Terminate; Xtra Slow

Top Stories: - Terminate, with extreme prejudice - Xtra Slow (with fries)

Top Stories:

- Terminate, with extreme prejudice

- Xtra Slow (with fries)

- Terminate, with extreme prejudice

What a stupid thing to be arguing about. Call termination, I mean. How ridiculous that Company A and Company B can charge each other for receiving a call from the other's network and pass that cost on to the customer without the Commerce Commission wading in with the clue stick and saying no.

Fortunately that's what's happening now, thanks to the Telecommunications Users Association (TUANZ). TUANZ laid a complaint with the commission over Telecom and Vodafone's call termination charges for mobile calls and the commission has agreed to look into it.

Telecom and Vodafone are spitting blood, TelstraClear is quite happy but all for different reasons.

Telecom's argument, eloquently put by government relations man Bruce Parkes as ever, is that the mobile sector is not broken and doesn't need fixing. New Zealand has a high level of use of mobile phones no matter how you look at it (number of phones, calls made, text messages sent, celebrities caught in compromising textual exchanges, whatever) so why try to fix something that's working? Parkes says regulation in this area will only cause trouble and isn't needed.

TUANZ argues that customers aren't happy, are being ripped off and should be protected from companies that are complacent in their over-charging.

TelstraClear says it's all Telecom's fault and it should be penalised for over-charging customers and TelstraClear itself would love to lower the cost of calling a mobile but can't.

Vodafone says this isn't about call termination charges, which it has dropped by about one third in the past five years, but about the price Telecom and TelstraClear charge customers to call a mobile phone and that's something Vodafone has no control over so why should it be penalised?!

Phew!

Vodafone's public affairs manager Roger Ellis says the problem is that reducing call termination charges doesn't necessarily affect the price the consumer will pay for the call. Overseas, he says, regulators have found that reducing the call termination charge simply means the telcos can continue to charge the same rate to end users, but end up paying the other telcos less money. That's right, it helps increase the profit margin. Isn't that a good idea!

So, if the regulators are reading this, perhaps you'd like to take into account just what the user is paying and address that in your deliberations rather than simply addressing the level of call termination charges. We'd be much happier if you did.

Call termination claims rubbish say carriers - Computerworld Online

Cost of calls to mobiles may plunge - NZ Herald

Commerce Commission to investigate mobile call charges - NZ Herald

Commerce Commission to the Rescue? - Aardvark

(The story may be archived by the time you read this - check the "yesterday's edition" button for it if it's not there)

- Xtra Slow (with fries)

Xtra's home page isn't available as I write this, and neither is XtraMSN (and just what is XtraMSN and who runs it, that's what I'd like to know) but the Xtra 0800 number still says "there are no known faults on the Telecom network". Well that's good to know.

I can think of a couple of things. First of all, why is it that when a JetStream customer gets the warning email about being close to their monthly usage level it's littered with references to Xtra? This is just plain wrong. Sure, if Telecom were keeping Xtra at arm's length, that would be one thing but these days Xtra is just another brand in the Telecom arsenal and as such I find it distasteful to say the least that Telecom thinks it can bamboozle customers of other ISPs in such a manner.

The emails go out to any JetStream customer regardless of ISP who asks for a warning from Telecom. It's wrong of Telecom to try to use that position of power to sell its own ISP services. I can let them get away with it with those Xtra JetStream ads but when a new customer goes to Telecom's home page looking for JetStream information he or she should see a level playing field of information. Of course, level's not really been Telecom's strong suit has it?

As one poster to the DSL mailing list points out, if you sign up with TelstraClear for tolls you don't get a bill from Telecom telling you all about Telecom's tolls do you?

These emails, along with the "what is JetStream" page on Telecom's website should be branded as Telecom, not Xtra if they're branded at all. We have no choice but to buy the service from Telecom at the end of the day, but that's Telecom the network not Telecom Xtra, the ISP.

Xtra's had a hard time of it this week with email outages lasting for several days. Telecom needs to install new hardware to keep the processing power ahead of the email usage level and that process appears to have fallen by the wayside of late. Sure, if email usage increases to such an extent, double what it was three months ago I was told, then that's a fairly rapid change and managing it can be an issue, but come on. Surely the traffic levels each week for the past 12 weeks have indicated that something was happening that would need fixing well before it got out of hand?

One of the areas Telecom told me it would be addressing following this outage is that of filtering for virus and spam. I can't see how such filters wouldn't be affecting the flow of traffic from one side of the ISP to the other, but Brightmail's vice president for Asia Pacific, Garry Sexton, tells me his company's filters (used by both Telecom and TelstraClear) don't work like that and wouldn't be slowing down email delivery. I don't see how that works - surely the email has to be processed by the anti-spam server before it's passed on to the end user? Isn't that a bottleneck?

Ihug's also run into some trouble with its anti-virus service. Trend Micro sent out its hourly update files on Tuesday 27 April but unfortunately they were corrupted and didn't catch a thing. Ihug staff noticed at 6am the next day but from midnight till six it was a free for all. Beware the virus when opening email delivered in that period - Ihug's sent out warning emails to anyone who received an email during that time period which is a good thing.

Oh and look - Xtra and XtraMSN are back up and running. And what does the help page say? "There are currently no known problems with the Xtra Network". A little birdie told me the message only gets changed once the network team have identified what the problem is. Unidentified outages aren't outages at all, it would seem.

Xtra traffic problems rebounding - NZ Herald

Troubles continue for Xtra customers - NZ Herald

Xtra email should be flowing this morning - Computerworld Online

Ihug anti-virus outage warning issued - Computerworld Online

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