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Aardvark Weekly 27 August 99
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Dateline: 16 December 1999 All Day Edition
Read Yesterday's Edition

Are Telecom Worried By Labour?
A press release rolled off the fax yesterday from Telecom and it was headed "Telecom's 0867 Proves Worth."

It appears that due to a fault at IHUG, the phone network was suddenly hit hard by lots of PCs trying to automatically redial to connect.

According to the release the problem happened at around 10:15pm on Monday night and the "IHUG call numbers" leapt from 200 per minute to 2,000 or more.

"Almost instantaneously" the report goes on to say, " the 0867's call management system moved into action to prevent this incident from having any wider impact on Telecom's network, and in particular the critical Airedale Street exchange, through which most of the calls were being channelled."

"We were able to limit calls to 600 a minute."

"... it was also important to note that 93 111 emergency calls were made through the exchange during the period of the network incident."

"... internet calling is continuing to burgeon. Internet calling now accounts for close to half (about 45%) of all local residential calling, up from around 28% a year ago."

Now this all sounds pretty damned convincing doesn't it?

Although I do have some questions...

If, as the release says, "we were able to limit calls to 600 a minute" then how can Telecom also claim that the 0867 network will not result in a reduction in the level of service? Surely it was simply dumping anywhere from 1,400 to 2,400 calls a minute and that would not have happened if those calls were placed outside the 0867 network.

Then their's the very crafty wording "Internet calling now accounts to close to half of all local residential calling." This is rather ambiguous isn't it? Are they talking about the number of calls placed or the total minutes spent off-hook? There's a significant difference.

And one must question: why was the number of 111 emergency calls mentioned -- given that Telecom was forced to admit that a previous claim it was introducing 0867 to protect the 111 service from Net-calls was false and misleading.

The release also claims that British Telecom are now planning to introduce a system similar to 0867 which, coincidentally, also uses an 08 prefix. Perhaps Telecom might consider that the reason it starts with 08 is because it actually offers a flat-rate access, unlike the existing residential calling option in the UK that has a per-minute fee associated with it. Perhaps they're using a different numbering system so as to make it easier to manage the non-billing of such calls in the same manner as 0800 calls are at no cost to the caller?

Finally, hasn't Telecom figured out that if the 0867 system starts regularly rejecting calls (as it did on Monday night), it's not going to be long before Net users set up an alternative dialer to ring the ISP's regular number whenever they find the 0867 lines congested. This is certainly something I'd be doing if I had to use an 0867 number.

If this happened then it would make a mockery of Telecom's claims that the 0867 system will reduce network loading -- because people would just click on the other dialer and hit the phone network just as hard. After all -- we've still got 10 hours of charge-free Net calling per month outside the 0867 network.

It strikes me that Telecom are very seriously worried about the fact that they're facing the prospect of a new government actually questioning the veracity of its claims and the actions based on them -- rather than just regarding the company's lawyers as the ultimate authority.

Why else would they spend so much money flying influential journalists down for a mental-flossing session last week and then wax lyrical about the way the system is working -- despite the fact there are still ISPs who have had their switch-over date deferred into the new millennium due to problems.

Survey Of The Week
What is the Net/Computer/Geek gift YOU would most like to receive if someone was spending $200 or less on you?

Answers on the front of a contact form please.


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