On a personal note I finish 2009 being unemployed - if you have any openings out there feel free to get in touch with me!
This morning Consumer released a press release detailing the results of their yearly member survey of ISP's in New Zealand. This survey, taken by Consumer members ranks a list of the best and worst ISP's in New Zealand. This survey is available in the January/February version of Consumer and online on their website if you are a subscriber.
This survey does not rely on any technical testing, plan comparisions or ask the end user if they really know what they're talking about. It doesn't ask if they have master filter, have a shitty modem that will only sync at ADSL speeds on an ADSL2+ line or whether there internet is "slow" because they're downloading torrents on a plan that's clearly sold as being traffic managed 24 hours per day. The survey is also statistically flawed because it does not represent a true sample - it is a voluntary response that is also flawed because small ISP's with fewer responses can easily have skewed ratings.
After browsing through this what really caught my attention was the section on mobile data
Nearly a quarter of survey respondents used their mobile phone for internet access.
New entrant 2degrees was the best for speed and connection reliability while Vodafone rated the worst on disconnections and dropouts, slower-than-expected speeds, and unexpected charges for excess usage.
I'm glad I wasn't eating Weetbix at the time because I would have choked on them. This claim by Consumer would have to be one of the most extravagant I've read anywhere for a long time.
Why? Because there is absolutely no way it can be true. I'd love to see Consumer magazine show some data that backs up this very bold claim that is presumably based solely on random end user comments rather than any actual performance testing.
2degrees have their own GSM mobile network in Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch and Queenstown. Their network also has EDGE deployed on top, this gives a maximum theoretical data speed of approximately 240kbps. If you're a 2degrees customer and are within these geographic boundaries you'll connect to the 2degrees network. Outside these areas your phone will connect to the Vodafone's GSM network and you will roam on this using GPRS that delivers a maximum speed of approximately 48kbps.
Both Vodafone and Telecom have nationwide WCDMA 3G networks. Both of these networks will deliver up to 7.2Mbps at present, both networks also have trial HSPA+ sites delivering real life speeds upwards of 16Mbps. Telecom's CDMA network is still in use by a large majority of their customers but is in effect is obsolete and typically no new connections are being made. Likewise Vodafone have more 3G customers on their network than GSM and the majority of handsets sold these days support 3G so for this comparision I'm solely comparing the two WCDMA networks.
I've spent the past couple of weeks doing some pretty extensive testing of both Vodafone and Telecom's XT network around the lower North Island and can conclusively say that without a doubt that there is no way the EDGE network deployed by 2degrees can come anywhere close to the speeds delivered on the Vodafone or Telecom XT networks. I did encounter some retainability issues on the XT network which now appear to be resolved but overall both networks perform extremely well. Across the XT network it's not uncommon to obtain speeds upwards of 6Mbps and with average speeds in the 2Mbps - 4Mbps region. On Vodafone speeds in the 1.5Mbps - 3Mbps range are fairly typical and with one exception near a crowded mall I've never received average speeds of under 1Mbps on either Vodafone or Telecom's XT network.
I've also succesfully tested a 1.3Mbps video stream to a laptop while mobile on the XT network and saw exceptionally low packet loss, even during handovers. Retainability and connectability (the ability to establish and hold a data connection) are very good on both networks. If that's not delivering a significantly better speed and connection reliability experience than the EDGE network deployed by 2dgrees then I don't know what is. 2degrees don't have a "bad" network, it's actually very good and in my testing there are no issues and speeds close to 200kbps are easily achievable. It's just simply no match for Vodafone or Telecom's XT network because it's older GSM technology that is simply inferior to the WCDMA technology that Vodafone and Telecom XT use. 2degrees will be launching WCDMA 3G services aross their network in early 2010.
In terms of charging a casual user on Vodafone or Telecom's XT network will pay more than a 2degrees customer for data "overuse" charges - but the statement itself is contentious. 2degrees do not offer any data plans, all data is priced at 50c per MB. On Vodafone or Telecom a casual user will pay $1 per day for up to 10MB of data usage, after that data is charged at $1 per MB but very few customers actually pay this. If you're a regular data user you'll have a data plan (which 2degrees don't offer) offering you data for 10c per MB or less.
So the challenge is out there for you Consumer - exactly what basis do you base these bold claims on and do you have any statistics to back them up?
14 December 2009
Vodafone launches wi-fi hotspot in your hand
Vodafone takes mobile broadband to the next level with the launch of its MiFi mobile broadband hotspot.
The MiFi allows up to five wi-fi users to connect simultaneously to the internet using Vodafone's world class 3G broadband service.
Customers will be able to take that brainstorming meeting to the caf? and share one connection on multiple laptops. Mobile gamers will be able to set up a LAN and play wirelessly. The MiFi even allows you to share documents stored on its MicroSD card (up to 16GB) and set access levels as you see fit.
Weighing in at only 100g it's smaller than most cellphones and not much larger than a credit card. Battery powered, the MiFi will last up to four hours of continuous use before needing to be recharged making it a truly portable solution.
Vodafone's GM of Products Pricing and Internet Kursten Shalfoon says Vodafone's MiFi opens up the floodgates to a new world of mobility.
"Whether you want to work collaboratively on a project or just need to have multiple devices connecting together while you're out and about, the MiFi gives you the best of Vodafone's 3G broadband connection and combines it with all the benefits of wi-fi to deliver a great product."
The MiFi is on sale from today through the Vodafone online store at an RRP of $499. Customers who buy the MiFi with a 1GB data plan get it at the discounted rate of $299.
- ends -
These devices are fantastic. I know several people who have already played with these units and have great things to say about them.
And now for the "oops" moment. Vodafone don't appear to own the MiFi trademark in New Zealand
Trade Mark Details
Trade Mark Number (210)
719848 Current Status Registered
TM Search Text
Trade Mark Type
Trade Mark Non-Convention, WORD
Trade Mark Nature
(ii) proposed to be used by the proprietor(s), (being the applicant)
Marks , Device and Device Descriptors (532)
Classification System | Class (511)
Specification of Goods and Services
telecommunications services; radio telecommunication, satellite telecommunication, mobile, portable and fixed telecommunication and telephone; broadcasting services and provision of telecommunications networks including broadcasting networks, and including internet service provider services including internet access services, and including access to fixed line, portable and mobile communications networks, telephone, facsimile, telex, data transfer, message collection and transmission, message sending, receiving and forwarding, electronic mail services, electronic transmission of data, text, images, sounds and/or video, provision of digital content by telecommunications; voice over IP (Internet Protocol) services, and broadband internet services; transmission and receiving by radio; communication of data by radio, telecommunications and by satellite; automatic telephone answering services; personal numbering services; provision of telephone and other telecommunications directory services, video conferencing services, video telephone services, value added network services, and communication by computer terminals; provision of access to computer systems and networks including the Internet or other electronic networks; provision of remote access to a central archive of data, information and software applications, including the warehousing of data, information and software applications and real time downloads of data, information and software applications; rental and leasing of telecommunications apparatus and equipment including parts and fittings for the same
National Communications Corporation Limited . C/-Bowden Williams & Associates, Level 2, 3 Margot Street, Newmarket, AUCKLAND, New Zealand
Contact : (740)
National Communications Corporation Limited . C/-Bowden Williams & Associates, Level 2, 3 Margot Street, Newmarket, AUCKLAND, New Zealand
PO Box 25-1050, Pakuranga, AUCKLAND, New Zealand
Related Trade Marks
No Related Trade Marks found
Objections / Hearings
There are no current objections or hearings present
Last Renewed By
No renewal interest on record or public access is restricted
Proprietor & Licensee History
No proprietors nor licensees on record or public access is restricted
Vodafone have either done a deal to use the word MiFi in New Zealand or somebody has committed a rather big "oops" moment and launched a product into the marketplace without actually checking if the product name was either in use or already trademarked!
I guess we'll have to wait and see if anything becomes of this!
I decided to look at a few airfares this morning. With 3 domestic airlines in NZ now it's always good to look at all the options available. I decided to have a look at Jetstar
That's great - $29 fares between Wellington and Auckland advertised on the front page of the website with a "Stocktake Sale" promo. I clicked on the link.
What a shame these specials finished on the 13th November. I'm also intrigued that these prices are also advertising in $A rather than $NZ - I wonder whether this was a simple mistake or whether flights were actually A$29 which would have meant ~20% more in $NZ?
Is there anything Jetstar can get right?
If you were to ask some random people on the street what VoIP meant to them odds are you'll get a single word answer from the vast majority of people - Skype. While Skype has done a fantastic job of introducing people to VoIP the reality is that it's only a single product in the VoIP marketplace that revolves around a proprietary protocol, unlike the standards based solutions such as SIP that are rapidly gaining traction and forming the backbone of the world's telecommunications infrastructure.
Unlike the early days where people associated VoIP with low quality cheap phone calls, VoIP is now setting the pace and over the coming years VoIP based telephony will replace the existing phone service you have in your home. You could well be using a VoIP service now without even knowing it.
One thing that is apparent is that there is plenty of misinformation in the marketplace regarding VoIP. This isn't helped when incorrect and misleading information is put into the marketplace by vendors trying to push VoIP solutions.
This comment off the website of a NZ company selling VoIP phone solutions is a classic example of FUD.
The NGN is the biggest thing to happen in NZ Telecommunications - but existing analogue phones and systems will certainly not become obsolete overnight.
Like many telecommunications companies in the world Telecom New Zealand are currently in the middle of a major upgrade of their fixed line network. This upgrade is referred to as their NGN (Next Generation Network). In a nutshell a NGN is simply a fully IP (Internet Protocol) based network that has the ability to deliver data, voice and video over a single network. There are already plenty of people in New Zealand already using Next Generation networks - Vodafone's Red network and Orcon's Orcon+ network are both NGN networks.
The first step of this upgrade for Telecom is to complete their cabinetisation program. The goal of this is to ensure that a significant majority of households in the country are within 2km of a Telecom exchange or roadside cabinet. This ensures that broadband speeds using ADSL2+ and VDSL technologies are as fast as possible by minimising the length of copper cabling between the ISAM (the piece of hardware that provides the ADSL/ADSL2+/VDSL service) and your premises. The shorter the distance, the better your broadband connection will be.
Roadside cabinets are connected back to a Telecom exchange via fibre optic cable. This is what is known as a FTTN (Fibre To The Node) network. This cabinet (or "node") then connects to the existing copper cabling running to your premises. The ISAM in this cabinet provides the ADSL2+/VDSL internet service, however PSTN voice services are currently still provided by the NEC NEAX switches that exist in the main phone exchange building.
The second step of the NGN project is to replace their existing PSTN infrastructure. In the late 1970's The NZPO decided to replace it's old mechanical switches with Japanese manufactured NEC NEAX switches - and believe it or not these same switches are still in place today delivering a phone service to the bulk of households in NZ. Telecom plan to have these phased out by 2020 at the latest.
The whole world is moving to VoIP and Telecom will not be replacing these switches with traditional switches, they will be moving to a VoIP solution that revolves around an IP Multimedia Subsystem (IMS) network. This process is known as Class 5 Migration or Class 5 Replacement - Class 5 is the designation given to the existing NEAX switch in your local exchange that generates the dialtone and delivers this to your premises over the existing copper phone cabling. There are some fundamental issues to overcome to deliver a replacement VoIP phone service to households. The first is deciding on the best ways to achieve this out of the two main options.
1) Deliver a dialtone to your premises over the existing copper cabling to the existing analogue phones and devices in your house. This is the simplest way of maintaining backwards compatibility and ensures that end users will notice no change at all to their service and will not require any additional hardware.
2) Installing a residential gateway in your house or premises that connects back to the exchange building or roadside cabinet using ADSL/ADSL2+/VDSL or fibre in a FTTP (Fibre To the Premise) area. Residential gateways are essentially a modem providing you with broadband access as well as a built in ATA (Analogue Telephone Adapter) that provides analogue phone ports allowing you to plug in existing analogue phones. The ATA then connects directly back into the softswitch or IMS core network. Because the residential gateway provides internet access users could also have the option of replacing their analogue phones and moving directly to VoIP phones which can be plugged into your home network.
Both methods differ fundamentally and offer advantages and disadvantages.
The first option is the solution used by both Orcon and Vodafone to deliver voice services in the areas where they provide their own services over ULL circuits here in New Zealand with their Red and Orcon+ networks. Their hardware in the exchange delivering ADSL/ADSL2+ services to your house also connects back to their softswitch and handles the digital to analogue conversion, providing you with a dialtone on your existing phone. It's a VoIP service but the VoIP to analogue conversion is done by their equipment meaning it's completely transparent to the end user and requires no additional hardware to be installed in the premises. Telecom can deploy hardware into their existing exchanges and new roadside cabinets to deliver the exact same functionality. If your internet service was provided from a roadside cabinet your phone service would also provided from this very same cabinet.
The second option is currently being trialled by both Telecom and WorldxChange. In areas where fibre has been deployed directly to individual premises (FTTP) no copper cable exists to deploy a traditional analogue phoneline. In this situation a residential gateway has been fitted to the house that contains an optical to ethernet converter and a router with built in ATA to provide internet and support for analogue phones in the house. The unit also contains a house alarm that connects over the internet to an alarm monitoring company who provide IP monitoring, and a battery backup so that service is still available should there be a power cut.
Orcon's Homehub is also an example of an ADSL2+ based residential gateway that includes a modem, WiFi and analogue phone ports so you can use analogue phones with their VoIP product delivered to your premises over the internet.
Since I don't work for Telecom I can't say a lot about their exact plans for the future. What is clear is that both options will exist in the marketplace and play important roles. Telecom will be able to install equipment in their exchanges and roadside cabinets to deliver a dialtone over existing cabling so that all existing analogue phones will work, but many people are going to be interested in moving away from analogue phones completely to a full VoIP solution. If you're lucky enough to have fibre direct to your house either now, or in the future, a residential gateway will be required to provide you with internet and phone services.
The price of VoIP phones still exceed that of regular analogue phones but prices are dropping and the features that are available will see these becoming more common in households and businesses as people realise the benefits. These phones can simply be hooked into your existing broadband modem/router and can deliver voice quality that is far superior to that of the existing PSTN network using HD voice codecs such as G.722 when calling another device that supports the same codec. The great thing about VoIP is that you have a choice when it comes to your calling. With a VoIP device (PBX or phone) that supports multiple providers you can easily (and cheaply) sign up with a foreign VoIP provider and have a Melbourne or London phone number that people can call you on.
The growing market for hardware supporting video calling and video conferencing is also now putting this within reach of small businesses who would have simply been unable to take advantage of the technology in the past due to the cost.
It's clear that VoIP is the future of telephony. It doesn't mean that existing analogue devices will be obsolete. It does mean the opportunity is there for people to move away from analogue devices and replace these with VoIP hardware to take full advantage of the fantastic new products and services that are in the process of being deployed into the marketplace.
Today is the first day in my life that I've woken up with no job.
It is a day of sadness and happiness. I've got fantastic memories of my time having had a significant management level input into a very successful business. A change of ownership has meant that my skills are not wanted by the new owners. Karma is a wonderful thing and my knowledge is their loss, not mine.
Today really is the start of a new future for me. I've got some ideas and I know plenty of people. I'm very much a believer in life being predetermined and am sure that what has happened will certainly lead to greater happiness in the future.
If anybody thinks that I might be right for a role they have then my contact details are on this page to the right. I'm always open to offers whether they be for casual/contract or full time work and would certainly be interested in any work in the VoIP, telephony or telecommunications sector.
In the meantime if you're from Wellington and ever want to catch up for coffee or lunch I've got plenty of time on my hands! You can contact me on here or @stevebiddle on twitter.
One of the most common methods used to prevent shop lifting in retail stores is the use of EAS tags. These are security tags attached to products, and if the goods are removed from the premises without the tag being removed or deactivated barriers located at entry/exit points of the store will sound an alarm.
There are two types of tags in use today, hard tags that are attached to goods and removed from the goods during the sale process with a detacher, and smaller (typically) single use tags that are left on the product and deactivated when passed over a deactivator pad which is normally built into the shop counter or barcode scanner. Two main technologies exist in the marketplace today, AM (acustomagnetic) and RF (radio frequency). Both systems are used extensively throughout the world however I've spent most of my time playing with AM based systems which I believe are technically superior.
False alarms from EAS systems are extemely uncommon - common misconceptions are that car alarm remotes or other electronic devices will set the alarm of, this is something that is untrue. The reality is that the technology is exceptionally good and it is very rare for anything but an EAS tag to set of a barrier. If you set off a barrier odds are you are wearing or have in your possession a product that still has an active EAS tag attached to it.
Virtually all goods sold from Kathmandu stores are source tagged. This means EAS tags are sewn into clothing or inserted into the packaging at the time of manufacture, a process that saves time as there is no requirement for retail staff to have to attach tags to goods instore.
What they are doing makes perfect business sense. It's what they aren't doing that is causing every other retailer in NZ using an AM based EAS system significant grief.
So what are Kathmandu doing that is so bad?
Quite simply Kathmandu are doing a very poor job ensuring that products sold in their stores or via mail order have the EAS tags deactivated at the time of purchase.
How many people reading this blog have set off the alarm in EAS barriers while entering or exiting a store? If this did happen to you, were you wearing any clothing manufactured by Kathmandu or carrying a Kathmandu bag? The odds are pretty high that you are.
The integrity of EAS systems has been damaged by Kathmandu's failure to ensure that ALL goods sold by them have the tags deactivated. This has created a nightmare for all other retailers operating RF based systems as "false alarms" are being created by people who are setting off barriers, not because they have attempted to steal goods, but because they are wearing clothing or have a bag or other product that has a tag that is still active. Not only does this create a nightmare for retail staff it's also highly embarrassing for customers who are being singled out when they have in fact done nothing wrong.
Stores other than Kathmandu may be guilty of of the same thing but the shear number of Kathmandu products in use now in NZ makes them by far the biggest guilty retailer.
So what can be done about it?
If you buy any products from a retailer and set off the barrier when leaving don't just let them ignore it - make sure they take the goods back and deactivate or remove the tags. This will wave you the embarrassment of having barriers alarms go off in the future.
If you have items that continually set off the barriers now it's potentially worth asking the store staff in the store where it goes off if they can deactivate the tag(s) for you. Deactivating the tags is very simple and I'm sure they'll be happy to do this, after all it's benefiting both you and them.
If you have Kathmandu goods that set off exit barriers then visit your local Kathmandu store and explain that you'd like the tags deactivated and are sick of feeling like a criminal whenever you go shopping. Hopefully this will get the message across to their staff that failure to follow their own internal procedures doesn't actually save time, it simply antagonises valued customers.
As we all know however, things aren't going to stay anywhere near the current 75c value and at some stage our currency is going to drop. If you're somebody who buys goods regularly from overseas you can take advantage of this current situation and hedge your money for a rainy day.
Many banks are now offering prepaid credit cards in foreign currency. These cards are great for travelling as they allow you to buy funds in a foreign currently such as US$ and use the card in the USA without incurring any transaction fees (unless you withdraw cash from an ATM). Your money is also locked in at the exchange rate at the time of purchase, something that's fantastic for us right now.
I purchased a ANZ Travel Card when I was stopping in the USA earlier this year. The card costs $12 to buy and $10 every time it's reloaded. The bank does take a small commission when money is loaded but in my experience with several topups it's a lot lower than the usual fees incurred with foreign credit card transactions.
The beauty of this card is that the value of the card is in US$ and fixed at the time of purchase. This means if you top up US$1000 to your card at this very moment you'll gain significantly if the value of the NZ$ falls. Any purchases you make in US$ online are deducted from your balance, unlike a regular credit card that is converted using the current exchange rate.
I'd probably buy somewhere in the region of $500 - $1000 worth of goods from the USA yearly. These are typically books of Amazon or goods from eBay. By topping up my card now I can take advantage of the card should our currency fall as any purchases will effectively be at the ~73c rate that I purchased my US$ at.
If you're somebody who regularly buys goods from the USA or online in US$ a card such as this is something that's well worth investigating. I know most banks are now offering similair cards and Travelex are also. We all know our currency isn't going to stay high for ever - why not take advantage of the current rates while you can!
While I'd love to write more about the fantastic experiences I had during the weekend this is simply a quick thank you to everybody who was there for making this event such a great experience.
I had some great discussions with some fantastic people, both from within Telecom and from outside. I also experienced first hand how passionate many of the Telecom staff are about both technology and the business as a whole - something that can't be easy to maintain when you're such a corporate that people love to hate.
Thanks to Neil for making this event possible, Neal for making sure everybody enjoyed werewolf and to Nat and Jenine for their fantastic skills when it comes to running such a cool event. It was a pleasure to be invited and be able to be present.
For reasons that aren't necessarily clear Asterisk fails to register. This results in inbound calls failing and either being redirected to the failover destination or the VFX voicemail platform.
This is not a regular occurance - it is something that has been reported by several users here on Geekzone (including myself) who have encountered this issue periodically, I've had it happen on two or three occasions in the past year. When it does happen however it is annoying!
The fix for this issue simply requires sending a "SIP RELOAD" command to Asterisk which will force it to reregister all SIP peers.
To make things simple for people I'll show you how to automate this process so that your system will perform this task automatically which should minimise the intances of this happening.
Linux includes a built in scheduler called cron. This enables tasks to be run at a selected time. We'll create a script that forces Asterisk to register all SIP trunks once every 30 minutes.
Connect to your Asterisk/trixbox system via SSH.
Now we need to edit the cron configuration file. We'll do this in the nano editor which is included in trixbox. Depending on your Linux distribution you may have a different favourite editor.
# nano /etc/crontab
The nano editor will then come up and you can add text. Scroll down to below the cron.monthly task and then add a new line.
*/30 * * * * root /usr/sbin/asterisk -rx "sip reload"
01 * * * * root run-parts /etc/cron.hourly
02 4 * * * root run-parts /etc/cron.daily
22 4 * * 0 root run-parts /etc/cron.weekly
42 4 1 * * root run-parts /etc/cron.monthly
*/30 * * * * root /usr/sbin/asterisk -rx "sip reload" <------ ADD THIS LINE
05 0 * * * root rm -f /var/lib/asterisk/sounds/tts/tts*
*/5 * * * * root /etc/init.d/apf stop >> /dev/null 2>&1
Now press CTRL X and press Y and enter to save.
Every 30 minutes the cron scheduler will now force a SIP reload command. If you Registration has failed this will resolve the issue. This 30 minute period could be changed if required.