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The TechDay Weekender - Feb 25th 2012

25 Feb 12

The Commerce Commission couldn’t have asked for a better attention-grabber to kick off its two-day Future with High Speed Broadband conference in Auckland this week than British actor Stephen Fry tweeting his disgust at our ‘pathetic’ internet speed.

Fry is in New Zealand for the filming of The Hobbit, and was attempting to upload some images and video when he encountered the problem.

It later turned out that Fry had exceeded the data cap on his host’s connection, and was being throttled; this wasn’t the end of the debate, though, Fry saying throttling ‘makes as much sense as closing a lane of traffic because there’s congestion’.

All of this drew attention to – or possibly distracted from – the conference itself, which was a well-presented event for stakeholders to discuss how to make the most out of the government’s significant broadband investments.

Swiss media ‘futurist’ Gerd Leonhard opened the conference with an impressive keynote speech on the impact broadband will have on driving telecommunications companies to join forces with media companies, forming a so-called ‘telemedia’ industry.

New ICT Minister Amy Adams also addressed the conference, outlining the government’s four-pronged plan for maximising the return on the UFB & RBI investments: schools, healthcare providers, government institutions, and businesses.

Adams also dropped some interesting hints about her stance on government intervention in the industry, saying she’s ‘aware that premature government action could stifle innovation’ but also promising to step in if the industry is not doing enough.

Adding his recommendations was Alcatel-Lucent NZ & Pacific Island president and managing director Andrew Miller, who presented a study by the company’s research arm Bell Labs. According to the study the UFB and RBI projects will easily pay for themselves in GDP growth, provided it is promoted properly, for example via New Zealand-specific apps such as Ag-Hub.

Sticking with telecommunications news, Telecom this week issued its first financial report since completing its demerger from network arm Chorus, announcing a $1 billion profit on paper, but cutting this to $240 million when adjusting for influences of the split.

Perhaps the most interesting piece of information was around Telecom’s mobile service, which lost 92,000 prepaid customers, but gained 27,000 (more lucrative) post-paid subscribers. 639,000 customers remain on Telecom’s CDMA network, due to be shut down in July this year, but Telecom says those customers represent only 11% of its mobile revenues.

Speaking about the results as a whole, CEO Paul Reynolds said the company’s management is looking forward to getting back to productive work after spending months concentrating on the demerger.

In other news, Apple fans had some good news this week with the announcement that company co-founder Steve Wozniak will be coming here to deliver a talk in May. Sure, he’s not Steve Jobs, but he’s still Apple royalty, and we’re sure plenty of fans and business leaders alike will be keen to hear what he has to say.

Finally, in what we think is a really cool initiative Auckland Library has signed up to a music service called Freegal, that lets members download up to three songs per week free and legal (hence the name) from the Sony Music catalogue. It no doubt took a significant investment from the library, so we encourage everyone living in the region to jump on and take advantage!

We’ll see you next week.

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