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NZ leads the broadband race?

Is NZ ahead of AU?
Written by Kristyn Maslog-Levis, Contributor
Is New Zealand getting ahead of Australia in terms of broadband coverage?

Telecom New Zealand chief executive Theresa Gattung said today that two recently published reports from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) "showed the big advances that New Zealand has made in reducing prices and getting coverage to rural areas."

"The OECD rates Telecom the sixth cheapest broadband provider among 30 OECD countries using DSL technology. Sixth out of 30 countries means that customers are getting a very good deal for their money. The price survey was done before we launched new plans in April including an even lower price of NZ$39.95 a month for broadband," Gattung said.

Gattung said when the OECD did its survey late last year, it reported that New Zealand had broadband coverage to 84.8 percent of customers while Australia only had 75 percent.

"Since then we've been increasing coverage and have now reached 92 percent coverage. With wireless broadband from BCL that will be above 95 percent and with satellite coming very soon, broadband will be available to virtually 100 percent of customers," she said.

IDC analyst Warren Chaisatien, however, believes that it is not fair to compare both countries in terms of coverage, saying Australia has much bigger geographical challenges.

"I think in terms of coverage that is true because New Zealand has a much smaller geography. It is a much easier task to do compared to a huge country like Australia. They should compare the level of adoption as well," he said.

The OECD also reported that, in addition to Telecom's coverage, there was increasing broadband competition in rural New Zealand from fixed wireless providers, some acting under the government's program and others under local initiatives.

The report said that Telecom's partnership with local bodies "had delivered broadband to the region at no cost to the councils because demand had exceeded supply and the cost of the technology had decreased."

"In the next couple of months alone we are going to be installing miniaturised DSL technology in 200 sites, which is more than we've ever done since we started the roll-out," Gattung said.

IDC Telecommunications analyst Susana Vidal said that a country's broadband coverage also largely depends on the level of competition in the country as well as the regulations.

"Australia's case is very unique since the government still owns a considerable share in the largest telecommunications company. Lately, regulations in Australia have been loosening up in some aspects like competition; however, it is also strict in the sense that it still looks after its own interest," said Vidal.

She added that the broadband coverage in Australia has considerably increased since the entry of fixed wireless broadband initiative in the country this year. Vidal believes that the entry of these companies will increase coverage especially in rural areas.

"At this point they [have] launched in Sydney but they are planning to have coverage in other cities and Australia wide, especially in rural areas. This will increase broadband coverage in the future but not this year, maybe in the next two years," Vidal said.

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