Commission eyes Telecom's about-face on XT

Yesterday, NBR revealed the surprising extent of Telecom’s upgrades to its XT network, including the accelerated roll out of dozens of new cell towers, and hundreds of tower-mounted amplifiers. Some of this spending was planned (but dragged forward); millions, apparently was not.

The article also brought to readers - and perhaps regulators - attention that Telecom had quietly withdrawn its claim that XT covers 97% of the places New Zealanders "live and work”.

Joe Caccioppoli, head of mobile at Telecom’s Gen-i division, told an audience at a Telecommunications Users Association event on March 24 that the 97% population coverage claim was made before XT’s launch based on modelling.

But, “you can only model so much” Mr Caccioppoli told the audience.

The 97% coverage claim, which used to appear beside XT coverage maps on Telecom’s website and was often quoted elsewhere, was voluntarily - and quietly - withdrawn last month.

(Although vestiges remain, such as the line that "Our partnership with Telstra in Australia means that we've got coverage in 97% of where Australians live and work too.")

Still, they did say it
Nevertheless, the 97% coverage claim was made from XT’s racey May 2009 launch through until at least February 2010, when the launch bogged down in its fourth major outage.

The Commerce Commission gave a very neutral reaction when presented with this information yesterday. The watchdog is now accessing whether to look into the issue.

“As with all issues like this, this will need to be assessed through the commission's usual process to see whether there may be a breach of the legislation that the commission enforces, and if so, what, if any, action is appropriate for the commission to take,” said a spokeswoman.

The commission will make a statement next Tuesday, after this assessment has taken place.

Vodafone: we're fully-compliant
Meanwhile, Vodafone is sticking to its claim that both its 3G and 2G services “cover 97% of the places Kiwis live, work and play” (see its coverage map here).

“We absolutely reach at least 97% of the population,” head of corporate communications Paul Brislen said last night.

“The Commerce Commission has maps of our coverage and compares them with population data. We’re fully compliant.”

But it may not have always been that way
Nevertheless, Vodafone is no stranger to Commerce Commission scrutiny of its coverage claims.

In October last year, the watchdog launched a prosecution under the Fair Trading Act relating to, among other issues, Vodafone 2G/3G and wireless broadband coverage claims made variously between October 2006 and February 2009.

Telecom is sticking by its 97% population coverage claim for its older CDMA network.

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