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Download Weekly: Aue to succeed Rousselot at Chorus

Aue to take over at Chorus as Rousselot moves on

Chorus CEO JB Rousselot will leave the company in April. Chief operating officer and former 2degrees CEO Mark Aue will step into the role.

The transition marks a new stage in the development of the fibre network business.

Founding chief executive Mark Ratcliffe saw the business emerge from Telecom NZ and embark on an engineering programme to build the nation's largest fibre network. Kate McKenzie completed the build and worked to expand the company's scope, a vision that was, in effect. vetoed by government policy makes and regulators.

Rousselot reshaped Chorus for fibre era

Rousselot had the job of reforming the company to deal with the fibre era that it helped establish and the new, post fibre, regulatory landscape. He oversaw considerable growth while simplifying the business as it changed its focus from building the network to operating it.

His time in charge was marked by the company's response to the Covid pandemic and huge surge in network use that it navigated without skipping a beat. More recently he was in the chair to deal with the challenges of severe weather events.

As incoming CEO Aue will inherit a mature organisation that is now in its 13th year as an independent business.

Chorus revenue hits new high

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Rousselot announced the change of leader as Chorus reported its first half results showing a steady uptick in revenue and connections. Operating revenue hit a new high of $503 million up from $487 million for the same period last year.

Ebitda was $347 million, up $5 million on the previous year.

Chorus says net profit was $5 million. That's down $4 million on the same period last year. The company days higher interest rates and the accelerated depreciation of copper assets in fibre areas is behind the fall.

Chorus added 31,000 fibre connections taking the total to 1,062,000. That puts broadband uptake at more than 70 per cent. Rousselot says the goal is to reach 80 per cent. The company says data consumption is now back at the level seen during the pandemic lockdowns.

In its results announcement the company noted this is the first normal operating period after the Covid pandemic and severe weather events of recent years.

Mobile shows strength in Spark first half

Spark's 2023 sale of its cell towers are behind a 22 per cent revenue decline to $1,976 million in the company's 2024 first half report. Net profit after tax (NPAT) was down 81.8 per cent.

After adjusting for the FY23 one-off, the business' underlying revenue increased 1.3 per cent to $1,976 million. Adjusted NPAT decreased 4.8 per cent to $157 million, due to a higher interest cost on debt and leases.

In a media statement Spark said the revenue was "driven by ongoing strength in mobile, momentum in data centres and high-tech, continued stabilisation in broadband, and a return to growth in cloud".

Mobile revenue up thanks to price increases and connection growth

Spark continues to have the largest share of the mobile market across its Spark and Skinny brands. Mobile revenue climbed 6.3 per cent to $510 million on the back of price increases and growth in the number of connections.

CEO Jolie Hodson says mobile remains central to the company's growth with Spark capturing half of the total mobile connection growth during the half year.

At $309 million, the company's broadband revenue barely shifted. Spark now has 31 per cent of its customers on fixed wireless broadband. The company says it stabilised its IT market performance.

Spark's cloud revenue was up 3.8 per cent. The expanded Takanini data centre came online last August driving a revenue increase. There are plans for three large scale data centre campuses in Auckland and a network of regional data centres.

Crown Infrastructure update as Rural Broadband programme nears completion

The telecommunications projects supported by Crown Infrastructure Partners are almost complete. The latest, December quarter, report from CIP says a total of 83,861 rural homes and businesses can now access improved broadband. This means the state supported Rural Broadband programme was 99 per cent complete at the end of last year.

During the December quarter a further 28 km of rural State Highways gained mobile phone coverage. The total is now 1,405 km.Five tourism spots were added to the network. The total is now 133, which means that project is now 79 per cent complete.

While the UFB is complete, CIP reports 13,984 connections were added in the quarter taking nationwide fibre uptake to 75 per cent.

Seven marae were connected to the network under the Marae Digital Connectivity programme bringing the total connected to 649.

Merged 2degrees grows mobile market share

Annual figures from Datamine's Telcowatch show 2degrees increased its mobile market share in 2023 by 4.4 per cent. The carrier now accounts for 25 per cent of the total market. Telcowatch says 2degrees grew every quarter.

While rival One New Zealand was, in effect, flat, Telcowatch says both Spark and its Skinny sub-brand lost ground over the year.

This is at odds with Spark's numbers as reported in the company's half year results, see the earlier story. Spark bases its market share on numbers collected by IDC.

Telcowatch says Spark now sits on a 33 per cent market share while Skinny has 7 per cent making for a total of 40 per cent for the company's two brands. One NZ is the biggest single brand with 35 per cent market share.

A Geekzone user spotted low earth orbit satellite carrier Starlink's introduction of a cheaper monthly plan in New Zealand. The company's website now describes the $79 plan as 'deprioritised' and says speeds are 50 to 100 Mbps.

Apparently New Zealand is the only market anywhere in the world to offer this plan.

Starlink says there are no data caps, but warns users on standard plans will get priority during peak hours. In other words, it could be an unreliable option for anyone wanting to stream high definition TV during the evening.

2degrees working with Sky to broadcast Super Rugby Aupiki final on TikTok

2degrees is working its technology credentials into its sponsorship and telecommunications partner arrangement with professional women's Rugby.

The carrier is working with Sky to have this year's Super Rugby Aupiki Final shot in vertical format and broadcast on TikTok. The final is on April 13. The match will be shown live and will be broadcast free.

2degrees says this will be the first time any sporting code's final is shown on TikTok.

CEO Mark Callander says the project “reflects 2degrees' dedication to bridging the coverage gap for women's rugby and using technology to bring Sky Super Rugby Aupiki direct to mobile phones across NZ."

Shooting the Rugby match for TikTok means Sky will use a separate broadcast truck with its own camera crew, producer and talent.

Reannz to offer secure public library WiFi

Reannz, the research and educational network is working with Aotearoa People’s Network Kaharoa (APNK) to give students secure WiFi access at 165 public libraries.

It uses eduroam, an international single sign-on secure roaming service developed for educational and research users. Today, Reannz members use eduroam at their home facilities: usually university campuses or Crown research institutes and in institutions in 120 countries worldwide. The APNK arrangement extends this to libraries.

The new service extends APNK's existing free managed and filtered internet service. This is funded by both central government, local government and the National Library of New Zealand.

See Public libraries with APNK now also offer eduroam.

In other news...

IDC says the phone handset market is recovering. With handset sales falling in six of the last seven years, researchers say they expect to see 2.8 per cent growth this year.

Putting perspective on Spark's plans, see story above, research company Canalys says worldwide spending on cloud services will grow 20 per cent this year. Less encouraging for Spark is the nugget that the top three international cloud vendors will capture two thirds of the total spend.

At the Register Brandon Vigliarolo reports on damage to submarine cables in the Red Sea. Yemeni Houthi rebels had the means to carry out threats to break the links and their activity in the area is making it hard for networks to repair the cables.

There have been doubts for years about the advice to put a wet mobile phone in a bag of rice to draw out the water. Now Apple has made it official with a support document telling you not to fix your iPhone this way.

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