You have to love what globalisation has done to call centres. Pick up the phone to call the help desk of your local telecoms provider/ISP/Airline and your call could be answered in anywhere from Sydney to Mumbai, or in the case of Vodafone - Cairo.
But not for numerous Vodafone customers this morning it would seem. A problem at Vodafone's Cairo call centre which handles calls for Vodafone divisions all over the world, means that only 20 of the 60 call centre operators have been able to process calls from New Zealand.
Vodafone says it has tried to reroute all enquiries back to New Zealand while the fault, which prevents the call centre operators logging onto the local system, but I've heard from several people today who have had issues getting through to customer support.
It hasn't been a great week for Vodafone after its systems buckled under the strong demand for the Vodafone Family deal it launched last month. Meanwhile, the company has issued a snippy reply to the New Zealand's Institute's position paper on the way ahead for broadband.
Vodafone is working on getting local loop unbundling underway from the middle of the year using VDSL technology, which allows high-speed connections to be served to homes and businesses 1km or less from phone exchanges. In doing so, Vodafone sees itself as part of the solution to the problem of achingly slow progress in improving our broadband infrastructure.
"The New Zealand Institute's recent report into broadband development claims that only the incumbent is willing to invest in New Zealand's critical infrastructure.
"Vodafone would beg to differ. The company has begun rolling out its own equipment in all of Telecom's exchanges that it can access and will launch unbundled (LLU) services by mid year," said Vodafone's David Diprose earlier today as rival Orcon was unveiling the pricing for its unbundled offering which has gone live in five unbundled exchanges.
If you make a lot of national toll calls to landlines, the $100 Orcon deal is worth checking out. There's a list of a dozen or so exchanges Orcon has its eye on and Vodafone says it plans to have every exchange in Auckland unbundled by the end of the year. It seems Telecom has been more cooperative than expected in opening up exchanges - it had undertaken to do 15 exchanges per quarter but seems to be running ahead of that rate.
But will unbundling improve our lot? Well, VDSL and ADSL2 technologies will give those of us close to unbundled exchanges decent connection speeds, but the two existing unbundled players seem to be ignoring the inevitable - that Telecom is gradually going to decommission many of these exchanges as it bypasses them with fibre optic cables laid directly to roadside cabinets.
For more on that read my colleague Chris Barton's column from today's Herald. I have to agree with him and the New Zealand Institute who think the plans of Telecom, Orcon, Vodafone and all the others aren't good enough to give us the high-speed network we need
"Progress is too slow: The announced investments will not take New Zealand far enough fast enough," reads the institute's report.
It wants fibre in the last mile, much more fibre in the backhaul and a new cable to link us to the world. The estimated cost? Five billion dollars. Just do it.
The return in improved productivity and new avenues of business opened up with improved telepresence, remote working, health and education services and just the general innovation in the weightless economy will make the investment pay handsome dividends. The time for half measures is well and truly over and unbundling isn't enough to help us catch up and keep pace with the rest of the developed world.