Western Perspective

A Snapshot of Australia's Digital Future to 2050

By Rob Anderson, in , posted: 11-Jul-2012 18:17

It's been a while since I've blogged (three years in fact), but I felt compelled to share this report with the GZ community.

A Snapshot of Australia's Digital Future to 2050

I have a vested interest in this as I am employed by NBN Co (Australia's UFB). IBM Australia commissioned the report so I have some faith in their credentials and findings.

There are some pretty interesting figures and predictions. While it may not all translate accross the Tasman, there will certainly be some parallels with regard to the industry breakdowns.

Statements like: "For every ten percentage point increase in broadband penetration, GDP increases by 1% and doubling an economy’s broadband speed increases GDP by 0.3%"

I like the concept of broadband being considered a utility, just like electricity and water, certainly the NBN is structured as such. NBN Co provide an Ethernet pipe between RSPs (Retail Service Providers) and the end user. The RSPs bill the customer (end user) and pay NBN Co for the use of the pipe. I'm not sure how the UFB is structured, hopefully on a similar basis.

Check out the report, the Executive Summary certainly wetted my appetite. Interesting reading, I may even use it in this symester's uni paper - Information Systems, Organisations and E-Commerce.


How did we get the birds nest out of the cellphone tower?

By Rob Anderson, in , posted: 30-Jul-2009 15:21

With reference to my blog post from last year.

Because of the V-Day rollout, Vodafone came to the party and their site services team cleared out half a dozen nests in the South Island.

They used a huge, powerfull water-blaster plant and effecively blew them away!

Full credit to them, they did a great job and cleaned up after themselves too.

Gore takes the prize for the biggest; 3-4m thick!

No idea what happened to the birds. There are usually some rather accommodating Telecom towers near by Wink

Many thanks for all you suggestions (explosives would have been fun).

Visionstream awarded Chorus Auckland patch - another blow against the industry at the hands of Telecom

By Rob Anderson, in , posted: 19-Jul-2009 10:16

NBR article, I heard about this last week through a colleague in the industry.

Telecom again chips away at the Telecommunications industry in NZ:

  • Awarding patch contracts to the lowest bidder erodes contractor margins and ultimately errodes customer service levels
  • Visionstream are implementing an "owner operator" system. The technicians take all the risk by shelling out up to $90k to set themsleves up, but are then dependent on Visionstream for their work - sounds like an ideal way to manipulate your workforce into lower rates.
  • Pissed off technicians are going to start looking elsewhere or even leave the industry - a skills sortage does nobody any good, especially customers

I remember something from a Massey management paper I did in the 80's that has stayed with me:

"Every organisation has a responsibility to the environment it operates within"

It's common sense really - not a good idea to destroy the industry you work in.


Monopoly World Edition - Queenstown pipped at the post!!!

By Rob Anderson, in , posted: 9-Oct-2008 17:28

I blogged about this a few months ago, and I have finally got around to finding out the results:

The votes have been tallied and the cities elected to occupy the first-ever international MONOPOLY edition game board MONOPOLY Here and Now: The World Edition can be revealed.

Now, where is Queenstown you may ask (I've been asking where is Gdynia, and how to pronounce it - but I found it - still can't pronounce it)?

Ironic, because I am writing this in Queenstown, but the "adventure capital of the world" (according to it's Community Chest card) came 21st and only just missed getting on the board - bummer!!?!

All is not lost though, you will be able to buy a "Kiwi DIY Bonus Pack" that enables you to put Queenstown and Auckland on your board. (it should have been Queenstown and Dunedin - not bloody Dorkland!)

Back to strip tiddly winks and nude ludo for me!

Transfields future as Telecom SP on knife-edge

By Rob Anderson, in , posted: 25-Sep-2008 21:39

I have blogged about this before (it seems like I'm always saying that - just prophetic I guess), but it seems that poor old Transfield are loosing money on their Telecom contracts. See TVNZ news item.

To be honest I'm not surprised, they have been nailed down so much, there can't be any margin in this work, in fact they have admitted they are loosing money on it. A few years ago, when the Telecom patches were being awarded, they must have put in bids so close to their break-even point that there was no room for any variation, and now they're in the smelly brown stuff.

So what are Telecom going to do about it? Two choices; negotiate with Transfield to try and keep them on, and let them actually do business so they can make some money and survive - or give it all to Downers.

Personally, I hope that Transfield stick around and are able to continue with the Telecom patches they have - I think it would be so detrimental to the NZ telecommunications industry if it was just Downers (Don't forget, they have Telecom patches, the TelstraClear SP contract, and the Vodafone maintenance contract - hell, there's not much else out there!!?!)

I can't believe I'm defending Transfield - they are probably the lowest paying SP in the industry. Maybe if they sort things out with Telecom they will address this - yeah right!

Happy days!!

11/09/2001 Seven years on and my how the world has changed

By Rob Anderson, in , posted: 11-Sep-2008 07:29

Seven years today! It's not a day many people will forget. It stands out in my mind due to a member of my team being in New York while it happened. This was my experience:

I was a program manager for a telco/cable company in the UK. I had a team of project managers and engineers building a huge IP network throughout the UK, with PoPs in Europe and the US. On the 11th of September 2001, I was attending a PRINCE2 course (Projects in Controlled Environments) and it was really tough going. I was doing a practice exam and of course had my phone switched off. When I got out of the exam I had a voice mail from one of my project managers, sounding very concerned about Ziya. Ziya was a very talented and experienced IP engineer (the Sultan of Cisco he was known as), who we had sent to New York to build a data PoP in a Level3 facility, and hook it up to a peering point just across the road from the twin towers.
Matt (project manager) said that he had been talking to Ziya and there was some serious shit going down in New York - jet fighters swooping between buildings and the like. They were then cut off - we found out later that the cell phone network in New York had crashed (or been turned off - still not sure about that).
I went through to reception, where there was a big TV and saw what was going on - wow!!
We all tried repeatedly to get through to Ziya, directed to voicemail every time. We contacted Ziya's wife, but she had no news either.
I had a very anxious evening, unable to concentrate on my course work or anything else for that matter. You can imagine my releif when Ziya called me later that night.
He had been working at the Port Authority building (on 34th St I think) and realised that something was happening. When his phone went dead he thought "that's it! I'm out of here". He threw his tools into our cabinet in the colo, picked up his laptop and followed the throng of people heading off Manhattan Island. Not bothering with his gear in the hotel, he walked off the island (no trains were running and all the roads were full of people not vehicles) and found a bus station in Jersey. He bought a bus ticket for Chicago where he had some relatives, and a phone card. He called his wife and then me. Ziya said to me "you know Rob, I do look a bit like an Arab", being of Pakastani descent, yes he did, but it was not something I had ever considered before. Ziya later told me that that bus ride was one of the most scary and tense journeys he had ever taken - nobody spoke, everyone was glancing sideways.
We got Ziya back in the UK about a week later, and it was hugs and tears all round!

On a slightly lighter note, Ziya also had some issues on his further travels - riots in Moscow; Ziya was there for a job interview, plane crashes in Queens (New York again); Ziya and another engineer were in New York .
In the end, the running joke around the office was: find out where Ziya is going and go somewhere else!

I would be interested to hear of anyone elses experiences or tales from that tragedy.

How do I get a birds nest out of a cellphone tower?

By Rob Anderson, in , posted: 3-Sep-2008 08:50

I know that you're a clever lot, so I am looking for some innovative ideas to get me out of a sitcky situation (literally).

I have a couple of cellphone towers where I am trying to upgrade services (3G wooohooo!!?!) but am being held up by birds building rather large and impregnable nests inside and near the top.

You all know what these look like, but here's a photo (not actually a tower with a nest in it):

 More information:

  • These nests are tough - 1.5 to 2m thick, throughout the whole inside of the pole
  • There are existing cables running through that cannot be damaged as they are carring 2G services
  • The nests are 10 to 15m up
  • You can get entry into the base of the pole
  • These sites are remote, not in metropolitan areas
  • We can climb these poles

Our previous approach has been to unhook the existing cables (coaxial feeders) and see if the nest can be loosened, and if that doesn't work, pull the pole apart - with a crane. This is a very expensive and disruptive process.

I spoke to a colleague who delt to a nest in an Invercargill pole with a man in a dust suit, goggles and breathing filter mask, standing in the bottom of the pole with a long length of 25mm conduit with a hook on the end - and a whole lot of time.

Obviously "not letting the birds in in the first place" is the ultimate solution - too late!

Any suggestions or plans, however whacky or mad will be considered. We may even provide a reward for any idea that proves successful - of course you can keep the birds nest (and the bird) when we get it out!!?!

Downers buys Astute. Downers now SP for Telecom, TCL and Vodafone

By Rob Anderson, in , posted: 29-Apr-2008 10:02

I had a call from the South Island Manager on Thursday while I was on my way to a job in Clinton:
"Downers have bought Astute, as of today you are redundant"

Nice! I turned around and headed home - really looking forward to telling my wife that news!!

It is not as bad as it seems though. When Downers took on all the TCL work for the SI, all the Astute techs were offered jobs by Downers. The same will probably happen for everyone in Astute now.

I have a clause in my contract:
"we will use reasonable endeavours in the courese of negotiating the restructuring to persuade the new employer to offer employment to you in the same or a similar position and on terms and conditions no less favourable than these, and on the basis that your service will be regarded as continuous"

I really hope this happens!! My family and I will really struggle if we have to take a cut in income.

I have blogged about this before. Now the situation is even more interesting (interesting because I can't decide if it's more or less complicated).

Downers are now:
  • One of the two (along with Transfield) exclusive service partners for Telecom.
  • The exclusive service partner for TelstraClear.
  • the faults and maintenance contract company for Vodafone.
Wow! Looks like I might be working for Downers, as is just about everyone else in this industry.

What has happened to this industry??

By Rob Anderson, in , posted: 2-Apr-2008 09:50

I'm talking about my industry; telecommunications!

Earlier in the month I opened a forum topic about TCLs ditching of Astute as their service partner in the South Island. It had a few reads, but no posts, I think it may be because many people outside the industry don't really understand how it is structured, and who's got their hands in who's pockets. Allow me to ellaborate:

I appreciate that many of the participants in the geekzone community are very familiar with NZ's telco industry, please don't think I'm being patronising, I'm just telling my story really. Also, please excuse some of the written outbursts on this blog - I'm in an interesting state of mind at the moment.

The two major telcos in NZ are of course Telecom and TelstraClear, these are the guys who will actually send someone out to connect up(or cut off) your phone/broadband/cable TV(TCL in Wellington and Christchurch). Now when this chicken arrives on your doorstep with a brand new shiny phone/modem/STB, they won't actually be employed by Telecom or TCL, they are employed by a service partner (which is a euphemism for a contracting company - haven't you noticed how modern companies love to make everything a "partnership" or a "relationship", enhancing the "customer experience". I remember when they weren't even customers but subscribers, and nobody gave a sh*t about the subs anyway, and by the way I just want a phone to order a pizza, I don't want to be shagged by anyone - I'll wait for the bill for that to happen, but I digress...).

Telecom's service partners are Downers and Transfield, who have got regions or "patches" dedicated to each throughout NZ.
TelstraClear have (or had) an exclusive contract with Astute to be their service partner throughout the whole conuntry.

But what does this really mean for the customer?

It means that these contracting companies have bid for, and won these contracts to act as exclusive service partners for Telecom and TCL. Think about this for a minute, what do you think is the most importaint criteria for a telco when awarding these contracts? Money of course!! Telecom and TCL have got all these contracting companies undercutting each other to try and get these contracts, effectively nailing them down to the bare minimum - better to make $1 on each job rather than have no work at all. I remember being on some bullsh*t project management course once (it's not rocket science, it's the science that builds rockets! - barf!!?!), talking about the magic triangle of Costs, Time and Quality. You can guarantee that the telcos won't want to compromise time frames, and when they've screwed down the contractors costs it is going to be quality that suffers. For quality, read customer service.

So how did this happen?

To be honest, I'm not really sure, I was living in Yurp when the telcos decided it was a good idea to sell off their engineering workforce and contract them back again (I was driving around Hampshire in my A6 Avant, desperately trying to stop this very thing happening in the cable company I was working for. I succeeded too. Being constantly harrassed by senior management to hand over projects to service providers (not partners at that stage) "look at the cost savings if Norcaciscatel do this network!!", I had to sit down with them and step by step prove that my teams could do the job better and more efficiently - I was proved right, when an equipment supplier was handed a big transmission project, the "in house" engineers and techs (whose jobs were being threatened by the outsourcing of this project) were never busier, chasing the service provider and sorting out all their cock-ups. Happy days...).
The origins were with the breakup of the Post Office and subsequent sell-off of Telecom. (Roger Douglas you Bastard!!! If John Key wants any credibility as Prime Minister he really needs to distance himself from that git!!)
You know, Telecom was split up way back then too. Into regional operating companies (ROCs) and technology based business units such as Telecom Cellular and Telecom Mobile Radio. I left the country when I resigned frm TMR, so I'm not sure when or why the structure was shaken up again.
I arrived back in NZ in 2002 to find all these service partners running around installing phones (Telecom and TCL hadn't put their foot down then, and there was a whole plethora of contracting companies doing the work).

Well, that's todays history lesson, sorry if it's a bit colourful and biased, but I'm only human.

The femtocell - perfect for NZ!!?!

By Rob Anderson, in , posted: 13-Feb-2008 10:21

In a Herald article this morning, UK Vodafone and O2 are trialling femtocells; small 3G base stations hooked up to a broadband connection, offering 3G calls and data services.

It strikes me that these devices are perfect for the topography and conditions here in NZ. I have loads of issues in my part of the world with customers in low or zero cellphone coverage areas, and more often than not these customers have broadband in their homes or premises.
In the article Paul Brislen talks about Vodafone's mini-repeater solution, but these still rely on a BTS, so in zero coverage areas they are useless.
Even in buildings where a mini-repeater would be a good solution, the femtocell would be easier to install and set up.

I really hope the trials go well. Come on Vodafone NZ, lets get in on this, apart from everything else...

it's seriously cool!!?!

Wob's profile

Rob Anderson

Ex Telecom Radio Technician, still in the industry working for everyone except Telecom.

Had enough of the cold, upped sticks and moved to Perth, WA.
Now working for NBN Co on Australia's largest infrastructure project ever.

Samosa lover.