- Telecom and BCL
- Counting on the internet
- Mobile JetStream: call it marketing
- Telecom and BCL
Here's a turn up for the books. Not entirely unexpected but what a combination.
Telecom, as you may or may not know, owns the local loop - that long string of copper line that stretches from my house to your house to, well, everyone's house in New Zealand. It's the ubiquitous network that we built and paid for back in the day, although that's another story.
Telecom, we were led to believe, was the only company with a ubiquitous network in New Zealand. We're all tied by local loop's apron strings to Telecom and can't really escape, unless we unplug completely and move to Piha.
However, that was then and a few years ago the clever guys at BCL, which was TVNZ's broadcast division and was responsible for getting Richard and Judy to come round to your place every night, realised they were sitting on a gold mine. BCL owns transmitters and wireless gear up and down the country.
BCL has long since moved from simply transmitting TV signals for TVNZ to doing the same for TV 3 and 4 and radio. Someone must have sat down at some stage and said "hang on, TV signals are all just bits ... Why don't we try sending bits of data as well?" and lo! The country's second ubiquitous network was born.
The beauty of BCL's network is that it's wireless - so if you want to extend it to some new growth area you simply add a mountain-top dish somewhere nearby and you're pretty much all go. The problem, of course, was that it was set up and designed for transmission work rather than two-way traffic, but that doesn't seem to be slowing them down any.
BCL has become a network provider. It offers bandwidth on its network to any telco that wants to cough up the readies and it doesn't care who you are, Telecom, TelstraClear, Vodafone or Paul's Discount Calls.
The first major deal BCL has signed revolves around the government's push for broadband in the regions. BCL, being a state-owned enterprise, is perfectly poised to have a social component built in, and despite telecommunications minister Paul Swain's decree that it should always make money, BCL is the ideal medium for delivering on Labour's campaign promises.
BCL has the reach beyond Telecom's copper loop. Expansion costs are minimal and BCL has towers in sites that would be unobtainable to anyone else. It has experience at wireless communication that is second to none and coupled with Telecom's DSL offering is helping bring broadband to the masses. As a broadband user I can only stand up and cheer on this one. It's great news.
- Counting on the internet
The story so far: AC Nielsen used to run NetRatings, a division that monitored net users in New Zealand by means of a panel of around 4000 home-based users. AC Nielsen decided to pull its operation out of New Zealand, as well as several other countries in the region, leaving only the panel behind.
Online advertising has never really taken off in New Zealand, despite the best efforts of sales teams at every major newspaper, including our own crack troops. Advertisers and their agencies have shied away because, in part, no two websites tell the same tale when it comes to the number of users they get each day/week/month, making comparison hard. So a consortium of online publishers, along with the advertising agencies, sat down, worked out what kind of service they'd like to see and put out a request for tenders.
Red Sheriff, an outfit that began life in Melbourne but which has moved on to New York, and local research company Phoenix Research won the tender and will start rolling out the service in the next couple of months.
Red Sheriff's trick is that it incorporates a few lines of Java code in any website that wants to be involved. The code, only 2KB of it, lets the network of Sheriff nodes around the world know that a page has been opened and fully downloaded. Then it gets really exciting, because the code tells the Sheriff everything about that visit to the site. It reports back on how long you looked at the page, where you came from and where you went afterwards, your path through the site, whether you moused over ads, played games or simply read through a page or whatever. It tells the Sheriff what kind of browser you're using, what screen resolution you have, whether you're using broadband or dial-up and what colour palette you prefer.
Phoenix Research will be ringing around 4500 people to get the other side of the coin - the qualitative stuff. Who are you, why did you surf there, what else do you like to do, that sort of thing.
Hopefully, with the support of the consortium members jumping on this scheme and others following suit, we'll build up a good picture of net usage in New Zealand and how it fits in with print, radio and TV. Red Sheriff says it will cost from $100 a month for the entry-level product right through to the full court press I've outlined above. Already it's hearing from companies beyond the consortium's ranks, financial institutions, banks, government departments and so on, who want to be involved and really, the more the merrier.
Reports on usage levels will kick off in November and pretty soon after that we should have real figures that actually mean something to the advertisers and that can only help the industry.
- Mobile JetStream: call it marketing
Branding is my least favourite subject. Okay, maybe haemangioblastomas are, but branding is a close second.
I mean really. Are we supposed to fall in love with a product just because of its name? What's that all about? Woolworths has been around for donkey's years and do we care that it's a silly thing to write above a shop doorway? No, because it's the name of the guy who first set up the shop! See also Whitcoulls, soon to be WH Smith, JB Were and all the others. Nobody cares that they have names that don't describe their business because it's the business itself they're interested in, not the handle it gets.
And so we come to JetStream. Telecom has previously used the name to describe its family of products that run on DSL. Basically, JetStream equals fixed line high-speed internet access.
Earlier this year, Telecom took its entry-level product, JetStart, and re-branded it as JetStream Starter to bind it tighter to the family bosom, so to speak. Now it's another step in the same direction, kind of, with its new cellular network CDMA 1xRTT.
Okay, so CDMA 1xRTT is a technical name for a technical product and really it doesn't exactly trip off the tongue. So Telecom has chosen Mobile JetStream for the product family because, according to the literature, "the user experience on Mobile JetStream is akin to that of Telecom’s fixed line JetStream Starter service, which achieves speeds of up to 128 Kbit/s". Well, that's lovely but in fact the average user doesn't see speeds anywhere near that on CDMA 1xRTT. Sure, the theoretical maximum is in greater than 150 Kbit/s, but as Telecom says, users are more likely to receive traffic at between 50 and 80 Kbit/s. That's faster than dial-up but is nowhere near the 2 Mbit/s plus that JetStream offers.
I asked Telecom's head of mobile business and corporate division, Warwick Beban, about it and he claimed Mobile JetStream is an "extension" of the existing service, "rather than trying to piggy-back on the speed element so much". But say "JetStream" and people expect faster speeds than 50 Kbit/s I would say.
So we're back to playing the "mine's faster than yours" game which both Telecom and Vodafone promised we wouldn't get into this time round. We're back to promising a speed and service that probably can't be delivered on a regular or consistent basis. We're back to over-promise and under-deliver.
Let's get this straight: I think CDMA 1xRTT is a great service. I want a G-Trans card for the laptop I intend to use one day so I can sit in press conferences and file the story before the other "traditional" media bods get out of their seats (actually so I can go to the beach and my editor need never know). But to promise "JetStream speeds" when what you mean is "better than dial-up" is daft. It sets the service up for a fall and just makes us users grumpy.
And really, you have to ask yourself, is JetStream that great a brand these days? Sure, it's fast. Sure, it's popping up everywhere, but between the cost and the reliability problems its experienced in the past and the problems its usage meter has at the moment, would you buy a service with JetStream in the name?