Staying connected in crowds

June 12, 2014

Whenever lots of people converge on places not usually very crowded, mobile connections falter.

It happened in Wanaka at Christmas and Easter and at the Southern Field Days at Waimumu in March.

People going to the Fieldays at Mystery Creek could be expecting similar problems but Telecom has boosted its network to cope with the extra traffic.

Telecom is supporting National Fieldays with its biggest ever mobile communications network build for a one off event – providing a combined network capability four and a half times that which was deployed for the Rugby World Cup 2011 final at Eden Park.

Telecom has deployed a complex mix of both 3G and 4G technology suitable to support more than 125,000 attendees over the four day event period at Mystery Creek Show Grounds.

Alex Lee, Mobile Network Capability Manager – Events says “This kind of capacity is required due to increased customer demand for data (especially in upload capability as people share their experiences on social media) and continuing new customer demand on the Telecom Mobile Network.”

The technology deployed at the event is equivalent to that of over 20 standard mobile sites, transmitting across multiple carriers of 3G on 850MHz, 2100MHz, and 4G LTE on 1800MHz, 2600MHz spectrum. Importantly the use of 700MHz at the event continues Telecom’s trial of 4G technology to the rural sector.

Grant McBeath, Telecom Retail GM Sales says “We’re excited to see how our agribusiness customers can benefit from the faster speeds, better coverage and increased network capacity that 700MHz 4G will deliver for New Zealand’s regions.”

Data traffic across the Telecom network increased by around 60% from March 2014 compared to March 2013. During recent major events, like the Bruce Springsteen concert in Auckland, Telecom have seen mobile uploads actually exceed download.

“As more people begin to use smart devices for things like watching video, using business apps, uploading photos and getting the most out of their music on Spotify, data speeds are going to become more and more important. 4G allows you to do all these things in seconds, and these faster speeds will quickly become the “new normal” for New Zealanders, just as 3G speeds did when they were introduced a few years ago.” McBeath says.

Telecom will be holding two ‘kitchen-chat’ style information sessions each day led by experts from the Telecom network team. The first session will lead a discussion around our networks, and what we’re doing to improve connectivity beyond the major centres. The second session will provide an overview of the Telecom 700MHz spectrum trial in the Waikato and how this will allow Telecom to hit the ground running to deliver 4G beyond the major metropolitan centres once the auction process has concluded.

Rural dwellers are used to less than ideal connections and speeds at home and being connected when you’re away has both pluses and minuses.

But if those at the Fieldays need to be in touch, they’ll be very happy if they can do it without the dropped calls and delays which have happened at other events when the technology can’t cope with the traffic.

They’ll also be keen to learn what improvements they might expect at home – and when they might expect them.


Rural round-up

April 8, 2014

A taste of Waitaki –  Pam Jones:

Pam Jones travels a create-your-own wine and food trail in Waitaki Valley and gives the region top marks.

There is no formal wine and food trail in Waitaki Valley but it is not hard to create your own.

Take a trip from Omarama to Kurow and back to Oamaru and you will discover pinot noirs and aromatics that knock your socks off with their flavours and minerality.

Then add some gourmet treats or rustic farmers’ fare on the side.

It is a recipe for a wonderful day of wining and dining, or stay the night at places along the way to turn it into a multiday sojourn.

We start our loop at the Ladybird Hill Cafe, Restaurant and Winery in Omarama, tucked to the side at the southern entrance of the busy crossroads town. . .

Edendale Nursery sold to large forestry biotech – Sally Rae:

Forestry biotech company ArborGen has expanded its stable of nurseries with the acquisition of Edendale Nursery in Southland.

ArborGen, in which NZX-listed Rubicon has a 31.67% stake, is the largest supplier of seedlings in New Zealand.

It sells up to 25 million trees annually, predominantly in the North Island, and owns five production nurseries, two seed orchards, and a manufacturing facility for the production of radiata varietal seedlings. . . .

Making horseshoe among Young Farmers tasks – Sally Rae:

When Sonja Dobbie entered the North Otago district final of the ANZ Young Farmer Contest, she did not expect to do well.

The competition was held at Totara Estate, near Oamaru, last November and members of her Five Forks club encouraged each other to enter to ensure good representation.

But Miss Dobbie (23), a first-time entrant, finished third behind Marshall Smith (Upper Waitaki Young Farmers) and Steven Smit (Glenavy-Waimate), ensuring her a place in this month’s Aorangi regional final. . .

Sustainable, High-Performing Dairy Operation Collects Supreme Award In 2014 Northland Ballance Farm Environment Awards:

Okaihau dairy farmers Roger and Jane Hutchings are the Supreme winners of the 2014 Northland Ballance Farm Environment Awards.

Judges described the Hutchings’ 680-cow business in the Bay Of Islands, Lodore Farm Ltd, as a very sustainable high-input system which is profitable across all aspects of the operation.

“There is a clear balance between the financial performance of the operation and the environmental and social aspects.”  . . .

 Beef + Lamb New Zealand appoints top genetics positions:

Beef + Lamb New Zealand has appointed a Chairman and General Manager to run the new entity Beef + Lamb New Zealand Genetics.

Former Landcorp CEO and Massey University Chancellor Chris Kelly will chair the Beef + Lamb New Zealand Genetics Board and Graham Alder the former Genetics Business Manager of Zoetis, has been appointed General Manager of Beef + Lamb New Zealand Genetics.

The appointments follow the successful vote at the Beef + Lamb New Zealand Annual Meeting to combine the organisation’s current genetics investments. This means Sheep Improvement Ltd (the national sheep genetic dataset), the Beef + Lamb New Zealand Central Progeny Test and Ovita, with added investment in beef genetics, come together with government funds to create the new entity Beef + Lamb New Zealand Genetics. . .

More success for PGP programmes:

Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy is welcoming success by three Primary Growth Partnership (PGP) programmes this week, including an award nomination for a revolutionary seafood programme.

“The Precision Seafood Harvesting Programme has been nominated for a KiwiNet Research & Business Partnership Award. This is fitting recognition for a programme that could revolutionise the global fishing industry.

“The programme is developing new sustainable fishing technology that will allow fish to be landed on fishing boats alive, and in perfect condition, while safely releasing small fish and other species.

“The potential economic and environmental benefits of this are huge, and it’s no surprise it is attracting so much attention. This is a $52 million project with funding coming from both industry and government.” .

Another PGP programme – Shellfish Production and Technology New Zealand Ltd (SPATnz) – has also reached a milestone in selective breeding of greenshell mussels. . .

Telecom’s expanding mobile network connects locals in the Far North:

Locals and visitors to Houhora, Pukenui and the coastline north to Rarawa Bay may notice a boost in mobile coverage in the area, with Telecom announcing today that it has invested more than $175,000 on improved coverage to the region.

Telecom’s investment in the Houhora Central Rural Broadband Initiative (RBI) site responds to the increasing demand for mobile coverage in the area and will give locals and visitors added access to voice, mobile broadband and text services over the Telecom mobile network, which has been built specifically for smart phones.

The improved mobile coverage is part of Telecom’s commitment to open up access to mobile data and applications for rural communities. . .

New Zealand seafood goes online in China promotion:

New Zealand Trade and Enterprise (NZTE) has joined forces for the first time with China’s most popular business-to-consumer online shopping platform Tmall.com, to promote New Zealand seafood in a week-long campaign.

The promotion with Tmall.com will take place between 9-15 April, allowing Chinese shoppers to buy live seafood fresh from the sea in New Zealand, then have it packaged and air freighted to Shanghai within 36 hours. Within 72 hours, the seafood orders will be delivered to Chinese consumers across the country. The New Zealand products available for sale include paua, greenshell mussels and Bluff and Pacific oysters.

The ability to sell and deliver live seafood to Chinese consumers is a significant milestone. A similar Tmall.com campaign with Alaskan seafood last year resulted in a total of 50 metric tonnes supplied to Chinese consumers. . .

The ‘B’ word – Mad Bush Farm:

Yesterday I read the forecast for Northland and I used the “B” word. It’s now Autumn, and yet again we’re in a drought. So is the Waikato and things are looking rather grim where rainfall goes. I’m letting the Toyota crew there say the “B” word on my behalf, and the rest of the rural crew out there looking up at the skies and praying it rains and soon!


Feds concerned by 111 coverage

March 22, 2014

Federated farmers is concerned about emergency responsiveness and 111 coverage after it took a farmer about 30 minutes to get through to an operator after she trod in a wasps’ nest.

. . . “Given the 111 service is a rural lifeline, Federated Farmers was troubled to learn Janet Kelland struggled to get through for upwards of 30 minutes,” says Katie Milne, Federated Farmers Rural Security spokesperson.

“Telecom/Spark’s Telecommunications Service Obligation is relevant here because it must answer 111 calls within 15 seconds. 

“Federated Farmers is calling on Telecom/Spark to make sure it meets its TSO obligations and a formal complaint from Janet would help to trigger this. 

“Cellular network performance at the time needs to be looked into as well as the mapping software being used by the ambulance call centre.  A farmer repeatedly stung by wasps could have died for want of a connection.

“After getting clear Janet rang 111 and sometimes it would ring she told us and sometimes there was silence.  While cell reception can be random in rural areas she has reception on her farm and good reception from where she tried to call from.

“Janet told Federated Farmers that it took 30-minutes before she got through to an operator.  Even then after asking for an ambulance she was cut off. 

“She did get through but when she gave her address the operator insisted it did not exist.  While Janet resorted to some agricultural language, who could blame her given she was in agony.

“Clearly there are several issues that need to be looked at.  There also seems to be a pressing need to review mapping software because Janet’s address is in the White Pages.

“We note the 2012 review said that the Ministry for Business, Innovation and Employment will be working with emergency service providers and the telecommunications sector to investigate new technology. 

“Now seems a good time to start,” Mrs Milne concluded.

Mobile coverage is variable in the country but with RAPID (Rural Address Property Identification Numbers) there should be no problem with an address.

We’ve called 111 twice.

The first time was the night our son stopped breathing.

I started CPR while my farmer called for help. In those days 111 calls went to the local hospital and the man who answered the phone used to shear for us. As soon as he knew it was my farmer he said he’d tell the ambulance how to get there and told my farmer to hang up, ring our GP.

The second time was last December towards the end of a party when one of the guests stumbled, fell and knocked himself out.

I dialled 111, got straight through, had no problem with the address and the ambulance was here in less than 30 minutes.

However, both those calls were from landlines.

Staff who’ve had to call emergency services from our farm have managed to do so without problems, but there’s an element of luck in that they happened to be where they had reasonable coverage when they needed it.

Even in the 21st century you can’t expect 100% mobile coverage but you shouldn’t have to argue about your address.


Internet outage three days and counting

January 4, 2014

We got home after a few days in Wanaka late this afternoon to find we had no internet.

I turned everything off, waited a few minutes and turned it all on again but we still had no connection.

That being the limit of my self-help repertoire, I phoned the Telecom help desk.

The call was answered by a real person in a very few seconds.

I explained the problem, she ascertained that there was no connection, looked further then said there was an outage in our area.

It had happened on the second, three days ago, and they’d received about 20 calls like mine. Chorus would be fixing it but they had no updates on progress and no knowledge of when service would be restored.

I’m using a T-stick with a laptop which is adequate for my needs, albeit slower than the broadband connection which isn’t working.

But our office staff will be back at work tomorrow and it’s very difficult to run the business on a single T-stick.

It would be good to have the problem fixed and until it is, communication on when it will be, would be appreciated.

The internet is a vital tool for business in the 21st century.

An outage lasting three days – and counting  – with no updates is unacceptable.


How safe is changed password?

February 18, 2013

Telecom has been urging customers to change passwords for their Xtra email accounts after a security breach.

the company has cancelled thousands of passwords and says they’ve been  assured by Yahoo the problem is now sorted.

But is it?

. . . Institute of IT Professionals NZ CEO told NBR ONLINE over the weekend that his members continue to investigate the possibility that Xtra address books and email were downloaded for later use by the hackers. Telecom and Yahoo acknowledge the nature of the Yahoo mail server security breach meant it was possible this had taken place. But both say there is so far no evidence it happened. Mr Matthews asks if there’s any evidence it didn’t.

The direct mail server security breach meant phishing emails were sent to the contacts of some people who were not actively using their Xtra account, let alone clicking on a dodgy link. . .

Ours was one of the accounts which had its password cancelled and we had no trouble resetting it.

But no evidence that address books and emails were downloaded for later use could just mean they haven’t been used yet.


Thanks Telecom

December 10, 2012

Telecom has announced changes to overseas roaming charges which will significantly reduce the cost of calls and data in several countries:

A feature is a flat daily rate for data roaming by postpaid customers across major travel markets. Australia roaming will start at a specially reduced rate of $6 a day (Telecom will review the rate in mid 2013). Customers will pay just $10 a day flat rate for data while travelling in the UK, USA, Canada, China, Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan, and Saudi Arabia. Telecom’s fair use policy applies to these rates .

Data roaming charges will be slashed by 83% to 92% in other markets, although charges will continue to be on a usage basis.

The new postpaid pricing schedule also includes new voice call roaming rates, featuring a 35% cut in the per-minute rate for Australia. Rate bands across all other markets have been simplified to make them easier to follow, with individual market rates either reduced by up to 50% or broadly similar to current rates.

For prepaid customers, data roaming charges will reduce by up to 88% and voice roaming charges by up to 45%. . . 

This is a vast improvement on the current very expensive rates for making calls or using data and much more convenient than using a local sim card while away from home.

It should be good for business too as a lot of frequent travellers who use their phones and iPads as infrequently as possible unless they can get wireless connections when overseas will be far less concerned about the cost.


Bad old days are back

December 3, 2012

Remember when it used to take weeks to get a telephone connected?

Those bad old days are back.

Last month we applied for a connection for a new staff house on a dairy farm and were told someone would be out to do it a few days later.

He arrived when he was supposed to but took one look and said he couldn’t do the connection, someone else would have to do it.

We were told that someone would be out the following week.

That week came and went but no-one turned up.

My farmer phoned Telecom and was told someone would definitely be in touch the following morning.

No-one called so my farmer phoned again and was told that the job couldn’t be done. There wasn’t enough of whatever was needed at the exchange and it could be some months before there was.

Last week, about a week after that conversation, my farmer got a phone call, while we were driving to Christchurch, saying someone would be out to do something to a grey box in the middle of December.

He explained what we’d been told so far and asked if that meant that whatever was lacking at the exchange had been sorted.

I was in the car with him and could hear the conversation on the speaker.

We both got the impression she didn’t know anything about the exchange but before we could pursue the conversation, reception dropped.

As her number had been withheld we couldn’t call back and she  hasn’t tried calling us again.

That was five days ago and we still don’t know exactly when someone will be coming to do whatever needs to be done with the grey box nor whether if, when that’s done, the phone will be able to be connected.

Contrast that with the service from Sky.

Someone turned up at the designated time, put up a dish, connected the box and television – and it worked.

Connecting  a television and a telephone are different jobs but there’s no reason the service we’re getting from Telecom shouldn’t be up the standard as that we got from Sky.


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