Price rather than bandwidth rankles ICT users

IT immigrants say bandwidth 'unbelievably, ridiculously expensive'

Immigrants skilled in ICT seem to be relatively unconcerned about New Zealand’s limited bandwidth, but price and volume caps rankle.

“Performance-wise it’s not that different,” says Adam Shand of Weta Digital, who came here from the US. However, transferring large files of digital movie imagery from New Zealand is “unbelievably, ridiculously expensive”.

With a very large set of files it would be cheaper to take a tape on an aeroplane and fly to the destination business class than to transmit them via broadband, he says.

However, John Clegg, chief executive of Project X Technologies, says that compared with Fiji and Tonga, where he has worked, New Zealand broadband is “really good”.

Both comments were made during a panel discussion organised by the ICT networking organisation Unlimited Potential last week. Under the title, “A Tale of Four Cities”, the panel discussed the advantages and disadvantages of working in Wellington, prompted by an article in Time magazine suggesting London, New York and Hong Kong have become the three business hubs of the world.

“The [broadband] traffic caps are bad, but the speed is not,” says Brian Calhoun of Silverstripe, whose career has been mostly confined to Silicon Valley. He says the standard of service here is reminiscent of the US immediately following telecomms deregulation.

Panel chairman Colin Jackson lent some substance to the debate by recalling that in the mid-1990s Telecom ran a multimedia trial and delivered speeds of 2Mbit/s. It’s gone backwards since then, he says.

Telecom’s, and TelstraClear’s, refusal to participate in peering agreements, and the high cost of mobile communications were also fingered as disadvantages.

There was general agreement that the size of Wellington city makes for both good social and business networking. This compensates, to some degree, for not having other resources available on the doorstep.

However, influential people in government are easier to access and they don’t have as inflated egos as their US counterparts. Knowing a few dozen people puts you in touch with most of the industry, several panel members said.

Access to venture capital was seen as mediocre and not very competitive — fewer VC firms means the risk is harder to share. However, this situation is improving, said the panel.

In a reversal of the usual focus on Kiwis drifting overseas, the panel spent time discussing how to attract talent here. One suggestion was that innovative companies approach US universities and offer internships.

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