6 min read

Adroit buy boosts Spark's IoT push

Spark acquires Adroit environmental monitoring business. Chorus' low cost fibre plan momentum. Kiwis to test Twitter/X charging.
Adroit water testing in the Avon river.
Adroit water testing in the Avon river.

Spark acquires Adroit environmental monitoring business

Spark says it has agreed to buy the remaining shares in Adroit, an environmental Internet of Things business. The company provides technology used for monitoring worksites, agriculture and aquaculture. It uses the data to give customers insights that help inform decision making or meet compliance requirements.

Adroit and Spark formed a formal partnership in 2021 with the telco reselling the company's services while providing it with an IoT network. At the time it became an investor and was represented on the board.

The company has featured in Spark's IoT case studies.

Spark customer director Mark Beder says: “Spark has been impressed over the past few years by Adroit’s development of a strong product set, and successful delivery of real-time environmental monitoring solutions to clients across New Zealand, and this acquisition recognises the hard work of the Adroit team.”

IoT has been one of the standout growth areas in Spark's recent financial reports.

7000 new takers for Chorus digital divide service

A low cost fibre plan that helps bridge the digital divide attracted 7000 new users in the three months to September 30. Chorus says two per cent or around 20,000 of connections on its network use the plan.

Like everything else Chorus sells, Home Fibre Starter service is a wholesale product. It offers a 50Mbps fibre broadband connection.

Chorus launched Home Fibre Starter in April last year and has a wholesale price of $38 a month providing retail service providers charge their customers less than $60 including GST.

Entry level

Retailers pitch it as an entry-level product. At 2degrees and One New Zealand sell it as a $50 a month unlimited data Fibre Starter plan.

A 50Mbps connection is more than enough for a household to have full internet access at the same time as video streaming. Chorus says on average customers on its 50 Mbps plans got through 260 GB of data in September. This compares with 480 GB for customers on 300 Mbps plans and 940GB for those on 1 Gbps plans.

Up to a point Home Fibre Starter competes with low-end fixed wireless services. The price is similar but wireless broadband may or may not include data caps.

Fibre continues to grow

Chorus says its added a total of 19,000 fibre connections in the September quarter. There are now a total of 1,051,000. More than a third (36 per cent) of the connections added in the quarter were either 1 Gbps or Hyperfibre connections.

The company says growth in its fibre business more than offset the reduction in copper broadband connections which fell 8000 during the quarter. The company has now withdrawn copper services from 29,000 connections and 660 copper broadband cabinets have closed.

2degrees tackles child phone safety

2degrees is working with Netsafe on First Phones, a programme to teach children both the good and bad facts of online life. The programme will start with a box for parents to put their child's first phone in.

The box is printed with safety tips. It includes an agreement template helping families develop rules around phone behaviour. The tips deal with issues such as how to avoid scams, catfishing, misinformation and dealing with trolls. There is also a warning that, like an elephant, the internet never forgets.

There are links to a track by UK Grime artist Scrufizzer which teaches the children about the good and bad "tings" which happen when you own a phone.

The boxes are free. A limited number of them are available at 2degrees stores.

Judd and Purchase join One NZ leadership team

One New Zealand has appointed Nick Judd as chief financial officer role and Mike Purchase as enterprise director.

Chartered accountant Judd joins the business from Tourism Holdings where he was CFO. Before that he was Air New Zealand. His last job there was as its chief strategy, networks and alliances officer. He will start at One NZ in early 2024.

Mike Purchase is an internal promotion after filing in as interim enterprise director in recent months. His experience includes managing what was then Vodafone's key large business and government customer accounts.

Twitter to charge Kiwi new users $1 a year

For an unexplained reason Twitter selected New Zealand along with the Philippines to trial a US$1 a year charge. Owner Elon Musk says it is "...the only way I can think of to combat vast armies of bots.”

The fee in New Zealand will be NZ$1.43.

Twitter, now known as X, will charge new users the fee before they can tweet, reply, quote, repost, like or bookmark on the site. Existing users are not affected.

The charge means handing over credit card details to the company. A second condition for new users signing up for the service is to hand over a mobile phone number.

This all presupposes there are New Zealand's waiting to join Twitter who have never heard of a VPN.

While the charge is not high, asking users for a phone number and credit card details adds friction to the sign-up process. This friction, rather than the cost, is likely to deter new users.

At the same time, the small fee will not stop determined spammers and purveyors of misinformation.

Video streamers push up prices well ahead of inflation

Prices for streaming video services are rising fast. This week Netflix announced that US customers of the company's premium tier will pay 15 per cent more each month. This follows a 10 per cent price rises last year.

Netflix's price rise comes despite the company's content library now being almost a third smaller than it was eight years ago.

A few days earlier Disney hiked the US price of its Disney+ service 27 per cent. The company also increased the price of its Hulu subsidiary by 21 per cent.

Pay less, watch ads

The raw price rises are not the whole story. Both Netflix and Disney offer lower priced options where viewers can pay less, but have to submit to a few minutes of advertisements every hour. The prices for these services did not increase.

In other words, they are using price to nudge consumers towards advertising supported services. While these cost less each month, they are more profitable.

You can read this as the big streamers turning into the broadcast and cable TV channels they displaced.

The higher average revenue per user from advertising supported streaming video is an obvious motivator, but the streamers are aware there is little room left for growth under the old model. They calculate that by introducing a lower priced option, they'll be able to sign up new subscribers.

Netflix growth

Not that Netflix hasn't managed to grow its numbers. The company's move to crack down on the password sharing service it once encouraged has seen record numbers of new customers sign on. In the third quarter of 2023, Netflix added 6 million customers.

The strategy employed by Netflix and Disney may not be popular with customers, but it is benign compared with moves at Amazon's Prime streaming service. From the start of next year existing Amazon Prime customers will be served advertising whether they like it or not.

Amazon says it will offer customers option to pay more for an ad-free service. Media watchers worry that the company won't make that process easy or transparent. The potential revenue from a semi-captive advertising audience is likely to be far higher than subscription revenue.

One unsurprising consequence of these moves is that digital piracy, a problem that almost went away, is now returning. Prepare to see renewed interest in tools like BitTorrent.

In other news...

Ericsson reports sales dropped 5 per cent year-on-year in the third quarter of 2023. The company's main network sales were down 16 per cent. The company posted record earnings in the same quarter a year ago. Ericsson says a drop in network sales in the US were offset by growing 5G sales elsewhere.

Australia's e-safety Commission issued Google a formal warning and fined Twitter for not bothering to respond properly to formal enquiries on how the companies detect and remove child sexual abuse material. Twitter has to pay A$610,500 to the government agency set up to keep Australians safe online.

Spymasters from the Five Eyes intelligence services issued a joint statement accusing China of intellectual property theft and using AI to spy on other nations. It's no secret, the digital security sector has been warning governments and businesses about the sheer scale of this espionage for years, but to have the intelligence heads go public with the story is a departure.

"Unexpected item in the bagging area". Supermarkets overseas are having second thoughts about self-checkout technology.

At the ITP TechBlog Peter Griffin says the University of Waikato’s management school has set up the country’s first Bachelor of Banking, Finance & Technology (BBFinTech) degree.

The Download Weekly is supported by Chorus New Zealand.