Telecom has won the second 700MHz spectrum auction with a bid of $83 million for a block of 2x5MHz spectrum.

I’m sure nobody at Telecom HQ is celebrating, however, because it’s paid around four times as much as it had for the 2x15MHz block it bought last year.

Paying $66m for 2x15MHz was a reasonable amount. It wasn’t cheap, but it certainly wasn’t up there with the kinds of stupidity we saw in the UK and Europe during the 3G spectrum craze of the early 2000s.

All three mobile operators were happy enough with the $22m they paid per block.  I can’t imagine how Simon Moutter and co are feeling right now, but probably they look a bit green. $22m was OK, but $83m? That’s another matter entirely.

Telecom didn’t even want to bid on the remaining block. They argued that the last 5MHz pair should be left on the table for another round of bidding in a few years’ time when 2Degrees could, presumably, afford to buy it.

That made a lot of sense. TUANZ argued against having an auction at all – each of the three network operators should have been given 2x15MHz so as to preserve the competitive market in the 700MHz space, but if we had to have one, any excess spectrum left over shouldn’t be flogged off just to raise cash. Sadly, that’s just what the government has done. Telecom was forced to take part even though it wasn’t keen because it couldn’t allow Vodafone to simply walk away with the extra spectrum. Vodafone, likewise, couldn’t let Telecom have it cheaply either, and unfortunately we’ve seen the telco equivalent of the Cold War end in a huge cost.

Worse, when you look at the overall spectrum holdings you’ll find that 2Degrees has just on 100MHz of spectrum, Telecom has double that and Vodafone has nearly 300MHz of spectrum available to it right across the managed spectrum range.

That imbalance means Vodafone and Telecom already have a huge advantage over 2Degrees when it comes to the total spectrum market and that’s going to be a problem if we want a truly competitive landscape.

Should we care that Telecom has paid a fortune for the spectrum? Surely that’s its problem and good on the government for getting the best dollar for the tax payer? Well yes and no. Telecom will have to find that money somewhere and I’m guessing it wasn’t down the back of a couch. It probably will have to come either from the existing capex budget, which means something else will go by the board, or it’ll be raised from the customers.

That much money would have paid for (by my calculation) an additional 160 cellsites around the country, which would have been very nice to see in rural New Zealand. Instead, Telecom will have a nice piece of paper that says yes, it can build a cellphone network in the 700MHz range.

The good news is this isn’t a done deal. The Commerce Commission still has to assess whether or not the extra spectrum breaches the Commerce Act in terms of market dominance. We’d argue that yes, it does and I’d go further and say that both the telcos and the customers would be better off if we set aside this auction and leave the last 5MHz pair on the shelf for the time being.

Guest post – UK broadband goes mobile

UK mobile broadband infrastructure

The UK was
among the first countries in Europe to receive a consumer level 3G network,
launched by the mobile wing of British Telecom in 2003. Up until that point we
had, like everywhere else, struggled along with a 2G service – fine for voice
and texts but internet access could be painful even compared to dial-up.

It wasn’t
until 3G went live that mobile broadband became a real possibility, and it’s
proven popular: the UK telecoms regular Ofcom
estimated in 2012
that 13% of adults in the UK had a mobile broadband connection.

Mobile broadband not-spots

Despite the
enthusiasm with which UK net surfers have taken to mobile internet access,
coverage and performance remains an issue. The UK is not a big country and
we’ve had 3G for ten years so it would be reasonable to expect almost complete
saturation of mobile network signal, but in fact many gaps remain.

In towns and
cities you can generally rely on access to 3G, but it’s still not uncommon to
find ‘not-spots’ where the signal falls back to 2G or drops out entirely. And
once you’re out into the countryside the coverage becomes very patchy.

The network
operators claim to offer in excess of 90% coverage. In 2011 the BBC conducted a crowd-sourced experiment to explore mobile signal
throughout the UK and discovered that when a data connection was available
users were only able to get 3G around 75% of the time. The resulting map
revealed a large number of not-spots throughout the country.

That was two
years ago of course, but our own testing confirms that mobile broadband still
has a long way to go. In May we conducted our annual mobile broadband Road Trip, travelling from London to
Edinburgh while recording the performance of all major network providers.

With speed
tests, downloads and uploads and media streaming we were able to see how mobile
broadband handled practical tasks in a real situation.

networks – notably Three, EE and T-Mobile – completed a large number of tests
and returned some excellent speed test results, some as high as 8Mb.

several networks failed to perform to a reasonable standard, with the weakest
managing to complete just 13% of the tasks. All the networks struggled with
streaming media, particularly video, none of them managing more than half of
the attempts.

This adds up
to a frustratingly inconsistent experience when using mobile internet on the
move. Provided the signal is available the connection can be incredibly fast,
particularly with the latest DC-HSDPA 3G networks providing 20Mb or more, but
all too often you’ll wander into an area with no connectivity and it will cease
to function.

The next generation

We are
hopeful this situation will improve, however, thanks to the recent introduction
of next-generation 4G mobile broadband.

The first 4G
network was launched by EE in October 2012 and is still fairly limited, but the
spectrum auction which doled out 4G frequency to the remaining providers came
with a requirement: they must commit to providing indoor coverage to 98% of the population

This should
mean that within the next couple of years we’ll see a significant improvement
in mobile broadband performance as the networks compete to offer the best
mobile internet. Not only will 4G bring much faster speeds but this caveat to
offer a minimum level of service will help reduce not-spots.

Britain’s Rural areas – currently poorly served by both fixed and mobile
broadband – may see the benefits too as mobile internet fills the gaps left by
our ageing telephone network.

Author Bio: Matt Powell is the editor for the UK broadband
comparison site
, where he blogs on the
latest broadband and mobile broadband topics.


Why we can’t let two players dominate the 700MHz spectrum auction

Thank you for the opportunity to submit on the rules regarding the upcoming 700MHz spectrum auction.

TUANZ (the Telecommunications Users Association of New Zealand) is a strong advocate for increased competition, and as such has lobbied hard to improve the conditions for new entrants into the market, so as to increase customer choice.

The mobile market has, as you know, recently moved from a two-player duopoly to a truly competitive environment for the first time and TUANZ is determined to encourage the growth of competition in the years ahead.

The 700MHz auction gives us an opportunity to ensure that competition is continued in the newly emerging world of 4G or LTE networks.
Rather than restating our pro-competition position again, TUANZ would like to see the following issues addressed through the auction process.

1: Fair distribution of spectrum
TUANZ is concerned that any move to allow two players to buy up to 2x20MHz of spectrum will result in a duopoly in terms of 700MHz spectrum. Given that we’ve only just begun to see competition in the mobile space, this would be a catastrophe and TUANZ encourages MBIE to make sure that doesn’t happen. Allowing a maximum of three lots of 2x15MHz each would ensure that an even and fair apportionment takes place.

2: Price
The recent debacle of the Australian spectrum auction shows that too high a reserve price can mean limited competition for spectrum. TUANZ hopes New Zealand can learn from this example and set the reserve price at a level that encourages all three network operators to bid on spectrum.TUANZ suggests looking at recent European pricing as a guideline for reserve pricing.

Notwithstanding Treasury’s keenness to maximise its return through this auction, TUANZ would like to remind all participants that the real benefit of 700MHz spectrum comes through the deployment of networks, not through an initial cash grab. To that end, TUANZ would like to see the reserve price set at a low level so as to give the telcos the funding to deploy networks as quickly as possible.

3: Payment terms
TUANZ suggests two courses of action with regard to the payment terms for any winners. First, payments are suspended until network deployment takes place. Currently there are no devices that will use 700MHz and it will be at least a year post-auction before the telcos are in a position to offer service using 700MHz. It would seem prudent to base payments around this schedule. That supposes there is also a “use it or lose it” clause – something that TUANZ would support.

Second, payments should be spread over the life of the asset – that is, apportioned payments each year for the 18 years of the management rights period. This will help all three mobile network operators to free up cash to spend on the network deployment.

This is in line with the Minister’s comments regarding the true economic value of the spectrum being tied to its use, not to its sale.
TUANZ’s overriding concern in this process is for competition. We have seen what having a third entrant in the market can do in terms of products, service and pricing and we would not like to see the New Zealand market drop back to a two-player duopoly.

(This is TUANZ’s submission on the spectrum auction sale process)

Mr Ren

At the end of our meeting, one of my fellow inquisitors leaned over and told me “We’ve just been to a master class in politics” and I’d have to agree. Ren Zhengfei, the founder of Chinese equipment maker Huawei, dealt easily with questions of security, expansion plans, succession planning, retirement, his relationship with the Chinese Communist Party and human rights issues.

Speaking via a translator, Ren told us he is going to spend the next five to ten years reinventing Huawei, taking it away from its roots as a centrally controlled Chinese company and making it into a global de-centralised conglomerate. It’s a move from “international” to “global” – rather than sending out Chinese managers to run local operations that don’t have any true autonomy, Ren says he’d rather “those who can hear the gunfire direct operations on the ground”, and that it will be a painful time for HQ as it moves from control to a support function.

But that aside, Ren is upbeat about the future of the company. Don’t expect to see Huawei list on a stock exchange any time soon – Ren says that would change the company in a way he’s uncomfortable with. Today the company focuses on the customers – all too often he says listed companies focus on their shareholders and returning a profit to them. By ensuring that he doesn’t have to return an ever greater percentage of his revenue to shareholders, Ren can not only keep costs down but ensures customers feel they’re getting a good level of value for their money.

This intrigues me. I’ve dealt with a lot of companies over the years that say they’re customer centric. So many, in fact, that it’s almost become code for “but we will stiff you if there’s a buck in it”. Monopoly rents, cosy duopolies, not being quite evil enough to get regulated – most listed companies seem willing to operate at the edge of the acceptability envelope, sometimes stepping over the line and upsetting their customers to the point where either they flock to another provider or, if that’s not possible, the cold dead hand of regulation falls on the industry.

Locally, Ren is just as upbeat about New Zealand. We are, he says, one of the leaders in the world when it comes to telecommunications. We clearly are very dear to Ren and to Huawei – two of the three mobile operators are using Huawei kit and Ren will have been talking UFB with the government and lobbying Chorus to use its gear.

And to that end, Huawei will set up an innovation centre with Telecom NZ to help develop all the various bits and pieces that both fixed and mobile deployments will uncover.

That’s great news – as Huawei moves to a global model, where centres of excellence drive Huawei’s business, that places us if not in the inner circle then within cooee of it.

Huawei’s point of difference is often seen as being the cheapest provider around – Ren says that’s not so. If anything, the difference is maths.

Huawei’s R&D team have developed pretty smart algorithms to cope with multiple aerials, multiple spectrum ranges, multiple generations so instead of paying for a 2G and 3G network, customers paid for one network. That means the network deployment costs are a lot less which means in effect, as Ren says, Huawei is sharing the profit with its customers.

It’s a nice way of looking at it and customers seem to love it. Huawei has the lion’s share of the 4G deployments around the world and there’s no sign of it slowing down. There’s really only one speedbump on the horizon, and that’s the increasingly hysterical noise coming out of the US Trade Representatives Office about Huawei’s security risk.

Ren says Huawei isn’t doing anything in the US and isn’t likely to but it will work everywhere else, including New Zealand. Quite how that gels with the government’s proposed GCSB and Telco Intercept bills remains to be seen.

Ren is a consummate public relations man. He knows how to play to the crowd, how to get the most out of a joke even via a translator and how to say the right things at the right time, without appearing too smooth. He also has manners – and when he poured himself a glass of water, he made sure to pour one for the extremely competent, hard working translator by his side. I can’t think of another CEO at that level who would be so charming.

The need for speed 4(G, that is)

For the past month I’ve been using Vodafone’s 4G network in
Auckland and recording speed tests around the city – 27 in total.

Partly I’ve been doing this for the greater good – it’s an
ongoing test of the service and the results might be of interest – but partly
I’ve also been doing it for the “ZOMG do you see how fast that goes?” fun of

And it is fast. My best result was 88.69Mbit/s down and 47.22Mbit/s
up on April 4 outside SPQR on Ponsonby Road at midday.

That’s pretty outstanding (seeing the result made the Irish
waiter say something Gaelic) and I have to admit my eyes bugged out of my head.
Speeds like that have been the purview of point to point fibre until now –
having that speed available on a handset is just astonishing.

But that’s the peak – at its worst I hit 3.30/1.39 a few
days earlier, again in Ponsonby. Typically, though, I see something in the
20-25Mbit/s range, which is not half bad for real world use.

Two things have become apparent, however. Firstly, the
network footprint is still rather small – sitting at Depot on Federal Street
this morning (an area I’d assumed would be soaking in LTE) I got only 3G (not
even HSPA) which is quite a surprise.

Secondly, it’s foolishly easy to chew through your data.

I have a plan that gives me 500MB/month and because I whined
like a jet engine to the call centre I got an extra 1GB added on for free (no,
that makes no sense to me either). I’ve blown through that, and through the
500MB bump pack I bought and now, with four days left, I have no data. The call
centre again has come to my rescue (Vodafone’s iPhone app doesn’t let you buy
data directly – you have to go to the website which wouldn’t let me buy any
ring in, which worked a treat but seems so very 1973) and now that I’ve
conducted my 27 tests, I’ll resist the urge to try any more. I’ll stick to
email, calendar and Twitter from now on.

But if we’re to really embrace this whole mobile broadband
revolution – and the StatsNZ Household use of ICT survey suggests we really are
– we’re going to need more data. I’d start with 3GB and look for 5GB and 10GB
packs in a hurry.

Telecom is about to launch its own 4G service and 2Degrees
is testing its own capability in this area – with any luck competition will
kick in at that point and we’ll see what the service really can do.

The Household Use survey makes for very interesting reading.
We’re taking to online shopping like ducks to water (yet we’re also told
roughly 30% of New Zealand businesses don’t have a website) and if you’re
waiting for the smartphone revolution to arrive, you’ve already missed it.

Smartphone use is up 26% since the 2009 survey and ¼ of all
individuals have a smart mobile device. Mobile use has increased hugely – 55%
of recent internet users connected via a mobile device at a time when the use
of a desktop computer is in terminal decline.

There are still some hold outs who don’t have an internet connection
– but only one in five households. Rural has picked up hugely, but there are
still a (thankfully declining) minority who see no value in having an internet
connection. But while that group is declining, the “costs are too high” group
is increasing, something which suggests to me another case of the digital
divide and something that needs to be addressed.


Telecom has announced its plans for a 4G network rollout. Starting in October, the country’s biggest telco will start with the main centres and work its way out to smaller centres, deploying an 1800MHz network similar to Vodafone’s.

I’ve been using the Vodafone 4G network around central Auckland for the past week or so and two things have become apparent – speed tests suggest quite a degree of variability at this stage, and the speed test app uses quite a bit of data. I’ve hit my 1.5GB limit for the first time ever and still have half a month to go to the end of my period.

The variability is a concern. I’ve only tested when my phone says it has an LTE connection but the range extends from 3.3Mbit/s down, 1.39Mbit/s up through to 88.69/47.22, which singed my fingers ever so slightly. I typically see a score in the 20Mbit/s range for download and about 15Mbit/s up.

This is only a category three device, of course. The Cat 4s are out later this year and both Vodafone and Telecom say they’ll have them on offer – that raises the lid on theoretical maximums to 150Mbit/s which quite frankly is astonishing.

My usage has changed as a result. If I’ve got downtime somewhere I tend to flip through the news stories and now each one pops as if I were in the newsroom itself. No lag whatsoever. I’ve had to hit refresh a couple of times thinking the Stuff app had stuck again on old news, but no. It was brand new news. Even BBC video clips load with an unheralded ease.

Which of course means I can watch more, and do more, with my phone. Which means I use more data. Which means I will need more data and if Telecom can offer that, I would hope it will see the competitive nature of the telcos brought to the fore, which will be very nice indeed.

Both Telecom and Vodafone have said they will roll out 4G services on the RBI towers and this for me is the best part of the whole launch. Rural New Zealand is poorly served for broadband and mobility – having both delivered in a timely fashion will be great news. Better still, once you’ve got a tower in place with fibre backhaul the speeds per customer off each of these towers should be really quite good. Your rural LTE experience could well be better than the urban equivalent, with its higher density of users per tower.

Because the towers are paid for as part of the RBI programme the cost of rollout is greatly reduced and that means the telcos will be more likely to put kit on those towers.

But both telcos have said they’ll need to wait for the auction of the 700MHz spectrum before they do so. My understanding of radio frequency issues borders on the ignorant (although not as ignorant as those cell tower protestors) but my understanding is that the footprint of each tower at 700MHz is far superior to that of 1800MHz and that the ability to operate over rural landscapes (trees, cliffs, water) is much better.

Vodafone tells me the amount of spectrum available will influence the speed capability. It has a lot of 1800MHz spectrum and will end up with a lesser amount of 700 so that too will impact on the speeds and throughput, but all told whatever the rural user gets it’ll be a lot better than today.

So where are we at with the auction? The minister has said we’ll have one (step one) and that they’ll announce details later on this year (step two) but we’re none the wiser as to how the auction will be run, what size blocks of spectrum will be allocated or what the reserve price will be.

In Australia the reserve price set by government was so high Vodafone Australia pulled out of the auction entirely.

There will be a degree of tension within the government regarding the auction. On the one hand, Treasury will (I’m sure) be pushing the government to maximise its return on investment. That is, make sure the auction brings in as much money as possible. Perhaps we’ll see one block of 20MHz and two of 15MHz (or similar) in order to push bidders towards the bigger block. The more spectrum the more throughput so that will be attractive and that will drive up the bidding.

On the other hand, the economic value of the spectrum lies mostly in its use and the less the telcos spend on spectrum the more they’ll have for network deployment. The cost of spectrum in the UK in 2000 saw BT almost bankrupted and in Europe several telcos did indeed go to the wall. The rollout of 3G was far less aggressive than we’d hoped and the user uptake took several years to get going.

Three equally sized blocks would lead to only a couple rounds of bidding while the three telcos sort out which one is going to buy each block and then they’ll stop bidding. That means less income for the Crown but a faster deployment of network in rural areas.

TUANZ would like to see three equally sized blocks and a reasonably low reserve price to encourage the telcos to deploy. My concern is that 2Degrees be squeezed out of the 4G race with too high a price and that would be a disaster for the industry as a whole, particularly given how much change a truly competitive industry has delivered.

4G wars

Telecom has announced it’s launching its LTE network in
October and will steadily roll out services throughout the country using Huawei

There are several aspects to this that are worth discussing.
The impending 4G war with Vodafone – data caps and the $10/month premium charge
that Vodafone adds on your bill for 4G are all up in the air now.

Then there’s the choice of Huawei over incumbent
Alcatel-Lucent which while not surprising is still quite telling.
Alcatel-Lucent will continue to manage the 3G network (Telecom’s much vaunted “faster
in more places” XT network that famously hit a wall at high speed and caused
Telecom no end of embarrassment and not a small amount of money) but basically
this is the end of the line for ALU’s relationship with Telecom. I put that
down not only to the XT debacle but also to Alcatel’s lack of a single-RAN
solution. That is, to roll out 4G Telecom will need new boxes on the poles
rather than just changing out the cards in the existing boxes. That makes the
deployment much more expensive than either 2Degrees or Vodafone’s similar
rollouts and that’s a problem.

(EDIT: As has been pointed out, Alcatel will continue to run Telecom’s fixed line network and its operation centres and has just won the contract to upgrade the optical transport layer. I’m just talking about the mobile side of things here)

This also will mean trouble for 2Degrees – it now has to
spend yet more money rolling out 4G just to keep up. This at a time when it’s still
deploying 3G, with a looming 700MHz spectrum auction and when pundits are
suggesting it should probably look around and buy a fixed line operator (Orcon,
for example) or face being marginalised.

But I’m more interested in Telecom’s promise to roll out LTE
on the rural towers built by Vodafone as part of the Rural Broadband Initiative
(RBI) which is very exciting news for all concerned.

Currently the RBI deployment is flying somewhat under the
radar, predominantly because of the road crash that is early UFB deployments.
There are no stories of customers being cut off for days, of Chorus techs
standing around in clumps staring at holes in the ground, of cost blowouts
because of the difficulty of digging through footpaths.

Instead, we hear very little about RBI. Vodafone and Chorus
presumably are rolling out network coverage. Presumably customers are
connecting and presumably they’re reasonably happy with the service.

Vodafone promised the rural broadband pricing would be on
par with urban prices, and while the price points are not too dissimilar ($100
for phone and broadband being one example) the data limits are woeful. You have
a choice of 5GB or 15GB a month – neither of which comes close to urban levels.
That same $100 in the city would get me 100GB of data. Given we want to
stimulate the rural economy, you’d hope there would be pricing for business
users on the RBI, but while I can get 1TB of data for $20/month from Vodafone
in Three Kings, that level of use on the RBI would require me to sell the
entire South Island to pay my debt.

There’s also a lack of competition in rural New Zealand.
Aside from Farmside (the obvious candidate) there aren’t too many other
resellers of Vodafone’s service, nor are there partners clamouring to add their
equipment to the RBI towers – or rather, if there are they’re keeping very
quiet about it.

Both Telecom and Vodafone have said they will go all out on
the RBI towers once it secures some 700MHz spectrum and hopefully once that
starts we’ll see some actual competition for what could be a lucrative market.

Interestingly, I’d expect to see faster speeds on the rural
LTE network than on the urban.

I’ve been using Vodafone’s LTE for the past couple of weeks
and while my peak speed was an impressive 88Mbit/s down and 47Mbit/s up, most
of the time it’s around the 15-20Mbit/s down range, with upload being slightly

I’m putting it down to my being forced to share the network
with others, something that’s a perennial bone of contention (ha) among
wireless users.

Rural customers would, hopefully, have less to worry about
because there are fewer of them per tower.

Given the towers are being built under a government subsidy,
they’re going in to places where commercially there just aren’t enough
customers to justify deployment. That means the number of customers per site is
likely to be far fewer than in an urban environment. Which should mean you’re
more likely to see the higher speeds in rural areas (backhaul notwithstanding
as it’s fibre-based capacity from Chorus).

When you add in some of the cool stuff Huawei showed me in
China (NB: I flew there courtesy of Huawei) – things that will come up in the
next round of revisions to the LTE standard – rural customers will be well
placed to go mobile.

All told it’s an exciting time to be a mobile user. I’m
hopeful we’ll get some decent pricing out of the two main players (and of
course, 2Degrees will be there by default as it roams on Vodafone’s network)
and that can only be a good thing for rural New Zealand.

Back to the future indeed

I was expecting a Top
“the need for speed” or “take my breath away” marketing campaign but
Vodafone surprised me by going with Back
to the Future
and the De Lorean instead. Either way, the announcement that
it was turning on a 4G LTE network wasn’t too much of a surprise seeing how
many people had spotted it being tested in the wild.

For a $10 premium over your existing plan (unless you’re
corporate in which case it’s already priced in), on account customers can
upgrade their software and connect to the LTE network.

Vodafone is deploying an 1800MHz network with plans to use
700MHz should it win a chunk in the spectrum auction at the end of the year.

For now that means the footprint is central Auckland (around
30% of the population is covered today) with plans for expansions within the
city, but also extending it to include Christchurch (in May), Wellington (July
or August) and then on to cover 40% of the population by the end of the year.

Currently there are six devices that can access Vodafone’s
LTE network – the latest iPhone, iPad and iPad mini, some of the Samsung Galaxy
SIII devices that have LTE written on the box, one of the Samsung tablets and
an HTC Windows phone. More are coming down the pipe and by Christmas there will
be around a dozen.

Also launched later this year will be category four devices.
The current crop of phones and tablets are only category three – the next ones
will be even faster.

So how fast is it? At the launch with a dozen users all on
the one cellsite we regularly saw speed tests of 50Mbit/s down, 25Mbit/s up.
Latency of around 25ms is to be expected at Vodafone’s head office, but the
speeds are astonishing. The Speed Test app graphical display only goes up to
20Mbit/s so you get to watch the needle swing round to flat line, then do it
again for upload and the report is complete in the time it takes my HSPA+ phone
to get a connection to run the app.

Today Vodafone says it has 65,000 handsets in use that are
able to make the jump to warp speed and they’ll be proactively calling every
one of them to tell them. By the year’s end they expect to see more than
100,000 users on the network.

This move raises two very interesting issues. From a user
perspective it’s great. Not only do we have access to a network that is very
fast, with devices already able to be used on it but we have a technology foot
race in play that should see the other two network operators look closely at
their rollout plans. Telecom had said it was trialling 4G but wasn’t going to
deploy a commercial launch this year. I imagine that will change quite quickly,
and NBR is reporting that Telecom is already talking about a commercial launch
this year
. At the latest financial announcement there was no sign of the capex
needed to deploy 4G in Telecom’s network but given Simon Moutter’s view that
mobile is a core proposition for Telecom, I’m sure that will be forthcoming.

Which leaves 2Degrees in an interesting position as well. It
has the ability to upgrade to 4G quite quickly – it has the spectrum and the
network is new enough that I’m told it’s a software/card swap scenario rather
than redeploying kit to every celltower. Could 2Degrees beat Telecom to a
launch? Anything’s possible which is great news for us users. In the meantime
both Telecom and 2Degrees will have to do something to  keep customers happy and that’s likely to
involve pulling the price-point lever. I wouldn’t sign any long-term contracts
just at the moment – it’s all going to get rather interesting.

The other issue this raises is what will the government’s
response be? Given the government’s apparent view that copper is a competitor
to its fibre deployment, what will it make of LTE? If copper, offering speeds
of 15Mbit/s down and 1Mbit/s up is a danger that must be dealt with, what will
the response be to a technology that can do 100Mbit/s and 50Mbit/s up?

Today, with the right iPad, I could be getting speeds at least
on par with the speeds I’ll get from fibre when that finally becomes available
in my area in five years’ time. If copper must be regulated to keep the price
high in order to drive customers to fibre, surely products and services like
Vodafone’s new network will also throw a spanner in the works and if the
government doesn’t see fit to get involved, what does that say about its real
motivation for keeping Chorus’s copper price artificially high?

The government has chosen to keep prices for consumers high while supporting one telco over and above all others. If that’s not back to the future, I don’t know what is.