In January Chorus reported fibre uptake on the company’s original UFB network passed the two-thirds milestone.
Chorus’s fibre uptake rate moved from 65 percent to 66 percent during the last three months of 2020. During the quarter the number of fibre connections increased by 29,000. A year earlier fibre uptake reached 60 percent.
Uptake across the entire Chorus fibre network, including the UFB2 areas, is now at 63 percent.
This squares with the most recent numbers for the nationwide UFB network which includes Northpower, UFF and Enable.
Crown Infrastructure Partners’ most recent quarterly connectivity update said the nationwide uptake rate was 62 percent. CIP published the report in September.
Given Chorus is the largest fibre company, and the others have been adding connections at a similar clip, we can assume the nationwide connection rate is now around two-thirds.
Invercargill has the highest uptake with around 75 percent of premises on the network buying fibre services. Other hotspots with above average take-up include Waiuku, Auckland, Nelson and Dunedin.
In its latest quarterly update Chorus says the total UFB roll out is now 92 percent complete. Towns added during the quarter include Taumarunui, Hunterville, Cheviot and Amberley.
Copper connections fell by 50,000 during the last three months of 2020. Fibre now accounts for 59 percent of all Chorus connections.
Data use sees uptake hits new highs
The monthly average data use continues to climb. In December it was 390GB per connection across the entire Chorus network. On fibre connections the average monthly use was 460GB.
Crown Infrastructure Partners says the network is on target to reach 87 percent of New Zealand premises by the end of 2022. There’s some scope to push fibre further into rural areas, but the network companies have picked all the low hanging fruit. From now on the cost per additional connection rises sharply. Any extra build will need more government money.
There’s an economic case for more fibre. With high uptake levels, it is a less risky investment.
Yet much of the 13 percent not covered by fibre is catered for by decent quality fixed wireless broadband and the wisps or wireless internet service providers.
The problem is that there are two distinct classes of fixed wireless, at least with fixed wireless delivered from mobile phone towers. Those who live close to a tower get a good service. Those living further away do not. This maybe as many as five percent of all premises, although the number is probably lower.
It’s unlikely those customers would be easily served by fibre. Giving the last few percent of the population a good quality connection is our remaining broadband challenge.