Exciting times for communications

There are ongoing exciting  challenges for Vodafone chief executive Russell Stanners. Photo by...
There are ongoing exciting challenges for Vodafone chief executive Russell Stanners. Photo by Craig Baxter.
For 10 years, Vodafone NZ chief executive Russell Stanners has lived the dream as technology has evolved from simple phones and text messages to video-on-demand and smartphones people will not leave home without.

However, he rates the next few years as some of the most exciting New Zealand, and the world, will see.

"For many years, I used to go around and tell businesses that mobile devices were the future for their business. They would nod and say they got my point but they were never going to look at those tiny screens.

"Then along came Steve Jobs and Apple and no-one questions it now," Mr Stanners said during a visit to Dunedin.

A recent Google survey showed that 44% of New Zealanders had smartphones and 77% of those would not leave home without their devices.

Mr Stanners joined Vodafone in 2002, becoming chief executive in 2005.

Vodafone has proposed buying TelstraClear's New Zealand assets for $840 million but the sale is subject to regulatory approval.

While he could not talk about some of the details of the deal because of commercial sensitivity, he could see plenty of opportunities arising from joining TelstraClear's fixed-line and fibre capacity with Vodafone's mobile business.

"People are looking forward to a new competitor, particularly large businesses, and see see it as a good opportunity to innovate and move forward," he said.

When he spoke to the Otago Daily Times, Mr Stanners was on the third stop in 24 hours of a nationwide visit to talk to staff and clients about Vodafone and the changes ahead.

One of the points he emphasised was the importance of bringing the Vodafone and TelstraClear teams together to provide innovative communications solutions for businesses.

Successive governments had played a significant role in the development of New Zealand's technology and communications sector with the split of Chorus from Telecom one of the most significant.

Mr Stanners said every day brought major changes in technology. But while those changes were welcomed, Vodafone and other companies were not "exactly sure" how people would use the new services.

"When I first started, we used to talk about mobile phones for calls and texts. Now, people want to talk about their apps, mobile banking and social networks."

Television and video services through the internet were becoming common and the TelstraClear fibre which allowed television to the home was a key asset for Vodafone, if the purchase proceeded, he said.

The key role for the Vodafone team was being innovative, but the important part was ensuring the company was ahead of consumer behaviour.

Vodafone and Chorus were partners in the Government's rural broadband initiative with Vodafone providing the wireless links and Chorus the links along the existing copper networks.

In Otago, there were about 4800km of country roads the companies were taking broadband to, either through copper or wireless, Mr Stanners said.

The rural sector made up 15% of New Zealand's GDP and 55% of exports, emphasising the importance of linking rural communities through broadband.

At farmer field days and other functions, Mr Stanners had been pleased with the innovative solutions already being proposed for the rural network.

They included linking schools, but also linking farmers to meat companies so each stock unit would comply with the Government's track and trace requirements.

"There is huge potential to get more capability and productivity from the rural sector through the broadband network," he said.

- dene.mackenzie@odt.co.nz


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