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Rod Snodgrass

Telecom NZ reports surging mobile data traffic on its network.

The year to August 2013 saw mobile data traffic climb 91 percent while data traffic on Telecom NZ’s Wi-Fi hotspot network climbed 23 percent in a single month.

Where is the traffic coming from? I asked Telecom Digital Ventures CEO Rod Snodgrass. He says the two main reasons are a growth in customer numbers on Telecom’s mobile network and the increasing number of smartphones in use.

He says you only need to look at the latest IDC report which shows 18 percent of people are interested in purchasing a laptop, while 41 percent are considering smartphones to understand what’s happening with devices.

Snodgrass also says the mobile apps people use are getting hungrier and there’s a trend towards constant connectivity.

Continuing trend

With the amount of data being created continuing to accelerate and smartphone uptake increasing, the traffic surge is likely to continue. Snodgrass says: “The data and mobility growth story has a long, long way to go”.

Telecom NZ’s challenge is keeping up with demand.

Snodgrass says if you look at the plans on offer there’s been a steady growth in the size of plan bundles: “Just in the last week we have rebased our Ultra Mobile plans – with more minutes, more texts and more data.”

He says people are buying bigger data plans, but they are also making more use of the data in their bundles. He says:  “Our most popular at the moment of the new Ultra Mobile plans is the $89 plan, which offers 1.5GB of data.

“Only a short time ago that would have been regarded as a large amount. And as the data report shows, average monthly data use per data-using mobile customer has gone up over 60 percent in the last 12 months to about 384MB per user.”

Telecom NZ Wi-Fi is strategic

Traffic on Telecom’s network of Wi-Fi hot spots leapt 23 percent in one month. I asked Snodgrass if this network is taking some of the mobile data strain.

He says the hot spots are a strategic key pillar and Telecom NZ has already noticed people supplementing their 3G mobile data use with the hot spots.

Sondgrass says the hot spot network: “Has the added advantage of reducing cellular network congestion by offloading traffic from our networks particularly in locations where the usage is peaky.

“The holiday hotspots are a good example of that, where the data traffic over the Christmas period is exceptionally high and far higher than the rest of the year. But the main focus is providing a differentiated network experience for Telecom customers.”

Expect to hear more about Wi-Fi

What makes August’s big growth even more impressive is that Telecom NZ has yet to start promoting the service.

Snodgrass says the Wi-Fi network is expanding rapidly: “In line with that we are seeing greater awareness as more and more people see the hotspots and register for the service– we expect this to continue but so far it’s been all about word of mouth.”

He says you can expect to see Wi-Fi promotional activity soon.

Telecom NZ’s Wi-Fi hot-spot network is based on the company’s phone box network. Many of these connect to exchanges over copper, which limits their data capacity. That network is scheduled for an upgrade to Telecom NZ’s nationwide Optical Transport Network.