Vodafone Roaming & Corporate Blogging

By Steve Biddle, in , posted: 27-Oct-2007 08:09

Some people may think I hate Vodafone. Afterall I've posted numerous blog posts over the years picking holes in their website, IVR, pricing, products and strategies. In reality however Vodafone is a brand that I believe in and feel passionate about and would love to work for. It's just a shame that the Vodafone Group has a whole has never been able to fully take advantage of being a global player in the mobile marketplace and leverage the efficiencies that they should have leveraged from their size.

Over the past week there has been quite an active discussion on Geekzone in regards to Vodafone's new roaming pricing which has resulted in quite a large number of posts. Over at Rod Drury's blog there has been a similair discussion and in both cases many people have disagreed with factors of Vodafone's new policy. I am one of those people and have made my feelings present that I personally disagree with the new charges because of the big increases in roaming costs to Vodafone NZ's biggest roaming destination, Australia. We all know that roaming is a huge money spinners for mobile operators and that's precisely why the EU have mandated price drops among EU mobile operators for roaming calls. It's just a shame that Vodafone's price increase goes against many of the policies of ANZCERTA (NZ's free trade agreement with Australia).

Vodafone could have been leaders in the global roaming market instead of followers. Hutchinson have set the benchmark for everybody else by abandoning the concept of roaming surcharges and if you're a 3 customer roaming on another 3 network anywhere else in the world you have the benefits of paying no surcharges for incoming call forwarding, you can use included minutes and txt messages that are in your monthly bundles with no surcharges and also pay cheap prices for data while roaming (in the case of Vodafone Australia customers you pay A50c per MB while roaming). Why weren't Vodafone first to the market with such an innovative offering? Vodafone market themselves as being the world's largest Mobile Community but several years on from their OneVodafone pitch they are still no closer to being "One Vodafone".

What did impress me however was the response of Paul Brislen, Vodafone's PR man, who was actively posting on both Geekzone and Rod's blog. There are plenty of big NZ companies who are still scared of the internet and who don't seem to believe that being involved in online forums or blogging has a part to play in modern business when I believe that exactly the opposite applies. While it can be hard to defend a company you work for when people are attacking you Paul did a great job of this and while I'm still annoyed by their plans I at least feel better knowing that my comments were seen by somebody who could pass those comments on to the appropiate people and potentially make a difference. I believe that companies being involved in online discussions is fantastic and would love to see more of this in future as I believe that there is absolutely no harm in free and frank discussion in regards to a companies products and services. Do companies really know who their customers are and whether they're happy or simply believe that's the case? The same can be said for corporate blogging. The concept of customer newsletters has been around for decades and yet many companies seem scared of moving into the 21st century and involving the internet and customer discussion as part of their business. Why? One can only wonder...

Good on you Paul (and Alison), hopefully this is a sign of a things to come.

TV3 Sunrise spreading FUD.

By Steve Biddle, in , posted: 17-Oct-2007 08:27

I turned my TV on a few minutes ago to see James Coleman and Carly Flynn in their office with a woman talking about recycling and energy savings in the office. Along with the usual solutions such as turning off PC's and recycling goods was the claim (while pointing at the Dell LCD monitor) that black pixels use less energy than white pixels so having a black desktop background uses less energy and the woman refers to a site www.blackle.com as proof of this. Unfortunately for her (and TV3) she's failed to check the full facts and infact many people listening to this advice will actually be increasing their energy consumption and not saving energy due to the differences between old CRT technology which has to use more power to create whites and LCD technology which has to use more power to create blacks.

Check out this detailed test http://techlogg.com/content/view/360/31/

In summary

There’s no argument that on CRT monitors, Blackle does reduce the power consumption but it’s not by the 15-watts claimed. We tested the four CRT monitors we could get our hands on and found that only one unit, an older 22-inch Compaq, showed the 15-watts or more power differential.

But with the LCD monitor market penetration worldwide now beyond 75%, it’s the LCD monitor power consumption that’s just as, if not more, important.

The most interesting aspect we found was that of the LCD monitors we tested of size 22-inches or less, all showed an increase in power consumption using Blackle. Beyond the 22-inch mark however, five of the six models showed a fractional decrease in power consumption when using Blackle, except the ViewSonic VX2835wm, which showed a 2.2-watt increase.

For the five that dropped their power consumption, the average drop was 3.16-watts, again, not the 15-watts being suggested.

Just because you heard it on breakfast TV doesn't mean it's true! Smile

When will Vodafone NZ ever sort out their IVR?

By Steve Biddle, in , posted: 16-Oct-2007 20:36

We all know Vodafone NZ have pretty sloppy systems and it's only thanks to the tireless work put in by fellow GZ readers that their website is accurate. It seems very much a coincidence that once issues are pointed out on here that they are fixed within minutes.

The test now will be to see how long it takes to fix these two issues, afterall one has now existed for 6 months and the other close to a year.

If a customer on You Choose rings 777 for an account balance and has TXT2000 you are told you have "x texts to 021/029 mobiles". Since the 1st of April this year when number portability was introduced into NZ 021 or 029 numbers are no longer guaranteed to be on network calls. Vodafone themselves are stuck in the dark ages and even spokeswoman Alison Skyora had this to say last week when a woman was charged $50 for a call to another 021 phone number that she belived was an on network call but infact was now an off network call to Telecom.

Vodafone head of communications Alison Sykora said her company had publicised the changes involved in portability, but it was ultimately the responsibility of phone owners to tell friends of their switch.

Hello? Anybody home at VF????? Did you publicise the change to your own staff, particularly the person responsible for managing the contact centre so the IVR could be updated? Or does the janitor update the IVR and somebody forgot to stick a message on the cleaners cupboard telling him to update the recording?Your IVR is still telling me I can send free TXT messages to an 021/029 mobile but in reality I'll be charged 20c for that TXT if it's to a ported 021 or 029 mobile. I begin to wonder if anybody at VF even realised portability has actually come into play, afterall they're not even interested in new customers porting to their network unless they want to go on a contract. Want to go on prepay? Nah we're not interested in your business.

Along with the inaccuracies with the TXT2000 balance if you're a customer who has the YourTime 200 addon (200 mins to another VF on network mobile) you're told that you have "x included included nights and weekends national minutes" (yes included is said twice). Most people would assume this means you have x included minutes to call a number anywhere in NZ. In reality it means you have "x minutes to another VF on network mobile" but you're just supposed to know that and actually ignore the voice message.

Way to go VF, still as disfunctional as ever. If this is fixed by Wednesday night I'll be full of praise for you. The fact it's been broken for so long however I doubt it'll be the case.


When is a special not a special? When you're Harvey Norman!

By Steve Biddle, in , posted: 13-Oct-2007 12:30

While driving to work this morning I couldn't help but notice a Harvey Norman ad on the radio promoting their weekend specials, included in this were Nokia N95's for $300 off. I stopped in Harvey Norman on my way home to pick something else up (I don't actually need a new N95!) and couldn't help but look to see how many they had instock, afterall $300 off is a huge saving. A quick glance at the phone cabinet shows N95's with the Vodafone price tag of $999 and apparently the $300 off is the drop in RRP from $1299 to $999. Considering the drop in RRP was weeks ago this could probably be seen as a case of bait marketing or misleading advertising. Every other retailer will be selling N95's for $999 so there is no saving.

If anybody's up for a bit of a fight this weekend and wants a new phone then stop by your local HN. If you complain to the commerce commission I'm sure you'll get your phone for $699! :-)

New Vodafone works 'round here advertising campaign

By Steve Biddle, in , posted: 10-Oct-2007 11:00

Reading the Dominion Post today I couldn't but notice the first ad of a new Vodafone advertising campaign promoting their coverage. It features a satellite image of a location with the world "Vodafone works 'round here" plastered over the top.

How ironic then that this ad features an image of the Kapiti Coast with parts of Paraparaumu Beach and Waikanae - places that Vodafone coverage is abysmal. Vodafone's Waikanae Cellsite on Forest Heights has been a dog since BellSouth first installed it and the Ngarara Site has improved coverage into Waikanae Beach but our holiday house and surrounding area still has terrible coverage both indoor and outdoor.

It also shows a section of SH1 between Paraparaumu and Waikanae where calls are virtually guaranteed to drop, again due to the poor performance of the Forest Heights site.

Mt Ruapehu erupting

By Steve Biddle, in , posted: 25-Sep-2007 22:13

Breaking news - My Ruapehu appears to have had a small eruption around 2030 NZST tonight. There are reports of two lahars and plumes of smoke reported below 15000'.

More details as they come to hand.

Nokia E and N series VoIP issues with DD-WRT and Sveasoft firmware

By Steve Biddle, in , posted: 24-Sep-2007 15:43

I've had an E65 phone since April and one of the features that is great is the VoIP over WiFi capabilities of this phone. It means I can use use my mobile as a cordless phone at home and connect to my Asterisk PBX at home from anywhere I can find WiFi access. 

One issue I've encountered recently was my phone failing to connect to my Asterisk PBX through routers running DD-WRT or Sveasoft Talisman firmware. Both of these 3rd party firmwares are extremely popular with users of Linksys WRT54G/GL routers and will also work with several other brands of router that run on the same chipset. Both of these firmwares turn these routers into extremely powerful units and give you features not found on the standard firmware.

After a bit of time investigating I discovered Asterisk was sending a SIP/401 error back to the phone which was causing the authentication to fail. A bit of searching around led me to some forum posts detailing malformed packets sent by the Nokia SIP stack which were being rejected by the router.

The latest v24 versions of DD-WRT have this problem fixed and the Micro versions of the firmware also work correctly. If you're running Sveasoft Talisman then versions up to 1.2.4 are unaffected by this issue. Versions 1.2.5 and greater are affected due to the inclusion of a new SIP module.

To fix this issue in the new versions of Talisman go to

Administration->Diagnostics->Command Shell and enter the following

nvram set sip_modules=0;nvram commit; reboot

This should hopefully fix the problem!

Orcon offering free internet!

By Steve Biddle, in , posted: 17-Sep-2007 15:00

Last week saw the launch of the Kordia Metro WiFi service. At present coverage is only available in small parts of Whangarei, Auckland, Taupo, Hamilton, Napier, Wellington, Dunedin, Invercargill and Queenstown but Kordia are planning significant coverage areas around the country by 2010. The beauty of their WiFi service is that is supports up to 8 SSID's - meaning that the infrastructure can handle multiple operators who want to make their WiFi service available.

TomiZone, Orcon and Kordia themselves are all available on the platform with Orcon currently offering free access to the service.

I have my doubts about whether there is a future for the project however. With the harsh reality finally being accepted by many people that muni WiFi is a dead duck in the water the whole concept of city wide WiFi is interesting especially when mobile data over cellular networks offers far better coverage and none of the user authentication issues that still plague WiFi. Kordia seem to be adopting a business model that seems to be working succesfully in the UK where The Cloud are building infrastructure and then onselling access to whoever wants to provide a WiFi service. At the end of the day however Vodafone and Telecom only need to be smart about their data offerings and the whole business model can be thrown out the window..

Watch this space..

Ford vs LTNZ

By Steve Biddle, in , posted: 17-Sep-2007 07:46

For those who haven't been following the news over the weekend Ford NZ are very unhappy with the latest road safety tv ad campaign that has been launched by Land Transport New Zealand. Looking very much like a car ad it shows the driver of a late model Ford Falcon (with badge removed) losing control and ending up rolling down a bank.

Ford are very unhappy that their car is being damaged by this campaign - afterall their car contains traction control that may stop such an accident occuring in the first place and does infer that Ford vehicles are unsafe. I must say I have to agree with them fully. The first time I saw the ad I wondered how long it would take for Ford to be concerned about one of their vehicles being used.

What also concern me though is the fact that LTNZ have completely missed the point with this ad. How many serious crashes that occur are middle aged men driving late model vehicles? How many accidents resulting in injury or death are teenage boy racers driving crappy souped up cars crashing at speed? Why are LTNZ not running a campaign featuring boy racers driving a souped up Mazda Familia doing exactly the same thing?

Help in the search for Steve Fossett!

By Steve Biddle, in , posted: 10-Sep-2007 21:27

Are you one of these people who spend your whole day at work updating your status on Facebook or buying stuff off auction sites? If so how about doing something really useful - join the search for one of the world's greatest adventurers!

If you've got Google Earth itstalled on your PC you can view actual satellite images from the search area taken after Fossett went missing and hopefully find some trace of wreckage of his plane.

Full details are here


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 stevenbiddle@gmail.com