Archive for November, 1998


Sunday, November 1st, 1998

In November 1998 we saw the debut of the world’s first digital satellite phone service, and the top two companies that will compete in this new market are giving their best guess as to how many customers they expect to enroll for their products.

Iridium, which begins revenue-generating commercial service on November 1 is sticking to conservative estimates of around 100,000 subscribers for 1998. Those estimates are based on solid customer leads from its advertising campaign initiated in late June 1998.

Analysts Merril Lynch predict that Iridium could have 2.5 million users in 2002 and 3.2 million in 2003.

Parent Motorola is expected to have approximately 5,000 commercial grade handsets available for Iridium’s debut, and plans on producing 70,000 by the end of the year. Its partner, Kyocera, plans on producing 30,000 units by year’s end, and will have 14,000 units available for commercial service in November.

Iridium’s paging service has taken a back seat, and is expected to see a further delay of 15 to 30 days.

Iridium has negotiated more than 270 distribution agreements with service providers and cellular partners serving more than 105 million wireless telephone subscribers in 125 countries and territories.

Meanwhile, Iridium’s main competitor, Loral-backed Globalstar Telecommunications, expects subscribers for its service to reach 2.2 million worldwide by 2002 and 3 million by 2003.

The number of subscribers in China alone is forecast to reach 200,000 in 2002 and grow by 20% annually, according to Ming Louie, Globalstar’s vice-president of Asia Pacific Business Development.

Globalstar’s US$3 billion system is expected to begin operations in the Americas and Europe by September 1999 and will start in China, South Korea and South Africa by October. The company has been troubled by mishaps during its development, including an explosion last month of a rocket carrying 12 satellites, which is reported to have set the company’s plans back by three months.

Source: SkyReport

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Sunday, November 1st, 1998

I was interested to see Daniel Petrie’s (ninemsn) comments on the introduction of AOL in Australia, in which he questioned whether the AOL concept, with proprietary content, would be successful.

When Microsoft and Telstra launched the OnAustralia/MSN service in 1995 Daniel (CEO of MSN) maintained that the proprietary concept would be successful. At that time I had heated discussions with Telstra Multimedia (the promoters of OnAustralia) and Microsoft. I argued that their concept would not work, because it went against the decentralised and democratic nature of the Internet.

We all know, of course, what happened with OnAustralia/MSN. But I have to say that it gave me a certain amount of satisfaction to see Daniel, after all these years, questioning the approach which he had so vigorously promoted during the initial OnAustralia/MSN years.

At that point I was seen as a knocker and a doomsayer, especially within Telstra circles, but I am glad I stuck to my guns and I know that several of our customers followed my advice and took a more careful approach to the massive marketing machines unleashed by Telstra and Microsoft at that time.

Having said this, I would like to commend Daniel and his ninemsn team for their innovative use of the Internet in conjunction with the Channel Nine TV programs – now, of course, being copied by others. They are creating a large throughput on their Web site and I see the potential for very interesting commercial applications in the future.

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Sunday, November 1st, 1998

The Bluetooth technology is promising to deliver a whole new range of wireless broadband technologies.

Several companies are developing new applications. They include: Ericsson, Lucent Technologies and Northern Telecom. They intend to develop Bluetooth as an industry standard for transmitting wireless data via personal computers, servers, personal digital assistants, notebook PCs, and other digital devices.

Now Motorola has joined the group with its new application code, named Piano. It developed a technology that can operate in any part of spectrum, ranging from 5 billion to 60 billion cycles per second.

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Sunday, November 1st, 1998

Saturn Communications has implemented a Pair Allocation application within its Smallworld GIS. Pair allocation is a key component in providing local telephone services, because only through an allocated or dedicated pair can a customer have a land line phone connection. The development is unusual because it integrates network design/asset management with ‘just in time’ provisioning.

Saturn is Telecom New Zealand’s first competitor in the local/residential market. It is building its own state-of-the-art Cable TV and telephone network in Wellington, providing multi-channel TV, high-speed internet access and a completely alternative telephone service, covering installation, maintenance, line and phone rental.

Saturn is rolling out large tracts of new network each month. Once provisioned, circuit information is immediately propagated to all parts of the organisation – dispatch, network technicians and contract installers.

Tight integration between customer service systems and network field systems (Saturn’s key systems aim) means that incorrect information will immediately have an impact on the service and installation activity in the customer’s house or business. Saturn therefore takes great care to ensure the information is correct before releasing an area for sale.

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Sunday, November 1st, 1998

Telecom New Zealand has come in for more stick lately with the release of a report claiming it was overcharging by nearly NZ$400 million a year for telephone services.

The report, commissioned by rival Clear Communications, was written by a team of economic experts led by Jeff Todd. It follows hard on the heels of Paul Budde’s annual New Zealand Telecommunications and Information Highways Report, which was also critical of the country’s telecommunications regime.

The Todd report showed that while Telecom had a 2.8 cents/minute interconnection deal with Clear Communications, the true cost was 0.63 cents. While not denying the anomaly, Telecom has said the difference was historical and costs had come down since the deal was signed two years ago.

Telecom has also refuted a great deal of the economic data and modelling used in the report, particularly information on toll pricing.

The report has put Communications Minister Maurice Williamson on the back foot, with public questioning of the state of competition in telecommunications and more calls for some kind of regulatory body. He said no other country had produced better pricing results than New Zealand with a regulated approach, and denied charges that he had been slow to resolve problems during his eight years at the helm of the communications portfolio.

According to Williamson, with constant changes to telecommunication technology, the process ‘is a journey rather than a destination’. The continuing criticism over pricing forced Telecom chief executive Rod Deane to face the press this time instead of sending his usual media minions out. Deane was particularly aggressive over the report’s ‘greenfields’ approach on building a model network from scratch and comparing prices. He says Telecom was stuck with some old technology such as NEC switches which couldn’t deliver the savings the Todd report was quoting.

Deane says Telecom has offered to renegotiate its interconnection with Clear Communications but Clear was arguing about the basis of negotiation. He says Telecom is happy to discuss the charges but won’t agree to conditions before negotiations began.

Anna Wallis

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