Digital TV isn't new to New Zealand - Sky TV began digital broadcasts in the late 90's and Freeview launched in 2007 offering a digital platform for existing Free To Air (FTA) broadcasters using a DVB-S (satellite) platform to offer nationwide coverage to any home with a satellite dish, and in 2008 launched a DVB-T (terrestrial) network that works with a UHF TV aerial and will offer coverage to 87% of the population by the end of July. In September 2012 New Zealand begins what is arguably the most significant change to TV broadcasting in New Zealand since TV broadcasts began in 1960 - the shutdown of these analogue TV broadcasts leaving NZ with a 100% digital broadcast platform. This process is known as Analogue Shut Off (ASO) or Digital Switchover (DSO). By the end of 2013 when this process is complete and all analogue TV broadcasts are discontinued, every TV in the country that is not equipped with an integrated digital tuner for Freeview, an an external Set Top Box (STB) for Freeview, Sky or TelstraClear will be unable to pick up any TV broadcasts. It also means that every VCR or DVD recorder in the country will also be unable to record any TV broadcasts unless connected to an external Freeview, Sky or TelstraClear STB. Despite the dates for switchover being announced earlier this year, an official announcement was made on Friday marking the launch of a new www.goingdigital.co.nz campaign to educate people about this important milestone.
Current statistics show that close to 80% of homes are currently accessing digital TV. What these surveys don't ask however is whether every TV on the premises is currently accessing TV using a digital platform. Somebody who has Sky hooked up to their new 50" Plasma in their lounge is counted in these statistics as being a digital customer, even if the TV in the bedroom is only tuned into an analogue signal. The total number of TV's that are accessing analogue broadcasts is still very significant, and every device that has a tuner in it will require to be replaced or connected to a STB for it to continue working once the analogue broadcasts are shut off. What is readily apparent is that there are a large number of people unaware that analogue TV broadcasts will be shut off, and that their TV's will suddenly be incapable of displaying anything unless they purchase a digital STB for it. While advertising campaigns have started advising of the digital switch over, educating people about the implications of this will take time.
Of great concern to me however, is the behaviour of some of New Zealand's largest retailers continuing to sell products that do not feature a digital tuner, meaning they will be incapable of functioning in a little over a year without additional cost to the consumers.
Several weeks Harvey Norman had TV advertising for a Visio 19" LCD TV for $249. "Great for the bedroom" boasted the voiceover message. This TV features no integrated Freeview tuner and is only capable of tuning in analogue broadcasts. Anybody buying one of these TV's for their bedroom and relying on analogue broadcasts will find that that once analogue broadcasts cease that their TV will be unusable unless an external STB is connected to it. Harvey Norman aren't the only ones guilty of this - a quick glance at The Warehouse and DSE mailers show they are also selling a large number of TV's with no integrated digital tuner.
This poses a question - are these retailers blatantly misleading their customers by selling products that will not be able to perform it's primary purpose (watching TV) starting in 15 months time unless the customer spends more money to purchase a STB to allow this TV to continue to operate? I personally think they are. A quick survey by of these retailers on the weekend inquiring about these products shows that they're doing nothing to educate and inform their customers that the product they're about to purchase will be unusable unless connected to a STB at additional cost to the consumer.
In my opinion every retailer in New Zealand selling a TV or DVD recorder without an integrated Freeview tuner should be forced to display Point of Sale material warning of the limitations of the product, and the same material should also included with the product. Selling a TV or DVD recorder that will in effect be obsolete, without clearly advising customers of this is in my opinion, completely unethical.
So my challenge to retailers - what are you going to do about this? What steps will you take to educate customers? What will you do when a customer brings their Visio TV back in 15 months time and says it no longer works?
If you're a consumer who's recently purchased a TV from one of these retailers that doesn't feature a digital tuner and were unaware that it will require additional hardware and costs to operate in a little over a year, what do you think?
Your thoughts on this issue are welcome.
* Image of switch off dates is from www.goingdigital.co.nz
This morning I awoke to the sound of Radio NZ news in attack mode launching a full on hatchet job on Mastercard. What had Mastercard done that was so bad? Well nothing. Nothing at all.
In November last year (1) the consortium of ANZ, EFTPOS NZ and MasterCard announced the launch of MasterCard PayPass in New Zealand. PayPass is a Near Field Communication(NFC) capable card (think "Snapper card") and enables payment for goods without having to use the magnetic stripe or chip on your card. No PIN number is required for low value purchases, which means the transaction times are super quick, typically somewhere in the vicinity of 300ms - 500ms depending on the volume of data that is transferred. Part of the announcement was that PayPass terminals would be installed at Eden Park and Westpac stadium in time for the Rugby World Cup. Despite the deal to launch NFC terminals in stadia for the RWC now being over four months old, Radio NZ thought they were onto a winner, boldly claiming that RWC patrons would "have to have to use cash or buy a new Mastercard prepaid card" for purchases during an game. I'm sorry Radio NZ, what was the news again? It's obviously a slow news day when your lead story is a rehashed four month old story that does nothing but spread FUD. I guess impartiality wasn't in the vocabulary today.
Radio NZ then called upon Massey University senior lecturer in banking Claire Matthews to comment "New Zealanders have taken to eftpos with such delight and make such great use of it, that to try and persuade them to use something else which doesn't offer any significantly better convenience or efficiency - there's simply not the argument for them to use it.". About now might have been a good time to do what a journalist does well and ask a question, such as " why do we not have EFTPOS in stadia today?".
Here in New Zealand today if you attend an event at a major stadium you'll find it's still very much cash environment. Despite our love for EFTPOS it's not commonly found. Why not you ask? The simple answer is that the transaction times are considered to be too slow and will create bottlenecks. This is a view that is certainly open to argument, with the average time for an EFTPOS transaction being in the vicinity of 15 seconds. Regardless of whether or not you think that's a problem it's an issue we just have to accept - and have done, as the lack of EFTPOS terminals at most major events will be readily apparent to anybody who regularly attends. Instead of handing over their plastic at the till, people either bring cash, or queue at ATM's inside the stadium and pay for their hotdogs and beer with cold, hard cash.
One interesting piece of history for buffs is that when the Westpac Stadium in Wellington was opened in 2000 it featured Visa Cash terminals at every kiosk. Visa Cash was a prepaid chip card that required no PIN or signature, however the hardware was withdrawn after the Visa Cash product failed to gain traction in the global marketplace, and was replaced by trials of NFC cards that began around the same time.
Here in New Zealand ANZ bank have been issuing NFC based MasterCard cards since mid 2010 and launched these officially in November 2010. A growing number of retailers now feature NFC capable EFTPOS terminals, and if you stand at a McDonalds store for long enough you will see probably see somebody using one. While not commonplace yet in the New Zealand market, the Australian market now has 5.3 million PayPass cards, and over 35,000 retail locations with PayPass enabled terminals. By October 2012 all Mastercard cards issued by banks in both New Zealand and Australia will feature PayPass, and by 2014 all EFTPOS terminals in both countries must be upgraded to support NFC cards. Sources tell me that ANZ will very shortly begin issuing NFC cards as standard, and that at least one or two other bank in New Zealand will roll out NFC cards over the coming months meaning there will be a growing numbers of cards in regular use by the time the RWC starts.
The "new" NFC terminals were installed late last year at both Eden Park in Auckland and Westpac Stadium in Wellington. If you're lucky enough to already have a NFC card you've probably already used it. If you had were expecting some flash new terminals to be installed just in time for the RWC you'll be sorely disappointed. The very same infrastructure and payment methods that are in place today will be exactly how things are during the RWC.
The hatchet job on Mastercard continued with blogger Lance Wiggs launching a scathing attack saying the decision is "stupid". Comments such as the one from Lance saying that MasterCard need to "roll out the NFC/EFTPOS terminals across New Zealand so that tourists and locals alike can experience the technology" shows a lack of knowledge of the product and industry. NFC terminals are now reasonably commonplace in NZ, with a huge number of Ingenico terminals having been deployed in recent months as retailers upgrade to new EMV version 6 capable terminals as required by the 1st June 2011.
Issues were also raised in the media as to why Visa cards couldn't be used. In Part ANZ and MasterCard as RWC sponsors obviously see value in selling their brands, however more import is a key issue that Visa's PayWave NFC cards have not yet been launched in New Zealand. Using something that doesn't exist in our market isn't easy!
In recent months there have been some very exciting developments in the NFC field. Cellphones with NFC capabilities have been trialled meaning that your cellphone becomes your wallet. Want to see your current account balance or transaction history? It'll all viewable on your phone screen. NFC is the future of payments, and the capabilities of such an exciting technology are very cool.
It's been a long time since I've heard a rehashed news story about payment terminals that were installed months ago, NFC credit cards cards that are already in use by thousands of New Zealanders (and not to mention foreign tourists who will visit) and shock words such as "paying by cash" cause such a fuss!
Disclosure: Before somebody flames me I neither work for, or have any association with any bank, credit card company or terminal vendor.
What is cool about the technology is how it can be exploited in ways that mobile carriers do their hardest to prevent. Because a femtocell is the size of a router and can work anywhere with an internet connection there is nothing physically stopping you taking it with you to a foreign country, plugging it in, and enjoying zero rated roaming.. But this breaks many rules, including the fact you're illegally transmitting on spectrum in a country what you aren't legally allowed to use, which means carriers implement methods to prevent this.
The most common is IP whitelisting, where a mobile network restricts the devices to working with a fixed range of IP addresses, typically their own. Vodafone NZ appear to have adopted this method, restricting usage to customers using only a Vodafone broadband connection. Of course any network engineer out there will suddenly hear the word "VPN" jump into their head, and suddenly the opportunities are endless...
Please note that I neither condone or encourage breaking the law to exploit overpriced roaming charges!
Over the coming months approximately 250 FM radio station frequencies in New Zealand will be changing. This accounts for around a third of all FM frequencies that are used in New Zealand.
When FM transmissions first began in New Zealand in the 1980's the channel spacing (the gap between stations) and frequency allocations that were used were not optimal in some regions. This means that in some areas the ability to broadcast new stations was hampered, and interference in adjoining regions could also occur which resulted in some frequencies being unavailable for use.
In April 2011 the usage rights for all AM and FM radio stations in New Zealand come up for renewal. In 2003 the Government agreed on a policy for existing rightholders to enable them to purchase 20 year licences from the 2nd April 2011 and in set new pricing formulas for usage rights of these frequencies. Over the past couple of years planning work has been under way to change many of these frequencies to ensure they are reallocated in a way that best suits New Zealand and allows for additional radio stations, as well as allowing the ability to offer services as as HD radio in the future if radio stations see this as an option.
Starting in June 2010 and continuing into early 2011 a significant number of frequency changes will occur, publicity for these changes has just started to appear and full details of every change, including the new frequencies is available from
If you've followed my forum posts and blog here on Geekzone over the last few months you're probably aware of the fact I've been unemployed since November after being made redundant. I decided to have a few months off over Summer relaxing (partially ruined by the fact Summer never seemed to make it to Wellington this year!) and working on a few other projects. Spending my days at the gym, socialising and catching up for coffee and lunch is a great lifestyle, but unfortunately isn't so great from a financial point of view!
To cut a long story short I'm on the lookout for another job or some more casual work in the Wellington region. Right now I have some part time projects I'm working on but I need some more challenges in life and am open to offers. . . .If you've followed me over the years you'll probably have a good idea of what interests me and where my skills lie!
I like to think I'm a bit of a guru when it comes to VoIP stuff - I've been playing with VoIP for over 5 years now have a fantastic knowledge of design and installation of IP PBX's and associated hardware. I've spent a huge amount of time playing with Asterisk and am a fan of both trixbox and Elastix. I've also worked on Epygi Quadro and 3CX PBX's and have a good knowledge of handsets and adapters from Polycom, Linksys, Snom, Aastra, Grandstream and Patton. I have a basic knowledge of Microsoft OCS and have successfully integrated my OCS setup with trixbox for external connectivity. I've also spent a lot of time playing with traditional analogue phones and PBX's and have a good knowledge of these.
I'm pretty handy when it comes to cabling work and have done numerous structured network cabling installations for phones and data in both homes and businesses. I've also installed a fair few TV aerials over the years and have a good knowledge of cabling requirements and setup of home theatre systems. I've installed numerous CCTV and alarm systems and love electronics. Having spent time in retail I'm also pretty handy when it comes to the installation, support and best practice guidelines for EAS tagging systems.
I've been building PC's for many years and have a good knowledge of PC hardware and both Microsoft desktop and server operating systems. I'm no Linux expert but know the basics.
I'm an engineer who likes to build things, fix things, or develop innovative ideas into solutions that work. I'm not big on selling stuff but am more than capable of doing this. Cold calling is out - there is nothing that annoys me more.
I like to think I've got a pretty good understanding of the telecommunications industry in New Zealand and have a good knowledge of the various fixed line and mobile technologies used in New Zealand. I have a good understanding of both GSM and WCDMA networks and also enjoy writing about telecommunications, something you would have noticed if you've followed my blog.
I would really love to find more work in the telecommunications sector, particularly in the VoIP space as it's something I'm very passionate about. The realities however are that the market in NZ is still very much in the growing stage with plenty of cowboys who think they know their stuff trying to sell inferior solutions to gullible customers which is hurting the market. This isn't good.
If you've read my posts over the years and think I could be a good match for your company then feel free to get in touch. My contact details are listed on the right.
Vodafone are offering to pay your early termination charges if you cancel your XT contract and are stuck with a bill for terminating this contract early. They will give you a free Nokia 6121 handset when you sign up with them.
Slingshot have also in on the act. Slingshot are MVNO (Mobile Virtual Network Operator) who piggyback on Vodafone's network. They are offering what is quite possibly NZ's best ever mobile deal.
A free Nokia 2730 handset
Free monthly access for 12 months (normally $20)
20 free calling minutes and 100 free TXT messages every month
25c calling to mobiles and landlines
12 month minimum contract
Slingshot also have a form letter quoting the CGA that you can send to Telecom explaining you would like to break your term contract and pay no fee.
If you're an XT user who is unhappy you certainly have plenty of options open to you if you do want to leave!
Yesterday was an interesting day in the mobile world in New Zealand. Along with yet another outage affecting the XT network, the Commerce Commission submitted their findings to the Communications Minister in relation to Mobile Termination Rates (MTR). The Commission in a 2 to 1 majority recommended to Communications Minister Steven Joyce that an aligned undertaking from both Telecom and Vodafone be accepted rather than the Commission being forced to intervene in the market and force the regulation of wholesale interconnection pricing.
The response from those with opposing viewpoints was interesting
Today is a very disappointing day for New Zealand mobile users. After much delay, the Commerce Commission appears to have squandered a golden opportunity to finally bring New Zealand mobile prices into line with the rest of the developed world. New Zealand consumers suffer with some of the highest mobile prices in the world. The Commission’s recommendation to leave the decision on access pricing up to the incumbents, Vodafone and Telecom, will mean this burden on New Zealanders continues for the foreseeable future.
The response from 2degrees was as expected. They are a company that has spent most of the last decade complaining about the regulatory environment in New Zealand rather than getting on with building a network. In August last year 2degrees finally launched their network and by their own admissions are doing amazingly well. Last week they announced that they had signed up 206,000 active customers, a figure that was well ahead of expectations, and also announced that for the first time people in New Zealand are now able to access prepaid calling rates at prices well below the OECD average. They are also claiming ARPU (average revenue per user) in excess of $10, a figure that is higher than many Telecom prepaid customers.
The question has to be asked as to why 2degrees seem to have significant issues with the Commerce Commission decision. Right now their business is booming and yet they see regulation of the industry as being essential to compete. One really has to wonder why this is the case.
The Drop the rate, mate! Lobby group (that is heavily backed by 2degrees and several unions) went even further accusing Commerce Commission members of doing “an about face”
Two members of the Commerce Commission have done an about-face, after repeated voluntary undertakings from the big telcos – while another, Anita Mazzoleni, has sided with consumers, the Drop the Rate, Mate! campaign said today.
The Drop the Rate, Mate! Campaign was formed to “to demand lower mobile termination rates in line with the costs of connecting calls and texts”. They have never explicitly explained exactly what they mean by this statement and where they see pricing in the market, but when a campaign is powered by nothing but hot air this isn’t surprising. One would presume they would be at least partly happy with the Commission’s announcement, SMS rates are potentially going to be cut to under cost and voice revenue cut to levels that are in line with costs based on some pricing models. Exactly what “about face” they are talking about is unknown, for months now the Commerce Commission have been actively encouraging a joint aligned undertaking from all three carriers that would deliver pricing that was acceptable to the Commission in preference to the Commission forcing regulation of pricing. To say that two members of the Commerce Commission have done an “about face” and no longer care about consumers is nothing but rubbish. The only “about face” I’m aware of in the whole MTR saga was the decision in December by 2degrees to throw their toys out of the cot and withdraw all previous undertakings that they had submitted to the Commerce Commission leaving them with no offer on the table.
I’ve been accused of working for both Vodafone and Telecom in past blog posts on the MTR issue but want to make it perfectly clear I no ties with either company. The telecommunications sector as a whole is of great interest to me and watching the MTR saga drag out over the past year has been fascinating. The rates charged by some carriers in New Zealand for fixed line to mobile and for mobile to mobile calls are expensive, what people need to remember however is that the MTR issue is a discussion of pricing of wholesale traffic interconnection, it isn’t a discussion on retail pricing. The Commerce Commission have no plans to regulate retail pricing and believe that pricing will fall due to competition in the marketplace due to lower termination rates. Whether this occurs is still to be seen as there is no evidence anywhere in the world that can draw any established relationships between wholesale interconnection rates and retail pricing. There are countries with high interconnection rates and low calling costs and countries with low interconnection rates and high calling costs.
What offer is on the table?
Both Telecom and Vodafone have said that from the 1st October 2010 they will drop SMS interconnection pricing to 0c and adopt a hybrid Bill and Keep pricing model. This hybrid pricing model means that Vodafone and Telecom will not charge each other for delivering SMS messages to the other network providing traffic levels remain even. If an imbalance in traffic occurs at a level between 7% and 12% then a charge of 2c per message will apply, and for an imbalance of greater than 12% a 4c per message charge will apply. The reason for the hybrid system and not a true bill and keep solution is primarily at attempt to stop the proliferation of unsolicited SMS messages, in a true BAK model with no restrictions it’s possible for a network to actively sign up users whose only intention is to deliver unsolicited SMS messages to users on other networks. It’s worth noting that current SMS traffic levels between networks are all reasonably even as SMS is a two way medium – if somebody sends you a SMS, move often than not you will send a reply.
Both networks will drop voice interconnection rates for mobile to mobile and fixed line to mobile to 12c per minute from the 1st October 2010, with theis rate following a glide path dropping on the 1st January every year until it reaches 6c per minute on the 1st January 2014. All interconnection costs will be billed per second.
So what did 2degrees want?
2degrees have been pushing for rates to go even lower. Their last undertaking was for a true BAK pricing model for SMS messages (ie no charge even if there was a traffic imbalance), and for voice interconnection rates to be approximately ½ of what both Vodafone and Telecom submitted in their undertakings. Many of their submissions did nothing but complain about the competition rather than offer reasonable solutions and from the outside it seemed like their purpose was to hijack the whole investigation solely for their own motives.
2degrees have a true motive – and that’s the introduction of a true BAK pricing model for mobile in New Zealand. As a newcomer to the market they have the most to gain from BAK – the majority of calls from 2degrees mobile users are off net, this results in 2degrees having to pay Vodafone or Telecom money to interconnect calls. Likewise because the number of inbound calls falls well short they end up in a situation where they are paying other operators more than they are receiving in termination costs. It’s easy to see why 2degrees want BAK, the problem here is that the Commerce Commission were not interested in looking at using BAK as a pricing model for New Zealand. No other country has moved from a CPP (calling party pays) to BAK pricing model for mobile, and such as a move was totally out of scope for the MTR investigation. Exactly what decision 2degrees make now is over to them – they presumably still have the option of joining Vodafone and Telecom and leveraging their agreement, continuing with their current interconnection agreements, or sitting on the sideline with their ratchet making lots of noise while contributing very little.
Right now you have a choice in New Zealand when it comes to mobile. With three networks and a myriad of pricing plans there is plenty to choose from. What is plainly clear is that the wholesale cost of interconnection plays a minor part in determining the retail cost of both fixed to mobile and mobile to mobile calling. It’s possible to pay 23c + GST per minute to call a mobile phone from a Telecom Business line however a Telecom homeline user with no calling plan will pay 63c incl GST for the same call. Up until several years ago the standard Telecom rate for fixed to mobile was 71c per minute, a rate that was set close to 20 years ago when the MTR rate was around 50c per minute. We’ve seen wholesale MTR costs fall by more than 60% in that time but the standard retail price fell by approximately 10%. Likewise a mobile user can currently be paying as low as 25c + GST per minute with per second rounding after the first minute for a voice call using a provider such as Compass Mobile (a MVNO on Vodafone’s network) or can be paying 89c incl GST with calls rounded up to the next minute if you’re on Vodafone Prepay.
It’s very clear that wholesale MTR costs are not the cause of high mobile pricing in New Zealand, the problem is one of retail pricing. As MTR costs have fallen over time retail costs have not necessarily followed due to a lack of true competition between the two mobile operators in New Zealand. The Commerce Commission investigation had good cause and the current offerings on the table from both Telecom and Vodafone will mean significant drops in inbound revenue for both operators. As to whether it will mean cheaper calling prices for New Zealand mobile users is another question entirely, something only time will answer.
For many years MfE has been severly limited with two major contraints - lack of folder support and no support for HTML, two features that were serious downfalls for devices such as the E71 that were targeted at email users.
The good news is that in recent days Nokia have released a brand new V3.0 release of Mail for Exchange. Included in the release is support for both HTML and support for folders in your inbox.
There is still no mention of this software of the official MfE website but it's available for download from Ovi Store.
I've been running this on my E71 for the last few hours and while it's still not a perfect solution it's finally great to be able to have access to features that should have been part of the software many years ago!
EDIT: There have been numerous people comment and also contact me saying that they can't find the HTML option. I can assure you that HTML viewing IS THERE!!!
If you have an HTML email click on options and there is a menu item saying view as HTML.
Both networks showed a list of prices and calculated the new price with a 15% GST. Both failed miserably when it came to such a simple calculation and have no doubt confused an entire country.
When a product sells for $1500 the GST component of that price is $166.66 (rounded to 2 decimal places) and the GST excl price of the product is $1333.33 (rouded to 2 decimal places).
To deduct GST from a price divide it by 9 to establish the GST value or divide it by 1.125 to establish the GST exclusive amount,
Both networks simply added 2.5% onto the existing GST inclusive price which is wrong and does not give the correct amount. To calculate the new 15% GST inclusive price, the current 12.5% GST needs to be deducted from the current retail and the new 15% GST rate added to this GST excl price.
On TV3's example of a $1500 TV they show the new price of $1537.50, a $37.50 increase. 15% GST on the GST excl price of $1333.33 is $200.00, giving a new retail of $1533.33, a $33.33 increase.
$1.50 is a only a negligible difference due to rounding
$200 -> $205 when it should be $204.44
$1500 -> $1537.50 when it should be $1533.33
How can you trust either network to deliver is accurate news when they're unable to calculate a basic maths equation?
The state of mainstream media in New Zealand has begun to annoy me a lot lately - TV live crosses that tell me nothing that somebody in a studio couldn't, and factual inaccuracies caused by nothing but sloppy journalism.
Today a RNZAF CT-4 training aircraft that also flies as part of the RNZAF Red Checkers display team crashed leading to the tragic death of the pilot.
While watching 3News tonight during a live cross from Ohakea Airbase, reporter Charlotte Tonkin told us
The Air Force prides itself on it's safety standards. It says this is the first time any member of a display team has been killed in flight"
If the Air Force did infact make this statement there should be questions asked about their memories. TV3 should also be criticised for not checking the accuracy of a statement that is totally incorrect.
In 1989 A4K Skyhawk (serial 6210) crashed and was destroyed, killing Flight Officer Graham Carter. The aircraft was a member of the Air Force's Kiwi Red A4K Skyhawk display team, and collided in mid air with another A4K Skyhawk (serial 6211) while practicing a mid air maneuver for an airshow in New Zealand.
Another A4K Skyhawk (ironically serial 6211) was also lost in Australia after it crashed while practicing a barrel roll for an airshow. While not part of a display team it was practicing formation flying with another RNZAF A4K in preparation for a display.
It's clear this is not the first time a member has been killed while flying as part of a display team. Shame on you for blatently telling porkies to the New Zealand public.