Bill Bennett

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Author: Bill Bennett

Not actually a geek, more a chronicler of geekdom. Still mainly a journalist, sometimes a blogger.

The Download – RSM clears lower 6 GHz band for Wi-Fi

Hyperfibre

More bandwidth set aside for wireless networks, MyRepublic offers a new way to buy mobile. 

Radio Spectrum Management clears lower 6 GHz band for Wi-Fi

Radio Spectrum Management has chosen to allocate the lower part of the 6 GHz band for low-power use. This, in effect, means Wi-Fi networks.

For now the regulatory agency has put off a decision about the higher part of the band. This squares with practice in many countries overseas and echoes the Australian position.

Technically the band from 5925 to 6425 MHz is limited to devices maximum power of 250 mW. That’s the same as the European standard.

RSM reports the three mobile operators were largely supportive of the move although Spark noted that the decision would be hard to reverse.


MyRepublic mobile plans will be revealing

This week MyRepublic published the details of its previously announced unlimited mobile plans.

The Singapore-based company’s approach to selling mobile in speed tiers will give industry watchers an interesting insight into how consumers value mobile data speeds and the level of demand for faster mobile connections.

MyRepublic customers will be able to choose from one of three speed bands. Like all the other plans, the company’s cheapest plan, the $60 a month Rocket Lite, offers unlimited data but with a maximum speed of 5 Mbps. For $75 a month customers can choose the Rocket plan which runs at 5 Mbps. At the top of the range is the $100 a month Rocket Max plan which offers 20 Mbps.

The company’s marketing talks in terms of the low-end being for “basic browsing” and the high-end offering “Quad HD streaming”.

MyRepublic lists the gaming experience customers will have in each of the tiers. The marketing material describes the Lite plan as “not recommended if you need a quality and stable gaming experience”. This suggests gamers will be the company’s main target market.

The speed tier approach is unique to MyRepublic’s New Zealand operation. In its native Singapore the company’s mobile plans use the conventional data based model. At the time of writing MyRepublic doesn’t offer mobile in Australia.

It will be interesting to see if consumers want to buy mobile by the megabit-per-second and whether they are willing to pay a premium for faster connections.


2degrees adds eSim for business customers, consumer to follow

2degrees business customers can now use electronic Sim cards with a range of Apple, Samsung and Oppo devices. That includes phones, iPads, other tablets and smartwatches.

An eSim offers the same functionality as a SIM card, but doesn’t need a slot. That way devices can have more than one active Sim. You might, say, have one number for work and other for leisure. It’s also useful if you want a local Sim when travelling overseas.

The company says business phone and tablet users can have eSims today, consumer eSims and eSims for watches will be available later this month.


Orcon add Christchurch to Hyperfibre footprint

2degrees’ Orcon unit has begun offering Hyperfibre to customers in central Christchurch. Taryn Hamilton, 2degrees chief consumer officer, says he expects to see “a lot of interest from small and medium businesses looking for faster services, without having to spend megabucks on a service.”

Orcon Hyperfibre prices are $150 a month for the 2 Gbps service, $185 for 4 Gbps and $275 for an 8 Gbps plan.


IDC charts 4th quarter of falling phone demand

IDC says worldwide smartphone shipments dropped 8.7 percent in the second quarter compared with the same period a year earlier. It marks the fourth consecutive quarter of falling demand and was lower than had been forecast.

Research director Nabila Popal says the earlier fall in demand was down to supply problems, but now it is demand that is falling.

She says “Roaring inflation and economic uncertainty has dampened consumer spending and increased inventory across all regions. OEMs have cut back orders for the rest of the year with Chinese vendors making the biggest cuts as their largest market continues to struggle.”

IDC expects to see demand start to pick up in some regions towards the end of the year.

Samsung remains the most popular phone brand with a 21.8 percent share of units. Apple is next with a 15.6 percent share.


DCI Data Centres breaks ground on Auckland’s North Shore

Dr David Clark, Minister for the Digital Economy and Communications, was due to break the ground on DCI’s North Shore data centre this Friday morning as The Download Weekly was preparing to be published.

The $400 million AKL02 data centre will be one of the largest in the country.

DCI is an Australian-based data centre business and is a Brookfield Asset Management portfolio company.


Chile-Australia Humboldt cable issues request for proposal

Chile has moved closer to building the 15,000km Humboldt cable which will link Valparaiso and Sydney Australia with branches connecting to Invercargill, Easter Island, Antartica and other destinations. It would be the first cable to connect South America with Oceania.

The Chilean government-owned infrastructure fund Desarrollo Pais and International Connectivity Services, part of the Hawaiki Group, now owned by Singapore’s BW Digital have issued requests for proposals.

BW Digital CEO Remi Galasso says the cable will be a critical piece of infrastructure for South America.

The Humboldt cable is due to be ready by late 2025 or early 2026.


BNZ offers contactless payments on Android phones

BNZ has launched what it says is New Zealand’s first contactless terminal phone app. BNZ Pay works on an Android phone allowing small traders to take contactless payments. There is no monthly fee for the service for BNZ bank customers until January 2024. From then it will cost $10 a month, but users are only charged if they use the app during the month.


In other news…

Chorus’s Hyperfibre brand will feature in a sponsorship deal the fibre company signed with New Zealand Esports. This month sees the start of the first NZ Esports Hyperfibre league.

Spark is using the 5G Street Museum to showcase New Zealand creative talent and its mobile technology.

Facebook’s parent company Meta reported its first ever revenue drop. Revenue, at $US28.8 billion, was down one percent from the year earlier. Profit dropped 36 percent from $10.4 billion to $6.7 billion. The company says it was hit by falling ad sales and competition from TikTok, but failed to mention the effect of a small change to Apple’s iOS setting which allows people to avoid Facebook tracking. In the event, most users choose not to hand Facebook data and that looks set to cost Meta $10 billion a year.

Chip-maker Intel turned in a disappointing second quarter result with revenue down 22 percent on a year earlier. The company made a loss, during the same period last year it made $5 billion profit. The news saw investors bail out of the company, the share price fell by 11 percent. Moreover, Intel’s market capitalisation fell behind that of its rival AMD. I discussed the Intel story and other stories earlier in the week on the NZ Tech Podcast.


The Download 2.0 is a free weekly wrap of New Zealand telecommunications news stories published every Friday.

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NZ Tech Podcast – Vodafone MVNO, Intel chip woes

NZ tech Podcast

 

I’m back on the NZ Tech Podcast with Paul Spain. It’s a busy episode and we get through a lot of material.

This week we discuss Vodafone’s MVNO reboot and MyRepublic’s innovative mobile plans, how New Zealand’s Invisible Urban Charging looks to install 6000+ EV chargers in Florida, Intel’s poor financial result and outlook, a creator project from Nanogirl and put Indonesia’s moves to stop access to key internet services into a wider perspective.

Source: Vodafone virtual network play, 275m people lose key internet services, Intel in pain.

Chromebook demand halves, tablets flat, PCs wobble

Chromebook makers shipped 6 million devices in the second quarter of 2022 down from 12.3 million the same time a year ago. The numbers come from IDC’s mobility and consumer device tracker.

Chromebooks enjoyed a short-lived boom in demand when the world first went into lockdown. Schools and governments in the US and Europe sent the devices home with students as learning temporarily shifted online.

By the third quarter of last year that surge in sales was over. At that time shipments dropped by close to a third.

Despite the rapid recent decline, Chromebook shipments remain comfortably above pre-Covid levels and look set to stay there. They are popular in education, although less so in New Zealand than elsewhere.

Tablets performed better than expected

Tablets were the other devices to gain from remote learning and working. They were seen as a low cost alternative to PCs.

IDC says the tablet market performed better than expected in the recent quarter. Shipments were flat, with a shade over 40 million devices shipped in the quarter.

Apple’s iPad remains the most popular table. It accounts for 31 percent of the market. Samsung has an 18 percent market. Amazon, which barely features in the New Zealand market, was in third place with Lenovo and Huawei making up the top five.

PCs doing it tough

In comparison IDC reports PC shipments tumbled 15 percent in the same quarter. Like Chromebook and tablets, PC shipments soared during the early stage of the Covid pandemic then fell back as markets reached saturation. Supply chain problems, high oil prices and the knock on effect of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine are other reasons IDC says are behind falling demand.

As with tablets and Chromebooks, PC demand remains above pre-Covid levels. IDC says much of the remaining demand for PCs is from business, widespread uncertainty means consumers are less willing to buy new computers at the moment.

Tower sales revive shared infrastructure question

There is nothing unusual about Spark and Vodafone deciding to sell their cell tower networks. Telcos around the world have done the same thing. If anything the two New Zealand carriers were late to the party.

Yet the move throws up an interesting question. Not many years ago telcos regarded their mobile phone tower networks as strategic assets.

One of the justifications for the sales is that Spark and Vodafone no longer think their tower networks are that important. Not every telco thinks that way. There are telcos worldwide who decided not to sell their tower networks.

2degrees CEO Mark Callander says his company has no immediate plans to sell its network and questions the rationale. He could yet be proved right.

Widespread mobile coverage

Yet you can see how the towers’ sellers might arrive at their position. All three mobile networks now cover all the main places customers need coverage. No one network has a serious advantage over its rivals.

Thanks to the Rural Connectivity Group joint venture between the three carriers, the gaps in rural coverage are being filled in. There are places and state highways where coverage is needed, but the demand is not high enough for a normal commercial tower.

In those places towers are being built with government subsidies; the infrastructure is shared by the three carriers. Other operators are able to rent space on these towers.

Shared infrastructure works

Shared mobile infrastructure works. And that’s the nub of the interesting question. If tower networks are no longer strategic, why parcel them into two separate TowerCos? Would it not make sense to share the infrastructure in the same way that works well in rural New Zealand?

If the two, or even three, mobile companies had a single tower network, they could reduce operating costs. The long-term gain to the carriers would be far greater than the short-term sugar rush of a sale freeing up capital.

This would be even more the case in the 5G era when, as new spectrum becomes available at higher frequencies, tower networks need to become denser. A single nationwide network of dense tower coverage makes sense. It would be efficient. After all, the RCG is living proof that sharing resources can work.

Not a new idea

We’ve been here before. There was a discarded plan to offer an open access nationwide network of cell towers, something similar to the way Chorus and the fibre companies offer open access.

It wouldn’t hand over market share to smaller players in the way the UFB model has because mobile networks need spectrum and the majority of useful spectrum remains in the hands of the mobile carriers.

That plan was on offer a handful of years ago and was rejected by the carriers, at least in part, because they argued the tower networks were strategic assets. With that out the way it could be time to dust those plans down and give them a second look.

Vodafone reboots MVNO with MyRepublic deal

Vodafone reboots MVNO with MyRepublic deal

Vodafone has breathed life back into New Zealand’s limp mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) sector. It will operate as part of the company’s Vodafone Infrastructure Partners wholesale division.

The first partner is MyRepublic. The Singapore-owned ISP says it plans to offer what it calls ’truly unlimited” mobile plans from next month.

For now the MyRepublic website teases customers saying: “On our unlimited data plans, you just have one easy choice to consider, fast, faster or fastest”. Prices will start at $60 a month and all plans include unlimited calls and texts in Australia and New Zealand.

Vodafone wholesale and infrastructure director Tony Baird says the company’s Vodafone Infrastructure Partners unit operates as a separate wholesale business. He says the MVNO move will give consumers more options when it comes to pricing and plans and will unlock the “nascent wholesale mobile market in New Zealand.”

Unlike many other markets New Zealand has never had a vibrant MVNO sector. The total sum of non-main carrier business has hovered at around one percent of the market. Overseas it can be a third or more.

New Zealand’s biggest MVNO is run by companies in what was the Vocus group. The merger with 2degrees mesns the existing deal is likely to unravel.

Often MVNOs are run by well known consumer brands. Here, the most visible remaining example of that would be the Warehouse’s mobile operation which runs on the 2degrees network.

Baird says: “It’s our belief that the conditions are now right to help NZ grow its MVNO market, and Vodafone will work with partners that can complement our brand and help us increase our network utilisation”.


Smaller broadband retailers winning as market grows

IDC’s 2022 New Zealand Telecommunications Competitive Landscape report says the telco market grew 1.7 percent in the year to March 2022. The research company says the move to endless data mobile plans and the continuing uptake of fibre broadband are the main growth drivers.

The year saw smaller broadband retailers such as Trustpower and Contact Energy win 2.9 percent of the market from the larger telcos.

Monica Collier, IDC’s associate research director, telecommunications says there has been a shift towards the energy retailer who now bundle broadband with electricity. In addition to Trustpower and Contact Energy, she says smaller energy retailers such as Electric Kiwi and Nova Energy have added broadband services.

She says: “While their market shares are modest, they still contribute to the shift in connections away from the incumbents.”

The key is that energy retailers don’t need to make a profit from broadband. Collier says this allows them to offer compelling bundles and deals to their customers. “”For example, one energy retailer continues its successful ‘joining rewards’ for broadband sign ups that include fridges, TVs, and washing machines. Another offers Fibre 300 for a relatively low $59.99 per month when bundled with power and gas services”.

Elsewhere IDC reports a move by mobile customers to postpaid plans with the number of connections increasing 5.5 percent in the year as consumers switch to endless data plans. As a result prepay connections dropped during the year.


InternetNZ goes outside sector for new CEO

InternetNZ has chosen outside Vivien Maidaborn to replace Jordan Carter as the organisation’s CEO. Maidaborn has recently worked in Vietnam for Unicef and has previously been CEO of community organisations.

Joy Liddicoat, InternetNZ president says the appointment comes at a pivotal time for the organisation with the new .nz registry due, its commitment to becoming a Te Tiriti o Waitangi-centric organisation, and its strong focus on working for a safe internet for everyone in Aotearoa.


Cert NZ works with Catalyst for Samba update

Cert NZ is working with Catalyst and the open-source community to update the Samba domain control software suite. Samba is free networking protocol used for file and printer services and a widely used alternative to Microsoft’s Windows active directory.

In other news…

Facebook parent company Meta reported its first ever revenue drop. The company’s second quarter revenue was US$28.8 billion, that’s down almost one percent from a year earlier and slightly behind market expectations.

Yet, the company managed to grow its average active user base from 1.96 billion to 1.97 billion at a time the market expected a fall. Much of the changing fortunes stems from Apple’s move allowing iPhone users to decide if they allow Facebook to track their online activity. In the event, many Apple users decided they don’t want Facebook to track them.


Spark tests rural 5G mmWave technology

Spark, Nokia test rural 5G mmWave in North Canterbury

Spark says it saw peak speeds of 2.4Gbps at a range of 3 km during its first rural trial of 5G millimetre wave technology. The speed at 7 km was 1.4 Gbps.

The telco says the tests, which took place at Mouse Point in North Canterbury, were New Zealand’s first rural trial of 5G mmWave technology.

Spark worked with Nokia and used spectrum loaned from the Ministry of Business Innovation & Employment. The test client was agricultural supplier PGG Wrightson which runs a store at Culverden, 6 km from the test site.

mmWave Spectrum is not currently open to mobile network providers. Should it become available it would allow carriers to offer faster fibre-like speeds and greater capacity to fixed wireless customers.

Renee Mateparae, Technology Evolution Lead for Spark says: “mmWave is likely best suited to areas where a high number of users are concentrated – places like shopping centres, crowded stadiums, and university campuses could all benefit from the capabilities of mmWave.”

“We are working with the business community to identify and test other cutting edge use cases for 5G mmWave technology, such as in a high-density urban setting, and plan to do more of this over the coming 18 months.”

For PGG Wrightson the application is simple; connecting rural stores, something that can be challenging. Stephen Guerin, the company’s CEO of PGG Wrightson says, “This type of new connectivity technology could provide our online customers with high-definition livestreaming with minimal delays of our auctions.”

Spark’s test used mmWave spectrum on loan from MBIE and Nokia’s high-capacity AirScale 5G mmWave equipment.

MBIE says it hopes to make mmWave spectrum available as soon as practicable, subject to the conclusion of ongoing spectrum consultation.


Vodafone sells mobile towers for $1.7 billion

Vodafone went public on its it tower sale days after Spark announced its sale. The deal will see 40 percent of the tower business sold to each of InfraRed Capital Partners and Northleaf Capital Partners. The remaining 20 percent will be acquired by Infratil which already owns half of the Vodafone business.

The investors will pay $1.7 billion for the network of 1,484 towers. That represents a small per tower premium over the $1.3 billion for 1250 towers valuation of Spark’s towers.

Vodafone will enter a 20-year agreement with the tower company with extension rights. There’s a commitment from the towerco to build at least 390 new towers over the next ten years.

The tower deal should be completed by the end of this year subject to Overseas Investment Office approval and the completion of certain reorganisation steps.


Spark IoT to power Dunedin water management

A smart meter system for non-residential water users in Dunedin is based on a new IoT network from Spark. The NB-IoT network will help Dunedin City Council meet the objectives of the government’s Three Waters policy and prepare the council for further smart city developments.

The smart meter system provides real time data and makes it easier to spot leaks or other faults on the water network. The council expects a net financial benefit of around $800,000 per year after operating costs.


TCF gives nod to Commerce Commission dispute resolution focus

The Telecommunications Forum says it welcomes moves by the Commerce Commission to raise awareness of the Telecommunications Dispute Resolution Scheme (TDR). The regulator sent a letter to telcos to help increase customer awareness of the scheme and it wants to improve access to customers using service providers who are not yet scheme members.

TCF CEO Paul Brislen wants all service providers to sign up for the TDR. He says: “While customers can always deal directly with their provider, sometimes that relationship breaks down and it’s vital that customers have a way to deal with any issues that arise. The Telecommunications Dispute Resolution service provides that path and we believe any company offering telco service in New Zealand should be party to the TDR process.”


Sky in talks for Rugby World Cup rights

Media reports suggest Sky is about to buy the Rugby World Cup broadcast rights. The story at the RNZ site says Sky has beaten a rival bid from Spark Sport and Discovery, the owners of TV3.

Spark Sport got started when the telco surprised the market by winning the 2019 Rugby World Cup rights that had traditionally been owned by Sky. That move triggered a nationwide network upgrade which meant there was plenty of capacity in place when the Covid pandemic hit a year later.


In other news…

Gartner says the world will spend US$4.5 trillion on information technology this year. That’s up three percent on 2021. Unlike last year the total spent on PCs, tablets and other devices will fall five percent, with much of the growth coming from software, services and data centres.

Gartner says price increases and delivery uncertainties, made worse by the war in Ukraine, have accelerated the move from owning technology to buying services. Cloud spending is expected to grow 22.1 percent this year.

At Stuff Tom Pullar-Strecker reports Sky customers face poor service as the TV and broadband service provider struggles with staff sickness due to Covid and problems with recruiting new staff.

Amazon’s AWS has signed a new all-of-government agreement with The Department of Internal Affairs covering more than 200 cloud services. It replaces an agreement that has been in place since 2017.

Government cyber security agency Cert NZ has launched a campaign to encourage the use of passphrases as an easier way of having memorable long passwords.“Too many New Zealanders use easy-to-crack, short passwords and often they use the same passwords in multiple places.”