ECONZ down but not out

One of New Zealand's oldest IT firms has been forced to lay off 17 staff because potential customers are waiting for Telecom and Vodafone to launch their high-speed wireless data services.

One of New Zealand’s oldest IT firms has been forced to lay off 17 staff because potential customers are waiting for Telecom and Vodafone to launch their high-speed wireless data services.

Econz started life 30 years ago as a designer of interfacing for laboratory and machine tools and other “specialist communications” scenarios. The company has been specialising “more and more” in the wireless data area since the 1980s, says managing director Roly Rogers.

The company, says Rogers, usually pitches its services to three or four key contracts in a year “usually worth between $1 million and $5 million” however once its existing contracts are completed it has no new work on the horizon.

“What with Telecom and Vodafone about to launch their full-speed services, many companies that would normally be looking to work with us now are waiting until they see the new services...

“I’m hoping we will find enough business to see us through to the first quarter next year but I won’t be extending the bank overdraft or getting us any more into debt to see us through. That won’t happen,” says Rogers.

Econz is looking at small to medium-sized enterprise (SME) business and is holding talks with two Australian companies about offshore work. "And of course we’ve had to reduce our staff to 33.”

Rogers says he is also considering entering into a strategic partnership with another company.

He says he is confident the first quarter of next year will see a number of contracts on offer and as the country’s “number one wireless data” company he would expect Econz to be a serious competitor for those contracts.

Both Telecom and Vodafone have introduced so-called 2.5G networks, CDMA and GPRS respectively. Currently neither network is offering a full-speed service, but both plan to do so by the first quarter next year. The networks should run at around 140 to 150Kbit/s.

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