Geekzone readers were asked to submit questions to Scott Bartlett, CEO, Orcon, and we now publish the answers to those questions.
At 28 years old, Scott is New Zealand’s youngest leader of a telecommunications provider and was listed in PC World’s internet top 20 in 2007.
Scott studied business at some of the world’s top institutions – the London School of Economics and Oxford University – where he decided that his mission was to lead “super high growth” companies.
He led the quik.co.nz business to business ISP, before joining Orcon as GM of operations and regulatory.
He has been CEO since July 2007, where his role is to drive Orcon’s growth through inspiring the 120-odd staff to challenge the status quo.
1.What car do you drive?
Funny you should ask this. I don’t own a car, but Orcon is set to take delivery of a fleet of Mini Clubmans, so no doubt I’ll be zapping around in one of them soon.
2.Do you see Orcon going 'beyond' LLU and investing in alternative technologies such as FTTN/FTTH?
In a word – Yes. We are always looking at new technology. There’s been a lot of debate about Fibre recently and it’s certainly become a popular topic with the press. The debate is encouraging – it means people are eager to keep pushing the broadband agenda – just as we are. What I can say however is, LLU is the best way forward at the moment. We are committed to rolling out ADSL2+ and getting people to experience the difference. It really is staggering – the median speed on our new network is 11Mbps.
3.In your view/experience, what are the main barriers to deploying broadband infrastructure in New Zealand?
Historically it has been the regulatory environment. The revised Telecommunications Act means that, thankfully, we are now in a new era and rolling out ADSL2+ at a cracking rate - 23 exchanges will be unbundled by the end of August – almost 5 a month.
There are also issues associated with New Zealand’s isolation, geographical spread and population density. These are issues Orcon has to deal with. There is no lack of will, and Kiwis are some of the most tech savvy people in the world.
4.As a subsidiary of an SOE (State Owned Enterprise), do you feel that Orcon has any bias from government policy (either explicit or implicit)? Why or why not?
The nature of an SOE is that it has to provide a commercial return for its shareholders. Government policy has little to do with this goal. The best way we can see to make a profit is to provide a great service. So, in a nutshell, no.
5.I admire Google for their ability to diffuse technology openly and still turn a profit. Are there any companies or people that you aspire to and do your aspirations influence the strategy of Orcon or other companies you had/have influence over?
There are many examples. One of the best would be iiNet in Australia who faced the same challenges we do. They have a local customer base and a healthy balance sheet.
6.Over recent months on Geekzone, there have been posts from Orcon users suggesting that Orcon may be experiencing issues due to its growth. These include significant issues affecting speed and latency, long hold times when calling the helpdesk, inaccurate/outdated information on the Status page, and some trouble tickets remaining unresolved. What changes can Orcon users expect so that these issues are resolved, and when might customers notice an appreciable difference to service quality?
I’ll answer these in order.
- Speed and latency: In the past three months, existing Orcon customer usage has increased 20 per cent – a massive amount. This is due to a variety of factors: Faster broadband and a better online experience encourages heavier use, more people viewing streaming content (surpassed P2P), and YouTube quality is better and more data-heavy than ever.
Customers on LLU service are using an average of 17GB a month – 7GB more then customers on Telecom wholesale products.
We have layered on more bandwidth to cope with this and we’re learning to stay ahead of customer demand. What also needs to be acknowledged is that we have little control over congestion at the exchange for people on a UBA (resold Telecom) service.
That’s why we see it as vitally important that we continue the roll out of LLU and control the data end-to-end. It’s also important to note that the recent Epitiro survey ranked us highly. The Epitiro surveys will be conducted every three months from here on in. We’ll be participating and looking forward to our ranking. We are committed to providing top quality broadband and will continue to make improvements to ensure we maintain a top position.
- Hold times: As is well documented, the interest in LLU and sign-up rates were higher than predicted. There were some teething issues – especially with line faults – but we have been proactive in developing better systems to get wait times down.
- Inaccurate/ outdated info on the status page: I’ll put my hand up here. We stuffed up. We were so busy we simply didn’t get round to it, and it took Geekzone posters to give us a hurry-up. We are on top of it now.
- Changes that we have enacted: More bandwidth, more staff and we have opened up our lines of communication.
7.What more can you tell us about Orcon's virtual network operator arrangement with Vodafone. Do you have a new estimate date for the service's launch?
Well, we have been working through various technical and other issues. I know people are really keen to see another player in the market, but I am hesitant to put a date on it – I’ve been burned by that in the past.
I’d rather be able to come out in whatever number of months and say ‘we have another option for you, and this is what we can offer’. Suffice to say, the market is there, we want to do this, but we want to do it properly. We’ll keep you posted.
8.I have heard a few rumours floating around in regards to issues with your new network, mainly that Orcon are looking at reselling Vodafone's Unbundled DSL as you are having a few 'teething issues' with your own gear. Are Orcon looking at reselling Vodafone’s Unbundled DSL (Using Vodafone’s hardware in the exchanges) due to issues with the Orcon hardware?
Hell no! We have the best network in the country. We are the first company in the world to deploy SIP-POTS technology.
The SIP-POTS equipment is from Siemens, and yes, as we are the first, there were a few teething issues – which were fixed by rolling out a patch. But the people reading Geekzone will appreciate that patches are needed when you are delivering a world first and we made sure we worked with Siemens and fast to get the issues fixed.
9.What is Orcon’s stance on Net Neutrality?
We will have to work within the global environment. If changes are made internationally, we will need to respond to these in order to maintain a great service for New Zealanders. We are watching the UK and challenges in the States and will need to work within these realities.
10.And a fun question for you... Ninjas or Pirates?
It’s got to be Ninjas – fast, stealthy and smart. They could kill you five times before you hit the ground. That’s awesome.