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Chorus brings UFB fibre connection wait time down to 12 days

New Zealand fibre customers are now waiting four days less than they were three months ago to be connected to the UFB, Chorus has said.

In a quarterly update of its Ultra-Fast Broadband (UFB) network rollout across New Zealand, Chorus has revealed that it has shortened the length of time that consumers are waiting for their fibre to be connected, from 16 days in the July quarter down to 12 days on average.

Chorus added that customers in Auckland are waiting just six business days for their connections to be made now, with the telecommunications provider attributing the uptick in "fibre productivity" to signing on Visionstream as its primary connector.

Fibre connection crews were also increased from 524 to 552 over the last three months following reports that complaints about delays in connected fibre broadband services have been rapidly increasing.

Chorus also said its rollout is now 58 percent complete, with 480,000 premises passed and 647,000 customers able to connect. However, of those 647,000, just 189,000 have connected. Uptake of fibre in Chorus' UFB areas is 29 percent.

Of all fibre connections, 59 percent are on plans of 100Mbps or higher, while the average actual connection speed is 33Mbps, although these speeds are subject to factors including service choice, modem type, and home wiring. Chorus last month announced that it will also be offering 1Gbps services across the entire UFB footprint as of October.

Last week, a report on telecommunications complaints by the Telecommunications Forum (TCF), made up of telco operators across New Zealand, revealed that consumer complaints about delays in connecting premises to UFB fibre have skyrocketed.

According to the Telecommunication Dispute Resolution Annual Report [PDF], the number of complaints about delays in connected fibre broadband services "accelerated in January 2016, and has been steady ever since".

"The typical complaint is that the scheme member signs the customer up to the fibre service with an indicative commencement date. This date passes with no service being connected," the report said.

"It appears that the scheme members, in notifying the installation date, rely on information provided by the fibre installation companies. The installation companies do not then complete the work on time."

According to Consumer NZ CEO Sue Chetwin, installers are unable to keep up with demand.

"Chorus, the infrastructure company that has the major contracts to install Ultra-Fast Broadband ... what they're promising they can't really deliver at the moment -- there's just not enough people to do it," Chetwin explained in relation to fibre connection delays.

"So increasingly, there are complaints about service people not turning up, or shonky installations ... the CEO of Spark just said a week or so ago that frustrated customers were cancelling their fibre contracts due to installation delays. So two-thirds of those who got connected were unhappy with the process."

Earlier this week, Chorus also extended its deal with government-owned company Crown Fibre Holdings (CFH) to provide its NZ$28 million fund to finance free non-standard residential connections to the UFB network out to the end of 2019.

Under the fund, Chorus provides free fibre installations for premises that are beyond the standard 15-metre distance automatically connected, covering single-dwelling residential units and multi-dwelling residential units with three or fewer storeys that are up to 200 metres from the network.

The UFB will reach 80 percent of the New Zealand population once complete, while the Rural Broadband Initiative (RBI) will provide download speeds of 50Mbps to the remaining 20 percent. The RBI is 100 percent complete, with the project enhancing and extending fixed-line coverage to approximately 110,000 premises for NZ$282 million.