Telecom's decision to build an all-IP infrastructure is finally at the implementation stage and the first triallists of its new voice service are already on board.
Five years ago, Telecom announced it had signed a deal with Alcatel to outsource the development and management of its "next generation network" which would be entirely IP-based.
The deal, which involved Telecom investing $1.4 billion, was one of the first in the world of its kind and Telecom chief operating officer Simon Moutter described it as being "something of a gamble" at the time.
"It's very hard to look ahead that far in this game with any certainty and while we had an extensive round of market research both here and in Australia to back up our decision, it was still something of a leap of faith."
The new network, which is being incrementally rolled out over the next seven years, should deliver enormous cost savings to Telecom while simultaneously delivering greater levels of service and flexibility, says Moutter.
"You'll be able to buy a movie on demand, have the pipe to your house open up to the appropriate level to deliver that content and then have it return to your usual setting once the movie's downloaded without the customer having to do anything."
Moutter says Telecom's business and infrastructure will look "profoundly different" in the next decade and that could also include staff levels as well as technology.
"Nothing's set in stone, we're reviewing everything but we could see a lot of the functionality of our callcentres, for example, being automated. Moves, adds and changes could easily be automated." In fact, Moutter says Telecom is spending a significant amount on back end IT systems to better manage customers' relationships with the new network.
"You'll be able to call up a web portal and change your broadband settings, add services, that sort of thing and you'll do it all yourself."
Telecom's initial trial will feature 120 residential customers in five main centres and is already providing invaluable feedback, says Telecom's head of consumer marketing, Victoria Crone.
The first group of a dozen test users was set up at the end of July, says Telecom spokesman Daniel Herd. The test community has been expanded steadily since and is now at its maximum size of 120.
Half are allowed autonomous use of the service, but the others are put through a series of tasks to smooth out the lumps in the user experience.
The first task is to set up the IP phone through a web portal, specifying, for example, the order in which a call to the single number should be redirected to each of the user’s phone instruments if it is unanswered.
The testers are then asked to make specific kinds of calls: local, national and international, fixed-line and mobile. A call can also be set up through the web portal, to ring the phones at both ends.
The big advantage over existing IP-based voice services such as Skype is in voice quality and security, says Herd.