0800 row flushes out IP network plan

The much-rumoured Telecom IP network has been flushed out by Voyager's very public abandonment of Telecom 0800 services.

The much-rumoured Telecom IP network has been flushed out by Voyager’s very public abandonment of Telecom 0800 services.

Following what seems to have been a successful act of brinksmanship by Voyager, the two parties met last Friday to canvass the idea of some kind of national IP network being launched next year--and also a short-term 0800 pricing offer to Voyager in the interim.

A long dispute over what Voyager maintains is predatory pricing for 0800 Internet access by Telecom Xtra came to a head on Tuesday last week, when Voyager announced it would no longer offer the 0800 access it had pioneered because, according to MD John O’Hara, “we are being forced out of the market by our own major supplier ... While conceding it could reduce our prices, Telecom has steadfastly refused to do so.”

Telecom financial controller Jeff White responded that he had been “preparing a fax confirming” just such an offer. He was “very disappointed that Voyager acted so precipitately”.

O’Hara says that White had promised to deliver an offer several times and had been given a final deadline of 5pm last Monday. At noon the following day, having received no communication, Voyager announced it was withdrawing from the 0800 Internet market, leaving Xtra as the only major provider of the service.

White maintains Australian-based Voyager board member David Spence had given him a week to deliver an offer and regretted the “inconvenience” caused to its 0800 customers.

O’Hara says his company has received more than 200 email messages of support from inconvenienced customers since its decision.

“Some of them have requested the email addresses of Maurice Williamson, Rod Deane, Chris Tyler and the Commerce Commission and have expressed a strong desire to make contact with those individuals. One of my business customers has also moved all his company’s toll business to Clear in protest.”

O’Hara says Xtra, which charges the same $4.95 an hour rate as Voyager was, is losing “more than $1 million a month” on 0800 access. He dismisses any distinction between Telecom and its “Internet brand”, saying “Telecom retails its Internet product to its own customers for $4.95 an hour. This price includes 0800 access, Internet access and technical support. At the same time Telecom requires Voyager to pay $5.95 an hour for the 0800 component alone.”

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