Clear phone service strained by Zfree demand

The boom in registrations for Clear's free ISP Zfree has hit service to not only to paying Internet users but also its business telephone customers.

The boom in registrations for Clear's free ISP Zfree has hit service to not only to paying Internet users but also its business telephone customers.

Sign-ups to Zfree took off in the days following the agreement between Telecom and Clear to scrap the 0867 "Internet tax" on more than 10 hours' dial-up to non-0867 numbers. Zfree has streaked past the paid Clear Net service and now has more than 80,000 registered customers.

The main bottleneck has been at the Points of Local Interconnect (PoLIs) around the country, where calls pass between the two carriers' networks, but international Internet capacity has occasionally been strained. A Clear Net mail outage that lasted several hours last Friday also appears to have been load-related.

Clear spokesperson Rochelle Lockley acknowledges problems but says they have been "short-term in nature and localised". Telecom has been installing additional capacity at PoLIs around the country. Although helpdesk messages to disgruntled Clear Net users have implied that Telecom is dragging its feet, Lockley says that isn't the case.

"Basically, Telecom is working to provision us with those circuits as quickly as they can," says Lockley. "I don't know that there's any concern about the timing of that, other than that we'd like it yesterday and they're doing it today or tomorrow. But I don't think they're dragging their feet."

Lockley says capacity "is going to be a temporary problem in places. As far as business local [service] goes, I don't think there's any problem now. There may have been for a day or two a couple of weeks ago when there was a big surge

"We had long planned to expand capacity but the growth happened a bit faster than we expected. So all of the extra capacity coming on now has been planned for a while, but it hasn't happened as fast as the growth for Zfree has.

"That was when the controls were put in place to make sure that business local and Clear Net get priority at peak times. There's no difference in the speed of connection once you're actually on, it's just that there may not be lines available to get on, so you might have to redial a couple of times at a particularly busy time."

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