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Summer lovin', happened so fast

Paul Brislen, Editor. 22 January 2018, 7:17 am

For those starting back today a welcome blast of rain (in Auckland at any rate) seems to signal the end of the golden weather and is fitting for the return to work.

But for some, work didn't stop and while many of us summered and barbecued, for others the summer weeks were spent slaving over a hot keyboard.

The award for the hottest keyboard must surely go to the team at Rocketlab who, in the past 48 hours, have rocketed (ha) New Zealand into the record books with the textbook perfect launch of its Electron rocket and successful deployment of three small earth-imaging satellites.

Indeed, there's nothing quite like the sound of a Kiwi accent counting down to launch to make the heart swell with pride.

Rocketlab's target market is the smaller end of the market, but one rich with possible buyers for its services. Previously, small payloads had to wait for a larger launch vehicle and piggyback off that, at huge cost, now they can be deployed more regularly and more affordably via Rocketlab, which boasts a 95% reduction in the cost of delivery. Individual flights cost from around US$5 million making them far more accessible to the smaller end of the market.

The launch was delayed by a day due to rogue boaties meandering into the exclusion zone off the Hawke's Bay coast, but on Sunday afternoon everything fell into place for the team. Orders are backed up and waiting already and Rocketlab, and New Zealand's first spaceport, look set to be busy for some time to come.

Meanwhile, back on Earth and turning to more mundane matters, the Commerce Commission has restarted its investigation into New Zealand's domestic backhaul pricing.

Backhaul, the connection between local exchanges and the core network switches, has long been held up as a bone of contention among telcos and ISPs in New Zealand. As far back as the early 2000s, peering (that is, handing off data from one provider to another at zero cost) has been a contentious issue with Telecom charging other ISPs for the "privilege" of connecting their customers to its network. Today, the battleground has shifted somewhat as the government mandated Ultra Fast Broadband (UFB) fibre network begins to take hold. Demand for unlimited data plans is leaping ahead and customers expect connectivity on a level not seen before (and only dreamed of in Australia).

The Commission had started its investigation in 2016 but put it on hold during a review of the Act. Telecommunications Commissioner Dr Stephen Gale says that now the Telecommunications (New Regulatory Framework) Amendment Bill is before the House it is time to restart the study. 

"We see backhaul as critical to ensuring New Zealanders can benefit from effective access to comprehensive broadband services, especially with the rollout of ultrafast fibre broadband," says Gale in a written statement.

Chorus, meanwhile, is in the curious situation of being a virtual monopoly in terms of fixed line access yet is steadily losing customers for the second quarter in a row.

In the last three months of the year, Chorus lost 23,000 fixed line connections, similar to the amount it lost in the quarter prior to that.

It is no coincidence that Spark, Chorus's largest telco customer, began offering a fixed-wireless service to its customer base during this period, but equally the improvements in mobile broadband speeds and pricing would offer competition at the lower end of the market. Chorus will need to figure out how compete using the one advantage it still retains over mobile and other off-net products - its speed per dollar spent.


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