Surge in demand for internet could result in more ‘no-availability’ address checks

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 jump@diaa.nz and we can send you some.

Can you issue more than one Jump modem to a household?

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.

Jump coverage issues – join the webinars

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 jump@diaa.nz . 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/

Stop Press! Skinny Jump address checker is down

We have been advised that Spark is currently experiencing intermittent outages and this has caused the Skinny Jump website to not load for Address Checking. The Jump App is experiencing the same problems. We have been promised updates as soon as the Jump team know something but for now, they have suggested that partners ask customers to try again at a later time.

Are you having to turn Jump customers away?

Many of our partners have reported an increase in the number of Jump applicants that they are having to turn away. My earlier post refers to this. Earlier today, the Spark Foundation team provided a Zoom briefing for partners in the areas most affected – Kaitaia, Whitianga, Coromandel, Huntly, Te Aroha, Greerton Tauranga, Fairfield Hamilton, Otorohanga, Palmerston North, Patea, Shannon, Picton, Kaikoura, Riverton and Otara. Their advice to partners in these areas (referred to as “stop sell” areas) is to remove any Jump promotional posters. We will update the information on the Skinny website about partners in these areas to alert any customers that they might not be able to get service at the moment. The situation is quite fluid and could change from week to week, so if any customers do request service in these areas, it could still be worthwhile doing an address check on the Skinny website. Our advice in my previous post was to ask any customers who do not appear to have coverage to complete our online application form so that we can double check for coverage as well as update our database on areas where there are coverage issues.

Our records are showing a much larger number of partners in areas other than the ones noted above are also having to turn some customers away. This depends very much on the particular cell tower they are connected to and even on the same cell tower, which of the three sectors the household is in (each sector covers 120 degrees – see photo above).

Our advice is the same – always check for coverage using the Skinny Jump address checker and for customers who can’t get service, ask them to complete an online application form. However it is important to manage customer expectations; completing the online application form is unlikely to change anything immediately, but does help us understand where there is demand for Jump. We will be reporting this to the government agencies responsible for broadband infrastructure and hopefully this will influence their investment priorities.

We also send the following message to the applicant:

Thank you for your recent application for a Skinny Jump internet connection. We have double checked coverage at your location and unfortunately, Skinny cannot currently provide wireless broadband service at your address. This may be because of limited network capacity in your area. Skinny wants to make sure that their Skinny Mobile and Skinny Broadband (including Jump) customers get the best service possible and this includes not overloading the cell towers near you. Skinny is constantly adding new capacity to their network, so please try the Jump address checker again in the near future and if you do have coverage please contact your nearest Jump partner again to sign up. We are sorry that we are not able to help you on this occasion.

“Broadband Compare” results can be confusing

Many partners encourage customers to use the Broadband Compare website to look for alternative internet options at their address when the Skinny checker indicates that Jump 4G service is not available. They are then surprised to find that Broadband Compare suggests that Skinny 4G plans are available at their customer’s location. We are seeking clarification from the teams at both Spark and Broadband Compare to understand how frequently the Skinny 4G data is updated, as this could be a possible explanation.

Jump coverage checker says “no”

Partners may have noticed that the message below is popping up more frequently these days in the Skinny Jump address checker.

This may be because of limited or no coverage, or increasingly, this is to prevent overloading on individual cellphone towers. There can also be a problem if the address is not recognised by the Jump address checker; the checker only works with recognised addresses, so you must select the address from the pull-down list. And if it doesn’t recognise 24A Brandon Street, try just 24 Brandon Street. The same is true for addresses beginning with Flat 1; you might need to delete ‘Flat 1’ to get an exact match for the address checker to work.

Unfortunately, when the address checker does indicate there is no coverage, you are going to have to say “no” to your customer and not provide them with a Jump modem. However, we would like to encourage you to assist your customer complete an online Jump application form. This will give us the opportunity to double check the coverage issues in your area and follow up with Skinny and Spark to see what options might be possible. If we can’t find a satisfactory solution we will advise the customer accordingly. We have included a new question in the Application Form seeking the customer’s permission to hold their Application on file so that we can check from time to time if Skinny coverage is available.