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Vodafone WiFi Calling hits early milestone

It took less than three months for Vodafone WiFi calling to hit 10,000 users.

Vodafone says it has 10,000 customers using its WiFi Calling service. It took less than three months to reach that milestone; the service began operating in September.

WiFi Calling lets Vodafone customers make voice calls and send text messages in places where there is no mobile signal but there is WiFi coverage.

This makes it popular in rural areas and also inside buildings where the mobile coverage is weak.

It replaces the older Vodafone Sure Signal service which is due to shut on December 10. Sure Signal is now ten years old. It is based on 3G mobile technology.

This has upset customers in rural areas. A report in the Whanganui Midweek newspaper says Rural Women New Zealand (RWNZ) is disappointed to hear that Vodafone is closing Sure Signal service. They say it will leave many rural customers without a mobile network.

Sure Signal expanded Vodafone’s network reach into rural New Zealand for a decade. The company says it is less important now thanks to the Rural Connectivity Group towers being installed. These now reach many areas that were previously without mobile coverage.

To use Vodafone WiFi calling customers need a Vodafone mobile account and a compatible phone. There are 46 phones that can handle WiFi Calling. Most are newer models, but the technology can be used on an older iPhone 6S that has the latest iOS 15 installed.

N4L survey finds schools confident protecting students online

Nine out of ten New Zealand schools say they are confident in their ability to protect students online. Despite this, schools face many challenges including access and internet reliability problems.

These are among the findings of a survey of 550 schools commissioned by Network for Learning.

N4L CEO Larrie Moore says the results show schools and kura need support with online safety, remote learning and managing technology. He says that leaves them “free to teach and ākonga are free to learn.”

Close to nine out of ten schools (86 per cent) ask students to sign internet use agreements (86 per cent). Almost as many (84 per cent) use web filtering. They also bring in guest speakers, host training workshops, and provide other professional development opportunities for teachers to boost their school’s online safety efforts.

Schools say they know students can find ways around filtering technology and that popular websites such as YouTube can display age-inappropriate images and videos. They worry about cyber bullying issues outside of school that can lead to issues in the classroom.

Meanwhile teachers report that it is hard to oversee classroom device use with students able to quickly flick between open tabs when the teacher approaches.

Pandemic school closures highlighted the importance of the internet for learning and the challenges facing schools.

Three quarters said there were problems with access to devices (77 per cent). A similar number (73 per cent) said students had trouble accessing the internet at home. Almost one in seven (69 per cent) reported students saying their home internet connection was unreliable.

Broadband Compare names awards finalists

Winners of the NZ Compare Awards will be announced on February 16. The finalists for the best wireless service provider category are Farmside, Gravity Internet and Wireless Nation. The shortlist in the value broadband category are 2degrees, Contact Energy, Now Broadband, Flip and Sky Broadband.

Farmside, Gravity Internet, Lightwire and Woi Satellite Internet make up the finalist for the best rural service provider award.

Now Broadband, Orcon and Sky Broadband are the shortlist for the best fibre service provider category.

Kacific introduces mobile backhaul for Pacific

Kacific has introduced a satellite backhaul product for mobile operators, ISPs and telcos in South-East Asia and the Pacific. The service covers 25 countries including New Zealand and Pacific island nations. Speeds are up to 200Mbps.

Opposition launches tech policy process

Hours before former opposition leader Judith Collins was removed from her job, she launched a tech policy paper which may yet be lost in the party turmoil.

Collins’ original aim was to hold a tech summit early in the New Year.

One idea in the paper is to extend the reach of the UFB network to 90 per cent of the population and to make sure every New Zealander can get broadband speeds of at least 100Mbps.

Australia’s Treasury moves on Consumer Data Right

As expected, Australia’s Treasury has proposed extending the country’s Consumer Data Right to cover the telecommunications sector.

The move means retail telcos will have to hand over key information to customers allowing them to make better choices about the products and services they buy.

It would also allow customers to ask retailers to give the data to rival retailers. That way, they could make improved offers to those customers.

These moves echo ideas outlined for New Zealand by Telecommunications Commissioner Tristan Gilbertson.

Kate McKenzie to chair NBN Co

Former Chorus CEO Kate McKenzie will take over the chair at Australia’s NBN Co in January. She will replace Ziggy Switkowski who is stepping down after eight years in the role. McKenzie was a Telstra executive before joining Chorus.

Warren Williams joins REANNZ board

Dr Warren Williams, CEO of the 20/20 Trust has joined the REANNZ board. REANNZ Chair Janine Smith says he has contributed to the sector through his involvement in Vision Mātauranga and Te Mana Raraunga – Māori Data Sovereignty Network.

In other news…

CommsDay reports the US National Science Foundation is looking at building a submarine cable connecting New Zealand’s South Island to McMurdo Station in Antarctica.

Spark Sport has picked up the rights for FIBA (International Basketball Federation) competitions through to 2025.

Gartner says worldwide phone sales dropped 6.8 per cent in the third quarter of 2021. The research company puts that down to component shortages and lack of availability, not falling demand.

New Zealand organisations are spending more on software. A report from IDC says spending on software is up 20 per cent year-on-year. The biggest gainer is conferencing and team collaboration software.