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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.

More by Chris Keall

Comments and questions

I live in Taranaki which was meant to be one of the first to get UFB. The cables are at my gate but no information of when I can connect. Telecom is a joke when it comes to connecting. I would connect today if able

The article notes that Telecom is in negotiations with UFF for supply of UFB, which will include UFF in Taranaki (one assumes). In the interim, there's plenty of non-Telecom resellers already offering UFB services in New Plymouth and Hawera, including Primo Wireless and Naki Cloud, both local ISPs.

Likewise, I have been waiting for 8 weeks for Telecom to come back to me as to when they will install fibre to my home on the North shore. Reminds me of their service standards when they were Gov't owned.

It's the same with Vodafone...

Chorus is a right challenge to deal with. Huge inefficiencies throughout the process. One install often involves three or four companies to complete

1. Customer signs up
2. ISP - orders fibre install
3. Chorus contracts install to firm such as vision stream
4. Chorus or Vision Stream commissions site design
5. Design contractor visits site and designs access solution
6. Chorus sorts out building owners concent etc
7. Chorus the arranges installer
8. Installer runs cables and termination kit
9. Fibre splicer then independently scheduled to complete job onsite
10. Chorus provisioning test layer two
11. ISP then test connection and liven link
12. Customer live.

All this for a sub $100/month connection!

And the Government and the Telcos complain that uptake of UFB is slow! It doesn't take a rocket scientist to see why. Our largest city with over a million residents is only 18% connected. Duh!

It doesn't make sense not to roll out to your most likely customers first. Sorry Whangarei but I argue that a large part of Auckland would be in a more economical position to subscribe to UFB.

Unless it is Chorus' intention to use the slow uptake to force government concessions to fund the less economical areas more profitably in order to extort the favourable areas at a later date.

Why? Maybe a company sale is on the horizon. I wonder which cat is going to get fat at our expense this time.

If UFB was deployed to all the so called rich areas first people would complain it's not fair.

If UFB was rolled out to all the so called poor areas first people would complain it's not fair.

UFB is being rolled out to a fix of areas and people are complaining it's not fair......

What about the tax/rate players who are outside the planned UFB areas. Is it fair on them? I'm sure they wouldn't care if they were first or last, just knowing they will get it one day would be good news.

If you're outside a UFB area you're not going to get UFB.

Solutions for you are RBI copper/wireless.