Red Alert

I don’t care about compensation. I want a network that works!

Posted by on February 28th, 2010

This is  what I’m hearing from young mothers. From people who rely utterly on their mobile phone and who don’t have a landline. Who don’t have a lot of discretionary income, so texting is the primary form of communication. Who need a working phone to be able to get through their day, juggling children, a job and other family responsibilities.

Telecom’s XT network is a critical piece of new infrastructure. It’s new, it’s supposed to be the future and it should work.

There is now a growing clamour for answers about the XT network and about the 111 service, which is part of what’s called the plain old telephone service (or POTs). In other words, POTs should never break down. It’s part of that institution called the NZ Post Office which Telecom emerged from when it was privatised.

Telecom is now hastily trying to increase the capacity and resilience of the new network which strongly suggests that the new network went live without enough capacity and the degree of resilience required.

The number of outages bears this out and serious questions must be asked of Telecom as to what testing procedures were undertaken before it went to market; whether it was properly funded and whether it has sufficient resilience to give the public confidence in this important piece of new infrastructure.

On TVNZ’s Q&A this morning, Telecom CEO Paul Reynolds kept repeating how angry he was at the outages in the network. I don’t think being angry cuts the mustard any more. He needs to take responsibility and inform the public.

At what point is he going to reveal just what lies behind the network’s fragility? And what does the government have to say on behalf of the New Zealand public? Steven Joyce continues to duck and weave. At some point the public pressure will overtake his reluctance to get involved. I wonder what MED are thinking and what their advice to him is right now?

You are not allowed to put a new car into the marketplace without a rigorous set of tests and without it meeting a set of required safety standards. Nor should you be able to flick the switch on a new mobile network without appropriate testing.

Telecom’s got some serious explaining to do. I think the Government should be demanding answers. I worry that consumers like the mum who told me she just wants a network that works doesn’t seem to have a voice.

Who is representing consumers here? Seems like a big gaping hole to me.


19 Responses to “I don’t care about compensation. I want a network that works!”

  1. Spud says:

    111 is pretty serious, I hope they sort it out soon.

  2. Draco T Bastard says:

    Telecom as to what testing procedures were undertaken before it went to market;

    They read the literature from the manufacturers which conveniently said that it worked.

    whether it was properly funded

    It wasn’t, in a privatised corporation profit is far more important.

    and whether it has sufficient resilience to give the public confidence in this important piece of new infrastructure.

    It probably does – if it’s installed correctly with all the correct parameters accounted for.

  3. Trevor Mallard says:

    The fact that Telecom did such heavy sales promotion before it was properly ready compounds their errors.

    As a consumer I don’t want to know how or why my phone works – it just has to work – because I rely on it.

  4. James says:

    its ridiculous!

  5. Tracey says:

    Someone had a banner at the cricket last night which read

    NEWSFLASH!
    Tsunami covers
    more of New Zealand
    than XT!.

  6. paul says:

    @Tracey – lol

  7. StephenR says:

    Telecom gets $50 million a year in public subsidies, these have already been mentioned as what is effectively a fine, at least.

  8. Tracey says:

    50m each year? But some posters here and Mr Joyce seem so reluctant to intervene on the basis of it being none of Govt’s business

  9. Kelly Armitage says:

    I agree with Trevor – I don’t need Paul Reynolds to explain or “inform the public” about what’s going wrong. I don’t want to have to know this stuff.
    But you are right that at least we’ve moved on from the Post model when telecom was part of the Dept of the Post-Master-General. In those days when things didn’t work (much of the time!) we were told to shut up and stop complaining.

  10. StephenR says:

    Well as with most things it’s not so simple:

    If Telecom does not connect 85 per cent of 111 calls within 15 seconds during the year to the end of June, the company stands to lose some of its subsidies.
    http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10628598

  11. Clare Curran says:

    It’s bigger than 111. Which is critical. But the XT network is new and unrelated to the 111 service. Obviously you should be able to make 111 calls though the XT network, but it sits separately. Which is why it was so worrying when 11 didn’t work last week in Auckland.
    The question I have is, should a new network have passed a warrant of fitness test before going live. And did it?

  12. Kelly Armitage says:

    Did it have a warrant of fitness? Well I guess this is the wonderful thing about having alternatives!! If it’s stuffed at least we can go to Voda or Telecom CDMA. Not like the bad old days of Post Master General when it was “bad luck and stop being difficult”!.
    One of the best things Labour did was introduce more competition to broadband by unbundling local loop. Looking forward to seeing more pressure on this government to keep building on Labour’s momentum.
    There are very worrying sounds from Joyce that he’s going back to a government controlled or mandated telecoms system – this will undo so much of Labour’s good work and undermine our economic competitiveness.

  13. Askewed says:

    The $50million comes from the industry not the Government – ie Vodafone, TelstraClear etc pay the levy.

  14. StephenR says:

    Askewed – the article’s completely wrong/misleading you reckon?

  15. Askewed says:

    No – I think its worth clarifying that this isnt taxpayer money going to Telecom. Also there are checks and balances in the TSO deed.

  16. Tracey says:

    Thanks for the clarification Askewed

  17. Jeremy says:

    Well done to Paul Reynolds by switching the focus onto the 111 calls. Obviously this is desirable (hardly essential, what did we do before cellphones with batteries?). I think this is the easy fix with maybe 1 or 2 complaints, each of which had an obvious alternative available.

    The big issue is if I (anyone) signed a two year agreement we face significant break costs to leave. Any business that cannot deliver or cannot retain confidence should have to release these contracts free of charge. Making this law is the only move that provides the economic incentive for companies to make sure the have stress tested their systems. Otherwise initial price competition will beat quality every time (as Trevor points out, we are not going to research the technical issues).

  18. Draco T Bastard says:

    In those days when things didn’t work (much of the time!) we were told to shut up and stop complaining.

    Well, you’ve just proven that you have NFI WTF you’re talking about. Things were better in the late 1980s and probably even the early 1990s than they are now. You wouldn’t have been told to stop complaining – you would have been told that things weren’t as easy as you believed they were. Getting a phone on to a house that’s 5 kilometres off the main trunk line in the middle of nowhere doesn’t happen by magic.

    Things worked most of the time and there was the personnel to fix things when they went wrong. Now, well, Telecom is still mostly using the same network which has been degrading for the last 20 years and they don’t have the personnel to fix things.

    Well I guess this is the wonderful thing about having alternatives!! If it’s stuffed at least we can go to Voda or Telecom CDMA.

    hahahahahaha

    Vodafone doesn’t have the capacity to handle all of Telecoms customers as well as theirs and Telecom hasn’t been selling CDMA phones since XT launched and going back to them isn’t a viable option as the rest of the world uses GSM.

    BTW, having two or more networks is more expensive than having one. So, having more competition in telecommunications is going to put the prices up. That’s why, after 20+ years of deregulation, we still only have one national network.

  19. Nathan Mills says:

    Clare, this is getting beyond the joke. You crack at Joyce for “ducking and weaving” yet I’ve asked you four times on this site what exactly would you do in Joyce’s position? Not once have you answered. Feeble.