Stories by Juha Saarinen

TelstraClear loses seasoned manager

TelstraClear has confirmed that its head of business and government, Michael Boggs has resigned and will be leaving the telco in the New Year.
Boggs’ resignation comes ahead of TelstraClear’s owner, Telstra, facing enforced structural separation in Australia.
The group manager of communications at TelstraClear, Diane Robinson, says Boggs is leaving to assume a senior role with another New Zealand business, but wouldn’t say which one.
“While it’s sad to see somebody of Michael’s calibre leave our team, we believe this is indicative of the high esteem in which TelstraClear executives are held by New Zealand’s business community,” Robinson says.
A chartered accountant by training, Boggs is a telco veteran, having started in finance roles at Clear Communications and Smartel in the nineties.
After a year-long stint with Panasonic, Boggs moved back into telecommunications in 2000 as Telstra purchased Clear Communications and Saturn, and took on finance general manager roles for the telco.
TelstraClear’s head of networks and operations, Andrew Crabb, has been appointed the acting head of business and government. The appointment is effective from January 1 next year, Robinson says.

Telecom could face million-dollar claims from ISPs

Telecom could be hit with compensation claims from providers, after the Commerce Commission clarified that Telecom Wholesale couldn’t charge access seekers different rates for its sub-loop extension service (SLES) and unbundled bitstream access (UBA) than it does for its retail division.

Regulatory hiccup hits VDSL2 trial

Broadband customers hoping to speed up their connections through Telecom’s high-speed VDSL2 service face a longer wait, as the service was put on ice last month for an indeterminate period of time.

Vodafone revs up speed, but no devices

Vodafone has leapfrogged Telecom’s XT network, upgrading its network to 28.8Mbit/s download speeds, but devices supporting the higher speeds are not currently available.

Let's have some excitement around UFB: Joyce

The time has come to start testing our imagination as to what to do with the government’s Ultra-Fast Broadband network, Communications minister Steven Joyce believes, and create some excitement around the project that he says is crucial to New Zealand’s future.
Joyce recalled his past studies at Massey University, studying programming with paper punch cards twenty-nine years ago, in his keynote speech at the Huawei Ultra Fast Broadband Summit 2010 in Auckland, to establish his tech credentials with the 200-strong audience.
What exactly the UFB will be used for when the project is completed and twenty-nine years ahead, Joyce isn’t sure however. He singled out education in particular as an area that would benefit from the UFB, saying “unless you’re getting a strand of fibre to [schools], you’re not doing your job.”
Keeping students who are used to being online all the time at home, but not so at school, interested in education is one challenge that Joyce hopes the UFB will solve.
Rural schools will be supplied with UFB on par with the urban counterparts, Joyce promises. “We cannot have a digital divide between urban and rural schools,” he said.
Another area that Joyce sees as natural application for broadband is tele-health, and electronic patient records, and remote working to take the stress off transport infrastructure.
He also dismissed that improved broadband for residential users is “all about gaming and watching more channels on TV”. File-sharing, home video conferencing and the ability for extended families to keep in touch and share digital content were some of the applications that Joyce imagined that residential customers would use the UFB for.
IPTV and 3D media are other applications that may become popular with residential users, Joyce said, adding “there are huge opportunities out there” when the UFB is ready.
Repeating his theme from past speeches on broadband on New Zealand’s remoteness and small markets, Joyce stressed that UFB will help the country to overcome the “tyranny of distance” that’s hampering businesses here compared to ones in the US that have access to a vast internal market.
However, while NZers are “good with bits and bytes” and used to living by their wits as early adopters of technology, Joyce says we are held back by poor connectivity. “We miss out due to connectivity issues,” Joyce says, citing the fact that while NZ is ranked in the top ten as an OECD digital economy, we’re only at 21st place in terms of connectivity.
Overall, Joyce believes the UFB has made lots of progress lately, with the Crown Fibre Holdings announcing its first set of partners. Asked if Huawei would be a CFH partner, Joyce denied that his appearance at the Huawei summit indicated any particular partner preference or that there is a secret agenda to select these.
To keep the UFB process on track, Joyce called for cooperation between fibre operators and local councils, saying nationwide standards are being developed by the CFH to facilitate the deployment of the network.

Hands on with Windows Phone 7 at Tech.Ed 2010

Windows Phone 7, the saviour of Microsoft's mobile device business is said to launch soon, potentially as early as October. While there has been plenty of information about Windows Phone 7 on the web and Microsoft has lent developers devices, New Zealand media hasn't been let near any handsets.

Vodafone hit hard by Sky Tower fire

Several ISPs and telcos including Vodafone, Vocus, ICONZ, Araneo and Kordia saw hour-long disruptions to customers’ data and telecommunications traffic this afternoon when a fire broke out in the Sky Tower.
The fire service evacuated the Sky Tower around 1.30 after a generator caught fire.
Hard hit by the outage were Vodafone’s customers that experienced loss of 3G voice and data service, as well as SMS messaging for around an hour. However, Vodafone’s GSM network is believed to have remained up during the outage, so voice calls and GPRS data were still possible.
Vodafone spokesman Paul Brislen confirmed the outage and issued a statement to Computerworld that said: “Due to a fire in the Skytower Vodafone lost internet access for an hour this afternoon (between 1:40pm and 2:40pm)”. Services are coming back up now. Even though this is a rare occurrence Vodafone is actioning new resiliency to ensure continuity of services for our customer in the future.”
ISPs in the Sky Tower were denied access to the communications room on level 47 by the Fire Brigade, and their equipment went onto battery power as the mains electricity supply to the Sky Tower was cut off.
At around 2.30 in the afternoon, the providers reported that services were returning online for customers.
Sky City executive Peter Tracey says the fire didn't happen in the Sky Tower itself, but in a plant in the adjoining Federal Street.

MiFi 3G wireless routers rate highly

Every now and then, along comes a device you did not know you would need, like this MiFi one. That moniker is a strange portmanteau of Mobile and wi-fi, but if you think “small wireless router with 3G data”, then you will have it.

LTE for New Zealand in go-slow mode

Say what you like about high-speed fibre-optic, wireless broadband has its own very special, untethered cachet. As a nation, we are increasingly in love with portable devices of all kinds, and it is with those that we want to exchange data.

Forget about VDSL2 and go FTTP: Vector

Copper has run its course and should now be decommissioned in favour of fibre-optic says Vector, and warns that delays in delivering fast broadband to everyone will see New Zealand fall further behind its trading partners.
Vector’s view is that fibre to the premises is the only option to deliver the targets set by the government’s Ultra-Fast Broadband programme. Referring to OECD economist and telecommunications specialist Dr Taylor Reynolds speech in Wellington in April this year, Mackenzie says “no-one’s talking about rolling out VDSL2 anymore.”
“Advanced countries like Japan and Korea are abandoning VDSL2 according to the OECD,” Mackenzie says. Japan and Korea have the most VDSL2 subscribers in the world.
Copper is legacy infrastructure, Mackenzie says, and says it’d be “a hard sell to ask anyone to invest in it”. Telecom offering to de-merge or split off Chorus as an independent unit in the hope of taking part in the UFB won’t change this fact, Mackenzie says.
As for overbuilding Telecom’s copper network, Mackenzie doesn’t see it as a problem. “Telecom did just that when they overbuilt their own CDMA network with XT – why would a fibre network be any different?” he says.
Telecom Wholesale is presently preparing to further trial VDSL2 service with customers. It will be from exchanges and from its fibre-to-the-node (FTTN) roadside cabinets that are being deployed around the country, with the aim to eventually provide a premium, high-throughput broadband product.
An earlier, VDSL2 pilot showed promising results, according to Telecom Wholesale’s head of broadband Tim Pegler. Customers on the pilot have been achieving 50-60Mbit/s downloads and 10-15Mbit/s uploads.
In comparison, the government’s UFB programme aims to provide 100Mbit/s downloads and 50Mbit/s uploads with the bandwidth being dedicated and not shared with hundreds of users as it is on DSL.
Vector is pushing its open access fibred-up vision of the future hard at the moment, with Mackenzie saying fast broadband is “absolutely fundamentally critical for New Zealand as destination to live and to establish businesses in.”
Building a fibre network is also a perfect fit for Vector, which is in the business of providing infrastructure assets says Mackenzie.
According to Mackenzie, an investment in fast broadband needs to be looked at from a broader societal perspective, as it confers many benefits and savings in areas such as transport, education and health. The OECD says “spill-over effect” is estimated to provide 0.5 to 1.5 per cent savings on government expenditure. That alone is enough to pay for the investment required to build a point-to-point national FTTH network, Mackenzie says.
New Zealand politicians understand this, Mackenzie says, and describes Prime Minister John Key and Communications Minister Steven Joyce as “the two greatest broadband evangelists in the country.”

FryUp: 2 Degrees moves are underwhelming

Shiny, shiny
It’s new and blue and eminently more readable. This week, the Computerworld website received a make-over and… it’s one of the better ones we’ve seen. The secret designer who sprung the new site upon the world obviously likes clear and simple designs, and that’s how it should be. And, err; it appears to be served up by Lotus Notes. Whodathunk that was possible?
The site looks good in all the major browsers, but sadly, still has to support Internet Exploder 6.
Great work overall.

Telecom rolls the dice with cabinetisation gamble

Chorus, the infrastructure arm of Telecom, is working hard on shortening the local copper loop. Around the country, people are starting to see the large green Whisper cabinets made by Eaton in Christchurch in the streets. Chorus announced on May 3 that the cabinet installation process was half-way through, with 1800 of the planned 3600 cabinets activated.