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Ultrafast Fibre boss quits

Maxine Elliott has resigned as CEO of Ultrafast Fibre (UFF). She will leave the company at the end of August.

A replacement has yet to be named. 

Ms Elliott says she's looking for a new challenge, but will take several months off to travel with her family first.

UFF, owned by lines company Wel Networks and Crown Fibre Holdings, holds the Ultrafast Broadband (UFB) contract for Hamilton, Cambridge, Te Awamutu, Tauranga, Tokoroa, Whanganui, New Plymouth and Hawera.

The company says it has now laid fibre past 100,000 of its target 163,000 premises, making it one of the fastest rollouts in the country (the fastest being NorthPower Fibre in Whangarei, which has finished).

Parent company Wel says UFF now has $300 million in assets. But with customer update still in a single-digit percent of those within reach of fibre, the sums coming in the door are modest.

According to its annual report, the company lost $5.8 million in its 2013 financial year on just over $2 million revenue.

Look for a lift in the 2014 annual report, due shortly.

The number of premises passed has doubled since the 2013 report. UFF recently signed on Telecom (which holds around 50% of the ISP market) as a retailer, and is now getting 1000 connection orders a month, Ms Elliott says.

"The business is now well underway and meeting its targets. The next stage is to streamline the operations.”

She did not comment on her next challenge, beyond telling NBR she would "take a break first."

While Ms Elliott hasn't spoken directly to performance targets, Wel Networks GM of operations and fibre William Hamilton recently told NBR he could confirm UFF's rollout was "On track in fact slightly ahead of program. The budget is also on track."

And UFF's cost per premise is lower than that of the largest UFB contract holder, Chorus. Maybe the HR team there could give Ms Elliott a call.

ckeall@nbr.co.nz

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Comments and questions
16

A big loss to UFF and the UFB uptake - obviously the WEL board is more concerned with how the build is going rather than connecting customers up to the new network...I am sure Chorus would benefit from this departing CEO's skills...

UFF are a wholesaler, it's up to the slow RSPs to get their act together and start getting retail clients

The LFCs need to drive the RSPs to fibre as the traditional players are slow going when it comes to change (despite what they say in the public arena
Ms Elliott would have had to drive the RSPs to change from their current network supplier to UFF and that would have been no easy task

UFF's figures would probably look a lot better if the two big telcos rolled out their plans a lot sooner in the areas that have been serviceable (for some time). For instance, we've had fibre outside our door for two years. It took over a year to hook us up to a local retailer (while their systems were being finalised). Telecom only released their plans for our street last week (a year after the local retailer hooked us up). Vodafone is yet to do so. So there is obviously a negotiations bottleneck occurring somewhere.

The big players simply weren't ready to launch - this is where their respective size slows down the process to deliver due to the amount of internal hands products need to pass through before being released to the public - I am surprised you have waited so long to connect when there have been a number of RSPs providing service incl Trustpower, Snap, Orcon, Callplus etc

Of course UFF's (and subsequently Northpower and Enable) overall deployment cost is going to be cheaper than that of Chorus. These LFCs are all power companies, and own the poles that the existing cables sit upon. Chorus has to lease space on these poles if they wish to put fibre on them. With much of Chorus' fibre network going underground, it is a much tidier end-result than a sky-full of cables ... but at a cost that is quicker than waiting for approval from a power company

Yup, and Crown Fibre Holdings could have awarded Auckland and Wellington to lines company Vector

it sounds like you would of Preferred Vector to do the whole roll out Chris? Don't you think Chorus are doing a good job of there roll out?

Who owns all the poles on the other side of the street? Guess? Chorus and guess what, they charge a lease fee....and guess what else? Chorus is trialling aerial deployment because it's cheaper

You need to get your facts straight, Enable are not using any poles is Christchurch, UFF might be using some poles on the WEL network but that doesn't include the Taranaki or Tauranga region where they have to pay other power co's AND pay Chorus to use limited poles as the other commentator mentioned. And buried is more costly than aerial

I connect this fibre from an RSP perspective, and UFF are only as quick as they are because they offload a majority of their work (consents, contacting building owners, etc) to the RSP, something not even Northpower do..

Good point here. It is a challenge for them. I offered personally to sort their service desk out but they decided not to take up my wealth of experience.

so has someone sorted the UFF service desk now? or do they pass the buck with this as well as everything else?

Mate, its still hard graft. I place lots and lots if orders for my business but their ops manager doesnt get the customer angles and insted is more interested in the vendor trappings. Nuff said

The market is finally evolving then in that case, with an event like this.

I think what Chorus would really need right now, and going forward, would be people who are team players.