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UFB average speed closes on 400 Mbps

Crown Infrastructure Partners’ latest quarterly report shows a leap in UFB download speeds and significant rural broadband progress.

Average UFB speed nears 400 Mbps as uptake hits 68 per cent

Chorus’ move to lift standard plan fibre speeds from 100 Mbps to 300 Mbps late last year has paid off. In its latest quarterly connectivity report Crown Infrastructure Partners says the average fibre speed in New Zealand is now 398 Mbps. That’s 121 Mbps higher than in the previous report.

CIP says 48 per cent of fibre customers are on 300 Mbps, two per cent are on 500 Mbps and 21 per cent, or a total of 256,053 connections, are on gigabit or higher speeds.

Fibre uptake across New Zealand is now at 68 per cent. Growth has slowed as many customers have opted for the fixed wireless broadband alternative. There are places where more than nine out of ten premises now have fibre. The leading area is Whatawhata in the Waikato where 98 per cent of connected premises have taken a fibre service.

Rural connectivity

The last quarter of 2021 saw progress with rural connectivity projects. A further 19 towns were connected to the UFB network bringing the total to 346. Ten more tourism sites were added to the broadband network. A further 12,688 rural homes and businesses now have access to improved broadband, lifting the total to 70,911.

In the quarter 38 new mobile towers were added to the RCG network – there are now 310. A further 70 towers were upgraded.

Uptake on RCG towers reached 40 per cent in the quarter and an additional 37 Marae were connected to the network.

Announcing these figures, Minister for the Digital Economy and Communications, David Clark said: “The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated how reliable internet is vital to being able to work, learn and socialise from our homes. Access to a good connection should not be a postcode lottery.”

Comment: It’s been a hell of a ride since Steven Joyce first announced the plan to build a fibre network in 2008. Now, 14 years later the pieces are almost all in place and we are seeing the benefits. It is an important technology and one where New Zealand has done extremely well. We are a world leader at providing broadband.

At times I feel more like a cheerleader than a journalist writing about our broadband network. But as the next story shows, building New Zealand’s communications infrastructure doesn’t always run as smooth as the UFB project.

Transmission Gully mobile black spots back in the news

Writing at The New Zealand Herald Chris Keall reports on the numerous mobile coverage blackspots on the Transmission Gully motorway which opened this week. The story suggests the new motorway may need to be dug up to install new cell towers.

He quotes Telecommunications Forum boss Paul Brislen: “The mobile network operators produced a design plan to provide coverage on Transmission Gully back in 2020. Since then, mobile operators have not been able to gain access to the area in order to build any mobile infrastructure prior to the road opening.”

The problem has been known about for some time. Last September Stuff reported on the blackspots days before the planned motorway opening date.

Waka Kotahi, the NZ Transport Agency says the motorway will not need to be dug because there are built-in ducts which can handle the power and data cables needed for a new cell tower.

Trilogy sees 2degrees sale to complete this quarter

2degrees parent company Trilogy International Partners says the business saw revenue grow seven per cent in the fourth quarter of 2021.

In a statement outlining the 2021 results Trilogy says fixed broadband subscribers increased 13 per cent and postpaid mobile subscriber numbers were up 8 per cent. Business post subscribers were up 24 per cent compared with a year earlier.

CEO Brad Horwitz says the $1.3 billion sale of 2degrees to Vocus Group Limited “crystallises value for our shareholders at a valuation which reflects the accomplishments of our team in New Zealand”.

He says: “The sale process continues to advance as expected and was recently approved by Trilogy shareholders as well as the New Zealand Commerce Commission and the New Zealand Government Communications Security Bureau. One additional government approval remains, the Overseas Investment Office, which is expected in the second quarter.”

Vodafone leverages RCG sites for IoT reach

Vodafone says it is working with the Rural Connectivity Group to extend its Narrowband Internet of Things network. In the next few years it expects the network to cover 60 per cent of the country.

Tuatahi notes Fortnite surge

Hamilton-based Tuatahi says it saw a 20 per cent surge in data on the company’s wholesale fibre network on March 20. That was the day Fortnite Chapter 3 Season 2 was released. CEO John Hanna says it was the highest spike on Tuatahi’s network to date, but there were no bottlenecks for customers.

Chorus submits price path statement

Chorus published an announcement to the NZX on Thursday saying the company was submitting its first price-path compliance statement to the Commerce Commission.

The maximum revenue for 2022 is $692 million. This includes pass through costs of around $16 million. In its statement Chorus forecasts its regulated fibre revenue will be $657 million.

Price-path compliance statements are part of the new regulatory framework for fibre services. The statement aims to confirm that revenues will stay below an agreed level for a set period.

NZME in revenue talks with Meta, Google

New Zealand Herald publisher NZME looks to be the first local media company to negotiate a commercial deal with Meta and Google. The deals compensate media companies when tech companies publish their material online.

Jarden analyst Arie Decker says: “The increasing likelihood of a deal with Google and potentially Meta would provide another important source of new revenue for NZME.” He estimates the deal will be worth between $2.5 and 3.5 million a year in the first five years growing eventually to nearer $5 million.

In other news

Rob O’Neill reports for Reseller News on plans for yet another large scale data centre. Like Datagrid, T4 Group aims to build in Southland where it can take advantage of a cooler climate and access to hydro power. Speaking of Datagrid; Stuff reports the company has called for expressions of interest to build its Southland data centre. The Domain Name Commission has launched its online dispute resolution pilot to help .nz domain name holders resolve .nz domain disputes in a more time-efficient and cost-effective manner.