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MBNZ records leap on 300 Mbps upgrade

Last year's fibre speed upgrade from 100 Mbps to 300 Mbps has paid dividends. Starlink has increased prices overseas with local changes expected to follow soon. 

In its latest Measuring Broadband New Zealand report, the Commerce Commission says the average download speed is now 314 Mbps.

This is a result of moves by fibre wholesalers to boost speeds on 100 Mbps plans to 300 Mbps at no extra cost. The initiative was first pushed by Chorus as a way of meeting competition from fixed wireless broadband and taken up by the other fibre wholesalers.

All the benefits of this upgrade have been passed on to customers.

The report found average peak hour download speeds on Fibre Max plans have improved in the last three months. The average is now 841 Mbps. That’s up from 807 Mbps late last year. Almost three quarters of tests run on Fibre Max lines now show speeds above 900 Mbps.

Past surveys showed customers on Vodafone’s HFC Max plan experienced a speed decrease. This has now returned to normal.

Almost every customer (99 percent) with a Fibre 300, Fibre Max or HFC Max plan is able to stream four simultaneous UHD Netflix streams.

Telecommunications Commissioner Tristan Gilbertson says these results highlight the difference between popular fibre plans and lower speed broadband technologies – including 4G wireless broadband and copper. This is important for homes where more than one person is using the connection for high data use activities such as online gaming and video streaming.

He says: “Ensuring consumers understand the speed they can expect from different technologies is critical to them choosing the broadband plan that best suits their needs. This reinforces why we issued our marketing guidelines last year, which has led to retailers using MBNZ results in their advertising.”

Starlink has raised prices for customers in the US by between 10 and 20 percent. The low earth orbit satellite broadband provider says the increase is a result of inflation, which has taken off worldwide in recent months.

The US price of its antenna hardware will climb from US$500 to $600 for new customers. American customers will see the cost of a monthly connection rise from US$100 to $110.

At the time of writing Starlink has yet to communicate any changes to New Zealand users. The price of the hardware has already increased once for customers here.

When the service launched the hardware price was NZ$800. It is now $1040. If local prices increase in line with the US, customers here can expect to pay over $1200 for the hardware. Reports from overseas suggest each antenna kit costs Starlink around $3000 to make and dispatch.

Monthly charges in New Zealand are $160. Local customers can expect that to rise to around $180.

Users on a Starlink discussion on the Geekzone site have reported problems connecting to services such as Trademe which rely on geolocation to permit traffic.

The problem was caused when Starlink moved users to a new point of presence. The company says the affected service providers have yet to update their list of allowed IP addresses.

One Geekzone poster suggests the problem also affects streaming services from Disney+ and TVNZ as well as the Lotto website.

Spark takes Adroit slice

Spark now owns close to 40 percent of Adroit, a specialist in environmental internet of things technology.

Mark Beder, Spark technology director, says it is a strategic investment reinforcing his company’s commitment to IoT. He says: “Our three-year strategy identifies IoT as a key future market, and in the last financial year we saw strong revenue growth and an 83% percent increase in connections.”

Spark issues sustainability bond

Spark’s Finance subsidiary has completed the bookbuild for a 6.5-year NZ$100m Sustainability-Linked Bond.

Sustainability bonds are a form of finance where the cost is linked to meeting goals such as carbon reduction.

In this case Spark pays an interest rate of 4.37 percent if it can reduce greenhouse gas emissions. If it fails to meet a 56 percent reduction by June 30 2026 it will pay a higher rate.

AWS: One million Kiwis need more digital skills

Cloud vendor AWS issued a report on the state of digital skills in New Zealand businesses. It says a third of workers, about a million people, will need to pick up more digital skills in the next year.

The report put it in more polite terms, but says New Zealand has one of the biggest ‘skills gaps’ of any country AWS has surveyed. In part that’s because we have embraced digital technology more than other nations.

Predictably AWS identified cloud skills as an area needing urgent attention. It also singled out cybersecurity skills.

Spark Sport adds more Netball coverage

Spark Sport has the New Zealand rights to Suncorp Super Netball, the world’s largest netball competition. Games start this weekend, the first match features the NSW Swifts against the Giants. Spark Sport also has rights to Australian international fixtures, although not games featuring the Silver Ferns.

Spark hires Beckett as strategy director

Aliza Beckett is to join Spark’s leadership team, taking on the new role of strategy director. She joins from Liberty Global London, a telco specialising in converged communications. Before that she spent time with Amazon Studios, YouTube and McKinsey. Beckett takes up the job in June.

In other news…

A cyber attack on the day Russia invaded Ukraine disrupted residential broadband services across Eastern Europe. The outage affected Viasat’s satellite operations and customers of at least six ISPs. At the time of writing, late Thursday evening, connectivity problems continue to affect users.

In related news the US Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) issued an alert over potential threats to satellite networks as America braces for expected cyber attacks.

‌Tarana Wireless a US-based wireless broadband technology company closed off a funding round as it prepares an IPO. The company offers a low-cost fast broadband technology that delivers gigabit speeds via fixed wireless networks.

Customers of Apple’s online services experience outages on two days this week. There were problems with Maps, the App Store, Apple Music and the online story. The outages were not related to cyber attacks.