2 min read

Who said fibre wasn't better?

Writing at Geekzone, someone called “Quickymart” take issue with a decade old story he found on Scoop.

Writing at Geekzone, someone called “Quickymart” take issue with a decade old story he found on Scoop in:

No, Bill Bennett, fibre is better

This story is a decade old. Despite the headline, it didn’t suggest fibre is not the best network option. There is nothing in the post that is factually incorrect.

The controversial part, which, presumably is what Quickymart thinks has “not aged well”, is where I say what was then called Crown Fibre Holdings should, at least, have listened to Vodafone’s suggestion to wrap its HFC network into the UFB network.

While that may not be the best plan, it wasn’t stupid.

HFC overbuild

Had Crown Fibre chosen not to overbuild the HFC network, the money saved could have been recycled into extending the reach of UFB.

More people would have had fast broadband quicker.

Instead of 87 per cent of homes being on the UFB network today, we could have had a figure somewhere in the 90s.

Sure, Vodafone’s motives were not pure. It spotted an opportunity to offload a dubious asset.

It's not as good as fibre

And of course HFC technology is not as good as fibre. You won’t find me saying that anywhere.

I’ve written more than 1000 posts about fibre broadband, not one of them suggests another technology is better.

Sometimes I may suggest that an alternative communications technology may be the right product for some people in certain cases. That’s not the same thing.

Broadband backup

Later in the Geekzone thread there’s a comment saying this passage is out of touch with reality.

“Fibre is essential for businesses who need bulk data and sold, consistent bandwidth. 4G isn’t an alternative, it’s a complementary service. Smart companies will buy both”.

This certainly happens. These days the backup technology is more likely to be 5G or even a low earth orbit satellite.

Not everyone does this. But a business that can’t tolerate extended internet outages will invest in a second string technology.

That's entertainment

The strangest thing to critique is where I say: “For most people, buying fibre services only makes sense if it opens the door to new entertainment options.”

While it may look obvious in hindsight, it simply wasn’t at the time the story was written.

To put this in context, Netflix and Neon arrived about nine months after the post was written.

And that’s the issue with the criticism. It lacks context.


The story was written when fibre uptake was low and there was nervousness about the UFB project succeeding. Remember the fuss about the ‘copper tax’ and how the fibre companies might go bust?

A year after the post in question was written, I wrote:

To date only one-in-eight of the people able to connect to fibre have signed-up. Given that the UFB builders cherry-picked the richest suburbs as the first to get fibre, this doesn’t bode well.

That was June 2015.

More recently I interviewed Steven Joyce and Sir John Key about their role in the UFB and they both said that success wasn’t certain until at least late 2015. And yes, Netflix was the catalyst.

Back to May 2014: At that time many RBI fixed wireless users were getting higher speeds than base level UFB customers*.

It is so easy to forget all that and be clever in hindsight. Yet, there’s nothing in the story that is factually wrong, merely a suggested course of action that wasn’t taken.

  • I can’t remember what speeds Vodafone HFC was getting in 2014, the nearest reference in my notes is from 2017 where TrueNet clocked the FibreX network at 70 Mbps. If anyone can help, I'll update this.

Footnote: I removed the post from this site because it was outdated and I didn't think anyone would be interested any more. Obviously that was wrong.