Telecom NZ smokes the peace pipe

Telecom NZ smokes the peace pipe

Summary: commentary Australia is not the only country with a telecommunications sector in turmoil. The action is also hotting up across the Tasman, as New Zealand wrestles with many of the same issues being debated here.

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commentary Australia is not the only country with a telecommunications sector in turmoil.

Renai LeMay, ZDNet Australia The action is also hotting up across the Tasman, as New Zealand wrestles with many of the same issues being debated here.

Much of the current discussion was generated by the early May announcement of a sweeping package of government reforms aimed at boosting New Zealand's broadband uptake.

That package, introduced to the country's parliament yesterday, will force the nation's incumbent telco Telecom New Zealand to give rivals direct access to its copper telephony network.

You could almost hear the drool hit the pavement in May as the Kiwi operations of telcos like Telstra and iiNet started salivating.

And no doubt New Zealand's broadband-hungry public was just as happy with the looming increase in competition.

But at the time it looked as Telecom New Zealand's management had a case of sour grapes ... understandable if you were in their shoes.

"Today's package actually tells players to put away any major investment plans and rely on regulation instead," said Telecom's general manager of government and industry reglations Bruce Parkes in a statement.

The government also made it clear Telecom could be in for more strife, threatening to separate the telco's retail and wholesale divisions to prevent uncompetitive collusion.

Now Telecom's plight is not that different from that of Telstra's in Australia.

Both find their business models under siege as governments try to increase competition and boost broadband usage.

Telstra is proceeding with the operational separation imposed on it by Australia's government.

But the telco has reacted badly to its predicament, flinging its fair share of mud at everyone but itself.

"It's almost at the point where I'll have to have someone from the ACCC hold my hand while I go to the toilet," a Telstra spokesperson told your writer in December last year on the subject of operational separation.

In contrast, Telecom New Zealand appears to have realised from which direction the wind is blowing.

Yesterday the telco said it would voluntarily (you read that correctly) separate its wholesale and retail operations.

Telecom apparently wants to work with its wholesale customers rather than make life difficult for them.

The move already looks to be paying off ... if the goodwill of New Zealand's competition regulator is any measurement.

"[Telecom CEO] Theresa Gattung has been clear in her recent comments that Telecom has got the message and is committed to making the new environment work," Commerce Commission telecommunications commissioner Douglas Webb told a conference in Auckland yesterday morning.

He added Telecom's recent moves showed the telco was willing to let bygones be bygones and "engage in new ways of working with the regulator and its competitors".

Speaking after Webb, Gattung agreed. "Our actions do live up to our pledge to do things differently from now on," she said.

Telecom's public change of attitude is certainly a breath of fresh air.

Maybe Telstra could take some hints from its Kiwi cousin.

Are you a New Zealander tired of waiting for broadband? What do you think of Telecom's reaction to the government reforms? Drop me a line directly at renai.lemay@zdnet.com.au or post some feedback below.

Topics: Broadband, Telcos, Telstra, NBN

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