5 min read

Nelson residents test 2degrees cell towers in space

2degrees moves on to more extensive satellite to mobile testing, Tū Ātea buys Broadtech, Network for Learning’s year of cybersecurity
Network for Learning cyber security keeps students safe online.
Network for Learning cyber security keeps students safe online.

2degrees Nelson customers test cell towers in space

2degrees says it has begun more extensive trials of satellite to mobile technology. The telco says staff and customers in the Nelson region are now testing the technology in "real world conditions".

The test uses cellular equipment mounted on Lynk's low earth orbit satellites. Callers are able to make voice calls or send and receive text messages in areas that are beyond the reach of the terrestrial cellular network.

For now the trial is limited because the service is only operational when a satellite is overhead. 2degrees CEO Mark Callander says availability will increase as more satellites are launched. Realistically it will be a few years before there is continual coverage.

Users can make calls on standard phone handsets, although not all models are supported.

Integration complete

Callander said 2degrees and Lynk have completed the necessary network integration to make the service work in NZ.

“We know people are really keen to get their hands on this – but the number of satellites in the sky means the service is only available for minutes at a time, and we want this to be longer and have conducted more testing in the wild before we release it widely.

“We’ve always said we’ll keep customers across progress on this technology – which is cutting edge and really exciting – but in its infancy. We now have the next generation of connectivity in the hands of a select group of customers, and they should be able to send and receive messages when out of terrestrial cell coverage."

Comment: Early this year rival telco One New Zealand announced it would offer 100 per cent coverage in 2024 using Starlink's LEO network. It ran an advertising campaign promising the coverage but the Commerce Commission issued a stop notice halting that campaign because the ads were misleading.

While One NZ was making all the noise and getting into hot water, 2degrees was getting on with the job. Earlier this year it was able to demonstrate text and voice calling using Lynk satellites.

Meanwhile, at the time of writing, the suitably equipped Starlink satellites remain on the ground. One New Zealand has 12 months to get its ducks in a row. The question of whether it will be able to demonstrate that customers have 100 per cent mobile coverage by the end of next year is up in the air – or maybe not.

Tū Ātea buys Broadtech

Māori Spectrum and Telecommunications Service Tū Ātea has reached an agreement to acquire the Broadtech group which operates a network of radio transmission sites. All 50 employees will remain with the business.

Tū Ātea was previously known as the Interim Māori Spectrum Commission. It was established in 2020 by the Māori Spectrum Working Group to hold the long-term rights to iwi-owned telecommunications spectrum.

Broadtech has expertise in telecommunications and broadcast engineering along with capability in the healthcare, utility, media, and enterprise sectors.

Tū Ātea Chief Executive, Antony Royal, says Broadtech is working with the mobile network operators and to find innovative ways to share spectrum and infrastructure to extend mobile coverage to remote and underserved areas. The goal is to help close the digital divide.

“The intention is that people could use their existing mobile account to access services in areas that previously had no or poor coverage.”

Tū Ātea says the Broadtech Group will continue to support and grow its commercial operations, including supporting mobile network operators to build out and maintain their infrastructure. It manages terrestrial transmission for Whakaata Māori (Māori TV) and Iwi radio stations along with other radio and television media organisations. Broadtech counts health and enterprise clients, wireless internet providers and the coastguard among its customers.

Royal says the acquisition allows Tū Ātea to scale up its Māori skills and workforce development efforts.

“We have a shortage of Māori radio engineers and technicians. With Broadtech we now have a company to help us build skills for Māori in cutting-edge technologies, and develop careers in a wide range of digital sectors including telecommunications and broadcasting.”

Network for Learning’s year of cybersecurity

Online safety and security dominated Network for Learning's year.

In its annual report crown-owned school digital infrastructure company says 95 per cent of schools now have N4L Safe & Secure Internet recommended settings switched on.

During the year the company added a new Email Protection service and offered its Security Operations Centre. The centre says it blocked 158 million security threats in 2023.

Expanded brief

Over the years the company, originally set up to provide schools with managed broadband as the nationwide fibre network rolled out has expanded its brief to include in-school WiFi and, in remote areas, satellite broadband.

More recently it has taken on a key cybersecurity role aiming to keep students and teachers safe from online threats and harmful digital content.

Network for Learning CEO, Larrie Moore, says: “N4L’s overarching goal is to deliver affordable, national and sustainable services to schools, ensuring all learners, regardless of their geography or socio-economic circumstances, can access safer, more reliable digital technology for learning.

"This reliability, where everything 'just works,' allows educators and students to concentrate on teaching and learning, promoting efficiency and effectiveness in our educational institutions.”

Disclosure: I have written blog posts for Network for Learning.

Chorus joins Digital Seniors and 20/20 Trust to boost inclusion

Chorus is getting behind Digital Seniors and the 20/20 Trust in a bid to improve digital equity.

The deal will see Chorus help Digital Seniors expand its regional coverage offering coaching to help older people become more comfortable with technology.

This is increasingly essential as more of life moves online. Digital Seniors CEO Cathy Hardinge says the organisation's research says seniors will be the largest demographic by 2028 but are becoming less engaged with digital technology.

The 20/20 Trust has a broader digital equity programme

Cert concerned abut Christmas parcel delivery scams

The New Zealand government’s Computer Emergency Response Team says there has been a rise in the number of scam parcel delivery messages. The messages claim to be from NZ Post.

Jordan Heersping, Cert's Threat and Incident manager says that with many people expecting parcel deliveries at this time of year the scams appear more credible.

Cert days the number of phishing messages from NZ Post has climbed 66 per cent in the last four months.

Scam messages typically claim a parcel could not be delivered and the receiver needs to click on a link which goes to a page asking for information, including credit card details.

In other news...

CommsDay reports The International Telecommunication Union will soon publish new standards for “Flexible Optical Transport Network” that support data rates from 400 to 800 gigabits per second. While there are 800 Gbps optical transport systems already on the market, a formal definition will help moves towards standardisation.

Download Weekly in 2024

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