Honestly, I thought last year was bad. Christmas arrived the way the USS Enterprise goes into warp drive, that rubber-band snap that makes all the stars blur around you. This Christmas it's more like Harry Potter jumping on to the platform. I ran at a brick wall and suddenly -- bam! -- there I was.
The year's been an odd one. We started off with all the buzz about the new telecommunications environment and we've been waiting ever since. It's like being on hold – the music is bearable at best but it's not why we made the call in the first place.
As I write this it seems Telecom is trying one last ditch furious effort to really make people hate it by sending Clear, TelstraSaturn and Vodafone a bill for the network upgrade required to make 0800 and 0508 numbers portable. Some days it seems we've come so far, and then it seems like we've hardly moved at all.
Number portability is the big no-brainer issue of the telco industry. Of course the networks should allow customers to keep their numbers whichever network they're on. It shouldn't take a mammoth effort to switch one customer to another network and allow them to keep their phone number. It's nonsense like this that gives the telco industry a bad name.
There have been a few interesting moments in this year-long limbo: Econet's arrival coinciding with the changes to the telco bill and the purchase of Clear by TelstraSaturn being the top two.
Econet has been variously described as either the first entrant to take its place in the New Zealand telco environment under the new legislation or as an evil pact between racial stereotypes bent on destroying the very fabric of New Zealand's society. Neither is terribly accurate or helpful.
In reality Econet is simply a company that wants to make money selling a service to mobile phone users. That it lobbied the government to introduce new legislation is neither here nor there: all the telcos lobbied government.
Is the new legislation a draconian impinging on the rights of the incumbent players or a levelling of the field we've always believed to be a cliff face? Well, probably a bit of both really and that's a good thing. Giving the new commissioner too much power would have created a situation that would be no better than the one we've got at the moment; it's too lopsided to work properly. Of course a lot of this depends on what the new commissioner is like and how he or she will handle the role of hall monitor. Good luck will be needed along with a cool calm head -- and perhaps also a softball bat.
TelstraSaturn buying Clear was always on the cards and once former owner BT realised just how deep a hole it had dug for itself it was only a matter of time. Next year will be interesting for the new conglomerate as it tries to battle Telecom, keep its place as number two, find its feet as a merged entity and sort out if it wants to be a consumer provider as well as business.
We get invited to a lot of lunches and drinking sessions at this time of year. Usually they're accompanied by some kind of wrap-up of what the company in question has been doing this year and they all always tell us they've had an "exciting" year. Maybe 2002 will prove them right.