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Visionstream wins Chorus UFB fibre installation contracts

The Australian telco provider will install 80 percent of Chorus' UFB fibre connections across New Zealand, with more fibre technicians to be hired to fulfil the contract.

Australian telecommunications infrastructure service provider Visionstream has taken over contracts for installing the majority of Chorus' Ultra-Fast Broadband (UFB) fibre network across New Zealand.

Visionstream will now install around 80 percent of the UFB areas that Chorus is accountable for, with the remaining 20 percent being installed by Broadspectrum and multi-dwelling unit expert UCG.

The areas to be taken over by Visionstream are Queenstown, Dunedin, Ashburton, Timaru, Oamaru, and Invercargill in the South Island; and Napier, Masterton, Hastings, Hutt Valley, and Gisborne in the North Island.

Visionstream has also already taken over installing Chorus' fibre in Wellington, Porirua, and Manawatu, with Chorus saying it has seen "significant improvements in performance in those areas" as a result.

The contracts with Visionstream followed previous contractor Downer announcing in August that it would not re-tender fibre installation contracts, instead choosing to focus on looking after Chorus' copper network.

While Chorus said that "some Downer technicians" could have their jobs impacted by the transition, it noted that any fibre-focused workers might instead move to Visionstream, which will be upping its workforce to support the increase in UFB installations.

"We've been open to the need to improve the experience we give our customers, as well as our need for more technicians, and how we want to retain skilled people in the industry," Nick Woodward, general manager of Customer Services at Chorus, said in an announcement to the Australian Securities Exchange (ASX).

"Visionstream's operating model has proven to be very effective in attracting new crews and in getting through the most jobs in a day."

Chorus noted that fibre uptake across New Zealand is "significantly ahead of expectations". The federal government's UFB project was 57 percent complete as of the end of the 2015-16 financial year, Chorus announced during its results.

Last month, Chorus announced that it will be offering 1Gbps services across the entire UFB footprint, with Vodafone NZ following suit earlier this week.

As of September, Chorus said the average download speed on the network was 30.5Mbps. The gigabit-speed upgrade offering will see customers attain speeds of between 900Mbps and 970Mbps download and 500Mbps upload, the maximum speed currently allowed by 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.

Chorus said the RBI is 100 percent complete, with the project enhancing and extending fixed-line coverage to approximately 110,000 premises for NZ$282 million.

Both Visionstream and Downer are also contractors for the Australian government's National Broadband Network (NBN).

Visionstream additionally signed a AU$250 million three-year contract extension with Telstra in July to deliver its wideband services across Australia.

Under the Telstra contract, Visionstream is responsible for delivering all program management, design, construction, and network integration for Telstra's voice, data, and IP products across Australia.

Visionstream has worked on Telstra's wideband project for government and business customers since 2004, with another AU$120 million contract awarded in 2012 and a AU$350 million contract to supply maintenance and building services to over 40,000 exchange and network assets in April.