Fortunately, there are better ways to spend your time in New Zealand.
New Zealand is a relatively costly place to do Internet-related business. There’s only one underseas cable linking it to the outside world, the Southern Cross, which goes from Australia to California via New Zealand.
That’s two paths in and out of the country, but one owner. It’s not a competitive market. According to Market Clarity, an Australian telecoms research company, Kiwis pay 5.8 times more than Aussies for a gigabyte .
Competition of a sort might be coming in the next couple of years, though. A plan to build a second link across the Tasman Sea was announced today. Telecom NZ, Vodafone and Telstra are investing US$60 million in a new cable between Auckland and Sydney, with completion expected in 2014.
There’s some skepticism about how much competition the cable will inject into the marketplace. The Southern Cross cable is also partly owned by Telecom NZ, and the company was a little vague about who would have access to the new link and on what terms. And it only goes as far as Australia, although from there you can find competing transpacific fiber.
The most recent attempt to break the Southern Cross monopoly was a venture called Pacific Fibre which folded last year. It invested several million dollars in developing a route from Sydney to Los Angeles, also by way of Auckland. But it couldn’t raise the US$400 million necessary.
A bailout was promised but not delivered by Kim Dotcom (his legal, if not original, name). He’s a German immigrant to New Zealand who is building a larger than life image for himself as he fights U.S. government attempts to extradite him on content piracy charges.
So we’re left with today’s announcement. It’s at least a half step towards competitive international bandwidth pricing for New Zealanders.
Lake Wanaka, New Zealand. Why spend time on the Internet?
I’ve been doing my annual check on New Zealand’s mobile telecoms, from a traveler’s perspective. Coverage appears to be much the same. Some prices have gone up and some down.
Vodafone and Telecom NZ both deliver 3G service pretty much everywhere I go, in both North and South Islands. I haven’t seen any change from last year in 2degrees’ coverage, which seems to focus on urban areas and not so much in the countryside, where I’ve been spending most of my time this trip.
Prices for mobile SIM cards seem to have dropped. A traveler arriving in Auckland last week could pick up a $5 SIM card from the Telecom NZ or Vodafone kiosks at the airport. Or wait until they get into town and get a free 2degrees SIM card from a tourist information center (i-Site information and assistance centers are ubiquitous in New Zealand and are a genuine convenience for international travelers). SIM cards of various kinds are also on sale at supermarkets and other retail outlets, at or near the $5 mark.
Once you have a SIM card, though, it appears the price of a megabyte is creeping up. Last year, I saw pay-as-you go plans that included an iPad compatible micro-SIM and 3 GB of data for $50. Now, the best price I’ve seen for 3 GB is $60. The low end hasn’t changed, though. $20 will still get you a micro-SIM and 250 MB of data.
On the wired and WiFi side, prices have definitely come down. Last year, a week’s worth of unlimited hotspot use from a major provider cost $50. This year it’s only $12. Same downward price trend in Internet cafes, where $2 an hour rates are commonplace. Kiwis I talked with say the same about home Internet costs.
Of course, the best option in New Zealand is to go off the grid and enjoy the spectacular scenery and good living. But these days, you do it by choice.
Here’s what it looks like…
Sony netbook, sorry, Lifestyle PC. 20 cm screen, 600 grams. WiFi, Bluetooth. Verizon 3G data in the U.S., T-Mobile and Vodafone in Europe. Nothing in New Zealand or Australia. Sorry, mate.
Sony also has a “Webbie” cam. HD video, $170 when it hits the market in March. There’s a $200 version available now, but not as cute.
Last to first, real time tweets from Las Vegas…
- Bill Gates is the UrGeek. Love or hate him, he’s an original with historic scope. Heroic in classical sense. Ballmer…
- Listening to Steve Ballmer, Microsoft CEO. Microsoft will rule the world. Honest.
- Sony shows great respect for mobile telecom carriers. Has WiFi Walkman in pipeline, but no 3/4G product that would cause consternation for Sony Ericsson’s mobile carrier customers.
- Sony sez not in negotiations for NZ/Australia mobile carrier deals for netbook, sorry Lifestyle PC, but GSM deals in Europe are locked.
- Even so, Sony netbook, sorry Lifestyle PC, is way cool. 600 grams, 20 cm screen. Uses Windoze OS but has a Linux bios & can boot either way.
- Sony intros netbook, sorry Lifestyle PC. $900. Includes wireless data card. Verizon deal for US, T-Mobile, Vodafone in EU. Nothing in New Zealand or Australia.
- Of course, Sony is cautious. Sony Ericsson is in bed with, and enthusiastically servicing, mobile telecom carriers.
- For CES, Sony divides its business into “in-home” & “out-of-home”. But out-of-home is mobile carrier-friendly, not consumer-focused.
- A couple words of Tagalog got me the sympathy of the bartender, though.
- My Japanese & German is an advantage at CES, Italian & Spanish no help.
- Lots of consumer-grade PR minions at what are supposed to be trade press-class events. Frustrating.
- Snuck a peek at Intel booth, heavy on mobile Internet & 4G, at least the WiMAX flavor.
- Cisco likes femtocell technology, puts it in the same bucket as WiFi. Interesting perspective.
- Steve Ballmer is tonight’s keynote, but here’s the advance scoop: Microsoft Bob is back!
- Apple it’s not but it’s a start for Cisco. They’ll need a lot of help though.
- Linksys by Cisco new consumer brand strategy, paying attention to product design now
- People started leaving, slid in for Q&A. Service provider guy talking about making networks video aware.
- Cisco PR kiddies say look it up on their website later. Duh.
- Cisco press conf overfull. Sent to watch a live web feed. Didn’t work. What business are they in?
- Line for Toshiba press conf too long. One way to manage reduced attendance is to book a smaller room.
- Sharp showing big displays. Really big.
- Line for Toshiba press conference out of control. Must be giving away free stuff.
- Netgear also showing IPTV player and home media center. Category is getting crowded, not much secret sauce anymore.
- Netgear has no deals with mobile carriers but sez they’ll appreciate increased data usage. Not convincing.
- CE guys determined to hang gizmos on mobile data networks: weeds in the walled garden!
- Streaming TV + tethered wifi router = bandwidth hell for carriers. CE guys are on the march!
- Netgear introing wifi router with slot for 3G data modem card. Sez 1 use is streaming TV.
- Skipped main event, checked out stuff afterwards. LG showing netbook, usual mobile phones, nice. Just nice.
- Line for LG press conf already strung out at 7:30am