Telecom NZ and Vodafone go their separate ways on 4G

One telco is focusing on business users, while the other is chasing the consumer. Hopefully, it all leads to something better than trout-fishing advertisements.

I have sometimes cynically wondered what the point of faster broadband is. What is the point of 4G? Where are these much-vaunted benefits we are told we will receive? Surely there is more to it than streaming movies within a few minutes?

Fortunately, Telecom showed the way this week, with its announcement of a partnership with SAP. The deal means that Telecom's Gen-i division can offer more than 300 business applications that run over smartphones.

It follows Gen-i trialling 4G with its business customers, so it is heartening to see the technology being put to a worthy use. Certainly, it appears as though Telecom/Gen-i is pushing more for the business user, while Vodafone focuses more on the consumer.

You can only wonder which market might deliver the most, something that Vodafone should consider when we hear that it keeps losing customers.

The smartphone market is clearly booming, with one survey claiming that ownership of smartphones in New Zealand has nearly doubled over the past year. And once users have a smartphone, their use of data multiplies.

Organisations as diverse as the police are now using them in their work. And the country's dairy farmers will soon have applications to help them with their calving.

Meanwhile, the "4G wars" continue, and this week saw reports that Vodafone's 4G coverage has begun in Queenstown and Glenorchy.

The holiday capital of New Zealand, which has a growing number of finance firms, a population of rich and influential residents, plus masses of tourists, was an understandable choice for an early rollout.

But why the little township of Glenorchy at the far end of Lake Wakitipu, around a 30- to 40-minute drive from Queenstown? I can only wonder whether those marketeers at Vodafone are planning some alone time.

You might recall Telecom's XT system collapsing a few years back. When it was working again, its then boss Dr Paul Reynolds featured in a notable commercial, showing him fly fishing by a river , using his repaired 3G network. That ad was filmed just outside Glenorchy.

Perhaps right now, Vodafone boss Russell Stanners is practicing his casting for a follow-up ad.