Telecom soft-launches Big Pipe, a ‘stripped back’ ISP

Following several weeks of trials, Telecom is soft-launching a new ISP brand, Big Pipe.

Offering internet connections for consumers, Big Pipe’s key features (most of which stand it apart from it’s parent’s internet service):

  • No data caps on any plans
  • No contracts
  • Copper broadband only (ADSL and VDSL)
  • Naked broadband on all plans (that is, broadband without a traditional home phone line)
  • Online help rather than phone support

Telecom spokesman Richard  Llewellyn tells NBR “several hundred” signed on for a free trial, which kicked off late last year.

Mr Llewellyn said a “small scale commercial launch” kicked off yesterday. Plans range from $69 to $99 a month.

“We’ll be doing some level of promotion, but not a huge amount,” he says. “It will be very heavily digitally skewed. It starts today. Don’t expect to see TV ads.”

The trial showed “there is strong demand for a stripped down, simple, great value broadband. Similar to the Skinny business model – but broadband,”  Mr Llewellyn says.

Big Pipe is billed as another project from Telecom skunkworks unit Digital Ventures – the  team behind the phonebox wi-fi network, and Telecom’s $5 million investment in Sir Ray Avery’s Vigil home health monitoring startup. Skinny Mobile has also been moved from Telecom Retail to Digital Ventures.

The latest ISP market share figures from the Commerce Commission (now more than 18 months old) give Telecom 49% of the residential ISP market, Vodafone 29%, CallPlus/ Slingshot 9% and Orcon on 5%.

The stripped down nature of Big Pipe seems to be, at least in part, targeted at customers with ISPs on next tier down from the “big four”, including Snap Internet and WorldxChange. [UPDATE: IDC analyst Peter Wise sees Big Pipe as a defensive play as Telecom looks to starve off competition from other ISPs, which he says are enjoying strong growth in naked broadband subscriber numbers. Mr Wise also notes that competitors can deliver naked broadband more cheaply, limiting Big Pipe’s potential to be a price fighter in the manner of Skinny Mobile. ead more of his comments here].

The Big Pipe trialist sign-up form also made a nod to the new service’s potential to cannibalise customers from its parent’s mainstream service. “Telecom” is listed among the checkbox options for new signups’ current ISP.

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