- Pearls and Pinstripes
- Navman phone home
- Back in the saddle again
- Pearls and Pinstripes
It could have been funny but Theresa Gattung spoiled the party by pointing it out early. Both she and TelstraClear head honcho Rosemary Howard turned up to the Telecommunications and ICT Summit in Auckland this week wearing matching pinstripe suits with pearls. As with all women everywhere, turning up wearing the same clothes as another woman is just as bad as wearing a coat made out of puppies. They should phone each other in future to check wardrobes - perhaps they could use a GO 27 phone each and send pictures just to be on the safe side.
Actually, future cooperation between Telecom and TelstraClear and all the other competitors/customers/partners looks likely to be the flavour of the month in the wake of the conference. Putting aside for a moment Telecom's "challenge" to TelstraClear (more on that shortly), the overriding theme of a CEO panel discussion at the event was a simple one: the market is too small to play silly buggers - let's cooperate where we can and compete without trying to inhibit each others' growth.
If this all seems a little odd, you have to realise that Telecom's biggest customer is TelstraClear and that these kind of cooperation/competition issues are what the telco sector is all about.
As Howard pointed out, they all partner with each other from time to time, they compete, they buy products and services from each other so they'd better get used to it.
Why is that so important? Again, Howard pointed out the fundamental issue: the telco industry has lost around $6 trillion worldwide over the past few years. There simply isn't the money freely available any more for telcos to waste so don't expect duplication of network infrastructure to continue. Why build a new network when you can buy space on someone else's, is the new name of the game.
In that vein, Telecom issued its challenge to TelstraClear to stop wasting everyone's time by running squealing to the commissioner's office and to "just get on" with life in the market. Gattung pointed out that Telecom already offers TelstraClear a far better deal in New Zealand than Telstra offers Telecom's subsidiary, AAPT, in Australia. She seemed quite het up about it, actually. Probably more so than she needed to be, when you consider the chain dragging, resist-at-all-costs approach Telecom has taken in the past.
To be fair, Telecom has come to the conclusion, publicly at any rate, that even though it may not like some of the decisions coming out of the telco commissioner's office, at least the process is transparent and everyone can have their say and that from Telecom's point of view it's working as it should. This is a major advance because if any company could be seen to be on the wrong side of the regulatory regime it would be Telecom as the country's incumbent player.
However, the challenge to TelstraClear did seem a tad lame to me. Of course TelstraClear is going to go to the commissioner about everything - it's appealed the commissioner's decisions on interconnection and business wholesaling - and while that may seem like the company is "tying ourselves up in endless regulatory reviews", to quote Gattung, there's nothing to stop Telecom and TelstraClear sitting down and negotiating a commercial agreement instead.
There were a number of other juicy bits to be heard during the CEO discussion panel - Bob Smith from Walker Wireless let slip that he's in negotiations with TelstraClear to sell them something (Rosemary: "We'd like to buy from you, Bob". Bob: "And we'd like to sell to you, Rosemary". Chorus: "Awwwwwwww, bless!".)
But for me the most interesting bauble came from Tony van Horik, the government-appointed manager of Project Probe. He told the audience that while he couldn't say who had won the remaining 11 tenders for the government's "tens of millions of dollars" for Project Probe, there would be ongoing issues over having different suppliers in different regions. This is telling because it means that there will be more than one or two different winners on the day. That's a Good Thing (TM) because it means we'll have some competition in broadband and we'll be able to see just what price really is acceptable to the mass market.
- Navman phone home
It's strange really. I remember them back when they were based in Christchurch and called Talon Technologies. Now Navman, maker of GPS gear, is 70% owned by Illinois-based Brunswick after flogging itself off for a cool $56 million.
The happy press release that announced the sale made it clear development work would continue in New Zealand and that Navman would expand its Auckland operation as planned. The company plans to increase its workforce by around a quarter in the next year (currently it has over 300 employees) and Brunswick has an option to buy the rest of the company if it likes the look of it by the end of 2005.
While I'm happy for the guys who have worked so hard for so long, part of me is quite sad that it takes this kind of buy-out to get a Kiwi company into the big league. Navman follows on from the likes of Marshal Software and Binary Research, Murray Haszard's development team that produced Ghost, and probably others that I've forgotten. Can't we propel them into the limelight ourselves? Don't Kiwi entrepreneurs see how well they're doing and offer to buy them up?
Still, I suppose this is a global world we live in (global world? How very redundant) so I mustn't grumble. The company will be able to employ more Kiwis, make more products, sell to more locations, be a part of a larger whole.
And I'm sure we'll get to count them as one of our 100 $100 million companies when we check back with the government's ambitious plans for the ICT sector in a couple of years time.
-Back in the saddle again
I suppose since this is the FryUp I should say back behind the griddle again, really. Thanks to Andrea for keeping said saddle warm while I was away, and thanks also to those folk that took the time to write and say "we miss you, when are you coming home?".
Well, here I am and I must say it's lovely to be back. No, I really must say it - my editor insists.
It's been a bit odd being on the outside looking in for the past six weeks. I worried about the stories I was missing (Telecom seems to have outsourced everything while I was away) and then worried that we were covering them so thoroughly without me. I found myself firing up the PC with the excuse that "I just need to clear the spam out" and spending half the night looking at the editorial database; but fortunately that passed.
Somehow though we all seem to have made it through unscathed. You're still here (right where I left you) and the whole getting-up-in-the-morning-and-going-to-work thing is slowly seeping back into my system. Dammit all.
The next few months should be interesting - the telco commissioner is about to reveal all about the cost of the Kiwi Share, not to mention his opinion on unbundling of the local loop. Project Probe will get under way and we'll see some competition in the broadband market. Telecom will reveal its new pricing structure for JetStream and Vodafone and Telecom will continue to compete for your text message dollars. All in all it should be a good ride, so buckle up!