NBN to consult industry on wholesale pricing

NBN will release an industry-wide wholesale pricing review consultation paper to some 50 retail service providers selling NBN plans to residential and business customers, and special interest groups such as ACCAN.

According to NBN, the consultation paper will seek industry feedback on a number of areas including improving customer experience with the right pricing; promoting the take-up of NBN services by under-serviced segments such as low-income earners, renters, or older Australians; and developing a sustainable business model that will enable NBN to continue to upgrade and maintain its network.

NBN general manager for commercial Ken Wallis told Telecom Times this consultation follows on from the company’s first industry consultation in 2017, which he claimed saw “some really good” outcomes.

We’ve been preparing for this consultation for some time. It’s a natural stage for us to do this consultation because the current discounts and the notice of the bundles run out in May 2020,” he said.

We want to provide plenty of lead time [to our RSPs], undergo the consultation now, take into account industry views, reach a final view and execute on that.”

Wallis confirmed the consultation will also seek industry view on the processes around how NBN makes changes to its prices – an area that has drawn criticism from RSPs recently.

RSPs will have the next five weeks to provide their feedback for the initial consultation paper. Following this, NBN plans to release a second consultation paper in August that will feature proposals developed based on initial feedback before publishing a final paper in November.

At the same time, NBN has also announced it will lift data capacity inclusion for its Bundle 100 from from 2.5Mbps to 3Mbps from September 2019, while keeping cost unchanged at $65.

NBN Co is also extending its existing dimension-based discounts for RSPs until 30 June 2020.

Wallis said the tactical changes would help RSPs provide a better customer experience and give them more certainty while consultation is underway.

UK unified comms specialist eyes ANZ for key regional expansion plans

It has been eight months since UK-based unified communications firm Via launched in Australia, and country manager Glendon Evarts is confident that there will be plenty of growth opportunities for the company in the region.

“There is a huge opportunity in the Australian market to help partners accommodate their customers who are after unified communications, particularly because there aren’t too many options,” Evarts told Telecom Times.

According to Evarts, prior to launching in Australia, founders Edward Worthington, Alex Tebbs, and Gareth Sobocinski recognised there was a real opportunity in the market to provide Skype for Business and Microsoft Teams services with a full set of telephony and contact centre features.

“It’s where the NBN is rolling out, and internet connection is becoming less of an issue in terms of running your communications over the internet versus traditional phone lines, which presents an opportunity for unified communications out here in the cloud,” noted Evarts, while pointing out that Via also has an opportunity to serve as an alternative to other local UC providers such as Telstra.

“Unfortunately due to a recent deal between Microsoft and Telstra, if our partners didn’t develop their own direct routing to Microsoft Teams for calling and their customers wanted calling through Teams, then they had it do it through Telstra. But now our partners have the option to use us, which will give them a better margin than someone like Telstra,” Evarts said.

As part of entering the Australian market, the company has set up a local datacentre in Sydney. Via also has existing datacentres in the UK and North America. “It’s just so we can service our 20,000 customers,” Evarts said.

Evarts added there are plans to also grow the local headcount. Currently, the company has 30 staff, 75 percent of which are in development and support and – as yet – all based in the UK.

Data#3 wins sole WA government Microsoft licensing contract

Australian technology services and solutions provider Data#3 will be the sole Microsoft software provider to the Western Australian government after winning two three-year contracts.

Data#3 has been selected by the Western Australian government to supply Microsoft software including to the education sector.

Data#3 general manager for Western Australia Kingsley McGarrigle said the win is a direct result of the company’s ongoing investment in the local state market.

“Data#3 Western Australian office is going from strength to strength, and the investment we’ve placed in our people is directly passed onto our customers through innovative solutions,” he said.

According to the solutions provider, it was selected due to its “value for money” proposal, which aligned with the state government’s ICT strategy to identify cost saving opportunities for Microsoft licensing solutions.

“The Western Australian Government sought a provider that would deliver governance, ensure compliance and offer strategic efficiencies with the planning and deployment of Microsoft licensing and cloud-based technologies,” Data#3 said in a statement.

The contract win builds on the company’s ongoing growth that Data#3 reported during its first-half yearly results for the 2019 financial year in February. Total revenue for the six-month period to 31 December 2018 increased by 17.7 percent to $644.4 million, which included $142.7 million of public cloud revenue.

 

Flat IT budgets impact ANZ digital priorities

A new survey by Gartner has revealed that 70 percent of Australian and New Zealand organisations are still evolving their digital business foundations, yet only a quarter have made digital initiatives a top business priority for 2019.

The Gartner 2019 CIO Agenda survey also revealed that cost reduction is a bigger priority this year than it was last year for ANZ organisations. It moved from 10th position to third place. The survey results suggests that flat IT budget growth of 1.5 per cent in ANZ in 2019 is hindering on organisations’ ability to meet leading digital initiatives.
Gartner executive programs vice president Brian Ferreira said digital resilience will be required for ANZ organisations evolving toward digital business maturity this year, particularly during uncertain times with limited budgets to make short-term investment decisions.

“CIOs must step up to lead their enterprises through a year of predicted tightening economic conditions, competition from digital giants and political volatility. It’s more important than ever to maintain momentum during times of uncertainty, not only for digital business transformation, but also for long-term business viability,” he said.

According to the survey, the top five areas that ANZ CIOs plans to invest new or additional in 2019 are in business intelligence and data analytics (54 percent); cybersecurity (40 percent); core system improvements and transformation (34 percent); cloud solutions (32 percent); and customer experience (31 percent).

Artificial intelligence is also on the radar of ANZ CIOs. The survey showed 77 percent are already using AI technology for process optimisation, chatbots, and computer-assisted diagnostics, mainly because 27 percent of ANZ CIOs believe AI will be the most disruptive technology for organisations in 2019.

“The rapid shift to AI looks revolutionary on the surface, but ANZ CIOs aren’t very innovative in creating uses for AI,” Ferreira said. “They need to experiment more to identify a greater range of uses within their organisation if they’re going to keep up with the innovators and disruptors in the market who invest more in it.”

Fujitsu, KIA build intelligent police car prototype

Fujitsu and Kia Motors have partnered for the first time in Australia to develop a prototype police vehicle that could be cheaper, easier and safer to operate.

The prototype that was built using Kia’s Stinger model – which is currently used by the
Queensland, Northern Territory and Western Australian police – has fewer cabling,
equipment, software, and hardware compared to current police vehicles, eliminating issues associated with airbag deployment, blocking of vehicle controls and air conditioning vents, and improving police safety while in-vehicle.

The car’s existing infotainment screen has also been programmed to display emergency
response information and controls in one place to replace previously disparate technology. Fujitsu’s biometric authenticating PalmSecure technology has been embedded into the gearstick, removing the need for seven login systems.

Fujitsu Australia CTO Peter Lawther told Telecom Times the prototype builds on Fujitsu’s
existing support it provides to public safety organisations.
“Fujitsu has considerable experience in supporting the needs of public safety organisation including police forces, through initiatives such as key policing systems such as the dispatch of police and emergency services personnel and vehicles, as well as body worn video,” he said.

“This vehicle represents the consolidation of these technologies to put them at the fingertips of police in the field and improve their overall safety. The police car concept builds on this expertise and draws from Fujitsu’s experience in taking a ‘human centric’ approach and innovative technology to improve the quality of life and work.”

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As part of phase two of the development, there are plans to introduce artificial intelligence capabilities where on-board cameras can identify a car’s make and colour, including stolen vehicles, in car parks and traffic, as well as detect if an offender has drawn a weapon and can automatically send duress signals.

Lawther believes the prototype has the potential for a much wider application than just use within the police force. “This is an opportunity for Fujitsu to leverage its expertise in connected services infrastructure as well as global expertise in emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence and video analytics,” he said.

”The standard Stinger model is being adopted by some police forces in Australia and the
solution will work on any current car in the Kia family, opening the doors to discussions with other emergency services organisations or commercial fleets.”

HPE, Nutanix sign hybrid cloud partnership

Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) and Nutanix (NTNX) have signed a global partnership to deliver an integrated hybrid cloud as-a-service (aaS) solution.

Under the agreement, Nutanix’s Enterprise Cloud OS software will be delivered through HPE GreenLake ecosystem. Nutanix channel partners will also be able to directly sell HPE servers combined with Nutanix’s Enterprise Cloud OS software as an integrated appliance under the agreement.

Nutanix ANZ channel director Andrew Diamond said the HPE-Nutanix partnership has been designed to reduce cost and complexity for customers as they will be able to take advantage of consumption-based pricing via GreeLake.

“Today’s cloud market is beginning to crystallise into two primary camps. The first is limited choice, lock in and the second is choice and flexibility,” he told Telecom Times.

“We believe choice and flexibility was the promise of cloud to begin with, but it hasn’t lived up to it. Data gravity within public cloud environments, vendor lock-in and other issues businesses have had to deal with in the cloud have caused unnecessary pain and limitations for businesses.

“It is vital that leaders such as Nutanix and HPE champion the way to reduce that complexity and cost. This partnership is very much part of that journey we’re taking customers on.”

Nutanix said the combination of HPE GreenLake and Nutanix Enterprise Cloud OS software can be used for mission workloads and big data applications; virtualised tier-one workloads such as SAP, Oracle, and Microsoft; as well as support for virtualised big data applications, such as Splunk and Hadoop.

According to Diamond, the partnership announcement is “just one part of a much bigger strategy and picture for Nutanix”.

“Over the coming months we will have a number of announcements relevant to partners, customers and the wider industry, all centred on our overarching goal to enable hybrid cloud for businesses,” he said.

The Nutanix Enterprise Cloud OS software on HPE GreenLake and the integrated appliance utilising Nutanix software on HPE servers are expected to be available in calendar Q3 2019.

MATE TAKES ON LOCAL ISPS WITH ‘SIMPLE, AUTHENTIC STRATEGY’

Honesty and good customer service are two factors that have underpinned the success of Australian-based privately-owned internet service provider, Mate, according co-founder and general manager Mark Fazio.

“Our plan was always to build a simple business that had a simple revenue. While the plan was never to go head to head [with the major players], our brand has really resonated… with customers around being authentic, inclusive, and simple,” he said.

Mate, which provides NBN and ADSL internet services via the Vocus network and mobile services through Telstra’s 4G network, has grown its revenue from $579,000 in 2016 to $30 million in 2018 – a 3,703 per cent uplift. The company has projected it will achieve revenues of $35 million by June 2019.

“We have designed our networks to get the best value from our wholesale partners and we focused on bringing the price down and still achieve the best margin. Because we’re such a small company, we could look into those details and the agility to be successful and compete on that,” Fazio said.

Fazio also attributed the company’s success to date in part to its customer service centre, which he refers to as a “one-stop- shop”.

“Everybody in our business can do everything from sales, to provisioning, to tech support because we know time is precious and so we try to be as available as possible,” he said.

“You’ll notice during business hours we’re heavy on communicating through Facebook Messenger to service customers because that’s where they are. We also have live chat and are looking at other ways we can keep the conversation going when we’re not there.”

Looking ahead, Fazio said there are plans to offer value-added telco services, such as video streaming services.