Money Well Spent

The federal government this week formally tabled its response to the recommendations included in August's Vertigan cost-benefit analysis of the rollout and operation of the National Broadband Network.

Most of the Vertigan review's major recommendations have been endorsed, which isn’t especially startling given how diligently the review cleaved to positions already advocated by the federal government. Thus did a largely pointless exercise come full circle, forming a closed loop: the government endorses the review that endorsed the government. Money well spent.

The meatiest of the endorsements seem disproportionately designed to combat TPG’s foray into FttB deployment, a move that most analysts agree will only have a minor impact upon the NBN.

NBN Co is to abandon universal wholesale pricing.

You may recall that universal wholesale pricing was a core component of the original NBN design. This stipulated that users in rural or regional areas would pay the same prices as users in metropolitan areas, despite the fact that running infrastructure to remote areas is considerably more expensive.

Thus of course meant that metropolitan customers would effectively cross-subsidise other customers - a deliberate measure aimed at shrinking the crippling digital divide separating country and city. Such a mechanism is inimical to competition, but deliberately so. Competition is what created the digital divide in the first place; free markets are ill-equipped to ensure equitable delivery of services.

Such regulation was anathema to a conservative government, and it hardly proved surprising when the Vertigan review recommended it be changed. The goal is to enabling NBN Co to compete with alternative infrastructure providers (i.e. TPG) in lucrative (i.e. high-density) areas. It could only do this, apparently, by being able to sell services cheaper in the city than in the country.

There will be a ‘wholesale price cap’, which will legislate that the basic NBN service – a 12/1 Mbps service – cannot cost more than $24 per month (that is the wholesale price, not retail). However, there’s no price cap on higher speed tiers.

The upshot is that country users will continue to pay more than city users, especially if they want anything better than the basic NBN service.

NBN Co competitors must structurally separate.

Part of the original vision for the NBN was the removal of Telstra as the dominant infrastructure provider in Australia. For many years Telstra had retained a monopolistic position that was anything but ‘natural’, since it had been bequeathed to it as a former government owned entity (first as part of the Post Master General’s office, then as Telecom Australia).

Thus did Australia’s largest telecommunications retailer also own most of the infrastructure, which meant that its retail services inevitably had a clear advantage over competitors, even after Telstra was compelled to sell wholesale services to those competitors. Structurally separating Telstra’s wholesale and retail components in theory curtailed this competitive advantage. It also meant that Telstra would compete with NBN Co at an infrastructure level.

The Vertigan review recommends that this same condition be applied to any other NBN Co competitor. For argument’s sake, let’s call this competitor TPG. TPG, or anyone else who installs infrastructure that competes directly with NBN Co (such as the Australian mainland), will now have to maintain a wholesale division that is disconnected from the retail division. The wholesale division will have to sell services to competitors at the same rates as it sells them to its own retail division. Given that this would largely take away the commercial advantage of running your own fibre, this should effectively stop anyone from competing with NBN CO in FttB deployments.

The ACCC will be given new powers to police this.

NBN Co must get ready to separate itself, just not yet.

Although this wouldn't happen until the NBN rollout is compete, the goal now is that NBN Co will separate into various divisions, for satellite, fixed wireless, FttX, HFC and transit networks: "However, optionality for future restructuring or disaggregation should be retained, to provide future governments with greater policy and financial flexibility."

Reading between the lines - and reading the actual lines of someone who uses 'optionality' with a straight face is a harrowing task - it seems clear that the goal of this fragmentation - sorry,disaggregation - would be to make NBN Co more attractive when it is to be sold off. Thankfully there's no reason to believe the privatisation of a national telecommunications monopoly will have anything but positive ramifications. 

The Vertigan Panel's CBA also advocated the deployment of a Multi-technology Mix version of the NBN, instead of the original full fibre version. The government has of course already endorsed this. Indeed, they endorsed as vigorously as they could, by going ahead with it months before the CBA was even delivered.

Former ACCC Chairman on the NBN, Telstra

Graeme Samuel served with distinction as chairman of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) from 2003 until 2011, a turbulent time in for Australia’s telecommunications industry.

His position often brought him into direct conflict with Telstra (especially under Sol Trujillo when the nation’s premier telco was at its most combative). He was also an instrumental player in the development of the NBN, including the aborted tender process that eventually gave way to the full-fibre model developed by the previous government and the structural separation of Telstra that this entailed.

Yesterday Samuel delivered the annual Charles Todd Oration in Sydney (which was streamed live to Melbourne). His wide-ranging speech touched on many aspects of regulation in the telecommunications industry, most importantly:

  1. He rejected Optus CEO Paul Sullivan’s call for further regulatory constriction on Telstra. Although Samuel’s run-ins with Telstra were notorious (particularly the ever-reasonable Phil Burgess), he insisted that Telstra’s wings have already been sufficiently clipped.
  2. Relating to this, he believes that the real issues to come won’t be infrastructure monopolies but content monopolies, as the big players strive to hoover up existing content, thus strengthening their bundled offerings. He feels that Telstra is in a particularly strong position here, because of its stake in Foxtel. However, Samuel is unsure precisely what role the ACCC can play here.
  3. Free-to-air television networks enjoy a ‘high level of protection’ under current regulation, including anti-siphoning laws that mandate certain content (such as live sports) cannot be exclusively delivered by Pay-TV providers. He implied that this inherently anti-competitive practice has curtailed innovation.
  4. Samuel – in agreement with the Vertigan Panel Review – believes that telecommunications regulation should be removed from the ACCC’s purview. Although the ACCC would continue to enforce competition laws, he advocated creating an ‘essential services commission’. This would combine the power all utility regulators into a single body, which would work on ‘analytical issues, mainly focussed around the pricing and conditions of access to monopoly and quasi-monopoly services.’ It would thus include aspects of both the ACCC and the ACMA, as well as energy regulators.
  5. Although he agrees with some aspects of the Vertigan Review, there are other parts he believes are misleading.  Overall he was critical of the current government's obsession with NBN reviews, which he felt were ‘politically tarnished’ and were proving detrimental to progress. The Scales report was singled out as being particularly bad: not only ‘factually wrong’ but ‘insulting and offensive’.
  6. Samuel doesn’t consider TPG’s rollout of FttB services to high-value customers to constitute a serious threat to NBN Co, contrary to the anguished cires of Bill Morrow and Ziggy Switkowski that this will propel us down a slippery slope.
  7. He felt that the TPG situation was the result of the hidden cross-subsidy conditions governing NBN pricing. In other words, prices are artificially high in urban areas to subsidise regional access, which allows smaller players such as TPG to swoop and undercut with cheaper infrastructure. 

Costs and Benefits of the NBN

Another week, another Report on the National Broadband Network.

The federal government last week released the Vertigan Panel's much anticipated cost-benefit analysis (CBA) report on the National Broadband Network.

Several weeks ago (to quote myself), I called KordaMentha’s report into NBN Co’s corporate governance ‘the latest in a lengthy conga-line of ostensibly independent reports that cleave suspiciously to a position already laid out by the government’. Well, um, here’s another one, I guess. 

The Vertigan Panel is ‘independent’ in the sense that Two and a Half Men is ‘entertainment’: technically, and only if your standards for measuring such things are very, very low. Prior to the last federal election, Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull promised that any CBA would be conducted by the Productivity Commission. Such promises are easy in Opposition, however. When it came down to it, it turned out he preferred to appoint a panel composed of members with close ties to the Minister and in some cases a history of vociferous opposition to the NBN itself. 

If the CBA isn’t independent, nor is it strictly necessary: you may recall that NBN Co was instructed several months ago to proceed with the MTM deployment, despite the fact that no one had seen the cost-benefit analysis. At the time this caused some outrage, but we needn’t have worried. It was almost as though the government already knew what the report’s main findings would be.

The Vertigan Panel’s main findings are that Turnbull’s MTM NBN (acronyms ahoy) is absolutely, completely the right way to go. Apparently the MTM version of the NBN will deliver about $16billion more benefits than Labor’s original fibre version. Or, to break it down another way, Turnbull’s technologically inferior NBN will cost almost as much as a full fibre network, it will take almost as long to build, and it will somehow yield nine times the benefits. Quite a win for Team Australia. Hardly worth wasting Mr Vertigan’s time with.

The panel arrived at these results via some pretty conservative assumptions regarding household and business data usage in the coming decades and some constraining frames of reference, provided by the Minister. The cost of protracted negotiations with Telstra, and of perpetual upkeep of the aged copper network, are minimalised.

There is inadequate discussion of upload speeds, and some of the figures used seem at best optimistic: i.e. FttN upload capacity is listed as being ‘mainly 20-50(Mbps)’, with even the most ‘pessimistic’ assumption being 20-30Mbps for nearly 65% of premises. (pp.46-47). Furthermore, to base projected demand for higher uploads based on the habits of a population still predominantly using ADSL (p.64) is inherently problematic.

Indeed, the CBA overall betrays a failure to grasp how advancements in technology enable innovation. Instead there’s a tendency to extrapolate future needs based on current practices. This is an accepted short-coming of CBAs, which aren’t in the business of auditing ‘vision’. It’s admittedly very hard to model all the innovation that won’t happen due to technical limitations. As Rod Tucker remarks in The Guardian: “Responses from the surveyed groups of users are surely biased by their knowledge of what the internet can provide today.”

The Vertigan Panel Report even argues that the hybrid MTM network is more future-proof, because it can be readily upgraded to fibre. Apparently this makes it more future proof than a full-fibre network, which wouldn’t need to be upgraded to be what it already is, although it could be easily upgraded to be faster in the future (since doing so requires no new fibre be laid). The Report also glosses just how much of a pain later upgrades will be, and doesn’t account for the much higher cost of having to do it on an ad hoc basis later on.

Given these glowing findings, one expects Minister Turnbull will be keen to tell all the counties around the world currently rolling out fibre networks to stop wasting their time and money. He could start with New Zealand, which is currently rolling out a national fibre network of its own. Curiously, the New Zealand government commissioned a CBA (from Bell Labs), which found that the benefits to national prosperity would be immense, especially healthcare and education, despite New Zealand’s far smaller area and population. The Vertigan panel dismissed the NBN’s impact on these areas as negligible.

Of course, one can always argue that Australia is a special case due to its size and population distribution, but the Vertigan CBA already took that into account, detailing just how expensive it is to provide high-speed broadband to the remote and regional areas (about $5 billion, for only $600 million return). It turns out it is prohibitively expensive to provide broadband for the bush whether you opt for Labor’s approach or the LNP’s. But we already knew that.

Cross-subsidising broadband rollouts into regional and rurals areas was part of the vision of the NBN from the start. Mercifully, Minister Turnbull has at least remained committed to this vision, whereby those members of Team Australia who don’t live in big cities can still get broadband access.

To even consider otherwise is to be reminded that ‘vision’ is the last thing a conservatively-framed and politically-tainted analysis such as that delivered by the Vertigan panel can hope to address. This in turn goes some way to reminding us that CBAs should only ever be one tool used in any decision-making process.

The Communications Minister subsequently took it upon himself to justify the economics of FttN (the main component of his MTM NBN) using nothing but a whiteboard and several marker pens, in a video that appeared online. This was all well and good, but was once-more undone by the same innately conservative predictions of future bandwidth as the CBA. The flaws in his whiteboard presentation have been pointed out repeatedly. One wonders if any of it will ever get through.

The Week: Bright Sparks

Delusional doomsayers anticipating the decline and fall of Telstra will find little in the latest figures to nourish their dark fantasies. Australia’s largest telecommunications provider has announced annual revenue of $25.1 billion, an increase of 3.4%.

Telstra increased its mobile customer base by 937,000 users, bringing its total number of customers to about 16 million, which is pretty healthy in a nation of about 22 million citizens (or ‘suspects’, as the Attorney-General would prefer). For comparison’s sake, this is about equal to the customer bases of Optus and Vodafone combined. So much for declining market share.

This figure includes about 5.2 million 4G customers. Operating costs also increased, to about $15 billion. Apparently part of this is due to increased expenses incurred by the huge 4G rollout, including lights. One hopes they’ve made the switch to more efficient LED solutions!

Yet Another NBN Review

The Minister for Communications this week released KordaMentha’s Report into NBN Co’s Corporate Governance, the latest in an extensive conga-line of ostensibly independent reports that cleave suspiciously to a position already laid out by the federal government. Someone should let Minister Turnbull know that the 2013 federal election is over, and that his team won. Even the ALP has wearied of reviewing where the last government all went wrong, but there’s no hint of Turnbull’s energy flagging.

Anyway, it turns out the previous NBN Co board underperformed, at least according to this report. The Report concludes with a letter from former NBN Co CEO Mike Quigley, in which he systematically refutes most of the report’s findings. As with most things, it comes down to which version you believe.

Spark New Zealand

Brain-melting slogan of the month goes to Spark New Zealand, the rebranded mobile and internet arm of Telecom New Zealand: ‘Never Stop Starting’.

The trick to spotting a meaningless slogan is that the key terms can be switched around without materially affecting the message, or lack thereof. ‘Never Start Stopping’ makes just as much, or little, sense as the original.

On a related note, I must add that Spark’s logo seems vaguely familiar. Can’t quite put my finger on it.

Anyway, it’s interesting to think that the rebranding, the new logo and even the vapid slogans are all the work of consultants, all of whom were no doubt handsomely remunerated. As consultants ourselves, I suppose we cannot begrudge them that. But still, ‘Never Stop Starting’? Don’t get me started. 

At least it’s no worse than Netflix’s assertion that ‘We Value Values,’ which reminds us of Flight of the Conchords insistence that the one thing they really want to deal with as a band is ‘the issues’. Sadly, in only one of these examples was the comedy intentional.

In Other News...

  • Edward Snowden’s initial deluge of juicy intel may have slowed to a relative trickle, but that doesn’t mean it has dried up entirely. It emerged this week that in 2012 The USA’s National Security Agency (NSA) accidentally brought down Syria’s connection to the internet. This morsel emerged as part of a long and very interesting interview with Snowden that appeared in Wired magazine.
  • GetUp! Has launched a campaign against to the federal government's proposed mandatory data retention legislation, which senior figures did such a masterful job selling to Team Australia last week. There's a petition you can sign (or avoid) here.

The NBN Message

A new survey by ISP iiNet has found that fully two-thirds of Australians remain unaware that switching to the NBN is compulsory. With the first areas being forced to switch in the last week, this matter has taken on a practical urgency.

The good news is that 100% of Australians will by aware eventually, right around the time their existing phone and internet services stop working. The bad news is that their existing phone and internet connections will stop working. I imagine more than 33% of residents of Brunswick VIC, where copper connections were switched off, are now aware that it's the NBN or nothing.

To those of us whose job it is to know about all things tech - and the NBN is the biggest tech story in the country, whatever the ABC might insist - it's hard to believe the number is really that high. Apparently 8% of people have never heard of the NBN at all. How is this possible? How has this simple message not gotten through, especially since this particular message has been explicit from the start?

Senator Conroy, the Communications Minister who oversaw the conception and initial implementation of the National Broadband Network, always claimed that arguments over take-up rates were largely irrelevant. Quibbling over the significance of initial Tasmanian connections mattered little, as did the debate as to whether the model should be opt-in or opt-out. Sooner or later - later as it transpires - everyone who wants a fixed phone or internet connection will have to use an NBN service of some kind. Everyone.

It was, as I say, a simple message, though one the Murdoch press proved unable to process, as they continued to try and demonstrate something or other using take-up rates as evidence. Now it turns out the message was too complicated for the majority of Australians. 67% of those surveyed still believe they can retain their existing connections in perpetuity. How can this be possible?

The media is at least partly to blame. There has been some kerfuffle lately over the ABC's spotty commitment to reporting on the NBN, especially on its websites and flagship television news programs 7:30Lateline and Q&A. Some believe that their main dedicated print / online tech journalist (Nick Ross) has been muzzled following a bruising run-in with Malcolm Turnbull at the beginning of 2013. I broadly agree with the sentiment: the ABC's coverage has been inadequate, the Minister has not been properly held to account, the ABC's response to criticism was churlish, and Nick Ross has been conspicuously muted.

More problematic, however, are the commercial networks. Their apathy towards NBN coverage far outstrips the ABC's, although they are not (and cannot be) held to the same standard since they have no responsibility towards the national interest. Their interests are commercial, and abstruse discussions full of confusing acronyms sell rather less airtime than demonising refugees.

Of course, it could be a simple case that the NBN is too complicated and 'techy' for the average person to understand. There's certainly something to this argument, and the new MTM version of the NBN - it's frankly a misnomer even to call it a 'national network' anymore - doesn't help. There might have been a golden era in which an engaged public would make a real effort to grasp important news that affected them, but if it ever existed that era has long passed. Nowadays the usual response when presented with difficult issues is to switch off and focus on something else. Who has time for Australia's largest ever infrastructure project when we can instead watch a group of strangers cook food we'll never taste?

This argument, however, glosses over the fact that even exceptionally complicated subjects can be broken down into and discussed coherently. Seemingly esoteric issues can be made relevant. Stephen Hawking produced a bestseller by making complicated astrophysical research accessible to the general reader. The NBN is rather simpler than string theory.

What I see missing is a bridge between the perpetually outraged Australian tech press, and the largely uninterested mainstream press, which will steer clear of any issue that cannot be reduced to a punning by-line, and will only touch infrastructure when something goes spectacularly wrong. What is required is a commitment by news organisations to bridge that gap, to deliver useful NBN news that will generate headlines. Otherwise we'll continue down the current path, at the end of which two thirds of Australians will be shocked to discover their phones don't work.

Other 'highlights' from the iiNet report (Familiarity & Understanding of the NBN):

  • 38% of respondents did not know that the NBN provides both fixed line phone and internet services (it does);
  • 29% thought they would automatically be cut over to the NBN (they won't);
  • 20% believed that NBN Co would be their ISP when they switch over (NBN Co is merely the wholesaler).

The Week: Broken Eggs

Vodafone has reported that over the last year its Australian division has shed another million customers. At the end of the March 2013 quarter the company still had about six million customers, while at the same point this year it has fewer than five million. Wasn't this supposed to be a company whose fortunes are turning around, all thanks to Bill Morrow?

Morrow was brought in as CEO of Vodafone Hutchison Australia (VHA) in March of 2012, specifically to reverse, or at any rate slow, the telco's accelerating decline. This dive attained terminal velocity in the middle of 2011, when a series of network disasters and customers service cock-ups combined to irreparably soil the brand.

Among other things, it provided a salutary lesson in why businesses must have sound fundamentals and place customer needs foremost. It also provided nourishment to those who overestimate the importance of social media, and ensured that the ubiquitous Samuel Johnson would be kept in voiceover work for the foreseeable future. There have been network guarantees a-plenty, twee ad-campaigns, and generous double-data offers. None of it seems to have helped.

Morrow had extensive previous experience as CEO of Vodafone Europe, Vodafone UK, Japan Telecom and several American organisations, including Pacific Bell. The prevailing narrative is that his time at the helm of VHA was instrumental in achieving the almost impossible task of re-energising the brand, and winning back customers.

Most recently he was appointed CEO of NBN Co, which was generally regarded by the Australian tech sector
as a reasonable, or even commendable, appointment. However, it has seemed to Dog and Bone that the prevailing optimism towards Morrow's appointment to NBN Co relied in large part upon perceptions that he'd done a sterling job at Vodafone, although the fact that he simply isn't Ziggy Switkowski should not be discounted.

I've never seen much real evidence that Morrow's time at Vodafone achieved all that much, aside from the deployment of a new LTE network. Dog and Bone primarily operates in the business and corporate spaces, and we've always found Vodafone to be a hard-sell, even before the problems of 2011, although they certainly didn't help. While our customers are interested in cost-reduction, they are more interested in performance and reliability, and would rarely consider Vodafone's bargain-basement offerings.

They certainly weren't swayed at all by the tendentious claims Morrow made on his own behalf: “We are seeing the brand perception scores go up, we are seeing our customer numbers go up, we are seeing growth come back into the business. So this is not an issue of it being too hard; it’s not an issue of bailing out or giving up on anything. I think you are going to see that in the results in the future.”

What he failed to mention was that a portion of that growth was due to widespread lay-offs - let's call it 'streamlining' - and that VHA's decision not to participate in the mobile spectrum auction will almost certainly have profound long-term ramifications. Telstra and Optus now own most of the highly-prized 700Mhz spectrum, and will no doubt be determined to buy up the remaining third when it is offered. Now these recent results show that customer losses aren't even slowing. The decline continues unchecked, and for those of us who believe Australia's telco sector needs a third strong player, this is no cause to celebrate.

Having prepared omelettes myself, I can vouch that you must break a few eggs to make one. But to quote Panait Istrati: "All right, I can see the broken eggs. Where's this omelette of yours?" And now Morrow is at the helm of Australia's largest ever infrastructure project - the NBN - a project that itself is looking increasingly like an explosion in a hennery. 

No Questions, No Answers

For technology consultants and those merely interested in journalistic thoroughness, the most notable thing about Monday night's Q & A program on ABC television was not the issues it discussed - the Joint Strike Fighter, ABC funding, taxation etc. - but one it deliberately omitted, namely the NBN. This omission was glaring given the presence of Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull on the panel, who otherwise contributed little.

Part of the allure of Q & A is that interested viewers are invited to submit questions for the panellists before the show airs live. ABC makes a portion of these questions available online beforehand, although it is made clear that not all of them will be supplied to the guests. Inevitably, a large proportion of the viewer questions revolved around the NBN, with none that I saw being complimentary. Yet none of these questions were included in the list of topics to be discussed.

Furthermore, whenever the discussion did (inevitably) turn to the NBN, the discussion was immediately shut down by host Tony Jones. It was hard not to believe that there wasn't a deliberate policy being enforced. A cynic might suggest that Turnbull had made it a condition of his appearance, but that ignores the fact the he has never been shy to discuss the matter before, even if he is sometimes inclined to play fast and loose with the facts. (Delimiter also revealed that part of the Q & A audience was made up of the Sydney University Liberal Club, who afterwardsmet with the Minister. Oh, for those footloose undergraduate days.)

The question begs: if the most important and high-profile aspect of the Communications portfolio wasn't going to be discussed, why invite the Communications Minister on the program? This question was thrown into ever bolder relief as the show ground on, and Turnbull repeatedly declined to comment about other issues, since they fell outside of his ministerial purview. He wasn't necessarily stonewalling, but nor was he contributing much.

For a technology consultant, it was a frustrating hour's viewing. For the national broadcaster's flagship panel discussion program, it was a disgrace.

The full episode can be viewed here.

Complaints to Media Watch can be made here.

The Week: Generous Treatment

NBNCo Chairman Ziggy Switkowski appeared last night on ABC's The Business, whereupon he was invited to expound upon most aspects of the National Broadband Network. He was treated, to put it mildly, generously.

Host Ticky Fullerton is to be commended for addressing almost all pertinent points. Indeed, I did not note that any substantial issues - alterations to the NBN, competition, NBNCo performance, TPG, Bill Morrow, Telstra negotiations, copper network upkeep, plus others - were omitted. Having supplied the topics however, viewers were invited to watch Dr Switkowski construct a platform from them, from which he was permitted to declaim uncontested.

These are contentious issues, but for the most part his answers weren't sufficiently examined. At one point he mentioned NBNCo's mission to deliver 'high quality, upgradeable bandwidth connectivity'. It was a resonant and complex phrase that cried out for dissection.

For starters, whether the mutli-technology model (MTM) NBN is truly 'high quality' is not merely a question of opinion, but one of geography. Fullerton might have pointed out that there will be large parts of the country for which the NBN will not be high-quality, by any reasonable standard.

'Upgradeable' is also a fraught term. While no one would decry the capacity for any piece of technology to be further upgraded, in this context it hides the reality that parts of this NBN will need to be upgraded rather sooner than one might hope. In the case of the copper network, large parts of it will have to be upgraded to fibre within the next decade, at a large cost that has not been factored into current modelling. Switkowski suggested these upgrades would be done reactively, in response to market needs.

We're a far cry from Tony Windsor's declaration after the 2010 election that 'You do it once, you do it right, you do it with fibre.' It turns out you do it repeatedly, with whatever is to hand. Switkowski's weasel-term here was 'fit-for-purpose', a tried and trusted method of glossing over a lack of forward-planning. 

Optus Apology

Back in February, the Supreme Court of Victoria found that an Optus television ad breached the Australian Consumer Law by implying that the geographical coverage of its mobile network was almost equal to that of Telstra's. Optus argued that they'd implied no such thing, and to be fair one can see their point. Sadly for them, Justice James Elliott did not.

The upshot was that Optus was ordered to issue a public apology, and to allow any customers who signed up to an Optus mobile plan between January 26 and May 26 2014 to cancel their contract without penalty. Yes, that is correct - this court order even covers Optus customers who haven't yet signed up. I suppose there's no better time to try out Optus than the next month.

Last week Optus tried to get out of issuing an apology in print, offering the fairly audacious argument that newspapers are a dying medium. The judge was unconvinced, and the apology - a study in grudging acquiescence - appeared yesterday in a range of publications.

Telstra 3G Data Speed Cap Lifted

Good news for customers of any MVNO that relies on wholesale Telstra mobile services, which mainly means Aldi Mobile. ZDNet is reporting that Telstra has announced it will soon remove the speed cap on the 3G data services.

Previously the cap was set at 7.2Mbps, which is pretty close to the top speed you're feasibly likely to see on a 3G mobile network in real-world circumstances. Average speeds generally sit well below that, anyway, but this news will presumably thrill that small subset of customers who a) are capable of higher 3G speeds and b) were even aware they were being throttled.