NZ telcos may work together to avoid outages

New Zealand’s telecommunications industry has spent quite some time over the past fortnight debating how best to avoid a repeat of the embarrassing outage that knocked out most of the country’s telecommunications last month.

Telco employees Computerworld spoke to last week were reluctant to comment on the record, however. One network infrastructure specialist, who did not wish to be named, lays the blame squarely at Telecom New Zealand Ltd.’s feet for its determination to “go it alone.”

“Years ago I worked for [TelstraClear Ltd.] and we approached Telecom to offer a trade — a pair of fibres on our network for a pair on theirs — but they simply weren’t interested.”

He says network operators overseas regularly engage in such transactions so as to avoid trouble for customers when, not if, an outage occurs.

“To only be running a single form of redundancy like Telecom was is ridiculous in this day and age. You’re going to do maintenance on one side of the network at some stage and that leaves you with no backup whatsoever.”

Triple redundancy is the bare minimum required, suggests the specialist, unless geography causes too much trouble.

“Kaikoura, for example, is very difficult and you end up with situations where you have your cables running down either side of a road. If a slip cuts one it’s going to cut the other too, but there’s not much you can do about that.”

Alternate networks, such as BCL’s digital microwave relay service, are really the only option, he says. “BCL’s network couldn’t carry the same level of traffic though, so it was really only emergency calls and whoever could get through on the day.”

At the Conferenz Telecommunications and ICT summit, held in Auckland last week, Telecommunications Commissioner Douglas Webb raised the idea of “structural separation” with regard to Telecom’s network. While Webb was discussing the idea of splitting an incumbent’s wholesale and retail arms from a regulatory point of view, the idea could well have spin off benefits from a network redundancy point of view as well.

BT, the U.K.’s incumbent provider, has announced it will undertake voluntary structural separation, spinning off its wholesale division with its 30,000 staff and

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