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Lifting Connectivity in Aotearoa brings rural broadband boost

The government has released Lifting Connectivity in Aotearoa, a paper that sets out its connectivity vision for the next ten years.
Lifting Connectivity in Aotearoa brings rural broadband boost
The government has released Lifting Connectivity in Aotearoa, a paper that sets out its connectivity vision for the next ten years.

The government has released Lifting Connectivity in Aotearoa, a paper that sets out its connectivity vision for the next ten years.

A key goal is that all New Zealanders will have access to high-speed connectivity networks. It aims to keep New Zealand in the top 20 per cent of nations in international connectivity measures.

At the same time, Rural Communities Minister Damien O’Connor and Minister for the Digital Economy and Communications Dr David Clark have announced new contracts to improve rural broadband coverage.

The contracts expand the Rural Capacity Upgrade programme and aim to improve broadband connections for around 30,000 rural homes that currently have poor coverage.

Its focus is on upgrading existing rural cellular network towers and adding capacity elsewhere. While the ministers name the Far North, Gisborne, Manawatū-Whanganui region, Taranaki, Southland and Waikato as areas that will benefit, they say “the programme is by no means limited to these areas”.

Clark says: “We’re committed to improving rural connectivity and are on track to see 99.8 per cent of New Zealanders receive access to improved broadband as a result of the Ultra-Fast Broadband roll-out, Rural Broadband Initiative, Marae Digital Connectivity programme, and the Mobile Black Spot Fund by the end of 2023.”

Comment: Keeping New Zealand in the top 20 per cent of nations is a modest goal. Today we would be well inside the top 10 per cent.

Yet as many nations around the world commit to 100 per cent or near 100 per cent fibre coverage, New Zealand will slip behind if we don’t increase the fibre footprint deep into rural communities. Today, 13 per cent of the nation does not have first rate broadband.

While 100 per cent fibre coverage may be hard to justify, there is a clear economic case for fibre to reach well beyond 87 per cent of the popular.

Fixed wireless broadband has its place, and with 5G it continues to improve, but it remains a second-class option. It will not be enough to keep us in the top 20 per cent. At the same time, rural users will understandably feel left behind if they do not have access to the same performance and prices as their urban counterparts.

Wider mission for Measuring Broadband New Zealand

Future Measuring Broadband New Zealand reports will incorporate data on satellite technologies and a broader range of fixed wireless service providers including 5G services. It will also add service providers with a rural customer base.

Announcing what it describes as “the next phase of Measuring Broadband New Zealand” the Commerce Commission says it has reappointed SamKnows to survey performance on the various networks. It says it made the decision following a review of the MBNZ programme and a competitive tender.

The UK-based company has held the contract for performance reporting since 2018. Its new contract is for a further three years.

Each quarter the Commerce Commission publishes a MBNZ report giving consumers an independent snapshot of the market and the relative performance of the major service providers.

Until now it has not included satellite technology, however with Starlink now having an estimated 10,000 New Zealand customers it needs to be considered along with other options.

Small takes over as Commerce Commission chair

The government has appointed Dr John Small as the new Commerce Commission chair. He takes over from Anna Rawlings, the current chair, on Monday December 5.

Contact Energy, InspireNet Lightwire, Voyager named TDL outsiders

The Commerce Commission named four service providers with telecommunications revenues of more than $10 million who are not members of the Telecommunications Dispute Resolution Scheme.

Contact Energy, InspireNet, Lightwire and Voyager are all outside of the scheme that aims to resolve disputes between service providers and customers.

Between them, the four companies have 100,000 customers. Contact Energy is the largest with around 70,000 telecommunications customers.

The TDR gives consumers a degree of protection in what can often be an asymmetric relationship.

It is a voluntary scheme, companies don’t have to belong, but as the Commerce Commission points out customers are not aware if their service provider is a member or not.

Telecommunications Commissioner, Tristan Gilbertson, says this is a problem because of the high levels of consumer complaints in the telecommunications sector.

He says: "It’s great to see that most providers are committed to doing the right thing when it comes to customer disputes – but we’re disappointed that these four providers don’t appear to feel the same responsibility.

“These providers are profiting from providing telecommunications services to New Zealand consumers while avoiding the accountability that TDR is designed to provide.”

Smaller ISPs have argued through their trade body ISPANZ, the Internet Service providers Association of New Zealand, has previously argued that the cost structure of the TDR favours the larger service providers over smaller ones. It says there is a cost in membership that has no benefits for either the service provider or their customers.

Billing stays top TDR complaint

Billing issues remind the number one reason consumers contact the Telecommunications Dispute Resolution Scheme. It accounts for more than two out of every five (42 per cent) complaints.

The TDR says the number of complaints it receives is returning to pre-pandemic levels after a lull during 2020–21. There were 2271 complaints during the last year compared with 1940 in 2020–21. Complaints peaked in 2019–20 at 2802.

Business class fibre hits 100k milestone

Chorus says there are now more than 100,000 business grade fibre connections. That’s an increase of 150 per cent from January 2019 when there were 40,000 business connections.

While many companies use consumer fibre connections, business grade fibre offers priority restoration in the event of a fault and faster upload speeds.

Deidre Steyn, Voyager’s chief commercial officer, says the main reason customers choose a business-grade fibre service is the priority restoration.

She says: "As a business owner, you need the certainty that you’ll be placed at the top of the queue to get back online if something goes wrong.

"We know from our customers that the additional capability and reliability of business fibre does show up in improved productivity, particularly for businesses with critical data applications.

Chorus says the average business connection now chews through 685 GB of data in a month. This is up 65 per cent from January 2019.

Businesses with a Hyperfibre connection now use well over a terabyte of data in a month. The average monthly data usage on Chorus’ Hyperfibre business plans is now 1,626 GB. The company says many early adopters of multi-gigabit Hyperfibre services use over 10 TB a month.

Ericsson: 5G the fastest growing mobile generation

By the end of the year there will be a billion 5G mobile subscriptions. This will climb to 5 billion by the end of 2028.

In its latest Mobility Report, Swedish telecommunications equipment maker Ericsson says the fast growth in 5G connections comes despite the economic challenges now facing much of the world. It says 5G has grown faster than previous generations of mobile technology. It took 4G two years longer to reach one billion connections.

The report goes on to say that fixed wireless broadband access has grown faster than anticipated. This is mainly down to its performance in India and other emerging markets. Ericsson says there will be more than 300 million fixed wireless connections by the end of 2028.

Other highlights:

  • by 2028 5G will account for 55 per cent of all mobile subscriptions and account for 70 per cent of mobile traffic.
  • 4G connections continue to grow and will peak at around 5.2 billion.
  • Total mobile subscriptions will reach 8.4 billion next year and 9.2 billion by the end of 2028.

CDC opens one data centre, says more are on the way

Australia’s CDC Data Centres officially opened its first New Zealand hyperscale data centre in Silverdale this week. The company’s Silverdale and Hobsonville data centres have been operating since August and are CDC’s first sites outside Australia.

CDC says the data centres are the largest and most secure of their type in New Zealand.

At the launch, CEO Greg Boorer said the company is committed to further growth in New Zealand.

He says: “The demand here is strong for these state-of-the-art, highly secure, sovereign, sustainable facilities. CDC has secured land in Tāmaki Makaurau, where we plan to further expand our Silverdale and Hobsonville campuses.”

CDC currently operates 13 data centres across six sites in Auckland, Canberra and Sydney and is building a new data centre campus in Melbourne. The business is 48.2 per cent owned by Infratil which owns a similar share of Vodafone, soon to be renamed as One New Zealand.

In addition to Vodafone, CDC’s New Zealand customers include Vector and Korida.

New Zealand has seen a huge increase in data centre investment in recent years with Amazon, Microsoft and Google all making significant cloud investments here.

Vodafone becomes Microsoft Azure peering partner

Vodafone has become a Microsoft Azure peering service partner. The carrier says this gives its customers highly available connectivity to Microsoft Services.

In a related move, Vodafone says it is the first New Zealand telco to launch an “operator connect” service. In a media statement the company says“ ”Vodafone Calling for Microsoft Teams allows customers to onboard Calling for Teams directly from their Admin Console, reducing the cost and speeding up the process of deploying and managing their telco services in the process."

Dearlove to head Google Cloud in New Zealand

Google Cloud has hired Paul Dearlove to head the company’s New Zealand operation. Dearlove was previously head of SAP Australia and New Zealand at Google and before that was at SAP. In August Google announced a New Zealand cloud region.

Google is a distant third behind Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure and makes an operating loss while its larger rivals have high profit margins. However, Google Cloud is the fastest growing of the three and rapidly increasing its market share.

Local customers for Google Cloud include Vodafone, Trade Me and Kami, an Auckland-based online education firm.

In other news…

Christchurch City Council has appointed CCL, Spark’s cloud-focused subsidiary, as its managed service partner. It’s a complex deal covering private cloud and hybrid cloud along with public cloud services on both AWS and Microsoft Azure.

RNZ reports on the independent review that found systemic racism at InternetNZ. The review came after the organisation reacted slowly to a video calling for Māori to be killed.

The Irish Data Protection Commission hit Facebook’s parent, Meta with a €265 million fine for breaching European data protection law. The fine is for an incident where more than 530 million Facebook users had personal information, including email addresses and mobile phone numbers, exposed online. At the time of the incident, Facebook attempted to play it down arguing the data that had been found floating around online was “old data”.

Counterpoint Research reports smartwatch shipments were up 30 per cent year on year in the third quarter of 2022. Apple’s watch business grew 48 per cent in the period thanks to strong sales of the new Apple Watch 8 series. It accounts for more half of all premium smartwatch sales. India is now the largest market for smartwatches.

America’s Federal Communications Commission has made 1,200 megahertz of spectrum in the 6 GHz band (5.925–7.125 GHz) available for unlicensed use. In other words, it is available for Wi-Fi 6 and means there is five times as much spectrum available for wireless networking - something that will boost speeds and help rural connectivity.

The Download Weekly is supported by Chorus New Zealand.

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