New Zealand ISP Wired Country makes changes

Von Juha Saarinen

The wireless and fibre-optic network provider arm of New Zealand power line company Counties Power, Wired Country, is making sweeping changes to its connection plans.

Wired Country CEO Neil Simmonds says that from June 10, only 512kbit/s and faster download speed plans will be available on a wholesale basis. Other changes include a NZ$10 (US$7) cut for the 1Mbit/s plan, and the 2Mbit/s plan now costing the same as the existing 2Mbit/s Premium plan. Simmonds says all plans now have monthly data caps.

The price for data usage by customers in excess of the monthly cap is now NZ$4 per gigabyte, down from NZ$10. This charge is payable by the reselling ISP.

In May, Wired Country deviated from its previous wholesale-only model and launched its own retail ISP. Called Wired Country Direct, Simmonds says it was created because the provider wanted to target several customer segments "for quite a while". This didn"t fit well with Wired Country"s reseller partners" strategies, so Simmonds says the provider decided to do it by themself. He believes Wired Country is doing it in such a way that it won"t cannibalise its partners" usual markets.

Whereas the wholesale plans can be equipped with internet telephony or Voice over IP options, Simmonds says that Wired Country won"t offer a retail product at this stage to compete with the one offered by its reseller partner, Ihug Ltd.

Wired Country"s retail plans include business offerings with service level agreements and lower contention rates (the number of subscribers on each network segment) than the standard residential plans. This is unlike Telecom"s Venture ADSL plans offered by Xtra, which have the same network characteristics as its residential Jetstream service offerings.

Rob Anderson, marketing manager at Ihug, says the new plans mean no change from its point of view. He confirms that Ihug will replace the existing plans with Wired Country"s new wholesale ones in June.

Iconz, which resells Wired Country"s wireless service in Auckland through its EzySurf ISP, says through COO Sean Weekes that the move to provide a retail service is "not unexpected". It makes sense for Wired Country to want to extract greater value from the wholesale services provided, Weekes adds, as well as from the customers themselves.

Weekes says Iconz took the pragmatic view and "accepted the inevitable" a while ago, but wil continue to resell the WC products with its own services added on top.

Asked if competing in the retail market with a wholesaler would be problematic, Weekes says it won"t be. As long as there are "Chinese Walls" between Wired Country"s retail and wholesale operations, and the provider doesn"t undercut its reseller partners, Weekes says he is looking forward to a honest supplier/competitor relationship.