Unseemly rush to claim unbundling firsts

There's no shortage of competition in the broadband market when it comes to competing for column inches

There were unseemly scenes in the PR departments of New Zealand’s telcos and ISPs last week as Orcon, Vodafone’s ISP Ihug and TelstraClear jostled for coverage after Telecom’s stage-managed opening of its first unbundled exchanges in Auckland.

“100% Kiwi-owned Orcon Unbundles the Local Loop” cried Orcon, which at least was first to press the send button on its press release — at 8.25am.

What was Orcon claiming? That it was the first “100% Kiwi-owned” telecommunications provider to unbundle the local loop.

“Being first is in keeping with Orcon’s history. We are proud of the fact that we were the first to launch wholesale broadband services in New Zealand, and today we are proud to record yet another first,” gushed Orcon chief executive Scott Bartlett.

Orcon scooped Telecom by two minutes with its release, which announced the opening of the exchanges.

“Telecom opens its exchange doors for the first time with an early trial of local loop unbundling and co-location with service providers, Ihug and Orcon,” Telecom announced.

“From today, engineers from Ihug and Orcon can enter Telecom’s Ponsonby and Glenfield exchanges to install their own telecommunications and internet equipment for testing, so that later in the year they can deliver communications services direct to consumers over Telecom’s copper lines.”

But Ihug was not to be left out. One minute after Telecom’s emails Vodafone’s ISP claimed a first of its own — it claimed to be the first “public company” to enter a Telecom exchange in New Zealand’s history. It was also the first to gripe about it, with chief executive Mark Rushworth complaining that unbundling wasn’t happening fast enough.

Rushworth said Kiwis would reap the benefits of true competition, but “it needs to be able to happen much faster and on a much larger scale than what’s been proposed.”

Meanwhile, left right out but keen to spoil the party, TelstraClear had its release ready, titled “Please be careful —we’re already in there”.

Politely late at 10.43am, TelstraClear applauded the “enthusiasm” of Ihug and Orcon as they accessed Telecom’s exchanges, but raised one point of concern.

“Because TelstraClear already has equipment in at least 17 Telecom local telephone exchanges, it has a message for the new enthusiasts — please be careful.”

TelstraClear head of corporate services Mathew Bolland warned that “in the rush to do what TelstraClear has already done” there’s a chance they may bump into the precision hardware the company already has up and running.

“We can remember how exciting it was when we first interconnected with Telecom over a decade ago and when we installed Unbundled Partial Circuits last year it was a moment to treasure,” said Bolland.

“Clearly this morning’s Ihug media release saying they were first into a Telecom exchange saw the facts get in the way. Let’s hope our equipment doesn’t”.

Keeping gentlemen’s hours, at 12.56pm CallPlus CEO Martin Wylie announced his company was looking forward to the technical trial of local loop unbundling.

“Whilst it may not be a landmark event it is another step in the right direction,” a begrudging Wyllie offered.

Oh, yes, TUANZ put out a release as well.

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