TelstraClear 3G

So, what is Doc Freeth and crew up to down at Smales Farm? The announcement this week isn't that exciting - the mobile/landline substitution service with broadband thrown in isn't due out until end of next year, and we have no idea as to the form of it or how much it'll cost.

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So, what is Doc Freeth and crew up to down at Smales Farm? The announcement this week isn’t that exciting – the mobile/landline substitution service with broadband thrown in isn’t due out until end of next year, and we have no idea as to the form of it or how much it’ll cost.

While it’s very good indeed for the good burghers of Tauranga to have communications options late next year (provided TelstraClear actually goes ahead with the $50 million plan), it’s something else that has us interested.

Namely, a third mobile phone network. Having reported on announcements of a third mobile network over the past six years and noting that nothing has materialised, well, all of us at Computerworld are understandably sceptical.

TelstraClear is supposedly covering Tauranga with a 2.1GHz UMTS W-CDMA network next year sometime. It should by then have the speed upgrades required (HSDPA and HSUPA) to make it a worthwhile contender to fixed connections like DSL and wireless ones like WiMAX. We’ll see though. So far, TelstraClear has talked an awful lot but delivered precious little. There hasn’t even been a tender for the network equipment yet.

The story has our Australian friends excited though. Across the ditch, Telstra as we know decided to decommission its CDMA network, leaving Telecom in the lurch for roaming. TelstraClear possibly doing the W-CDMA do in Tauranga is being interpreted as an impetus for Telecom to share 3G networks with the Aussies. Yes, the Telecom-going-UMTS rumour again. Alcatelucent won’t like that much, as it is currently hoping to bank a $16 million cheque for building Rev A and Rev B CDMA2000 EV-DO for Telecom.

- TelstraClear targets Tauranga

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Voda wriggles

Global cellular phone giant Vodafone meanwhile is trying to escape the regulator’s claws. It is facing having its termination rates slashed by the Commerce Commission, and estimates it would take a $250 million king hit from that.

Not an appealing prospect, so Vodafone is trying to get out of that with an offer to the Commission. The deal is: instead of reducing mobile termination rates straightaway to 15¢ per minute, it’s better to do it over four years. And, the reason that is better is because … well, Vodafone says it guarantees that it’ll pass on 100% of the lowered rates to customers. That’s the carrot.

The stick is, if the Commission goes ahead and cuts the rates to 15¢ per minute, Vodafone won’t necessarily pass on the reductions to customers.

An offer the government can’t refuse, right? We’ll see; Telecom tried a similar tactic over unbundling and look where it got them.

- Vodafone offers to reduce mobile termination rates

Slice of NZ Internet history for sale

Internet Home Users Group. How many of you know that’s what ihug actually stands for? Started up by Nick and Tim Wood in 1994, only the year after ihug was offering flat-rate dial-up Internet access. This was a right stunner in a country used to connecting on the meter. Ihug pioneered other services as well, such as the satellite connection that either Nick or Tim (can’t remember now who it was) told me not to bother with, as it didn’t work very well on my part of the North Shore due to radio interference from Auckland Airport.

Still wonder if that was true or not, but veteran ihug customer and satellite guinea pig customer David Slack who lives not far from me had no end of issues with the service. And, it had a dial-up return link which coupled with the satellite latency made using the service somewhat challenging. Nevertheless, ihug tried and for that it should be praised.

ihug ended up being sold off to iiNet in a deal worth some $80 million in 2003. Under Aussie rule, ihug seems to have withered into yet another Telecom DSL reseller. Sure, ihug had Wired Country wireless on offer for a while, and it looked promising but didn’t last long. Then iiNet hit the rocks recently financially and saw its share price nose-dive. Too bad, because now ihug is being flogged off by the Australians, at a time when the NZ operation has been pretty much cast adrift.

While ihug is still the country’s third largest ISP, it has been totally dependent on the crumbs swept off Telecom’s table for the past few years. With the new regulation coming up, things were looking up for ihug but clearly, iiNet couldn’t afford to wait.

- iiNet puts Ihug on the block

Intel lays off and off

Slitting the throats of a thousand managers wasn’t enough to slake the blood-thirst of Intel CEO Paul Otellini, who is now prowling the corporate corridors for more prey, with his trusty henchman, Donald MacDonald, veep and general manager of the digital home group.

Messaging teams and in-house PR trolls are in the firing line, MacDonald says, as well as the huge number of product variants sold currently.

It’s not like Intel is making a loss or anything though. Sure, profits are down from US$12.1 billion last year to a forecast US$9.3 billion, but that’s still a nice amount of money and the business is still growing albeit not quite as fast as before.

Seems a pity that, as 2006 promises to be something of a comeback year for Intel. Having got itself into the Netburst processor architecture dead end over the past four years, Intel is now top-dog with the new Core micro architecture. This is not only fast, but also cool and efficient. The previous Pentium 4 Netburst processors were fast, but didn’t do that much and ran hot hot hot, so AMD wiped the floor with Intel in every respect. Now the tables are turned, and AMD is left without any other response than cutting processor prices – something it can ill afford to do.

I was a bit surprised to see that Intel sold off the Xscale processor division to Marvell for a song (US$600 million) but insists on keeping the Itanium one alive. Surely the handheld device market for Xscale processors is worth more than the supercomputing business in which the massively parallel as well as hugely delayed Itanium competes?

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