UFB connection numbers still low, but climbing — latest stats

UFB fibre is now within reach of 420,864 potential customers, according to new figures released by ICT Minister Adams Adams, covering the three months to March 31. Fibre is being rolled out by Chorus, Enable, Ultrafast Fibre and NorthPower under the public-private rollout, backed by $1.35 billion in taxpayer funds.

Of those, 27,367 (or 6.5%) have chosen to take a UFB plan with a retail ISP like Telecom, Vodafone, Slingshot or Orcon.

For the previous quarter, fibre passed 363,109 potential customers of which 19,915 or 5.49% have signed up for a UFB account; a jump on the prior quarter's 4.5%.

The UFB rollout, backed by $1.35 billion in taxpayer funds, is now 31% complete. It is due to finish in 2019 and cover 75% of the population.

The government continues to only give big picture numbers for a parallel project, the six-year, $300 million Rural Broadband Initiative (RBI), not providing any numbers on homes connected.

See a summary of Ms Adams report here.

Whangarei first fully-fibred city
Ms Adams also said today that Whangarei has become the first fully-fibred city, with NorthPower Fibre completing its UFB rollout.

A spokesman for NorthPower told NBR that 19,000 premises are now passed by fibre in Whangarei. Of those, around 1500 (8%) have so far signed up to a UFB plan and been connected.

Ups and downs
The UFB has had mixed fortunes over the most recent quarter. On the wholesale/network level Chorus has continued its regulatory trench warfare over copper pricing (which weighs on its ability to fund the UFB, the company says). Chorus has won some modest concessions from the government, including a more flexible timetable (although it must still complete its legs of the UFB by the end of 2019). The result of a major Final Pricing Principals (FPP) review still hangs in the balance.

On the retail level, the market has been boosted by a proliferation of unlimited data plans from Telecom, Vodafone, Slingshot, Orcon and others, and Telecom's promise to deliver a TV and movie service over broadband later this year.

The quarter also seen Telecom move out of its Chorus cocoon to ink UFB reseller agreements with North Power Fibre (Whangarei) and Enable (Christchurch). A spokesman tells NBR that Telecom is in advanced with the remaining UFB company, Ultrafast Fibre, which is responsible for the fibre rollout in Hamilton, Tauranga and several central and lower North Island towns.

In education market, Crown company Network For Learning (N4L), backed by $212 million in government funding, has ramped up its efforts to connect schools to the UFB for free.

ckeall@nbr.co.nz

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