I have been advised this week by partners of two instances where customers are seeking replacement modems but their addresses now fail the Skinny Jump address coverage check.
My advice in both instances has been to provide a replacement modem.
Jump coverage and tower capacity is something that is changing all the time and while we are not permitted to connect new customers at addresses that fail the coverage check, we must give priority to existing customers in replacing faulty modems.
One partner raised a concern that the customer involved could have changed addresses since they were originally connected two years ago. We (DIAA) do not hold records of customer addresses in situations where modems have been issued by partners, so we have no way of checking. The other situation involved the transfer of a modem within the family at the same address.
Our recommended approach is to remind customers that they must always check with the Skinny Care Team (0800 475 4669) before relocating their modems to a new address, but if customers advise that they are at the same address as the one they used when originally connecting to Skinny Jump, then we have to take that at face value and provide whatever assistance we can to keep their connections active.
Customers should be advised that in areas that have reached capacity, the performance of their connections might not meet the standard expected of a broadband service and if they were unhappy with the performance of the replacement modem, they should return it (with packaging) and seek an alternative service.
When two or more partners ask the same question, then it is time for me to post to this blog.
The modem shortage is causing some new issues; we currently have over 900 on order, and it will take at least 3-4 weeks to catch up, by which time we expect to have another 900 on order. As a result of this delay, partners have asked if they should use the home delivery process when they run out of modems.
Our short answer is no! We prefer that you create a waiting list – one partner this week advised us that they have a waiting list of 27! The modems we use for home deliveries come from the same supply pool as that used for partners and our priority for the online pool is for customers who cannot get to a local partner to collect a modem and for replacing faulty modems.
Our guideline for home delivery orders is that partners should only use this for customers who for some reason can not go to a local Jump partner. We much prefer that they come to a local delivery partner where you can give them help to set up their accounts and make sure they know about the Jump app.
However, we do encourage you to lodge an online application for people who do not have coverage or are in areas where there is no Jump capacity. We do double-check that there is in fact no service at this address, but mainly we use this to keep Skinny updated on unsatisfied demand.
So when it is just a case of modem shortages, we encourage you to keep a waiting list, and get back in touch with your customers when further stocks of modems arrive.
Partners may have noticed some changes in the messages they receive when the Skinny Jump address checker returns a negative result.
There are now three different messages you may receive when checking a customer’s address for Jump availability:
(1) No coverage or low coverage: this means the customer is totally outside a Spark 4G coverage area or is on the fringes. This means that customers would receive no service or a very poor service.
(2) No capacity: this means that the cell tower serving this location is at capacity and Skinny is not legally allowed to connect further customers; if they do so, existing customers would experience a degradation in service that could lead to complaints to the Government regulator.
(3) Antenna plan only: this is not available to Jump customers as there are significant costs in installing a wireless antenna. The purpose of the antenna, which connects to some modem types, is to boost the signal to a level that ensures reliable internet speeds. This service is only available to regular Skinny customers, who may be willing to pay the extra costs.
The good news in all this is that coverage and capacity is improving all the time, so customers should continue to be encouraged to check for any changes from time to time.
Some observant partners have noticed this new message popping up when they do an address checker and wondered if this is a positive sign that there is likely to be coverage in the near future.
The fine print says: This address is in an area that has reached the maximum number of modems that can be connected to its cell tower.
This is nothing new – it just means that we can’t connect any new Skinny Jump customers. There are two reasons :
(1) No 4G coverage;
(2) Cell tower at capacity.
Because of the widespread deployment of Spark’s 4G network, the most likely reason is that it is a capacity, rather than a coverage, issue. Hence the new message. But unfortunately you can’t read anything between the lines about the likelihood of coverage coming to an area where there is none.
Our advice to customers is the same – check again from time to time, as capacity issues are changing all the time.
An updated Modem Return form is being introduced from the start of business tomorrow (Wednesday 20 April). This replaces the three previous forms used by delivery partners for modem returns, i.e.
(1) Skinny Jump Account Delinking & Modem Reprovisioning – Delivery Sites & Care Use Only – originally developed for modems that were returned mainly because they were no longer required and could be remotely de-linked from customers’ accounts and rest, ready for re-issue.
(2) Faulty Jump Modem returns – originally developed for modems that had been remotely tested by Skinny and customers were advised that the unit was faulty and should be returned to a nearby Jump partner. We have recently consolidated this form with the standard Delinking Form above.
(3) MOE Modem Activation and Returns – originally developed for modems issued by the Ministry of Education.
The new consolidated form is to be used by Jump Delivery Partners when they receive any Jump modem returned by a customer or if they require a particular Jump modem to be re-provisioned for any other reason. The Skinny Care Team may also use this form when a customer reports they have a modem but there is no coverage or capacity at their address.
The purpose of this new consolidated form is:
(1) to make it easy for Delivery Partners to get a modem de-linked from a customer account and then reset in a timely manner, so that it can be re-issued. This form provides a direct communication channel to the Skinny Support Team who are responsible for delinking any Skinny Jump accounts and resetting modems. Jump Delivery Partners should never call the Skinny Care Team on the customer 0800 number, as this Helpdesk team is not able to delink accounts or reset modems.
(2) to recognise modems issued as part of a special Jump Plan – MOE, CIENA or RED CROSS – and ensure these are recovered or correctly re-provisioned.
(3) to record customer details for the collection of unwanted modems or at locations where there is no network coverage or capacity.
The information provided in this form authorises the Skinny Support Team to delink an account and reset the modem. Faulty or defaced modems that are not suitable for re-issue are to be marked as “faulty” in the form and this triggers a response from the Digital Inclusion Alliance Aotearoa (DIAA) team to send a courier bag to recover the modem for repair or recycling.
Once the modem is reset, an advice note is sent to the Delivery Partner at the partner email entered at the end of the form.
During the last month, Jump delivery partners may have noticed an unprecedented success rate when using the Skinny Jump address checker – every address entered has been getting the green light for coverage, even addresses that have no 4G coverage!
Like the old adage, if it looks to good to be true, then it’s probably not true. And unfortunately this happens to be the case here. Skinny software developers have identified a bug in the address checker that was preventing it doing its job and this was fixed overnight on 31 March.
So from 1 April, we are back to the real world, and this means you will again be finding customers who are unable to get the Jump service either because they are not in coverage or because there is no capacity on the nearest cell tower. Please provide these customers with a copy of the explanatory leaflet, as some customers can get quite argumentative, especially when their neighbours have Jump service.
You are also welcome to complete an online application form for anyone who cannot currently get service; we double check their address for coverage and follow up with them when we become aware that coverage is available. It also provides a useful database of areas where there is demand for Jump but no capacity.
With the move to Level 4 lockdown, internet service providers have noticed a surge in internet usage. This is not really that surprising, but with the increased loading on the 4G wireless network, this could result in partners having to decline applications from more customers. We hope this is just a temporary issue and that the loading on the network will reduce when we move out of Level 4 lockdown.
All partners should now have supplies of the flyer explaining why some households can not be connected even when others in their neighbourhood can; if you haven’t received any of these flyers please contact us at email@example.com and we can send you some.
A message from one of our Jump partners today:
“I had a lady come in wanting a Skinny Jump this morning. I asked whether there was broadband at the property and she said no, so I proceeded to check her address with the Skinny Jump address checker. It said it was unavailable and when I explained this she said that she knew coverage was available there because there was already a Jump modem. I asked why she was wanting another Skinny Jump modem if there was already one there and she said that it was for one person and they weren’t going to top up for others. She then asked me to check other addresses – which returned the same ‘no availability’ result, so I wasn’t able to proceed, but she said she would return again. Wasn’t happy she couldn’t get a modem today and was starting to become slightly argumentative. Is it reasonable for there to be more than one Skinny Jump modem at a property? Is this going against the spirit of the programme? Just thought I should get the official party line on this.“
Two issues here – ‘no coverage’ and ‘more than one Jump modem at the same address’. These are issues many partners encounter.
(1) Skinny address checker indicates ‘no coverage’ but customers insist it works for their neighbours, or in the case above, at the same address. All partners will soon be receiving a pack of ‘no coverage’ explanatory flyers to give to customers who don’t understand the limitations of wireless connections (and that is pretty much everyone except radio engineers!). We also encourage someone from every Jump partner to attend one of the two special webinars next week (on 2 and 6 August, where this issue is being discussed by the Spark Foundation team. You can register here: https://diaa.arlo.co/w/upcoming/cat-11-partner-webinars/
(2) More than one modem at the same address: while the goal for Skinny Jump is to provide internet connectivity for households that can’t afford a fixed line connection, we do recognise that many houses often have more than one family or people who live quite independently of each other, e.g. a landlord and tenant. There are also many situations where people are living in flats, motels, camping grounds, etc. that share the same physical address. So sharing the same address is not enough to disqualify an applicant. There is no technical reason why two or more modems cannot be located at the same address (although when it gets to seven, as has happened, we do investigate to find out the reason). Partners have the discretion to refuse a customer if you suspect someone is abusing the opportunity, but you can supply more than one modem to the same address if you believe the reasons are genuine.
We know that Jump delivery partners don’t like to turn customers away empty handed. But working with a wireless service like Skinny Jump, this regrettably is a fact of life. The Skinny Jump service uses the Spark cellphone towers and there are limits on how many customers can be connected to any single tower (this is because wireless services operate within a limited radio frequency spectrum). You can find more information on the Jump website.
The impact of this is that if too many customers are connected to the same tower, the service degrades for everyone, and this gets the service provider into trouble with the Government regulator, the Commerce Commission. Customers connecting to any internet service can expect a reasonable quality of service and providers like Spark and Skinny are held accountable.
So what does this mean for you as a Jump partner – if the Skinny Jump addresses checker says ‘no coverage’, you are not permitted to issue a Jump modem. We have had examples of where customers claim to have contacted the Skinny Helpdesk and have been advised to contact their nearest partner to get a Jump modem, even when the address checker says ‘no’. This is a mistake and we alert Skinny to any such incidents – please ask your customer for the name of the Skinny Help Desk agent and day they received this advice and then forward this to us at firstname.lastname@example.org . The Skinny Helpdesk team have access to the same address checker that you do, so there shouldn’t be any confusion, but at times we know there is.
The good news is that the capacity on cell towers is changing all the time – there are updates every night. Not only is Spark continuing to invest in expanding the capacity of their towers, connections also become possible when existing customers leave. So that is why we encourage partners to complete an online application whenever you have to turn a customer away. Not only do we double check the coverage availability, but we also hold the applicant on file in case we become aware of a future upgrade.
Skinny is also helping by providing all partners with a flyer to give to customers explaining the capacity issue. You can expect these to arrive during the next week. We have also scheduled two partner webinars where the Skinny team will explain this issue and answer any questions.
Make sure you or someone from your team joins one of these webinars, to be held on 2 and 6 August. You can register here: https://diaa.arlo.co/w/upcoming/cat-11-partner-webinars/
We received advice late last night that the address checker and Jump App are operational. The Jump team at Spark asked us to send their apologies for any inconvenience caused by this outage.