Bill Bennett


Final UFB leg secures West Coast network resilience

Chorus subcontractors finished the last stage of a 250km network extension to secure West Coast telecommunications.Chorus subcontractors finished the last stage of a 250km network extension to secure West Coast telecommunications.

Final UFB leg secures West Coast network resilience

A 250km fibre connection between Fox Glacier and Haast completes the project giving the West Coast modern and resilient communications.

Until now the region has depended on two lines. One runs along State Highway 6 from Nelson to Greymouth. The other connects Greymouth to Christchurch through Arthur’s Pass crossing the Alpine Fault seismic zone.

This arrangement left the West Coast vulnerable to communications outages during severe weather.

To Lake Hawea and the world

The connection between Fox Glacier and Haast and then on to Lake Hawea provides an additional route to the rest of the world.

Chorus GM, Customer and Network Operations Andrew Carroll says the connection gives West Coasters an additional layer of protection.

Crown Infrastructure Partners provided government funding for the project. The work was handled by Ventia and Electronet, two Chorus subcontractors and the Rural Connectivity Group played a significant role.

Communications minister David Clark says the UFB extension was financed through the Provincial Growth Fund.

West Coast connectivity

He says: “On the West Coast alone, the population with access to UFB has surged from 23 percent to 71 percent since 2017”.

On top of the connection, the new connection brings fibre to the small West Coast community at Haast. Around 90 homes there will now be able to order a fibre connection.

Carroll says: “Making fibre available to residents in Haast was a uniquely Kiwi initiative; it sees residents in one of the remotest towns in New Zealand having access to one of the fastest broadband technologies available.”

The new fibre has allowed the Rural Connectivity Group to add 16 further cell towers in the area. These add to the 26 cell towers operational on the West Coast. They mean residents will have 4G mobile services while 130km of remote state highways will have coverage.

Vocus and 2degrees get OIO nod

Vocus NZ and 2degrees welcome today’s statement from the Overseas Investment Office, providing consent for the acquisition of 2degrees, which will enable the merger of the two businesses.

Mark Callander, Vocus NZ CEO and named CEO of the merged business says, “We welcome OIO consent, which concludes the regulatory approvals for the transaction and will allow us to proceed with the merger of Vocus NZ and 2degrees. We expect the transaction to be finalised in the coming weeks and will come together as a combined business as 2degrees on June 1.”

Trustpower sale to Mercury now unconditional

Mercury NZ told the NZX its NZ$467 acquisition of Trustpower’s retail business is now unconditional.

The move sees the energy company move to become a second tier telecommunications retailer and New Zealand’s largest multiple service utilities business.

The remainder of Trustpower has been renamed as Manawa Energy and says it will focus on renewable energy.

While Trustpower was a minnow compared with Spark, Vodafone and the recently merged 2degrees-Orcon business, it was the next largest fixed-line broadband retailer with a six percent market share.

It recently added fixed-wireless broadband to its product offering.

Combined with Mercury’s customers this moves up to 7.8 percent. Spark is on around 40 percent, while Vodafone and 2degrees are each on roughly 20 percent. The top five account for more than 85 percent of all broadband customers.

Trustpower was a Spark mobile reseller. The company’s mobile phone business barely registers in market share terms and Mercury did not formerly have any business in this space. The deal is unlikely to move the dial unless there is significant change in the Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO) sector.

Influential player

Despite being small, Trustpower was influential. It pioneered the strategy of cross-selling power and telecommunications. That meant it found a way to reduce customer churn. That’s something other retail broadband service providers continue to struggle with.

Vocus followed Trustpower’s lead when it acquired power retailer Switch Utilities Ltd in 2016. This move meant it could sell similar power-broadband bundles. The company says this has proved popular with customers. Today the business is branded as Vocus Energy although that may change after the merger between Vocus-Orcon and 2degrees.

In September, the Commerce Commission waved through the acquisition saying it was satisfied the deal was “unlikely to substantially lessen competition in any New Zealand market.” The consideration is based on the two companies’ position in the electricity market. The Commerce Commission official statement, barely mentions the telecommunications aspect of the acquisition.

Telcowatch: NZ mobile market stable

Telcowatch’s quarterly market share report shows there was little movement between New Zealand’s mobile phone carriers in the first quarter of 2022.

Spark remains the largest mobile carrier with a 36 percent market share under its own brand and a further 7 percent for its cut-price Skinny subsidiary. The total is 43 percent.

Vodafone is second on 25 percent with 2degrees bringing up the rear with a 23 percent market share. Movement between the brands was minimal during the quarter with 2degrees dropping half a percent of market share.

Phone shipments tumble 9 percent in first quarter 2022

IDC reports worldwide phone shipments tumbled 8.9 percent in the first quarter of 2022 when compared with 2021.

Rival analyst company Counterpoint Research puts the 2022 q1 fall at seven percent to 328 million units. IDC puts the total sale at 314 million units. This is behind IDC’s earlier forecast.

There’s a closer look at 2022 first quarter phone shipments on the main blog site.

New Zealand signs Declaration for the future of the Internet

New Zealand joined the United States, every European Union nation, Australia and 31 other countries to sign a wide-ranging Declaration for the Future of the Internet.

It lays out a set of priorities for an “open, free, global, interoperable, reliable and secure internet”. The document includes lofty ideas such as affordability, net neutrality and dealing with illegal content while not getting in the way of free expression. There are few details on how the signatories will achieve any of this, but the concept sounds good.

All this comes at a time when countries like China and Russia are clamping down on the freedoms outlined in the declaration. And significantly it contradicts Ukrainian demands to have Russia cut off from the wider internet.

Apologies to anyone upset by the non-appearance of last week’s The Download newsletter. I caught Covid and was out of action for a few days.

In other news… At Reseller News Rob O’Neill covers research from Spark’s CCL operation on New Zealand companies’ cloud investment plans. Half the companies surveyed by CCL say they intend to invest more in cloud services next year.

The Overseas Investment Office has given Amazon Web Services the go-ahead to proceed with its plans for an AWS region in New Zealand. The project will involve multiple data centres which Amazon says will means spending NZ$7.5 billion.

Seeby Woodhouse’s Voyager Internet is working on a 100 gigabit network upgrade. It should be complete in November. A blog post on the Voyager website says the upgrade means the ISP can offer customers 10G services, L2 Ethernet and national backhaul.

2degrees is working with Microsoft and Umbrellar on its Cloud Navigator portal. The service gives customers self-service control over managing abut being Microsoft licences and products.

A report in the Wall Street Journal says the NFT market is “collapsing”. Average sales of NFTs are down 92 percent from their peak in September and the number of active wallets, which indicate people trading in NFTs, is down 88 percent. “Collapse” could be too strong a word, but it looks like reality is intruding on the market.

Engineers at CableLabs demonstrated 8Gbps downloads and 5Gbps uploads on an HFC network using a DOCSIS 4.0 modem. In theory the technology could be used to revive Vodafone’s UFC Broadband.

Peter Berghaus New Zealand (PB Traffic), is using Internet of Things (IoT) technology from Pollin8 and Thinxtra to maintain road safety and optimise traffic flow at infrastructure development sites. The company uses the technology to keep track of its temporary traffic lights.

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