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  • Routing fault pushes NZ ISPs out of Limelight

    A traffic routing fault with backbone provider Optus has seen large New Zealand providers and their customers unable to reach popular content delivery network (CDN) Limelight.
    Limelight is used by popular game services such as Valve and Steam, as well as Microsoft’s Xbox Live. Social media sites such as LiveJournal also use Limelight.
    According to a message sent out by ISP Slingshot’s support staff, the affected providers in New Zealand include itself, Telecom and Orcon. The fault prevented access to Limelight for around four days.
    Orcon spokesman Duncan Blair confirmed the problem, saying the issue was with access to the Limelight CDN from the provider. As of going to press, Orcon had no estimate for when the issue would be sorted out.
    Blair says that Orcon has put in a temporary workaround for the problem that gives access to Limelight content for customers, provided the ISP’s name servers are used.
    Alternatively, Blair says people can use Google’s name servers as a temporary measure. By doing so, users will connect to Limelight’s servers in the United States and not Australia and New Zealand, thus bypassing the routing fault.
    Content Delivery Networks such as Limelight and Akamai are used by popular Internet sites to improve performance as well as to reduce traffic congestion by serving up content from servers geographically close to users.
    Optus was contacted by Computerworld for comment, but didn’t respond.

  • Customisable resale planned for iServe cloud service

    Resellers will be able to offer a customisable version of a newly-launched cloud computing service for SMEs, developed by iServe owner Orcon.
    Orcon's head of emerging business, Charlie Boyd, says within two months resellers will be able to customise the cloud offering for their customers, but the level of customisation has not yet been decided. The service can currently be resold without customisation.
    Boyd says local development and support means pricing for the service is competitive in comparison to international companies. Compute and storage pricing starts at six cents per hour per CPU and per 512MB of RAM.
    In addition, Orcon will offer a virtual server which can be provisioned in real time by customers. Its entry price is $99 plus GST for a single CPU, 512MB of RAM, 15GB storage and 25GB data traffic package.
    Orcon acquired iServe in May. iServe offers website hosting, dedicated or virtual server hosting, cloud services and domain name services.
    "One of the major selling points of [cloud] technology is lower costs and this will enable companies to focus their expenditure on delivering the goods and services that they specialise in,” says Orcon CEO Scott Bartlett.

  • Draft ruling says Telecom targeted competitive threat

    Telecom's motives in offering loyalty discounts to wholesale customers were questioned more strongly in a draft copy of a decision by Telecom regulator the Independent Oversight Group (IOG) than in the final public version, released yesterday.
    The IOG, which is charged with monitoring Telecom's operational separation undertakings, refers in both versions of its decision to an executive paper from Telecom Wholesale. That paper contains comments that, in the IOG’s view, establish that the discount offers were constructed to prevent access seekers from using local loop unbundling (LLU).
    Yesterday, the IOG ruled the dicount scheme constituted a "non-trivial" breach of Telecom's separation undertakings, a finding that could lead to a maximum fine of $10 million.
    A draft version of the decision, however, is much more strongly worded, saying the executive paper, from which the loyalty scheme sprang, "made it plain that the intent was to lock in a segment of customers who do not intend to unbundle and to provide Telecom with a competitive alternative to UCLL being provided by Vodafone and Orcon… “
    In the final copy of the IOG report, this was changed to “However, the effect of the loyalty offers was to enter into contracts with a segment of customers … “
    Telecom Wholesale denies it deliberately designed the loyalty discounts so that certain service providers, those that had already invested heavily in local loop unbundling, couldn’t take them up. In the draft, Telecom says the offers were designed to meet the request of a group of customers with a pressing need.
    However, the draft says, Telecom Wholesale “did not provide convincing evidence of such requests.
    “The offers were in effect discriminating against those who had participated in unbundling,” the final copy of the IOG decision finds.
    According to the IOG, unbundling is a “fundamental plank of operational separation” as mandated by the government.

  • Orcon grows through ISP buys

    Orcon has acquired 9,000 new customers through buying Northland internet service provider iGRIN and Genesis Energy’s ISP Infogen.
    Whangarei-based iGRIN has been using Orcon’s network for the past eight years and offers broadband, dial-up, web hosting and domain services.
    Infogen has been retailing the Orcon service for over six years as part of Genesis Energy's retail offering.
    The deals go through on 1 September.

  • Challengers, users applaud ComCom

    Telecommunications challengers and user representatives are welcoming the Commerce Commission's draft recommendation, announced this morning, to regulate mobile termination rates.

  • Is fibre the answer? 'Yebbut', says telco panel

    The business case for fibre investment was once again being questioned in a high-powered panel session at the Telcon10 summit in Auckland yesterday.
    The first panel discussion at the summit sought a response to the question: “Fibre, the answer to NZ’s broadband prayers?” but ended up covering a range of related issues as well.
    Is fibre to the premises king? The answer was a resounding “yebbut” with Chris Dyhrberg, general manager of product management at Telecom’s Chorus questioning whether there was a business case for it. Labour candidate Jordan Carter, meanwhile showed political sloganeering nous with “we’ll miss out on missing out” and stated that there are services that simply cannot be delivered over copper, only fibre.
    On the Big Telco side on the panel was Dyhrberg and Chris Abbott, TelstraClear’s regulatory group manager.
    Abbott is no stranger to regulatory issues: prior to his role at TelstraClear, he worked as chief adviser at the Commerce Commission during the four years local loop unbundling was first recommended, then rejected and then back on the cards again.
    Duncan Blair, head of brand and communications at Orcon replaced the state-owned ISP's chief executive, Scott Bartlett in a last-minute switcheroo and InternetNZ’s Deputy Executive Directory, Jordan Carter, brought up the non-telco rear together with NZICT’s Brett O’Riley who chaired the discussion.
    Abbott was clear that there are undisputed productivity and other benefits to a FttP network, but to his mind, the question is how do we get there. Earlier on, his boss Alan Freeth had opposed the idea of government money being used to build a network that’d likely compete with TelstraClear’s one. Freeth threatened to not go ahead with various investments such an upgrade to the DOCSIS 3 standard that would take TelstraClear’s HFC cable network to dizzying 100Mbit/s shared bandwidth speeds. Perhaps those statements were on Abbot’s mind when he considered the fibre question.
    A question from the audience on why it was necessary to demand a return on the $1.5 billion FttP network when each year, we pour some $2 billion into roading with no such expectations, was given short shrift by Dyhrberg. “It’s rubbish. Broadband networks are not like roads,” Dyhrberg stated categorically.
    The vexed question of the expensive international connectivity, courtesy of New Zealand's main network link to the world, the Southern Cross Cable, was then put forward by O’Reilly.
    Here, Abbott said there are more cables than the SCC, but a new trans-Tasman piece of string would certainly introduce some “competition dynamics”. Carter is keeping his fingers crossed that the “Kordia thing” or PPC-2 would come off. Blair agreed that the expensive overseas bandwidth is a “big issue that’s not receiving enough attention” and even Dyhrberg, whose Telecom mothership owns 40% of the SCC, said that if there is demand, another cable will be built.
    Carter was more frank and labelled the fact that most NZ Internet traffic goes over a single cable to the outside world a “market failure”. This makes it all the more strange that the Labour government of the day didn’t take a stake in the SCC when it had a chance during the days of MCI going under.
    The panel wasn’t able to give a straight answer to a question from the audience about why NZ has meagre data caps and how do we get rid of them, beyond the usual “international bandwidth is expensive”.
    Luckily, a member of the audience explained it rather well — the vast majority of traffic on the SCC is to and from Australia, with ISPs like Telstra there taking the lion’s share of capacity.
    Being big customers, the Aussies get much better deals. New Zealand isn’t a high-demand market, so we get rotten deals from the SCC. That’s why we have small data caps. Chicken and egg anyone?
    Finally, the audience wanted to know what the point was to running fibre to the node when it would be obsolete in ten years’ time. Wouldn’t it be better extend the fibre to the premises now already?
    Dyhrberg got in first, saying it’s the wrong question. Telecom has in fact been building an FttP network for the last 10-15 years, but in steps. The present step is FttN, after which FttP will take place. Investment incentives permitting of course. Interestingly enough, Dyhrberg said the electronics in the roadside cabinets used by Telecom have an economic lifespan of five years only before being depreciated. Technology moves on, faster than ever, clearly.
    Blair was poked by telco analyst Paul Budde on sub-loop unbundling, and said Orcon is upset about it. There’s no business case to go into the cabinets, Blair said if the current determination stands. There’s no way Orcon can get to the 30% market share needed to make cabinet unbundling worthwhile with current pricing, Blair said.
    Budde asked if that meant wholesaled Bitstream was the only option left for access seeker ISPs, and Blair agreed that as things stand, it probably is.
    However, Abbott wasn’t quite so pessimistic, and said there could be cases where TelstraClear was able to make it worthwhile to go into the cabinets. Business districts were one such case, Abbott said.
    Dyhrberg sounded a conciliatory note, saying Chorus wasn’t all that happy with the determination but he can’t do anything about it and besides, the cost has to be recovered even though the cabinets form part of Telecom’s legally binding Undertakings. If costs can’t be recovered, what kind of signal would that send to investors in the NZ telco sector, Dyhrberg asked?
    The basic problem with SLU is that the economics of it don’t stack up, Dyhrberg concluded, something that perhaps the Commerce Commission silently agreed with, when it came to its decision that saw the backhaul cost go from a few hundred bucks a month to several thousand.
    The audience politely applauded the panel of industry sages, but left feeling somewhat unconvinced that strong commercial imperatives were the best drivers to solve problems of national interest, such as building the next-generation broadband infrastructure the country needs to remain competitive in the world.

  • Orcon posts open letter to ComCom

    Orcon’s CEO Scott Bartlett has come out fighting on the unbundled sub-loop decision.
    Last week, the Commerce Commission set a monthly rental charge that Telecom’s competitors must pay for access to the sub-loop unbundled copper local loop service. The charge will be $11.99 per line in urban areas and $22.14 per line in non-urban areas.

  • Huawei cashes in on NZ telco investment

    Chinese telecommunications equipment vendor Huawei has boosted its New Zealand revenue by more than 500% as a result of unbundling and mobile network investment.

  • Naked DSL costs don't add up for customers

    While Australians are shifting to Naked DSL at a rate of knots, what should be a “killer” service is limping in New Zealand due to the high cost of backhaul.

  • FryUp: Going backwards

    — Going backwards
    — Yebbut why?
    — Who blinked?
    Going backwards
    Having ADSL2+ from Orcon was great. Imagine getting 20Mbit/s downloads over a phone line. No, seriously — I escaped all the problems that plagued the launch of Orcon's @Home service, and had the DSL line humming along rather nicely in Freemans Bay.
    Orcon deserved the pat on the back from Communications Minister Cunliffe at the recent TUANZ Telecommunications Day, in my opinion.
    Now however I've returned to the wondrous North Shore, to a non-LLU area. Due to some mix-ups that weren't anyone in particular's fault, there's no DSL in the house yet. I'm not sure how well it'll work either, as I believe the part I'm in is serviced via roadside cabinets. Here's hoping it won't be the ones with a meagre 2Mbit/s backhaul shared with all other customers.
    Meanwhile, Vodafone's HSDPA worked really well at my place. Got full strength, which meant around 2.5Mbit/s downloads and the ususal 384kbit/s uploads. Telecom's T3G EV-DO Rev A doesn't seem to cover our house though, unusually enough, and only finds CDMA 1xRTT to lock onto. A couple of days ago though, something happened... now I'm lucky to get one bar of HSDPA and 120kbit/s downloads. The modem drops down to GPRS much of the time, and that particular connection alternative is painfully slow to use for anything beyond simple emailing.
    I'm not sure what's going on with the 3G connections, but suspect the nearby roadworks are to blame. I'm guessing some access points have either been turned off or relocated.
    I can see the magic black band on the Sky Tower, so maybe it's time to go back to wireless? I think Compass still has the Wired Country service running; it was very good and stable once the initial network issues had been ironed out, and I was quite happy with it. It's maxes out at 2Mbit/s down and 1Mbit/s up though, and it'd be nice to have something quicker in 2008.
    A WiMax connection could be a faster alternative, but don't think anyone's beaming a signal towards the Shore, unfortunately.
    Connection suggestions would be very welcome.

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