New Zealand's broadband muddle

New Zealand's broadband muddle

Summary: New Zealand's broadband network has been held up as an example for Australia. But is it as good as some might think?


Malcolm Turnbull said recently that we should be looking to New Zealand to see how to roll out a high-speed broadband network.

This week, we see how there is a lot to learn from the way New Zealand is doing things. Sadly, it seems to be a lesson in how to restrict competition.

It's been two years since Twisted Wire last looked into the Kiwis' Ultra-Fast Broadband (UFB) project. Back then, the New Zealand Government hadn't offered the major tender to Chorus, but New Zealand Telecom had offered to structurally separate if it got the gig. If it hadn't gone Telecom's way, then the bidder would find itself building a network competing with the incumbent's fibre-to-the-node (FttN) network.

Fortunately, the government saw sense, offered the contract to Telecom and the structural separation went ahead. But it wasn't the only winner. Power companies have won contracts in some parts of the country, meaning that infrastructure competition does exist in many places. It will be interesting to see how the take-up rate goes, with Chorus keen to keep customers on its own network for as long as possible.

"You're not the first person to say that," said David Stone, CEO of the New Zealand Telecommunications Forum, the equivalent of the Australian Communications Alliance.

We also hear from Paul Brislen, chief executive at Telecommunications Users Association of New Zealand, who tells us how a lot of the detail in how services are deployed are tied up in secret contracts between the government and the incumbent. Sound familiar?

Running time: 31 minutes, 39 seconds

Topics: Telcos, Broadband, New Zealand, Australia


Phil Dobbie has a wealth of radio and business experience. He started his career in commercial radio in the UK and, since coming to Australia in 1991, has held senior marketing and management roles with Telstra, OzEmail, the British Tourist Authority and other telecommunications, media, travel and advertising businesses.

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • So, Is Competition Restricted Or Not?

    First you say it’s a “lesson on how to restrict competition”, then you point out how Telecom ‘wasn’t the only winner”, a bunch of other companies have got contracts out of it as well. So is competition being “restricted” or not?
  • A further explanation on the podcast ...

    Well, there's competition and effective competition. If infrastructure is built by a company in an area where the incumbent continues to operate a lower cost infrastructure is that really fair competition? And, in regional areas, if the only way to compete is to build your own infrastructure on Vodafone towers, will that engender any competition. Best to listen to the podcast then decide.
  • Is N.Z's broadband rollout a model for Aus'? No .. at least not yet

    I live in N.Z. and know enough people from various areas that still suffer with poor ADSL and broadband link speeds here in Godzone.

    The idealistically was to roll out the fiber (fibre) infrastructure and thus get an immediate improvement across the majority of the main centers (centres) / cities in N.Z. I say "idealistically", as that's exactly what it is: idealistic to think that anything that benefits end-users over corporate stakeholders is ever gonna happen.

    I live in Auckland, so for me it isn't a problem: the Chorus roll-out progression in, as i said, the main centers has gone really quite well. But as soon as you leave the main cities, it's pot-luck getting anything like great ADSL or broadband in smaller cities & large towns somewhat removed (by reasonable distance) from the large cities.

    It is now less about competition than you make it out to be - as Telecom, as the key player, is not allowed - by law & regulation - to hold all the cards. If you knew the whole story, you'd know originally when the Fiber (Fibre) roll-out was initially announced some years back, i believe one of the Electricity Providers (Utility Co's) was mentioned as the first in line in the tendering process. Obviously that changed and Telecom, inline with Chorus, have been responsible since then for the actual design, planning and deployment schedules for the fiber (fibre) roll-out.

    So, it's like this: the fiber upgrade has been great for the big urban centers (e.g. Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch, Dunedin). As for the rest of the country? You need to talk to the small city, large town & rural folks ... i get the distinct feeling they won't be as effusive and happy as i am with the current state of affairs.

    "...a lot of the detail in how services are deployed are tied up in secret contracts between the government and the incumbent. Sound familiar?"

    As long as mega-buck are involved in industrial & commercial rollouts of technology for the masses - and Governments are involved - you'd better bet your @$$ that there's under the table & backhanding going on. So what's new?

    Y'all have a nice day now, y'hear.
    • Re: Rural Areas

      You’re never going to get effective competition in rural areas. There just isn’t the market for it.

      Australia, with its lower average population density, would have that problem even worse than NZ.
      • This ain't a competition

        to see who's nation's broadband deficiencies are "bigger".

        For the life of Brian, this is about a roll-out that was supposed to be an answer for *an entire nation* ... not just the select few. While we agree that that's just not the reality and somewhat idealistic (...since you didn't read my post properly, read it again - not skim it), that doesn't mean we have to like the cop out notion or connotation - from any source - making it out to be a pipe dream for our small town & country cousins.

        I mean, why, in this day & age should we still have exclusivity for vital, everyday technologies? For starters, broadband availability shouldn't be a luxury - it should be a given like hospitals, reticulation and POTS services. The disgrace comes when the Govt. and its advertising cronies spread the word across the country, give every man and his dog the clear impression "this technology is going to help everyone" and then lie their way out of it.

        Frankly, i don't care how big Australia's broadband woes are because i'm living in N.Z. Tell your local M.P. ... lobby your Federal Govt. ... protest in the street.

        At any rate, what's common for both countries though, and i'll grant you this, is that there is a nagging problem that needs fixing. But i'll differ by saying that until *all* people of either Australia and N.Z can have a broadband service that is equally good or at least within cooey (bandwidth-wise) of the standard that the big metropolitan centers get, then the promise of Fiber roll out is a failure at its most basic level.

        I'm sorry, but i don't buy the argument that those in isolated towns and rural areas ought to remain casualties of the system(s) in place. These bl**dy politicians made a veritable promise to their national constituents. As costly as it might be to deliver, it's time to, literally, put their money where their mouth's are.

        I'm out.
        • Wow, Is Something Wrong With You?

          That’s not what anybody else in this discussion meant by “competition”. Maybe you need to reread it all.
          • Now you're conveniently

            hen-pecked through my words? Everything i've mentioned to this point has the competition (or lack thereof) implied within it. Listen, Competition was supposed to happen (i'm pretty sure) both sides of the Tasman - with regards to Fiber & ultra-fast broadband roll-outs. Tell me now, is the multi-player roll out that exists there anything approaching the golden panacea Australians had in mind?

            For me it's really quite simple: right now, Competition is just a buzz word that's thrown around like so much flotsam ... especially if the ISP's act in secret collusion and price fix. Now, some can pretend that collusion doesn't happen, but they'd be naive and gullible to honestly believe that.

            " ... You’re never going to get effective competition in rural areas. There just isn’t the market for it. "

            Maybe where you're from that's the way it'll be or stay, but here in N.Z. the rural folk are the backbone of the nation's economy. So the rural, agricultural folk that are directly responsible for the majority of N.Z.'s productivity and wealth certainly deserve as good as the city slicking majority get. Incidentally, you sound like the typical, self satisfied, city dwelling, apartment rat. Sydney-sider if i were to take a wild guess.

            But I digress.

            Let me ask you a question. Do you know anyone there in Aus' running an isolated, 50,000+ acre, outback farm? Whether you do or don't is immaterial - it was a rhetorical question. Put it like this, don't you think those country folk would deserve .. like .. love, ultra-fast broadband - and the ability to communicate, virtually, with the outside world as though it were right there with them, at their finger tips? (I'll let you stew on the thought).

            As for that catch word "Competition". Now, i hate to sound cynical, but Competition, insofar as broadband is concerned, is really just a term used by the marketing & advertising firms to give the appearance that 'all's well' and that "we're watching out for the consumer". Ha! What a load. At least here in N.Z. that's the case.

            Truth be know, the reality (i.e. advertised vs. delivered) is far removed from what was (is) marketed at (from) the start ... but, granted, that's not exactly a situation unique to the Telecommunications industry.

            Now, what was it you were saying about "Competition"?
  • if aus

    is lookng at NZ for internet ideas, aus must be desperate.
    Scarface Claw