Auckland's oldest ISP looks to new future

A new name has been but the last of the changes for Auckland ISP Iconz as it settles into life as Asia Online New Zealand this week.

A new name has been but the last of the changes for Auckland ISP Iconz as it settles into life as Asia Online New Zealand this week.

Since Iconz was bought by the Softbank-controlled Asia Online in September last year, its new parent company has funded infrastructure investments of more than $500,000.

The company has relocated to the Philips Fox Tower on Queen Street and is now running a Vantive customer relations management suite on its helpdesk, with modules for sales and fault resolution soon to come. Key staff have also been working and training overseas in recent months, with both AsiaOnline and its partner companies.

Asia Online general manager Hugh McKellar, who held the same post under Iconz' previous ownership, says the company also has a marketing budget "in the hundreds of thousands rather than the tens," but believes the most significant change has been that from "being a New Zealand based and focused organisation to becoming the New Zealand part of an international organisation."

Asia Online CEO Kevin J. Randolph, who was originally hired by Softbank to fix up Asia Online with a view to a sale, convinced Softbank founder Masayoshi Son to let him redevelop the ailing ISP. He has now almost completed a programme of acquisitions of second and third-tier ISPs through the Asia-Pacific region - all of them apparently at lower per-customer prices than those in other recent high-profile deals in Australia and New Zealand.

The acquisitions and the development a range of business solutions are being funded via $US100 million in new capital recently raised by Randolph from Paribas Affaires Industrielles (PAI) with the backing of a number of companies, including Dell Computer.

McKellar says the regional network of companies has already made life easier for him.

"We've put in international VPNs for a number of customers and that has been a much smoother and more straightforward process because we're not having to create relationships one at a time with other ISPs. We now have representation in many of the major cities in the region.

"We've got landing sites in many of these cities so we can provide local connectivity and technical expertise and account management. That's making a difference. We've got a substantial research and development unit within Asia Online which is working on developing products in-house."

In Hong Kong and Australia, Asia Online is currently trialling an ASP solution based on thin clients and data centres which will eventually be rolled out to New Zealand and the other countries where the company is represented.

"It's something we would sell on a monthly basis that basically solves the whole computer infrastructure issue for small and medium enterprises," says McKellar.

Iconz, which was Auckland's first commercial ISP, has a number of long-term users with Iconz email addresses - which McKellar says they will be "absolutely" free to keep using.

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