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Chorus re-engages with ISPs, offering 1000 customers double-speed UFB fibre but ...

After throwing its toys out of the cot last month, as controversy over copper pricing flared, Chorus has re-engaged with ISPs over plans for cheaper, faster fibre.

Retail ISP Snap internet is now offering customers a trial plan that offers 200Mbit/s download speed - or twice that of today's fastest UFB plans. Upload speed is 50Mbit/s.

Chorus has made 1000 positions available on the trial, spread across all retail ISPs offering UFB fibre plans.

Any retail ISP can offer the 200Mbit/s plans on pilot but spokesman Ian Bonnar says so far only Snap has joined the programme.

Snap is offering a couple of killer 200Mbit/s plans for power users. One gives you a roomy 500GB cap for $149, the other all-you-can eat downloads for $199 a month.

That's good stuff and NBR hopes ISPs will follow Snap onto the trial shortly - at least one more is in the immediate pipeline, Chorus says. [UPDATE: Business-focused ISP Vibe tells NBR it is also on the programme, offering trialists its $127/month Evolve 4 plan - usually 100Mbit/s - 200Mbit/s bandwidth. Vibe COO Barry Murphy tells NBR the company doesn't have data plans but instead charges $0.80c per gigabyte, so 100GB would be $80.).

But, but ...
But faster fibre was only half the deal when Chorus put new wholesale plans on the table in October.

Specifically, it said its 100Mbit/s/50Mbit/s plan, which currently costs ISPs $55 a month wholesale, would be reduced to $45, while a new 100/20 plan would cost $40. A new 200Mbit/s option (twice today's top speed for home users) would cost $65.

Business Plans would be the same ($175 a month) but double speed.

So where's the trial for the cheaper plans?

"On timeframes for the other stuff – as you know we’re working through things with Crown Fibre Holdings at the moment and will update as soon as I am able," Mr Bonnar says.

Let's hope so. 

The EY report showed that Chorus won't "go broke" as the PM put it, if it follows EY's prescription for dividend cuts and other cost-saving measures after the Commerce Commission copper price cuts.

Chorus has deployed some negative weapons, including its High Court appeal against the ComCom's price ruling; its  final pricing principles review appeal, and its refusal to rule out the so-called "nuclear option" of lowering copper broadband to the (ultraslow) contractually required minimum.

It would be good to see it coming to the party with more positive initiatives, too, such as seeing through the cheaper UFB plans, and long-term clarity over the cost of connection.

As Vodafone and others have pointed out, increasing fibre uptake shouldn't be about artificially holding up the price of copper, it should be about making fibre more attractive - particularly in against VDSL (the fastest flavour of copper).

Busting Sky TV's content monopoly should be part of the demand-side equation. But given there's zero political will on that front. Neither is there any for helping out Chorus with RMA changes. That means lowering fibre pricing, and upping speed, is crucial to driving UFB uptake - and getting some fibre revenue in the door for ISPs, and Chorus.

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Comments and questions

Although the delay could be just because both the new plans and the costs savings affect the discussions with CFH and that with a lot more work to do then it takes a little longer than originally estimated when they were only discussing the new plans.

I think the biggest challenge for the lower copper prices is that, like dialup in early days of DSL, the older technology is more profitable for ISPs - assuming they dont pass all the savings on of course (no fairies at the bottom of my garden)

I hope Chorus have offered the 200Mb/s to the ISPs at a little over 200, so that at layer 3 the speed is able to be 200Mb/s.