fibre?

The report does not even consider fast fibre networks. Which, are an important part of any modern access story. If the index included fibre, New Zealand’s position in the access table would be different.

Choosing to make a big deal out of a few thousandths difference in 3G coverage and ignoring fibre is a choice. It could be rational, but it feels arbitrary.

Many of the items the Portulans Institute measured have that arbitrary feel. Under “content” the report measures Github commits and Wikipedia edits. Sure, they measure something. Yet are they important components of a nation’s digital readiness?

Even the positives are weird

There’s a curious data point. New Zealand leapt 41 places up the table for “ICT regulatory environment” in 2021. Did something momentous happen in that area during the year? Did dozens of other countries unwrap their rules?

We could go on. There are questionable assumptions and measurement through the report. It’s not worthless, but nor is it a valuable pointer to relative performance.

There’s a good case for benchmarking our performance against other nations. But let’s not get excited about a poor global network readiness index report. It’s a distraction.

The argument for better digital performance stands on its own merit, not on some spurious set of figures made up by an otherwise unheard of think tank in Washington DC.

New Zealand tech slipping behind

Aotearoa’s Digital Priorities in 2022

Download Weekly – A report from Tuanz and Vodafone warns NZ is slipping behind in technology.

Aotearoa’s Digital Priorities in 2022, a report from Tuanz, sponsored and promoted by Vodafone, suggests New Zealand is at a “tipping point” and “slipping behind the world on key measures of digital economic performance”.

The report pulls on data from the Portulans Institute Network Readiness Index which benchmarks and ranks nations on a range of technology measures.

Scandinavian nations, the Netherlands and Singapore rank at the top of the list. New Zealand comes in a 20 in the list, down from 16 a year earlier.

The report puts New Zealand at 42 in the world for access to technology and at 56 for cyber security.

Shortage in hardware, products and skills

It said New Zealand companies face shortages when finding hardware, tech products and digitally skilled workers.

Other problems include stretched technical resources are stretched and industry leaders running in challenges due to skills gaps, as they struggle to retain or attract staff.

Tuanz chief executive Craig Young says the nation could add $46 billion in economic value by 2030 with digital transformation in non-technology companies, but if we continue to perform poorly against competing nations it will be hard to achieve that.

He says New Zealand is doing work to improve the sector, but other countries are doing things better.

“New Zealand must find ways to bring new skills into the industry or risk an ongoing brake on the aspirations of our companies to compete in this increasingly digital world.

Developing talent

“While we will always need to bring skills in from offshore, our companies and government also need to be aligned in developing homegrown talent, especially in under represented groups such as women, Māori and Pasifika,” he said.

Vodafone chief enterprise officer Lindsay Zwart says a focus on new tech could help: “Business leaders are being affected by talent shortages and supply chain delays but can drive efficiencies by using cloud and software as a service based services which reduce reliance on in-country resources and hardware.”

You can read a commentary on the Portulans Institute Network Readiness Index on the web site later today.


Sky calms media acquisition speculation

A statement issued by Sky company secretary James Bishop to the NZX confirms the broadcaster and internet service provider is eyeing a possible takeover of the remaining parts of Mediaworks.

Sky says: “It is currently in exclusive negotiations with Mediaworks shareholders regarding a potential acquisition of MediaWorks’ radio and out of home advertising business”.

It goes on to warn the likelihood of a transaction is uncertain.

Earlier reports suggest Sky talked to the current owners of MediaWorks: Oaktree, a US-based private equity firm and Quadrant, an Australian media business.

MediaWorks sold its television business, including TV3, to the US-based Discovery in 2020. It kept the radio networks and an outdoor advertising business.


Internal Affairs works with Australians to fight spam

Te Tari Taiwhenua Department of Internal Affairs and the Australian Communications and Media Authority plan to work more closely together as they deal with spam and scam email and txt messages.

This week the pair signed a fresh memorandum of understanding which will see them share information and co-operate on enforcement.

Secretary for Internal Affairs, Paul James says; “…working collaboratively with other international jurisdictions is a key way to tackle this issue”.

ACMA chair Nerida O’Loughlin says: “Research we conducted in 2021 shows 98 percent of Australian adults receive unsolicited communications on their phone. The recent ‘FluBot’ malware scam affected both Australians and New Zealanders, and information sharing with our New Zealand counterparts has aided the ACMA’s spam and scam work.


Akamai reports on rise of Ransomware-as-a-Service

A report from Akamai Technologies on Ransomware-as-a-Service attacks suggests gangs are disrupting supply chains and having an impact on critical infrastructure.

The Akamai Ransomware Threat Report looks at recent attacks and builds a picture of the attacker’s methodologies, tools and techniques.

It says that one ransomware attacker, the Conti gang, targets business with US$10 to $250 million in revenue, where it finds the most success: “The gang’s tactics, techniques, and procedures are well-known, but highly effective – a sobering reminder of the arsenal that is at the disposal of other hackers. But also that these attacks can be prevented with the right mitigation.”


Spark’s Qrious unit hires Laing as CTO

Qrious has promoted director of AI and data science Christopher Laing to become the business’ chief technology officer. Laing was previously head of AI at Xero and worked previously as the global lead data scientist at Allianz in Germany.


In other news…

Vodafone completed moving its operations to SAP cloud. The telco need to develop its own IT infrastructure after separating from its UK parent company.

Gartner says the international market for Infrastructure as a Service public cloud services grew 41 percent in 2021. Amazon Web Services remains the dominant player with a shade under 40 percent of the market. Microsoft is in second place with around 20 percent. The top five SaaS brands account for 80 percent of the total.

Accounting software company MYOB released figures showing New Zealand’s small and medium sized enterprises invested half a billion dollars in digital technology last year. It says half the companies report their digital systems are hindering not helping the business.

After a brief working-from-home fuelled revival, PC shipments have resumed their long-term decline although sales remain above their pre-pandemic level. IDC reports it expects PC shipments to fall 8.2 percent in 2022. Among the reasons: Lockdowns, war and inflation.

Are we happy living in Handy’s Age of Unreason?

In 1989 Charles Handy wrote The Age of Unreason. It’s a book that looked forward to a time where telecommuting would be an everyday reality.

We live in that world today, although we use the term working from home. 

The book contains other predictions that were on the money.

When nothing is forever

Handy forecasted that organisations would no longer hire vast numbers of workers. Instead they either employ on a temporary basis or hire people as consultants. He looked forward to a world where people no longer regard jobs, marriage – or any other aspect of their lives – as being forever.

That’s a reasonable take on today’s job market. Many of us live in the gig economy. Today many companies are hollowed out shells with key employees not being on the payroll.

Some of those companies are huge. Uber doesn’t employ drivers, it uses contractors. The people working at the sharp end of the courier business are not employees even though they wear company uniforms.

Contactor chains

When someone from a telecommunications company installs your fibre, they might drive a van with company logo and wear a branded t-shirt, but legally they are subcontractors working for contractors. They may even be subcontractors to the subcontractors who are working for contractors.

In the book Handy explored the contradiction that employers want to hire staff that have both knowledge and experience even though it is impossible to get experience without first getting a job.

He says there are professions where young people move through the ranks to the point where they can switch careers. In 1989 journalism looked like a good example of this. Even today young journalists have huge amounts of responsibility early in their careers. Few stay with the job for decades, the training is often valuable elsewhere.

Likewise people who start out in tech careers dealing with customers on help desks. That can be a fast track to better paid work, although that is not always the case. It can also be a dead-end.

Work harder but for less time

Another idea in The Age of Unreason is that people have shorter careers in the past, but that they work harder. This means that over the length of their working life they often rack up as many hours as earlier generations.

Handy says people spend longer in education so they start working later. Yet employers encourage them to leave work at an earlier age.

Few people stay with the big management consulting firms for much more than a decade. The graduates of these firms are in demand elsewhere.

A career in, say, international banking might last from the age of 25 to 50, that’s 25 years. In earlier generations, the same career might have lasted almost 50 years from 18 to 68.

One twist Handy misses is that many of today’s employees work longer hours than people did in the 1980s. Although he would feel right at home with the modern managers and business owners who innovate with ideas like the four-day week or nine-day fortnight.

The fact that these schemes make workers more productive and happier at the same time shows they have a better understanding of today’s commercial world than those who cling to more traditional ideas.

Callander lays out 2degrees’ post-merger stall

2degrees CEO Mark Callander sitting in the company's Auckland headquarters

With the merger complete, 2degrees CEO Mark Callander shares his initial plans for the business. 

 

Incoming CEO Mark Callander used a press event marking the completion of 2degrees’ merger with Vocus to lay out the company’s stall.

Pride of place goes to a new wireless broadband service which was launched at the event. 2degrees will offer customers unlimited downloads and 5G fixed wireless speeds at an “introductory price” of $65 a month.

It’s a competitive move, but unlikely to scare competitors at this stage.

The price is $4 a month less than Vodafone’s unlimited 5G fixed wireless broadband plan. The gives 2degrees a 5 percent price advantage. Vodafone customers can get unlimited fixed wireless on the 4G network for $55 a month.

Skinny offers a $55 unlimited fixed wireless broadband plan on Spark’s 4G network with average download speeds of 32 Mbps.

2degrees offer an unlimited fibre plan for $65 a month that offers 300 Mbps downloads.

Greater market share

Callander says 2degrees will push into a range of market segments and that he expects the company to take a greater market share.

One area where the merger could have an impact is selling services to businesses.

Before the merger 2degrees underperformed in business markets while Vocus was more successful, especially with small and medium customers. Bringing the two business product portfolios together brings the company closer to parity with Spark and Vodafone.

In particular, Vocus has enterprise customers who, until now, have been supplied with other company’s mobile phones and network services. Bringing this business in-house will not only improve margins but will also give sales teams a better story.

Infrastructure

Callander points out the combined resources of 2degrees and Vocus brings a lot of infrastructure. In most countries the third largest telco has a lot less infrastructure than the biggest players.

He says: “We intend to leverage this to shake up the telco landscape and better service customers across mobile and fixed services.”

Recent large telco mergers and acquisitions in New Zealand have stumbled over integrating back office functions. This is likely to be the biggest challenge facing the merged company. Vodafone continues to struggle with acquisitions from as long ago as the 2006 iHug purchase.

Callander says there is a programme of work to simplify and digitise the business. “We have a lot of experience of this over the decades, and it will be core to the new-look business and how it meets customers’ needs.”


Skinny Jump low-cost broadband in demand as rising prices hit

Spark says the company’s Skinny Jump subsidised broadband programme has seen a surge in uptake. Before Covid there were 4,000 homes connected to the network. Today there are 22,000.

The company puts this down to the fast-rising cost of living.

Skinny Jump is a fixed wireless broadband service. Spark says it is not-for-profit. Families with students in low-decline schools and recent refugees can get it free for one year. After that prices remain low with data costing $5 for 35GB.

Spark CEO Jolie Hodson says: “Not being able to get online is no longer an inconvenience – it means missing out on access to key services such as online banking, not being able to work remotely, kids falling behind at school, and losing the opportunity to learn key digital skills. And with our workforce becoming increasingly digital, this puts these individuals at risk of falling even further behind their peers.”

Read how the Covid pandemic made New Zealand’s digital divide a more pressing problem.  


As if we didn’t know our fibre network is better than Australia’s

Regulators on both sides of the Tasman acknowledge New Zealand’s UFB outperforms Australia’s NBN.

A report published by the Commerce Commission and the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), compares broadband plans in the two countries.

The report shows that at the time measurements were made in September 2021 New Zealand had faster fixed line broadband than Australia. Since then customers on 100 Mbps fibre connections have seen their plans upgraded to 300 Mbps at no extra cost. Which means the gap will now be wider.

Because comparisons were made between 100 Mbps and Fibre Max plans, the download speeds are similar in both countries – or were before New Zealand’s plans were upgraded. New Zealanders enjoy significantly faster uploads. Kiwi customers on 100 Mbps plans could upload at 22.3 Mbps while Australians had 18.2 Mbps.

On Fibre Max, New Zealanders get an average upload speed of 507 Mbps compared with 45.7 Mbps in Australia. New Zealanders see fewer outages.

Australians on fixed wireless can download at an average of 36.4 Mbps while New Zealanders only manage 29.2. Local wireless users get faster uploads at 17 Mbps compared to an average of 4 Mbps in Australia. Fixed wireless users experience three times as many outages on this side of the Tasman.

While Australians enjoy faster fixed wireless broadband speeds, the report notes: “In both countries, there is a significant difference between the performance of fibre and fixed wireless broadband connections.”

Since the survey completed, New Zealand’s average fibre download speed passed the 400 Mbps mark


Global phone Shipments forecast to fall in 2022

IDC says it expects phone shipments to fall 3.5 percent to around 1.3 billion units in 2022. That’s a big turn around from the research company’s earlier forecast of 1.6 percent growth.

To date the sector has seen three quarters of declining sales and supply chain challenges continue to have an effect. IDC says it expects the decline to be short-term and will rebound with an annual compound growth rate of 1.9 percent between now and 2026.

IDC lists inflation, geo-political tensions and continued supply chain weakness among the forces challanging the market but says the lockdowns in China are the greatest threat. These reduce demand in the world’s biggest phone market while simultaneously hitting supply.

Elsewhere Samsung has told journalists it expects to make 30 million fewer phones this year. It will cut the total from 310 million to 280 million.


Spark Sport wins US Open Tennis rights

Spark Sport has signed a three year deal with the US Open Tennis Championship giving the business exclusive television and streaming rights until the end of 2024. Coverage starts in August with the US Open Qualifying Tournament. Spark Spark has other tennis rights, the company recently renewed its Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) rights.


In other news…

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk talked about the next generation of Starlink satellites on YouTube saying they will be larger, more powerful and “in terms of useful bits of data, almost an order of magnitude better than a Starlink 1.0.” At the time of writing he has yet to get approval for the heavier rockets needed to launch the new satellite.

A report in Reseller News suggests Ericsson is the big winner from Huawei’s removal from the NZ telecommunications equipment market. The story says the firm doubled its New Zealand sales in 2021. Its breakthrough came when 2degrees chose the company for its 700 5G mobile sites.

Three years after the world ran out of IPv4 addresses, The Register reports on a plan to free up hundreds of millions of unused addresses. However, as the story points out, this will not be easy.