NZ Fry Up: Mobile data savings, revisited; Airspace trial programme takes off

New Zealand IT, tech, and telco news and views from our editor in Auckland.

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Mobile data savings study conclusions, take two

Analysing 80,000 mobile phone bills is not for the fainthearted. So good on the Commerce Commission for giving it a shot—or, rather, contracting Schiff Consulting to do so. In September 2020, it published the Analysis Report, based on sorting through all those bills. It concluded that “there were opportunities for significant savings for some consumers in the residential mobile market.”

The mobile network operators—2degrees, Vodafone, and Spark—were asked to respond. And they did, prompting a revised Analysis Report which shows things are not quite what the commission originally thought. So, a ‘refinement’ has been made.

“This refinement results in an estimated one in seven postpaid consumers [subscribers, versus pay-as-you-go customers] saving an average of $18.28 a month, compared with the original analysis of a quarter of postpaid consumers saving an average $11.60 a month. This is a decrease in the number of consumers who could save money by switching, but an increase in the total average saving,” the commission notes following the publication of an open letter to the industry.

Telecommunications Commissioner Tristan Gilbertson says that the mobile operators and their industry body the Telecommunications Forum (TCF) are addressing the issues. And the “Mobile Bill Review: Addressing transparency and inertia issues in the residential mobile market” is now complete.

We will all move on.

Well, before we move on, it’s probably worth noting what the mobile operators will need to do now. It’s threefold:

  1. Provide at least 12 months’ usage and spend information to customers.
  2. Provide an annual summary with a prompt to consider alternative customers.
  3. Promote development of tools to enable more effective comparison and choice through the TCF.

The third task is the probably the most challenging, and the commission notes that a prospective Consumer Data Right (currently going through policy development at the Ministry of Business, Innovation, and Employment, or MBIE) will assist with the process.

In the updated Analysis Report, the authors conclude that it was challenging combining billing data from different service providers. “If this analysis is repeated in future, it is also recommended that a standardised billing data format be developed that all service providers are capable of conforming to and that provides sufficient information for analysis.”

If by that they mean creating a billing template that every telco is required to follow, it could be some time before we see another comparison study like this.

Airspace trial program to take off

The aerospace industry has woken up to the fact that the South Island has a lot of open spaces, perfect for trialling new stuff like electric self-flying air taxis. Among another of MBIE’s jobs is administering the Airspace Integration Trials Programme (AITP), which supports the safe testing, development, and market validation of “advanced unmanned aircraft”.

Wisk, a San Francisco-based company backed by both aircraft manufacturer Boeing and flying-car startup Kitty Hawk (itself backed by Google co-founder Larry Page), has announced its transport trial is expected to start in the second half of 2021. It is also working with Insitu Pacific, a Boeing subsidiary, to support the trial.

“Wisk has always seen the distinct advantages of New Zealand, including the country’s globally respected Civil Aviation Authority and flexibility for remotely piloted aircraft systems,” says CEO Gary Gysin.

MBIE spokesperson Peter Crabtree concurs: “Companies such as Wisk are recognising New Zealand has unique competitive advantages which help create the ideal conditions for aerospace innovation, including our geographic location and a pragmatic approach to solving policy and regulatory challenges, including through initiatives like the AITP,” he says.

Both Wisk and MBIE released their statements last week, but the newcomer to the party, Insitu Pacific, had other announcements on its mind. It was touting new vision-based technology that can “detect other aircraft at distances that are beyond the requirements for safe avoidance and are a vast improvement on the capabilities of the human eye. … This technology offers new options for Australian Defence Force UAS [unmanned aircraft system] operators and supports Australia’s sovereign capabilities goal.”

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