The quiet achiever

A year ago Siemens began replacing Telecom's core broadband network. Quietly, with no publicity. That's often the Siemens way, despite the fact that the multinational giant is number five in the world in electronics, telecommunications and electrical engineering. A week ago it revealed its telecommunications plans for New Zealand, announcing commercial acceptance of the first phase of the multimillion-dollar project to coincide with the opening of offices in Wellington.

A year ago Siemens began replacing Telecom’s core broadband network. Quietly, with no publicity. That’s often the Siemens way, despite the fact that the multinational giant is number five in the world in electronics, telecommunications and electrical engineering.

A week ago it revealed its telecommunications plans for New Zealand, announcing commercial acceptance of the first phase of the multimillion-dollar project to coincide with the opening of offices in Wellington. The offices have been set up mainly to service the relationship with Telecom, which is likely to expand markedly.

“We’re working on add-on projects,” says Ockert van Zyl, Australasian executive director for telecommunication. “We’ll also work with their customers.”

Siemens will enter the customer premises equipment market, particuarly in the PABX area, and it will also offer its range of cellphones - it has the first colour-screen cellphone.

Sharing the offices is Canadian company Netbridge, with which Siemens formed a worldwide partnership 18 months ago. Netbridge is also partnering in the Telecom project, which delivers an ATM (asynchronous transfer mode) network. Add ons will include an IP network for ISPs and a frame relay service which, van Zyl says, will be a replacement for Netway’s network over time.

“Telecom will merge all its data services on to the new network,” he says. “The cost has been under $10 million on the part so far delivered.”

Siemens is particularly strong worldwide in the delivery of ATM. It is also a significant player in xDSL (digital subscriber line), though not with Telecom, which is conducting independent trials.

“We concentrate in the first instance on core infrastructure,” van Zyl says. “Access technologies are important but they change over time - perhaps every three years.”

He says Siemens is doing no significant business with the other telcos in New Zealand, though it is not precluded from doing so by its contract with Telecom. However, the company is a major supplier to Telstra in Australia and thus, indirectly, to Telstra New Zealand.

“Our view of the future is that we will partner with suppliers and their customers.”

The new ATM network is a scalable architecture in gigabit speeds. “It depends on customer demand. The whole future will depend on building strong architectures to support IP.”

The relationship with Newbridge also includes 3Com. The partners plan to offer a complete solution of core networks and access, with 3Com providing desktop product. “We make sure they are compatible,” van Zyl says.

The importance of the Internet will lead to an e-commerce revolution, he says. “It will impact on everything, including legislation, sovereignty with regard to taxation, and infrastructure.

“Currently, the world is using only 1% of the theoretical bandwidth of optical fibre.”

The new UTMS standard for mobile will be “very big”. UTMS cuts across both European and US standards and will allow 2M/bit on to a phone. Van Zyl says wireless is going to be a big part of access technologies.

Siemens, which began business in 1847, has links with New Zealand dating back to 1876 when it installed a then state-of-the-art navigational aid in Lyttleton.

In recent times it has been particularly active in the electricity field. It has built a turnkey 400Mw combined cycle power station for Contact Energy at Otahuhu; provided a 29MVA generator for the Mangahao power station, as well as transformers and windings for the DC transmission link between the North and South Islands; provided circuit breakers for TransPower’s 220Kv and 66Kv systems; and the electronic components for exporting manufacturers such as Tait Electronics and Swichtec.

Electrical sub-systems manufactured in New Zealand are part of a $226 million sub-contract for the design and manufacture of the electrical and electronic systems for the ANZAC frigates.

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