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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.”


Ontario Teachers buys Spark TowerCo majority share

Spark Cell tower
Spark finds a buyer for its mobile towers, 2degrees expands 5G network, Chorus sees modest rise in fibre uptake.

Ontario Teachers buy majority share of Spark’s TowerCo

Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan Board will pay Spark $900 million for a 70 percent majority stake in TowerCo, the telco’s mobile tower business.

The deal covers more than 1250 mobile phone towers around New Zealand and values the entire network at around $1.3 billion.

Spark says the deal will complete in the first half of the 2023 financial year and is subject to Overseas Investment Office approval.

TowerCo has a 15-year agreement with Spark to provide access to the existing towers and any new ones. The agreement includes a commitment to build a further 670 sites over the next decade.

Vodafone tower sale imminent

Ontario Teachers is part of a consortium aiming to bid for Vodafone New Zealand’s tower network along with the New Zealand Superannuation Fund. The Canadian pension fund missed out on an earlier auction for the Optus tower network in Australia and looked to New Zealand.

Bids for the Vodafone tower network are due today, July 15.

Telcos around the world have cashed in on their tower networks in recent years. In many cases sales have unlocked billions in capital that can be recycled into potentially high-return business opportunities. Others have done it to reduce the debts incurred building 5G networks.

In Spark’s case a proportion of the proceeds will be invested. Spark’s chair Justine Smyth says this will help the business accelerate its transition from traditional telecommunications into higher growth digital services.

A proportion of the money will be earmarked for shareholders. Smyth says the money will enable direct shareholder returns.

She says: “Spark intends to release an updated capital management policy at its full year results on August 24. When assessing the most appropriate use of proceeds Spark will consider three key pillars – maximising returns to shareholders, investment in future growth, and maintaining financial flexibility through an appropriate investment grade debt rating.

Shareholder returns

“The capital management policy will provide clarity on the proportion of proceeds allocated to each of these areas and the most effective means of returning proceeds to shareholders.”

Tower sales are based on the idea that the mobile phone networks are no long important differentiators for carriers.

In the early days of mobile networks towers were strategic assets allowing carriers to compete. Now that mobile networks cover all the main population areas in New Zealand and in rural areas the networks rely on the shared assets of the Rural Connectivity Group, they say there’s less advantage to owning the towers.

Yet that’s not the thinking at 2degrees where CEO Mark Callander says there are no immediate plans to sell towers.


2degrees expands 5G footprint

2degrees says it added 13 5G areas to its network in June. Chief technology officer Martin Sharrock says the company’s focus has been to create contiguous zones of coverage in preference to building coverage in spots. He says this means a mobile customer stays on 5G for longer, not moving in and out of coverage.

The network build includes Milford and Belmont on Auckland’s North Shore. Albert Street, Ellerslie, Wairakei, Adelaide Road, Hyde Park, Remuera Road, Broomfield, Hobson Bay South, Kohimarama, South Waimairi and Mt Wellington North.

Elsewhere Sharrock says the company is seeing more customers roaming overseas, a sign that International travel is returning.

He says: “Pre-pandemic we would see tens of thousands of people roaming in a month. This dropped to almost zero during 2020 and 2021, but has been steadily increasing this year, and is now sitting at 20 percent of the pre-Covid peak.” Inbound roaming – returning Kiwis and Australian travellers – is also up, peaking above the levels seen during the last trans-Tasman bubble.


Chorus sees modest rise in fibre uptake

In its quarterly report to shareholders Chorus said the company added 20,000 fibre connections in the fourth quarter of its 2022 financial year. The lift takes the total number of fibre connections to 959,000 or 69 percent. Uptake in UFB1 areas is now 74 percent, in Auckland the uptake is 79 percent.

Almost one-third (30 percent) of the new connections took a 1Gbps plan. Gigabit plans remain at around 23 percent of total residential connections while there are now around a thousand Hyperfibre connections.

Chorus logged a slight reduction in the monthly average data use per connection. This now sits at 508GB across all users and at 567GB for fibre users. The company says the decline is most likely a result of more workers returning to their offices.


Ministry to fund rural IoT network

The Ministry For Primary Industries says it will invest $149,500 to help fund the commercial roll-out of a rural focused LoRaWAN or Long Range Wide Area Network. The money comes from MPI’s Sustainable Food and Fibre Futures fund and will to Wispa Network Limited.

New Zealand has a number of IoT networks, but Wispa Network Limited says the existing networks focus on urban areas, it plans to concentrate on rural connections.


Regional IoT spend to hit A$24 billion in four years

IDC forecasts Australian and New Zealand businesses will spend A$16 billion on IoT products and services in 2022. That is set to rise to A$24 billion in 2026. The research company says there are challenges: rising inflation, chip shortages and supply chain issues among others.

“The role of IoT continues to grow as enterprises embrace digital initiatives and look to embed intelligence across processes and applications. Enabling this requires building bridges between operational technology and IT stakeholders at multiple levels,” says Hugh Ujhazy, IDC’s VP of Telecom & IoT in APEJ.


In other news…

On Wednesday Australia’s ANZ Bank confirmed its plans to buy MYOB from private equity firm KKR in a deal that could reach more than A$4.5 billion. Australian news reports suggest the deal could be complete by today (July 15). Buying the small business accounting company would give the ANZ access to sensitive company data but would also allow integration between banking and accounting – something that appeals to many small business owners.

A report in The Guardian looks at oVRrcome,a New Zealand developed virtual reality phone app, that can help people deal with phobias.

Netflix is set to partner with Microsoft as it builds an advertising-supported streaming service. While the company has suggested this could lead to a lower-cost option for customers, there are fears the company will lift charges for its ad-free option.

Deutsche Telekom sold a 51 percent stake in its tower business for US$6.6 billion to a consortium including Brookfield Infrastructure Partners.


Microsoft Surface Laptop Go 2: Well built mobile

Microsoft Surface Laptop Go 2Microsoft’s Surface Laptop Go 2 doesn’t break any new ground, but you’ll be hard pressed to find a better designed, better made laptop in the same price range.

Microsoft Surface Laptop Go 2 at a glance

For:Well-built, robust design, competitive performance, good keyboard and trackpad.
Against:Battery life, screen resolution lacking by 2022 standards
Maybe:Fingerprint scanner on some models, reasonably value when compared with similar priced laptops. Sage green case.
Verdict:A great option if you need a Windows laptop for moving between home and work.
Rating:4 out of 5
Price:NZ$1100 for the basic model, reviewed model costs $1500
Web:Microsoft New Zealand

Many Microsoft Surface devices push boundaries. The Surface Laptop Go 2 doesn’t. It’s a solid, well-made laptop for everyday tasks with a decent specification and a couple of well thought out details.

It is better built than other laptops in the same NZ$1100 to NZ$1500 price range. The case is robust enough to take school bag knocks or to sit in a satchel on the bus ride to work.

An aluminium laptop cover gives it a MacBook feel. It is roughlythe same size as Apple’s 2015 MacBook (not the Air or the Pro, the plain MacBook) and in ways has the same vibe. Although, at 1.13 kg it weighs more than the MacBook’s 900 g.

Microsoft says the computer’s base is made of polycarbonate composite resin with glass. It feels tough enough for an active life.

The review model is what Microsoft describes as Sage green. It’s a pale shade of green that is almost indistinguishable from grey. I had to check the box details to make sure about the colour: it does not leap out.

Premium feel

It looks good and feels good. In practice it feels like you are using a premium laptop. If you are moving to Windows from Apple, you won’t get that short-changed feeling that you can get with other Windows laptop brands.

The Surface Laptop Go 2 is small by 2022 laptop standards. That makes it more portable, but it means a smaller screen and keyboard.

Microsoft’s 12.4-inch LCD touchscreen offers less viewing area that larger displays, but unlike many other laptops in this price range the designers have opted for the 3:2 screen ratio. That is, it sits taller than most screens. This makes it better suited to word processing and similar tasks than, say, running spreadsheets.

Display

While the display looks good and offers plenty of contrast, the 1536 by 1024 pixel resolution means it is not great for detailed work. It’s close to full HD resolution, but falls short. If you prefer to work with small text sizes, you may find some characters appear blurry compared with higher resolution screens. This doesn’t have to be a problem, but it is something to be aware of.

You wouldn’t choose this device for Photoshop or other apps that demand high resolution. Also, the screen suffers from being less bright than the display on many rival laptops.

It’s fine for sorting through snaps or non-serious photographs, but if precision is important to you, spend more on a laptop with a higher resolution screen.

The webcam is 720p which is the bare minimum needed for video calls, but you’ll be hard pressed to find an inexpensive laptop with better. Speaking of video calls, the speakers are more than adequate for the job, you should be able to hear Zoom calls without problems. That said, the speakers are too tinny and feeble for music. If you want to play songs without offending your ears, you’ll need to add an external speaker.

Keyboard

The smaller case size means the keyboard is a fraction smaller than full-size. The difference is not enough for everyday users to notice. You could happily write a book or a company report on this laptop.

In testing I found I could touch type with ease. One niggle is that the keyboard is not backlit. You will find other laptops in this price range that offer backlighting. The touchpad is big and comfortable to use, perhaps the best I’ve seen on a recent Windows laptop.

Tucked away at the top of the keyboard is a fingerprint sensor. This is not included on all Surface Laptop Go 2 models. If it is important to you, check before you buy.

Performance

The review model has an 11th-generation Intel Core i5 processor. It’s feeble compared with the processors on recent MacBook models, but zesty enough for everyday computing tasks. You’ll find the laptop will run most apps, even multiple apps, without getting hot. I don’t remember hearing a fan kick in during the review.

In practice you’ll find it’s more than enough for word processing, browsing, dealing with emails and running web applications.

It can struggle when editing large image or video files, but we established earlier this is not the best computer for that work. Likewise it may not be the best choice if games are important to you.

Battery life

Battery life is a disappointment. Microsoft’s marketing claim you can get up to 13.5 hours is a heroic leap. In testing it came nowhere near that.

The battery managed a fraction under six hours when using the laptop for writing and browsing, nothing heavy. A 45 minute Zoom call on the Surface Laptop Go 2 used half the available battery.

This affects the, otherwise good, portability. Either you need to carry the charger when working away from home or you need to ration computer use.

In comparison a 2021 MacBook Air can run for 15 or more hours on a single charge and even will deliver more than eight hours video conferencing.

Microsoft Surface Laptop Go 2 verdict

The Surface Laptop Go 2 comes with Windows 11 installed. Like every other Surface device, there’s no bloatware or other unwanted software although it does come with Office pre-installed.

You can get up and running almost immediately with no nagging apart from Microsoft’s reminder to pay for an Office subscription if you don’t have one.

New Zealand prices for the Microsoft Surface Laptop Go 2 start at NZ$1099. That buys a basic model with the Intel Core i5 processor, 4GB Ram and 128GB of storage. You don’t get the fingerprint reader or the fancy Sage green case.

The same configuration, but with 8GB of Ram costs $1299 and a Sage coloured model with 8GB of Ram and a 256GB SSD drive costs $1499. This was the review model and if you can live with poor battery life and the less than HD screen you’ll struggle to find a better Windows laptop in this price range.

If I was in the market for a Windows laptop for work, this would be my choice at the time of writing.

Southern Cross lights up Next cable

Southern Cross Next cable lands at Takapuna Beach

The Southern Cross Next cable doubles New Zealand’s international data capacity. 

Southern Cross lights Next cable

Southern Cross Cables hit the switch on its 72 Tbps trans-Pacific Next cable on Thursday. The move doubled capacity on routes between New Zealand and the US.

The new 15,840 km cable connects Los Angeles to Auckland and Sydney with links branching to Fiji, Tokelau and Kiribati.

It joins the existing Southern Cross, Hawaiki and the Tasman Global Access cables to give New Zealand further resilience. There are now five cables connecting the island nation to the rest of the world.

The original Southern Cross, which has two connections on New Zealand’s east and west coasts, is scheduled for decommissioning in 2030.

Spark remains the largest shareholder in Southern Cross Cable, its holding was diluted when Australia’s Telstra joined as an investor in order to finance the US$350 million Next cable. Today Spark owns a fraction over 40 percent, while Singtel-Optus owns around a third and Telstra owns a quarter. US-based Verizon owns the remaining 10 percent.

Laurie Miller, Southern Cross Cables CEO, says the Next cable is the first of the replacement cables for the existing network.

Spark CEO Jolie Hodson says the new cable provides a lower latency connection to the US. She says: “We’re excited to be able to offer this additional capacity to our wholesale customers and see this investment as an important enabler of the growth of emerging technologies like 5G and IoT.”


Chorus joins wholesale fibre price rise pack

Chorus will raise wholesale prices on its fibre plans later this year following similar moves from Enable, Northpower and Tuatahi First Fibre. The company’s price rises are structured to nudge users in the direction of the faster, more expensive plans.

At the bottom of the mainstream product line, the wholesale cost of a Chorus 50 mbps connection will rise 6.9 percent to $47.30. Chorus is offering its retail service providers incentives to move customers from this to the 300 mbps service which it says is better value.

The wholesale price for Chorus’ 300 mbps down, 100 mbps plan will rise 5.5 percent to $50.50 a month. This is the company’s most popular service, accounting for about 70 percent of residential connections.

FibreMax, that’s a nominal 1 Gbps connection, prices rise 3.6 percent to $58.

Hyperfibre wholesale prices will fall. The wholesale cost of Chorus’ most expensive product, the Hyperfibre 8000 service, will fall 26 percent from $150 to $110.

Chorus will not change the wholesale price of its 50 mbps Home Fibre Starter service which will remain at $38. This option comes with the condition that a retail service provider charges no more than $50 for the service.

Retail service providers have made noises about needing to pass on any wholesale fibre price increases to customers. It will be interesting to see if they are in line with the wholesale price changes or if they attempt to go higher.

The three largest service providers who now all offer fixed wireless broadband say prices for these services will not change.


Sky box misses launch date

Writing at Stuff, Tom Pullar-Strecker reports that Sky’s new Sky box is running behind schedule. He says the target was to get it into homes by the end of June.

In Sky’s defence the company says it had to cope with events that were beyond its control such as global chip shortages, supply chain disruption and even the war on Ukraine.

Pullar-Strecker says the delays mean problems for Vodafone which is set to withdraw its Vodafone TV service at the end of September. The company planned to help many of its 100,000 customers move to the Sky box.


Gartner: PC Sales set to resume long-term decline

After a brief revival when a Covid pandemic that sent workers and students home saw booming laptop sales, the long-term PC sales decline looks set to resume.

Gartner reports worldwide PC shipments are on track to fall 9.5 percent in 2022. The research company puts the drop down to a “perfect storm” of geopolitical upheaval, high inflation, currency fluctuations and supply chain disruptions.

You might add the fact that almost everyone who needed a work from home computer now has one.

Gartner says consumer PC demand looks set to drop 13.1 percent this year while shipments of business PCs will fall 7.2 percent.


In other news….

Spark and Qrious, its data analytics business, are running a pilot 5G Multi Access Edge Computing pilot project for EnvironNZ. The AI computer vision project uses Amazon Web Service’s Snowball Edge for health and safety at resource recovery centres. It can detect when people are in dangerous, no-go areas where excavators are working and alert workers when they get too close.

Commsday reports that former Internet NZ CEO Jordan Carter will join Australia’s .au Domain Administration Limited as policy director and custodian of internet governance.

Gartner’s Market Guide for 5G Enterprise Data Services says one percent of enterprise sites worldwide uses 5G for primary or backup fixed wireless connectivity today. That will rise to 10 percent by 2025.

Small Business minister Stuart Nash says over 30,000 companies have taken part in the government’s Digital Boost programme. The programme is a public-private partnership set up to train small businesses to prepare for digital transformation.

Wellington College first school to Hyperfibre

Wellington College

For schools like Wellington College, a standard UFB fibre connection is not enough. Hyperfibre removes the congestion.  

Wellington College upgrades to Hyperfibre

Wellington College is the first school in New Zealand to connect using Chorus’ Hyperfibre. The school has shared a 2Gbps connection among its staff and 1,700 students since the end of May.

The project to connect Wellington College was a partnership between Network for Learning (N4L), Spark and Chorus.

Darrell Harvey, Wellington College’s deputy principal says the upgrade means the end of traffic congestion at peak times. He says: “it’s also given the school new options around future internet traffic usage.”

N4L CEO Larrie Moore says: “We are responsible for the broadband networks of New Zealand’s schools and kura. In conjunction with the Ministry of Education and our partners, we’re delighted to bring Hyperfibre to schools, ensuring that those networks are fit for purpose”.

Network for Learning says while other high usage schools are planning similar broadband upgrades, not all schools need more than a standard 1Gbps fibre connection. The Crown-owned communications company says it will work with Spark and the other Hyperfibre providers Enable and Tuatahi First Fibre to connect other schools in the coming months.

2Gbps is the fastest speed currently available to New Zealand schools.


Price rise for Spark fibre, copper connections

Spark told its fibre and copper broadband customer to expect price rises of between $3 and $5 for their connections. In a letter to customers the company said the price rises were a direct result of higher wholesale fees from Chorus, Enable, Northpower and Tuatahi First Fibre.

Customers using the company’s fixed wireless broadband services, which do not involve a wholesale arrangement, will not pay more.

Earlier this year the wholesale fibre companies announced they would be increasing their prices by up to 5.9 percent. This is in line with the rise in the consumer price index and is allowed by the Commerce Commission as part of its agreement with fibre companies.


Enable offers free WiFi in Christchurch city centre

Christchurch city centre has a new free WiFi service courtesy of Canterbury-based fibre company Enable and the city council. The network covers an area from the Bridge of Remembrance and along Oxford Terrace to Victoria Square, across to Colombo Street and back down Colombo Street to the Lichfield Street corner.


World will have over 100 million fixed wireless connections this year

Ericsson’s latest Mobility Report says there has been a recent rapid uptake of fixed wireless broadband. The report says there will be more than 100 million connections worldwide during 2022 and this will more than double in the next five year to reach 230 million connections in 2027.

The report says the move to 5G networks is fuelling the rapid rise of fixed wireless. One trend seen overseas, but yet to reach New Zealand, is fixed wireless operators moving away from volume-based charging towards speed-based plans. That is instead of paying for gigabytes of data each month, customers can buy connection speeds. In cases these now reach gigabit per second speeds.


Ookla claims Starlink is region’s fastest broadband provider

A questionable report from Ookla Speedtest suggests the low earth orbit satellite-based Starlink service offers the fastest broadband speeds in Australia and New Zealand.

It says the median speed New Zealanders can download from Starlink is 118.7 Mbps while the median clocked on fixed line broadband is 116.8 Mbps.

ookla satellite internet comparison oceania

Comment: Ookla’s New Zealand report doesn’t add up

The Ookla Speedtest numbers don’t square with the Commerce Commission’s Measuring Broadband New Zealand report. Nor do they reflect the experience of New Zealand broadband users.

While Measuring Broadband doesn’t offer an aggregate median speed across all services, we know a little over half of all broadband connections in New Zealand are on fibre with download speeds of 300 or around 850 Mbps. Vodafone’s HFC Max customers have download speeds around 800 Mbps.

In statistics, the median is the middle number in the list of data points. Half the data points will be higher than the median and half will be lower.

Given more than half of all connections are on fibre with speeds of at least 300 Mbps or on HFC Max, that would put New Zealand’s median broadband connection at more than 300 Mbps.

Ookla’s measurements clock the speed from a device to a nearby server which means, in part, it measures the speed of domestic WiFi networks as well as the external connection speeds. Which means it’s possible the New Zealand figure shows that Starlink customers have better home networks.


In other news

Datacom Group reported flat results for the 2022 financial year. The company said revenues ticked up a fraction from $1.41 to $1.45 billion while the net after tax profit moved in the opposite direction from $35 million a year ago to $28 million this year.

The New Zealand branch of technology distribution giant Ingram Micro enjoyed a bumper year with revenues 10 percent higher in 2021 when compared with the prior year. Net profit leapt from $15.8 million to $22.1 million. Problems with global supply chains meant the company increased its inventory from $53.4 million to $82.9 million.

IDC research says the worldwide public cloud services market grew 29 percent in 2021. This includes IaaS, SaaS and PaaS. Revenues reached US$409 billion. The top five cloud service providers: Microsoft, Amazon Web Services, Salesforce, Google and SAP accounted for 40 percent of the total revenue. Microsoft now has the largest share of public cloud business with 14.4 percent, AWS is in second place with 13.7 percent.


There was no newsletter last week because of the Matariki holiday in New Zealand.

Government finds $60 million for 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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