Spark makes Lightbox free, again — this time with an open-ended offer

Free phonebox wi-fi also on the table as company looks to shore up its falling residential broadband market share.

Spark [NZX: SPK] has made its $12.99 Lightbox service free to all of its broadband customers – again.

On January 20 last year, Lightbox was made free to all Spark's 675,000 or so residential broadband customers.

The move was aimed at boosting the appeal of Spark's landline internet, and fending off competition from Sky TV's Neon and Netflix, among others.

The new Lightbox freebie offer is open-ended, lasting as long as a customer stays loyal to Spark.

Spark also said today that its broadband customers will get 1GB a month of free wi-fi data on its public network, which now includes around 1000 phone boxes converted to offer wireless internet.

Up to three devices per household can be registered.

Spark's latest moves comes as the company faces tough competition to maintain its lead in the broadband market.

Its share of the home broadband market has slipped from 49% to the most recently reported 44% (for the six months to December 31, 2015) over the past couple of years.

The streaming video on-demand market is also getting more intense. 

Sky TV is upgrading its Neon service to high definition and is close to launching a Neon app for Apple TV (Lightbox says it also has one in the works).

Another rival, Quickflix, has floundered into administration.

Spark won't say how many are using Lightbox but the company's head of home, mobile and business, Jason Paris, does comment, "While the online TV market is growing at a rapid pace there is still a large proportion of New Zealanders yet to make the inevitable switch to online TV."

A Nielsen survey released in January said 9% of the online population had tried Netflix and 3% Lightbox. Nielsen would not reveal a number for Neon, but NBR understands it was also around 3%.

New opportunity for Lightbox and Neon has been opened by a Netflix crackdown on New Zealanders accessing the company's more populated US service. While there have been "crackdowns" in the past, this one seems more effective than others. Some Netflix users have told NBR they've cancelled their subscriptions rather than settle for Netflix NZ. Others used the Netflix crackdown as a licence to return to piracy.

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