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End of an era - Stanners to depart Vodafone

Paul Brislen, Editor. 13 June 2018, 6:59 am

After 13 years at the top, Vodafone New Zealand boss Russell Stanners is stepping down, paving the way for former Spark exec Jason Paris to take the helm later in the year.

Stanners will be able to look back on a company that has grown from a mobile-only, predominantly consumer driven phone company into a fully fledged telco, one of the few challengers to take the crown for mobile services from the former government monopoly and something of a jewel in the Vodafone Group crown.

The telecommunications landscape has changed dramatically in his time at the helm. When he joined Vodafone in 2002, Stanners would have been using a GPRS Blackberry capable of a blistering 50 something kilobits per second. The introduction of 3G services, now being phased out in some markets around the world, paved the way for the smartphone revolution but in 2002 mobile phones were more about text messages and expensive phone calls.

But in 2006 Vodafone bought fixed-line provider iHug and began its move from mobile player into the full telecommunications market. It's later purchase of TelstraClear gave it a strong customer base and also provided a pathway into enterprise sales, particularly in government circles - something Vodafone had struggled with in the past.

Today, Vodafone is the country's second largest telco with around 38% market share, alongside arch rival Spark. Customers can now buy service from three mobile operators, can get fibre or fixed wireless services, have a regulatory system that enables swift action on pricing issues and have seen prices fall and speeds increase on a near-constant basis.

It hasn't all been plain sailing for the company. A plan to merge with pay-TV provider Sky TV was knocked back by the regulator and there have been a number of attempts to float Vodafone New Zealand on the local stock market, to no avail.

But by Christmas Jason Paris will be in the hot seat and will no doubt have ambitions of his own for the telco. Paris, once considered the heir apparent at Spark and previously a contender for the top job at state broadcaster TVNZ, will have to navigate the competitive shoals of a 5G rollout, increasing demand for rural broadband, decide what to do with Vodafone's cable TV network (and how to market it more accurately) and decide how Vodafone wants to position itself in the content war that is fast approaching.

Stanners will, he says, be at the beach enjoying a break.

(EDITOR'S NOTE: In a previous life this reporter worked for Vodafone and has ongoing contractual work with a number of telcos)


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