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Vodafone launches VDSL, holds off on surcharge

Thu, 23 Jan 2014

UPDATE / January 23, 2013: Vodafone has launched a series of plans based on VDSL - the fastest type of copper broadband.

Where Telecom (below) is charging $10 extra over its regular copper broadband plans for VDSL, Vodafone will charge a $10 premium after 12 months.

Vodafone VDSL plans including a home phone line start at $85 a month (including an 80GB data cap), or $75 for Vodafone mobile customers.

Naked (no home phone line) plans also start at $85 a month (including an 80GB data cap), but Vodafone mobile customers get a $30 discount.

Vodafone says VDSL speeds range from 15-70 Mbit/s downstream to 5-10Mbit/s upstream, though speed will depend on location (copper bandwidth degrades with distance from the nearest phone exchange or cabinet), local line conditions and other factors. 

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Telecom launches VDSL turbocharged copper broadband - and fronts on premium charges

UPDATE / July 8: Telecom has launched its VDSL plans today - VDSL being a turbo-charged form of broadband over copper that offers fibre-like speeds (at least for the 50% or so of urban folk who live close enough to a phone exchange or cabinet).

VDSL technology has been around for years.

It offers three to four times the download speed of ADSL (the type of copper broadband most of us use today) and five to 10 times the upload speed (Telecom's official range is 15-70Mbps downstream and 5-10Mbps upstream)

But like other ISPs, Telecom has been motivated to finally launch plans because network operator Chorus recently dropped the wholesale price of VDSL to match ADSL

Telecom is offering a VDSL plan with a 80GB data cap for $95 a month - a $10 premium on its 80GB ADSL plan. Similarly, a 150GB VDSL plan ($109) and a 500GB VDSL plan ($129) are $10 dearer than their VDSL equivalents. Business plans start at $131 for 200GB.

There is also a $99 setup fee for home users who commit to a 12-month term (non-contract it's $299), and $199 for business.

A VDSL modem is included in the price.

Why the price premium?

Earlier, Telecom retail CEO Chris Quin told NBR that even through Chorus had equalised the monthly pricing between VDSL and ADSL, it had also whacked on a setup fee, which Telecom was passing on.

Specifically, Chorus is charging Telecom and other retailers a $5 per month per customer fee, spread over 30 months.

Telecom says the balance of the $10 premium is used to subsidise the "free" VDSL, a required master splitter and the greater bandwidth demand on its network from VDSL.

The company is pitching VDSL as a "stepping stone" for people still waiting for UFB fibre to reach their neighbourhood. On that point, Chorus - responsible for around 80% of the UFB by premise, released its 2014 - 2016 rollout plan today.
 
Snap sharpens pricing
This afternoon also saw Snap sharpen its VDSL offeriing.
 
From tomorrow, the ISP will offer a 100GB plan for $85 (or $95 with a phone line). Business plans at the same price points have 75GB of data, but add more calling options.
 
Snap is also offering VDSL customers who sign up for a two-year term a 100GB per month data pack free (normally $15). This includes unmetered nights between 1am-7am.The free is data valid for the two-year contract term.
 
Unlike Telecom, Snap offers free installation and wiring. But where Telecom offers a free VDSL modem, Snap charges $345 to $395 on a 12-month contract. 24-month contract options include a free modem.
 

Telecom, other big ISPs finally joining VDSL party, offering much faster copper broadband

May 15: Wholesaler and network operator Chorus has this morning cut the price of its VDSL to a "mass market" level, or the same price ISPs have to pay for other copper lines.

The move has finally nudged big ISPs to embrace this faster form of copper broadband, which has so far been pushed by smaller-to-mid-tier ISPs, most notably Snap.

Some see VDSL (which is much faster than the ADSL used by most homes today) as a good alternative while you wait for fibre to come to your neighbourhood under the Ultrafast Broadband (UFB) rollout. And as a useful way for people to get acclimatised to the benefits of faster broadband.

Others say VDSL is all you need for today's internet, full-stop, given the technology can deliver speeds around the level offered by the cheapest fibre plans (30Mbit/s down, 10Mbit/s up).

The catch: you have to live relatively close to the nearest phone exchange or cabinet to get the full effect (unlike fibre, copper bandwidth degrades with distance, and this effect is exaggerated with VDSL). That rules out around half of urban households.

Telecom - which holds around 50% of the residential ISP market - has been conspicuous in not offering a VDSL plan.

Now, that's about to change.

"This month, we initiated a commercial VDSL pilot with a small number of selected customers to explore how it might be made available more widely," spokesman Andrew Pirie told NBR Online this morning.

"We also have an internal staff trial underway (I’ve been connected at home via VDSL for a few weeks, and it’s working great, much faster than ADSL2."

Telecom is now looking to move to a full commercial launch, Mr Pirie says. Timing and other details are still to be confirmed.

"We agree with Chorus that VDSL is a technology that provides an ideal ‘stepping stone’ to fibre, bringing better broadband sooner to those customers who are not in-line for Ultrafast Fibre in the short term," Mr Pirie says.

CallPlus/Slingshot Mark Callander told NBR this morning, "CallPlus will be deploying VDSL services from our own exchanges in the next few months and we will also be wholesaling Chorus VDSL services where we do not have coverage."

An Orcon spokesman told NBR the company is currently testing VDSL ahead of a launch. No date has been set.

A spokeswoman for Vodafone said the company was accessing the Chorus price cut, and is still accessing whether to launch a VDSL service (Vodafone has previously trialled VDSL. Two other factors: It is the only major ISP not to have launched UFB plans, and it has a third broadband option on its hands through the Wellington and Christchurch hybrid fibre-cable networks it gain with its purchase of TelstraClear).

Might get pulled
The question now: will VDSL make UFB update even more sluggish?

Notably, Chorus says in its statement (below) that it won't sell VDSL once its fibre rollout is complete in any given region and that "Chorus may also review the ongoing provision of VDSL if its continued availability affects fibre uptake in Chorus’ UFB areas." Ouch. If you want VDSL, get in quick.

The extra charge is disappointing, but I agree with Mr Quin that VDSL will still be a good stepping stone to fibre. Certainly, its drawn raves from earlier adopters at Snap (the second-tier ISP that's offered VDSL for some time now), and among  Telecoom trialists.

There was sunnier news on the UFB, 4G and Geekzone crowdsourced modem fronts. Read about that, and the latest on Telecom's layoffs, in "Five questions with Chris Quin" in NBR Weekend Review on our home page Saturday and Sunday.

ckeall@nbr.co.nz

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Vodafone launches VDSL, holds off on surcharge
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