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Telstra wants a single Australia-New Zealand telecommunications enviroment

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 25-Apr-2006 10:28

Of course Telstra wants a single Australia-New Zealand telecommunications environment. The infrastructure here is already deployed, they can come and lobby for LLU and then start providing services without spending anything in infrastructure.

The telco has told a parliamentary inquiry into the Australia and New Zealand Closer Economic Relations (CER) trade agreement there were many benefits in a single market.

Telstra regulatory affairs manager Dr Tony Warren said Australian and New Zealand travellers could save more than $30 million a year in international mobile roaming charges.

Mobile charges could fall from an international roaming rate of up to $2.80 per minute to domestic rates - which vary from 36 cents a minute to $1 a minute depending on the plan.

"You could call Coogee or Bondi by mobile like they were suburbs of Auckland," Dr Warren said in a statement.

Other benefits included savings on the rollout of new technology and networks, a single contract and bill for trans-Tasman businesses, cuts in red tape and a trans-Tasman mobile market with operators offering subscribers seamless service on both sides of the Tasman.


Yeah, right. Like all New Zealanders have a reason to call Bondi...

What worries me is that they might as well pull this one off - just check Air New Zealand and QANTAS. They couldn't merge, but they managed to get to the code share point. Where to from here?



Telecom matches Vodafone offer on mobile broadband

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 21-Apr-2006 12:15

Just to confirm that competition is something good for the consumer, an offer comes from Telecom New Zealand, basically matching a similar deal introduced by Vodafone New Zealand a few weeks ago.

In summary Telecom users can get up to 1GB (gigabyte) of cellular data (CDMA EV-DO) for NZ$49/month.

This compares with Vodafone's offering of 1GB on UMTS for the same NZ$49/month.

Other things are similar too: this is a limited time offer, with exipry date set to 9 July 2006 - in both cases.

What is different here? First speed: Telecom's CDMA EV-DO provides a great performance when compared with Vodafone's UMTS technology (and that was shown before). But really, if you are using this for single connections (such as mobile e-mail or FTP) this is not much benefit. But the speed advantage really shines when browsing websites, which is what most people will probably want to do.

After all 1GB/month is more than most New Zealanders use on their dial-up connections (yes, we are a nation of dial-up users), and for this price either option is a great alternative to services such as Woosh, which has been slow in extending coverage and providing better support (according to lots of discussions in our Geekzone Forums).

Another difference: while the Vodafone plan includes a free PC card for use on laptops, the Telecom plan requires users to purchase a card, which is an additional NZ$199. Both Vodafone and Telecom require a 24 month term contract.

While the Vodafone plan applies to new and existing customers, Telecom is offering the deal to new accounts only.

And Telecom is explicitly restricting the use of VoIP software over this connection, exaclty like Vodafone. Interesting, because until now Telecom did not put any restriction in place for this kind of usage.

Which plan is better for you? Really it comes to what are your requirements and since you are locked for 24 months with whatever operator you join make sure you look at this carefully.

If overseas travel is part of your job, then the Vodafone plan should be ok, but remember that data roaming is still charged at exhorbitant prices and not included in the NZ$49 deal. But if you want some good national coverage and perhaps better performance then the Telecom plan is for you.

Of course everything will change in September, when Vodafone New Zealand will launch a new high speed network, based on the HSDPA standard (more on Juha's blog).

The jury is out now.



Vodafone New Zealand: the year ahead

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 20-Apr-2006 15:30

I have just left the Vodafone New Zealand building here in Auckland, where I had the opportunity to find out more about (some of) their plans for 2006.

First in the line was a HSDPA demo. Their current infrastructure supports 1.8Mbps, but they have plans to launch the service with support for 3.6Mbps. When? I was told September 2006 is the planned release date, but until then things can change.

The demo worked ok for streaming video clips, copying large files and such. It seems it adapts (or shape?) bandwidth based on use. Of course it was nice to see it working when you have a single user on a demo cell site. We still have to wait and see how real life load will affect performance on this environment.

The infrastructure is supplied and supported by Nokia. The main obstacle seems to be the availability of handsets and data cards supporting the new standard.

On this note I asked Phil Patel about fallback. Here in New Zealand UMTS users will fallback to GPRS when coverage is marginal or non-existant - but wouldn't be so nice to have EDGE instead of GPRS? Anyway, Patel tells me the initial plan is to have HSDPA covering the same UMTS footprint at least, and perhaps in the future migrate GPRS sites to UMTS for improved service. Nothing is certain though, except for the HSDPA plans.

It looks like the Linksys 3G Wi-Fi router we reviewed before will work just fine with HSDPA cards, so users will be able to have a faster wireless broadband alternative but just swapping cards (that is, if you already have the router). I have used the router for a month, and it impressed everyone: I was doing some consultancy work and the company didn't have wireless infrastructure, so I just brought my own network access point with me for that period.

Of note are the plans to release laptops with built-in cellular data support. The Lenovo T60 was on show, but Vodafone has plans to release at least other brands such as Acer and HP. Not confirmed yet, but under works are deals with Dell, Fujitsu and Toshiba. we can expect to see the first laptops coming out in the next two months or.

In terms of handsets Vodafone is on a roll. They plan to have up to 10 different Windows Mobile devices by the end of this year. This includes new entrants in the New Zealand market, such as Asus and Benq. I was told they are very keen on the Motorola Q as well, because it is such an appealing form factor, in direct competition with BlackBerry handhelds.

Talking about BlackBerry, I was shown the latest BlackBerry 8700 and I have to agree, it is very fast and it does have nice screen. But so is the Nokia N61. The BlackBerry 8700 is one of the new models based on the Intel xScale processors.

Also talked about was the integration of PBX systems and mobile services, including mobile desk phones. They look exactly like the kind of phone you would expect to find in any office, but without wires. Of course this is a transitional form factor, because the whole ide is to have a single device, and in this case the mobile phone form factor is better suited for the job. PBX functionality is provided at network level.

I was disapointed to find out that unlike Vodafone UK, Vodafone New Zealand is not planning to directly provide a push e-mail service based on Microsoft Exchange and Windows Mobile 5.0. Instead, clients who do not have a Microsoft Exchange server will be referred to a parner for a hosted solution. One of the partners is Auckland-based ICONZ for example.

On fixed and mobile convergence, the plan of having mobile phones receiving calls as local numbers (similar to what Vodagone Germany is doing) is still under work, pending some government regulations. As far as they are concerned they would launch this service pretty soon, but alas this will take sometime. The idea is to have a Vodafone number that would be treated as a local phone number when within a certain area (cell site coverage). Of course the main opposition to this idea comes from Telecom New Zealand.

I also asked about live TV. With the recent announcement of live streaming of Prime News it would be interesting to see if any plans of a full live TV channel is in the plans. Of course I asked about satellite broadcast, since streaming over a packet network is not the most effective way. According to Patel this is something that could be looked at, but nothing in the near future - or at least this year.

Overall Vodafone New Zealand showed an interesting and consistent approach to a variety of mobile services, but the most concrete action with most impact is certainly the new 1GB traffic plan for $49/month. For almost everything else we will have to wait a few months and see.



Windows Mobile: mobile e-mail for the masses:

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 19-Apr-2006 11:02

Fellow MVP Jaap van Ekris has started a Blog/Wiki/Forums site, called Modern Nomads. One of the first articles there is about mobile e-mail (Mobile e-mal in the real world). Since not everyone around is running their own Microsoft Exchange Server, Jaap describes the pros and cons of using IMAP-based services on a Pocket PC.

The native and best solution for Windows Mobile e-mail and push e-mail is still a Microsoft Exchange account. But not every company can afford to run their own e-mail infrastructure (both in terms of software costs, administration, hardware infrastructure), but IMAP and POP3 protocols are implemented on mobile devices, and it's interesting to read about someone's experiences in real life.


Our company mail-systems are based on IMAP: our IT department, like many IT departments, knows that allowing POP3 introduces big risks in losing mail. This can be either in one of the many synchronizations to clients or by losing the device which stores the mail alltogether. Therefore we have to use regular IMAP-functionality of the Windows Mobile mail client: Pocket Outlook. According to the specifications of Windows Mobile, it should work. I am using this combination for a year now, so i was pretty confident that it would be a solution without any problems. I am a very technocratic user of e-mail: all mail that is not new should not be on the server. How little did I know about the totally different approaches of my colleagues for reading e-mail and the problems they cause in use on a mobile device...


Microsofts implementation of the IMAP protocol isn't one of the best, the general impression is that the POP implementation has had a lot more attention. My colleague found out the hard way. He started downloading the messages in his inbox, but the downloading did not complete. It simply stopped halfway. Upon closer investigation, we discovered something: the client tried to download his entire inbox, despite the setting to limit the view only to the mails recieved in the last three days. Pocket Outlook downloaded them anyway. Downloading his entire mailbox became problematic, since his mailbox contained more than 6000 messages and the mobile device simply could not deal with the volume of the mailbox: it took about two hours before the device ran out of the memory and hung itself. So handling one big inbox through IMAP is not really an option, even with limiting the view severly.

The article goes on to discuss strategies on synchronisation and e-mail management.

Some companies offer hosted Exchange accounts, including push e-mail options. One of these companies is 4Smartphone.net (affiliate link). The synchronisation of a Windows Mobile device with an Exchange server is flawless and performance is greatly improved with Windows Mobile 5.0 AKU2 and Microsoft Exchange 2003 SP2.



Google Calendar is live

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 13-Apr-2006 17:21

Yes, Google has made its calendaring service live. Google Calendar allows users to have multiple calendars, send and receive invitations, publish free/busy times (with or without details) and even add other users with rights to read and/or write to one's calendar.



I am just playing around with it now, and I can see they have SMS notification for events, although the list of mobile operators seems to be limited to US-based carriers. It would be interesting if it would allow SMS address in the format [phone]@[operator.com] for example for those with e-mail-to-SMS gateways.

I've read on News.com that Google plans to launch synchronisation tools, including Exchange, Outlook, iCalendar, and even mobile devices, albeit no specific type is listed (no word if this would be with a Palm, Symbian, Windows Mobile or SyncML-compatible feature phones).

Each event can be individual, or with invited guests. Like other solutions, guests are notified through an e-mail, although I tried this using some of my test e-mail accounts and no e-mail was received. Perhaps they are only sending to GMAIL accounts, or having problems at the moment?

The service also sends a daily agenda, every morning at 5am, your local time.

If you want to start using Google Calendar now, it allows you to load a file with iCal or VCAL formatted events.

An interesting feature is the "Event Publisher". If a website mentions events, including shows, bookings, meetings, then an entry can be automatically added to the Google Calendar from an icon on the website. This is done through a specially formatted URL and an icon that looks like this:


Now, back to testing this new feature.

Update: the problem with the e-mail notifications not being received is probably due to overload. The notifications did arrive, some 4 hours after being sent. At the same time, other users report errors while trying to access Google Calendar. I would have thought that Google was going to make sure enough resources were available, after the load of problems experienced before with Google Pages and Google Analytics.



Is Vodafone PLC up for grabs now?

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 12-Apr-2006 08:17

Telefonica of Spain is a giant. Not many people heard of them before, but they are a giant corporation. They have operations in Europe and South America. They put a bid and successfully bought O2. And now they could have Vodafone on their target.

According to an article published on thisismoney.co.uk (found through Engadget):
Documents circulating the City suggest that a consortium including US firm Verizon, Telefonica of Spain and private equity firm Blackstone hope to find funding for a 160p-a-share offer. That would value Vodafone at an eye-watering £96bn. JP Morgan Cazenove is thought to be masterminding the plan.

Sources say the bid, if successful, would lead to a complicated break-up. Verizon, with which Vodafone has a joint venture in America, would take control of the US and UK assets.

Telefonica, which paid £18bn for mobile firm O2 in November, is said to be interested in Vodafone's remaining European activities, including Italy and Germany.

Blackstone and other private equity firm would carve up the rest, including stakes in South Africa and China.



Almost 100 billion UK Pounds! That's NZ$300 billion, or US$167 billion.

Verizon Wireless, a CDMA operator in the USA, might be really interested in that. Apparently they have tried a few times in the recent past to buy Vodafone's participation on their American operations, and having a UK carrier would be an interesting side effect, except that it uses a completely different technlogy and this could have problems in adapting services, etc.

The whole thing leaves in the air what would happen with non-European operations. Vodafone Japan was sold to the SoftBank, leaving China, Australia and New Zealand for the grabs. I read somewhere that Vodafone could just close Vodafone Australia because it's not a leader in that market (not even close, really, with Telstra and Optus really leading the charge), but Vodafone New Zealand is another matter, since the company here shares the market with Telecom New Zealand almost on a 50/50 split.

Interesting times ahead, when the largest mobile operator in the world could be made into pieces. Is that what CEO Sarin has been working on all this time?



It's been a long journey from the TRS-80 15MB HDD

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 8-Apr-2006 15:23

While I wait for my new Maxtor OneTouch III Turbo Edition (1TB external HDD, Firewire 400/USB2.0, 16MB cache, RAID 0/1) to format, I decided to post this picture of an external 15MB HDD for TRS-80. The price back then was almost 3x the price I paid for my new external drive. Yes this is a 15MB costing 3x the price of a 1TB drive with Firewire 400/USB 2.0 interface.



You can find some interesting information and links to TRS-80 websites from this (unofficial) TRS-80 Homepage.

The first computer I used was a TRS-80 model III. Good memories. After that I moved on to a CP/M and MP/M system, and mainframes (Burroughs, Unisys) for a while. It is incredible what you can do with mobile devices today, compared with those old personal computers. Wonderful times we live now!





Microsoft Windows Media HD Videos giveaway

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 8-Apr-2006 14:42

I have a couple of DVDs to giveaway here. These are original IMAX movies on DVD format. The really neat stuff is that each come with two discs: standard DVD (with DTS surround, Region 1) and a Microsoft Windows Media High Definition Video version.

These are the movies:

Coral Reef Adventure
To The Limit

If you don't know about Windows Media High Definition Video, then you should really see these videos. For the first time I watched a movie on a desktop PC and was surprised with the quality. It's not the same as having a DVD disc inserted and played with Windows Media (or any other player). The movies are crisp, smooth, high definition stuff (720p and 1080p videos).

I watched those movies on a P4 HT machine with 2GB RAM and LCD. It was much better than my widescreen 32" TV - no kidding.

I will give those two movies away. Just post a comment here and on 15 April I will draw one each between any unique comments here.


(Yes, you can be anywhere in the world, I will post these)



Temporarily solving the disk space problem at home

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 7-Apr-2006 17:11

Here at home I run quite a network: a Windows XP desktop, a Windows XP desktop running Virtual Server 2005 R2, a Windows Server 2003 as a guest OS on that Virtual Server instance, a Tablet PC, an iMac and a few Pocket PC.

We do have two external firewire HDD (250GB and 60GB). But this disk space is not enough for backups!

You see, I tend to do a full image of the Windows XP running Virtual Server, using Norton Ghost. But I wanted to do a full image of the guest OS as well, and for this I got a review (time bombed though) copy of Symantec LiveState Recovery Advanced Server.

I also have a backup routine on my desktop every night copying My Documents and other important folders to the large external HDD.

But it's not only copying: these routines run every night and keep the last 4 copies on disk, so if I need to recover anything I have at least the last four versions of any file here.

My wife's iMac has a 40GB HDD and we keep two copies of her documents, which uses about 20GB.

We add to this a daily FTP transfer from the whole database and files from the Geekzone server down here (hey, there's a reason why I use TelstraClear's 10Mbps Cable-Modem connection at home) which is about 800MB, keeping the last week plus a monthly copy.

And you can see why I need more disk space here...

So, today I bought a Maxtor Onetouch III G31W010 (1TB, 7200rpm, 16384KB cache, external, USB 2, Firewire 400/800), to plug into my Windows Server. We will use this as our main backup storage.

I thought of a NAS solution, perhaps using a Netgear WGT634U router with built-in USB adapter for storage, but why purchase a router if our server here is perfectly capable of doing this? Also, it would be limited by the network speed, while at least on the server side of the things backup would be at Firewire speeds.

A friend tried to push me to purchase a RAID solution though, but I am not ready to spend that much money - yet.

Next thing is wait a month or so to have enough to purchase a full copy of that Symantec LiveState Recovery Advanced Server software. It looks and acts exactly like Norton Ghost, but costs 15 times more. The difference is that is runs on Windows Server, supports Volume Shadow Copy, keeps tabs on Microsoft SQL and Exchange Server stores (which I use here) and other tricks.

It really surprises me how companies price these "server" software. I mean, it's ok to have a price for enterprise, but some small and medium sized companies also run more robust configurations, for development and testing purposes. Alas, the price is the same.





Let's find out where Vodafone New Zealand is heading

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 7-Apr-2006 16:43

I have confirmed a chat session with Vodafone New Zealand's Director for Business Markets, Phil Patel.

It will be exciting to find out where Vodafone NZ is heading now that the financial year is closed. We will talk about the directions for the year, some embedded solutions and apparently some Windows Mobile 5.0 applications (I wonder if this is some Direct Push solution with bundled data traffic?)

I will be flying to Auckland 20 April for this meeting and will report later.





freitasm's profile

Mauricio Freitas
Wellington
New Zealand


I live in New Zealand and my interests include mobile devices, good books, movies and food of course! 

I'm the Geekzone admin. On Geekzone we publish news, reviews and articles on technology topics. The site also has some busy forums. Also worth visiting is TravelTalk NZ, a community for travelers!

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If you want to contact me, please use this page or email me freitasm@geekzone.co.nz. 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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