Western Perspective

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.

Other related posts:
Visionstream awarded Chorus Auckland patch - another blow against the industry at the hands of Telecom
Transfields future as Telecom SP on knife-edge
Downers buys Astute. Downers now SP for Telecom, TCL and Vodafone

Comment by sbiddle, on 2-Apr-2008 14:48

And what is going to happen in Wellington with Astute?

Author's note by Wob, on 2-Apr-2008 15:38

That's a very good question. Frankly, I have no idea about Wellington, just like I had no idea or even an inkling as to what happened in the SI.

Any hints TelstraClear?

Comment by sbiddle, on 2-Apr-2008 19:03

At the end of the day however for many of the techs it simply means a different shirt!

Author's note by Wob, on 3-Apr-2008 10:35

It may mean a different shirt, but they are probably more concerned about changes to their pay and conditions - I certainly am!

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.