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Brislen on Tech

Paul Brislen, Editor. 18 August 2017, 4:25 pm

Ah, the phone companies.

Just when you think "my goodness, aren't they all just behaving nicely and getting along" comes the tale of four telcos copping a stinging slap on the back of the leg from the Commerce Commission for a variety of offences that literally all would make your eyes roll.

MyRepublic got told off for promoting its 1Gbit/s service before it was actually available. TWO MONTHS before it was available. The start up also told customers its broadband gaming service would not experience lag or latency but they might if they use someone else's servers. Yeah, apparently MyRepublic has sorted out that pesky "speed of light" issue.

2Degrees was stung for advertising the price of its unlimited broadband plan without identifying or  disclosing the additional cost of a modem and its delivery.

Spark is thinking hard about why it told punters Vodafone's 2G network was about to close (it isn't) and Vodafone got spanked for claiming its 12 month broadband plans came bundled with free goods and services, when in fact you had to pay additional fees to get the "free" goods or services.

So on the one hand it's good to see business as usual. On the other… surely by now the telcos would have figured out how to launch products that comply with the law.

Actually I do have to say on one note, I must agree with some internal telco marketeers and their grumblings.

The shiny new Ultra Fast Broadband (UFB) plan offers products that are sold at speed points - so 100Mbit/s down, 50Mbit/s up, or 100/100 or 200/200 and so on.

This makes it nice and easy to sell and easy for the punters to understand.

However, the Commerce Commission doesn't like it when it comes to the 1Gibt/s plans.

Why? Because the customer doesn't actually get those speeds. No, you got those speeds less any overheads, so your gigabit plan isn't called "a gigabit plan" because it's not a gigabit.

Spark, as an example, has the ludicrously named Fibre Max and Naked Fibre Max boasting a top speed of 900Mbit/s and the others are no better.

It's all a bit silly but luckily there's an easy way round it. Chorus (and the other fibre companies) just have to turn up the connection on the gigabit services to slightly more than 1Gbit/s as they do with the lesser plans.

Chaps, over to you.

Oh and Stuff Fibre? Learn the difference between megabits and megabytes, OK?

Computerworld - Four telcos cop Commerce Commission warning letters

NBR - ComCom warns Spark, Vodafone, 2degrees and MyRepublic over confusing ads

Computerworld - TUANZ calls for mobile comms review to boost MVNO numbers

Computerworld - Southern Cross completes survey for NEXT cable

Reseller News - Snap founder Mark Petrie to leave Two Degrees

Reseller News - Catalyst Cloud spins off into new business

Stuff - Profit forecast cut for fourth-largest telco


Train Set and Match

I like trains. I really do. I like the sense of adventure when you get on them. I like the zen-like trance that settles on me when I'm on one for any length of time. I enjoy seeing the wrong side of a city and, in the real world, I enjoy the effortless travel from A to B that trains deliver.

Years ago I went to CeBIT in Hannover, Germany. I misjudged the scale of the event - 18 or 19 halls each the size of the Auckland Showgrounds crammed full of tech stalls and stands and presentations and demonstrations. The event was immense - easily the largest tech conference of its day.

We didn't stay in Hannover though, we stayed in Hamburg because it was easier to get to the event from a city 150km away than it was to get across town.

We took the train, naturally, and the Australian journalists and I sat in the breakfast car scoffed hot rolls and coffee while we zoomed across the country, slowing down from what I can only describe as Warp Two for the final approach. The train stopped at the gates to the event centre and we grudgingly said goodbye to the fresh baked goods and ambled in. We were first ones in because, it turned out, the entire city of Hannover was in gridlock after a traffic light failure. We had the place to ourselves for quite some time.

It really did set the tone and I have been a firm advocate for trains ever since.

There's been a lot of opposition to the idea of trains within Auckland's limits in particular. Aucklanders, we're told, love our cars and there's no point building an alternate network for a handful of hippies. Having spent some time stuck in Auckland's traffic I beg to differ. I enjoy driving, but only when I'm actually going somewhere, not when I'm edging along feeling my blood pressure rise because of the number of meetings I'm going to have to cancel.

Now, we're swamped with trains. Well, the promise of them at any rate. Trams around the city, even out west, are up for grabs in the lolly scramble of politics. And yesterday someone who knows about these things actually floated the idea of an intercity high speed train from Auckland to Hamilton and across to Tauranga.

It's like all my Christmases have come at once.

My wife tells me I've been banging on about inter-city trains for years ("Years!") and it's true but now someone's done the numbers and they look pretty good to me.

Something major has changed in the last few years that will drive more uptake of trams and trains than ever before and you're probably doing it right now.

Practically ubiquitous wifi and portable devices (laptops, iPads, Surfaces and whatnot) mean you can sit on a train for 40 minutes or an hour or whatever it takes and be productive. You cannot do that in a car edging down the motorway.

Laptops and internet access mean you can clear your email, do some work and even attend meetings. I worked on a project where the lead coordinator was working in Japan and she regularly held team meetings via Skype from the dining car on a bullet train. It just worked.

When I had an office job I would regularly head into the office early to avoid the crush (both on the roads but also in the office) and get some work done before everyone arrived. Trains mean we can all do that and we don't need to clog up the roads to do it.

And then there's the regional economic development story to go with it.

Many years ago (2011) TUANZ invited Dr Tim Williams to talk to a bunch of meetings about regional economic growth. His views were formed working in the UK for London's council looking at why some urban areas live and others die. Fibre speed internet access makes a huge difference, he said.

The example he gave us was of Cornwall which, for many generations, has been slowly declining in terms of GDP. Sure, the tourist trade keeps the place afloat but outside of tourism the region is in decline. Or rather it was, until about ten years ago. What happened? A high-speed broadband service was introduced that allowed London folk to keep their London jobs and move to Cornwall. They then started demanding ciabatta bread, lattes and all the other trappings of city life and could afford more of a lifestyle because your London Dollar goes a lot further down the country a bit.

Fibre, combined with a decent train service, meant these people kept their jobs and traded up their lifestyles. Head into town for a day of meetings, be home in time for tea. Work remotely as required.

I'd like to see that happen here. Not only would it resolve Auckland's housing crisis, and reduce congestion, but it would also provide a healthy boost to Waikato and Bay of Plenty settlements as well.

And why not go north to Whangarei at the same time?

For some reason the New Zealand version of Tim's report has vanished from the internet but the links below will take you to the Australian version.

And hat's off to The Spin Off crew who have been working overtime on this issue.

YouTube - Connecting Communities: Dr Tim Williams

Huawei - Connecting Communities White Paper

The Spin Off - A train to Hamilton every 15 minutes? Yes we can and here's how

The Spin Off - Light rail won't run just to the airport - it also unlocks West Auckland

The Spin Off - How those rail lines to the airport will actually work

The Spin Off - Leaked report suggests government could announce Auckland light rail before the election

Stuff - Rapid rail network would merge North Island economies into a single powerhouse



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