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Bill Bennett

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Fixed wireless speed drops as broadband use surges

Three big talking points emerged from the Commerce Commission’s latest Annual Telecommunications Monitoring report.

First, in general, New Zealand’s telecommunications networks were more than up to the job of coping with massively increased demand during Covid pandemic lockdowns.

Second, average download speeds for fixed wireless networks were down 25 percent.

Third, there’s a clear problem with retail telecommunications revenue. This has implications for investment in new networks and technology upgrades.

We’ll look more closely at all three points later. Before that, here are a few highlights from the report.

Fixed lines connections by technology - New Zelaand - March 2021

More data, faster data

Broadband use jumped ahead in the year to June 2020. The monitoring report notes the average New Zealand broadband user chewed through 284GB every month. That’s up 37 percent from the 207GB used monthly a year earlier.

That should surprise no-one. This time last year New Zealanders were sent home to work or study. When the lockdown finished, many continued to work from home either part-time or full-time.

During the lockdown we saw a huge rise in the number of people using video conferencing. And an even bigger rise in the number of video conferencing meetings between users.

Wireless disappoints

Fixed line broadband technologies held up during what were potentially difficult times.

You can’t say the same for fixed wireless broadband. The Commerce Commission noted a significant performance decrease for fixed wireless broadband users.

The average fixed wireless speed dropped 25 percent during the year.

Fixed wireless carriers managed to convince plenty of new customers to move to the technology. The number of customers on fixed wireless broadband networks was up 16 percent during the year.

Fibre sales raced ahead during the year. The number of fibre broadband users went from a little over 800,000 to more than a million. That’s a 25 percent increase.

By the time the report period closed around two-thirds of those who could connect to fibre had chosen the technology.

Traditional landline numbers dropped 12 percent during the year.

Industry revenue falls

Retail telecommunications revenue dropped four percent during the year. Mobile revenue was down three percent. An important and lucrative part of the revenue; mobile roaming, evaporated.

Revenues fell despite the growth in use and the importance of telecommunications at a time workers and students were sent home and asked to connect remotely.

Mobile data consumption continued to grow. It was up 20 percent during the year. The report notes the increased popularity of unlimited or ‘endless’ mobile data plans. These now account for 14 percent of on-account plans.

Fast, not fastest

The Commerce Commission says New Zealand ranks number 12 in the OECD for average broadband download speed. It is well ahead of the OECD average and more than twice that of Australia, which is a laggard by international standards.

There was movement in fixed broadband market share during the year. The largest telcos continued to see a fall in their share while the smaller retailers grew. The ‘others’, that’s service providers outside the top five, increased their share of the total from 11 to 13 percent.

Spark’s market share was down a fraction falling from 41 to 40 percent. Vodafone dropped more, from 24 to 21 percent. Third place Vocus stayed steady with a 13 percent market share while 2degrees nudged ahead of Trustpower to take fourth place.

Fixed wireless’ weaknesses exposed

On average, fixed wireless broadband download speeds dropped 25 percent.

During the lockdown I heard from a number of readers who experienced worse performance drops. Others saw no fall off.

That anecdote shows one of the main downsides of fixed wireless broadband: it’s a lottery.

You might get a good connection, you may not. Your local connection might be congested at Netflix o’clock, or it could be fine. There’s no sure way of knowing what you’ll get until you commit.

Compare this with fibre where customers get a consistent experience no matter where they live, no matter the time.

Your own personal internet on-ramp

If you buy a fibre broadband connection, you, in effect, get your own internet pathway from your house to the local cabinet. No matter what other fibre users down your street do, you can expect to always see roughly the same data download speed.

With fixed wireless broadband, you share the airwaves, or the available bandwidth, with other customers. If everyone connects at once then the airwaves and towers can get congested. When that happens the speed will drop.

One way the companies selling fixed wireless broadband can maintain network performance is by limiting the number of connections in any given area. They know that, in normal times, not everyone connects at once. This allows them to estimate how many connections can be supported in normal times before the performance drops.

The problem is that last year was not normal times.

Fixed wireless broadband performance should improve when carriers switch to 5G. The raw speed will be higher. Latency – that’s the time it takes for a signal to get from here to there – will reduce. There’s a beam forming technology which, without getting technical, should reduce congestion.

It will take a long time for 5G to roll out nationwide. At the moment it is mainly in central city areas. It covers only a fraction of homes. In the meantime, carriers will work to upgrade fixed wireless technology. Despite this, it will remain something of a lottery.

Fixed wireless broadband is ideal for certain groups of users. For some, it is the only option. Or will be until the new generation satellite networks open for business.

Otherwise, you should only choose it if you don’t care about performance or reliability. The Commerce Commission report underlines this.

Falling industry revenues

On the surface falling industry revenues might not concern telecommunications users. Money is tight and spending less on broadband and phones feels like a welcome break from rising prices.

In the short term it’s not a huge problem. In the long term it is. And the problem here is weak revenue and profit margins has been going on for years and there’s no sign of it ending.

The good side of this is that one reason telecommunications companies don’t make huge profits is because there is intense competition. That benefits users.

On the negative side, the industry needs to keep investing at a high level to build new networks, new products and services. Lower profits mean less to invest. This hasn’t happened yet, but the problem looms like a rain cloud on the horizon.

Commerce Commission calls out mobile price confusion

In 2006, Theresa Gattung made a speech saying telcos use price confusion to make money. Not much has changed since she was CEO of Telecom. Now it is about mobile price confusion.

Gattung said: “Think about pricing. What has every telco in the world done in the past? It has used confusion as its chief marketing tool. And that’s fine.

“You could argue that that’s how all of us keep calling prices up and get those revenues, high-margin businesses, keep them going for a lot longer than would have been the case.

“But at some level, whether they consciously articulate or not, customers know that’s what the game has been. They know we’re not being straight up.”

Confusion continues with mobile price

That was 14 years ago. Since then New Zealand’s mobile market has changed beyond recognition. We’ve moved from a duopoly to three carriers; four if you count Spark-owned Skinny as separate, although that’s debatable.

Mobile technology has evolved from 3G to 4G to 5G. The Commerce Commission regulated mobile termination rates. This helped establish more competition.

People no longer come home from overseas facing crippling bills for roaming calls.

Many of the annoyances that plagued mobile consumers have been fixed.

But not all annoyances. Telcos continue to use mobile price confusion to baffle consumers.

Paying too much

Telecommunications Commissioner Tristan Gilbertson says it can mean we end up paying too much.

This isn’t a casual reckon. It emerged from an in-depth analysis of 80,000 mobile phone bills. The work is part of the commission’s Retail Service Quality programme. This is a series of projects tackling the remaining customer pain points.

For now, the commission has gloves on. It wants the industry to clean up its act. If that doesn’t happen, it has legislative backing to take a more active approach.

Research revelations

The research examined millions of data points. Researchers used data collected from carriers. The data is anonymous. There are interesting revelations.

Close to two-thirds (64 percent) of users did not change plans during the year-long review.

A quarter of post-paid consumers could save an estimated average of $11.60 a month by moving to a cheaper plan that would cover their usage.

Customer types

Post-paid is industry jargon for customers who have a contract with a mobile phone company. They get a bill at the end of each month. In other words they pay after they have used the service. You sometimes see them referred to as on contract customers.

The other type of customer has a pre-pay plan. They hand over money upfront before using their phones.

In many cases pre-pay customers get a fixed amount of calls, texts and data before having to pay again. In other cases they pay for a fixed number of days and can make as many calls as they want. These plans come with a set allocation of data.

Seven percent overpay by a large margin

Researchers found seven percent of mobile users pay for a lot more than they use. These people could potentially save an average of $48.65 a month if they switched to a more appropriate plan. They are high spenders when compared with the rest of the market.

That number needs context. Telcos measure success in markets like mobile using ARPU or average revenue per user.

At Spark, ARPU across the mobile business is $28.27 a month. Prepaid customers are worth an average of $13.33 a month, contract or post-pay customers have an ARPU of $42.

These numbers put the $48.65 that seven percent overpay into perspective. It’s a huge amount compared with average spends. They are paying at least twice the going rate.

Not shopping around

The Commerce Commission’s big-picture finding is that consumers don’t hunt down the best plans for their needs. It could be they are unable to find the mobile price information they need to make those decisions.

Two sets of information can help phone users make informed decisions about plans. The first are the plan details themselves. The second is transaction history.

If you are able to look back at your calls, texts and data use over the last year, you’d have a idea of how much you might use in future months.

You may be able to total the amounts and learn that, say, you never use more than this many calls minutes. Likewise, you can see when your data use peaks.

That would give you a starting point when looking at advertised plans.

Hard to find

In practice this information is hard to find.

There are places where you can get usage data. Mobile company phone apps store a limited amount of information.

Take the Skinny app. It is more geared towards selling more services to customers than keeping them informed.

There is a transaction history. Yet it covers a mere two weeks of calls and data use. That’s not a starting point for a useful comparison.

The Skinny website shows more data. Not much more. There you can find three months of transaction history. That’s better, but it’s not enough to tease out seasonal or long term patterns. Any statistician will tell you that three data points is not enough to spot a trend.

There was a time when printed telephone bills contained all the necessary information. If you get one, not all carriers have them, Skinny does not, you have to download and store them on your computer. If you don’t, they soon drop out of sight. Phone companies keep them live for a few months, not the long term.

You could get the impression carriers don’t want customers to make meaningful long term comparisons.

Electricity, water perform better

Contrast this lack of information with, say, electricity or water companies.

Electricity retailers send statements every month. All the information needed to make a wise buying decision is there in full view.

An electricity bill might show the average daily use over the last 12 months in a handy graph format. Retailers contact customers to check they are on the best, read that as cheapest, option. If not, they help customers change.

They do this because they know keeping customers informed is good business practice. It builds loyalty. They understand how easy it is to switch if a customer feels they not getting the best deal.

Water companies tell customers how much their home uses compared with others. It’s information they can use to manage consumption.

Learned helplessness

In subtle ways mobile companies train consumers to not link phone use to their spending.

Take unlimited plans. Plans can come with unlimited voice calling, texts or, up to a point, data. They look good to consumers because they no longer have to worry about bill shock. The cost is a predictable fixed amount every month.

That can be good, yet few people need unlimited amounts of mobile calls or data. We use less data than we think. Often, a lot less.

The research found average monthly consumption across all users is 2.2GB of data and 163 voice minutes. The median data consumption for the top five percent of users is 4.8GB a month. For these people, an unlimited plan makes sense. For everyone else, there are cheaper options.

Another feature of unlimited plans is in some cases the usage information is not longer shown. That means customers can’t always tell if a cheaper plan might be a better choice.

Going over the limit

Another way carriers train us to buy more mobile than we need comes from charges for going over limits. We all remember horrific newspaper stories about people facing huge bills for going over the data or call allocation.

To avoid these charges people buy unlimited plans or plans that leave a lot of headroom.

In practice, going over the limit is not always expensive. If you are on a $40 plan with 2GB of data, an extra gigabit costs around $5.50. That’s a one-off. Moving up to a higher level plan is likely to cost you an extra $20 every month. That’s a huge difference.

Spotify and other extras

When you look at mobile phone plans on the telco website you’ll see extras bundled into the mobile price. There are services like Spotify or Netflix, the ability to use wi-fi hotspots, wi-fi calling to name a few.

At times the marketing material attaches a value to these extras. If you want them, fine. If not, they are of no value. They muddy the water when you’re trying to find the best value for your needs.

Hard comparison

Making direct comparisons between plans from different mobile phone companies can be hard. Sometimes it is as hard to compare different prices from the same company.

At the time of writing Spark offers the Endless Mobile plan for $39.99 a month. It’s a post-paid plan. That is, you pay when you get a bill at the end of each month.

‘Endless’ is the word of the month with New Zealand’s mobile phone companies. Spark has Endless Mobile. Spark’s Skinny subsidiary offers Endless Data plans. The words ‘Endless Data’ are prominent on Vodafone’s mobile plan page at the time of writing.

Endless mobile price confusion

You need to be careful with words like ‘endless’ in mobile marketing. It may not mean what you think it means.

In this context, endless does not mean unrestricted. Endless is a phone company way of saying: “We’re not going to stop you using data. Yet after you have used a certain amount, we’ll slow your data down”.

Spark’s Endless Mobile plan includes unlimited voice minutes and text messaging. You get 3GB of data at normal speed, if you go over the allocation, Spark will drop the data speed. All endless plans have similar restrictions.

Skinny is Spark’s budget mobile phone brand. The plans are pre-paid. You hand over your money upfront.

The Skinny Endless data plan has the same unlimited voice minutes and text messaging. It comes with a more generous 4.5G data allocation at normal speed. Like the Spark plan, data speeds drop when you go over the limit.

28 days is not a month

At first sight the $36 price of Skinny’s plan looks to be a few dollars less than the Spark plan. That’s until you notice that Skinny charges you on a 28-day cycle. That is, you pay Skinny 13 times a year.

Over the course of a year you would pay Spark $480 or pay Skinny $468. The difference is about enough to buy morning coffee and a sandwich. What looks like a 10 percent price difference of $40 compared with $36 is, in fact, 0.025%.

You’d need to be an arithmetic whizz to know if the 2degrees pay monthly pre-paid options are better value than the company’s 14 day pre-paid options. There are few points of reference for a meaningful mobile price comparison.

Cheaper by the kilogram

Confusing prices are not restricted to mobile phone plans. If you shop for, say, mayonnaise in a supermarket, the product comes in uneven size packages. The average consumer can’t tell if the 387 gram jar is better value than the 485 gram option.

Supermarket shopping is easier because shelf labels must show an per kilogram price.

Something similar happens when you buy, say, a large screen TV on credit terms. The headline might show interest rates and promises of nothing to pay for months. Yet the small print has to outline the real interest rate and upfront costs.

Mixed reaction from industry

Spark welcomed the letter and says it is looking for ways to improve customer experience. It went on to say it provides users with 12 months of account information. Spark’s Skinny brand does not. It says it is simplifying plans and will “engage with customers and advise them of options”.

Vodafone was more defensive. It turned the Commission’s numbers around. It says customer churn in the mobile sector is higher than in electricity or banking.

Vodafone went on to argue the high rate of churn creates unnecessary costs for the industry. It went on to say if seven percent pay too much, then 93 percent pay a fair amount. This misses the quarter of customers who overpay.

One good point raised by Vodafone is that last year the Commerce Commission reported that market competition is strong and New Zealanders pay less than the OECD average for mobile. This is true, but it doesn’t mean mobile price structures are fair or that consumers get the treatment they deserve.

Wide support for mobile price action

In contrast the Commerce Commission’s move was welcomed by the Technology Users Association of NZ. CEO Craig Young called on the mobile companies to follow the recommendations. He notes how difficult it is for customers to compare plans between the carriers.

FinCap, a budget advice service weighed-in saying the Commerce Commission’s move could reduce financial hardship for people on the wrong plan.

Chief Executive Tim Barnett says: “Some people may be able to absorb this extra cost in their household spending, but for others this overspending may mean they fall behind in their payments.

“The consequences of falling behind on mobile bills could include bills being sent to debt collection or that customers experience drops in credit ratings. These measures can be very harmful to vulnerable consumers.”

That would be harmful for the telcos. During the Covid-19 lockdowns they warned investors they could soon face a wave of bad debt.

Consumer NZ chief executive Jon Duffy says: “Creating confusion has been a long-standing marketing tactic in the industry. Telcos rely on it to reduce the likelihood consumers will shop around.”

His organisation’s own research underlines the Commerce Commission’s work. Consumer NZ found 33 percent of consumers think it’s easy to compare mobile plans while 38 percent think it’s easy to switch companies.

The mobile price confusion ball is in their court

The Telecommunications Commissioner asked mobile phone companies to make comparisons easier. He doesn’t tell them how to do it. Instead the ball is in their court. The supermarket, credit and electricity sectors all show examples of how they can improve.

Possible improvements include allowing customers to have access to a whole year of transaction history, the would include voice calls, text messages and data use. Carriers could watch to see if customers are overspending and automatically inform them of plans that better suit their needs.

The Commission would like to see a ‘consumer data right’. Consumers would be able to show rival carriers their current use and spend in a way that would allow comparisons and, where appropriate, encourage a better offer.

Australia is moving towards a similar idea. There, the mobile price project is government lead and will be imposed on carriers. Telecommunications Commissioner Gilbertson would prefer the carriers to manage the process in New Zealand. He has asked the industry’s own Telecommunications Forum, to look at this.

It’s fair to say New Zealand’s mobile sector has come a long way since Theresa Gattung’s speech. On the whole competition is delivering benefits to consumers. Yet mobile price confusion remains an everyday business practice and a pain point the industry regulator wants to fix.

UFB fibre unbundling fades into background

The Commerce Commission’s final guidance, published this week, may put the UFB fibre unbundling question to bed.

Unbundling is the idea that internet service providers can buy a raw physical connection from a wholesale fibre company, attach their own electronics and sell services on to customers.

At present New Zealand’s ISPs have to buy the physical connection bundled with the electronics at each end to send and receive data.

Fibre unbundling deals on the table

Since the start of the year, fibre wholesalers have offered unbundled fibre to retail service providers.

Chorus, Enable, UFF and Northpower have all published their proposed offers. Few service providers have shown any interest. But two, Vodafone and Vocus, formed a partnership to work on unbundling fibre. That project hasn’t got far for reasons that will be obvious when you read on.

I’m simplifying here. There’s a technical rabbit hole you can go down that discusses matters like Layer 1 and Layer 2. You can find an easy to read summary of unbundling on this site.

You don’t need to understand the details to grasp the basic economics.

The Commerce Commission regulates basic fibre prices. Fibre companies can sell wholesale at a price determined by the Commerce Commission. This price takes into account the cost of building the network. It is set so that fibre companies get a return on their investment.

Fibre expensive to build

As you’d expect, building fibre networks is expensive. The bulk of the costs pay for civil engineering and the physical part of the network. This is Layer 1.

Fibre companies turn Layer 1 into Layer 2 by installing electronic hardware at each end of a line. This moves the data through the fibre.

Installing electronics is a small fraction of the cost of building a fibre network. A few percent at most.

Given fibre companies charge a cost-based fee, the price difference between bundled and unbundled is tiny.

Which means there’s no value in UFB unbundling to a service provider.

While the Commerce Commission regulates UFB wholesale prices, it opted not to regulate unbundled fibre prices. It left that to commercial negotiation and said it may step in later if necessary.

As with other fibre regulation there are two key ideas in last week’s Commerce Commission guidance. These are: Equivalence and non-discrimination.

Equivalence means the terms a fibre company offers must be the same as it offers its own business operations. Non-discrimination means they can’t play favourites with retail service providers.

The big telcos don’t like non-discrimination. It means they can’t use their clout to get better prices than small ISPs.

Room to move

This week’s guidance might not be the last we hear of UFB unbundling, but it doesn’t leave ISPs with much room to move.

It’s worth pointing out that consumers won’t benefit from unbundling. If there are cost savings, the ISPs will want them to rebuild margins. There’s nothing an unbundler can add to a fibre connection, almost all their options include taking things away.

Now the Commerce Commission is investigating whether the non-price terms attached to unbundled fibre offers meet regulatory requirements. This can be trickier. Take the fibre companies reluctance to let external engineers cut and splice their fibre lines. On one level it sounds reasonable, but the regulator may yet decide otherwise.

In its guidance the Commission explains how it will monitor and enforce obligations.

Telecommunications Commissioner Tristan Gilbertson says: “We strongly encourage fibre providers to review their product offerings against the guidance we have issued and to make any changes necessary to bring them into compliance as quickly as possible. We also encourage retailers to raise issues with the LFCs where they believe the product offerings are not meeting the required obligations.”

Which is a way of saying: “As long as no-one is unreasonable, we’re going to leave this with the market for now.”

Selling fixed wireless in the face of ignorance

Spark says it aims to double customers on its fixed wireless broadband service.

This was always going to be a tough goal.

Now it will be tougher. That’s thanks to misinformation, conspiracy theories and, there’s no kind way of saying this… ignorance.

These two newspaper headlines appeared next to each other on a newsfeed last weekend. They tell the story.

Newshub half of NZers think 5G dangerous

NBR Spark aims to double fixed wireless cusotmers

A hard sell

Selling fixed wireless broadband is hard work full stop. It competes with fibre, a better option. It doesn’t help that Spark and Vodafone charge fibre-like prices for FWB connections.

In March the Commerce Commission published the Annual Telecommunications Monitoring Report for 2019. It notes:

“Fixed wireless connections increased to 11 percent of total broadband connections at 188,000. However, growth in fixed wireless connections slowed to 14 percent this year, compared to 36 percent growth last year.”

There are reasons sales slowed in 2019. Spark dialled back on selling FWB in the run up to the Rugby World Cup knowing that customers would not have the best streaming video experience.

Saturation point

At the same time the service reached saturation in places where FWB is popular. These tend to be areas where fibre is not available.

Fixed wireless customers share bandwidth. This means if too many attempt to connect at the same time performance drops.

FWB service providers manage this by limiting the number of customers served by any given cell site. In the past they also limited the amount of data a customer could use in a month. Although this is now changing in parts of the country.

Market saturation meant there were parts of the country where Spark could not sign up new FWB customers.

Despite these restrictions Spark has been successful by international standard when it comes to selling fixed wireless.

The Monitoring Report says:

“As at 31 December 2018, New Zealand ranked third highest out of the OECD countries for fixed wireless broadband connections with 3.5 subscriptions per 100 of population, behind Czech Republic at 10.3 and Slovak Republic at 5.7.”

In other words, Spark’s goal of doubling FWB connections was looking heroic before the daft 5G conspiracy theories were imported into New Zealand. Now they look a lot harder.

At the time of writing almost all fixed wireless broadband in New Zealand uses 4G or 4.5G technology. Spark has small 5G FWB sites in the South Island these are a tiny fraction of total user numbers.

No doubt, Spark plans to offer 5G fixed wireless as soon as possible. But right now it is not the focus.

‘Alternative facts’

Conspiracy theorists never let facts like this get in the way of their thinking. Remind yourself that the towers attacked by arsonists were not 5G towers.

What makes the problem harder for Spark is the likelihood there is a strong overlap between those who fear 5G and those who would be the company’s normal target market.

Away from places where customers have no choice but FWB, it is easier for Spark to sell the technology to less sophisticated consumers than to tech-savvy ones.

If you understand technology, you’ll know fibre is a better product. If you don’t understand it, you’re more likely to believe crazy nonsense promoted on Facebook.

There’s no easy way out of this for Spark.

Indeed, the problem is likely to get worse. The crazy ideas about 5G appear to spread faster than positive messages.

For now Spark shareholders are happy to keep investing in 5G and fixed wireless broadband. Yet for the technology to succeed, the company must convince consumers to buy. If half the target market is running scared, that’s going to get harder.

Spark’s timid Covid-era 5G mobile launch

There could not be more contrast between Spark and Vodafone’s 5G launches. The two launch events tell a tale about the effect of the Covid-19 pandemic on carriers.

Last December Vodafone launched its 5G network. On day one it had 100 5G towers in Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch and Queenstown.

This week Spark’s 5G network opened for business. In Palmerston North.

That’s right. Spark chose New Zealand’s eight largest city to showcase the latest mobile generation.

Toyota

The company says it is working with Toyota to uncap the value of 5G in Palmerston North.

You might think this would involve something exciting like driverless cars. After all, Spark tested New Zealand’s first autonomous vehicles last year.

Instead, the partnership delivered a dreary virtual test drive app. It’s the kind of video streaming application that 4G mobile handles with aplomb.

Vodafone’s launch had holograms, long-distance veterinary surgeons, remote cranes and 5G controlled factories.

Contrast

There could not be more contrast between the two 5G launches. Vodafone had exciting technology and glitz. Spark has Palmerston North and 4G apps.

Vodafone went hard and early. Spark’s launch is timid. The company says it will offer 5G in four more locations before the end of the year. By then it will be a full 12 months behind Vodafone.

To be fair, Spark had to wait for the government to deliver 5G spectrum before it could move. Vodafone had suitable spectrum in its pocket.

While we are being fair, the world has changed a lot since Vodafone’s launch. Spark’s cautious arrival on the 5G scene could be the right strategy for pandemic times.

Prudent

Like New Zealand’s other telcos, Spark may yet have a wall of bad debt to deal with. Not splashing money on a big 5G roll out and a fancy launch looks prudent today. It’s possible Vodafone’s investors wouldn’t have funded a 5G launch if they knew what was coming.

It is not as if rivers of gold will flow into the coffers after a 5G launch. As Telcowatch shows, Vodafone’s market share didn’t move after it launched its 5G network.

Vodafone may look confident. Yet that confidence doesn’t extend to charging customers more to use its 5G network. Likewise, Spark isn’t going to ask the people of Palmerston North to pay a 5G premium.

Even the boring Toyota demonstration app seems sensible and wise. It’s not as if there are any practical applications for everyday users that depend on 5G to work. Why pretend otherwise? Vodafone’s examples looked exciting, but it will be ages before they are everyday reality here.

And that’s the key. While the above story may read like a criticism of Spark, it is not. Spark has cut its coat according to its Covid-19 era cloth. We need to adjust our expectations for less techno-dazzle and more back to basics.