Telecom's talking points

Boy, is the new telecommunications commissioner going to have a busy first week. Good luck to them, I say.

It's been an odd week telco-wise.

Telecom sent me a nice pamphlet about JetStream. I was confused because I thought it was a piece of marketing-cum-advertising that would entice me to get its fast internet service, which is odd because I already have it.

I was going to pick on it in my usual gentle manner because it also doesn't include any prices, but then my editor pointed out it isn't supposed to lure in new users but to better inform existing users. Oh. That was close.

The pamphlet does a good job of outlining in laymen's terms how the whole high-speed thing works. It talks about what to do if you want to play games online and how to switch between your own user account and the gaming account so you don't incur too many download charges. It points out that if you leave your browser running it may refresh some pages automatically, costing you money in the long run. It also points out that neither JetStream or JetStart comes with any security features at all but that users should invest in some, which is a good point. It remains quiet on the problem faced by all "always on" connections, which is the rogue download. What can you do if some denial of service attack or virus doing the rounds throws packets of data at your firewall? Well, you can pay for it twice (once incoming, once outgoing), would seem to be the short answer, but that's not in the booklet.

There has been rumour and speculation in a number of places that Telecom is about to introduce a couple of new JetStart plans. JetStart is the slower, uncapped download version of JetStream. Currently it runs at 128Kbit/s but future versions could be 256Kbit/s or 512Kbit/s. This is quite tempting because the bill that arrives would be constant -- you don't pay for the download, just the flat-rate connection. Of course, the new consumer protection legislation being touted could make Telecom shy away from such an offering. It would have to either change its advertising or guarantee the user would see just such a speed, and that could be quite difficult. Of course, Telecom does advertise its two-way-video-conferencing-from-the-beach service which is yet to be launched, so that would have to go as well. Power companies that enjoying switching the electricity on and off and delivering surges and brown-outs should also beware the new legislation, which is no bad thing.

I also got an interesting press release last week from a Telecom hardware provider, CommWorks. Telecom has apparently bought and installed two new products to "enhance the performance of its IPNet" service.

Basically, the new hardware will put a virtual gateway between every user and their real-life exchanges. If your exchange is stuffed full of traffic, you'll be routed to another less busy exchange in the blink of an eye. Users should immediately see the benefit from this, says CommWorks. They will get fewer busy signals when logging on and will be connected to less congested exchanges so will see faster surfing speeds.

That's great, but nobody at Telecom is willing to tell me anything about it. I have some questions, not the least of which is, what does this mean for people who move house -- will they be at last allowed to keep their existing phone number? Will we finally have true number portability from an end-user perspective?

The whole number portability thing has ground to a halt while we wait on the new telecommunications commissioner. Boy, are they going to have a busy first week. Good luck to them, I say.

Brislen is IDGNet’s reporter. Send email to Paul Brislen. Send letters for publication in Computerworld to Computerworld Letters.

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