Vodafone backs out of Tuanz broadband events

Decision prompted by ongoing negotiations on Rural Broadband Initiative

Tuanz has missed out in its latest efforts to get Vodafone to answer questions about the Rural Broadband Initiative.

It announced on March 4 that Vodafone would be sponsoring Tuanz’s next series of After 5 meetings to be held in four cities. The meetings were set-up to address five questions about the Telecom/Vodafone bid for the RBI. The questions are around open access, wholesale access, connectivity speeds, whether the XT network will be involved and if schools receive a free connection.

But Tuanz chief executive Paul Brislen says Vodafone has now backed out, citing continued negotiations in regards to the RBI.

“They asked if they could put it back a month but we’re going to press on,” he says. “We’re trying to find new sponsors. Otherwise, Tuanz will have to wear the cost.”

The meetings are scheduled from March 21 to March 29 in Wellington, Auckland, Hamilton and Dunedin.

Vodafone GM wholesale and business development Steve Reiger, who is leading the RBI project for the telco, says the company pulled out of the After 5s because it was entering into detailed negotiations over the RBI this week. “We can’t be definitive about things like pricing at this stage,” he says.

He expects negotiations to conclude by the MED-set date of March 31 or thereabouts. “We’re unlikely to miss that by more than a few days.

Reiger describes a meeting this week about the RBI between the Telecommunications Carriers Forum and the Ministry of Economic Development as focussing on consultation. “It was excellent with lots of good feedback. I thought we were on the right track.”

Computerworld has been told by other parties, however, that concerns were raised particularly about how Vodafone will handle wholesale pricing on its cellular network.

“No one was happy,” one participant who was at the meeting claims.

Brislen previously lambasted both Telecom and Vodafone for not fronting up to the After 5s audience in the organisation’s newsletter on February 25. The telcos had cited a lack of available funding and the delicate nature of the negotiations.

This prompted a response from Telecom’s head of community relations Paul Leslie, which Brislen posted on the Tuanz blog immediately. He claimed Telecom hadn’t realised the invitation came with “a fairly substantial price tag”.

Brislen commented that his organisation charges sponsors a total of $16,000 to hold the events in four cities.

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Tags VodafonetelecomPaul BrislenTUANZafter 5s

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