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Chorus chosen to build two regional NZ fibre links in West Coast and Southland

The links will run from Fox Glacier to Lake Hawea, and from Te Anau to Milford Sound.
Written by Campbell Kwan, Contributor

Chorus will build two new regional fibre links on behalf of the New Zealand government in the West Coast and Southland regions to upgrade communication services and expand Ultra-Fast broadband (UFB) connectivity.  

The telco received the nod following a tender process conducted by the government-owned Crown Infrastructure Partners.

The two regional fibre links, funded by the government's Provincial Growth Fund, will run from Fox Glacier to Lake Hawea for approximately 240km, and from Te Anau to Milford Sound for approximately 120km. 

The new links will generally follow State Highway 6 and State Highway 94, respectively, the government said.

"The upgraded capacity and resilience these new fibre links will provide to the West Coast and Southland are a further example of the government's ongoing commitment to improving critical telecommunications infrastructure nationwide, as well as specifically boosting investment in the regions," New Zealand Infrastructure Minister Shane Jones said.

"Investment in high-quality communications infrastructure proved its worth to New Zealand during the COVID-19 lockdown and will also underpin the economic recovery."

In addition to providing upgraded broadband services, the Fox Glacier-Lake Hawea link will add the Haast township to the government's UFB rollout and provide an alternative route to existing fibres, which are primarily on the East Coast of the South Island. 

UFB connectivity will be added to Haast after the link is complete, with Chorus to be responsible for building fibre to the home in the township. 

Both of the new links will also provide connections to mobile towers that are being deployed on the Coast and in Milford Sound under the Rural Broadband Initiative phase two (RBI2). According to the New Zealand government, the links will provide connectivity to mobile towers that cover approximately 187km of mobile black spots and 21 total tourism sites in total.

The Fox Glacier-Hawea fibre link will be completed in the first half of 2022 and the Milford link is expected to be ready by the end of 2022.
Earlier this year, the New Zealand government invested an additional NZ$15 million into upgrading rural network capacity to help the economy of remote communities recover from the effects of COVID-19. The additional funding was allocated towards upgrading existing rural mobile towers, upgrading wireless backhaul that connects remote sites to central networks, and installing external antennae on households to improve coverage. 

The RBI2 is expected to be complete by the end of 2021 and provide broadband for New Zealand's rural population. The remaining population -- around 87% -- are covered by the UFB project, which provides speeds of up to 1Gbps using fibre to the premises.  

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