APEC puts pressure on telco rivals to bury the hatchet

The telecommunications needs of next year's APEC event are likely to be beyond the ability of one telco to deliver and will necessitate cooperation among the major providers, organisers suggest. Jamie Tevendale, New Zealand IT director for the APEC conference, says if the telecommunications companies can't work together it could be a disaster for New Zealand.

The telecommunications needs of next year’s APEC event are likely to be beyond the ability of one telco to deliver and will necessitate cooperation among the major providers, organisers suggest.

Jamie Tevendale, New Zealand IT director for the APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation) conference, says if the telecommunications companies can't work together it could be a disaster for New Zealand.

Tevendale says it is easy to underestimate the size of the event and its huge telecommunications and IT requirements.

“The magnitude of the APEC event is something we’re coming to terms with — it’s humongous. The Canadians last year produced 2.5 million pages of paper. They accredited about 25,000 people over the course of their meetings, so in terms of management it’s a colossal thing.”

Tevendale says that from an IT and telecommunications point of view it’s likely the event will require the resources of all telecommunications providers in New Zealand.

“What we hope is that they’re going to be of a mindset that’s going to allow them to come together and put aside commercial rivalry to provide the best service that we can offer.”

“If they fail, we fail, New Zealand fails and the world will see. We’re expecting between 2000 and 3000 media to front for the leaders’ meeting. The leaders meeting is only two or three days in September — but during that period there’s going to be a huge number of people streaming into Auckland. If we can’t organise the facilities they will require New Zealand is going to look kind of silly.”

He says the telecommunications companies so far seem to be accepting this point. Registrations of interest are currently being sought from telecomms providers.

A Telecom spokeswoman says the company is not yet in a position to comment and is still finalising plans. A BellSouth spokesman says the company has been involved in discussions with APEC organisers and feels it can fill a valuable role, especially given the obvious need for secure communications, which its GSM network can offer.

Although the focus of APEC is often on the leaders’ meeting (being held in Auckland in September next year), the event actually involves a series of meetings from February in different parts of New Zealand, and these have many other events surrounding them.

Tevendale says APEC is going to need “lots and lots and lots” of landlines.

“The media centre in the Aotea Centre is going to require hundreds of lines and then we’re going to need a lot of cellphones. There will be about 7000 delegates and an awful lot for them are going to want cellphones for a while.”

He emphasises that the cellphones won’t be paid for out of New Zealand taxpayers’ coffers. “We’ll probably organise something that says if you want a cellphone here’s a list of the people who can provide you with one.”

Another requirement will be for hundreds of radios. A large number of those will be for the police, although that is something they will organise themselves.

He says issues such as spectrum are being looked at and when a contractor is appointed, much of the detail about what type of radios and how many frequencies are needed will be decided.

Tevendale says that on the IT side, the limited time frame means a conference management package of some sort is needed. “It’s going to be responsible for management of anybody who is going to have anything to do with the conference.”

He says organisers are continuing to scan the market for appropriate software until they find something which will do the job. He is also hoping to use electronic registration via the Internet for delegates and overseas media to register online.

Tevendale points out that there’s a large body of experience and expertise in the management of such events within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, from the running of Chogm (Commonwealth Heads Of Government Meeting) and similar sorts of events. Some of the APEC taskforce people, including the director, attended APEC in Vancouver and some will also attend some of the events this year in Kuala Lumpur.

Tevendale says it’s the biggest event that has ever happened in this country and the biggest political meeting in the world. “This is going to be a big enough cake to chop up so everybody makes something from it.”

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