Telecom: Superfast UFB plans on g-g-g-g-g-g-g-gigahold
UPDATE / Aug 4: Ultrafast Fibre (UFF) may now be offering 1Gibt/s UFB fibre in some parts of the country, or more than 10 times the speed of fastest plans when the Ultrafast Fibre rollout began.
But Telecom [NZX: TEL], which holds 50% of the retail ISP market, is not interested — at least not until there is a nationally consistent service from the four UFB companies.
Telecom today welcomed UFF's move to introduce a 1Gibit/s wholesale plan, which costs retail ISPs $65 a month (UFF, majority owned by lines company Wel Networks, is responsible for the rollout in Hamilton, Tauranga, Te Awamutu, Cambridge, Tokoroa, New Plymouth, Wanganui and Hawera).
Telecom says it wants to introduce 1Gbit/s plans, and for the UFB companies to accelerate their rollout of the service (so far only offered by UFF).
But Telecom is unlikely to introduce a 1Gbit/s plan for its retail customers until the four UFB companies (Chorus [NZX: CNU], UFF, NorthPower and Enable) can agree on a common 1Gbit/s inputs, spokesman Conor Roberts tells NBR.
Telecom fears a "fibre tangle" if there is not national consistency between the plans offered by the four wholesalers.
Currently, each is offering a range of different inputs (or different combinations of upload and download speeds at different pricing). That leads to technical complications, Mr Roberts says.
Telecom sees a 1Gbit/s top-speed plan as a natural complement to the unlimited data plan recently introduced under its "Giganaire" promotion. But to try to introduce it now would be a headache, the company maintains.
More, although the configuration of the UFB allows for speeds of up to 1Gbit/s, UFF is the only UFB company that's put a top-speed residential plan on the table.
"Chorus has signalled it will offer a 1Gbit/s service at the entry-level price to the winner of the Gigatown promotion," Mr Roberts notes.
"We would like to offer a nationally consistent 1Gbit/s service and would prefer to wait until there are nationally consistent inputs before doing so because of the technical difficulties of providing for a range of different inputs and problems with marketing different inputs to customers depending on where they are in New Zealand.
NBR has asked Crown Fibre Holdings, ICT Minister Amy Adams and Chorus for comment.
Ultrafast Fibre one-ups Chorus with 1Gbit/s UFB fibre plans
June 11: On May 14, Chorus [NZX: CNU] said it would double the speed of its fastest residential UFB fibre plans to 200Mbit/s from July, wholesaling the new service to ISPs for $55.
Today, Ultrafast Fibre (UFF) said it will introduce a 1Gbit/s (1000Mbit/s) residential fibre plan from July, wholesaled for $65.
1Gbit/s is the speed the winning town in Chorus' endless "Gigatown" competition will receive (the first phase of the Gigatown social media hashtag competition winds up in September).
UFF will also introduce a 100Mbit/sdownload speed and 20Mbit/s upload speed plan for $45 per month (Chorus' equivalent plan costs $40) and 200Mbit/s down/20Mbit/s down plan for $55 (matching Chorus 200Mbit/s pricing).
There are two really positive trends here. Fibre plans are getting faster, making the new technology more attractive against copper. And more and more plans are being offered by retail ISPs uncapped, with plans instead being differentiated by speed.
Chorus has said it will increase the monthly price of its new entry level fibre plan by $1 a year from next year to 2019.
UFF has pledged to hold its 1Gbit/s and other new plan pricing at the same level until 2020 (for Chorus and UFF and other local fibre companies, retail ISPs set the final price).
Chorus is responsible for around 70% of the UFB rollout by premise.
The remainder of the public-private project is held by Enable (Christchurch), NorthPower (Whangarei) and UFF, owned by Crown Fibre Holdings and lines company Wel Networks (Hamilton, Tauranga, Te Awamutu, Cambridge, Tokoroa, New Plymouth, Wanganui and Hawera).
UFF CEO Maxine Elliott says the new 1Gibt/s plan will be available in all eight areas the company is constructing its UFB network.
UFF is not willing to talk about costs per premise passed. But numbers in its annual report imply the figure is around the $1200 mark — well below Chorus' latest estimate of $2900 to $3200.
(UFF is owned by lines company Wel Networks and, like Northpower Fibre in Whangarei, enjoys the advanage of exiting overhead lines infrastructure and consents — which begs the question of how the world would be different if Vector had won the Auckland and Wellington legs of the UFB, which ultimately became part of Chorus' haul).
"We can confirm that the rollout is on track in fact slightly ahead of program." Wel Networks GM of operations and fibre William Hamilton tells NBR.
The number of premises past is 97,000 past our plan, ahead of the plan for 81,000 at this time. Around 6% of customers within reach have chosen to connect so far.
"Our budget is also on track," Mr Hamilton says.
Enable and Northpower say they have faster than 100Mbit/s plans on the way, but have yet to give any timing.