Total merger of TUANZ and InternetNZ unlikely, says chair

There is a lot of fit, but the details have to be worked through, says TUANZ chairman
  • Stephen Bell (Unknown Publication)
  • 18 November, 2008 22:00

TUANZ chairman Chris O’Connell concedes that plans for closer collaboration between TUANZ and InternetNZ are in sympathy with his views as “one of the internet generation”, but the move is not specifically an initiative of his, he says.

Rather, his assumption of the chairmanship and the drawing together of the two organisations are both part of a generational change affecting the whole telecoms field, he says.

Exploration of common interests between the organisations was going on three years ago, when Colin Jackson was president of InternetNZ and Merv Altments was his counterpart at TUANZ, O’Connell says. About two years ago lines were set up for formal exchanges between TUANZ’s policy committee and InternetNZ’s public policy committee, he says.

While the two organisations have their distinct areas of specialisation — InternetNZ is not greatly concerned with the mobile phone space, for example — they have large areas of common interest as well.

IPv6 is a good example, O’Connell says. It has gone beyond being a technical concern and is now engaging the CIOs and application-level network managers who are TUANZ’s member base.

Former ICT minister Paul Swain’s involvement with InternetNZ has also been a significant influence on the convergence.

With Telecom and its competitors moving increasingly to IP, the telcomms and internet fields are merging.

TUANZ has a number of members that are unbundling services and going direct to the likes of FX Networks and CityNet rather than relying on telecommunications providers with a telephone background, O’Connell says.

Serious questions are being asked about costs. As Telecom uses IP to drive down costs, users will demand that the savings be passed through to them, O’Connell says. Such issues will benefit from coordinated lobbying.

Does he see any prospect of a complete merger in which TUANZ or InternetNZ might lose their separate identity?

“Erm, no”, he says cautiously. “We might revisit our identity, though.”

Even if negotiations don’t go as far as a full merger, he says, it might reach the point where the two organisations are sharing back-office functions.

“There is a lot of fit, but the details have to be worked through.”

O’Connell says the new National government clearly has a mandate for extensive broadband implementation, but the voting public would mostly have seen that as simply involving laying some fast pipes.

The detail of how National sees that capacity being used to the benefit of the economy has yet to be disclosed, he says.

“A number of positive things have been done over the past nine years, and there are some babies that we wouldn’t like to see thrown out with the bathwater,” O’Connell says.

Much will now depend on the person chosen to be ICT minister, he says. Maurice Williamson would bring a different slant to the portfolio from Jonathan Coleman, with his broadcasting background, or Tukituki MP Craig Foss, founder of wireless ISP AirNet.

InternetNZ calls for continuity

InternetNZ is keen to see benefits of the Digital Strategy and the Digital Development Forum and Council retained under the National-led government, says spokesman Jordan Carter.

InternetNZ congratulates the government on its victory at the polls and pointedly notes the promise it made of a fibre-based broadband network subsidised with $1.5 billion of public money.

The DDC and DDF will deliver good results for the country, and provide one forum where the new administration can work through the details of its policy agenda, Carter says. “The existing Digital Strategy remains a useful framework for government action in this area.

“With the pledged support for real broadband rollout, these are exciting times for the industry, and the next few months will be a busy time both for the new government and the industry.”

Carter stood as a Labour candidate in Hunua, where he came second to National candidate Paul Hutcheson — but claimed more votes than ACT’s Roger Douglas.