Tutela says Vodafone has New Zealand’s fastest mobile data. It wins with downloads and uploads. The mobile industry research company says 2degrees has the highest consistent quality and the best latency.
When it comes to raw mobile speed Vodafone is well in front of Spark and 2degrees. Its median download speed is 23.9 Mbps. Uploads come in at 9.2 Mbps.
Spark trails with a median download speed of 20 Mbps. That’s not far behind Vodafone, yet it has the slowest upload speed at 7.7 Mbps.
While 2degrees has the slowest median download speed at 19.5 Mbps, that is only 4.4 Mbps behind the leader. The company is second when it comes to upload speeds with a median of 8.1 Mbps.
Tutela reports on consistent quality
According to Tutela the 2degrees network is good enough for applications like high definition video calls, streaming video and mobile gaming for 85.6 percent of the time.
Tutela calls this measure Excellent Consistent Quality. The mobile carriers are only compared in places where they all have coverage.
Spark follows a fraction behind meeting the standard for 84.9 percent of the time.
Vodafone brings up the rear on that measure, reaching the required level 81.9 percent of the time.
The numbers are so close that it might help to think of the scores as a draw with Vodafone a tick behind.
2degrees wins on latency
2degrees had the best one-way latency result at 24.5 ms. It was followed by Vodafone at 25.9 ms. Spark in third for a median one-way latency of 29.4 ms.
Looking at these numbers it seems there is not much in it. Although Vodafone and 2degrees do better than Spark in almost every measurement, no single carrier is a long way ahead or behind the pack.
That’s not the case, but it looks that way because of the methods used to create international table rankings. The rankings are not meaningless, but they are hard to interpret and make sense of.
The ITU ranks New Zealand at number eight in the world for high-consumption mobile-data-and-voice. Australia sits at 22.
Meanwhile New Zealand is 41 for fixed broadband while Australia sits at 36.
Not the lived experience
These two rankings are opposite to the everyday experience of telecommunications customers in the two countries.
These kind of ranking tables are often a little strange. That’s because they tend to use artificial user cases to illustrate difference between markets where in reality there is a lot of nuance.
Remember here the tables are about affordability. The ITU measures and compares the prices of entry-level fixed broadband plans.
It then compares these prices with a nation’s gross national income (GNI). This is a way of relating prices to people’s earnings.
As a rule countries with a lower income pay proportionately more for telecommunications services. Which is a way of saying they are less affordable.1
It turns out New Zealand’s entry level plan is a 50mbps fibre plan with a 60GB cap. Prices are converted to US dollars. In this case it comes in at US$44.97. The price also includes 15 percent GST.
That may well be the lowest plan on offer in New Zealand, but it’s a plan almost no-one buys.
Australia’s entry level plan is 20mbps with a 100GB cap. It sells for US$52.30. Australian GST is 10 percent. In other words the plan used for comparison is far slower and more expensive, yet includes more data.
According to the ITU when the GNI is taken into account Australia gets an affordably score of 1.2 while New Zealand gets a score of 1.3. So we sit a few places behind Australia in the fixed broadband table.
Mobile voice and data
The same methodological weirdness works in New Zealand’s favour when it comes to measuring high consumption mobile voice and data plans.
New Zealand’s plan costs US$14.53 and buys 200 voice minutes, 500 SMS messages and 1.8GB of data. Australians get unlimited calls, unlimited SMS and a whopping 15GB of mobile data for US$36.61.
Going back to the affordability scores, New Zealand gets 0.4 while Australia gets 0.8.
These ITU tables are useful when comparing, say, New Zealand’s year-on-year performance. That tells you if telecommunications is becoming better or worse value.
They are also useful in aggregate. The latest report tells us that entry level mobile-voice is affordable in most countries. It tells us prices have fallen in the last few year relative to income.
It also says that while fixed broadband prices around the world have remained more or less stable, download speeds have increased.
Yet when it comes to benchmarking, say, New Zealand’s performance against other countries, it’s hard to tease out useful data. Anyone who has operated in Australia and New Zealand knows our fixed broadband is better priced, while Australian mobile data is less expensive.
Economists reading this may think this explanation is too simple. ↩︎
It’s a safe bet that no-one will ever get to pay a surcharge for using the company’s new mobile network.
When the 5G network launched, Vodafone said it would charge customers an extra $10 a month to use the service, but would waive the charge for the first six months.
That period is now extended to 18 months. By then, the company’s 5G network will face the same competitive pressure that has pushed down mobile call charges.
We’ve been here before. Vodafone attempted to charge customers more for 4G when that network was first introduced.
At that time there was a noticeable difference in data performance between the 3G and 4G networks.
While there is a huge speed boost for 5G mobile users, there are no everyday applications that make use of this1.
High resolution streaming video works fine on 4G most of the time. Mobile users upgrading to 5G won’t notice a thing. In other words, Vodafone would be asking consumers to pay more for bragging rights only.
It doesn’t help that 5G coverage remains patchy. Yes you can connected at 100s of megabits per second on parts of Lambton Quay, but walk 100 metres and you’re back on 4G. At the same time, only a handful of somewhat dreary phones are capable of using 5G at the moment.
It’s understandable that Vodafone wants to recover the hundreds of millions of dollars that it will have invested in building a 5G network.
5G surcharge is on the nose
Yet asking mobile users for more is on the nose. Apart from those customers see no noticeable performance benefits, one of the main reason carriers want 5G is that it is more efficient to operate. It lowers the cost per customer and the cost per gigabyte of delivered data.
With 5G carriers can support more customers, add new services and, ultimately, make more profit. Yes, it is a good thing, but is hardly a compelling sales pitch to put to consumers and certainly not a reason to get them to dig deeper into their pockets.
The irony here is that Vodafone simultaneously upgraded its 4G network. Customers using that will notice improved performance.
There may be enterprise applications for 5G by then, but those users rarely pay their own phone bills. ↩︎
At Tech.pinions Carolina Milanesi writes about remote working during the COVID-19 epidemic:
There has been a lot of talk over the last week of how COVID-19 might be the pivotal moment for remote working to really take off. China, Silicon Valley, Japan and even Italy are all adopting remote working at various degrees to limit the spreading of the virus. There is such excitement around remote work that brands like Zoom have seen their stock value climb up.
While I really hope people are right and we will see remote working remain relevant once the threat is removed, I cannot help but be skeptical because we have been here before.
Teleworking has been a perennial technology story for well over a generation. I’ve written about the idea since the late 1980s. One of the first posts on this site was Will bosses accept telecommuting?
Telework in 2000
In the run-up to the Sydney Olympics in 2000 I was working for The Australian Financial Review.
In Avoid the rush and take up teleworking I wrote about Sydney’s plan to keep workers from commenting into the city during the games. From memory there was a lot of extra traffic at the time, in part because businesses took precautions.
ORTA, the Olympic Roads and Transport Authority, is promoting teleworking as a strategy to help companies beat anticipated transport problems. Teleworking happens when people carry out work at a location other than their normal office, but remain linked to the office. The connection might be as simple as a phone or a fax, but increasingly it involves remote computers linking to an office network.
In practice, Sydney companies using teleworking as a temporary measure during the Olympics will continue functioning more or less as normal. In many cases their customer and suppliers will not notice much difference.
This was such a long time ago that businesses still took fax machines seriously.
Better networks, better tools
With fast fibre networks, mobile phones, cellular networks, better software tools and better portable hardware, teleworking is so much easier today. Millions of people do it. It’s been part of my working life for 30 years. Yet it is still not as widespread as you might expect.
In the linked story Carolina Milanesi rightly says the technology is ready. Yet much of the time business culture isn’t prepared for remote working. She mentions trust as an issue.
Remote working needs trust
Trust isn’t a problem for consultants and other professionals who are paid for their output. It is an issue for command and control style managers. Those dinosaurs will need to give up some of their control as COVID-19 spreads.
Another issue mentioned in the linked post is that remote employees can feel isolated. That needs to be managed. Bosses won’t be able to do much during enforced periods of teleworking in a pandemic or other crisis. At other times there need to be strategies to make sure people feel part of a team.
Telework was a technology story when I wrote about it in 2000. It isn’t any more, today it’s a management story. Management need to think more in terms of employee output and less about time serving.
A short introduction to 5G mobile for a non-technical audience including the important message that the wireless spectrum it uses is not going to hurt anyone. The argument here is ridiculously simple, we’ve had mobile phones for three decades now and there are no queues of sick people waiting to get into hospital. The frequencies used for 5G won’t change that.