While Australia’s politicians continue to wrangle over that country’s FTTP (fibre-to-the-premises) project, New Zealand’s is progressing nicely. However, New Zealand’s relatively low fibre uptake could yet inform Australia’s FTTP debate.
Figures releases yesterday by communications minister Amy Adams show that 134,000 homes and businesses are now able to connect to the UFB (ultrafast broadband) network. Building is taking place in 24 of the 33 towns and cities that will eventually be on the government’s network.
Meanwhile 89,000 rural homes and businesses are able to connect to the Rural Broadband Initiative through fixed wireless connections and a further 36,000 rural users can now use fixed-line services.
To date only 3800 customers have signed for UFB fibre services. That’s a relatively low take-up rate – less that 3%.
The priority at this stage is to sign businesses, schools and medical facilities. Yet the fibre companies deliberately started their residential build in areas where they expected the highest uptake.
GIven that fibre isn’t any more expensive than existing copper-delivered broadband plans, this suggests there could be problems persuading consumers to switch to fibre.
There are two reasons why more haven’t moved. First, the big ISPs, who account for the overwhelming majority of the market, have yet to begin selling fibre services. That’s likely to happen in the coming months – having more people on the UFB will give them more incentive to move into the fibre market.
Second, the government and the people boosting fibre have done a terrible job selling the advantages of the technology to everyday consumers. Instead of telling people fibre is fast and reliable, there’s been a focus on ridiculous and, to most people, irrelevant high-end applications. Telecom and Vodafone are likely to do a far better sales job than the government.