APPLE OF HIS EYE: Orcon's mobile service has launched with a pedestrian line-up of handsets (see below). But the company has Micro-SIMs - which will only work in an iPhone 4 or iPad 3G - on order. And until the Micro-SIMs arrive, Orcon has a service to cut any standard SIM card to fit an iPhone or iPad (Mr Bartlett poses with an iPad 3G using a trimmed-down Orcon SIM).
Such a challenge to Vodafone's official Apple carrier status is hardly unique. Telecom and 2degrees also have Micro-SIMs on order, despite having not a single device in their line-ups that support one. But this challenge comes not from a competitor, but from an MVNO within Vodafone's camp.
More, Mr Bartlett would like to actually sell Apple devices, not just the SIM cards that allow them to connect to a New Zealand network. Read more in Orcon's brazen challenge.
Stated-owned ISP Orcon has today launched its 020 mobile service.
Like other mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs), Orcon is running a rebadged version of a full-service phone company's network; in this case Vodafone's.
People can bring their own number to the network, or adopt one with Orcon’s 020 prefix.
Orcon chief executive Scott Bartlett did not agree with NBR's thesis that it was an intriguing move for the government, albeit indirectly, to enter the mobile market it is so contentiously trying to regulate in areas such as termination rates and roaming charges.
The government did not get any special heads-up about Orcon's plan to start a mobile service (which Mr Bartlett first publicly discussed almost a year ago).
The Crown only got updates twice a year from Kordia's chairman, Mr Bartlett said.
Has the 12-month delay in launching Orcon's mobile service been due to the government wanting to get the MTR controversy more-or-less settled first?
The notion is ridiculous, Mr Bartlett said. "That would be really stretching the rubber band".
It’s tricky to stand out in the increasingly crowded MVNO field (those taking Vodafone’s wholesale service now include TelstraClear, CallPlus/Slingshot, Compass Communications and Black+White; Telecom, which initially alienated MVNOs by blocking access to XT, has one live: business specialist Digital Island).
Orcon’s is that you don’t have to have a contract, or pre-pay up front.
A basic “Purple” plan costs $0.69 a minute for voice calls. Pay-as-you-go txts cost 20 cents each.
Mr Bartlett said that pay-as-you-go would suit anyone who didn’t want to be tied down - but also “non-human” connections to the internet, such as a smart parking meter or taxi dispatch units.
If you do want to go on-plan, 60-minute, 120-minute, 180-minute monthly options are available at $29.95 (50 cents a minute), $49.95 (42 cents a minute) and $69.95 (38 cents a minute) respectively. And it costs $11.95 to send a block of 500 txts.
Mobile data on a phone costs $1 a day for 10MB, with a stiff 50 cents per megabyte ($500 per GB after that), although there is the choice to buy a 1GB add-on for $49.
Mobile data on device costs $29.95 for 500MB; $49.95 for 2GB or $69.95 for 4GB (again there’s the 50 cents per MB penalty if you bust your cap and don’t buy another block of data).
Rebates for Orcon customers
Those are not the cheapest rates on the market.
Mr Bartlett said his Orcon would instead compete by focusing on service, and by targeting customers who used a lot of data.
And for those who are also customers of Orcon’s ISP service, there will be a one-off rebate of $60 to $120 for signing up to a mobile plan.
Orcon’s arch-rival, CallPlus/Slingshot, offers on-going discounts for those who subscribe to both its mobile and landline plans.
Mr Bartlett said Orcon would do the same, but in a few months time. For now, it did not want to complicate its launch.
Androids on the way
As with any Vodafone MVNO, customers can bring any device compatible with Vodafone’s 3G/2G network with them.
Mr Bartlett said he wanted to distinguish Orcon’s 020 service with a series of unique devices.
For now, there’s one, the HTC Mini (looking slightly creaky; it runs Windows 6.5).
Also in the limited line-up: two workhorse Nokia phones (the $60 5030 and the $199 2730), and Nokia’s $699 E71 (again a little creaky; Telecom and Vodafone are selling the newer E72).
An HSPA+ data stick is also offered for $199, or for $5 a month rent.
The Orcon boss promises a range of more alluring, Orcon-unique devices, including “a lot of Androids”.
But so far there are no specifics, and no time-table.
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