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Hard and Fast


NZ Housing Market: a copy of the UK?

By Antonios Karantze, in , posted: 18-Mar-2007 18:30

I don't consider myself a pessimist, or a cynic. Many people around me think I must be, because I have a habit of VERY rapidly deconstructing situations or ideas to their elements, and seeking the weak link.

15 years of commercial business life will do that to anyone; remember, in a capitalist world you are working for the good of the shareholder, which doesn't always marry with best technology (Costs more) or social benefits (cheap broadband! no profit but who cares anyway?).

I read in the Daily Telegraph (UK) online site that the House market is gridlocked:
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2007/03/17/nhouses17.xml&DCMP=EMC-new_17032007

and that supply is at it's lowest level for a very long time, leading to erratic and plain stupid behaviour by buyers. But it's also a vicious cycle; people aren't putting their house on the market for fear of not being able to buy the house they want. So they either buy a new one outright - further squeezing supply - and then put theirs on, or they don't buy altogether. Some folk I know in Kelburn did the former, and only put theirs up for sale once their new house was secure.

In NZ going the same way? We copy the UK in a great many areas, and I think housing is similar - supply is tight, prices just stupid, and erratic behaviour abounds. Ending in tears is easy to say, but look at other indicators:

- Personal bankruptcies are growing in NZ - current rate is 1 in 1258. Mind you in the states is 1 in 169.
- The Leaders and Tommys guides are the thinest I recall seeing them in the last 18 months (!)
- Only very poor or very pricey homes are available; the mid tier houses in the $400-700k bracket just aren't appearing

I find it funny when I read that house prices or values won't go down, or will gently deflate. So here's something to consider:

In 1992 the housing bubble in the UK popped nicely, and many people were forced into foreclosure or other horrible positions. The contagion spread to NZ, and I still clearly remember getting the latest valuations from Wellington City Council on my folks property; it had halved since the previous year (and of course, the rates had gone up for good measure).

There were other factors at work - a change in the valuation system for one - but it clearly demonstrated what an artificial nonsense house values really are.

The only truth - since civilised man emerged in Greece 5000 years ago, one of the true kings is CASH. Settle your debts. Put away for the future. Have a plan to be debt free that involves coming out cash positive! and remember that those writing the doom and wonder stories are just people, prone to following groupthink as much as the next person....





It's all a matter of confidence

By Antonios Karantze, in , posted: 18-Feb-2007 10:36

A few weeks ago, I watched an episode of the show 'Hustle' (http://www.bbc.co.uk/drama/hustle/) with my wife - although this had come out in the UK before we left, we only got a chance to watch it one night when everything went better than planned (the kids were in bed and asleep early!).

My wife remarked how the plot seemed to hinge so much on the confidence of the hustlers involved.

I started thinking about how this applies to the real world, and mostly so in business. Perhaps it's present for me because of recent work activities.

Typical teaching at school and university prescribes a sequence to go through when planning business development, namely; identify an opportunity; research the details; solicit your idea and gain buy-in; present a business case; proceed to market. 5 easy steps that anyone in the real world knows can take from a few minutes to NEVER (Your idea is the CEO's so Just Do It, to the whole business resisting change because it can).

I also standard thinking of the recent resignation of Telecom's CEO, T Gattung. This was a busy leader who was supremely confident, and had years of success (first at BNZ, then at TNZ) that reinforced the confidence. And it all came crashing down at the stroke of some angry politicians (admitedly, after they had been goaded into taking that position). Talk about a rough way of deflating your ego - but then, your confidence erodes dramatically and self-doubt sets in (it's inevitable, we are all human and just as afraid of failing as the next person).

It takes a certain type of person to have REALLY BAD DAYS, and then climb back up again and start building up that confidence. Taking denial rejection, rebellion and just plain old spoiled-brat behaviour, only to come back in and go at it again is a real strength, more than technical knowledge, connections or your ability to bully people.

I would love to know what infinite store people draw on to re-energise and keep coming in day after day, not only to try again but also to do it with enthusiasm and drive.

We all have bad days, some more than others. What do you use to 'get over it' and come back stronger than before?

Antonios
- Feb 2007



2007: the year of the challenger (again)

By Antonios Karantze, in , posted: 14-Jan-2007 20:15

About 10 years ago, a former GM of Marketing at my then employer (Telecom) made the prediction that toll revenue was going to disappear, and that a new competitor was being created every day. He also said the competition were coming over the hills in droves.

Promptly a bunch of cheap toll providers did appear, and they did start denting Telecom's revenue. It was enough to spur innovation in marketing and pricing, and created focus on the customer. Many customers appreciated the concept, some even switched, but most just waited for Telecom to come up with an offer and then took advantage of it. No swaps in billing, no arguments with another company, no clever technology to sort out.

For anyone who follows NZ telecom's, it's pretty obvious this year will see real marketing and general spend by the telco's, as they take advantage of the coming liberalisation of the copper network. Expect flashy campaigns, silly marketing offers, really bad business planning, and some truly interesting offers to be generated.

And for the first time, everyone who is a serious player will have their own network (of sorts) to use, rather than a mishmash of purely undiffirentiated wholesale versions of Telecom's products.

DSLAM manufacturers will do well - Alcatel more than most (Telecom NZ outsourced their fixed network to Alcatel some years ago, and the mobile network to Lucent. Now those 2 companies are merging to become Lucatel, they have most of TNZ's network business. Not the fibre network though.....).

NZ will become more educated in the language of VOIP and dual-play Voice+Internet offers. Every telco who chooses to go after voice revenue - or even protect what they've got - will have to invest and have a competing offer simply to stay in the game.

Telecom will begin upgrading it's the broadband backbone to gigabit ethernet, and eventually the connections to local nodes. Everything will become faster, although there will still be chicanery on International traffic because that costs real money, and telco's can face massive bills very quickly if they're not prudent.

I reckon now is a great time to work in NZ telecom's - enough people believe there is such a great opportunity  there will be investment (of a fashion) and marketing focus to 'go get sum'. Hustling over the phone and door to door will go up - you don't invest at this level on the hope consumers will call you. Expect articles in Fair Go and the news about dissatisfied conversions etc. But it will be a busy one, and many people will finish the year thoroughly burnt-out.

In the rush for the customer I expect many poor deals to be accepted. Ridiculous build and installation costs 'absorbed' to win business. Disruption and outages like never before - there will be some interesting situations - which means 2008 will probably be the year of the Hangover!

Are you ready for a good time?

- Antonios

PS: as my blog profile states clearly at the top, I work for TelstraClear



Callplus takes Wimax LARGE in NZ

By Antonios Karantze, in , posted: 8-Dec-2006 14:09

I'm gobsmacked:

http://www.nbr.co.nz/home/column_article.asp?id=16931&cid=3&cname=Technology

That is one truckload of money to invest in NZ. Siemens NZ and Alvarion will be having a party tonight!



Teamtalk takes 67% stake in Citylink

By Antonios Karantze, in , posted: 27-Nov-2006 05:27

http://www.stuff.co.nz/stuff/dailynews/0,2106,3877313a6405,00.html

Announced on a saturday afternoon, appears to have been missed by most commentators.

Loaded with $10m of new debt.

City went on an acquisition binge some months ago, fire-selling internet connections. seems to have stopped, but i wonder how long they will keep going for.

The cost of providing internet and wan connections keeps going up, but the margins just keep getting slimmer....



Back to the future - now here's a thought

By Antonios Karantze, in , posted: 20-Nov-2006 19:55

A few years ago Saturn Communications got pole access rights to string up cable around Auckland, but after having seen the outcry from Wellington and Christchurch residents - who hated the sight of the HFC cable on the poles - Auckland Council made a choice to not allow cable to be strung up.

A kick in the teeth for Saturn, a win for Telecom, and too bad for all those Aucklanders who were'nt quite so precious about the view from their bedroom.

Mind you, back in 2001 (when this decision was made) broadband barely existed, so most people wouldn't have known what they were missing out on.

Roll on 2006, and the great broadband debacle of NZ - also known as Full Speed, Unleashed or whatever else is next - and I wonder if Auckland residents are ready to revisit the choice of 5 years ago.After all, if the government can look at their 2003 decision to not unbundle, then change their mind, why not the Auckland councils?

Of course, this is the consultative age now, where every man and his dog can object to anybody doing anything (goodness only knows what will happen here if the equivalent of the British ASBO - Anti-Social Behavioural Order - is introduced), so it will take people power to get anything done.

Auckland is a tough market. A lot of the territory is volcanic, which makes it expensive to dig and hide wiring. It's also dense, meaning lots of people in a small area all wanting good service (which is a contributing factor to why DSL is so slow compared to rest of country).

So revisit the choice. With the benefit of hindsight. In light of new information. Having considered the alternatives. And it doesn't have to be TelstraClear (which now owns Saturn) - what about VodaHug, Callplus, Vector or anyone else?

If Auckland residents want decent broadband, then approach your telco, approach your council, organise and let your thoughts be known!

AK
- November 2006



You only know what you know

By Antonios Karantze, in , posted: 30-Oct-2006 18:00

Notice: I work for TelstraClear, but in the Business Markets space. This article covers residential services over which I have no influence. Really.

For the last few months I have been using the PDQ service from TelstraClear, first as a triallist (before it was launched) then after as a paying customer. I have only recently moved into my house in Wellington, and wanted to use ADSL to gain experience in the NZ broadband product. I was on the 3.5/128 service, and last Tuesday was moved to the Full Speed/128 product.

I've worked in the telecoms industry since 1993, and have taken a balanced view on market observations vs reality. I've been on the receiving end in Telecom as a Product Manager, and as a customer of Telecom when using their 'mobile' services. So I wasn't expecting a great deal of PDQ, given it's all resold Telecom anyway (except for the internet gateway), but the addition of a Clear email address to my vintage Xtra one (anyway remember the original XTR alias's?) was a goodie.

Telecom wasn't that bad (or that good!), and rhetoric was more prevalent than hard fact.

My speed on the 3.5mbps service was 2.2mbps on a good day - after the Full Speed migration, my average real service declined to about 1.1mbps - the best 'peak' speed I got was 2.2, ping times of 140ms, but overall it just felt lumpy and slow. It wasn't my internal wiring - that's all brand new - but the service. And all but unusable in the evening.

Today the Cable Guy came in and changed me over, after a long 3 hours, to TelstraClear.

I was shocked at the speed of Internet - on a 2/2mbps plan, my ping time is 25ms, and it's plainly obvious the speedtester would go faster if my profile was throttled. Not only that, but the responsiveness of my machine has improved - anyway who has used a mobile datacard (EVDO or GPRS or UMTS) will know how sludgy Windows becomes because of the slow network connection.

SO this really got me thinking about our situation here, and the lack of apparent progress in Internet access development. The industry parked it's a** waiting for unbundling - even my employer, who paused investment while they took stock of the regulatory development, however glacial (Now was definetly not good). So here we are, with an unbundled network. Everyone has access to full speed ADSL, on a network built for the days when Xtra was 33kbps dialup. The cost to Telecom to upgrade backhaul, upgrade exchanges, cabinets, kit.... it's a big bill. Lots of capital investment, real pressure on the dividend, list goes on.

So what to do in the meantime? Customer inertia being what it is, most people won't consider going through a change of provider. My experience was pretty painless, if a little disruptive. No more than a SKY dish being installed, but a lot less uglier to look at Undecided

So I'm pleased I moved. I'm pleased I took the opportunity to not wait for DSL to change, and for the industry to spend lots of $$ and 3 years to get to faster internet access. Most of NZ has no choice - but for those that do, it really is worth thinking about it. Not all solutions have to come from the government or Telecom.

This isnt a plug for my employer (sorry if it does sound like it). It's a plug for anyone who is working on providing alternatives to Telecom for Internet access. Size them up and consider giving it a go (Slingshot, Vodafone, The Loop and so on....). And give Telecom an opportunity to invest and surprise us all Foot in mouth



Mobile Broadband! Hurrah! just THINK....

By Antonios Karantze, in , posted: 12-Sep-2006 20:20

Ok, I've been told off by the boss for not driving this blog...

So, tonite I had the pleasure of attending the Vodafone launch event in Wellington, announcing the arrival of HSDPA in NZ. The 'network' is launched formally today (12 Sept 06), and hardware will be available 1st October 06.

This is entirely consistent with giving your channel time to train staff, get kit into warehouse, distribute etc. 1st of the month is a good time marketing wise to launch new things, in either the consumer or business market segments.

AKL, WLG or CHC 3g footprint - so wherever you get 3G now, you'll get HSDPA. It goes faster, you'll chew through your data cap (which won't move - it's still $49 for 1GB) faster, and life will be more exciting. The datacard will be a PCI-Express card, which I believe is the Sierra Wireless card. I have a lot of respect for the SW crowd, they were quite forward looking and focused on the data card market (the Voq smartphone is  relegated to the annals of history for 'challenged' products).

So my question is how mobile are you, and how much do you need to be?

Leave out mobile telco folk - such as me - who live on their mobile phone, blackberry and datacard. They have to - eating their own dogfood, as the expression goes. I love mobile - always have since i was 5 years old and grasped the original concept of RT's (which shows how old I really am) - and the promise of the technology.

My mobile (Nokia E61 today) for occasional voice is fine. Email now and then is good. But being 'free' and able to THINK about what I am doing, and how I can go forward (in my portfolio for TelstraClear, and personally with my life) is just so, well, REFRESHING.

It's so easy to claim you're busy. Don't have time to think. So many emails. yaddih yaddah. Bollocks I say - in those situations you're reacting, and probably making questionable calls. Yes there's times when you must react quickly, but in reality we love those reactive moments because we don't have to THINK hard about what we're doing.

Having to THINK about what you're doing, where you're going, and the consequences is far more frightening. People like to claim they don't understand - I don't buy that at all. We do understand - but we don't like what we understand. So we play thick, and life goes on.

I look forward to Mobile Broadband. It's a speed increase, things go faster and that's life. Back it whole-heartedly, this is how we move forward as a species, and it's fun to be involved in.

It's a useful tool. Will it revolutionise the country? nope. Available to the few who can afford it, a technology that doesn't like user density (that's many users in a small area, not user intelligence!), it makes life nicer for email and browsing. It won't change my workload - way too much to solve, way too little time.

But I look forward to playing with new toys - it compliments my broadband well!



TelstraClear announces entry in NZ Mobile market

By Antonios Karantze, in , posted: 19-Jul-2006 18:35



Breaking news: Unbundled Local Loop for New Zealand

By Antonios Karantze, in , posted: 3-May-2006 19:47

The government's hand has been tipped, and they have been forced to reveal that the Local Loop will be unbundled.

So what does this mean?

Expect a lot of rhetoric. It's bad for the country. The competition will rely on regulation rather than invest in new technology.

Hmmm.

Whatever we take it to mean, one thing is does mean is that won't be that easy.

ULL gives me access to a network of copper in various grades of condition, from average to really sucky. It will take at least 6 months to implement a new model for the companies to work together, another 6-12 months to implement technology and interconnection points, and so on.

Who says Telecom will be in a hurry to deliver this?

The reality: it's nice to have the copper available at wholesale pricepoint. For the likes of callplus and the other small players it's another way forward. But the reality is that the network still belongs to Telecom, and it will be Telecom that delivers the interconnection model, the staff and the technology to do so. An 'accounting' seperation will need to be

Far better for the bigger operators (Voda and TelstraClear) to focus on what they do: sales onnet. ULL is a distraction at best - certainly a visible distraction - and will only continue to muddy the waters.

What I'd like to know is, how are we going to grow this country and get MORE PEOPLE HERE? 4m people on which 1 uber, 2 major and umpteen minor carriers rely on. I think we're missing the bigger picture here.

UPDATE: David Cunliffe on Campbell saying Telecom forced it.  



antoniosk's profile

Antonios Karantze
Wellington
New Zealand


I'm a born and bred Wellingtonian, and have chosen IT and Telecommunications as my industry, as a Commercial Manager.

Credits include but are not limited to:
- The O2 Xda smartphone range, and O2's range of 3G Mobile Internet services
- Numerous TelstraClear Mobile and IP voice products

In my journey through the industry I have worked at
- Bellsouth NZ
- Telecom NZ
- ICO Global
- T-Mobile International (formerly One2One Communications)
- O2 Plc
- TelstraClear
- Vodafone NZ

I'm a fan of technology, and what it can do for people and business... and I enjoy bringing new things to market and seeing them grow. Enjoy the blog, take the time to think about what I write - it's not technology heavy, and is my reflection on life and the people around me.