It sounds too good to be true, right?
First you have to realise that 028 is not a free number (I have blanked out the rest of their 028 number). So while you might get a "free" call to some country, you still have to pay the call to their access number. New Zealand 028 numbers are charged like mobile phone calls, so they are not cheap.
In these cases it might actually be cheaper to simply call the international number from your mobile. Unless you too have an 028 number, supplied by 2talk. Calls from 028 numbers to other 028 numbers are free - this is the best case scenario.
As pointed out by Steve in the comments, here is the catch: the company can carry very cheap calls to international destinations, but instead of offering a free access number in New Zealand, it offers a 028 number, which is charged at mobile rates - so they make money on the difference.
As I said, it might be cheaper to just use your mobile to call those international destinations instead.
Last year I posted a few Geekzone Browser and OS stats, mainly as a response for a request from NBR's Chris Keall. I just thought looking at the numbers early in the year (and later again this year) will be fun, so here are a couple of interesting numbers charts/tables. We are looking at numbers from more than 700,000 unique visitors in a 30 day period.
First is the % of browser by visits to Geekzone and I am surprised that both Internet Explorer and Firefox are down. A few months ago Firefox passed Internet Explorer as the most used browser to access Geekzone, but now they are both in the same % level - and both down. Not surprising is Google Chrome, which seems to be up 100% since the last time I looked at it:
Just for an idea, of those using Internet Explorer, 59.40% use IE8, 26.89% use IE7 and 13.65% still use IE6.
Next is the % of Operating System by visits to Geekzone. I haven't published these numbers before, so I can't compare. There's a distinct lack of mobile browsers here since we launched the Geekzone Mobile and we automatically redirect those mobile users to the new site. But no surprises here:
Now let's look at Geekzone mobile, which runs on its own domain and obviously has a much smaller user base - we are talking about 30,000 unique visits a month. First the distribution of mobile Operating System:
And now another interesting one, the distribution of users through mobile network access (although I have no idea where Google got that "Service Mobile Corporation" from, but it seems WHOIS for those visitors don't have a specific mobile operator name). From here I see a few more Telecom users access our site from a mobile device than Vodafone users do:
UPDATE: someone pointed out that "Service Provider Corporation" is how Telecom is identified in some speedtest.net reports, so if this is the case it pushes Telecom mobile users numbers even higher than those from Vodafone.
After the (small) glitch affecting SMS services on Telecom XT this week I asked their people for an update and here it is:
Obviously the reason we're doing the [external] review is to ask those questions - what's going on/where is the problem - but there's also a whole lot of planned work going on at the same time as the review is underway. Naturally the results of the review will feed into this, but we're getting on with things in the meantime, all of which will help to improve user experience.
Paul talked a fair bit about this at our Q2 results last week, here's a summary of what he discussed at the results preso:
. We're increasing the RNC processor capacity
. We're regularly installing updates to the software to improve resilience
. We also had some things in the plan as the number subscribers on the network grew. This is all going to occur over the next few months which will further improve resilience and the customer experience
. We'll also be adding two more RNCs by March - another one in CHCH and another one in AKL
. We're adding more fibre backhaul
. We're adding more cell sites, and we're amplifying some cell sites too
Alongside that we've gone absolutely microscopic on the operational management of the network, which is being continually monitored right down to cell site by cell site level at the very highest levels of the company.
As Paul's said - XT was built to be a world class network and that's what it needs to be - we're determined to get it there and it's absolutely the number one focus at the company right now, as you would expect.
These events are half-day unconferences about cloud computing, software as a services, and related topics.
Geekzoner Ben Kepes is organising the events (in Australia and New Zealand).
UPDATE: As noted in the comment, the Google Barcamp Wellington is happening on 25 March 2010.
For the last few years I have been telling people I meet that Internet users "browse by search". Basically some (a lot) of Internet users have a search website as their homepage and have no idea what the address bar in the browser does. These users fill the search field with a company name - or a URL even - and hit the first link in the search results.
What happens next is strange: people completely disregard any signs - logos, text - and treat that page as their final destination.
I know it, because every second week or so the last few years I have been receiving emails from people trying to sort their problems with either one of the big telcos in the country (Telecom New Zealand or Vodafone New Zealand). Those queries go from a simple address change, to account cancellation, some even with full credit card numbers asking to have their accounts paid with that card.
Every time I receive one of those I pass it on to the appropriate company, copying the sender.
People seem to completely ignore the www.geekzone.co.nz in the address bar when in fact they were looking for Telecom or Vodafone. They completely ignore there's no Telecom or Vodafone logo anywhere in our pages. They completely ignore common sense and provide personal information that I could use for other purposes if I wanted to be bad.
Today ReadWriteWeb (RWW), one of the top technology blogs around, found out about this "problem". They posted about a project to integrate Facebook friend into a user's AOL IM account and in a matter of hours they received a couple of hundred comments of people complaining about their Facebook login problems.
It looks like RWW found out what "normal" people already know: the Internet is hard for users. Perhaps because RWW reports on technology that is sometimes way ahead of what average users actually consume, they seemed surprised by this discovery. One sentence from their post on this is the sum of all:
"Users dont't care about what you care about."
In other words, all those cool sites, mashups, technology glitter are great for the tech heads, but they are not what your average Internet users care about.
Think about this when creating your online service. Make it too cool or complicated and people won't use it. Make it simple and it might have a chance to stand out in the middle of all the other services that show up every single day.
UPDATE: Want to see other posts where people "don't get it"? Check "Skype Free Credit" for an idea.
In an interesting story, The Next Web is telling us about a slip in the Vodafone UK Twitter account. A Vodafone UK employee with access to the company's Twitter account posted "VodafoneUK is fed up of dirty homo's (sic) and is going after beaver". Screenshot on the right, since the tweet has since been deleted (obviously).
Since then someone behind the VodafoneUK account has repeatedly posted "We weren't hacked. A severe breach of rules by staff in our building, dealing with that internally. We're very sorry"." in response to queries from its Twitter followers.
This reminds us all that the power given to employees that face the public are much bigger than before. It's easy to see someone snapped under pressure, or after a more "demanding" customer asked one too many questions. But still is not an excuse for public displays of "affection".
Apparently advertising standards in New Zealand wouldn't allow a company saying anything bad about a competitor's service or product - even if it's true - so a TV ad like this one wouldn't be produced here:
It won't matter anyway, because in terms of coverage, both of our largest mobile operators claim to have us covered - almost completely.
For example, Telecom New Zealand has a XT mobile network that "covers 97% of the places Kiwis work, live and play."
Vodafone New Zealand also operates a rather large network, even though the blurb on their website is quite confusing: "Our 3G Broadband (HSDPA) network currently covers areas in Auckland, Hamilton, Wellington, Christchurch, Dunedin, Whangarei, Whangamata, Tauranga, Rotorua, Taupo, New Plymouth, Wanganui, Napier, Palmerston North, Nelson and Queenstown. If you're travelling outside 3G broadband areas, our 2G (GPRS) network will cover 97% of the places people live and work in New Zealand. Please note, however, that you will experience considerably slower speeds when connecting onto the GPRS network. We have 97% coverage of where people live, work and play in New Zealand."
I have asked Paul Brislen to clarify this, so the official short answer is "We have 3G coverage (including 3G Extend) to 97% of the population. We also have 2G coverage to 97% of the population." (actually his email provided a lot more information). So I'd say they have us covered too.
Now my question to you. If those two giants can't compete in coverage, then what features would you use as a selling point if you were in charge of the marketing for these companies? Post in the comments below (and yes, "We operate a reliable network" will probably appear in the replies).
UPDATE: At the risk. Even if you work for one the companies - or the other - your anonymous comments are welcome on this post. It's about fun and trying to find something worth in all the marketing blurb we are bombarded with.
In the last couple of weeks we have seen a series of articles in our mainstream media about "bill shock". A "bill shock" happens when you travel overseas and get a surprisingly large bill on your mobile usage.
I do not have sympathy for people who claim "bill shock" because people know there are roaming charges involved when you travel. When you arrive in another country both Vodafone and Telecom send SMS warning users of different costs for voice and data connections. You signed a contract that says you have to pay for roaming costs.
I don't like the mobile data roaming costs as anyone else. I think our telcos simply make as much as they can - it's unbelievable a mobile operator in the U.S. can give their customers 5GB of mobile data for a fixed price, but charge visitors something that (adding up the margins) comes to $10/MB. The mobile data roaming prices are a joke.
But there's something else that local companies will have worry more and more with the adoption of VoIP solutions - the old telephone fraud.
Just to give you an idea, a company has a digital PBX. For some reason it's not completely secure and some crooks find it. These people then enter their own configuration in this digital PBX and create a "company" to sell cheap calls to China, Korea, South Africa. They sell some calling cards around and publish their "access number". Callers buy these cheap services, call the access number and after the dial tone enter the number they wish to call and get connected - all using the unsuspected company's digital PBX over their VoIP lines.
Companies may find this after a month or so, when the first bills come in. But by then they suffered under a constant stream of outbound calls and have to pay for it.
This is kind of tricks work with new digital PBX systems, but also with older ones. An unsecure route to an outside line, a non-secure voice mail access and things can be done, easily.
This is being discussed on Geekzone here, and shows an interesting series of questions:
- Should the telco monitor your usage and contact you if patterns change (a la credit card companies?)
- Should the telco be responsible for a misconfigured VoIP installation that their technicians are not involved with?
- Should an insurance be required for telephony services now?
- Should insurance companies charge less from companies using VoIP installed by certified technicians?
- Should the telco "forgive" the bill and simply pay for the calls that are not their problem in first place?
What do you think?
I have been using TelstraClear cable modem services for many years, in its many different "brands" - Chello, Saturn, TelstraClear - and really enjoy having a plan that provides me with consistently good speeds and reliability (but don't try calling their customer services line).
Digital media in all its different forms is now part of many families every day life. Here at home we are able to rent and buy movies from iTunes at any time and have those quickly delivered to our media center. We have two VoIP lines at home, being completely POTS free. We have 100GB+ of online backup stored at Mozy servers - including all those iTunes movies, music, family photos and short movies captured with our Flip video camera. We have six computers at home, and we work from home.
This is all possible because we subscribe to a TelstraClear 80GB cable modem plan with good download and upload speeds - and frequently go over the cap. I don't mind paying for the service when it provides me with the means to exercise my freedom - freedom of work, freedom of play.
A few years back, Dr Allan Freeth, TelstraClear CEO was quoted as saying "the main result of faster broadband links to the home may be more downloads of pornography and movies rather than improvements to productivity." This was also reported on Computerworld.
That statement made then InternetNZ Executive Director Keith Davidson jump with a release saying "Dr Freeth's view that true high-speed broadband available at home is not important for New Zealand's future is not a view we share. High speed broadband - 100mbps and more - is vital to New Zealand's future" .
So what? The Internet is for Porn (safe for work except for the word "porn"). But try watching this short movie on a TelstraClear connection - even a fast 10Mbps connection - and you might have problems. Actually since just before September last year people started reporting problems when accessing YouTube clips over a TelstraClear connection.
This problem is still going on, and while TelstraClear have very quietly admitted there's a problem, it seems the solution is not coming any time soon.
Could it be that politics of peering are involved in this? Peering is a very sensitive subject within TelstraClear. Dr Allan Freeth remarks were "Peering has become an extremely emotional issue, as noted in the recent Internet NZ report, which also noted there was no evidence of market failure. Our decision was a commercial one - we need to earn a return for the use of our assets. While some people believe the Internet is 'free', I can assure you my shareholder doesn't see it that way. Organisations that have content they want to supply to end users can buy a service from us, which is tied in with the cost of national carriage. This is still more cost effective than international bandwidth."
A lot of an ISP traffic goes to all of Google's properties. YouTube is probably the biggest one of those services and to help reduce traffic, Google does peer locally with larger ISPs. It basically comes to this: Google is clever and wants free (or low cost) distribution of its content. To this end they enter an agreement with larger ISPs and colocate cache boxes.
Of course if your ISP don't have one of these boxes then your traffic to Google's online properties needs to find the content somewhere else. In TelstraClear's case it seems this traffic goes all the way to the US and back.
There are local YouTube caches in New Zealand, with other ISPs. But the problem then is back to the peering camp. It seems TelstraClear rather have a lot of traffic going out over international connections than to have it flowing locally and pay for it to a competitor.
If this is not the case, I'd love to see an explanation from TelstraClear - something I feel they owe their customers. To me it comes down to YouTube access through TelstraClear is crippled and the way the company acts is disrespectful to their paying customers.
freitasm's profileMauricio Freitas
I live in New Zealand and my interests include mobile devices, good books, movies and food of course!
I work for Intergen and I'm also the Geekzone admin. On Geekzone we publish news, reviews and articles on technology topics. The site also has some busy forums.
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If you want to contact me, please use this page or email me email@example.com. Note this email is not for technical support. I don't give technical support. You can use our Geekzone Forums for community discussions on technical issues.
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