Voyager cuts rates up to 50% to head off Xtra

A new frequent user programme which cuts hourly charges by up to 50% is the leading edge of Voyager's strategy for staying in the national Internet access market in the wake of Telecom Xtra's launch.

Only Voyager customers in its node centres--the four main centres, Hamilton, Napier, Nelson, New Plymouth, Palmerston North, Rotorua, Taupo and Tauranga--are eligible for the scheme, which gives 10 hours of Internet access for $55 and additional hours at $4.95. This makes it almost identical to Xtra's Discovery Plan

The shift from 0800 access to locally-called nodes is clearly crucial if the company is to compete with Xtra on price. Voyager has 13 local nodes now, with Ashburton, Kaikohe, Kaitaia, Gisborne, Putaruru, Levin, Greymouth, Hawera, Warkworth and Whangarei to follow by November.

A new pricing schedule will be announced on June 15, after Voyager New Zealand's head, John OHara, has returned from the US. He is thought to be on business relating to Voager's 80% parent OzEmails US stock exchange float.

A week later, the company will be holding an open day at its Glenfield, Auckland head office to celebrate "our recent network upgrade and expansion and to mark the milestone of welcoming our 10,000th customer". It is unclear whether the 10,000 figure refers to Voyager's own definition of an active customer--anyone who logged on in the last three months--or is the total number of people to try the free Voyager software.

The company is owning up to a few hitches in the transition from Clear to Telecom for network services, but says greatly improved capacity to its head office and a new trans-Tasman link provided by Telstra have markedly improved download speed for subscribers.

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