NZ Fry Up: Consumer data right looming; IT tasks in data portability; Samsung tech partner for 5G rollout; Tech stocks nonstarters on NZX

New Zealand IT, tech, and telco news and views from our editor in Auckland.

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Consumer data right looming

Data portability—the idea that a consumer can require the secure data from one provider to another be available in a machine-readable form—was left out of the new Privacy Act. But it wasn’t left off the New Zealand government’s agenda, with the introduction of a consumer data right (CDR) currently under discussion.

When it makes it into law, the data portability requirement will likely mean extensive changes to IT systems in both public and private organisations. But there is plenty of work ahead for the Ministry of Business and Innovation (MBIE) before that day arrives.

First up on MBIE’s to-do list is sifting through the 59 submissions it received to its discussion document on CDR late last year. Banking, insurance, electricity, and telecommunications are the sectors most likely to be first in line when a CDR is brought into play. As you might expect, submissions from incumbents in these sectors are all keen to get to the back of the queue, while their challenger brands have quite the opposite view.

For example, Trustpower, an incumbent in electricity but a challenger in telco, sees plenty of opportunity for the telco sector. “While we have already seen improvements in the electricity sector as a result of consumers having the ability to share their consumption data with those they trust, as well as reaping the benefits of a world-class switching process, the same cannot be said about the telecommunications sector.”

Ouch. That can’t have gone down too well when they rocked up to the NZ Telecommunications Forum (TCF). The TCF, in its submission, is broadly supportive of establishing “an overarching legislative framework, and then sectors are considered separately”.

Meanwhile, one of its most high-profile members, Spark, worries about new regulation forcing behaviour that emphasizes cheap prices over value-added services—for example, retailers using introductory offers for a short period to jump to the top of broadband comparison queues. “We want to avoid a CDR artificially collapsing industry competition down to a commoditised service with few value-added services and low differentiation,” Spark notes in its submission.

When we checked out this assertion by typing our address into the Broadband Compare website, we couldn’t help noticing that Spark’s sub-brand Skinny uses this very tactic (Unlimited Fibre 100 plan is $0 a month for the first two months, then $78). We guess you have to play the hand you’re dealt.

Telco pricing is, incidentally, in Telecommunications Commissioner Tristan Gilbertson’s sights again this week, with the announcement on 8 March that the mobile operators (Spark, Vodafone, and 2degrees) will need to provide 12 months’ usage and spend information to their customers, with a prompt to consider whether they are on the right plan.

They will also need to “promote the development of comparison tools including a prospective consumer data right (CDR) to make it easier for customers to compare plans and providers.”

IT tasks involved in enabling data portability

Pricing aside, what will a CDR mean for IT teams, which will be charged with making the regulation a reality? The banking submissions offered plenty of detail to the many, many issues involved in data management, data architecture, data protection, data ethics, data lineage. And on it goes.

Of interest was the submission from Akash Praneil Jattan of DataEngine, who noted upfront that he had experience commercialising location data at Qrious and Telstra. Submissions from individual practitioners are valuable if they contain firsthand knowledge of IT systems. According to Jattan, “Data is messy in the business—most businesses do not have a single source of truth, [and] lack data governance and technology to support data portability.”

Technology is also a challenge, not only around dealing with issues such as whether you can use the public cloud when sharing data, but if you have the right skills on the team to share data, and then to aggregate, prepare, store, and serve data via websites and apps.

He also noted that ‘politics’ is also a problem—“Probably the biggest issue”, he wrote, and then he added a smiley face.

Samsung tech partner for 5G rollout

Spark has found another technology partner in Samsung, with the announcement that is has launched 5G in Christchurch.

For Spark, this is the sixth location for its 5G network, while for Samsung, New Zealand is the third country in which it has deployed the C-band MIMO technology—after South Korea and the United States.

Samsung’s 5G RAN (Radio Access Network) system includes Massive MIMO radio, which is “fit for rapid rollouts, saving site space and deployment costs. Utilising advanced 3D beamforming technology, Massive MIMO radio also delivers improved capacity and effectively extends network coverage.”

Samsung has a wide product range—from TVs to wearables. Something that Huawei, Spark’s previous technology partner is learning the benefits of—albeit in the enterprise space. As noted in Fry Up’sAmerica’s Cup special, Huawei is moving out of telco and into IT in New Zealand, touting products such as storage.

Tech stocks nonstarters on NZX

Finally, it looks as if NZX might once again be deprived a tech stock (of sorts). Last week, Rocket Lab announced its listing on the Nasdaq, and this week the planned Vocus float of its New Zealand assets (including the CallPlus, Slingshot, and Orcon brands) is likely less certain with the announcement of a Macquarie-led bid to buy the ASX-listed company.

Those halcyon days in 2014 when a slew of tech stocks such as Vista Group, Gentrack, and Eroad, to name just three, IPO’d, seem far, far away.

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