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UFB uptake closes on a million as 58 percent connect

UFB progress q1 2020

Crown Infrastructure Partners reports a total of 966,773 homes and businesses were connected to the UFB fibre network at the end of March.

A further 17,038 connections were added in the first three months of 2020.

Across the country UFB uptake is now at 58 percent. Rolleston remains the most connected town with a 76 percent uptake.

The extended UFB build, that’s the first and second phases, has reached 91 percent and is running slightly ahead of schedule.

Faster and faster UFB

There is a clear move to the fastest UFB plans. CIP CEO Graham Mitchell says just under 22,000 homes and businesses moved to gigabit connections in the first quarter.

Around 82 percent of New Zealanders can now connect to the fibre network. It operated 169 cities and towns across the country.

Outside of urban areas the Rural Broadband Initiative increased its footprint by 3,078 homes and businesses in the first quarter of 2020. The network also connected 52 marae — if you are an overseas reader that’s a Māori meeting house.

A total of 27 new rural cellular towers began operating in the quarter. There are now 86 new rural towers nationwide serving around 46,000 connections.

How are we doing?

The big picture is positive. The fibre network proved its worth before the Covid–19 lockdown, but that only went to amplify its importance.

Fibre reaches a little over four-fifths of New Zealanders. Things are a little less clearcut when it comes to the remainder of the country.

Those rural users who live in sight of an RBI tower and are not waiting for a spare connection have a good fixed wireless experience. Performance can slow a little at times, but for most purposes RBI fixed wireless delivers.

Likewise people with the good fortune to be serviced by a Wisp — wireless internet service provider — are likely to get the broadband they need.

The problem comes for everyone else. That’s, perhaps as much as 10 percent of the population, probably more like six or seven percent. These are people who don’t have fibre, a capable Wisp or line of sight to a cellular tower.

Given the small number and the importance of decent broadband, it should be possible over time to fill in more and more of these gaps. The cost per connection might be high and it may be unrealistic to expect these people to pay the same as city folk. That is a decision for telcos and government policymakers.

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9 thoughts on “UFB uptake closes on a million as 58 percent connect

  1. Line of sight isn’t always good enough.

    My stepdaughter has just moved to a location where she can see two cell towers (with binoculars), but she has no signal.

    This is because of a phenomenon called Fresnel occlusion that affects radio waves, and the topography of the land.

    The local WISP is great (it operates its own towers, for instance), but looking at the coverage map, it’ll be touch and go for it too. And it seems ADSL is out of the question, let alone fibre or VDSL.

    This is 1 km away from a state highway with dark fibre in the berm.

    1. So lets estimate the cost to get fibre to your stepdaughters house…

      1km @ $10/m = $100,000

      Then you’ve got a lot of things to consider e.g. the fibre in the berm – is it accessible, is there a manhole, if splicing into it is not an option where is the nearest manhole or joint. Is the fibre direct buried or in a duct. Can fibre be hauled to the nearest manhole/joint. Is there even spare fibre to splice into. Is the nearest switch within range. All these could easily add another $50,000 to the build cost.

      ~ Build estimate $150,000

      Revenue for the LFC once your stepdaughter subscribes to a UFB plan = ~$50 a month

      Payback for the LFC = 250 years. (3,000 months x $50 = $150,000)

  2. At $10 per metre, 1km is $10,000. $10/metre sounds barely feasible if the fibre duct can be mole-ploughed in, as in this case. I believe costs are higher than $10/m normally, even on quiet rural roads.

    But Bill was talking about radio links.

    It seems to me that putting microcells along the state highway*, with repeaters a few km up side roads where justified, would have provided service where people live and move. Instead, one tower was built in a place not high enough on a mountainside.

    I suspect the accountants won rather than the engineers. Either that, or the site analysis was purely desk-based.

    *which might be what VF, Spark et al. are planning to do with the dark fibre already there…eventually. One can hope.

  3. Probably not a huge difference. If Fibre X works for you, I’d stick with it unless you can get a better price on a UFB deal.

    I had to ask about USB because I had a question about that earlier today.

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