New Zealand is on track for a 10 gigabit per second residential and SMB fibre service, with Kiwi network operator Chorus kicking off trials of the service in mid-March.

The trial, which harnesses Nokia’s XGS-Pon fibre offering to provide 10Gbps in both directions – 10 times faster than the fastest plans available in New Zealand today – will see Kiwis accessing “one of the fastest broadband services available on the planet,” said Chorus chief customer officer Ed Hyde.

The service will be deployed over Chorus’ existing nationwide fibre broadband infrastructure and co-exists with the current offerings, making it “an easy upgrade path” for those wanting faster plans, Chorus added.

Eight retailers – 2degrees, 2Talk, Kordia, Orcon, Slingshot, Stuff Fibre, Trustpower and Vocus Communications – will be involved in the trial, with others also expressing interest.

Kiwis have been quick to embrace ultrafast broadband, which offers 100mbps services, and New Zealand’s UFB rollout has been in stark contrast to the beleaguered NBN.

The national roll-out of the NZ$1.35 billion UFB network – New Zealand’s equivalent of the NBN – saw around 51 percent of those able to connect to the Chorus UFB network, connecting. That’s 504,000 customers.

The UFB build will push fibre to almost 99 percent of New Zealand by 2022.

Meanwhile, Chorus already has 44,000 users on its 1Gbps service.

“In the last eight years New Zealand has seen a meteoric progression in broadband capability. In 2011 the average broadband speed was just 10Mbps or so,” Hyde said.

“When Chorus’ fibre plans first launched in 2012 the top speed then available was 100Mbps. We were then the first to make gigabit fibre broadband available in 2014 and today this is the fastest growing plan on our network with more than 44,000 customers,” he noted.

In December, the average Kiwi household used 235Gb of data for the month, with an average connection speed across the Chorus network of 96.5Mbps. Dunedin, which was the winner of nationwide competition which saw the city receive 1Gbps connections, logged an average connection speed of 349Mbps, well ahead of New Zealand’s other cities. Dunedin Wellington hit 109Mbps, followed by Auckland on 107Mbps to round out the top three.

Last week Optus announced plans for its first 5G offering in Australia. The wireless service, which is expected to begin switching on in the second quarter of this year (though devices are not due to hit the market until mid-year), will be offered at a price point to take on NBN.

Kiwi wrap: Spark ups sport foray, power co wins telco awards

17 August

In a week that highlights the changing telco market in New Zealand, we’ve seen Spark marking plans for a standalone sports media business, Trustpower continuing to win big in the telco market, and new 4K and UFB developments.

Spark ups sports play

New Zealand’s largest telco, Spark, will partner with an as yet unnamed specialist sports-streaming platform as it looks to create a standalone sports media business.

The company this week secured exclusive rights to three seasons of Premier League, from next August, and Manchester United TV. The deals follow the April’s announcement that Spark had won the rights to the Rugby World Cup 2019 and Women’s Rugby World Cup 2021 and other premium rugby tournaments.

Spark says the platform used for the delivery of the streamed sports content won’t be the platform used for its current streaming service, Lightbox and will instead be from “a specialist platform provider , with extensive experience streaming live sports events.”

Spark managing director Simon Moutter, said the deals were “not about using sports content simply as an acquisition or retention tool for our broadband or mobile base,” tipping them as a potential future source of revenue and profit growth for the company.

Jeff Latch has been appointed as head of Spark Sport. Meanwhile Kiwis are watching anxiously, hoping their World Cup and football viewing won’t be marred by the issues seen in Australia in June when Optus’ struggled to deliver Fifa World Cup streaming services.

Changing face of NZ telco market as Trustpower reinforces market hold

Trustpower, an energy company which branched out into telecommunications, has locked established players out of the winners circle in the annual Roy Morgan New Zealand Customer Satisfaction Awards,  snapping up Home Phone Provider of the Year and Home Broadband Service Provider of the Year.

The company has won home phone provider for the past four years and said it had noted 12.5% growth in internet connections last year.

Craig Neustroski, Trustpower general manager markets, said the company was ramping up its use of predictive AI and machine learning to help customer satisfaction. “We started 2017 with nine automated processes and we will have reached 20 by the end of this year,” he says. “We now have over 400 topics that can be accessed through out chatbot, webchat or the Trustpower app, with our New Zealand-based phone agents taking calls from those who prefer to speak directly to a person.”

Skinny Mobile, Spark’s low-cost, online-only brand, was a first time winner in the award this year, taking out Mobile Phone Service Provider of the Year.

Apple, meanwhile, was rated the Mobile Handset Provider of the Year, with the iPhone also making it into the ‘Best of the Best’ with 95.0% satisfaction, behind Emirates on 96.2% and Holden on 95.9%.

Kordia completes first live 4K broadcast

Kordia has completed what it says is New Zealand’s first 4K ultra high definition broadcast in a move the state-owned commercial enterprise says shows 4K is a viable option for broadcasters.

“We’ve proven we can do it right here, right now using existing digital terrestrial technology which we believe is the most reliable option when delivering 4K content,” Dean Brain, Kordia head of media, said.

Huntly gets fibred-up

Fibre is beginning to roll out in Huntly as part of the UFB Extension project – the next phase of the New Zealand Government’s Ultrafast Broadband programme which sees an additional 190 towns receiving access to fibre-to-the-premise tech.

The Huntly build, which is carried out by UltraFast Fibre, will offer UFB connections to up to 3,000 homes and businesses.

William Hamilton, Ultrafast Fibre CEO, said the Huntly installation provided “a real opportunity to help reduce the digital divide.”

“We are aware that some parts of this community could benefit from some help in accessing high-speed broadband, and it is something UFF is prepared to push for,” he added.

On completion of the UFB Extension project in 2022, 87% of Kiwis will have access to FTTP.

The Kiwi wrap: UFB complaints, Fortinet deal for schools and Vodafone’s new fibre bridge

UFB complaints increase

Complaints about ultrafast broadband installations are on the rise in New Zealand, according to the latest report from the Telecommunications Dispute Resolutions.

The TDR, an industry body comprising a set of some 95% of the nation’s telco providers by revenue, which handles complaints for the sector, recorded 666 complaints and enquiries in the January to March quarter. Billing issues remained the largest source of complaints at 39% or 265 complaints/enquiries, with disputed charges the greatest proportion of billing complains.

Fibre installations, meanwhile, prompted 48 complaints/enquiries, or 7.2% of overall issues raised, behind customer service, faults and contracts – with TDR noting that while UFB installation complaints are on the rise, they “remain in proportion to the rise of installations across New Zealand.”

Vocus and Trustpower have continued to top the complaints list for New Zealand telcos for the Jan-Mar 2018 quarter, with 2.7 and 2.5 complaints per 10, 000 connections, respectively.  Both firms recorded a slight increase in complaints for the quarter.

Spark recorded just 0.5 complaints and enquiries per 10,000 connections, with 2degrees logging 0.7, and Vodafone 1.0 per 10,000.

Fortinet network security for Kiwi schools

New Zealand’s schools are to receive “more robust protection against online threats” with a new upgrade to the Network for Learning managed network, as usage across the network has soared to hit more than 12 petabytes in the first two terms.

The upgrade will see schools transitioning to a combined enterprise-grade firewall and internet filtering service from Fortinet. Improved internet filtering tools, modifiable to suit individual classes and students, and smart reporting will also be part of the upgrade, along with offerings to enable schools to manage attempts to bypass their internet filtering with virtual private networks.

Network for Learning (N4L) is a crown company whose network connects more than 2,400 schools across New Zealand.

The network has seen data usage almost double year-on-year. N4L said more than 374 million websites and 118.000 virus and malware threats have been blocked across the managed network in the first two terms this year.

Hawera High School in Taranaki is one school recently affected by ransomware, with student work and teaching resources among the files encrypted – with a demand of US$5,000 in bitcoin made for the return of the data. The school had opted out of N4L’s current security offering…

Vodafone serves up fixed wireless as fibre bridge

Vodafone New Zealand is offering a fixed wireless broadband service, targeting those customers waiting for fibre to be installed.

The Ultimate Home Fibre plan will provide customers with a mobile broadband connection via Vodafone’s 4G/3G network while they wait for a fibre connection.

The telco said its new service will make it easier for people to switch to fibre. “Our customers tell us they are frustrated by installation wait times, while others say they are putting off a move to fibre because they simply don’t want to be disconnected while they wait,” added Vodafone consumer director Matt Williams.

Vodafone claims ‘tens of thousands’ of customers across all providers are waiting for fibre, which is installed by Chorus and other local fibre companies.