Chorus connects 100k NZ homes to fibre

Chorus connected 8,000 new premises to its fibre network in November to reach a total of 100,000 premises.

New Zealand network operator Chorus has announced that it has now connected 100,000 premises to fibre broadband services, with 8,000 connections made in November alone -- an increase of over 33 percent on the 6,000 made in September.

"Demand for fibre continues to be extremely high, and addressing these challenges remains mine and Chorus' number one priority," said Chorus CEO Mark Ratcliffe.

"Meaningful progress has been made during the last few months, both within Chorus and in collaboration with our industry partners. I would like to acknowledge the highly collaborative way that our customers have approached working through changes in the end-to-end experience."

November saw the highest number of fibre connections made in a single month by Chorus, which it attributed to escalating the number of crews installing fibre across the country, improving its fibre connection forecasting system, and setting up a customer contact centre for fibre appointments.

"This has meant the median time to connect for single dwelling units and multi-dwelling units has reduced, and cancellation rates have also dropped significantly," Ratcliffe explained.

According to the chief executive, the company would be able to connect premises even more rapidly but for the time it takes to train staff members.

"One of our biggest challenges is recruiting people quickly enough to meet the ever-growing demand for fibre, and training them to deliver installations that are very much as complex as adding any other utility to a property," he said.

"It takes between three and six months to train a new fibre technician, as it requires a wide range of skills. It then takes another six months for the technician to become fully competent and productive. As demand looks set to grow even further, we will continue to recruit and train as fast as we possibly can."

In October, Chorus revealed that the fibre uptake rate in New Zealand is 10 times the OECD average, sitting at 20 percent.

"It is clear that 2015 was the year that fibre went mass market in New Zealand, and that change has come upon all of us in the industry remarkably rapidly," Ratcliffe said at the time.

During its FY15 results announcement, Chorus reported that its fibre connections had more than doubled, to reach 88,000, while 44 percent of the NZ government's Ultra-Fast Broadband (UFB) project had been completed.

In early June, the UFB hit its halfway point, with the first 100,000 connections complete. The UFB was originally planned to provide minimum speeds of 100Mbps up/50Mbps down to 75 percent of the population.

It has since been increased to reach 80 percent of the population, with the remaining 20 percent set to be connected to wireless mobile broadband under the Rural Broadband Initiative (RBI), which will provide download speeds of 50Mbps by 2020.

By the end of calendar 2019, 97.8 percent of the NZ population will be covered by either the UFB or the RBI.

By comparison, Australia's National Broadband Network (NBN), which moved away from an all-fibre rollout following the Coalition's election at the end of 2013, is forecast to reach 100 percent of Australian premises by 2020, guaranteeing minimum speeds of just 25Mbps down/5Mbps up.

The NBN proposes to cover 20 percent of the population with fibre to the premises; 38 percent with fibre to the node and fibre to the building; 34 percent with hybrid fibre-coaxial; 5 percent with fixed wireless; and 3 percent with satellite services.