Telecom Exchange Tour

By Steve Biddle, in , posted: 25-Feb-2010 09:07

I had the opportunity yesterday of attending a Telecom Exchange tour hosted by Chorus & Telecom Wholesale. This included a visit to the Courtenay Place exchange here in Wellington, a look at a current Fibre To The Home (FTTH) deployment in Grenada Village and a look at a Whisper Cabinet that are currently being deployed nationwide as part of the Fibre to the Node (FTTN) cabinetisation program. It was a very interesting day with plenty to see and talk about. Since it's something many people would never get the chance to experience I took a few photos to share with everybody.


Our first stop was the Courtenay Place exchange. This is one of the two major exchanges in the Wellington CBD (the other being on Featherston Street).



Phone cable entering the exchange from the outside world



Fibre optic cable entering the exchange 



A room full of batteries in case of a power cut



And backup generator. There are two of these required to power the exchange.


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A view of the MDF (main distribution frame) in the exchange and some close up photos of the different types of connections - ranging from the old solder type to more modern punch down blocks. The frame contains a "D" side and an "E" side - one is from the outside world and the other is from the NEAX switch. A cable is patched between both sides of the frame to provide service.



The fibre section of the exchange. Fibre enters the exchange and has to be patched in much the same way copper is.



Inside of a cable trays where the fibre is joined.




The Alcatel Lucent 7302 ISAM that provides ADSL/ADSL2+ broadband services from this exchange. This is the same hardware that is deployed in the new roadside cabinets.


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Orcon and TelstraClear equipment in the exchange. Both provide ULL (Unbundled Local Loop) internet and voice services from this exchange.



Next up was a visit to Grenada Village to visit the single FTTH deployment in Wellington. This deployment uses the GPON (Gigabit Passive Optical Network) standard. This deployment is in a new subdivision that currently only has a handful of active customers and there are approximately another dozen houses under construction at present. This cabinet is what is known as a "passive cabinet" - it does not require any power to operate. It is simply splitting the incoming fibre and acting as a simple patch panel. This cabinet has capacity for up to 288 houses.


In the photo above you can see the the yellow fibre that runs from each house back to the cabinet. The fibre at the top is currently unconnected.



The optical splitter (essentially just a glass prism) splits a single optical signal across 32 outputs. There is capacity in this cabinet for 9 splitters but only a single splitter is fitted at present due to the small number of customers.






The fibre then enters the tray where it is "patched in" and connected to liven up the connection to the house.



The underground pit where fibre from the exchange is connected to the cabinet. Spare fibre is available so the installation is future proofed.



There is no copper cabling deployed in this subdivision, every household requires a ONT (Optical Network Terminal) which turns the optical signal back to an electrical signal. The ONT provides a standard Ethernet output which connects to a router to provide internet access. The phone service is VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) and customers have the option of using VoIP handsets in their house or connecting regular analogue phones to an ATA (analogue telephone adapter) that converts the VoIP service to analogue. At present all internet and voice services are provided through WorldxChange Communications as Telecom Retail do not currently have a residential VoIP product in the marketplace.


The picture above shows a mock-up of the hardware that is typically being fitted in the home at present. This includes a Linksys router with built in ATA that allows you to connect analogue phones. It also includes a battery backup to ensure that phone service is still available in the case of a power cut.



Next up was a site visit to a working Chorus FTTN cabinet. These cabinets are brand new state of the art technology that are being deployed nationwide as part of the Chorus cabinetisation rollout. Approximately 1500 have currently been deployed nationwide out of a total of 3400, with the project due for completion towards the end of 2011. ADSL (and the forthcoming VDSL) deliver faster speeds the closer the customer is to the cabinet or exchange - because the customer can't be moved closer to the exchange the solution is to build these cabinets and move the hardware closer to the customer. These cabinets are connected back to a local exchange by fibre and copper, the fibre is used for backhaul for internet services and the copper is used to provide voice service from the existing NEAX switch in the exchange



Inside of the cabinet. On the left is the Alcatel Lucent 7302 ISAM that provides ADSL/ADSL2+ broadband. On the right is the MDF (main distribution frame) which contains copper cabling from the local exchange and from each nearby house or business. These are jumpered together to provide voice and broadband service to customers.



A close up look at the ISAM and cards


These cabinets were designed and built in New Zealand by Eaton in Christchurch and each cabinet is designed to serve to up approximately 300 customers. At present they only contain Telecom equipment but the space on the left is available for other telecommunications providers or ISP's to install their own equipment if required. As mentioned above all voice services are still provided by the existing phone exchange, however it is possible that in the future Telecom could install hardware in these cabinets to deliver voice services when the NEAX switches are retired. A voice card for the existing Alcatel Lucent ISAM could easily be installed and would connect to Telecom's core network using VoIP but would convert this to analogue so that existing phones in your home or business would continue to work as normal. The cabinets have a battery bank to ensure they work even during a power cut, and can be powered by a generator if need be during a prolonged outage.


A special thanks has to go to Chorus and Telecom Wholesale for organising such a great afternoon!

Is the MTR saga over?

By Steve Biddle, in , posted: 23-Feb-2010 10:48

Yesterday was an interesting day in the mobile world in New Zealand. Along with yet another outage affecting the XT network, the Commerce Commission submitted their findings to the Communications Minister in relation to Mobile Termination Rates (MTR). The Commission in a 2 to 1 majority recommended to Communications Minister Steven Joyce that an aligned undertaking from both Telecom and Vodafone be accepted rather than the Commission being forced to intervene in the market and force the regulation of wholesale interconnection pricing.


The response from those with opposing viewpoints was interesting

                2degrees said

Today is a very disappointing day for New Zealand mobile users. After much delay, the Commerce Commission appears to have squandered a golden opportunity to finally bring New Zealand mobile prices into line with the rest of the developed world. New Zealand consumers suffer with some of the highest mobile prices in the world. The Commission’s recommendation to leave the decision on access pricing up to the incumbents, Vodafone and Telecom, will mean this burden on New Zealanders continues for the foreseeable future.


The response from 2degrees was as expected. They are a company that has spent most of the last decade complaining about the regulatory environment in New Zealand rather than getting on with building a network. In August last year 2degrees finally launched their network and by their own admissions are doing amazingly well. Last week they announced that they had signed up 206,000 active customers, a figure that was well ahead of expectations, and also announced that for the first time people in New Zealand are now able to access prepaid calling rates at prices well below the OECD average. They are also claiming ARPU (average revenue per user) in excess of $10, a figure that is higher than many Telecom prepaid customers.

The question has to be asked as to why 2degrees seem to have significant issues with the Commerce Commission decision. Right now their business is booming and yet they see regulation of the industry as being essential to compete. One really has to wonder why this is the case.

The Drop the rate, mate! Lobby group (that is heavily backed by 2degrees and several unions) went even further accusing Commerce Commission members of doing “an about face”


Two members of the Commerce Commission have done an about-face, after repeated voluntary undertakings from the big telcos – while another, Anita Mazzoleni, has sided with consumers, the Drop the Rate, Mate! campaign said today.


The Drop the Rate, Mate! Campaign was formed to “to demand lower mobile termination rates in line with the costs of connecting calls and texts”. They have never explicitly explained exactly what they mean by this statement and where they see pricing in the market, but when a campaign is powered by nothing but hot air this isn’t surprising. One would presume they would be at least partly happy with the Commission’s announcement, SMS rates are potentially going to be cut to under cost and voice revenue cut to levels that are in line with costs based on some pricing models. Exactly what “about face” they are talking about is unknown, for months now the Commerce Commission have been actively encouraging a joint aligned undertaking from all three carriers that would deliver pricing that was acceptable to the Commission in preference to the Commission forcing regulation of pricing. To say that two members of the Commerce Commission have done an “about face” and no longer care about consumers is nothing but rubbish. The only “about face” I’m aware of in the whole MTR saga was the decision in December by 2degrees to throw their toys out of the cot and withdraw all previous undertakings that they had submitted to the Commerce Commission leaving them with no offer on the table.

I’ve been accused of working for both Vodafone and Telecom in past blog posts on the MTR issue but want to make it perfectly clear I no ties with either company. The telecommunications sector as a whole is of great interest to me and watching the MTR saga drag out over the past year has been fascinating. The rates charged by some carriers in New Zealand for fixed line to mobile and for mobile to mobile calls are expensive, what people need to remember however is that the MTR issue is a discussion of pricing of wholesale traffic interconnection, it isn’t a discussion on retail pricing. The Commerce Commission have no plans to regulate retail pricing and believe that pricing will fall due to competition in the marketplace due to lower termination rates. Whether this occurs is still to be seen as there is no evidence anywhere in the world that can draw any established relationships between wholesale interconnection rates and retail pricing. There are countries with high interconnection rates and low calling costs and countries with low interconnection rates and high calling costs.


What offer is on the table?

Both Telecom and Vodafone have said that from the 1st October 2010 they will drop SMS interconnection pricing to 0c and adopt a hybrid Bill and Keep pricing model. This hybrid pricing model means that Vodafone and Telecom will not charge each other for delivering SMS messages to the other network providing traffic levels remain even. If an imbalance in traffic occurs at a level between 7% and 12% then a charge of 2c per message will apply, and for an imbalance of greater than 12% a 4c per message charge will apply. The reason for the hybrid system and not a true bill and keep solution is primarily at attempt to stop the proliferation of unsolicited SMS messages, in a true BAK model with no restrictions it’s possible for a network to actively sign up users whose only intention is to deliver unsolicited SMS messages to users on other networks. It’s worth noting that current SMS traffic levels between networks are all reasonably even as SMS is a two way medium – if somebody sends you a SMS, move often than not you will send a reply.

Both networks will drop voice interconnection rates for mobile to mobile and fixed line to mobile to 12c per minute from the 1st October 2010, with theis rate following a glide path dropping on the 1st January every year until it reaches 6c per minute on the 1st January 2014. All interconnection costs will be billed per second.

So what did 2degrees want?

2degrees have been pushing for rates to go even lower. Their last undertaking was for a true BAK pricing model for SMS messages (ie no charge even if there was a traffic imbalance), and for voice interconnection rates to be approximately ½ of what both Vodafone and Telecom submitted in their undertakings. Many of their submissions did nothing but complain about the competition rather than offer reasonable solutions and from the outside it seemed like their purpose was to hijack the whole investigation solely for their own motives.

2degrees have a true motive – and that’s the introduction of a true BAK pricing model for mobile in New Zealand. As a newcomer to the market they have the most to gain from BAK – the majority of calls from 2degrees mobile users are off net, this results in 2degrees having to pay Vodafone or Telecom money to interconnect calls. Likewise because the number of inbound calls falls well short they end up in a situation where they are paying other operators more than they are receiving in termination costs. It’s easy to see why 2degrees want BAK, the problem here is that the Commerce Commission were not interested in looking at using BAK as a pricing model for New Zealand. No other country has moved from a CPP (calling party pays) to BAK pricing model for mobile, and such as a move was totally out of scope for the MTR investigation. Exactly what decision 2degrees make now is over to them – they presumably still have the option of joining Vodafone and Telecom and leveraging their agreement, continuing with their current interconnection agreements, or sitting on the sideline with their ratchet making lots of noise while contributing very little.


Right now you have a choice in New Zealand when it comes to mobile. With three networks and a myriad of pricing plans there is plenty to choose from. What is plainly clear is that the wholesale cost of interconnection plays a minor part in determining the retail cost of both fixed to mobile and mobile to mobile calling. It’s possible to pay 23c + GST per minute to call a mobile phone from a Telecom Business line however a Telecom homeline user with no calling plan will pay 63c incl GST for the same call. Up until several years ago the standard Telecom rate for fixed to mobile was 71c per minute, a rate that was set close to 20 years ago when the MTR rate was around 50c per minute. We’ve seen wholesale MTR costs fall by more than 60% in that time but the standard retail price fell by approximately 10%. Likewise a mobile user can currently be paying as low as 25c + GST per minute with per second rounding after the first minute for a voice call using a provider such as Compass Mobile (a MVNO on Vodafone’s network) or can be paying 89c incl GST with calls rounded up to the next minute if you’re on Vodafone Prepay.

It’s very clear that wholesale MTR costs are not the cause of high mobile pricing in New Zealand, the problem is one of retail pricing. As MTR costs have fallen over time retail costs have not necessarily followed due to a lack of true competition between the two mobile operators in New Zealand. The Commerce Commission investigation had good cause and the current offerings on the table from both Telecom and Vodafone will mean significant drops in inbound revenue for both operators. As to whether it will mean cheaper calling prices for New Zealand mobile users is another question entirely, something only time will answer.

Mail For Exchange 3.0 for Nokia delivers HTML and folder support

By Steve Biddle, in , posted: 14-Feb-2010 20:35

If you are a Nokia phone user and use a Microsoft Exchange based email solution odds are you use MfE (Mail for Exchange) for your email. Newer Nokia handsets use Nokia Messaging, but for the large majority of users out there MfE is the only option as the standalone Nokia Messaging application does not support Microsoft Exchange.

For many years MfE has been severly limited with two major contraints - lack of folder support and no support for HTML, two features that were serious downfalls for devices such as the E71 that were targeted at email users.

The good news is that in recent days Nokia have released a brand new V3.0 release of Mail for Exchange. Included in the release is support for both HTML and support for folders in your inbox.

There is still no mention of this software of the official MfE website but it's available for download from Ovi Store.

I've been running this on my E71 for the last few hours and while it's still not a perfect solution it's finally great to be able to have access to features that should have been part of the software many years ago!

EDIT: There have been numerous people comment and also contact me saying that they can't find the HTML option. I can assure you that HTML viewing IS THERE!!!

If you have an HTML email click on options and there is a menu item saying view as HTML.

TV1 and TV3 6PM News Ultimate Maths Fail

By Steve Biddle, in , posted: 9-Feb-2010 19:14

If you were (un)lucky enough to watch TV1 or TV3's 6PM news broadcasts tonight you were witness to a classic maths failure from both networks - the inability to correctly calculate a proposed 2.5% increase in GST.

Both networks showed a list of prices and calculated the new price with a 15% GST. Both failed miserably when it came to such a simple calculation and have no doubt confused an entire country.

When a product sells for $1500 the GST component of that price is $166.66 (rounded to 2 decimal places) and the GST excl price of the product is $1333.33 (rouded to 2 decimal places).

To deduct GST from a price divide it by 9 to establish the GST value or divide it by 1.125 to establish the GST exclusive amount,

Both networks simply added 2.5% onto the existing GST inclusive price which is wrong and does not give the correct amount. To calculate the new 15% GST inclusive price, the current 12.5% GST needs to be deducted from the current retail and the new 15% GST rate added to this GST excl price.

On TV3's example of a $1500 TV they show the new price of $1537.50, a $37.50 increase. 15% GST on the GST excl price of $1333.33 is $200.00, giving a new retail of $1533.33, a $33.33 increase.

On TV3

$1.50 is a only a negligible difference due to rounding
$200 -> $205 when it should be $204.44
$1500 -> $1537.50 when it should be $1533.33

How can you trust either network to deliver is accurate news when they're unable to calculate a basic maths equation?

What will fibre and ultra-fast broadband mean for you?

By Steve Biddle, in , posted: 2-Feb-2010 12:50

When the National Government was elected in 2008 one of its pledges was to roll out ultra-fast broadband to New Zealanders. A promise of $1.5 billion was put on the table to be spent over six years delivering fibre to a significant number of New Zealand households and businesses.

To quote from the Ministry of Economic Development

Overview of the initiative

The government will be investing up to $1.5 billion in open-access, dark-fibre infrastructure to accelerate the roll-out of ultra-fast broadband to 75 percent of New Zealanders over ten years.

Ultra-fast broadband is defined as a fibre-to-the-premise broadband service providing downlink speeds of at least 100 Mbps and uplink speeds of at least 50 Mbps.

The government themselves will not necessarily be owning or operating a network – their plan is to partner with private companies who will build open access networks that can be accessed by wholesale and retail providers who wish to provide services. These networks do not need to be nationwide and it was envisaged that several different providers would pay a part in building individual networks that would ultimately all be connected.

In October 2009 Communications Minister Steven Joyce announced the formation of Crown Fibre Holdings. Their role is to assess the submissions for networks, invest the Government's money, and monitor performance of these networks. An invitation to participate was issued in October 2009 and when submissions closed at the end of January 33 proposals from 18 respondents had been received, two of which were for nationwide networks.

The announcement is not going to result in every household in New Zealand suddenly being connectable to a fibre optic network immediately, the priority in the first six years is on delivering services to schools, businesses and health providers.


So what do we have right now?

Right now New Zealand is in the middle is in the middle of a huge network expansion by Telecom New Zealand to deploy a fibre to the node (FTTN) network. Broadband speeds over copper are dictated primarily by the length of the copper cabling from the exchange to the premises. ADSL and VDSL signals don't travel well over long distances so by shortening the length of copper cabling (the "copper loop") to the premises broadband users will see increased broadband speeds. The goal is to deliver speeds of between 10Mbps and 20Mbps to 80% of New Zealanders by the end of 2011.

Chorus are achieving this by installing 3600 roadside cabinets around New Zealand and connecting the vast majority of these cabinets back to their existing network with fibre optic cable. Most cabinets will service in the vicinity of 300 customers who will typically be no further than 2km away from a cabinet. By installing an ISAM (the piece of hardware that generates the ADSL or VDSL signals) to this roadside cabinet (the "node") it will ensure that customers receive significantly faster broadband speeds. Customers who are beyond 2km from an exchange or cabinet will see speeds drop significantly and there are no simple cost effective ways of delivering them faster speeds using this technology.

Telecom are currently offering either ADSL or ADSL2+ broadband from their exchanges and cabinets with trials of VDSL2 underway. Unlike ADSL or ADSL2+, VDSL2 uses additional frequencies to offer even faster speeds. Vodafone and TelstraClear are also either trialling or offering VDSL2 services in some areas. ADSL2+ has the ability to offer speeds of up to 24Mbps, VDSL2 has the ability of offering speeds of up to 100Mbps for both downstream and upstream connections. Like ADSL, speeds taper off quickly and a customer who's located 1km from an exchange or roadside cabinet could expect to see downstream speeds in the vicinity of 35Mbps – 50Mbps and upload speeds in the vicinity of 7.5Mbps to 10Mbps.

Voice services are still currently provided from Telecom's legacy NEAX exchanges. In the future these NEAX exchanges will be made redundant and replaced with either hardware providing voice services from the cabinet or by the installation of residential gateways in households to provide a VoIP service over a broadband connection, the same solution that is used for fibre.



If you're located in Wellington, Christchurch, the Kapiti Coast or Hutt Valley you also have access to TelstraClear's Hyrid Fibre-Coaxial (HFC) network that has a similar FTTN architecture. Fibre is run to roadside cabinets but instead of using existing copper phone cable for delivering services to the home, coaxial cable is run from the cabinet to the household for broadband and cable TV services. TelstraClear are currently in the process of upgrading their network to support the DOCSIS3 cable modem standard that will deliver speeds of up to 100Mbps downstream to customers in the near future. DOCSIS3 features a capability known as channel bonding that allows up to 8 downstream carriers to be joined together and speeds of up to 300Mbps downstream and 120Mbps upstream have been demonstrated on live networks. One significant advantage of the HFC network over copper is that speeds are not affected by cable lengths, a customer who's located anywhere within a TelstraClear node will receive the same speeds as any other user.


What does fibre do better?

Quite simply, fibre is capable of delivering far greater speeds than can be delivered over copper. Speeds are also unaffected by cable lengths as is the case with ADSL or VDSL. Fibre distribution for broadband is not new and has been common in countries such as Japan for many years, the key difference between Japan and many other countries such as New Zealand is that many people live in apartment buildings and the cost of deploying fibre to a single building with a large number of customers has made economic sense. The rollout of fibre has greatly increased over the past couple of years with the introduction of the GPON (Gigabit Passive Optical Network) standard which has reduced the complexities of network layouts and delivered significant performance gains over earlier standards. The GPON standard has seen huge growth and has been chosen by a large number of providers around the world. One of the fastest growing GPON networks at present is the Verizon FiOS network in the USA which currently has availability in 12.7 million homes and over 3 million customers. GPON has already been deployed in New Zealand by Chorus and is in use in several new subdivisions where residents are already receiving their broadband and phone service over fibre.


How does it work?

The key part of a fibre network is an Optical Network Terminal (ONT) which converts the optical signals to electrical signals. The fibre optic cable plugs into the ONT, which then converts the signal to Ethernet which can then connect to a standard router. Since fibre is incapable of carrying voice calls like a regular copper phone line, voice traffic is Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) so if you wish to continue to use traditional analogue phones you'll need an analogue telephone adapter (ATA) to connect your phones to the VoIP provider. This ATA can either be built into the ONT, your router, or be a standalone device. With the large number of standalone VoIP phones in the market these days customers also have the option of moving away from analogue phones entirely and taking advantage of the added benefits a true VoIP handset can offer.


Figure1 - Hardware Used in a typical Telecom New Zealand GPON Installation. This consists of an Alcatel Lucent ONT, a Linksys Router featuring a built in ATA for analogue phones, and a patch panel connected to RJ45 data sockets throughout the house for all data and analogue phones.




Figure 2 – Examples of Polycom & Linksys VoIP phones. All can replace existing analogue phones



The most significant downside of fibre over copper is that if you suffer a prolonged power outage you run the risk of having no broadband or phone services. The hardware installed in your premises requires power to operate, and even though it will be fitted with a battery backup solution this can't last forever.

VoIP also doesn't support dialup modems, alarm diallers or devices that may contain embedded modems such as medical alarms or MySky boxes. In all these cases alternative solutions need to be found. Monitoring alarm systems can easily be done over IP with a monitoring company who supports this service and existing alarms can easily be adapted to run over an IP connection.


What are the downsides?

The biggest downside of fibre is the cost. With a copper based broadband and phone service you simply plug your analogue phones and ADSL modem into regular phone jack point in your house. With fibre things aren't quite so simple and DIY installs will be a thing of the past. A significant amount of hardware needs to be professionally installed in your house to provide you with internet and phone services, for an average household this could end up being in the vicinity of $1000, a cost that will certainly have to be paid by the end consumer in one way or another at the end of the day, whether it is through installation charges or term contracts with an ISP. To take full advantage of new generation services that can be delivered over fibre a structured cabling solution in your house becomes vital, the cost of upgrading cabling in an existing house is something many homeowners may have great issues with. Telecom have recommended since the late 90's that all new households have a structured cabling system with cat5e and RG6 coax cable but it's something that many architects, builders, electricians and homeowners have chosen to ignore even though it adds very little to the cost of a new house.


How much will fibre cost? Do I really need it?

Fibre isn't the answer to everything. Add in the significant costs of installation hardware and many people may see no compelling reason to upgrade. New Zealand still suffers from low broadband data caps and significant costs in bringing data to our tiny little country from elsewhere in the world. Having a 100Mbps internet connection with a paltry 20GB cap isn't going to give people a compelling reason to switch! It's also worth remembering that much like busy motorways there will always be areas of congestion on the internet, and in reality speeds that may be delivered over fibre for general web surfing and downloads may not be significantly faster that over existing connectivity options. The ability to deliver high definition video to people's houses may sound great, but it's still going to come at a cost and won't necessarily deliver content that's not currently available elsewhere in New Zealand.

Fibre is capable of delivering significant benefits over the FTTN network currently being deployed by Chorus. The big 'if' is whether fibre is going to offer enough compelling reasons for people to upgrade. A nationwide fibre rollout is going to cost billions of dollars, and while it may deliver better internet it's certainly not going to deliver cheaper internet. It's my belief that the government should also be investing in international connectivity to connect us to the world – having world class internet is going to be no good if people are unable to afford it.



3News Incompetence

By Steve Biddle, in , posted: 14-Jan-2010 21:33

The state of mainstream media in New Zealand has begun to annoy me a lot lately - TV live crosses that tell me nothing that somebody in a studio couldn't, and factual inaccuracies caused by nothing but sloppy journalism.

Today a RNZAF CT-4 training aircraft that also flies as part of the RNZAF Red Checkers display team crashed leading to the tragic death of the pilot.

While watching 3News tonight during a live cross from Ohakea Airbase, reporter Charlotte Tonkin told us

The Air Force prides itself on it's safety standards. It says this is the first time any member of a display team has been killed in flight"


If the Air Force did infact make this statement there should be questions asked about their memories. TV3 should also be criticised for not checking the accuracy of a statement that is totally incorrect.

In 1989 A4K Skyhawk (serial 6210) crashed and was destroyed, killing Flight Officer Graham Carter. The aircraft was a member of the Air Force's Kiwi Red A4K Skyhawk display team, and collided in mid air with another A4K Skyhawk (serial 6211) while practicing a mid air maneuver for an airshow in New Zealand.

Another A4K Skyhawk (ironically serial 6211) was also lost in Australia after it crashed while practicing a barrel roll for an airshow. While not part of a display team it was practicing formation flying with another RNZAF A4K in preparation for a display.

It's clear this is not the first time a member has been killed while flying as part of a display team. Shame on you for blatently telling porkies to the New Zealand public.

Merry Christmas Everybody!

By Steve Biddle, in , posted: 25-Dec-2009 08:13

I hope everybody who reads my blog has a fantastic Christmas Day and a great New Year. A big thanks goes out to all those who have posted comments and given me feedback on my posts, I really love engaging with those who spend the time to read my views on the world.

On a personal note I finish 2009 being unemployed - if you have any openings out there feel free to get in touch with me! 


Have Consumer Magazine lost it?

By Steve Biddle, in , posted: 24-Dec-2009 12:43

I've been a Consumer magazine reader on and off again for many years now. What I've noticed over the past few years however has been a complete change in direction of the organisation, a change for the worse. Articles have been poorly researched and written and it seems that as an organisation they're more focussed on getting their name out there in the media than they are on their core business of delivering unbiased, factual reviews of consumer goods and services.

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

Mobile broadband

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?

MiFi Oops?

By Steve Biddle, in , posted: 15-Dec-2009 10:37

Vodafone today released their portable 3G WiFi router in New Zealand.

Media Release
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

Use Statement
(ii) proposed to be used by the proprietor(s), (being the applicant)

Filed (220)

Renewed Until

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


Pseudo Mark
Mi Fi

Proprietor: (730)
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

Service Address:
PO Box 25-1050, Pakuranga, AUCKLAND, New Zealand



Published Date

Application Accepted


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!

Jetstar Fail

By Steve Biddle, in , posted: 8-Dec-2009 08:32

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?

sbiddle's profile

Steve Biddle
New Zealand

I'm an engineer who loves building solutions to solve problems.

I also love sharing my views and analysis of the tech world on this blog, along with the odd story about aviation and the travel industry.

My interests and skillset include:

*VoIP (Voice over IP). I work with various brands of hardware and PBX's on a daily basis
  -Asterisk (incl PiaF, FreePBX, Elastix)

  -xDSL deployments

*Structured cabling
  -Home/office cabling
  -Phone & Data

*Computer networking
  -Mikrotik hardware
  -WAN/LAN solutions

*Wireless solutions
  -Motel/Hotel hotspot deployments
  -Outdoor wireless deployments, both small and large scale
  -Temporary wireless deployments
*CCTV solutions
  -Analogue and IP

I'm an #avgeek who loves to travel the world (preferably in seat 1A) and stay in nice hotels.

+My views do no represent my employer. I'm sure they'll be happy to give their own if you ask them.

You can contact me here or by email at