XT Network Launch Party - A Celebration For The People

By tonyhughes Hughes, in , posted: 14-May-2009 13:17

Update: 2.46pm some corrections as per NealR's comment below.

Last night I had the pleasure of attending an event put on by Telecom New Zealand to celebrate the impending (though delayed by court action and a subsequent settlement) launch of their new half billion dollar W-CDMA/UMTS 3G mobile network.

I have actually seen some pricing info recently (from a non-Telecom non-Dealer source), but with no way to validate it, and no desire to pop anyones bubble (nor to receive a take-down demand), all I will say is that the near future is looking great for XT Network and its new customers.

Dr Paul Reynolds gave a speech quite early on during the event, and appeared somewhat frustrated at having to give what was essentially a bland marketing speech, with no competitive information. I believe he had planned to divulge most of the juicier pricing and handset information at this event, but with this information being so commercially sensitive, they obviously do not want Vodafone to be able to get any sort of jump on them before launch day.

Talk of 13 sites connected to fiber backhaul now, HSPA+ at all sites by Christmas 2009, and over 2.5 million music tracks in Telecoms online store, was as close as Paul came to giving us anything that most have not heard before.

I was surprised that with this launch being very heavily focused on technology, that Gen-i's own Chris Quin was not speaking alongside Dr Reynolds. Chris is quite charismatic and a good speaker, and would have complemented Paul well by taking the technology angle a little further.

An appeal was also made by Paul for donations of existing mobile phones to Starship Childrens Hospital, who will receive upwards of $15 per old handset donated, as these devices are refurbished and sold in overseas markets, or recycled where possible if unsaleable. Telecom has committed to attempting to provide 50,000 handsets to the charity, but Paul also said that he would love to see 100,000 or more handsets go to this very worthy cause. More information about Starships Mobile Phone Recycling Campaign is here: http://www.starship.org.nz/index.php/pi_pageid/1659 and you can send them unneeded handsets right now, or from launch day for XT Networks, there will be charity bins to place your handsets in at Telecom retailers up and down the country.

After Pauls relatively short speech, we were given the chance to have a hands on play with several handsets, including some of the Telecom branded OEM units. For those who have been used to a relatively lacklustre range of TDMA then CDMA handsets for the last 10 or 15 years, things are about to hot up for you, as there is some very sexy hardware coming your way, with a very large selection of handsets across the range, where even the bottom of the range W-CDMA handsets will best the current top of the range CDMA units in terms of features.

A certain techsploding journalist was spotted wandering around chasing the food-serving staff with a constantly rumbling stomach, though I believe in the end, he faded away to a shadow (as I myself am in extreme danger of).

The rest of my evening was spent meeting and talking with people from all different areas of the industry, from Telecom/Gen-i staff, managers & clients, to Geekzone members, hardware vendors, media, and other industry staff.
There was lots of interesting conversations going on, and at one stage, a senior Telecom-ite was asked "Where does Apple stand in relation to XT Network / Telecom". The immediate answer (perhaps too immediate?) was "[Apple stands in] San Francisco" (Apples headquarters are about 40 miles outside 'Frisco). If Telecom have got an Apple iPhone deal in the works, it is a pretty well-guarded secret.

I had the pleasure of meeting a senior tech-head from Gemalto - one of the worlds leading SIM card manufacturers, with 23 factories around the world making SIM cards. This is an aspect of the industry that doesn't seem to come up in conversation much, but SIM card development is very active, with more and more capability and technology being pushed into the tiny units. The size is also due to be decreased, down to the size of the existing gold plated area of the chip. This will retain backwards compatibility. (This is just general information, and not relevant to the XT Network Launch).

Telecoms SIM cards are at their final (for now) cosmetic evolution, and have been for six months or more. So no - you will not see the XT brand on a SIM card at launch time.

Ever wondered why SIM cards still come pre-punched but still attached to the old style credit-card size holder - well contrary to one Geekzone members belief that the Bellsouth network and handsets of days gone by could be resurrected in a time of need should XT go tits-up, the equipment that processes and manufactures SIM cards is all tooled up for that size of card, and the inference was that it would not make economic sense to re-tool plants to handle the smaller punched-out size of SIM card.

It was during this time of chatting to all the people involved in the network that it really hit me - the hype about the time, effort, blood, sweat and tears that individual staff have poured into this network design, build, test and launch has not just been hype. Several individual Telecom staff told me last night how hard they and their teams have been working on this for a very long time. From the passionate way each of them spoke, it was easy to see that a lot of heart and soul has been poured into this from the outset.

The launch of XT Network will be many things to many people, but for many of the staff and contractors of Telecom New Zealand and its partners, it will be a personal victory well worth celebrating. Enjoy it.

(Bootnote: Did a link to this post get circulated within Telecom? It has recieved an unusually large amount of views in its first two days. - Tony)

Other related posts:
Flatmates busting your ADSL cap? Remedy...
Hawkes Bay Today (newspaper) scraping Trademe for telemarketing
Smart Connect - a free alternative to Psiloc Connect for S60 Nokia Smartphones (E71 etc)








Comment by scottpalmer, on 14-May-2009 13:51

very well written mr hughes, thanks


Comment by NealR, on 14-May-2009 14:20

Tony,

Great summary and glad you mentioned that there has been a lot of "time, effort, blood, sweat and tears" that has gone in over the last 22 months.

Just a couple of clarifications;
The plan is to have HSPA+ nationwide by the end of the year.

The 13+ cities was where we have cell sites already connected to fibre (>80% of where NZers live and work) and that number will continue to grow. The rest of the cell sites have multiple 2M links to support the expected capacity.



SIMs at launch will be the usual size and will include branding. What Gemalto were able to share was how the next generation of SIM cards are not far away and these are the size of the Gold contacts on existing cards. Yes, this does create a challenge for the crayon brigade :)





Neal


Author's note by tonyhughes, on 14-May-2009 14:44

Oops... I had a few hours less sleep than I should have. Corrections up now.


Comment by nate, on 14-May-2009 15:36

And whose fault is it you didn't get much sleep??


Author's note by tonyhughes, on 14-May-2009 15:38

Your girlfriends fault actually!!


Author's note by tonyhughes, on 14-May-2009 16:01

Clarification: Nate and is long-suffering partner took me out for a couple of drinks last night. Otherwise I would have gotten four more hours sleep :o)


Comment by akia, on 14-May-2009 16:07

Was a lot of fun - nice to meet you and I can't wait til the 29th :)


Comment by chiefie, on 14-May-2009 16:29

so... what's the freebies?


Comment by NealR, on 14-May-2009 17:16

@chiefie

He got a wonderful Telecom lanyard to hand around his neck.


Author's note by tonyhughes, on 14-May-2009 17:56

@chiefie and not to forget the incalculable riches of the soul for meeting so many more nice people! :o)


Comment by EMB, on 14-May-2009 21:48

The response to my Apple question was priceless. I'm still awaiting a real response - Paul's answer was equally evasive but less funny. By the way, do you fancy a few skids round town if I wander down in my Ford for Queens Birthday weekend?


Author's note by tonyhughes, on 15-May-2009 09:12

What have you got? You may have told me, but I am hard of hearing.


Comment by Chris Kerr, on 15-May-2009 14:12

This might sound like hyperbole but you really can feel the general buzz and excitement around this launch. As much as people want info on what handsets and plans are available, I'm glad they've kept it a secret to keep building the hype. I would hope though that they release all their plans and info on launch day i.e. I buy a nice spanky phone on day 1 only to read a media release 1 month later that the iphone is coming. That would piss me off and I'm sure a few others. Well done Telecom. 11 years with you and sticking around for more.


Comment by Chris Kerr, on 15-May-2009 14:13

This might sound like hyperbole but you really can feel the general buzz and excitement around this launch. As much as people want info on what handsets and plans are available, I'm glad they've kept it a secret to keep building the hype. I would hope though that they release all their plans and info on launch day i.e. I buy a nice spanky phone on day 1 only to read a media release 1 month later that the iphone is coming. That would piss me off and I'm sure a few others. Well done Telecom. 11 years with you and sticking around for more.


Comment by Chris Kerr, on 15-May-2009 14:29

This might sound like hyperbole but you really can feel the general buzz and excitement around this launch. As much as people want info on what handsets and plans are available, I'm glad they've kept it a secret to keep building the hype. I would hope though that they release all their plans and info on launch day i.e. I buy a nice spanky phone on day 1 only to read a media release 1 month later that the iphone is coming. That would piss me off and I'm sure a few others. Well done Telecom. 11 years with you and sticking around for more.


Comment by Paul , on 17-May-2009 22:12

If Telecom try to tie people into expensive plans for the iphone I predict the end of telecom as a mobile player Vodaphone can see that Android will dominate the handset market in the years to come because its an open platform that delivers everones favorite Google apps anytime anyplace! Telecom The End.


Author's note by tonyhughes, on 18-May-2009 08:44

Paul - I dont think Telecom will go overboard if they do in fact get the iPhone, but even if they did - "the end of Telecom as a mobile player" what are you basing that on? Is AT&T in the states a dying business on its last legs because of the iPhone and high tariffs?

Android "dominating" the handset market? Just because it is an open platform? In the same way that Linux is dominating the desktop OS market now? It's open source, has been a usable desktop system for a long time, but enjoys very little market share on the desktop against OSX/Windows. (No haters please, this is being posted from Linux on a laptop as we speak).


Comment by B., on 20-May-2009 18:57

I dont no why consumers are getting so excited about the XT network, vodafone has had the technology that telecom is releasing since 2005... Also, If the network crashes/faults it has nothing to fall back onto. When vodafone released its 3G network in co-operation with nokia it was experimental and crashed/faulted afew times but it all ways had 2G to fall back onto so at least customers had voice coverage. Telecom could ri\un into some issue's there. And what happened to 14mbps per second downloads....? Exactly. By no means am I opposed to the network, its a great achievement and hopefully it will drive NZs expensive telco prices down! Im just saying that its nothing new and its a risk to switch customers over - especially businesses.


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