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Chorus announces gigabit-speed broadband across New Zealand

While NBN says it is in a 'leadership position' for providing 25Mbps speeds across Australia, Chorus is rolling out 1Gbps fibre services on the New Zealand government's UFB.
Written by Corinne Reichert, Contributor

New Zealand fixed-line telecommunications provider Chorus has announced that it will be extending its 1Gbps fibre broadband service across the entire Ultra-Fast Broadband (UFB) footprint as of October.

Chorus said the average download speed on its network is now 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," said Chorus CEO Mark Ratcliffe.

"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.

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

As of June 30, Chorus had 1.226 million broadband connections, made up of 900,000 UBA services; 159,000 VDSL services; and 167,000 fibre services.

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, at a cost per premises (CPP) passed of NZ$1,689, and a CPP connected of NZ$1,009.

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 it 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 in an interview with ABC radio on Friday morning.

"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.

Chorus last month announced earnings before interest, tax, depreciation, and amortisation (EBITDA) of NZ$594 million for FY16, on net profit of NZ$91 million and revenue of NZ$1.008 billion.

The New Zealand government's Rural Broadband Initiative (RBI) is 100 percent complete, Chorus also said, with the project enhancing and extending fixed-line coverage to approximately 110,000 premises for NZ$282 million. It had seen an uptake of 88 percent.

The UFB will reach 80 percent of the New Zealand population once complete, while the RBI will provide download speeds of 50Mbps to the remaining 20 percent.

Chorus is "awaiting RBI2 details" from the government.

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