Telecom XT pricing - better value than you think.

By Steve Biddle, in , posted: 28-May-2009 19:42

Opinion of Telecom's new XT mobile network pricing has been very mixed since it's announcement earlier this afternoon. Many people have criticised Telecom for failing to deliver the significant price cuts that many believed would happen as they try and capture market share back from Vodafone.
 
One issue that has received little attention is the fact that Telecom are only billing per second after the first minute on both Prepaid and On Account connections. Ironically Telecom were the first to move to rounded up per min calling, something Vodafone then followed suit with. Over recent years both Telecom and Vodafone have billed per minute (and rounded up to the next minute) on prepaid calls and included minutes however addon minutes from both networks have offered per second billing after the first minute.

This means there are significant savings for both Prepaid and On Account users and means comparing included minutes plans between Vodafone the Telecom is quite hard to do.

Looking at my last Vodafone bill I estimate that I would have received approximately 25% more minutes with per second rounding after the 1st minute vs rounded calls with my included minutes on my Vodafone plan.

The savings will vary significantly depending on the length of your calls. If you're somebody who makes lots of short calls then the savings will be very significant. Long calls and they won't be quite so significant. It is certainly something that does need factored in when you're considering plans - despite what may appear to be similair airtime allowances between both Vodafone and Telecom plans for similair pricepoints you could infact be receiving significant extra value on an XT plan.


So the big question - how long till Vodafone follows?



Radler Trademark and DB Boycott

By Steve Biddle, in , posted: 22-Apr-2009 10:50

If you're a beer drinker you're possibly aware over the past few weeks of a saga involving the use of the word Radler on beer in New Zealand.

Radler is a term to describe a mix of lemonade and beer that originated in Germany. Here in NZ most people would know it by the term shandy.

Several years ago DB Breweries were granted a trademark to use the word Radler here in NZ under the Monteiths brand. IPONZ granted DB a trademark means that DB are the only entity who can legally use the word Radler on an alcoholic beverage in NZ.

Recently Green Man Brewery in Dunedin were lodged with legal papers from DB requesting that they stop using the word Radler on their "Radler" beer - a beer they had been making for several years that was a truely authentic Radler style, unlike DB's Monteiths Radler which was not true to the style.

There have been many people within the beer industry criticise DB for their actions and their protection of the word Radler. This campaign has been stepped up by a campaign launched yesterday by Rumbles Wine Merchants in Wellington encouraging retailers to refuse to stock DB branded products.

I know the guys from Green Man - their beer is fantastic and you can argue they have been picked on by a larger company, afterall their Radler was hardly direct competition for DB and both brands have co-existed for several years. Other Radler beers have also been imported and sold here in NZ in recent years.

On the other hand what DB have simply done what any large company does - requests trademarks for brands they own to stop them being ripped off. 

Blaming DB for trying to enforce something they are legally entitled to do is just stupid and not well thought out - if this situation was reversed and DB tried to launch a product called Radler and were stopped would people see this situation the same way?

The target here should be the Intellectual Property office who issued this trademark in the first place.

IPONZ issued this trademark to DB because the world "was not in common use in New Zealand" and from media reports that have appeared recently it appears they may have had advice suggesting that allowing this trademark was the wrong thing to do, but choose to ignore this advice and grant the TM.

If you're concerced about this issue then you should be taking some action. Boycotting DB won't do that - the small number of people here in NZ who do actually care about this issue and would follow such a boycott would do nothing to DB's bottom line.

A few thousand people contacting IPONZ and expressing their feelings, explaining that a TM should have never been issued and asking for this TM to be removed due to the word falling into general every day use is a far better way to target your anger.

DB being given the TM in the first place was stupid - this is the key issue.

You can send the IPONZ an email at [email protected]



VoIP for dummies. A basic guide for NZ users.

By Steve Biddle, in , posted: 12-Apr-2009 21:18

What is VoIP?

VoIP is short for Voice over Inter Protocol. Quite simply it’s the ability to encode your voice, convert this to data packets which are then sent over a local network or internet connection to a remote device where it’s turned back into sound. Most people out there have heard of Skype and instantly think of this when they hear the word VoIP.


Skype is VoIP product but it uses a proprietary protocol that is incompatible with the SIP protocol which has become the defacto standard for VoIP.


There are three major providers offering SIP VoIP services in New Zealand, WorldxChange’s VFX and DVX services, 2talk and iTalk. Both iTalk and 2talk are run by Callplus but have different pricing structures. There are a large number of VoIP providers in New Zealand but these really are the three main providers that many people will encounter and all three provider the ability to have local phone numbers in a large number of regions. An extensive list of providers is available from the voipusers.org.nz website




I want to get into VoIP – what do I need?


You have three options. A PC based softphone, a standalone VoIP phone or an ATA (analogue telephone adapter) that allows you to use a regular analogue telephone.


The cheapest way is to use a Softphone. This allows you to use a headset plugged into your PC soundcard or USB port with a PC based phone application to make or receive calls. Unless you have a high quality headset call quality can be unpredictable and fine tuning is required to ensure you don’t suffer problems with echo. Your computer always needs to be switched on to make and receive calls.


An ATA (analogue telephone adapter) has an Ethernet port that plugs into your router and has an RJ11 jack on the back for connecting a regular corded or cordless phone to make calls. This is completely separate from your PC and it doesn’t need to be switched on to make calls. There are a large number of manufacturers producing ATA’s and the call quality will typically be very good but may require some fine tuning with some phones to eliminate issues such as echo.


A SIP VoIP phone looks similair to a regular desktop phone but doesn’t need any adapters. It plugs straight into the Ethernet port on your router and once again this is completely separate from your PC. A VoIP phone offers the best call quality but will typically be the most expensive option. Once again there are a large number of manufacturers producing SIP compatible phones and in practice any SIP compatible device will work with any VoIP provider offering a SIP service.


The main advantages of a true VoIP phone over an ATA are the ability to have dedicated keys for phone functions (such as DND or voicemail) and the fact many phones these days have large LCD screens allowing you to do cool things such as running XML based applications. Call quality of a true VoIP phone will also typically be superior and additional high quality voice codecs like G.722 are also available.


 

So why would I want to move to VoIP?


The reality is that all voice calling is moving towards VoIP. In around 5 years time Telecom will have moved most of it’s voice calling to VoIP equipment. As a normal phone user you won’t notice any difference, you will still receive a dialtone when you pick up your regular home phone. This dialtone however won’t be coming from Telecom’s legacy analogue NEAX phone exchanges, it will typically be coming from a line card in your nearest Telecom road side cabinet.  This line card will connect to Telecom’s IMS network and will be completely IP based. Right now both Vodafone and Orcon are doing this on their Orcon+ and Vodafone Red networks however neither network will allow you to connect a VoIP phone or ATA directly to their VoIP network, you’re stuck with having to use a regular analogue phone running off your incoming phoneline.


There are two main reasons people are adopting VoIP right now. First off they’re choosing to use a VoIP provider for all calling rather than legacy analogue POTS (plain old telephone service) or ISDN voice services provided to Telecom or TelstraClear. With unbundled internet connections (the ability to receive an internet connection without the requirement for a phoneline) people are able to completely replace their existing phonelines with a VoIP based solution and benefit from the advanced features that are on offer that simply can’t be delivered cost effectively over traditional POTS based telephony.


Many people are also moving towards VoIP based solutions due to significant savings that can be made due to the cheaper calling rates available from VoIP providers. VoIP providers such as VFX and 2talk offer calling rates of around 5c per minute for national calls and to many international destinations. Calls between users on the same VoIP network are also typically free so there are no costs associated with calling somebody else connected to the same network, no matter where in the world they could be located.


One of the beauties of VoIP is that borders also open up – if you’re somebody in New Zealand who has friends or family in another country then you can sign up with a VoIP provider in that country, receive a local phone number and your friends or family can call you for the same price as any other local call. If you sign up with a provider such as Faktortel you can receive an Australian phone number and can also make flat rate untimed calls to anywhere in Australia for 12c – that’s per call, not per minute!


If you’re a business user then the benefits of VoIP can be even greater. If you have multiple branches or offices then users can all have extensions off the same PBX and make calls between extensions for free. You can also have phone numbers in different cities all liked back to a single PBX. These features can be done with existing analogue phones and phone lines but can’t be done as easily or as cheaply as it can with VoIP.


You could be anywhere in the world that has an internet connection and have a remote extension that works just like you’re in the office. If you have a WiFi & VoIP capable mobile phone such as many recent Nokia N and E series handsets you can connect to a WiFi hotspot in London and make and receive calls without incurring any costs other than the cost of your WiFi connection and avoid extremely costly mobile roaming costs for voice calls.




So how much will it cost me to move to VoIP?


For a home user the cost of an ATA adapter for existing phones is somewhere in the $100 - $200 range for a basic unit. It is also possible to buy ADSL modem/router units with built in ATA but these can cost significantly more depending on the brand. If you want a true VoIP phone these start at around $150. If you are plugging an ATA into an existing router/modem ensure that you enable QoS (quality of service) on your router so that voice traffic is given priority over other internet traffic. If you don’t do this or have a router that doesn’t support QoS then you risk having your audio drop out if you’re trying to access the internet from a PC at the same time as you’re making a phone call.


If you’re a business user then the move to VoIP can be dome in many different ways. You could replace all your existing phones and PBX with a VoIP PBX unit (such as a Epygi Quadro’s or PC based solution such as trixbox) but this is a significant upfront cost. A PBX option such as this will give you all the features you’d come to expect from a traditional analogue PBX such as call transfers, music on hold, DND, auto attendant etc but then offer plenty of other features such as voicemail (with the ability to have your voicemails to straight to email), realtime call analysis and reporting, click to dial from your Outlook contacts list and the ability for run PC based software so a receptionist can view the status of all users and transfer calls all with the click of a mouse.


If you’re just wishing to have a VoIP option for cheaper calling rates then an ATA can be hooked up to an existing PBX to allow routing of calls via a VoIP provider who offers cheaper calling rates than your existing provider. This is also a cheap way of giving yourself access to other markets, if you’re a business who has customers in Australia for example you could register this ATA with an Australian VoIP provider and allow your customers to ring you on an Australian number rather than them having to call New Zealand.




What are the catches?


The biggest catch when it comes to VoIP is the quality of the hardware you are using and the quality of the network and internet connections you are using. Most people in NZ receive broadband using an ADSL connection and the quality of this connection will determine how well your VoIP will work. If you’re a business customer then a higher quality connection such as a fibre optic connection from a broadband provider such as Cutylink is highly recommended. The only other downside is that your VoIP phone will not work in a power cut – if you’re running a VoIP setup at home it pays to ensure you have a UPS powering your router and ATA or VoIP phones to ensure you can still place calls while the power is out.




I hope this basic guide has been of use to you and has answered some of the questions you may have about VoIP telephony. If you have any other questions feel free to post here on the Geekzone Forums where there are plenty of people who can offer you assistance and advice.




 



Gravity v1.0 - Twitter finally comes to Symbian S60!

By Steve Biddle, in , posted: 30-Mar-2009 21:29

If you're a Twitter user with a Nokia S60 handset you'll realise that unlike other devices such as the Blackberry and iPhone there haven't been any "cool" twitter apps. The best option has been to use a web based service.

This has now changed with the launch of Gravity. Gravity simply blows the competition away delivering an extremely nice looking UI that's feature packed and offers integrated twitpic support.

If you're a Symbian user and hooked on Twitter then Gravity is a must have!


To see more and to download Gravity check out http://mobileways.de/products/gravity/gravity/



Attn Mainstream Media - ASO will *NOT* be occuring in NZ in 2012

By Steve Biddle, in , posted: 19-Mar-2009 09:31

It seems to be a common misconception in NZ that analogue shut off (ASO) will occur in 2012. ASO is the date that analogue TV broadcasts will shut down in New Zealand, meaning you will need a Freeview box, Freeview IDTV or a TelstraClear STB or Sky STB to continue to receive TV broadcasts.

This misconception is being continually fueled by the media who continue to repeat this date, including in an interview with Steve Browning from Freeview that appeared in the Domonion Post yesterday that says



(discussing ASO)

Public policy is to achieve this by 2012, or when three-quarters of the population has digital instead of analogue TV, whichever comes first.




This is incorrect. Lets get the facts straight.

ASO will *NOT* occur in New Zealand in 2012. Analogue TV will continute to be broadcast past 2012.

To quote the Ministry of Economic Development


(b) Setting a Switch-off Date

10. Free-to-air digital television (DTV) needs to establish itself, and time is needed to assess take-up rates and the public response to DTV. An initial target date (or range) for ASO will therefore only be announced once total DTV penetration reaches around 60%. Following this, a firm date will be set once penetration reaches around 75%, or in 2012 – whichever is first.


Is it very clear that a date for ASO (analogue shutoff) will be announced in 2012 or when uptake reaches 75%. ASO will NOT occur in 2012 or when 75% of households have digital TV. 

Industry expectations are that ASO will occur when digital uptake reaches around 90%. This is expected to occur sometime around 2014 - 2016. It will certainly not be occuring in 2012.

I've blogged about this in the past and it's clear that many members of the mainstream media seem to struggle to grasp this basic fact as it seems to be continually repeated. A little bit of reading on the MED website will give you all the facts.



Trans Tasman airfare war? What airfare war?

By Steve Biddle, in , posted: 16-Feb-2009 20:40

If you've been following the news over the past few days you'd be aware of some very good bargains for flights between New Zealand and Australia. Some of the advertised prices are so cheap that media have reported they have hit 20 year lows with flights getting down to $300 return including all taxes.

Instead of reporting how cheap prices are some of the media could try asking both Qantas, Air New Zealand and Pacific Blue why prices out of Wellington are significantly higher than out of both Christchurch and Auckland?
 
Looking at a few random dates it's typically between $120 - $150 more to fly from Wellington to either Sydney, Melbourne or Brisbane than what it costs to fly from Auckland or Christchurch. This also doesn't factor in the $25 airport tax at Wellington that must be paid at the airport and is not included in the ticket price unlike Auckland or Christchurch.

We know significant additional competition exists across the Tasman flying in and out of both Auckland and Chrittchurch. Emirates have just launched their new A380's on the Tasman services and Qantas owned Jetstar have also slashed prices to compete. This has meant Air NZ, Qantas and Pacific Blue have have cut many fares significantly to compete. Here in Wellington we're stuck paying significantly more than an Air NZ  or Qantas customers out of either Auckland or Christchurch for the same routes.

Is it really fair that we're not seeing prices come down? Are Qantas, Pacific Blue and Air NZ price gouging customers flying out of Wellington? Is Wellington Airport doing enough to encourage competition?



How would your business cope if it lost it's internet?

By Steve Biddle, in , posted: 30-Jan-2009 13:28

The explosion of WiFi hotspots in recent years has now meant that a large number of business owners now see value in offering their customers internet access. It's now pretty common for many motels and cafe's to offer internet access and forward thinking NZ companies like Tomizone have made offering your customers a WiFi service easier than ever.

Simply buy an off the shelf router and you can start offering your customers a compelling reason to visit your business over another business that doesn't offer internet access. Give the internet away or charge for it - the choice is yours.

Section 92A of the Copyright Act comes into effect next month and will force ISP's to disconnect your internet connection if multiple complaints are received regarding the downloading of copyrighted material from your connection. This means that if you're a small business you could find yourself without an internet connection through no fault of your own if your customers download copyrighted material using your internet connection.

If you're a business offering an interneret connection what are your plans to minimise the risk of this occuring? Can you afford to have your internet disconnected? What effect would that have on your business? Are you likey to remove internet access (which could potentially lose you customers) simply to remove the risk of having your internet disconnected?

If you're a rental car company and somebody breaks the law and speeds in your car then you can pass that ticket onto the renter. Section 92A is the equivilent of having that car seized permanetely by the police with no compensation for you. How is that fair?

Have you really thought about this at all? If not you have a month to think about it!




Falling $NZ causing TV price increases

By Steve Biddle, in , posted: 22-Jan-2009 08:08

I've been having a quick look around over the past few days at TV and it's interesting to note the significant price increases that are now hitting due to our falling $NZ.

Panasonic PZ850 50" Plasma TV's are one of the best TV's in the NZ marketplace at present. These TV's had a street price of around $4000 in mid December. During the boxing day sales prices fell as low as $3399 at DSE for this TV.

A quick look at DSE and LV Martin stores yesterday shows this TV now has a street price of around $5499. That's a whopping increase!

Speaking to a couple of retailers it appears price increases of around 20% are now taking effect. If you're in the market for a big screen TV then it'll pay to get in now!

If you are in the market for one of these TV's JB HiFi appears to have the best deal in the market - they still have these at $3993 but only have limited stock available.



BP raises fuel prices by 5c per litre.

By Steve Biddle, in , posted: 14-Jan-2009 12:59

BP has today increased the price of it's petrol by 5c per litre.

Infamous for having lead every petrol price increase in New Zealand for well over two years until prices started a downward slide in mid 2008, the company seems to have identified an increase in oil prices, refined fuel costs or a lower kiwi dollar, something no other company has identified as no other fuel company has yet followed this increase.

Rumors have been circulating for months that the company is soon to change it's logo to "the bird" so customers entering the forecourt are well aware of what the company really does think of it's customers.



When will NZ banks start taking card security seriously?

By Steve Biddle, in , posted: 28-Dec-2008 08:38

It's been revealed today that yet another case of ATM card skimming has occured. This time National Bank machines in Queen St, Vulcan Lane and Parnell all fitted with "anti skimming" devices had card skimming attachments fitted and card details taken.

It's well known in the security world that both NZ and Australian banks have some of the most lax card security in the world. This is the reason that New Zealand is now being hit by card scammers - it's becoming increasingly difficult to skim card details in Europe due to enhanced security measures in place. There are also numerous reported cases of European retailers now refusing to accept NZ or Australian credit cards due to the risk of fraud.

So what can we do? New Zealand banks should immediately be replacing all credit and EFTPOS cards with chip cards which offer a significantly higher level of security compared to existing magnetic stripe cards which are very easily cloned. PIN numbers should also be required on all credit card transactions as is the case in the UK and very soon all of Europe. Chip cards are not entirely foolproof however - there has been a case in the UK where EFTPOS terminals have been phyically altered to capture card details and send details via Bluetooth to capture equipment nearby due to a fundamental flaw in the architecture of the 3DES security for terminals that doesn't encrypt PIN numbers between the pinpad and the terminal.

So why don't NZ banks do something? Like everything banks do it's all about risk management. Replacing cards and upgrading infrastructure to replace mag stripe cards with chip cards costs money. Large amounts of money. It's obvious right now that these costs exceed the amount it costs backs to refund customers for fradulent transactions. Due to our lax security New Zealand is now turning into a prime target for scammers and skimming is a problem that is now going to become progressively worse until the tide turns and banks start taking security seriously.

So what can you do? Ensure that your credit card never leaves you sights.

Don't:

* Hand over your card at a service station if they want to hold onto it when pumps are on prepay.

* Hand over your credit card at a cafe/restaurant for payment. Take the card to the counter yourself.


Do:

* Ask your bank what THEY are going to do to step up their security measures. In particular when THEY will be introducing chip cards for EFTPOS and credit cards issued by them. Remember YOU as a customer are in effect paying for fradulent transactions as its's simply part of their cost of doing business and reflected in the charges they pass on to you.

* Check your bank statements carefully. Report any suspcious transactions immediately.

* Be aware of any suspicious activity near ATM's.



sbiddle's profile

Steve Biddle
Wellington
New Zealand


I'm an engineer who loves building solutions to solve problems.

My interests and skillset include:

*VoIP (Voice over IP). I work with various brands of hardware and PBX's on a daily basis
  -Asterisk (incl trixbox, PiaF, FreePBX, Elastix and AsteriskNOW)
  -Polycom
  -Cisco
  -Linksys
  -Patton
  -Zyxel
  -Snom
  -Sangoma
  -Audiocodes

*Telecommunications/Broadband
  -xDSL deployments
  -WiMAX
  -GSM/WCDMA

*Structured cabling
  -Home/office cabling
  -Phone & Data

*Computer networking
  -Mikrotik hardware
  -WAN/LAN solutions

*Wireless solutions
  -Motel/Hotel hotspot deployments
  -Outdoor wireless deployments, both small and large scale
  -Temporary wireless deployments
   
*CCTV solutions
  -Analogue and IP

I'm an #avgeek who loves to travel the world (preferably in seat 1A) and stay in nice hotels.


+My views do no represent my employer. I'm sure they'll be happy to give their own if you ask them.


You can contact me here or by email at [email protected]

twitter.com/stevebiddle










Located in NZ and after a cheap way to call friends or family in Australia?

Faktortel VoIP offers plans from $0 per month that offer you the convenience of being able to call landline numbers anywhere in Australia from A$ 10c per call (yes *per call*, not per minute!). An optional Australian DDI number also lets friends and family call you and they will only pay the cost of a local call. Interested? Check out Faktortel for more details.