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New Zealand’s Commerce Commission, also known as ComCom regulates the telecommunications industry (among other sectors), works to ensure completion and looks out for consumer interests.

2degrees-Orcon merger, will it shake market?

Last week the Commerce Commission published “a statement of preliminary issues” on the 2degrees-Orcon merger.

It says the Commission will allow the merger to go ahead if it doesn’t reduce market competition.

On a simple level that question looks straightforward.

There are about 90 retail telecommunications companies in New Zealand. Removing one through a merger may not make much difference.

Yet not all retail telecommunications companies are equal. 2degrees and Orcon, formerly Vocus, are the third and fourth largest.

Teasing out all the arguments is not easy.

Mobile competition

Before the merger there were three mobile carriers. That doesn’t change.

The merger removes New Zealand’s largest Mobile Virtual Network Operator from the market.

There are overseas competition watchdogs who see MNVO health as a sign a market is competitive. New Zealand has never had a healthy vibrant MNVO sector.

The market is not open as it looks

Spark, Vodafone, 2degrees and Orcon are the four largest telcos. They account for about 95 percent of the market.

You could argue they are the only companies worth considering in any analysis of market competition.

In effect, Spark, Vodafone, 2degrees and Orcon are the market.

Moving the NZ telco market

The rest are important and essential, but none of them can move the market. The big four can.

The next largest is Sky Network Television with around a one percent market share. Trustpower comes in at sixth place with roughly the same share.

At a stretch you might consider these in an analysis. After the top six you are dealing with minnows.

From that point of view taking out one of the big four changes the competition landscape a great deal.

It may not reduce consumers absolute choice on paper.

They remain free to pick from 90 service providers. Yet the majority of consumers will pick one of what could soon be the big three. At best they will consider the top five remaining players where there were six.

In that sense, the merger means a significant reduction in competition.

Expert view

Competition experts at the Commerce Commission will chew over this in coming weeks. They’ll get input from rival telcos, consumer groups and other industry players.

2degrees and Orcon suggest a stronger number three will ‘enhance’ competition.

That does not make sense if you agree consumers are reduced from four to three choices. Or, let’s be generous and say from six to five choices.

Does a merger enhance competition?

It does not make sense from another point of view.

Spark is more than three times the size of 2degrees. Vodafone is about two and a half times the size of 2degrees.

Adding Orcon to 2degrees does not make it much bigger. 2degrees is 12.5 percent of the market. Orcon is four percent. Together they are make up 16.5 percent. Spark and Vodafone have a 77 percent market share.

They will continue to dwarf the merged business.

The merged company won’t unnerve the big telcos in the short term. It will be an irritant more than a threat.

Smaller telcos

A merged, resource-rich business higher up the market could be bad for Sky or Trustpower.

Meanwhile the new business is as likely to increase pressure on the smaller telcos. Wiping them out would not be good. If they struggle as a result of the merger, then competition would suffer.

This is what Commerce Commission experts need to balance: the marginal impact of a slightly larger third player on the top two versus the impact of a larger third player on the remainder of the market.

Cost savings

In the past companies looking to merge would talk about ‘synergy’. It almost never happens. New Zealand’s telecommunications sector has a poor record when it comes from deriving rationalisation value from a merger.

There are potential cost savings1 and the opportunity for 2degrees to sell mobile to the 4 percent of customers arriving from Orcon.

None of this is to say the Commerce Commission will or won’t refuse the merger. But we can’t assume the decision is straightforward. There’s more to look at than meets the eye at first sight.

https://comcom.govt.nz/news-and-media/media-releases/2022/statement-of-preliminary-issues-released-for-vocus2degrees-merger


  1. Although previous mergers show integration can be harder than it looks. Think of Vodafone and TelstraClear or iHug. ↩︎

ComCom final regulatory ruling

Some concessions, but Chorus has not got the final regulatory ruling it wanted from the Commerce Commission. 

ComCom finalises fibre regulations

Chorus will be able to earn a maximum revenues of $690 million next year under new rules set by the Commerce Commission. The maximum will rise to $790 million by 2024 if fibre demand grows as anticipated.

The maximum over three years is $60 million higher than that set in the draft ruling earlier this year, but four percent short of the figure Chorus was looking for.

Much of the wrangling was over something known as the regulatory asset base or RAB. This is, in effect, a measure of the long-term investment made by Chorus to build the fibre network.

Chorus put the figure for its transitional value at $5.5 billion, the Commerce Commission set it at 1.5 percent less. They used a transitional value because not all the information needed to calculate the RAB is available yet. A final figure will be set next year.

Chorus has the right to appeal the price-quality determination that was used to set the maximum profit figure. At the time of writing there is no indication the company will do that.

Yet the company has indicated that the level set by the Commerce Commission means it has little incentive to extend the fibre network beyond its 87 percent footprint without government support.

Investors responded to the final regulatory ruling with a 2.1 percent fall in the Chorus share price on a day the NZX index drifted down 0.7 percent.

Big four to pay development levy bulk

Sky TV will pay the government’s Telecommunications Development Levy for the first time, but the big four telcos continue to pay the lion’s share of the tax on revenue.

As in previous years, Spark’s share of the total is one-third (33 percent). Vodafone pays around a quarter (25.4 percent) while Chorus pays one fifth (20.2 percent) and 2degrees will stump up roughly one tenth or 9.5 percent.

Collectively the four big telcos pay 88 percent of the total. The next largest is Orcon with around a three percent share.

The levy is set at a remarkably precise $10.145 million and is payable by any company earning more than $10 million in telecommunications revenue. It is used to fund public good services that in the past might have been considered the responsibility of a state owned telecoms monopoly.

Softly, softly Google picks up NZ 5G spectrum

Sidewalk Infrastructure Partners, a subsidiary of Google’s parent company Alphabet is buying a majority stake in Dense Air.

This will, in effect, put Google in control of the 5G spectrum Dense Air leases to Spark.

UK-based Dense Air owns 2.6GHz spectrum in New Zealand Last year it agreed a spectrum swap with Spark which allowed it to hold two adjacent 35MHz blocks. It has 40MHz of 3.5GHz spectrum.

The business operates as a wholesale carrier. It doesn’t compete with carriers but allows them to extend their coverage and reach.

Vodafone upgrades holiday mobile capacity, cans Sure Signal

Vodafone says it completed 42 mobile capacity upgrades during the year to cater for crowds at holiday hotspots. And the company says out will help festival visitors by rolling out its Cows (cellsites on wheels) at popular events.

Meanwhile Vodafone has started closing its Sure Signal Femtocell service which provided a boost to 3G services in areas with limited coverage.

The company says the technology is no longer supported by the telecoms equipment company that sold the hardware.

Sure Signal would route mobile phone calls over broadband connections equipped with the hardware.

There were 8000 Sure Signal users. Vodafone says Rural Connectivity Group sites and WiFi Calling can fill in the gaps, but there have been reports from rural areas of people who will now be left without coverage.

Freeview On Demand heads for the exit

Freeview says it will end its On Demand service late next year. The service was set up to let viewers watch shows from TVNZ, Discovery, Māori TV and RNZ. Earlier this year TVNZ left the service to offer its own on demand product.

When it closes viewers will be able to get the same material, but from each broadcasters respective service, not from a single central one-stop shop.

The move comes a week after Vodafone announced it would close Vodafone TV.

Apple, Google vice-like grip on mobiles

Andrea Coscelli, who heads the UK Competition and Markets Authority (roughly comparable with our Commerce Commission) says Apple and Google have a “vice-like grip” over people’s mobile phones.

Coscelli says the duopoly should be investigated by the proposed new “big tech” regulator planned for the UK.

Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android operating system are installed on 99.45 percent of all phones used in the UK. It’s unlikely the proportion would be much different in New Zealand.

“Once a consumer buys a phone they are essentially wedded to the ecosystem of one of the two companies – Apple’s App Store or Google’s Play Store and their respective web browsers Safari or Chrome.”

This gives the companies the power to control the content phone users can access.

Broadband equipment sales up 7% year on year

Dell’Oro Group says broadband access equipment sales were up seven percent year-on-year in the third quarter of 2021. There was growth in fibre and fixed wireless equipment as operators focus on expanding broadband connectivity.

In other news…

2degrees opens a 200sqm Newmarket flagship store, sorry, “retail concept”, at the Westfield mall. Elsewhere the telco launched a mass SMS marketing tool called Group Text which may test phone users’ patience in the coming weeks.

The New Zealand Herald reports Chorus is moving Auckland staff to Graham Street. It will in the same building as NZME and across the road from Spark.

Auckland-based Soul Machines signed a five-year deal with Microsoft which involves using the company’s Azure cloud service and joint development of new products.

Ingram Micro is to distribute the Moochies Phone Watch. It’s an Australian developed smartwatch for children that lets parents track them using GPS and make video calls.


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Sky cost cutting delivers, Vodafone drops TV

Sky cost cutting delivers profit upgrade

Sky doubled its profit guidance for the 2022 financial year.

The broadcaster, and now broadband service provider, says it has found significant cost savings that won’t impact on the service it provides.

Previously Sky told the market it was on track to make a profit of between $17.5 and $27.5 million this year. That’s been upgraded to between $40 and $48 million, in effect doubling its profit.

The company’s EBITDA, Earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation is now expected to climb from $115–130 million to $150–160 million.

Sky’s turnaround follows a company wide cost review. The company expects to save an extra $35 million in operating costs this financial year, this includes $26 million of recurring cost reduction and a $9 million one-off saving.

In future years this will amount to $40 to 45 million of savings each year.

Despite this, Sky says it will deliver more hours of programming.

One area of cost saving was to continue the practice of using local sports commentary for overseas coverage of events. In the past Sky would send its own crew overseas. The company stopped this practice because of Covid, and now plans to continue with it.

Telco complaints fall by a third

The Telecommunications Dispute Resolution service saw a 31 percent drop in enquiries in 2021. Fairway, the business managing the service, received a total of 1940 enquiries.

Billing remains the main cause of concern with customers disputing charges on invoices. Customer serves is the second biggest complaint with users telling the resolution team telcos failed to follow up requests or keep them informed.

There was a huge increase in complaints about service interruption, up 658 percent on a year earlier. Many were about congestion meaning customers did not see expected speeds or about dropped connections.

Fairway says the drop in enquiries was helped by a number of Covid related measures put in place by telcos. These include a moratorium on referring accounts to debt collectors and extended payment terms.

Fewer enquiries meant fewer complaints went through to the formal dispute resolution stage. The service resolved 1961 cases during the year, nearly all of these were dealt with at an early phase.

Customer service tops ComCom todo list

The Commerce Commission says it will prioritise work on improving customer service. The move comes after a Commission poll that found half of all consumers want the regulator to do more to fix poor customer service.

The poll asked consumers for feedback on a range of issues and will be used to help plan the Commission’s work in the telecommunications sector.

Common customer service complaints include long waiting times, multiple transfers and poor record keeping.

Around one in five consumers wants the commission to focus on product disclosure practices and one in ten wants the regulator to look at billing, debt and affordability.

Telecommunications Forum CEO Paul Brislen says the guidance from the Commerce Commission means the industry body can prioritise its work over the next year.

Pulling the plug on Vodafone TV

Vodafone says it plans to switch off its Vodafone TV service. The service will stop on September 30 next year.

The company says it is giving customers nine months notice to help them make a smooth transition to an alternative service.

Vodafone TV launched in 2017 as a joint project with Sky TV. The company says it will now work with Sky to help move its customers across to that company’s services.

It will be interesting to see how the relationship between Vodafone and Sky develops now Sky is a broadband service provider.

Thinxtra, Tether build IoT tools for managing Covid risk

Australian IoT business Thinxtra is working with New Zeland’s Tether to work on projects tackling the Covid risk in public buildings. The pair will use Thinxtra’s low-power wide area network for a system monitoring indoor air quality at places like schools, aged care facilities and commercial buildings.

Aura: Ransomware, not if but when

Research conducted by Aura Information Security, part of Kordia, says 55 percent of New Zealand businesses saw ransomware attacks in the last year.

Two-thirds of those companies managed to fix the problem before significant damage was done. The other third did not.

Hilary Walton, Kordia Group’s chief information security officer says: “Ransomware is a matter of when, not if, for New Zealand businesses. While it’s not a new threat, cybercriminals have perfected the way they target and breach their victim’s networks.”

Opensignal: 5G users seeing fast download speeds

A report from Opensignal says the average download speed for 5G users is 240.7Mbps. This compares with an average of 41.9Mbps for 4G mobile users. This puts New Zealand in the top 15 countries for 5G download speeds.

The report goes to great pains to spell out the performance difference between 5G mobile and Wi-Fi speeds.

It says Wi-Fi is on average 21 percent faster than 4G, while 5G is close to five times the speed of Wi-Fi. Yet Opensignal says games players get much the same experience on 5G and Wi-Fi.

Telcos sponsoring Rugby teams

Tuatahi First Fibre has signed to be a sponsor of the Gallagher Chiefs Rugby Club.

As part of the deal it will become the official broadband fibre infrastructure network for the club. That’s a curious choice of words given TFF is the monopoly fibre infrastructure network in the Hamilton area where the club is located.

The TFF brand will feature on the club’s training jersey.

Meanwhile 2degrees is the sponsor and “exclusive telecommunications partner” of all four Super Rugby Aupiki teams in the woman’s professional club competition.

The telco’s logo will feature on jerseys and on the jersey’s of New Zealand’s five Super Rugby teams where it also has a sponsorship agreement.

‌In case you missed it: In the first part of this week’s RNZ Nine to Noon technology segment I talk to Kathryn Ryan about the work done over the last year to fill in gaps on the telecommunications network.

RCG flips switch on Chatham Islands 4G network

The Chatham Islands, one of the most remote communities in New Zealand, is now connected to the rest of the world.  

RCG flips switch on Chatham Islands 4G mobile network

A new 7.5 metre satellite dish and five mobile towers mean Chatham Islanders now have 4G mobile voice and data.

The network was built by the Rural Connectivity Group, a joint project run by Spark, Vodafone and 2degrees. It is part of the second stage of the Rural Broadband Initiative where the RCG is working with Crown Infrastructure Partners. The project was paid for out of the Provincial Growth Fund.

Each of the Chathams Islands towers connects back to the dish by digital microwave connections. RCG says it designed the towers and the island network to take the windswept nature and the salty air of the islands into account. There are multiple paths linking the towers. That means a fault in one place doesn’t take out the entire network.

RCG constructed the satellite dish on Target Hill overlooking the main settlement at Waitangi. It says the new link provides eight times the capacity of the islands’ previous satellite link.

The dish points at the Eutelsat 172B satellite and from there to a ground station at Gateway Teleport in Wellington. This links to a point of interconnect. Up to the POI all the infrastructure is shared by the three RCG partners who all sell services to customers in the Chathams using their normal brands.

2degrees previews 5G in Auckland, Wellington CBDs

While the official launched is planned for the first quarter of the New Year, 2degrees has switched on 5G sites in city CBDs.

Towers in central Auckland and Wellington are now being used for testing and optimisation. The company says the first 5G sites in Christchurch will switch on later this month.

Martin Sharrock, 2degrees’ chief technology officer says early test results have clocked download speeds over 1Gbps. Work has begun in Christchurch with the first 5G sites due online for testing in December.

He says: “We expect to launch the 2degrees 5G network with up to 100 sites on air, and we’ll continue to turn on additional sites throughout 2022 as we build out the network across our main cities.

As 2degrees builds its 5G network it will upgrade 4G sites. Sharrock says for most sites this means there will be double the 4G capacity.

How green is my broadband?

Research commissioned by New Zealand’s fibre wholesalers says theirs is the greenest broadband technology.

Chorus, Enable, Tuatahi First Fibre and Northpower Fibre looked to Sapere Research Group to determine the carbon footprint of broadband technologies. It compared fibre with copper-based VDSL, Hybrid Fibre Coaxial (HFC) and 4G and 5G fixed wireless.

Researchers found that an entry-level 50Mbps fibre plan is 41 percent more efficient than copper. It is up to 56 percent more efficient than 4G fixed wireless broadband.

For higher speed plans fibre is as much as 29 percent more efficient than broadband delivered by HFC and up to 77 percent less carbon hungry than 5G fixed wireless.

Fibre does not change its carbon emission profile as speed increases. That’s not the case for other broadband technologies, especially fixed wireless broadband.

Spark, Vodafone, Orcon boost fibre speeds

Three of the most important broadband resellers have signed up to increase customer fibre speeds at no extra cost.

Chorus, Enable and Tuatahi First Fibre, formerly UFF, have all offered to increase speeds for customers on 100Mbps fibre plans to 300Mbps at no extra cost. Upload speeds will also increase.

NorthPower, the fibre company for Whangarei and parts of Northland has not made a similar offer.

To date Spark, Vodafone and Orcon have taken up the offer. Their customers are being upgraded to the faster speeds at the time of writing.

Vodafone HFC Max speeds halve

Average download speeds dropped by around 50 percent on Vodafone’s HFC network.

The latest Measuring Broadband New Zealand report shows speeds average 355 Mbps in the September quarter. This compares with 717 Mbps in the May quarter.

The report says speed tests in the Wellington region negatively impacted the nationwide HFC Max download speed results. Vodafone is investigating the cause of its regional differences. The HFC network is available in Wellington, the Kapiti Coast and Christchurch.

Measuring Broadband New Zealand is a quarterly report prepared for the Commerce Commission by UK-based Sam Knows.

Away from Vodafone’s HFC network, the report shows New Zealand’s broadband performed well during the recent Auckland lockdown. Users in the city did not experience a drop in performance compared with the rest of New Zealand.

Five more years of number portability

The Commerce Commission says number portability will remain in place for another five years. Number portability allows users to keep their landline or mobile number when switching provider,

Telecommunications Commissioner Tristan Gilbertson said that this ability is important for competition because it makes switching easier. This keeps providers on their toes as they have to match rivals’ offers.

The Commerce Commission has to revisit the number portability regime every five years.

Radio Spectrum Management releases draft five year outlook

Radio Spectrum Management has issues a five year outlook which reveals the trends it expect to see between now and 2026. This includes growth in 5G networks and devices along with more IoT and private mobile networks.

RSM’s planning includes the need to free spectrum for 5G networks and other wireless technologies while continuing to deal with the needs to existing spectrum users.

The outlook singles out the 600MHz, 3.3–3.4GHz, 3.4–3.8GHz, 3.8–4.2GHz and 24–30GHz bands as potential spectrum for 5G. It plans to change the way small cell networks are licensed.

Elsewhere there is a focus on the needs to LEO satellite networks and investigating the 6GHz band for Wi-Fi use.

Spark Finance sets up sustainability-linked loans

Spark Finance says it has set up three sustainability-linked loans worth $425 million. The loans will refinance existing loans for the telco’s financial subsidiary.

Sustainability-linked loans reward borrowers with lower interest rates in return for meeting environmental goals. If they fail to meet goals, they pay a higher rate.

In Spark’s case this includes reducing greenhouse gas emissions, moving suppliers to lower emissions and meeting diversity and inclusion goals.

The lenders are Westpac NZ, Commonwealth Bank of Australia and MUFG Bank.

Spark says the loans will be used for general purposes.

Wi-Fi 6 not improving end user experience

A survey of US Wi-Fi users suggests Wi-Fi 6, also known as 802.11ax, does little to improve an end-user’s wireless network experience.

Speedcheck, the broadband speed measuring company, found half of all Wi-Fi users are happy with wireless performance. This only rises by 10 percent if the user has Wi-Fi 6. The numbers are similar when users are asked about reliability.

This puts a fresh perspective on the question of whether you should upgrade to Wi-Fi 6.

New Zealand makes top ten for 5G download speeds

New Zealand users get an average 5G download speed of 240.7Mbps. That puts us in the ninth spot in OpenSignal’s latest global 5G experience table and one place ahead of Australia.

South Korea tops the table with an average download speeds of 423.8Mbps. Taiwan wins when it comes to peak download speeds clocking an impressive 934.9Mbps. Norway has the fastest 5G upload speed at 41.9 Mbps.

In other news…

European telcos want the big technology firms to contribute to network build costs. A letter from The European Telecommunications Network Operators’ Association (ETNO) says the sector expects to spend €300bn building gigabit networks and notes that the big technology firms pay none of the costs, do not have to comply with the same laws as telcos and in many cases don’t even pay tax.

Australia plans legislation forcing social networks to name internet trolls allowing victims to sue for defamation. The move will put social networks on an equal footing with traditional publishers making them liable for defamation even if the offending material is written by a third person.


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

All it requires is an email address. Your address is only used to send out the newsletter. It will not be sold to anyone.

I’m not collecting the data for anything other than sending out the newsletter. You name isn’t going to be sold anywhere.

Enable move sees Christchurch join 300mbps party

More New Zealanders will get a fast fibre upgrade as Enable joins Chorus in moving base speeds to 300mbps. 

Christchurch users to get fibre speed bump

Enable, the fibre company serving Christchurch, is following Chorus and upgrading customers to 300mbps. The company says the upgrades could start on December 1 although that depends on retail service providers.

The upgrade could affect up to 90,000 homes in the Enable fibre area. That’s the number that are currently on 100 or 200mbps plans.

Customers on upgraded plans will be able to upload data at 100mbps.

Enable Chief Executive, Johnathan Eele says his company’s customers use around 500GB of data each month. That’s a rise of 33 percent from a year ago.

In August Chorus announced it would replace 100mbps lines with 300mbps lines at no additional cost to customers. The company is still working through the process with retail service providers but expects some upgrades to happen before Christmas.

The move will help shore-up fibre’s competitive position against fixed wireless broadband and low earth orbit satellite services in areas where the technologies compete.

Fewer telco complaints in early 2021

A report from the Telecommunications Dispute Resolution service says it received fewer customer complaints and enquiries in the first half of 2021 compared with a year earlier.

The number of complaints was down 24 percent to 935. Almost all these cases (98 percent) were resolved or closed directly after initial assistance from the TDR. The remainder either went to facilitation and mediation or required the organisation to make a decision.

Pace, sophistication of cyber attacks increasing

The National Cyber Security Centre’s annual Cyber Threat Report says the number of serious online attacks continues to grow. At the same time the NCSC reports the attacks are growing in frequency and sophistication.

It says there were 404 incidents affecting nationally significant organisations in the last year. That’s a 15 percent increase year-on-year.

NCSC points out its focus is on New Zealand’s larger organisations. This means its numbers represent a small fraction of the total number of incidents.

The growth is in line with overseas trends.

NCSC Director Lisa Fong says: “It is becoming increasingly difficult to distinguish between state and criminal actors, particularly in cases where we are able to intervene early, but also because the line between state and criminal is becoming increasingly indistinct.

“State actors sometimes work alongside or provide havens for criminal groups, and we are increasingly seeing criminal groups now using capabilities once only used by sophisticated state actors.”

Worldwide cloud revenue surging thanks to pandemic

Gartner reports worldwide cloud revenue will reach US$474 billion in 2022 up from $408 billion this year.

The company says the Covid pandemic and booming digital services put the cloud at the centre of digital experiences.

Milind Govekar, a Gartner vice-president says:“The adoption and interest in public cloud continues unabated as organisations pursue a cloud first policy for onboarding new workloads.

“Cloud has enabled new digital experiences such as mobile payment systems where banks have invested in startups, energy companies using cloud to improve their customers’ retail experiences or car companies launching new personalisation services for customer’s safety and infotainment.”

UFB uptake hits two-thirds milestone

In its latest quarterly broadband update Crown Infrastructure Partners reports UFB uptake is now 66 percent. The fibre network now covers 327 towns and cities. The average speed of UFB services is now 277mbps.

CIP says the UFB programme is now 98 percent complete with 85 percent of New Zealanders now able to connect to fibre.

In other news

The Commerce Commission has given Eroad’s acquisition of Coretex the green light. Both companies sell software for fleet managers to know more about vehicles and meet statutory requirements.

A Reseller News story from Rob O’Neill says the partnership between Spark and Auckland based managed services company IT360 has helped the smaller company extend its reach beyond the North Shore and Waitakere areas.

Catalyst Cloud has appointed Doug Dixon as its new CEO. Dixon joins Catalyst Cloud from the ANZ where he was practice lead for services and integration. He has previously worked in technology roles for Kordia and ACC.


 

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

All it requires is an email address. Your address is only used to send out the newsletter. It will not be sold to anyone.

I’m not collecting the data for anything other than sending out the newsletter. You name isn’t going to be sold anywhere.

Commerce Commission wants marketing code

On Monday the Commerce Commission instructed the telecommunications industry to develop a marketing code. On Thursday it called for improvements to the Telecommunications Dispute Resolution Scheme.

Both moves are part of a larger ComCom project to reduce the remaining customer pain points.

The Commerce Commission wants to see a marketing code that gives customers all the information they need to make informed buying decisions.

It issued a set of marketing guidelines and told the Telecommunications Forum (TCF), the industry body, it has 60 working days to turn these into a retail service quality code.

Accelerated process

That timetable will mean working through the summer months. In part that’s because there is pressure to move fast.

Telecommunications Commissioner Tristan Gilbertson says there’s increased marketing active thanks to Chorus starting to remove the copper network and Spark retiring the old public switched telephone network.

Although it will take time to develop the code, Gilbertson wants telcos to move their marketing in line with the yet-to-be-developed code as we head into Christmas. This is traditionally a busy time for sales in the sector.

When the code is developed, the Commerce Commission wants it to be binding on TCF members.

Specific guidelines from the Commerce Commission include:

  • Making sure consumers have sufficient notice of changes to copper service so they are not rushed into decisions.
  • Telling consumers about the full range of available alternatives. In most cases this won’t square with what their existing providers want them to buy.
  • Information on the performance of alternative services. The Commerce Commission wants to see the end of claims of speeds “up to” and theoretical maximums.

Upgrading disputes resolution scheme

New Zealand’s 14-year old Telecommunications Dispute Resolution Scheme (TDRS) is about to get its first upgrade.

Telecommunications Commissioner Tristan Gilbertson wants to see improvements to raise the profile of the TDRS with consumers and lift its performance.

He says: “Our work shows… that most consumers have never heard of the scheme and, even if they have, they can find themselves locked out because many basic issues, including speed and performance problems, are currently excluded.”

This means there is a fragmented way of dealing with telecommunications complaints.

His plan is to upgrade the scheme to make it “a one stop shop for fast and effective resolution” of complaints.

One key change is to make the TDRS independent of the Telecommunications Forum. The TCF is made up of telecommunications service providers which can make for blurred lines of accountability.

TCF chief executive Paul Brislen says his organisation has started working on the TDRS upgrade.

He says; “…consumers are given contradictory messages about who to contact if they have issues with their provider. We want to make these processes as clear as possible for consumers and we support the Commission’s desire to have a one-stop shop for consumers to resolve their complaints.”

There are a lot of complaints. The TCF says it handled 2812 complaints and enquiries from customers last year.

Brislen says 98 percent of these were resolved promptly with service providers working with the customers.

2degrees hits new revenue high in Q3

2degrees services revenues hit $148 million in the third quarter. That’s an increase of 7 percent on the same period a year earlier. The company has reported record revenues for three quarters in a row.

The numbers reported by Trilogy International Partners, 2degrees’ parent company, show an eight percent year-on-year rise in postpaid connections. That’s an indiction 2degrees is earning better margins.

Broadband connections are up 13 percent and revenue from the broadband part of the business is up 15 percent year-on-year.

In the announcement 2degrees said its 5G network will launch in the first quarter of 2022.

Sky to join TDL contributors

Spark, Vodafone, Chorus and 2degrees will continue to pay the largest share of the government’s Telecommunications Development Levy (TDL). But there’s a new name on the contributor list this year: Sky TV, which is now a significant player in the broadband market.

This year’s TDL is $10 million, down from $50 million in recent years. The levy is used to pay for essential, but not commercial, infrastructure and services such as rural broadband, a relay service for deaf users and 111 emergency calling.

The Commerce Commission has issued a draft determination and is looking for submissions by November 23.

Spark signals 5G progress

Speaking at Spark’s AGM, CEO Jolie Hodson said the company now has 5G coverage at nine locations. As previously noted in the Download 2.0, Spark is accelerating its 5G roll-out.

Hodson told shareholders Spark will spend an extra $35 million in this financial year bringing the total 5G investment for the year to $125 million. The plan is for nationwide 5G coverage by the end of 2023 although that depends on spectrum rights.

Elsewhere at the AGM, Spark said its Skinny Jump connections for low-income families now has 15,121 active connections.

Mattr to provide My Vaccine Pass plumbing

Spark-owned Mattr won the closed competitive tender to provide the technology underpinning the Ministry of Health’s My Vaccine Pass. The pass is a QR code that shows a person’s vaccine status. Having a pass will let people into shops, other businesses and events.

Waihopa spy site has done its dish

The Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) is to close the Waihopai satellite communications interception station. Announcing the closure, GCSB minister Andrew Little said the site is no longer needed and is close to obsolete.

In other news

Immarsat has merged with Viasat. The satellite companies both planned to start LEO networks next year to rival Starlink.

Weta Digital is the latest New Zealand technology business picked up by an overseas buyer. The buyer is Unity, a US-based 3D content specialist. Reseller News says the deal is worth $2.3 billion.

At the New Zealand Herald Chris Keall reports that Privacy Commissioner John Edwards’ move to the plum UK privacy role is now official.


 

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