3 mins to read

Naked broadband, mobile-only on the rise

Thu, 02 Feb 2012

I managed to squeeze one last stat out of IDC analyst Rosemary Spragg before she – and her boss Rosalie Nelson – decamped last month to one of the companies they used to cover, Chorus.

(Both their jobs were advertised. So far IDC has filled one position, with Glen Saunders hopping from Telecom to IDC – helping to restore the analyst/client equilibrium. Mr Saunders Telecom’s senior market intelligence manager at Telecom, and previously a senior policy analyst at the MED. He started last week as IDC’s principal telco analyst.)

Ms Spragg said the number of naked broadband accounts at 45,000 or 4% of the market. (Naked broadband means an internet account without a Telecom phone rental (priced from $41.60 and $50.23 a month, depending on where you live - and, more pointedly, what competition Telecom has in your area.)

CallPlus chief executive Mark Callander said around 15% of his company’s 160,000 customers (150,000 of them with CallPlus residential sub-brand Slingshot) are now on naked DSL plans – around double 12 months ago.

Vodafone says 14% of its customers are now on naked broadband accounts.

Orcon is in the process of pushing 100% of its customers to "Genius" accounts, which are centred on a internet calling.

Cry freedom
I was curious because I went naked over Christmas.

It had to the point where most people called me and my partner on our mobiles. Our $50 landline was reserved for telemarketers and toll-calling parents. And once the parents got on Skype, it was only people selling stuff. And $50 a month buys a fair whack of mobile calls (a femtocell has helped the transition by boosting our poor cell reception).

A regulatory change in 2008 allowed for naked DSL, but the service was initially slow to take off. Kordia (which owns Orcon) alleged Telecom was dragging the chain, only allowing each retail ISP to hook up a few naked customers a week.

Mr Callander said that was no longer a problem. Like Vodafone, he gives Chorus top marks for its recent performance.

However, the ongoing regulatory streetfight over wholesale pricing has made it tricky to offer naked DSL at competitive pricing until recently, the CallPlus boss said.

Even today, it's not so much a matter of cheaper DSL broadband, but simply the freedom not to pay for a Telecom phone rental on top (Vodafone charges $55 a month for a naked plan with a 20GB cap, and $65 with a 60GB cap - as long as you have a mobile account with the carrier. Otherwise it costs an unattractive $85 or $95. CallPlus has a 30GB naked DSL plan for $80 a month and an unlimited data naked DSL plan for $90. Orcon's Genius accounts which are tied to a VoIP service, start from $75).

Mobile-only: the sister trend.
To wit, unsurprisingly, the number of households going mobile-only closely tracks those moving to naked DSL.

“In terms of customers cutting the cord entirely and going mobile only, we estimate there are around 5% mobile-only households today and are forecasting that to grow to around 14% by 2015, bringing NZ into line with other developed European markets,” Ms Spragg said.

IDC Australia analyst Dustin Kehoe said around 14% of households across the Tasman were mobile-only. He expected the trend to accelerate as faster LTE (or “4G”) mobile networks are introduced.

Before she departed for Chorus, IDC analyst Ms Nelson said she saw ultra-fast 4G mobile networks as not just a threat to the copper DSL landline broadband connections prevalent today, but fibre optic cable being rolled out under the government’s Ultrafast Broadband (UFB) roll-out.

The US is the leader in mobile-only connections, with an estimated 25% to 33% of households (depending which survey you believe) having now ditched their landlines.

Bundled up
The main player not pushing naked DSL is, not surprisingly, Telecom.

The company made its fattest profits from phone rentals. Now, its key problem – like that of every old-school telco around the world – is that its landline voice revenue is falling faster than revenue from new areas, like mobile and broadband, is rising.

Instead, Telecom is looking to sure up its voice business by bundling phone line rentals into its heavily promoted Total Package, which does not break out pricing for its separate local calling, broadband and toll elements – encouraging people to forget that $50 a month charge for a home line many seldom use anymore.

“Naked DSL for data and mobile for voice is the way the world is moving and I’d expect to see more of it in New Zealand in the future,” Telecommunications Users Assocation (Tuanz) boss Paul Brislen told NBR.

“Basically it’s the prototype for the UFB [Ultrafast Broadband] world – data first, with voice as an add-on.”

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Naked broadband, mobile-only on the rise