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Bad Actor: Telecom New Zealand’s Repeated Mobile/Broadband Outages Plague Country

Phillip Dampier February 1, 2010 Competition, Telecom New Zealand, Video, Wireless Broadband No Comments

New Zealand Telecom

Telecom New Zealand is under fire as consumer groups, business leaders, and customers condemn the company for a second major outage wiping out wireless mobile broadband and cell phone service for tens of thousands of customers on the South Island.  Dunedin, Invercargill, Timaru and Queenstown were among the areas worst affected for the service problems impacting the company’s much-touted “XT” WCDMA network.  Affected customers could not access mobile broadband, send or receive text messages or phone calls for several days.

Company officials believe a piece of hardware installed at multiple cell tower sites is responsible for the network outages.  It’s just the latest of a never-ending series of problems for New Zealand’s largest telecommunications provider.

In December, a botched software upgrade brought another major outage for the provider, which now risks being defined by customers as unreliable.

Telecommunications Users Association chief executive Ernie Newman said, “From here, it looks bizarre. Even third world countries don’t experience outages of that magnitude and length.  The first time before Christmas people were forgiving. This week has made people think. But they cannot afford a third time.”

The expensive promotional campaign launching the “XT” 3G UMTS network was itself highly controversial when the company decided to use British actors in its advertising campaign, annoying New Zealanders.  Although a company official touted the “world class advanced XT network” as capable of speeds better than 20Mbps, the company’s website notes average customers are more likely to find speeds somewhere in the 3Mbps/750kbps range.

“After marketing XT as a Rolls-Royce brand, Telecom will be looking at ways to rehabilitate it in consumers eyes,” telecommunications analyst Rosalie Nelson told the New Zealand Herald.

The damage control teams have moved into place, and Telecom today announced a $5 million (NZ Dollars) compensation package for customers south of Taupo who were impacted:

Customers whose service was degraded on Wednesday 27 January:

  • Prepaid consumer customers – $10 credit
  • Postpaid consumer customers – One week’s worth of plan charges, including Telecom Extras, such as texting or data packages
  • Telecom Retail SME customers and Gen-i corporate customers – Two weeks’ worth of plan charges, including Telecom Extras, such as texting or data packages

Customers whose service was severely impacted for up to three days between Wednesday 27 January and 10pm Friday 29 January:

  • Prepaid consumer customers – $20 credit
  • Postpaid consumer customers – Two weeks’ worth of plan charges, including Telecom Extras, such as texting or data packages
  • Telecom Retail SME customers and Gen-i corporate customers – Four weeks’ worth of plan charges, including Telecom Extras, such as texting or data packages

Telecom is also donating more than $250,000 to community projects across the lower South Island.

The company’s problems got extensive media coverage, including daily reports on New Zealand’s national news.  Customers were outraged, many spending hours trying to reach Telecom by phone.  Many others argued their way out of service contracts, penalty-free, and switched to Vodafone, the country’s other major wireless provider.

[flv width=”640″ height=”380″]http://www.phillipdampier.com/video/TV New Zealand Telecom Outage 1-27 1-29-10.flv[/flv]

TV New Zealand’s One News ran several days of reports on the service outage, all presented here in this compilation. (17 minutes)

[flv]http://www.phillipdampier.com/video/Telecom Parody 1.mp4[/flv]

Telecom New Zealand has been on the receiving end of parodies assaulting the company’s quality of service.  This one calls on residents to switch providers. (Strong Language Warning – 2 minutes)

[flv width=”640″ height=”500″]http://www.phillipdampier.com/video/Telecom XT Parody.flv[/flv]

Another parody reworks one of the promotional advertisements Telecom ran to introduce its XT service to New Zealand. (2 minutes)

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