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Matariki edition: Spark 5G shines on ComCom broadband scorecard

The first MBNZ report to include Spark 5G fixed wireless broadband shows the technology is working well. One New Zealand heading back into town.
Promotion image used by Spark to market 5G fixed wireless broadband

MBNZ adds Spark 5G fixed wireless broadband

Measuring Broadband New Zealand says Spark’s 5G fixed wireless broadband customers get fibre-like download speeds even during peak hours.

The June 2024 MBNZ report is the first to include performance information on the 5G service. It clocked 5G fixed wireless delivering average peak hour download speeds of 329 Mbps. During less busy times the network can hit 348 Mbps.

Upload speeds average 49 Mbps during peak hours which is, in effect, the same as the average 50 Mbps seen the rest of the time.

Much faster than 4G FWB

This is almost 10 times the 49 Mbps reported average peak speed of 4G fixed wireless broadband services across the nation. Spark’s urban 4G fixed wireless is 61 Mbps. 5G is about 70 per cent faster than the measured LEO satellite peak speed of 186 Mbps.

While it is also faster than the 309 Mbps speeds seen on the most popular fibre broadband plans, it trails well behind One NZ’s HFC network and the fastest fibre plans.

At this stage 5G fixed wireless broadband has a relatively small number of users. The Commerce Commission says there are 5,500 connections today. Typically performance on fixed wireless and other networks where bandwidth is shared can drop as more users climb aboard.

Potentially attractive

Telecommunications Commissioner, Tristan Gilbertson, says the report shows 5G fixed wireless as a “potentially attractive option for consumers”.

He says future MBNZ reports will add further information, including latency, and will look at how 5G wireless broadband performs across a wider range of applications – such as streaming and video conferencing.

Looking into the MBNZ data, New Zealand’s fibre, HFC, satellite and 5G fixed wireless networks all manage to deliver a good broadband experience able to satisfy most users. That’s less likely to be the case for ADSL or VDSL customers while 4G fixed wireless broadband has a wide performance range running from good all the way down to poor.

One NZ new Wynyard Quarter building.
One NZ new Wynyard Quarter building

After seven years in the wilderness, One NZ moves back to town

Mansons is building a new office for One New Zealand at 30 Daldy Street in the Wynyard Quarter. It is about 400m from the old Vodafone building on Viaduct Harbour Avenue.

The company describes the new office as a “flagship sustainable building” which it says “is designed to enhance connection, support future ways of working, employee wellbeing and sustainability”. That’s a long way of saying it’ll be a nice place to work.

Masons is aiming for a 6-star Greenstar rating with the New Zealand Green Building Council (NZGBC). That means it is about as sustainable as possible. It will have solar panels for renewable energy and rainwater harvesting.

There will be two towers linked by bridges, One NZ will use three floors in each tower.

One New Zealand says it will stay at Smales Farm on the North Shore until the move in late 2025.

Shaping Business Study hints at future growth

Research paid for by 2degrees suggests New Zealand businesses sense they will soon turn a corner.

The Shaping Business Study surveyed “over 700 employing business decision-makers around Aotearoa”.

It found the number of businesses that are “thriving” has increased in the last year and there are signs of increasing optimism.

2degrees chief business officer Andrew Fairgray says: “We are seeing that businesses are feeling the rise of operational costs, but instead of sitting still, they are looking to move forward. The businesses managing to thrive are those that are finding innovative ways to increase productivity, rethinking cost savings and investing in digital skills.”

Questioning hybrid working

Business leaders are divided on the idea of remote and hybrid working. The survey reports: “Among businesses with a hybrid model, 51 per cent of leaders view it as a productivity booster, while 49 per cent believe it either detracts from productivity or has no effect.”

That aside, companies recognise that offering flexible work is essential when it comes to attracting and keeping talent. A little over one third (37 per cent) of business leaders say they have introduced flexible working as a means to attract talent.

The study talks of a “hybrid hangover” and says only 17 per cent of businesses with a hybrid model have increased the amount of time their staff are required to spend in the office. More than twice as many (39 per cent) have decreased remote working time.

2degrees “fighting for fair” campaign strikes a chord

2degrees is the only telecommunications company to make it into this year’s Kantar Corporate Reputation Index.

The company improved on last year’s ranking and is now listed at 19 on the index which is topped by Toyota. Other interesting companies on the list are TVNZ which sits at eight in the index and phone maker Samsung which is at 12.

The Reputation Index aims to benchmark the relative reputational strengths and weaknesses of companies operating in New Zealand. It looks at four areas: trust, responsibility, leadership and fairness.

In its report on the index, Kantor says fairness has taken on more importance in recent years. That’s the word 2degrees has used in much of its recent marketing where it often repeats the slogan: “fighting for fair”. It seems the message has reached the members of the public surveyed for this year’s report.

Digital holds key to agriculture future

A recent Westpac economic bulletin looking at the productivity of New Zealand agriculture underlines the importance of pushing fast broadband networks into rural areas.

Westpac says agricultural productivity growth has slowed as farmers edge closer to the ecological limits of the available land in New Zealand. Despite challenges in adoption and integration, digital technology holds the key to squeezing more out of existing resources and doing so sustainably.

This includes using big data, cloud computing and advanced data analytics to predict and prescribe future farming activities.

In other news..

Samsung is preparing a major product launch which may or may not include new Galaxy Fold phones and will almost certainly feature AI. Mango, Samsung’s New Zealand PR firm, sent out event invites to New Zealand journalists this week. To take part you’d need to sign a restrictive non-disclosure agreement and something called a “security pledge”. In case you’re wondering, I never sign these papers for media events.

Spark customers face price rises, other shoe yet to drop

At the NZ Herald, Chris Keall writes:

Spark is the latest service provider to increase prices.
The telco’s broadband and mobile customers will pay between $2 and $8 per month more from August, depending on their plan.

The story goes on to look at the price rises that may be coming from other telcos. While Spark offered Keall an almost apologetic justification for the price rise, the language used contrasts with the way the company talks about its ability to increase prices in its shareholder reporting.

Datacom enjoys increased profits as Australian business thrives

While we are looking at financial reporting, Reseller News’ Rob O’Neill covers Datacom’s result.

Datacom Group today reported revenue of $1.47 billion in the year to 31 March, down one per cent from $1.49 billion in 2023, however, profit before tax lifted to $41 million, up from $8 million.
Group EBITDA for the year was $152 million, up 11 per cent, the company said in a press release.

It’s a solid result despite flat-ish revenue at a time many of Datacom’s customers are struggling.

The Register’s Dan Robinson:

SpaceX is inviting some customers to buy a new Starlink Mini receiver for its satellite broadband service offered as a portable option, with an introductory price tag of $599 in the US.
Customer emails sent by the space company this week invited select customers to buy its latest antenna, described as a "compact, portable kit that can easily fit in a backpack, designed to provide high-speed, low-latency internet on the go."

SpaceX will soon start selling “Starlink Mini” a smaller version of its antennae for satellite broadband customers. The company says it is about the size of a laptop, has a WiFi router, can fit easily in a backpack and works with USB power supplies. ON paper the Mini can get 100 Mbps.

IDC: 62 per cent of Communication Service Providers Reallocate Budgets to Generative AI Initiatives in Asia/Pacific

IDC says the majority of Asia-Pacific telecoms companies are investing in generative AI projects. Among other applications they are looking at network optimisation and using AI chatbots, but IDC says the technology is turning up everywhere.

Big tech companies were open to online safety regulation – why did NZ’s government scrap the idea?

Academics Fiona Sing and Antonia Lyons from Auckland University think the government has missed an opportunity:

The coalition government has scrapped efforts to modernise New Zealand’s out-of-date online safety rules, despite qualified support for change from social media and tech giants.”

Abandoning this now will make any future attempts at safety regulation that much harder to get off the ground. Perhaps that was deliberate?

Why are we subsidising game developers?

Despite being the biggest earner in the entertainment sector globally, gaming in Aotearoa has been struggling to keep up with overseas competitors.
Zoe Hobson is the CEO of Runaway Play, a Dunedin-based mobile game developer.
“It’s been a bit of a funny few years in the gaming market,” she says.
“If you step back a couple of years, the New Zealand gaming industry had been growing really strongly, with very little or not really any significant support. If we look back a few years, it was growing at an average of 26 per cent [of revenue] year on year and we had growth of 47 per cent in 2022.”

This success started to unravel as other countries, and most notably some Australian states, began offering games developers huge tax rebates. The offer was so lucrative that a number moved operations across the Tasman. That has triggered a race to the bottom with the New Zealand government offering its own rebates.

Batteries to the rescue for when the mains grid fails

The collapse of a Kaipara Hills electricity pylon left Northland without power for hours. Juha Saarinen may have an answer. He writes at Interest.co.nz:

Even if times are tough economically, losing power catastrophically as happened yesterday is costing everyone. If adding battery backup to the grid is workable technically, and doable fast, now might be a good time to get cracking with it.
A recent report by Bloomberg suggests Chinese battery makers are producing several times the marketable capacity needed in the world. They might just be open to deals to clear inventory.

The Download Weekly is supported by Chorus New Zealand.