For some time now, I've been working through in my mind how the NZ market will change as a result of UFB. In this case, UFB being used as a proxy word for a high-quality, widely available and reliable carriage network for data service - Voice, Video, Internet, Connection - and not the grand project being sponsored by Government. The closest to this definition NZ has had is the TelstraClear cable network in Kapiti, Wellington and Christchurch (not exactly 'widely' available), and to a lesser degree the fibre network FX Networks have been aggressively pushing out until recently (mainly supplied to high value Business and Wholesale customers, with some residential connections).
I've been doing this, because top of my mind is how the service experience will change for all consumers. The old concept of a phone 'master socket' on which sat your telephone, and possibly a broadband connection in another room near the computer, becomes one where everyone will have at least ONE router-like device - complete with detached power brick of a sort - to which your phone and other widgets must connect. I recently wrote an article about this in November, when I had the opportunity to upgrade the electrical wiring in the house, and chose instead to go the wireless route. Much of the comment I got was how useless wireless is for streaming 1080p content, which I find funny as even as recently as 3 years ago it would not have been easy to get even 100mbps around the house before 802.11n came out. For the 100mbps trial I was on last year, equipment was required to go that fast across a wide range of devices.
All of this really got me thinking about the absolutely fundamental role CPE - Premises Equipment - plays in getting a good quality experience. CPE is a jargon term the telco industry uses for the kit you use at your place - either on loan (like T-Box, Sky Box, Cable Modems), sold or given to you (so many DSL modems) or independently purchased (Apple Extreme wifi routers). All have to connect and support what you want to do. It's here that your opinion is ultimately formed on how good or bad something is, and the level of support you get in resolution and stability.
The mobile world has been set alight by Samsung's decision to not release Android 4.0 for anything other than their most recent devices - the Galaxy S2 but not the original - for basic performance reasons. Galaxy S doesn't have the technical chops for the job - but I suspect it's more to do with the burden of future support. For those with long memories, when Apple released iOS4 for the older iPhone 3 and 3GS, the iPhone3 ran so slow it appeared to stop. It was a mistake to release for that device, but I guess folks didn't want to make a large part of the base feel unloved. Unfortunately the software was so rubbish, the base DID feel unloved.
Such is the march of technology - been here before with Windows, where each release requires a machine with 4x the power of what you have now just to look and feel ok. Except of course, for most people a PC isn't that personal, and very few people actually upgrade a PC with a new OS, preferring a new PC - something which is trickier with mobiles, which are usually tied to 2-year carrier contracts.
In a world where fibre comes from Chorus and has uniform performance - and will usually cost from $40/month before performance, CPI and other 'innovations' start increasing the monthly cost - how does a service provider differentiate themselves?
Internet pricing - well, more web things are going 'unmetered', and pricing continues to drop to the point where a monthly price approaches a flat monthly fee.
Voice pricing - how much lower can these get across fixed and mobile? people don't talk much these days - they use the Internet, and so many phones have onboard WIFI that they can auto-switch to your home wireless and not use the pricy 'mobile data' rates.
That leaves what you are going to use these cool new things for. The CPE you attach and your interaction with it and the fundamental importance not only of getting stuff out, but supporting it, debugging it and improving it.
It's what your mobile device will or already connects to via WIFI. It's what your PC, your PS3 or Xbox will connect to, it's where your computer and probably your TV will connect to. The CPE that is your 'gateway' to the world.
Orcon found this out with the 'Genius' - Geekzone has numerous threads of complaint from non-working services, to services working a different way, to disappointment at the kit not being man enough to do more. The noise appears to be going down but it's still happening. TelstraClear T-Box has taken a very long time to go from functional to mostly stable and even then there are random pockets where the experience isn't acceptable. I have no knowledge on Vodafone's 'EasyOffice' - although I expect for some it's been anything but Easy - and for many customers on UCLL in general, they probably aren't getting the best they could (See Mr Biddle's excellent article here). I still see people lodging basic comments on not knowing which type of modem to get for DSL, how to configure basic settings for wireless access as well as locking down the firewall - and it's 2012, 6 years after the NZ broadband market heated up.
CPE support - and how it works with the service providers - has to change, and it has to do so for the whole market. What this means is that support has to cover the ubergeeks - those who rip and replace software on devices with their own (a bit like car enthusiasts changing the engine of a car to get better performance - which means you're off the grid for support), to geeks (those who fiddle at the edges and go for minor enhancements here and there), to disinterested users (the bulk of the country), to completely uninterested users (for example, those still using the CDMA phone they purchased in 2003 and won't upgrade until the network is off.).
Support as the next big thing that will emerge very quickly when the first fibre connections are made, and people suddenly REALLY discover what UFB means.
And I think only Apple is even remotely in a position to be able to talk to the public at large with ready, friendly solutions.
Other related posts:
2Degrees prepay price change
Consolidation (“and then there were fewer”)
Introducing the Hot New Social Network (updated!)
Comment by wasabi2k, on 5-Jan-2012 10:11
How is Apple is any better position to provide user friendly CPE than any other vendor?
Apple shine with a complete user experience because they control the entire ecosystem, hardware, software, 3rd party apps.
Throw in some variety and they (like any other vendor) are totally screwed. How can you provide a 100% consistent user experience while introducing choice?
Wireless vs Wired, various speeds, various technologies for delivery, various service offerings (phone, IPTV, broadband). Don't forget the providers will want their own branding.
In the end I suspect we will be back where are now - what equipment you get depends entirely on who you go with, as does your experience.
Comment by andrew sneddon, on 5-Jun-2012 00:57
telstraclear has just sent me a bill for $1059.00 for just over 2 GB of data sent to my mobile can they be for real
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