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Vodafone: 100% population coverage in NZ with current terrestrial technology 'unlikely'

Sathya Mithra Ashok | July 25, 2014
Tony Baird, head of networks at Vodafone NZ paints a picture of how the provider's services could improve in the future, and the ways in which the company is working to improve telecommunications skill levels in NZ.

Given the size of the country, we have got the technology.

The biggest issue in NZ, which has driven and structured tariffs and data caps and other things, historically has been international capacity. We have been limited by Southern Cross. Vodafone is working on the trans-Tasman gateway project to look at a new cable to Australia with other partners. International capacity is something that has affected the way we have structured networks and plans. That could be another area of improvement.

Q: What are the biggest challenges facing Vodafone as a service provider in the coming years?

TB: As we roll out more and more small cells, there is going to be a need to have greater support in the design and planning rules. When a building is built there needs to be pre-allocated design rules around access technologies like cellular. Ease of getting planning permission, ease of getting access for small cells and power poles, might be one area. We have got about 1,500 cell sites today. With small cells this can go up to 5,000 to 10,000 very quickly. I can see a proliferation of small cells and lots of them being rolled out.

When you have a new building going in part of the consent process should include provision for cellular access, just like it does for water, power and sewage. That is an important thing.

We have put in a submission for the Auckland Unitary Plan that we would like to see that, especially when new sub-divisions are put in. When a subdivision is allocated the developer they have to specify where a new cell tower will be going up. It is part of the sub division and it is included so people know that it is going there. It is more of an issue to put it in retrospectively.

Q: You stated that you would be hiring, especially in the South Island for your planned Christchurch office. Are you finding the skill levels that you need in NZ easily?

TB: We are looking for IP expertise. That is TCP IP, the actual messaging protocol used in networks across everything from radio layer to the core and international. Everything is IP based now. IP qualified resources have always been hard for us to get. We have recently successfully recruited two engineers from Egypt, who have certain certifications that made them attractive. They wanted to immigrate to NZ. We have to go offshore for a lot of these skills.

I would say every time we hire we look locally and externally. I would say at least 50 per cent would be non NZ citizens. They might already be in the country, and we hire them. Or they want to immigrate to NZ and we hire them.


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