After celebrating the industry’s pandemic performance telco CEOs warned industry returns do not reflect the investments being made in networks and services.

The CEOs were speaking at an online event marking the release of the 2020 Telecommunications Industry Report. CEO speakers included Jolie Hodson from Spark, Jason Paris from Vodafone, JB Rousselot from Chorus, Mark Callender from Vocus and Steve Fuller from Enable. Mat Bolland represented 2degrees and Peter Calderwood spoke for Trustpower.

On the plus side of the ledger the speakers pointed to the high numbers of customers now having fibre access and the industry’s ability to cope with surging lockdown traffic.

TCF CEO Geoff Thorn says New Zealand is third in the world for mobile connectivity. The report went on to reveal that New Zealand has the fourth highest level of telecom investment in the OECD when measured relative to GDP.

This could prove to be unsustainable. New Zealand’s telecommunications average prices are lower than ever. Thorn says prices have fallen while prices for other services including electricity and gas have risen.

During a panel discussion Vodafone CEO Jason Paris noted that New Zealand continues to build great networks that keeps the country competitive. And yet, he says, there is a danger we could reach a point where further investment is uneconomic.

He says the the economics are “out of whack” when people walk into a Vodafone store, spend $2000 on an iPhone and complain about paying $20 to get it connected.

Rousselot say carriers need to do more to explain the value of telecommunications to customers. He says people are getting a lot more value for a price that is not growing exponentially.

He says; “We need to get to a point where the market acknowledges the value that connectivity brings across all technology and is ready to pay a price that reflects the investment that needs to be made in the background to cope with capacity growth, to cope with the extra demand for resiliency.”