The New Zealand iPhone 3G network debacle

The iPhone will dominate the top end of phone sales

Even if you are a fan of other platforms, we can all appreciate that Apple has bought new levels of usability to the phone. It’s most obvious in the seamless connection with the App store on iTunes – a system that  makes building, selling and buying applications simple.

For me it’s  like 2003 and iTunes all over again – remember the plethora of MP3 players? They are still out there, but Apple grabs almost all of the revenue, and one imagines almost all of the profit as the others compete out any margin.

I sometimes see a future for Blackberrys, simply because of their installed user base and Apple’s unease with selling to giant corporates, but I also remember that everyone used to have Palm Pilots back in the day.

I am predicting that Apple’s iPhones will grab 40-70% of the top end of the phone market over the next 3 years.

Vodafone NZ iPhone data rates will always be lousy

It’s complicated [Geekzone], but worth going through. All of the network providers are upgrading their networks, and from about June everything will be different.

Vodafone are the sole sellers of the iPhone in New Zealand – they have a monopoly. Their 3G network is currently only in cities, and it is excruciatingly slow compared to, say, Telstra’s Next G service in Australia.

In the next 2 months:

  1. Vodafone are rolling out a new NZ 3G network – but it will not work at 3G speeds for (current) iPhones.
  2. Telecom are rolling out a new 3G network, which will work for iPhones. (similar to Telstra’s Next G)
  3. Telecom seem to indicate that they will not be selling iPhones.

Nobody seems to know anything about NZ Communications.

Buy an iPhone from Vodafone, use it on Telecom

Vodafone, to their credit, are selling the iPhone in unlocked state. You can buy it for about $1130, or for cheaper if you sign on a contract.

But you wouldn’t sign a contract – instead the logical move will be to transfer your iPhone and number to Telecom, grabbing a new SIM card and using it on their new 3G network.

If Vodafone starts locking phones then you will need to crack it – the Dev Team are on to that and I am sure there will be plenty of options for those not nerdy enough to do it themselves.

But for now – just wait

We don’t really know what is going to happen in June, and it gets quite fuzzy thereafter.

  • Telecom may launch with the iPhone in June.
  • Apple may emerge with a new iPhone that is compatible with Vodafone’s new network. They are due for a new one soon, and the timing is auspicious
  • NZ Communications may surprise us all by carrying the iPhone
  • Data rates will be in a state of rapid change as the carriers compete
  • I could have some of these facts wrong

Summary and implications

Apple doesn’t really care about New Zealand – as we are so tiny. But if they wake up then they will realize that either they need to give Vodafone a phone that works at high speeds here, or else they will have to sell the phones to Telecom as well.

Vodafone will fight to retain exclusive rights to sell iPhone in New Zealand, but the slow data rates will mean a much poorer experience versus overseas.

Telecom will try to add iPhone to their list of Phones – as not doing so would be a move equivalent to their decisions to go and then stay with the obsolete CDMA standard. Imagine leaving out 70% of the premium iPhone market.

Vodafone will be hoping that Apple deliver a phone that will work at 3G speeds on their new network. Unfortunately for Vodafone, hope is not a strategy. If they have delivered a high speed network that Apple has no intention of supporting, then I have to say that they have just commited equivilent of the CDMA blunder. If they know something that we don’t – then good on them.

The best answer for all of us consumers the iPhone working on all three networks, and sold by all three networks.

Published by Lance Wiggs


5 replies on “The New Zealand iPhone 3G network debacle”

  1. I think the iPhone is going to dominate the top end of phone sales… and I think there will be a few other devices that share the space. The new Android phone – HTC Magic – seems pretty good (played with one today – just briefly) and I had a look at the HTC Hero – online video – today. Smart phones seem to be here to stay and become used more and more by the mainstream.
    I’ve got an iPhone myself – and I think the Magic is a pretty good competitor. Nice that it’s on open platform too. It’s a 900MHz device – so it’s well suited to Vodafone.
    I won’t take my business and iPhone to Telecom though. I’m very happy with how my iPhone performs on their network – I tried it out tethered yesterday and it works very nicely.
    I think building the XT is a tough choice for Telecom – but one that they have had to make. I’m quite glad it’s here – finally providing some competition where there was really none before. I don’t think Apple will make a 900MHz iPhone to suit Vodafone in NZ – or even to placate the European countries who share the 900MHz infrastructure.
    Apple are sharp on containing costs – and a variation on the iPhone simply won’t happen. The next thing we’ll be talking about will be the LTE iPhone.

    Verizon will be rolling their LTE network out next year – which isn’t that far away.
    And that means that both Telecom and Vodafone will be doing more work on their networks. Here comes LTE!


  2. Hello,
    I was just wondering – does anyone have any figures / ideas on exactly how big the iphone market in New Zealand is? Or any projections for the future? I wonder if there has been done any work on this.


  3. I’m with Steve on the Android competition. I do not use iPhone because it is overpriced, it does not allow true multi-tasking, it does not allow me to tinker with the applications, because of the Apple’s lock-in model, and restrictions of what and how can be installed/re-distributed with it. Android is cheaper, and it is a much better engineered platform (from a developer perspective). Android is more open for developers. It seems there is more innovative applications out there taken advantage of this too (e.g. the augmented reality browsers).

    I predict Android platform will dominate majority of the market in the next few years, because it continues to be more innovative. The handsets are better too. Check out the iPhone and Android Market application stores to see the growth curves shapes – it will slowly flatten out for iPhone, but retain it’s steep shape for Android, because of a simplicity of Android programming.

    As for usability, there is almost no difference although iPhone user interface is marginally nices. New refined Android platforms are getting better every release though. Keep the technology open, and it will work better for the people ;)


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