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Average fibre speed passes 400 Mbps, uptake at 69 per cent

Average fibre speed passes 400 Mbps, uptake at 69 per cent
New Zealand’s average fibre speed passes the 400 Mbps milestone. Chorus tests a new network application.

Customers on New Zealand’s fibre broadband network are now seeing average speeds of 405 Mbps. That’s up 7 Mbps on the previous quarter and 128 Mbps higher than six months earlier.

Higher average speeds are a direct consequence of the fibre companies’ moves to raise the standard plan from 100 Mbps to 300 Mbps late in 2021.

The increase has been helped by 12,500 connections switching to gigabit plans during the quarter.

There are now a total of 332 mobile towers built for the Rural Broadband initiative and the Mobile Black Spots programme.

In its latest quarterly connectivity report, Crown Infrastructure Partners says UFB fibre uptake now sits at 69 percent.

That’s up a single percent in the three months to March 2022. During that time a further 12 towns were added to the network.

Chorus tests power outage early warning system

A service now being tested by Chorus can use the fibre broadband network to give an early warning of electricity outages.

Chorus PowerSense uses a feature of the optical network terminal (ONT) boxes that pipe fibre broadband into homes and offices.

When an ONT’s power is switched off, the terminal sends a short ‘last-gasp’ signal that reports the disruption. A similar ‘first-breath’ signal from the ONT lets the network know when power is restored.

This information can be used by power companies who are not always immediately aware of disruptions to the electricity network. It can help them move to fix the disruption and restore power faster.

Chorus says it has completed a successful proof-of-concept trial for the service, working with lines companies including Electra in the Kāpiti and Horowhenua districts. When there were power outages, the lines company reports that it knew what was going on ten minutes before the phone calls started coming in.

The tests show PowerSense is able to identify and locate power outages in near real-time.

Chorus intends to launch the service commercially later this year to all line companies operating in Chorus fibre areas.

There are privacy implications, but Chorus says customers are able to opt-out of having their ONT report back in this way.

Chorus says since the service was first made public earlier this week it has already had enquiries from lines companies about the service.

25 Gbps broadband in sight as Chorus tests Nokia 25G PON kit

Chorus demonstrated Nokia’s 25 gigabit passive optical networking technology to media and industry representatives in the company’s Auckland laboratory yesterday. It was the first 25G PON demonstration in the Southern Hemisphere.

Using test conditions, the hardware managed to hit a download speed of 21.4 Gbps while also carrying a 8 Gbps Hyperfibre connection and a gigabit internet connection over the same fibre strand.

Chorus says it has no formal plan to offer a 25 Gbps product at this stage. And anyway, the Nokia kit will not be commercially available until at least the end of this year.

A future 25 Gbps fibre service will depend on retail service providers choosing to run with the technology and the level of customer interest.

Even so, the company has set down an important marker for where New Zealand fibre broadband is heading.

It took Chorus about three years to get what is now branded as Hyperfibre from the laboratory demonstration stage to a commercial product.

Security incidents down from 2021 peak says Cert NZ

Online security incidents and reported financial losses have fallen back from the peak seen at the end of 2021.

Cert NZ’s Cyber Security Insights report for Q1 2022 says numbers remain high. The government cyber security agency had 2,333 reports in the first quarter of this year.

While that’s a long way down from the 3,997 incidents reported for the fourth quarter of 2021, it is up 63 percent on the same quarter a year ago.

The reported direct financial loss is up 23 percent on the same time a year ago to $3.7 million.

Phishing and credential harvesting top threats

Phishing and credential harvesting make up almost six in ten of the incident reports.

Cert NZ Director Rob Pope says: “Phishing is a major concern as it’s simple to do, from a technical perspective, and it’s a gateway to other kinds of incidents.”

Phishing can give criminals access to people’s credentials which can then be used to access other accounts and systems. They also let attackers know which victims are likely to respond and then use that information to run other scams.

NFTs raise their ugly heads

The quarter has seen the appearance of scams involving NFTs (non-fungible tokens). Cryptocurrency scams remain a rising threat, but these are now complemented by scams looking to buy or sell NFTs.

Cert says NFTs appeal to attackers because they remain unregulated.

During the quarter Cert received eight reports about NFTs with an associated financial loss of close to $50,000.

Spark ponders payphone future

Spark’s payphone network loses money for the company. At a time when almost everyone has a mobile, they don’t see much use.

Yet, even now, there are 2500 remaining payphones around the nation.

Call volumes on payphone have dropped 70 percent tin the last four years. Spark says 90 percent of payphones are used less than three minutes each day. The company says the WiFi hotspot traffic is now on a similar downward path.

This week the company talked about its options for dealing with the phones.

The fact that the technology used in payphones is almost obsolete doesn’t help. Chorus plans to retire the physical copper network while Spark is closing down its PSTN network.

Spark says payphone equipment is no longer made and getting spares is difficult. There’s no obvious path to a fibre or fixed wireless technology upgrade.

While the company is exploring optional uses for payphones, it says it will begin removing low-use payphone later this year. There is community consultation in areas where removing payphones may cause problems.

Otherwise, the search for an alternative use continues.

SMBs plan to increase tech spend

New Zealand small and medium-sized businesses that have survived lockdowns are now increasing their spend on cloud, online security and devices.

That’s the conclusion of a survey conducted by IDC research.

It found 57 percent of SMBs are either growing or humming along in new modes of operation and 62 percent plan to spend more on technology this year. That’s up on the 43 percent who indicated they would increase their IT spending last year.

The analyst firm surveyed 1000 small businesses in New Zealand and Australia – the results were largely similar.

It’s not all good news. IDC research director Monica Collier says: “The impacts from Covid have forced many SMBs to accelerate their digital transformation journey, and many have high aspirations in this space. However, some won’t have the scale for the in-house digital skill sets required for success.”

“A key frustration for many SMBs is where their service provider lacks the ability to help them with business strategy. Service providers that can bridge this gap between technical expertise and business strategy expertise will have a market advantage.”

In other news

Businessdesk reports Spark is taking legal action against Genesis over its use of the logo used by its Frank retail electricity brand. There’s a close resemblance to Spark’s logo.

At Reseller New, Rob O’Neill writes about a planned review of the all-of-government telecommunications-as-a-service (TaaS) contracts. He says the review will take into account how the market for telecommunications is evolving.

The government says its Ārohia – innovation trailblazer grant will support around 100 businesses over its first four years. It will invest $250 million in commercial research and development.

NZ Herald reporter Chris Keall quotes Jarden head of research Arie Dekker who says it would make sense if Spark was to exit the streaming sports broadcasting business. That’s been the trend overseas with telcos either dropping or downgrading their investments in sports broadcasting as either others with deeper pockets bid for the rights or the sports codes develop their own streaming services.

Vodafone has signed a deal with Global Women, a not-for-profit membership organisation pushing for workplace diversity.

CommsDay reports Starlink has launched a plan that gives large vehicles internet access. It covers all New Zealand and most of the southern half of Australia. Having Starlink while on the move adds an extra US$25 a month to the subscription.