Geekzone readers were asked to submit questions to Cecil Alexander, CEO, WorldxChange, and we now publish the answers to those questions
Born in the United States, Cecil Alexander came to New Zealand in 1993. Since leaving the US Air Force in 1987, he has held a number of technical, sales and sales management roles in the telecommunications and network integration markets both here and in the United States.
With 25 years of Telco experience, he brings both commercial and technical leadership to his current role as CEO of WorldxChange Communications.
WorldxChange won the TUANZ Carrier of the Year Innovation Award in 2007. The company’s goal is to continue to lead the market in IP Communications for both the consumer and commercial sectors.
1.Is naked DSL and VoIP mature enough that you would recommend it to your mother-in-law?
Yes. In fact Paul Clarkin’s (Director Operations) mother runs a small business in the Waikato and she relies on Xnet Fusion to manage her telecommunications both at work and at home. She likes the fact that VFX gives her PABX/Centrex like functionality without the cost and she can manage it herself.
2.What steps is WorldXChange taking to improving ISP-to-ISP peering?
The WxC policy is to peer directly or via peering exchanges with all parties. Unfortunately there are carriers who do not have the same policy. It’s not a matter of taking steps to improving peering, it is a decision made by each company. Some of them feel that their market share is great enough to ignore sensible interconnection.
3.As a customer, I need to have four separate log-ins to get to various different places your website (My Account, Viewbill Portal, My VFX, and Webmail). Does WorldxChange have any plans to rationalise its web presence so that customers only need to log in once, and from there they can simply click links to get to the required place?
Yes we do and this is being built as I type. We are aiming for a Q4 2008 launch. However, single logins that give full authorisation to different network components and management systems have intrinsic security issues that need to be worked through in order to maintain the integrity of the WxC core and the privacy of our subscribers.
4.What are WorldxChange's plans around peering with content providers. I am keen to see more announcements like that with gameplanet.co.nz that sees Xnet customers getting unmetered access to content. Of particular interest to me is access to things like the new Sky video on demand service, and future services that might appear from media companies like TVNZ or video chains such as Blockbuster.
We are keen too! If content providers are willing to host their platforms within our network or connect directly to us and the commercials suit all parties, then Xnet will gladly support their media and content.
In reading the Geekzone threads, I sometimes get the impression that folks think that the entire cost of delivering service is based on what ISPs pay for the access circuit and for International capacity. The millions of dollars that go into the actual network core and the people and systems that run them seem to be left off of the calculations.
While I appreciate that you all want more for free, the cost associated with such service delivery will have to be shared between the content providers, Xnet and those of you who want access to these services.
5.Does WXC have any plans to install their own gear in Telecom exchanges like Orcon and Vodafone?
No – It is very expensive and (in my view) commercially non-viable unless we can saturate all unbundled exchanges. If we did put our own gear in the exchanges it would result in some stranded assets when the cabinetisation program is complete and Telecom exchanges that house that hardware disappear over the next ten years. Other carriers are making that investment and where it makes sense, we may engage them to lease access as an alternative to Telecom.
6.Does WorldxChange have any plans to develop their network to allow the use of of softphones directly from a PC, without the need for Asterix/Trixbox?
Yes; but network security and the potential for fraud are major concerns with softphones. We are working through the mechanics of how we can satisfy customer demand while again protecting our network and your accounts from fraud.
Xnet VFX already has a very functional product in the CommPilot that was released along with the Advanced feature set recently which does add some “soft features”. Personally, I have been trialling a soft phone for voice and video calling while travelling and it works well. Visit http://www.xnet.co.nz/vfx/advanced to see what else the VFX Advanced Feature set offers.
7.The peak time slow down has been an issue for most of this year, pretty much since the launch of Fusion. Although these speeds have improved recently, I guess mainly due to the release of Torrent plans, peak time speed is still nothing like we used to get with Xnet. What are the long term plans for International data capacity? It doesn't really matter what tricks are played to "manage" data, the amount of data consumed is going to continue to grow, and not just due to p2p, more and more media content is being streamed daily.
The simple fact is that international bandwidth costs real money and most Internet users either don't understand this fact or else simply expect everything to be free.
We can either install deep packet inspection hardware that will reduce our bandwidth requirements by restricting the bandwidth of certain packet types or else we can let all users contend equally for the available bandwidth.
We have chosen the latter at this stage and by offering a plan that motivates large P2P user to change their usage patterns; we have managed to make better use of our bandwidth.
Of course, we could always charge $5 per GB and double the existing bandwidth allocation but that wouldn’t be acceptable to subscribers. Some ISPs have opted for the deep packet inspection method or simply can’t afford additional International capacity. One need only visit their forums to see the issues that are faced by all service providers.
To give you a sense of what ISPs face, I was just analysing WxC’s fixed access costs. Connectivity to support our Internet products represents nearly 50% of our overall circuit purchases yet the revenue generated represents less than 20% of our monthly income at much lower margins than the other telecommunications services that WxC provide to New Zealanders.
The roads are full of pot holes, the mobile networks have more dead spots than a cemetery and even if you have health insurance, you can’t be guaranteed quality service. But it is the Internet that attracts the most gripes about service and performance.
Why? Because the mechanism for complaining is the same as the service itself. I wish we could jump out of our cars with a piece of chalk and circle a pot hole and expect it to be repaired the next time we came through. The road works folks have a limited amount of people and funds to keep traffic moving on the roads. The same goes for ISPs.
We will continue to invest in International capacity and equipment and super smart technicians to optimise the service will maintaining the best possible service at the best possible price.
8.Are there plans for domain and web hosting, mobile phone, 0800 number porting?
Yes, yes, yes and yes.
9.There has been some comments recently around the account suspension correspondence from some XNet customers. How does WorldxChange validate the party sending the cease and desist email is valid and not someone sending the email as a joke or prank? And how does WorldxChange manage customers who may dispute the email, or who have had their internet connection hijacked due to unsecure wireless, or have unsupervised minors up to no good?
Oh yes; the question that I’ve been looking forward to most. The legislature on the subject still requires clarification. Of that there is no doubt but my understanding is that if we were operating to the letter of the law, we would be required to suspend a customer on their first offence.
In reality; I fail to understand why the ISPs have been made responsible for the adjudicating the issue full stop. When a boy racer exceeds the speed limit and runs over someone, do we make it the responsibility of the Minister of Transportation or company that laid the road? No, it is between the boy racer and the courts.
In my opinion, it should be between the aggrieved party that feels that someone has stolen their property and the person accused.
That said, life is never that simple and we have an obligation to all of our customers; not just those that do not agree that media/content is as much another person or company’s property as is the TV on which you might watch it, is your property.
Xnet is not prepared to take any risks on the matter and with the low margins Internet services provide, I am certainly not willing to cop any fines because of the choices made by a few people. Our views on the matter have been outlined in several Geekzone threads and have not changed.
To the question of validating the cease and desist order. It would take a pretty elaborate prankster to be able to send the order and identify the content that the subscriber downloaded, the size of the file and exactly when they downloaded the media. The agencies that we accept reports from always identify themselves, the media/content downloaded and a time stamp with associated IP address.
I am unaware of any instances Xnet have processed invalid orders and we always give the report we receive to the subscriber affording them the opportunity to dispute it. We receive many more orders than we actually action because spam style stuff does hit us now and then.
On the issue of customers having their Internet connection “hijacked” due to un-secure wireless or unsupervised minors up to no good; ARE YOU KIDDING ME? The security of one’s wireless connection is their responsibility. We are not responsible if you leave your house unlocked or if you forget to turn on your alarm; are we? The onus for managing access and supervision of my PC and wireless connection is mine alone. Not my ISP’s. Xnet Technical Support are always glad to offer advice to secure your PC or wireless device.
Now then, all activity in relation to cease and desist email is conducted by the Technical Response managers. They are in communication with all affected subscribers and regularly give them the benefit of the doubt. We have breached the legislation on many occasions by allowing customers to carry on with the service after discussing the issues with them.
The folks who have complained on the Geekzone threads have had every opportunity to dispute and discuss their suspensions with Xnet Management prior to being suspended. They generally leave that part out of their threads.
On other notes I see that you asked the other CEOs what they drive. I drive a 2004 Jeep and can’t afford anything better because all of our profits go toward trying to give you the best possible service at the best possible price.
I thought that this might also be a good forum to comment on the occasional complaints regarding Tech Support wait times. We have been reviewing statistics on all calls into the centre. You may be interested to know that 57- 60% of the calls in any given month relate to helping customers fix their own equipment/PC setups and that the average call takes ten minutes.
That is over 1300, ten minute calls per month or 216 hours we spend offering free technical advice when the problem do not lie with Xnet. In fact, I have seen threads where Geekzone subscribers start out blaming Xnet for problems and ultimately find the issue in their own home while at the same time complaining about wait times.
We do not mind providing the free advice but I am beginning to wonder if it is a good thing considering that the same people asking for the help are loading the call queues and then complaining about how long they have to wait for a technician.