New Zealand telecommunications provider Spark has launched its Ultra Fast Fibre MAX broadband service, providing customers with claimed "gigabit" speeds of between 700Mbps to 900Mbps down and 400Mbps up.
Spark said that the new plan, which achieved speeds of up to 930Mbps in trials, is the fastest residential broadband service that they offer.
The telco is offering Ultra Fast Fibre MAX phone and broadband bundles with unlimited data for NZ$149.99 a month or broadband only for NZ$139.99; for businesses, broadband and landline bundles cost NZ$212.85 with unlimited data or NZ$179.85 for broadband only with unlimited data.
Spark customers connected to New Zealand's Ultra Fast Broadband network can purchase a package in all areas apart from Queenstown, Greymouth, Oamaru, and Whakatane, where network upgrades are still being performed.
All plans come with Spark's TV streaming service Lightbox and 1GB a day of free public Wi-Fi.
Spark also announced on Thursday that it is acquiring the remaining 50 percent of construction joint venture Connect 8 from partner Vocus Communications for an undisclosed amount, and will now own the venture outright.
Spark and Vocus formed Connect 8 in February last year for additional fibre construction and delivery capability, with Spark acquiring half of the joint venture for an upfront cash payment and an agreed annual construction spend.
"Spark already connects cities, exchanges, and datacentrres around New Zeland to fibre," said Mark Beder, chief operating officer for Spark. "Given our extensive existing fibre footprint and our goals to be the market leader in data and digital services, full ownership of Connect 8 makes strategic sense. It gives us even more flexibility, capacity, and control over our fibre construction and delivery."
Spark said the venture will continue to construct fibre and telecommunications assets for New Zealand telco providers. The purchase will provide the telco with extra capability for its fibre replacement program and the expansion of the Optical Transport Network, as well as support its goal of establishing CBD-owned fibre position in Wellington and Auckland, it added.
Spark recently announced its partnership with Chorus for a week-long trial of Spark's "street in a week" fibre installation program. The trials, which begin in Whakatane on December 12, will offer 400 premises a fibre upgrade from their legacy copper service.
Spark highlighted the importance to move people off of the "fault-prone copper" service.
"Chorus copper lines are a legacy technology; they are getting older and are increasingly prone to faults," the telco said.
Earlier this year, Spark recorded NZ$370 million in net profit for the 2015-16 financial year, attributed to an increasing mobile and cloud users. Earnings before interest, tax, depreciation, and amortisation (EBITDA) came to NZ$986 million, up 2.5 percent from the NZ$962 million reported for the previous financial year.
It had previously announced changes to its executive teams as part of their proposed "strategic transformation" from a traditional telco towards a digital services provider. As part of this, the telco's Spark Connect business was split in two to form Spark Connect, which will focus on connectivity, and Spark Platforms, which will "design, develop, and operate best-practice digital platforms and the core products enabled by them", according to Spark managing director Simon Moutter.
NZ INTERNET SERVICE PROVIDERS AHEAD OF AUSTRALIAN PROVIDERS IN DOWNLOAD SPEEDS
Broadband monitors TrueNet has found that it is quicker to download an Australian webpage from a New Zealand ADSL connection than it is using ADSL in Sydney, as shown in its October 2016 Urban Broadband Report.
The firm measured Australian-based TPG ADSL users in Melbourne and Sydney against ADSL users on several New Zealand ISPs.
For the total time to download three Australian websites with ADSL, Spark, Slingshot, and Orcon took 1.1 seconds, Flip and 2Degrees took 1.2 seconds, and Vodafone NZ 1.5 seconds. TPG, on the other hand, took 1.7 seconds to download.
TPG also clocked the longest download time for three US-based web pages with ADSL, at 3.7 seconds, as well as for the New Zealand based web pages, which took the Australian provider a total of 18.5 seconds, compared to Slingshot's 6.7 seconds and Spark's 9.2 seconds.
TPG was the worst at downloading Australian and US websites than any New Zealand ISP they measured, according to the firm.
"Their performance downloading Australian websites (from Australia) demonstrates how far behind NZ they are, with all NZ ISPs having a far better performance for downloading the same Australian websites," TrueNet said in its report.
The Australian Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO) revealed last month that complaints about internet services in Australia had risen 22 percent between 2014-15 and 2015-16.
According to its Annual Report 2015-16 [PDF], new complaints about iiNet rose 48.2 percent across all service types throughout the year, while its owner TPG saw an overall increase in complaints of 7.4 percent.
The TIO also reported that complaints about Optus increased during the year, jumping by 18.2 percent. Complaints about landline and internet services increased, while complaints about mobile services decreased.
Optus CEO Allen Lew previously said during Optus' financial results that Optus' complaints statistics "remain an area of concern" for the telco.
"I think we certainly take a look at the TIO data very closely, we are not happy with the fact that our numbers ... are still high," Lew said.