- Brave new world of broadband
- PC Company
- Brave new world of broadband
Righto, what an exciting week this has been.
First out of the blocks, Wired Country offering to "upsize" your connection tenfold.
I was initially alarmed at the idea of using burger terminology to describe bandwidth but then I realised it was the perfect metaphor. Once broadband is as common as takeaway food we'll know we've cracked it.
In the meantime we have to write "upsize" rather than upsize to let you know we know it's not a common usage term just yet.
So what exactly has Wired Country done? If you buy a 128Kbit/s connection from one of the reseller ISPs (Ihug, ICONZ, The Packing Shed, Wave and Watchdog) you'll receive speeds of just over 1Mbit/s. Order a 1Mbit/s connection and get 10Mbit/s. Simple, effective and very, very nice.
But hang on, I hear you cry. Surely this is just a have to get people to use more bandwidth?
Well, I'm all in favour of that anyway, but the offer also applies to those flat rate connections. Yes, that's right, for $99 a month users can buy a 256Kbit/s connection with no data cap that will be upsized to 2.5 Mbit/s. The speed increase will last until March next year at the earliest and after that new pricing plans will be introduced.
I spoke at length to CEO Neil Simmonds (sorry about that Neil) who pointed out how mocking the FryUp had been of Wired Country's efforts in the early days and a quick re-read of the relevant documents does reveal a certain lop-sided, tongue-in-cheek "market gardeners plant fibre optic crop" slant on the story. I must now humbly stand aside and wave everyone through before me. It's finally a good reason to move to south Auckland and more power to them I say.
And then, just as that story was fizzing along (somewhat overshadowed, sadly, by The PC Company disaster which you can read about further along) Walker Wireless announced its brave new world.
Woosh is the company's new name and the plan is to cover 70% of Auckland and kick start build out in Wellington and Christchurch by the year's end. At launch (this weekend) the service will cover around 40% of Auckland. There's also the Project Probe tenders which Walker Wireless and Vodafone won (so far Northland, Southland and Wairarapa) to build from so expect coverage in those areas as well.
And the killer question: how much? Well, it's not too bad. For the same price as JetStream Starter you get a 250Kbit/s (they've done away with the silly speed points in favour of round numbers) and unlimited traffic. That's double the speed.
Or to compare with Telecom's new offering of JetStream Home 256, you get the same speed for $5 a month more but without the horrifically silly 500MB cap.
The modems are the size of two cellphones strapped together and cost $399 from Vodafone stores and Dick Smith. Installation consists of chucking a CD in the laptop and then plugging the USB modem in the side. End of story. It's so simple even a telco journalist can do it in under 10 minutes and for the normal populace, Woosh says it should take longer to boil an egg than to install their service.
The selling strategy is simplicity, mobility, price. It's simple to install, you can take it with you without having to unbolt something from your roof and it's a good price. It's not the cheapest, it's not the fastest but on the other hand it's also not the most expensive or slowest.
Better still, the service is flexible. Let's say you want to download the latest Linux distro in as short a time as possible. Instead of your 250Kbit/s service, you can bump it up to 500Kbit/s or 1Mbit/s simply by logging on to the website and ticking the box. You pay in 15 minute blocks and you're away. Compare that with Telecom's JetStream service where you can only change your traffic cap, not speed, because it's already "full rate" - and only by calling the help desk and getting it changed for the whole month. Not an hour or a day or a week. A whole month.
This is the kind of flexibility that will appeal, I'm sure, to small businesses and residential users. It's the kind of thing we were expecting Telecom to offer on its JetStream plan about three years ago, when it first talked about introducing new tools and support.
Telecom says it will release more information on its new service, the 256Kbit/s speed connection, in the next month so it will be interesting to see just how influenced it is by the announcements this week.
And let's not forget, BCL's network also goes live in November and Ihug, Telecom and ICONZ are already lined up to resell services on that. It's a fixed wireless network but the antenna is nothing more than a grey plastic sheet the size of an A4 page.
I can see my house now - patches, dishes, splitter boxes, booster antenna. Ah, the suntan I'll have!
Oh, I nearly forgot - both Woosh and Wired Country have an ace up their sleeve for later in the year. By Christmas both plan to offer voice services. Now that will be interesting.
- The PC Company
I'm hopeful that Colin Brown is doing this the right way. I'm hopeful but since Brown has steadfastly refused to talk to anyone about it, I just can't be sure.
On Friday last week Brown called all seven of his PC Company stores, told them to conduct a full stocktake. On Monday he locked the doors and sent the staff home, some say for good.
Brown says it's a temporary closure while he tries to get everything sorted so he can open a new company. The PC Company isn't in receivership, or liquidation. It hasn't been wound up or sold off. It's just shut.
Hopefully this means Brown is heading real trouble off at the pass. Hopefully this means all the staff will be paid up, PCs that have been ordered will be shipped, leases and utilities' bills covered and so on.
Already there are signs of that. Brown sent out a release yesterday saying a skeleton staff were working on PCs that had been sent in for repair (by the way, I must go and see Pirates of the Caribbean this weekend). That's a good sign - it means nobody will be caught out having their paid-for PC captured by an over-eager receiver.
The plan seems to be: get new backing/financing and open a single store in Hamilton under a new name. Brown has an assembly line behind the Hamilton branch so that makes sense. He's still competing with the likes of HP and Dell with their huge efficiencies of scale but without seven retail stores hanging off his bottom line he should be more able to make a go of it.
From a PR point of view I have a few suggestions for anyone caught in such a predicament. Firstly, don't put your phone number on the press release and then not answer your phone. Secondly, if a journo rings up to ask about said press release, don't hang up on them. Thirdly, pick a high-profile mainstream publication (like TelstraClear Business or something similar) and agree to talk to them. It's only five minutes out of your life and then you can reassure customers and refer all future journalists to your (kept-in-the-dark) PR team. Customers are left feeling like you're more in charge, journalists can't harp on about you not answering calls ("he's busy saving the company. What can I do for you in the meantime?") and generally it's all good. As it is, nobody knows quite what's going on at The PC Company HQ and that only breeds rumour and speculation. Not a good thing if you want to open a new company in the coming months, I would have thought.