Country comes to town

Wired Country, the south-Auckland based network operator, is ready to make the move to the big league, offering its wireless broadband service from the Sky Tower in central Auckland.

Wired Country, the south Auckland based network operator, is ready to make the move to the big league, offering its wireless broadband service from the Sky Tower in central Auckland.

Wired Country is a subsidiary of Counties Power, the regional electricity provider for Franklin District, south of Auckland. It has already made headway in both its home district and Hamilton and is now turning its attention to the country’s largest city. Counties Power managing director Neil Simmonds says customers are already operating in the city.

“We’ve got a good enough model to attract customers in Pukekohe, so I can’t imagine there aren’t any customers in Auckland who want the service.”

“Basically if we can’t find enough customers in Auckland we’d have to rethink the whole thing.”

The company has fibre cabling to the Sky Tower, two transmitters in place already and plans for four more. The transmitters point directly north and south of the tower and have a 60 degree arc of coverage. When all six transmitters are in place the service will cover the greater part of the Auckland isthmus. Wired Country’s plans don’t stop there, however — it will expand its service within the Auckland region with in-fill sites as demand dictates.

The service itself is dependent in part on what Wired Country’s partners want to offer, says general manager Mike Lancaster, and that includes voice capability.

“WorldxChange and Ihug both have tremendous soft-switch voice capabilities that are just incredible to see. Why would anyone buy a PBX system or an expensive Centrex solution when you can have a user-configurable browser-based solution?”

Simmonds is also excited by the possibility offered by the new voice services.

“You can bring the kind of functionality you get on your cellphone to your office and you can extend your office out to your home or wherever you want.”

Small companies in particular will be seeking the kind of functionality on offer, says Lancaster.

“If you’re working from home or have a small office, you’ll be able to have calls following you around, you’ll be able to identify numbers that must always get through to you no matter what and calls that can be handled by voice mail. You’ll be able to tie it all together with one in-box for voice, email and faxes.”

WorldxChange’s co-founder, Cecil Alexander, says the company plans to use Wired Country’s Auckland service.

“I love Wired Country, I want it to be phenomenally successful. But at the end of the day I choose who I want to buy access from for my customers.”

Alexander says his approach to networks is agnostic; he uses several different suppliers.

“Its [Wired Country’s] network will support a heck of a lot of things that Telecom’s traditional copper network won’t.”

ICONZ will also be adding service over Wired Country’s network to its arsenal, according to general manager Sean

Weekes.

“We’ll definitely be doing data over Wired Country but we’ll probably use WorldxChange for the voice side of things.”

Weekes says the pricing schedule in Auckland will be similar if not identical to the service offerings in Franklin. ICONZ offers three unlimited traffic services on Wired Country’s network already — 256Kbit/s for $85 a month; 1Mbit/s for $120 and 2Mbit/s for $160.

Ihug’s general manager, Martin Wylie, says while the service doesn’t solve the problem of unbundling, it is exciting.

“Given what’s happening in the other arena this is excellent news. There will be a market of customers who are unhappy with Telecom who will leap at the chance to move their entire telco service away from the incumbent.”

Wylie says the service doesn’t solve the problem of access to Telecom’s network entirely because its limited range.

“It’s only available to a lucky few and it’s line of sight.”

On the existing Wired Country service, Ihug offers unlimited free national traffic, up to 15GB of international traffic per month and speeds of 256Kbit/s for $42.95, 1Mbit/s for $62.95 and 2Mbit/s for $112.95. Pricing for Auckland central has yet to be finalised.

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