Vodafone New Zealand launching gigabit-speed broadband

Following suit with Chorus, Vodafone NZ is now offering customers a 1Gbps fibre broadband service across the government's UFB network.

Vodafone New Zealand has announced that it is launching 1Gbps fibre broadband across the federal government's Ultra-Fast Broadband (UFB) footprint.

The 1Gbps service, which will set customers back NZ$139.99 per month, will be available within the Northpower, Enable, and Ultra Fast Fibre UFB footprints.

Vodafone NZ, which is currently awaiting a decision on its proposed merger with Sky TV, said download speeds will average approximately 940Mbps.

"Gigabit networks and services are a key part of digitally enabling New Zealand. We are seeing an amazing shift in our customer usage; peak data traffic over our network has nearly doubled in the last year, driven by video streaming," Matt Williams, director of Vodafone NZ's Consumer business, said on Wednesday.

"It is creating a strong need for the best broadband access technology, and this is why we are excited to be delivering these new gigabit services to kiwi homes and businesses."

Vodafone NZ also provided an update on the NZ$22 million upgrade of its hybrid fibre-coaxial (HFC) service FibreX -- available to customers living in Wellington's CBD and surrounding suburbs, Christchurch's CBD and surrounding suburbs, and all of Kapiti -- which it said would also provide gigabit speeds.

"The NZ$22 million investment in our FibreX network has boosted capacity and paved the way for gigabit services," Williams said.

"We look forward to offering customers in Wellington, Kapiti, and Christchurch a compelling reason to upgrade to FibreX in the very near future."

Vodafone NZ's announcement of gigabit-speed broadband comes a month after New Zealand fixed-line telecommunications provider Chorus said it would be extending its 1Gbps fibre broadband service across the entire UFB footprint as of October.

The current average download speed on Chorus' network is 30.5Mbps; the upgrade will see customers attain speeds of between 900Mbps and 970Mbps down and 500Mbps up, the maximum speed currently allowed by the network.

Customers will not need a technician to upgrade to the gigabit service, with Chorus now "working closely" with Crown Fibre Holdings on pricing. If approval is still yet to come through as of the end of September, gigabit services will still be launched in October, but on a trial basis.

"We are delighted that other fibre providers have joined Chorus in championing gigabit residential and business services," Chorus CEO Mark Ratcliffe said last month.

"Making New Zealand a true 'Gignation', beyond the 5,000-plus connections we have in Dunedin, should see us catapulted up the league tables of broadband speed rankings and reinforce the high quality of the broadband infrastructure we're rolling out."

According to the latest figures from Akamai, New Zealand's peak fixed-line speed is currently 49.8Mbps with an average speed of 10.5Mbps. By comparison, Australia's fixed-line broadband dropped to a ranking of 56th for peak speeds at 43.8Mbps, and came in at 48th for average broadband speeds of 8.8Mbps.

In April, Chorus said it had passed 588,000 premises with its fibre services, with 46 percent of fibre customers on plans of at least 100Mbps.

Chorus has been building out the New Zealand government's UFB project, which was 57 percent complete as of the end of the 2015-16 financial year. 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.

In the South Island city of Dunedin, which won the Gigatown competition, there are already 4,000 premises with 1Gbps connections.

Chorus' announcement of 1Gbps broadband across New Zealand came just hours after Bill Morrow, CEO of the Australian government's National Broadband Network (NBN), said providing minimum speeds of 25Mbps across the nation would put Australia in a "leadership position" worldwide.

"We're well on track to actually be the first continent to have a fully connected universal access broadband that has 25Mbps or better, and in fact on the speed I think it's important we all realise that 40 percent of the nation when we're done will have access to 1Gbps," Morrow said last month.

"That's better than we think any other nation will be at the year 2020, and then we'll of course always be upgrading according to consumer demand, we will not leave people behind, our country will be in a leadership position, we're going to keep it that way."

NBN's oft-criticised multi-technology mix (MTM) is providing fibre to the node (FttN), fibre to the basement (FttB), and fibre to the distribution point (FttDP) to 51 percent of premises; hybrid fibre-coaxial (HFC) to 24 percent; fixed wireless and satellite to 1 percent of premises; and pure fibre to only 17 percent of Australian premises.

While each network technology has an upgrade path that could see most parts of the MTM attain gigabit speeds, this would not occur until sometime over the next five years -- whereas Vodafone NZ and Chorus are offering gigabit speeds now.