Tuesday, 28 April 2009

Anyone want to launch a mobile network with me?

Well, after years of a virtual mobile duopoly, the gates have opened and suddenly everyone thinks they can make a buck by launching a mobile phone network in the sparsely populated Pacific nation of Nu Zillund.

The country's third GSM mobile operator, NZ Communications, has announced it is... almost ready to announce the brand for its new network.

We'll have to wait until May 11th when NZ Comms will reveal its marketing name, and when they'll also tell us when their long-delayed network will "go live". The company (previously known as Econet Wireless) is built around frequencies allocated to Maori, with backing from overseas investors.

NZ Communications has already signed a national roaming deal with Vodafone to ensure nationwide coverage outside of its own network coverage area, and says it will focus on "offering value rather than branding".

Meanwhile, Internet Service Provider Orcon is planning to launch its "purple phone" mobile network to August, waiting until the big Telecom/Vodafone war dies down a little.

Orcon will be the third 'mobile virtual network operator' ** using Vodafone's network, along with Black+White and Compass.

Telecom is also ramping up the stakes in their new main 3G battle. The company is planning to quickly upgrade the speed of its new XT Mobile network, from 7.2Mbit/s on launch day on May 13, up to a theoretical 21Mbit/s by the end of the year. That's faster than a lot of regular ADSL broadband connections.

Vodafone claims it's already working on its own speed upgrade, to bring its network up to 4G. The company says its already trialling the 21Mbit/s services, which it believes it can launch before Telecom's faster service.

** UPDATE - Add CallPlus and Slingshot to that list as Vodafone MVNOs...

* NBR: NZ Comms announces date to announce launch date

* NBR: Telecom to turbocharge XT by Christmas

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Monday, 27 April 2009

Telecom's XT network launches early

Telecom has confirmed rumours that it will launch its "next generation" XT 3G network early. Telecom's "T-Day" was originally set down for June, the new network will now launch to the public on May 13th.

That beats Vodofone's "97% coverage" network upgrade by a couple of weeks. It will also allow Telecom to provide business users with a genuine worldwide roaming service, something that has been seriously lacking as it battled Vodafone in the mobile wars.

A number of other mobile network operators are also due to launch in New Zealand in the coming months, with NZ Communications still to announce a launch date, after spending $200 million on its new network.

But Telecom mobile resellers (mobile virtual network operators) like TelstraClear and Digital Island will be restricted to rebadged offering from Telecom's existing CDMA mobile network, and are locked out of the faster W-CDMA (XT) network until early 2011.
The $574 million XT network is launching with some impressive new handsets, including a world-first launch of the Sony Ericsson W995, which has an 8.1 megapixel camera, Outlook email support, and music player. Samsung's touchscreen F480 phone is another new model being released on May 13.

The business-friendly BlackBerry lineup are also expected to be popular on the new network, while Apple's iPhone will continue to be marketed for Vodafone's network (although users should be able to take across to the XT network).

Details of XT network plans and prices are still to be released. Expect something of a price and features war between Telecom and Vodafone over the next few months, which can only be good news for customers.

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Tuesday, 21 April 2009

Mobile Broadband "battle" getting Lukewarm...

As launch date for Telecom's new 3G network approaches in New Zealand, major rival Vodafone is finally sharpening up its mobile broadband offerings. Telecom's "T-Day" launch is set down for early June, although there are rumours the company is considering bringing that launch date forward.

Vodafone says its 3G network currently covers 70% of the population... although the actual geographical 3G coverage is quite woeful, particularly in the South Island and central North Island.

The company had been planning a long term programme of 3G expansion (as in by mid-2010), but fast-tracked this following Telecom's T-Day announcement.

Vodafone says its 3G mobile broadband coverage will be extended to "97% of places New Zealanders live, work, and play" by the end of May. (They better get a move on, as that's just 5 weeks away!)

Telecom's network promises to cover a similar 97% figure... Of course, with both companies that doesn't actually translate to 97% of the country, and rural users will still find themselves with super-slow connections (if anything at all).

The company's newest mobile broadband deal is the 'Broadband Surfer' package, which offers a solid 512MB of data for $40/month.

Vodafone's recently released 'Broadband Lite' package offers 100MB for $10/month, or a casual rate of $1 a day for up to 10MB. Currently the new packages are only available to Prepay users (go figure?), but will apparently be available to On Account customers in a few weeks time.

Telecom is hoping its 3G launch will help it attract a larger share of the more profitable business customers and heavy users market.

NBR reports that Telecom currently has a 47% share of the mobile phone market in New Zealand, but only 35% of the revenue (thanks to the huge number of teens using cheapo deals like $10 text).

* NBR - Vodafone’s stream of pre-T Day deals continues

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Friday, 17 April 2009

Foodstuffs put it on the Plastic

I'm not quite sure what to do about my future supermarket shopping habits. Foodstuffs announced today that from August they'll be charging 5c a bag for plastic bags at all their New World, Pak 'n Save, and Four Square supermarkets.

The move follows a decision by The Warehouse to introduce a 10c a bag surcharge from next Monday. The dodgy big red sheds plan to give profits from their bag sales to "local community groups". Foodstuffs is promising a similar system, with "the majority of funds raised" destined for "environmental causes".

That leaves me with the dilemma of always carrying around a bunch of those "green" canvas bags, or making a mandatory donation to an "environmental cause" which I probably wouldn't support.

Rival supermarket group Progressive Enterprises (Countdown, Woolworths, Foodtown) says it hasn't yet made a decision on any potential charge for plastic bags, but is "looking at the options available" (so shopping there may only be a temporary solution to my dilemma...)

Some opponents argue that the so-called "eco bags" made of canvas/material/hemp will actually take up more room in the landfill when their handles break or develop holes/smelly spills in the bottom, as they are much bulkier than plastic bags.

Canvas tote bags are the most common type of reusable bags used here in New Zealand. However there is a significant environment impact of cotton cultivation, with a heavy dosing of the world's herbicides used to defoliate cotton before it is harvested. The heavier the bag, the greater its environmental impact.

Whale Oil notes that paper bags used to be considered a better alternative to plastic, but research reveals that paper bags generate 70% more air pollutants, and 50 times more water pollutants than plastic. It takes about 4 times as much energy to construct a paper bag, and uses 84 times as much energy to recycle.

Expect the Greens and most of their "mainstream media" friends to welcome the bag charging schemes with open arms, complete with sob stories about the little fishies which apparently die each year because someone threw their old plastic bags into the ocean...

* NBR: Foodstuffs plastic bag profit destined for mystery environmental cause
* Stuff: Chain's levy bagged as a money-spinner

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Thursday, 16 April 2009

Reward for NZ Eurovision Fans

There was good news for "proper" music fans this week in New Zealand, with the announcement that the legendary Eurovision Song Contest is returning to kiwi screens after an absence of more than 30 years.

In days gone by, the famous contest used to screen on the state broadcaster (now known as TVNZ), introducing classic songs like Waterloo (Abba), Save Your Kisses For Me (Brotherhood of Man), and Puppet on a String (Sandie Shaw) to New Zealand audiences.

But unfortunately the song contest was dropped by the early 80s, as part of the gradual Americanisation of the small Pacific Nation.

The 54-year old Eurovision Song Contest has less clout these days in launching international music careers, but is still described as "Europe's Favourite TV Show", and is seen as a great promotional tool by singers, bands, and songwriters across both Western and Eastern Europe.

An impressive 42 countries will take part in this year's contest from Moscow's Olimpiysky Indoor Arena, which will be broadcast to over 100 million homes worldwide.

The 2009 Eurovision Final will screen in New Zealand on May 17th, nationwide on the Triangle Stratos satellite channel (Freeview Ch.21 or Sky Digital Ch. 89), and on Triangle Television's UHF channel in Auckland. That's just half a day after the event screens live in the Northern Hemisphere.

Triangle and Stratos are also planning to screen a compilation of last year's two semi-finals on May 3rd. (The Eurovision Song Contest is so popular these days, that only 5 countries directly qualify for the following year's final, while all other countries (37 in total) have to compete in one of two semi-finals in the week prior).

The 2008 Eurovision final (held in Belgrade, Serbia) will screen on May 10th, as a teaser for viewers not used to the kitchy contest.

* Scoop: Eurovision Song Contest on Triangle and Stratos TV
* Eurovision Song Contest - Moscow 2009 (Official Website)

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