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Government finds $60 million for more rural connections

Government finds $60 million for more rural connections
Digital economy and communications minister earmarks $60 million for more rural connections.

Budget gives Clark $60 million for more rural connections

David Clark, the digital economy and communications minister, announced the government will spend $60 million to further improve rural connectivity over the next few years.

He says $43 million of that is set aside to “improve network capacity and speeds where rural users have been experiencing slow broadband. This includes, but is not limited to, settlements in the Far North, Gisborne, Manawatu-Whanganui region, Taranaki, Southland and the Waikato.”

This is on top of the earlier Rural Capacity Upgrades Clark announced in February and brings the current round of spending on rural network upgrades to $90 million.

Clark says tens of thousands of rural residents will benefit from the spending and that is on top of the second phase of the Rural Broadband Initiative which has another year to run.

Remote users scheme

Government will spend a further $15 million on its new Remote Users Scheme. This scheme aims to provide broadband services in some of New Zealand’s most remote locations. These are areas where there is either no coverage at present or where there is only voice calling and text messaging.

Clark says the Remote Users Scheme will formally launch later this year.

There is another $2 million to extend the connected marae programme for up to two years. Clark says the extra money will allow for more marae to connect.

He says: “More than 560 marae have been connected through this initiative so far, with most of them located in rural areas, serving as hubs for their communities. I look forward to seeing more marae connected in the coming months”.

The government’s goal is for new or improved braodband to reach 99.8 percent of New Zealanders by the end of 2023.

Billing, customer service, network performance continue to rankle says TDR

In its 2021 second half report, the Telecommunications Dispute Resolution services says the number of enquiries the organisation fielded remained stable and user’s main concerns are unchanged.

The TDR deal with 941 incidents, compared with 935 in the previous half year. Billing, customer service and network performance remain the most complained about issues. Over the course of the year these areas saw fewer complaints as new problems emerged.

Enquiries about installation and transfers increased. The TDR says this is because of people moving to fibre and experiencing delays.

In the fourth quarter of the year the number of mobile complaints and enquiries from 2degrees customers doubled, while Vodafone and Spark’s numbers were much the same. There was a smaller leap in activity for 2degrees’ broadband complaints. Spark, Vodafone and Vocus all registered an increase in the number of complaints in Q4 when compared to Q3.

Complaints about home phones have trended down over time as people switch from traditional copper connections to fibre connections.

Measuring broadband report ticks fibre and HFC for streaming

Telecommunications Commissioner Tristan Gilbertson says the latest Measuring Broadband Report shows consumers enjoy world-class broadband. The report, prepared each quarter for the Commerce Commission by UK-based SamKnows says performance on all networks remains high, but this is particularly true for fibre and HFC connections.

One finding in the latest report is that peak download speeds on MyRepublic’s Fibre Max plans have dropped by around 95 mbps since the last report. The company’s users see peak download speeds of around 650 mbps compares with an average across the industry of 824 mbps. The company says it is working on improvements to fix this.

Sky TV will not be proceeding with MediaWorks takeover

A week after suggesting the deal may not proceed (see Download Weekly June 10), Sky TV issued a statement to the NZX confirming that the company is not going ahead with the MediaWorks acquisition.

Sky says: “As previously communicated, in parallel with its evaluation of potential investment opportunities, Sky has been exploring options to return capital to shareholders and accelerate organic investment in the business to drive further growth.”

The company says it will update shareholders on its capital management plans no later than the full year results announcement which is due on August 25.

Satellites remain vital in Tonga

CommsDay writes about the key role satellite continues to play in Tonga six months on from the tsunami. Grahame Lynch quotes SES Networks director John Turnbull talking at the Australasia Satellite Forum: “We will still play a key role in connecting Tonga. Will continue to play a role with the other nations in the Pacific where there’s only a single fibre as a backup there. And we’ll continue to play a role in connecting the secondary territories in each of the Pacific nations and also in Asia as well, where there’s a lack of fibre backup.”

Spark adds MacLeod, Broadbent to board

Spark has appointed Gordon MacLeod and Sheridan Broadbent as independent, non-executive directors. Both join the board on August 1. MacLeod will move onto Spark’s Audit and Risk Management Committee while Broadbent will join the Human Resources and Compensation Committee. Boardman is chair at Kordia, a role that ends when she moves to Spark. Paul Berriman will retire from Spark’s board at the next Annual General Meeting.

Kordia security unit Aura hires Abby Mainini

Kordia’s security business unit Aura Information Security has hired Abby Mainini as account director. The job will involve selling consultancy, managed security services and security products. Mainini joins Kordia from the government’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC). She has previously worked at Vodafone.

TVNZ ON Demand rebrands as TVNZ+

TVNZ has changed the name of its On Demand streaming service to TVNZ+. The move coincides with a launch of new content including 300 movies and new TV series. The company says its streaming service now reaches a million viewers each week.

Chorus updates capex guidance

Chorus says it has updated its capital expenditure guidance for the 2022 financial year. The change reflects the effect of the Covid pandemic on fibre installations and other network investments. It says it expects capex to be between $480 million and $500 million. At the half year result in February the company estimated the budget to be between $520 and $560 million. The earlier EBITDA guidance of $665 to $685 million remains unchanged.

In other news…

Gartner forecasts worldwide government IT spending will grow five percent in 2022. The report says Gartner expects all kinds of government technology spending to increase except internal services and telecommunications.

A report from the Dell’Oro Group says the telecom equipment market grew between four and five percent during the first quarter of 2022. It says demand for ‘wireline’ equipment is robust while growth in wireless is modest. Huawei remains the largest vendor despite the ban by western nations although it is losing market share.

Japan has introduced a law that makes online insults a criminal offence that could land people with a year in prison. The law was introduced after a TV personality killed themselves after receiving images of self harm and hateful comments on social media.

Background information. A recent YouTube video featuring NCSC director Lisa Fong provides a quick, articulate overview of the cyber security centre’s work.