Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Fourth mobile provider coming in three months

By Benedict Wee 

New Zealand will have another mobile communications provider to choose from this coming August. 2degrees is tossing its hat into the ring which has -until now- been dominated by Telecom New Zealand and international network operator Vodafone.

Once president of Singapore’s second biggest info-com company; Starhub, CEO Mike Reynolds says that most countries have at least three network operators to keep up healthy competition and commented that;

"There is no other comparable country that has to suffer such poor value in the mobile market and that can be attributed to a lack of a vibrant competitive environment."

He made no comment on Telstra’s cellular service. Presumably cause he doesn’t see them as a threat or he does not even know about them.

Indeed the three operators have been far too comfortable in their attitude when competing for mobile users. The call rates are high, the plans archaic and -in the case of Telecom and Telstra- the phones they offered, ancient.

Hey Telstra, the year 2000 called and they want their mobile back.

Speaking from personal experience, I was mortified when I found out that making a call costs 89 cents a minute for a prepaid Vodafone plan and I gave up trying to remember the cost of a call with a prepaid Telecom one as it was unnecessarily complicated. In Telstra’s case I was scared off by the single mobile phone they were offering with their monthly (2G!) plan which you could only get if you subscribed to their landline and broadband service.

So how will this new provider be different? As of today there have been no news on plans or handsets and all we got is a half-baked ‘you could say it’ll be cheaper’ statement made by Reynolds.

Here’s what I’m hoping for -

1) Better calling rates: I studied in the UK last year and the calls I made to my mates locally and family overseas in a month amount to less than how much I top up in a fortnight here in NZ. Charging (almost) a dollar a minute is daylight robbery.

2) Better monthly plans: Subsidizing around $120 for a mobile when you sign up for 24 month plan (Vodafone) and even lesser for a Telecom one is a major rip off. Other countries like Singapore and the UK offer over $200 off a handset with a 2-year plan. In some cases competition is fierce enough for telcos to offer certain mobiles for free.

3) Newer mobile models: For God’s sake please bring in newer mobiles. Vodafone isn’t very guilty of this but Telecom seems content to stick to phones that my mom used 5 years ago. As for Telstra, they have only one mobile which pretty much speaks for itself. In an age where information is but a mere click away lots of NZ dollars are given to overseas based online shops (or similar sites like ebay and craigslist) which sell the latest handsets and this money could be better circulated in the local economy.

So will 2degrees live up to its promise of a better mobile experience or will it just be another playground bully vying for our money? We can only hope that they do but till then we will have wait for the price plans and handsets to be announced. I’m pretty optimistic because Starhub was (and still is) my favorite communication provider when I lived in Singapore. They were the first to offer free dial up internet followed by free incoming mobile calls then same rates for voice and video (3G) calls and eventually free landline calls with cheap IDD rates. Granted we might not get similar deals cause we’re considerably larger but there should be something in the works that give the rest a run for their money.

Sources -
TVNZ: Third mobile telco rebrands as 2degrees
Scoop: New Zealand Communication Appoints CEO

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