Telecom, Commission try to break UBS impasse

Telco says it won't countenance two bitstream services as parties refuse to discuss urgent talks last week

Telecom and the Commerce Commission won't discuss urgent talks they held last week to resolve differences over the upcoming Unbundled Bitstream Service, giving no indication of the outcome of the meeting.

A short email from Martin Butler, Telecom’s wholesale manager for strategy and planning, states that he and Osmond Borthwick, the commission’s manager for its network access group, have agreed not to comment to the media at this stage.

ISPs that Computerworld spoke to last week said they also have not received any information from Telecom or the commission.

Before entering the talks, Telecom drew a line in the sand stating that it won’t countenance a situation where multiple regulated and commercial variants of UBS are available. If despite Telecom’s opposition both regulated and commercial services go online, Butler says the additional cost for providing both will be passed onto customers.

Commenting on the recent suspension of the UBS, Butler says Telecom has spent over $2 million on the project. Including Alcatel staff, Butler says there are over 100 people working on UBS and the project is “pretty much at the top of the priority list”.

Butler explaines that it is Telecom’s intent to provide a “commercial proxy for the regulated bitstream service” as quickly as possible. He says this is in line with Telecom’s broadband ubiquity target as well as the spirit of the Telecommunications Act.

However, Butler says Telecom’s UBS carries a caveat. “The quid pro quo to acceptance of the commercial service is that an ISP does not take up the equivalent regulated service,” he says.

Meanwhile, Auckland ISP Orcon, whose advertisements for flat-rate plans with static IP addresses prompted Telecom to introduce last-minute changes to the UBS, reiterated its anti-unbundling position.

Orcon’s managing director Seeby Woodhouse believes that if unbundling was mandated, Telecom would be under no obligation to offer wholesale services. Thus, only players with access to large amounts of capital, such as TelstraClear, could enter the market, he says.

Being against unbundling, Woodhouse nevertheless says the current UBS as offered by Telecom could be improved. Woodhouse wants the per-user 10GB monthly download limit dropped, and removal of the “churn fee” charged if customers switch providers. The churn fee is currently set at $101.75 for residential customers and $105.50 for business users. He would also like the ability to provide UBS customers with a static IP address.

Having partnered with Sony to provide online gaming service for the PlayStation, Woodhouse says that the quality of the UBS product needs to be improved. Currently, Telecom’s UBS is labelled “internet grade” and thus not capable of real-time multimedia or latency-sensitive applications such online gaming, he says.

Telecom announced on July 26 that it is withdrawing the Jetstream Partnering Plan under which ISPs could sell Jetstream full-rate, Home and Surf plans, and would not accept orders from ISP after November 30. However, Butler says the telco will continue to offer Jetstream to ISPs while the USB launch is suspended. “Naturally, we hope to quickly resolve issues,” he says.

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