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Fastest ISPs in New Zealand

PC Magazine asked me to write about New Zealand’s fastest ISPs as part of a series looking an online speeds in countries around the world.

The story uses data collected by Ookla, the company behind speedtest.net and uses aggregated data collected by the online service. Ookla found New Zealand has an average download speed of 20.96 Mbps. That’s respectable, but not great. It ranks us at 45 out of 188 measured countries. We’re a long way behind Hong Kong which averages 89.4 Mbps, but then we are not a small, compact city-state.

The good news is that we’re already comfortably ahead of Australia, which gets just 16.0 Mbps. That’s only going to get better as our nationwide UFB and RBI networks gather momentum.

So who are the fastest ISPs? You’ll have to read the story to get the full details. We’ve found the nationwide fastest ISP and broken down the results for Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch too.

Copper, fibre, mobile

As I say in the report, it’s not a perfect measure as Ookla doesn’t differentiate between copper, fibre or mobile data connections. And aggregation means ISPs with more rural customers will look worse than those operating mainly in the big centres. Hence:

Spark (formerly Telecom NZ) and Vodafone dominate New Zealand’s broadband market; together they account for around three-quarters of all connections. Smaller ISPs get better average speeds in our table. That’s in part because Ookla doesn’t differentiate between mobile data and fixed-line broadband, nor does the nationwide figure take the huge gulf between rural and urban speeds into account. Spark and Vodafone have many mobile and rural data customers, while 2degrees is mobile-only, which also means lower average speeds.

I understand PC Mag intends to repeat these tests. That will be interesting as it means we’ll get an external look at how the government’s UFB and RBI projects change overall performance. We’ll also see if our new networks lift our broadband performance relative to the rest of the world.

Readers with long memories may recall I was managing editor of the Australian and New Zealand editions of PC Magazine when the titles where printed here in the mid-1990s. 

Chorus fibre broadband building

From a story I wrote for today’s New Zealand Herald:

Smart cities are where digital technologies are used to create better places to live and work.

Sensors, intelligent networks and applications combine to connect, monitor and analyse information in order to make the city work more efficiently. This can mean making transport run smoother; providing cleaner, more efficient energy, making people safer and delivering essential government services such as health and education more effectively.

At the last count there were 288 smart city projects around the world including Seoul, Glasgow and Barcelona.

Infrastructure report: The fibre route to smart cities – Business – NZ Herald News.

In the story I interview Chorus network strategy manager Kurt Rodgers. He says rolling out fibre to 33 towns around New Zealand gives us a great jumping off point for creating smart cities.

Smart cities drive fibre interest

Chorus sees smart cities as a way to whip up more interest in fibre networks. That’s clever, not everyone wants to stream six channels of HD TV at a time or get super-fast ping times while playing the latest Xbox titles. Although that does seem to be the main driver for home users installing fibre.

While there is an entertaining side to ultrafast broadband, streaming television does not justify the government spending $1.5 billion of tax payer money. On the other hand creating jobs, revitalising run-down towns and generally improving the quality of life will broaden the technology’s appeal.

For me, Rodgers’ most interesting comments were about the bottom-up effect of Chorus’s Gigatown promotion which has ordinary people contributing ideas on how their communities can benefit from fibre.

Akamai

Akamai’s latest State of the Internet report shows 6.7 percent of New Zealand internet connections were above 10 Mbps in the third quarter of 2013. Fast broadband accounts are rising fast.

Although that’s a rise of 133 percent on the previous year, our speeds are still behind the rest of the world. According to Akamai we rank 38, that’s one place behind Australia and a long way behind South Korea where 71 percent of connections are about 10 Mbps.

You could interpret those numbers as showing the investment and disruption of the government’s Ultrafast Broadband project means we are keeping pace with the rest of the world, not pulling up the table.

When it comes to broadband speeds of greater than 4 Mbps, New Zealand ranks at 41 in the world with 55 percent of connections operating at that level. In this table, we are three places ahead of Australia at 44.

Average connection speeds in New Zealand were 5.3Mbps, that’s behind the 5.8Mbps in Australia, but comfortably above the global average of 3.8Mbps. Average peak connection speeds were 21Mbps, well behind Australia which gets an average peak of 32.5Mbps.

Poor NZ mobile broadband

New Zealand’s average mobile connection speed at the end of 2013 was just 2.5 Mbps, less than half the 5.4 Mbps average in Australia. That puts our mobile broadband well behind most of Europe and North America. New Zealand’s peak mobile broadband speed of 11.9 Mbps was less than ten percent of the 135.6 Mbps peak in Australia.

Akamai reports for traffic from mobile devices on all networks, Apple’s Mobile Safari was responsible for just over 47 percent of requests, while Android Webkit drove only 32 percent of requests.

Rolleston Canterbury New Zealand fibre

If Whangarei is New Zealand’s fibre city, the Canterbury Plains town of Rolleston is our fibre town.

A media release from Enable Networks says more than 15 percent of Rolleston homes and businesses have switched from copper to fibre. Significantly, it is less than six months since Enable Networks lit the town’s fibre network.

Enable says it has received almost 600 orders for fibre broadband from the town. That is almost three times the national uptake rate.

Earthquakes

Rolleston is a special case. Although the town was close to the centre of the Christchurch earthquakes, the land is stable. This means Rolleston is one of the fastest growing towns in the country with people leaving the nearby city moving in to new subdivisions.

Even so, leading the country on fibre adoption is a feather in the town’s cap and an indication something special could be brewing out on the Canterbury Plains.

Is it significant or just co-incidence that the two New Zealand places leading the way on fibre are where networks are being built by local fibre companies, not Chorus? Possibly. One thing is for sure. Enable Networks and NorthPower are more interested in building networks than taking the Commerce Commission to court.

Whangarei fibreNorthPower will soon finish building Whangarei’s fibre network. It will be the first city in New Zealand to have a full, ultrafast broadband network.

Most places in Whangarei are already connected to the Northpower Fibre UFB network. By the end of May the job will be over and more than 19,000 homes and businesses will able to cut the copper wires. NorthPower’s agreement with Crown Fibre Holdings was to complete the network by June 2014.

A December 2013 broadband update from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment reported the UFB project reached 27 percent of people in the coverage area. So Whangarei is well ahead of the rest of the country.

To be fair to NorthPower’s rivals, the network build was already underway when the UFB project started and the company is connecting houses using overhead cables, elsewhere fibre companies are running cables underground. Even so, it’s an achievement.

Being first cab off the rank is a better prize than winning Chorus’s Gigatown promotion. Whangarei residents will see fast internet connections up to five years ahead of some of us living in the Chorus fibre footprint.

If the promised economic benefits from having fibre running through suburban streets are real, we’ll see the effects first in the Northland city. If you know of anyone researching the economic effects of fibre in the city get in touch. I can find lots of fine words predicting there will be economic benefits in Whangarei, but no hard data or firm estimates — there are numbers for other parts of the country.

Telecom NZ adds Whangarei fibre service

NorthPower says its uptake rate is now at around eight percent. That’s a modest figure, but ahead of the roughly five percent nationwide.

That uptake number is likely to get a shot in the arm from New Zealand’s biggest broadband service provider. Earlier today Telecom NZ said it has launched its fibre plans in the city. The lowest cost residential option is $85 a month for a 40GB plan.