Telco tease renews mobile phone war

By Helen Twose

A teaser ad featuring Top Gear's Richard Hammond signals the opening salvo in Telecom's battle for mobile market share.

Running across the main free-to-air and SkyTV channels during primetime viewing, the ad is the first part of Telecom's campaign to sign customers to its new mobile network.

The $574 million network - branded XT Network - is the company's response to the worldwide obsolescence of its current CDMA mobile technology, resulting in a reduction in compatible handsets and roaming partners.

Vodafone dominates the mobile market - particularly in Auckland - with more than 50 per cent of the market and a 59 per cent share of revenue.

A June launch has long been flagged by the company in its "T-Day" advertising, but the company has always maintained it could go earlier.

Telecom Retail chief executive Alan Gourdie said the unbranded teaser - the Telecom logo was absent from the ad - was designed to create a bit of buzz and hype.

The company said more than 10,000 people had visited the accompanying website - www.testdrive.co.nz - by yesterday morning.

Gourdie said the ad would become Telecom branded, with more information, before the launch of the campaign proper which contains "very strong and very famous female talent".

Industry expectations are that the advertising will ramp up within a couple of days, with the main campaign launch as early as Sunday.

An industry insider estimated the cost of the ads - which screened as a "roadblock" across the networks between 6.30pm and 6.57pm - would have cost about $140,000 for the free-to-air networks alone.

Gourdie would not be drawn on the range of devices available on the new network other than to say Telecom "will have a stunning line-up of devices, some of them not seen in New Zealand, some of them world firsts".

"We'll be launching when the manufacturer launches. I think about half of them are exclusive to Telecom," he said.

Anyone with an Apple iPhone connected to Vodafone's network will be able to take it across to Telecom's network.

In addition to the iPhone, other 3G capable phones - including the Blackberry - connected to Vodafone will work on the new network as long as it is capable of connecting to a 850MHz network.

The network is already in use for inbound roaming - a market that has to date been dominated by Vodafone.

Gourdie promised details on pricing, data and roaming plans would be available shortly, but roaming to Australia would be easier under an agreement to use Telstra's NextG mobile network which features the same technology.

Also due to launch its mobile network is new entrant NZ Communications.

Backed by a clutch of international and Maori investors, the new entrant has been coy on a date for the launch of its network.

The company is advertising for experienced call centre staff to work for a six month fixed-term. Applicants must be able to start work on May 11, suggesting the company is actively gearing up for the network kick-off.

Telecom shares rose 9c to $2.63.

XT Network
* WCDMA technology using a 850MHz frequency.
* Scheduled to launch in June, but could be sooner.
* Replaces the current CDMA network, which is growing obsolete.
* Promises 3G and mobile broadband to 97 per cent of New Zealanders.

- NZ Herald

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