Telstra's New Zealand arm, TelstraClear, is a strange company.
It's a big player in the New Zealand market. With wholesale and retail telecom products and being backed by Telstra, you'd expect it to go hard and put the squeeze on Telecom and Vodafone. This doesn't seem to be happening though, but it's not for want of good stuff for TelstraClear to sell: the company has two HFC networks in Wellington and Christchurch, some of its own copper local loop in various towns, nationwide fibre backbone and more.
Armed with that, it ought to be able to floor much of the competition, you'd think.
Take mobile for example: since TelstraClear wants to provide full telco services to its corporate and public sector customers here, it has to offer mobile telephony. That shouldn't be a problem for it, not with Telstra's experience in the field.
Somehow or the other though, TelstraClear has managed to make a muddle of mobile. Originally, it had an agency agreement with Vodafone so that it could resell phones and devices. This came to an end about two years ago, with TelstraClear and Vodafone brawling in public and causing unflattering headlines. No one could work out why the two were fighting though, instead of working out a new agreement.
Around the same time, TelstraClear has also decided to build its own 3G network using Ericsson gear in ... a single provincial town. Again, everyone was scratching their heads as it seemed a lot of money to spend in an area where people retired to and that wasn't exactly known as being full of early adopters of cutting-edge technology. Seems Sol Trujillo thought the same and ordered the plug to be pulled on TelstraClear's Tauranga project.
TelstraClear then sorted out the mobile issue by doing a wholesale deal with Telecom, reselling the latter's CDMA/EVDO network. That was a surprise, as Telstra in Australia was ditching CDMA in favour of UMTS. Telecom too was canning CDMA, mainly because of Telstra's decision. Australia is, after all, the biggest roaming market for Telecom.
An even bigger surprise came when we learnt that TelstraClear would not have access to Telecom's shiny new XT network until 2011 at the earliest. The 3G XT network runs in the 850MHz band, and would be perfect for TelstraClear customers wanting to roam in Australia. They could use Telstra's network quite happily.
Last week, however, TelstraClear and Vodafone decided to be friends again. Yes, after the huge row two years ago, TelstraClear is once again selling Vodafone's network services (as well as Telecom's CDMA ones for the time being). This means TelstraClear customers will roam on Vodafone's network in Australia, and not Telstra's, unless the switch handsets.
TelstraClear customers could be forgiven for thinking: "Bizarre ... what's next?"