Monday, September 29, 2008

Pain is (apparently) good for you

I've been spending a bit more time on the bike these days. Riding up the hill to Bodysnatchers from Radiohead today. Rocking guitar is perfect for inducing hill climbing pain. Especially just before the 3min mark on this track.

This has to be contrasted with a couple of weeks ago where the last song I heard before going outside to shift a cubic metre of dirt was this classic from the Wiggles. 

I don't know what hurt more at the end of the day - my arms or my mind. I do believe there is an art to choosing the song you last listen to before you walk out the door.

Friday, September 26, 2008

The only thing we have to fear is fear itself

I've been closely following the developments in Atawhai and Titahi Bay relating to Telecom's difficulties with the local community following its proposals to install mobile phone sites adjacent / near to local schools.

Some background if you don't know me...

When I joined Telecom I was part of its mobile engineering group. Over my time at Telecom I was involved in probably the most contentious period that the local mobile industry faced. Networks were moving from being carphone based to needing to meet customer requirements for mobile handsets that were used indoors. Network sites were moving from relatively invisible locations to being required to be located in the community.

I personally fronted up to numerous community meetings, resource consent hearings and also gave evidence in the Environment Court. I also spent a lot of time visiting concerned residents in their homes to talk *with* them (as opposed *to* them) about their concerns and options we had to address them.

I was often asked whether I would consider installing a mobile phone site next to my own house. I was (and remain) so confident about their safety that my desk was located about 15 m away from a very busy urban site , on the same level.  I ate my own dogfood.

At that time, as of now, the most contentious element of mobile phone sites  was the issue of whether they were safe from a health perspective.

It's a totally understandable question - these installations are characterised as being physically out of proportion (15 - 20 m high) with the local environment (especially suburban areas), emitting something you could not see, hear, taste, smell or feel. It's the perfect unknown threat.

Furthermore there is a sense of lack of choice about these types of installations - no-one really wants them around yet they do want the utility that mobile phones provide.

In short I seriously empathise with people who have genuine concerns about mobile phone sites, and moreso if they are concerned about their children. They are feeling a real emotion.

What I take issue with is people who should know better, and who confuse this issue with many others. They stir up the local community and quite often, in my opinion, raise a spectre of concern that causes so much stress for the individuals that is much more damaging to the health than anything a mobile phone site could possible cause. These types of sites are the result. 

The two main arguments being used now are the same as 10 years ago

1. Mobile phones are new - not enough time to prove whether there are long term effects.
Some studies are showing health issues related to mobile phone sites - we should be cautious about their implementation.

2. Mobile phone sites are like power lines and there are cancerous effects from power lines so the same must be true.

I have to answer these points 

1. This technology is not new. Mobile phone technology has been around for 20 years. Furthermore it's based on radio technology that has been around for over 100 years. If long term safety issues were going to arise they would be found by now. 

Furthermore the World Health Organisation has spent $250m on this issue and continues to research it. 

2. Mobile phone sites are based on Electromagnetic frequency (EMF) transmission. High Voltage power lines are based on Extra Low Frequency (ELF)  electromagnetic frequency (EMF).

The World Health Organisation (WHO) rates ELF as a possibly carcinogenic to humans. This is on a three point scale of carcinogenic, probably carcinogenic and possible carcinogenic. Note that gasoline engine exhaust is in the same category of possibly carcinogenic.

So that's the ELF side (ie high voltage power lines)

WHO has this to say about EMFs specifically from mobile phone sites.

From all evidence accumulated so far, no adverse short- or long-term health effects have been shown to occur from the RF signals produced by base stations

Telecom has clearly made some errors on judgement in how the consultation was (or more importantly wasn't undertaken). This can be resolved by respecting that those who have fears are genuinely concerned, respecting that and trying to find a mutually agreeable solution.

But to see Nick Smith and Sue Kedgeley suggesting that radiations levels are high and that the Crown would be liable for compensation if there are health affects are purely grandstanding and not adding to the debate. Both of these people should know that the Environment Court in NZ has made it clear in its judgement related to the case of Shirley School that other communities should refer to this decision. 

What is key for Telecom now is to spend lots of one on one time with this community to rebuild trust and come to an understanding of how to best work together. It will only be through respecting the community's concern will any progress be made.

It doesn't really matter what I say I guess - it's what I do.

Ella has just started at a pre-school two days a week. There are two sites within 100 m of the pre-school. My position on this issue is clear.

Why your CEO needs to support innovation initiatives

I am on a roll at the moment on innovation in corporations.

There is a universal success factor that applies to all corporates I have talked with who have had some success with corporate innovation programmes.

The CEO has to support it.

The reason is simple.

Any innovation programme that is undertaken within a corporate is disruptive by nature. It usually arrives at products or services that cannibalise existing product and service revenues. By implication it threatens the certainty and security of the remuneration package that people currently enjoy. 

Naturally people respond - they try to remove what it is that is threatening their security. Consciously or unconsciously, innovation initiatives are constantly attacked from within. Call it organ rejection if you like.

This is where the CEO comes in. 

He or she does not have to 'get' innovation, but they have a role in ensuring it has enough oxygen to survive. That it doesn't get slowly suffocated by the inertia / momentum of the 'here and now' business.

This means setting up a structure where as few as possible senior decision makers are involved in the process of deciding which ideas that are spawned from the innovation programme are taken forward into development.

This is something I found personally very difficult in my role in running Telecom's innovation programme. My preferred approach is to enrol as many people as possible in assessing an idea to get buy-in. That doesn't work when you are asking the turkeys to vote for Christmas (no offence intended by use of the term 'turkey' - honest!). You can (and should) share the ideas around and solicit them from everywhere, but the actual decision making needs to be held very tightly.

The CEO has to support this type of very tight structure. Otherwise it's a worthless investment and just frustrates everyone.

So I was super pleased to see this tweet from @gnat yesterday. 

@gripnostril and I met w/ the CEO of Telecom today. He is bigtime clueful, grokked Foo Camp faster than anyone I've ever explained it to.

He has been working with @gripnostril to get some time with Paul Reynolds, Telecom CEO, to pitch the idea of a foocamp style event for Telecom NZ.

Paul has supported the concept but they needed to get some facetime with him to see if he *really* supported it. 

He does. Bodes well for the long-term survival of the company IMHO.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

5 easy questions from Sun

After writing my post on innovation a couple of days ago, I remembered a conversation I had with some guys at Sun around the same time.

These guys ran Sun's R&D centre in the USA and are tasked with developing new technologies and business ideas for Sun. Sun also had their view on Innovation with a little i or Innovation with a big I. They called it "faster,better, cheaper" or "brave new world".

As part of their role in creating an environment where innovation could flourish,  they gave each staff member a day a week to work on anything they liked. The only limits were 

1. The project had to be declared (ie you had to say what it was)
2. You couldn't spend more than $500 (i.e. creates scarcity which requires some kind of innovation to overcome it)
3. You have to answer 5 questions to start

They are simple to ask, searching and they work.

The questions are

1. What's the problem you are trying to solve ?
2. Who is it for ?
3. How will you know when you are done ?
4. What's the artefact you are creating ?
5.  How would shareholder value be increased through this idea ?

In a corporate world, question 3 can be the hardest to answer as you can often really never know when you are done. Having an honest answer to this upfront makes it easier to weed out the ideas later on when it is clear you'll never be done.

I use these all the time now when I am testing a new business idea for myself or others. They are also really useful when you get too far down the hole and need to remind yourself why you are doing what you are doing.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Paying back in spades

Since going on sabbatical in July this year, I've had the odd moment where I've been worried. Worried about cashflow (pretty much all out at the moment) and whether I am missing out on career and personal opportunities.

Those are real worries - but they are completely outweighed by the good stuff.

Today was a great example of the good stuff. Decided to get along to the Hutt Valley Gymnastics Centre for their GymPlay session. 

It's tucked away in Gracefield - the industrial area of Lower Hutt. You go inside a non-descript warehouse to find a real gym.

Sprung floors, trampolines, beams, crashpads, parallel bars, rings, pommel horses. You name it - they got it.

Kids can do what they want. Ella zoomed around trying everything- I had to show her how to use the equipment. Never used one of those springboards onto a pommel horse before - they are AWESOME!

All for 6 bucks for an hour - I easily got $30 of value myself :)

Eventually I will need to do some kind of full-time work - I am making the most of this time while I can.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Innovation with a big I or a little i?

I'm mad about the continuing mis-use of the term 'innovation'

By those apparently in the know it is held up as the solution to many business or national productivity woes (we just need an innovation programme), by a lot of people in corporate world there is a cry of 'if only we were more innovative' when getting beaten by the competition. It's a term used by a number of people with their snout in the trough - "if you removed this obstacle or gave me this resource, then I could be more innovative". I am mad because it's never well defined and used so loosely you can't really do anything with it. It's been captured as a 'buzzword' that now makes it less than useless. It's time to change that.

There are a few blogs that I have read recently that start to point to this and what to do about it. Gripnostril in his two blogs (I personally prefer 'Hammer' as the cynical view. Do the opposite of what it suggested here and you'll be on the way) has strong views on how you can make innovation work in a corporate.

SilkCharm also has some views of how it is being addressed by the Australian government. The dissection of the Australian government policy to drive Innovation being published in a document that is DRM locked does remind me that there are good reasons not to move to Australia.

This gets me back to the best conversation I ever had with anyone about Innovation was with a Microsoft SVP in a bar in Seattle about 3 years ago. I always go back to this view when I am being assaulted with 'innovation-speak'.

His view was simple.

There are two types of innovation - innovation with a big I and innovation with a little i. You need to know what it takes to play in each domain, and decide based on your capabilities which one you are going to go after.

Innovation with a little i - this is about doing things differently within the same market. This is about taking stuff that already exists and reconfiguring it in different ways to solve problems customers already know they have.

This fits well under an existing General Management structure and suits large corporates that are fast followers and generally market leaders. They can see what is or isn't working with those who get to market first and apply their organisation's skill and expertise to make it more efficient or tweak it as a result of their scale. He saw Microsoft operating well in this space.

Innovation with a big I - this is about creating new markets. It requires long-sightedness and thinking about the problems customers might have in the future.It requires things that exist and things that don't exist. It requires perserverance and patience and all those things that happen when you start a new venture. It needs investment but not necessarily bucketloads of cash (in fact this kills innovation with a big I). It needs the CEO to drive it. And it needs to recognise when it turns into innovation with a little i (ie get a General Manager to run it then). There are very few innovations with a big i. The iPod only makes it because it created an online music market.

Long story, short - by the time I was being told this MS knew they had been well beaten by Apple on digital music and their initiatives (Windows Media, Plays for Sure, Urge, Zune) were guaranteed losers as they were looking for one hit wonders based on innovation with a little i. They were following, but too late.

MS was in the process of launching Xbox 360 at this stage and realised they were being hammered by Apple in the digital music race it makes me think that perhaps they applied this wisdom to Xbox only.

I have thought about a couple of other conditions that are necessary since this conversation

1. In either case you do need an organisation that is accepting of risk. Risk is lower with innovation with a little i but it's still there. There are no guarantees that you will be a great fast follower (Zune vs iPod a great case study). It's just that the chances are better. If your organisation is risk intolerant it's quite likely that you won't have any innovation - and that's quite ok if that is not important to your business.

2. Innovation only occurs when your customer says it does - that can be when your external customer or external customer. I learned this lesson after spending years driving mobile product 'innovation' that was technology based (mobile video, mobile music etc etc). Customers rated $10 text - a billing plan - as the most innovative thing Telecom had ever done as it solved a problem in a way that worked for them.

3. It's my personal belief that Innovation really flourishes in an environment of scarcity. Really innovative stuff happens when there are resource constraints or desperate market share positions. that's because it requires strong belief and a need to 'lift' Human nature says you don't lift yourself when you're comfortable. Providing a bunch of incentives for innovation is counter-intuitive in my mind. Government and internal corporate programmes have to provide an environment where risks can be taken (and in fact rewarded) and that is much more important than having buckets of cash to throw at a problem.

Next time you are talking about innovation ask yourself this

1. Is this innovation with a little i or a Big I?
2. Have you got the pre-requisites to make it work - how much risk will you really take and what are you prepared to lose, even if it doesn't work?
3. When you are looking at Apple and saying you want to be like them are you thinking about the innovation with a Big I bit (i.e. making the ipod bet with  years in gestation and several years to payoff) or the innovation with a little i bit (MacBook) or the design aesthetic. All very different.
4. When you answer Yes to question 3, think about how Microsoft did the same and still couldn't do it and ask yourself why you'd have a better shot ?
5. The next time you want the government / corporation to fund your next innovation programme - are you making your lack of appetite for risk someone else's problem? The first innovation will be getting started when you have nothing apart from your own skills.

You know your blog has made it when...

You get comment spam ?

Or what about a comment that seems somehow relevant but is basically a poorly disguised link to an ipod battery site?

This comment at least said I have a nice blog...
Save yourself the trouble and don't bother with their site - pic below is all you need.

Feel free to advise on how to stop this type of rubbish...

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Add your WiFi hotspot to the iphone / ipod Touch database

I have been looking around for a way to do this.

Apple don't run this database themselves - it's managed by a company called Skyhook. Given Apple's descent into evil that might provide some comfort to you non-Apple fanboys out there.

It's easy.

Go to this link.

Enter your address and fiddle with the marker to locate it correctly.

Enter the MAC address of your WiFi router - you'll probably need to google the model of your router to do this.

Wait 7 days - when you use the maps application on your iPhone / iPod Touch, hit the center button on the lower left and Boom - there you are.

Will probably help a bunch of other apps that use this data - would love to know what they might be!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Web + Wellington - FTW

I was lucky enough to catch up with Rick for half an hour or so today.

Great conversation which reminded me why I enjoy working on web stuff in Wellington

1. You get to do everything - Rick was saying how some lawyers specialise (Telco Law, Media Law, Privacy Law)  - with Internet Law he gets to do everything, all in the same day for the same client probably. It's the same for me - and I get to work with barely formed organisations (like my own!) all the way through to NZ's largest corporates across a whole range of areas. Brilliant.

2. Wellington is a great place to work - networks are open, people are visible on the street (even though today was a bit drizzly) and if you play your cards right you can bump into Rod as he wears a path between Prada and Xero HQ. Contrast that with Auckland where all the energy is inside the buildings or in cars and Wellington just feels like a good place to do business.

3. Well -informed debate  - with the InternetNZ members list you know exactly where a bunch of well-informed  people can really debate an issue to determine if its going to make a difference in NZ. Great example of the power of the 'net to facilitate quality people working together to make things happen.

We do miss Rod's blog - gaping hole in raising issues that can be debated in a more open environment. Although reading the blog and the Astoria post made me realise I forgot to pay for Rick's coffee when I left - whoops...

Two diametrically opposite Apple experiences

Two very different AAPL experiences today

1. The Bad

Graph says it all - stock price is seriously tanking. I am not so much of a fanboy that I will hold onto this forever. 

Managed to get out a 'local maximum' but it's still hurt.

According to Valuecruncher, it's still overvalued. I'd say that might be the case but getting in once things settle down  could mean some profit. 

2. The Good - here's the reason why I would still invest. The Remote app has been updated to allow Genius playlists to be set remotely. I am using Genius a lot since iTunes 8 came out and having to go to my Mac to set it was starting to annoy me. I've become somewhat reliant on the remote app.

Why I like apple stuff is that this stuff just happens - most other companies who deliver media products seem to leave these gaps going on forever. Somehow AAPL seems to work out what's important (to me at least) and makes sure it gets delivered.

Ben blogged about how can Apple get away with being evil. My view on this is clear - it has built a reputation over the last decade of delivering on its promise. It is having some mis-steps of late but it does this more often than not. That's why people cut them slack. In my mind it's a great way of building your brand.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

MacBook Pro Hard Drive Upgrade

My MacBook Pro's 100 GB disk has been sitting around 85% capacity for a while now (mainly as I have a partition running WinXP via Parallels) and I decided it was time to upgrade. Combination of storage and a suspicion that the lack of space was impeding performance. I have been putting this off for a while as it is a tricky procedure.

I sourced a 250GB Seagate Barracuda drive (thanks Philip), took a clone using SuperDuper and performed open heart surgery. Took about an hour but given local prices to do this are about $150 NZD this seemed like the way to go. It is a little bit fiddly but the instructions by Extremetech are really good. If a Klutz like me can do, pretty much anyone can.

The only thing I would add to their notes is to test booting your MBP from the cloned drive (just hold down 'Option' while booting the MBP and select the cloned drive - just to be sure it works before going through the process) and don't slide out the tabs holding in the RAM. Very tricky to get back in.

Don't spend too much time looking at your disembowelled Mac per the pic above - kinda like looking down while walking a tightrope I reckon. I am breathing a lot easier now everything is back together.

Now I have space to burn and startup and responsive of apps is *heaps* better.

Monday, September 15, 2008

How your company's reputation improves speed to market

I caught up with a couple of ex-Telecom guys on Friday for a beer. They are both at Kiwibank now and we got talking about the differences in both companies.

The most interesting story that came out was about Kiwibank's mobile banking application which was released for iPhone after 4 weeks of development and recently won a TUANZ award. It's now available for most major mobile platforms.

Apart from a number of internal things that Kiwibank do differently (easy access to decision makers and lightweight funding and development processes) the biggest difference in their mind was the impact that having a very positive reputation meant. Effectively they could get 80% of the proposition right and people (market observers and customers) talked primarily about that as opposed to the 20% that they got wrong. In their Telecom experience there was no way that would occur - all you would heard about was the 20%  that was wrong.

Practically that meant that Kiwibank could

1. Take 3 weeks to develop a basic iPhone app
2. Take on board customer feedback, promise to change it and update it
3. Extend it to other platforms (Windows Mobile, Symbian and WAP)

instead of having to take a punt and do it all in one go.

Kiwibank's reputation means that they are permitted to get things out there that aren't spot-on *and* are trusted to put it right. My guess is that reputation would probably have saved them $100k on this development alone. Add that up across everything and you can see why they are making big in-roads.

Pretty simple lesson - strive to build a reputation that you can be proud of and the opportunities (and rewards) follow.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

O for Oarsome

Got a heads up on this book a couple of weeks back from this guy.

I worked with Kevin at Telecom and was stunned at his story then - rowing across the Atlantic after living the corporate lifestyle. This book was actually stolen from his car (on his laptop) while at Telecom so I guess he wrote it all again. He left Telecom and went to the South Pole unaided and now does public speaking gigs - also impressive considering the speech impediment. Sometimes when he was sitting in the office in Auckland blocking out the world with blu-tack in his ears you could see how someone could be focussed enough to make it happen.

 I love this 150 word summary of the book

“I have a traumatic pizza ordering experience and stop being immortal. I quit my job, leave my girlfriend, sell my house and go live with Mum. I watch a lot of daytime TV. The ‘How's Life' show decides that I row the Atlantic. I team up with the original Naked Rower, we struggle to raise money and start building the boat, I start training insanely and nearly lose the plot. Find another rower, lose another rower, get another rower. Start the race (badly). Row into storm. Take the lead. Row. Lose the lead. Row. Row harder. Nothing happens. Row until we hallucinate. We start to close in! Seats break. Rudder breaks. Another storm. Neck and neck as we sprint to the finish. Capsize and thrown out of the boat. Get back in. Get to Barbados first! Yay! Get protested a gainst. Boo! Win at the protest hearing. Still living with Mum.”

There are quite a few extracts from the book on the site - the section about how he decides to row the TransAtlantic race as a result of his concerned Mum's question to How's Life is too funny. 

Make a great gift for someone going through a mid-life crisis.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Black & White - a customer-centred mobile operator in NZ?

It was good to see some broad coverage of Black and White's Mobile offering - currently under Beta launch in NZ in Computerworld, Stuff and Geekzone. I worked with Johnathan during his time at Telecom and hope he and the team at B&W do well.

Most of the basics have come out so far.

B&W are re-selling Vodafone's existing offerings (including plans according to Computerworld) and providing their own branded handsets. They are solid mid-range handsets including a decent enough Nokia 6225c.

Feature-wise this looks like it will be targetted at the SME professional - a good niche with basic voice, text and email capability. 

There are a few things that particularly interest me.

1. The launch approach - a slow trickle to get this right is a great contrast to Telstra Clear's launch last week which went above the line with no real behind the scenes leg-work.  I think this 'slow' approach will give them a heap of speed - just by being so in touch with customer wants.Assuming that B&W will actually make changes based on Beta feedback, this will mean that B&W have a chance of surviving - more so that TC's proposition. Add to that the fact they are planning to add 1000 customers after the Beta, if things go really well for them they have constrained supply to the point where there will be value in just being one of the first 1000 customers.

2. Customer approach - it appears that B&W are looking at a proposition where business customers are not locked in on contract. This is very new in the NZ market and is a hard one to follow for Telecom and Vodafone as their accountants really won't like the idea of revenue uncertainty. But it's a massive value proposition for customers that will probably engender strong loyalty to B&W until the others follow. It's the approach of 'We are honoured to have you as a customer' as opposed to 'We are so scared of losing your money we will lock it in'.

3. Despite the comments on geekzone, the margins for a mobile reseller are pretty slim. The costs to acquire and service a customer are significant so you can't just look at the retail price for a mobile minute vs. wholesale. The Retailer has to cover service costs, handset subsidies etc etc. If you can get 10% margin out of that you are doing extremely well. B&W will only survive if they are able to reduce the costs to service and acquire customers and still provide better than the current standards of service. That means on-line, customer collaborative channels.

4. Value exchange within the Beta - this is brilliant. Sign-up your first 100 customers via Geekzone. Give them free service. Get them to test your products. Take on board their comments. Boom - there's your first 100 sales people, and free testing. Pretty good for a company of 10 people. 

5. Break-even point - B&W are playing in the SME space, traditionally the highest ARPU mobile customers. That is not necessarily the highest margin but it's an area that cellco's fight for pretty agressively. My guess is that if B&W were able to gain 10% of this market (say 50,000 SME's) that would put them in a good place. That might be enough to make Telecom and Vodafone start to follow suit on no contracts.

I think based on this approach and without bundling this will stand up pretty well against the other Tier 2 providers. It will be interesting to see whether NZ Communications takes a similar approach, and just compete in the market, or whether they will continue to blame the big guys for their lack of progress.

My guess is that the bulk of the B&W customers will probably be Vodafone to start with - they are the customers who probably see less value in a bundled offer. This is not at all bad for Vodafone - they get the wholesale revenues and reduce the costs of servicing these customers.

Where it will get interesting is when B&W start offering their own plans, and maybe providing some more utility with customer call data to improve the service offering. In the meantime, don't expect this to change the market for mobile data plans.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Abel Tasman Coastal Classic: The Good, The Ugly and A Laugh

Sometime in January this year (I remember the night well - I announced my resignation from Telecom the next day) I was out with some of my colleagues and a couple of beers in, Dale and Kirsten said they were thinking of doing the Abel Tasman Coastal Classic in September.

Given it was

1. A few beers into the evening
2. 8 months out
3. I knew I'd have training time

it seemed like a perfectly reasonable thing to do.

The event is pitched as a 33km run along some of NZ's most beautiful scenery. Train for it like it's a marathon. Fast forward to last weekend, I thought I was in reasonable shape. I had managed a few 3 hour runs and was feeling pretty good.

The event kicks off with a boat ride to the start - worth the price of admission alone - it was stunning. Clear morning, dead calm - beautiful.

To make a long story short, I was trucking along well - got to the 21 k mark in a very comfortable 2 hours and thought that I should be able finish in 3 and a half hours. Genuinely enjoying the scenery and the track. I had been warned that you feel like you start going backwards around this point so I was keeping some in reserve. Around 2hr 40, I felt the first sign of cramp in my quads. No problem, I think, I'll take some water in and just throttle back a bit. No improvement. Still, no worries, I seem to be running ahead of the few people in front of me and they are not showing any inclination to pass. Km's seem to be clicking past more slowly now - I start wondering if I calibrated my footpod on my Polar correctly. Cramp definitely not improving. Couple of people pass me that I thought I passed 30 minutes ago - I am slowing up. Uphills I am catching people - can't keep up downhill or on the flat. Around the 30km mark, I think 'only 3km to go' but I can't see the end. Drinking like crazy, quads on fire. Remind myself not to stop and stretch - did this once before for sore quads in a half ironman which kicked off a cycle of paralysing quad and hamstring cramps. At least I can still move my legs. Scenery has turned into haze as I concentrate on running. I have to go under a fallen tree (translate: stoop slightly) - I stop to do it. 2 guys who had been running with me vanish instantly into the distance as I try to walk. Stop to shake my quads next to a guy who is carrying his kid on a daypack. I walk to get moving. He puts 20 meters on me while I am walking. I have to run to catch him. I say 'I am back on the wagon' - feeling like crap. 3hr 30 min pass - I am a long way from the end. At the 33km mark on my watch I know the end is still at least 2 km away - seems like forever. At this point I cannot run downhill - my quads can't control the descent. I am bitching out loud about the organisers inability to measure the course. Start to sense I am near the end - more walkers. I pick up the pace to run past a picnic site - I hear the picnicers talking about how crap I am looking as I *try* to run down the very slight incline with all the finesse of a man with two club feet. 2 guys roar past me yelling 'only 5 minutes to beat 4 hours!' I mumble something about them leaving the iron on at home, what's the rush. I see the end! Stumble across the boardwalks and cross the finish line in 3:58. I look like this...

I tell Arlene it's the worst thing I've ever done and have never been in so much pain - she is stoked, she ran her 12 km supporters run in an hour and 40 min. I think I acknowledge it. Longest run she has done by far. I eat pineapple and try and find a spot to sit while we wait for Dale and Kirsten. Kirst comes in first, looking fresh but worried "I think Dale died at Torrent Bay!". Apparently she prodded him all the way there and at that point he decided to take out a Muesli Bar and have a break from the prodding. She is worried that his flu has caught up with him and we need to send out a search party. While discussing this Dale crosses the line - he was sick of the prodding and told Kirst to p!$$ off or words to that effect.

Kirst says 'I thought you were dead'
Dale replies 'Sure didn't end up in heaven'
I question whether he deserved to be in heaven or not - this photo happens.

Probably do it all again next year. Officials have confirmed the race distance as 36 km - I feel a bit better. 

Today I see that I could have won the Women's 50-59 division with my time - there is hope for me yet.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Delay to Telecom NZ WCDMA launch is good for shareprice

Stuff reported today that ABN Amro analyst Geoff Zame suggested that if Telecom did not complete a marketing launch of its WCDMA network this year that it would be detrimental for the share price. The reported reason is that Telecom would be on the sidelines when the rush for Christmas connections comes through.

I disagree.

Everything that I have read suggests that the network is currently not fit for launch. That is not surprising. I know that there are a lot of people in Telecom who are working damned hard on getting this network up and running. I don't think this is an execution issue -its a reality issue.

Telecom announced that it was going WCDMA in June 2007, suggesting that build would not commence until late that year that it would be in market by Christmas this year. 

That's  12 months - gutsy stuff.

By comparison, the deployment of CDMA in 2001 / 02 took 15 months (that was an extremely aggressive and well managed deployment) and was voted telecommunications project of the year by TUANZ. That was on existing sites.

Vodafone's 3G deployment was of the order of  15 months after signing Nokia up - and they were hit pretty hard by customers reacting to coverage issues. 

In Telecom's case they are rolling out 2 networks

1. 2100 MHz WCDMA
2. 850 MHz (either GSM/EDGE or WDCMA)

The 2100 MHz network in particular requires new sites and resource consents. To go from 'hmm I think I'd like a new site in this area' to having property and resource consent in the bank takes about a year. A year was always going to be too short.

You would have to be doing well to do both of these in 15 months - not forgetting Telecom have operational separation, Next Gen broadband and all the rest happening.

If Telecom were beholden to a pre-Xmas date, this network would look more like MobileMe.

It will be much better for the long-term shareprice for Telecom to get coverage right for this new network as opposed to try and bank a short-term win, and then brand damage based on a sub-standard network. And to think that there would be significant uptake on the new network before it was bedded in pre-Xmas is optimistic to say the least. One can only hope Telecom has some CDMA offers to go out that are sharp enough to stay competitive this Xmas.

Reynolds has already announced in last week's result that there will be no EBITDA growth until 2010. Good to see him stick to the long-term plan - this approach will start to turn Telecom around from a dividend stock to a growth stock. That's the real issue for the analysts - the dividend payout made Telecom a very attractive part of their portfolios in the past. Now that Telecom are focussing on longer term bets this stock is no longer easy money. There is the possibility of still quite good dividend payouts and (if you are risk embracing) the possibility of longer term share price growth. 

Key issue now is when to get in.