With rollout a quarter complete, the number within reach of UFB fibre who choose to connect nudges up to 5.49%
The latest numbers released by ICT Minister Amy Adams, for the December quarter, show Chorus [NZX: CNU] and other UFB contract holders have now rolled fibre past 363,109 potential customers - an increase of 40,630 over the September quarter.
Of those, 19,915 or 5.49% have signed up for a UFB account with a retail ISP. During the quarter, 5667 new UFB customers signed up.
In the September quarter, around 4% of those within reach of UFB fibre had chosen to connect.
The UFB rollout, backed by $1.35 billion in taxpayer funds, is now more than a quarter complete. It is due to finish in 2019 and cover 75% of the population.
Opponents say customer uptake is too slow. Labour's Trevor Mallard called today's connection numbers "hopeless". But Ms Adams say they are in line with expectations at this stage of the project.
The rollout remained on track durinig the December quarter, despite off-stage dramas that included the independent EY Australia into Chorus that recommended the company borrow more, make spending cuts and slash its dividend; the Commerce Commission confirming the regulated wholesale price Chorus' copper lines would be slashed from December; and Chorus filing a High Court appeal against the regulator's decision. Chorus remains in talks with Crown Fibre Holdings over ways to cut UFB rollout costs.
Just before the December quarter kicked off, Vodafone (which holds around 29% of the market), finally launched its UFB plans. Vodafone is the only retail competitor of any scale against Telecom, which holds 49% share. Chorus CEO Mark Ratcliffe told NBR he expected Vodafone's entry to accelerate adoption as the "two giants" went head-to-head.
Chorus has put faster and cheaper UFB plans on the table, which should also help accelerate uptake. But the question of "killer app" content is stalled, with the Commerce Commission finding Sky TV's content deals harmed competition and hindered new market entrants from gaining a critical mass of content, but not doing anything about it.
In the parallel, five-year, $300 million Rural Broadband Initiative (RBI), more than 179,000 rural homes and businesses now have access to fast wireless broadband, and over 60,000 rural homes and businesses have access to improved copper broadband services, Ms Adams says.
As with previous quarterly reports, the government has not said how many within reach of RBI broadband connections have chosen to sign up to a plan.
More than 2000 schools now have fibre installed and ready for service.