HOME Technology Dec 2011
Mobile networks ramp up

Data charges challenged

ďNew Zealand has already reached saturation point with 128 percent take up of mobile phones, including work and home phones across at least two networks plus tablet and laptop connections.Ē

New Zealandís cellular networks are being redefined as wireless broadband highways that can deliver instant access to the rich online media services being demanded by smartphones, tablets and other mobile devices.

Rather than voice and text it is social networking, sharing images, music and movies downloads, watching TV and videoconferencing that will drive this next wave of innovation.

Mobile network providers are already battling to attract and keep customers loyal through calling plans that link landline, cellular and internet access with special deals on devices, services and applications.

New Zealand has already reached saturation point with 128 percent take up of mobile phones, including work and home phones across at least two networks, machine-to-machine communication and tablet and laptop connections.

Research group IDCís June report shows Vodafone with 2.458 million connections, Telecom 2.095 million and 2degrees 745,000. The balance are mobile resellers, including CallPlus, Orcon and TelstraClear, who want to add value to their landline and internet customers.

Like 2degrees they are largely dependent on Telecom and Vodafone for national coverage. Although Telecom did lure CallPlus away from Vodafone with better data pricing, the big two wonít be giving too much away for fear of undermining their own customer base.

Cost of calls cut

Meanwhile the pressureís on to ensure New Zealanders get better mobile calling deals; for a start rates for terminating calls between networks will be gradually slashed until 2014.

High mobile data charges are also being challenged locally and governments on both sides of the ditch are formally investigating complaints of hundreds and even thousands of dollars for transTasman roaming.

Vodafone, Telecom and 2degrees have cut roaming data rates in recent months to well below $10 per Mb although some say this is far from ideal. Charges can be avoided by purchasing a local SIM card or using wi-fi hot spots.

Meantime mobile carriers must continue preparing for the inevitable mobile broadband onslaught.

From August 2012, Telecomís CDMA network will be no more. If your phone is older than two years youíll need a new phone and calling package for the transition to its XT network.

Telecomís Total Home package for example offers 29 cents a minute calls to landlines and mobiles, plus home line and 20Gb broadband internet for around $100.

Bridge to 4G

XT is a bridge to a new generation (LTE and 4G) network offering dazzling speeds (up to 100Mbit/sec) from  2014, opening the gates on a new era of mobile services including video conferencing, TV and a range of location-based and multimedia applications.

Handsets and mobile devices that can operate on LTE (long-term evolution) next generation cellular networks are already available.

Vodafone, Telecom, 2degrees, and possibly even UK-based Clear Mobitel, are planning to invest in the technology and radio spectrum to build these networks.  

And thereís already contention over the $100 million plus of 700MHz radio spectrum to be auctioned by the Government next year, and made available once analogue TV shuts down in 2013.

Maori owned Hautaki Trust, part owner of 2degrees, has ruffled Vodafoneís feathers by invoking the Treaty of Waitangi in order to get a discount.

Regardless the Government will want to ensure the process is fair to all parties who will need to co-operate at some level to ensure the maximum possible coverage.

And successful bidders will need deep pockets not only to obtain the frequencies but to purchase and install the towers and transmission equipment.

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