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Kiwi broadband usage grew 37% during pandemic peak

In a year where both telco revenue and investment dipped by NZ$200 million and NZ$100 million, respectively.
Written by Campbell Kwan, Contributor

New Zealanders increased their broadband usage at the peak of the pandemic last year, with the average fixed broadband usage rising to 284GB in June 2020, which was a 37% uptick from the year prior.

"Our 2020 monitoring report includes the first COVID-19 lockdown period and it shows that changes in the way Kiwis worked, learned, and played led to significant growth in fixed broadband usage," said Telecommunications commissioner Tristan Gilbertson.

Mobile data usage also increased by 22% year-on-year to 3.3GB per month during that same period.

The data usage trends were released by New Zealand's Commerce Commission (ComCom) as part of its annual telecommunications monitoring report [PDF], which also unveiled total industry and connection metrics.  

Despite the increases in data usage, government testing showed that copper and fibre download speeds stayed fairly steady for most households. On average, download speeds for copper and Fibre 100 plans were largely unaffected while average download speeds for Fibre Max decreased by about 4%, the report said. 

Fixed wireless performance decreased by around 25% during April last year, however, which the report said was a reflection of the susceptibility of performance dips of these services.

For the year to June 2020, New Zealand's telecommunications retail industry saw revenue decline by NZ$200 million when compared to the previous year, while investment dipped NZ$100 million.

Gilbertson said the drop in investment during the year was primarily due to the Ultra-Fast Broadband network now being 93% complete. Specifically, copper access investment decreased by 19% in 2020 to NZ$269 million, with Chorus to start cutting its copper connections in September.

Despite revenue and investment dipping due to the pandemic, more Kiwis continued to shift to fibre connections, with over 1 million Kiwis now using this type of connection, a 20% year-on-year increase. By comparison, copper broadband only comprised of 487,000 connections as of June 2020.

"Total copper broadband connections dropped 24% to 441,000. This drop occurred across all variants, including higher speed VDSL. This continues the trend seen in 2019 when copper broadband connections dropped 23%," the report said.

In total, there were 1.79 million fixed-line connections in the country as of June 2020.

Households also continued to move away from landlines for calling with residential landline connections down 12%. Over half of household fixed-line connections now have no voice service, according to the report.

Spark continued to be the biggest fixed broadband retailer for the year to June 2020, holding 40% of the market. This was followed by Vodafone with 21%, Vocus with 13%, and 2degrees 7%.

2degrees overtook Trustpower to become the fourth largest provider with its 7% market share.

While major fixed broadband retailers continued to hold the lion's share of the market during the year, smaller telecommunications providers continued to grow their market share in the fixed-broadband market, upping their share from 11% to 13% in 2020.

Looking at mobile, there were 6.2 million mobile connections as of June 2020, with 51% of these connections comprised of pre-paid plans.

Border closures restricting travel led to total mobile roaming revenue dropping 15% to NZ$96.6 million in the year to 30 June 2020. Revenue from domestic customers roaming overseas also fell by 20%.

"The impact of COVID-19 travel restrictions can be seen in the decline of mobile roaming revenue for mobile network operators, with revenue from New Zealanders roaming overseas falling by 20%", Gilbertson said.  

Vodafone and Spark both took 40% of the mobile market each. 2degrees' share of the market, meanwhile, was down from 22% to 19% this year. MVNO subscribers made up the final 1.4% of the mobile market.

Last week, 2degrees, Spark, and Vodafone committed to providing more information and tools to support consumer choice before the end of the year, following calls from ComCom to address transparency and inertia issues regarding retail service quality.

According to ComCom, the telcos have jointly agreed to provide at least 12 months' usage and spend information to customers; provide customers with an annual summary of their usage and spend along with a prompt to consider alternative options; and promote the development of tools to enable more effective comparison and choice for telco consumers through the nation's Telecommunications Forum.

As part of developing the comparison tools, the telcos will also develop a prospective CDR to make it easier for customers to compare plans and providers. 


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