NZ Fry Up: 2degrees 5G swapout; 2degrees fixed wireless?; Social network policies after the mosque attack

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

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2degrees says so long to Huawei, hello to Ericsson

The move to 5G technology has seen a whole new roster of technology vendors building mobile networks in New Zealand. First Spark added Samsung to its line-up of technology partners, and now 2degrees says its going with Ericsson for its 5G deployment. As noted previously, these mobile operators might have wanted Huawei to stick around but the New Zealand government had other ideas, effectively barring the company from providing 5G network equipment over security concerns.

The 2degrees network will be a complete swapout of technology, although CTO Martin Sherrock is careful to acknowledge Huawei’s contribution and ongoing support in the transition. He says that in the deployment 2degrees will “completely renovate and refresh the sites” installing 3G, 4G, and 5G capability using Ericsson technology. “We are going to visit each site only once, going to install all of the capacity, all of the different layers, at the same time. It’s going to be really quite efficient,” he says.

In the first phase, that’s 700 sites, starting with 100 sites in Auckland and Wellington, where 2degrees expects to go live with 5G later this year. The company has about 1,800 sites throughout the country. Sharrock says it opted for Ericsson because it has deployed 5G in 80 countries and is rated by Gartner as being the most likely to deploy 5G successfully, with the analyst popping it at the top of its 5G technology quadrant.

So, technically, why is Ericsson better than the rest? Sharrock cites expertise around spectrum management: “Features like dynamic spectrum sharing; what this means is that as more people obtain 5G phones, we can dynamically change the way our network works, such that we allocate more spectrum to 5G and less spectrum to 4G, and we can do this site by site, dynamically day by day, month by month as people’s usage habits change.”

In addition, Sharrock says Ericsson are experts in what’s known as ‘advanced carrier aggregation’. “This is taking the different spectral layers, the different spectrum allocations we get from the government, and aggregating them efficiently such that you can provide the best capacity in the network.”

He also likes the idea of having Ericsson providing an end-to-end network, from the core to the edge. “The software works together, the integration works together; it means you can bring on more advanced features more quickly.”

2degrees began replacing its core network last year, but the carrier has been pretty quiet until now about its plans for 5G. The announcement of Ericsson as its vendor comes after its owner Trilogy International has talked up an IPO on the NZX for later this year or early next. Sharrock says whatever happens in that process won’t affect the 5G deployment.

The mobile operator — which launched in New Zealand 12 years ago — has little option but to upgrade now that 5G-enabled smartphones are coming onto the market. Analyst firm IDC predicts that 5G-capable phones will account for 50% to 55% of all smartphone shipments to New Zealand this year, spurred on by Apple releasing its first 5G phone (the iPhone 12) late last year.

2degrees fixed wireless offering?

2degrees expects to double its 4G capacity with the network upgrade, and this change could see the company join its rivals Spark and Vodafone in actively promoting fixed wireless plans. From the mobile operators’ point of view, this means it can avoid paying fixed-line fibre wholesale providers such as Chorus.

Sharrock notes that 2degrees already offers fixed wireless services. “For some customers, fixed wireless is a really good product and a really good solution. It normally goes faster than copper and sometimes it goes faster than some fibre connections,” he says.

Perhaps mindful that he was, until a year ago, head of network technology at Chorus, Sharrock does concede that fixed wireless isn’t for everyone — yet. “Perhaps if you are a really hard-core gamer and you want super, super low latency then perhaps it’s not the right product for you. But in the future when 5G comes along and we’ve not only got high speed, we’ve not only got high capacity, but we’ve also got very, very low latency then you could contend that 5G could be an excellent product for home broadband for everyone.”

What social networks have done following the Christchurch terrorist attack

It’s been two years since the terrorist attack on two mosques in Christchurch on 15 March 2019, when a livestream of the attacks that killed 51 people and injured 50, was viewed about 4,000 times before being removed. Two months after the attack, New Zealand and France convened a meeting with governments and social networking companies to discuss how to crack down on terrorist and violent extremist content. It resulted in the ‘Christchurch Call’, a pledge by countries and companies to proactively prevent this content from being accessed.

A survey of those who signed the pledge was taken late last year, and their responses are the basis of the Christchurch Call Community Consultation Report. Six of the seven tech companies that signed the pledge have provided feedback on the measures they have taken to prevent the uploading of terrorist and violent content. They are as follows:

  • YouTube updated its hate-speech policies and placed restrictions on livestreaming.
  • Dailymotion restricted access to its livestreaming feature.
  • Facebook restricted Facebook Live from people who have broken certain rules on the platform.
  • Twitch updated its community guidelines to reinforce the company’s zero-tolerance policy on terrorist and violent extremist content.
  • Twitter automated prioritisation of live video reports and made improvements to its hash technology for uploaded images, videos, and animated GIFs.
  • Microsoft developed and managed its Content Incident Protocol, enabling the industry to act on livestreamed or broadcast content resulting from a terrorist or violent extremist event.

Whether these actions will be considered sufficient by governments concerned about violent online content is the subject for ongoing debate. In New Zealand, Parliament is currently considering the Films, Video, and Publications Classification Amendment (FVPCA) Bill, drafted in response to the Christchurch mosque attacks two years ago.

Section 119L-O of the bill includes rules to set up legally mandated internet filtering, which says: “the Department of Internal Affairs may operate an electronic system to prevent access by the public to objectional online publications”.

InternetNZ, an organisation that supports the Christchurch Call, is actively opposed to this section of the bill, labelling the proposal an internet filter that is “extreme and undemocratic.”

Copyright © 2021 IDG Communications, Inc.

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