Businesses keen to join fibre revolution

By Steve Hart


Communications infrastructure firm Chorus is laying fibre across half of Auckland as part of the Government's ultra fast broadband (UFB) initiative.


So far, the firm has laid 1500km of fibre, putting the services in reach of more than 72,000 people - its network will cover 24 of the 33 districts in the greater Auckland area.


The installation plan is currently focusing on delivering high speed internet services to schools, business clusters and hospitals. Residents living near these areas can also link up to the network.


The company is now in year two of its project and will continue laying fibre optic cables until 2019.


"We are targeting businesses as a priority during the first four years of the build," says Craig Young, Chorus' head of industry relations.


"We already had quite a lot of fibre in the ground before we started the UFB project, but under the old system it was expensive to use.


"It was also quite localised to Auckland's CBD.


"But part of the deal we agreed with Crown Fibre was to reduce all the wholesale pricing on the existing network to be the same as the new installation.


"That meant internet service retailers could start to offer a high-end service that may have been out of the reach of some businesses."


Young says some people are confused by the UFB project, they think the high-speed fibre only goes to the nearest phone cabinet or node.


"Some of us are going to be on copper until 2019, because people don't have to take fibre into their homes - they can stay on copper if they want," he says. "But UFB is all about getting fibre services into buildings, right to the end user."


People using existing DSL broadband can expect data transfer speeds of 10mg a second down (for receiving data) and 2mg a second up (for sending data).


Fibre offers speeds of 100mg up and down, with options for 1000mg (one gig) at a premium price.


Apart from sending and receiving emails at lightning speed, what else does fibre offer businesses?


"The fast speeds of data transfer isn't the be-all and end-all for business users," says Young. "Certainly they want faster internet services, but it is all about efficiency for business people. With the repricing, fibre is cheaper, and in many cases on a par with standard DSL broadband. What we are finding is most businesses are using fibre to solve a specific problem.


"For example, with Auckland being so spread out, the fibre network is helping businesses connect across the city - linking up multiple offices and allowing regional office staff to connect to a central server.


"Perhaps a CBD firm has an office in Takapuna and the connection has always been slow, well now that issue can be resolved. Firms can start to make the most of being spread out, which is a big drawcard, from what we are seeing. Once firms get fibre to fix one issue, the added benefits start emerge - such as video-conferencing and remote working."


Storing large files in the cloud also becomes more workable, particularly for firms handing and sharing large files such as audio and video.


"Training for staff also becomes easier with fibre," says Young.


"If staff want to watch an online training video they won't slow down the office network any more.


"We had a case where a school had to stop using the internet so one classroom could watch a YouTube video; that type of thing also happens in business. Now the school has fibre that problem has gone."


For businesses that have the option of fibre, Young says though the hard cabling that connects their computers is likely up to the job of handling a high-speed connection, those with wireless networks might need to upgrade. "Not all WiFi systems can run as fast as fibre," says Young. "We do see people needing to upgrade their wireless routers."


With Chorus' installation of fibre in Auckland still having more than six years to go, uptake by businesses is in its infancy. Big players such as Telecom and Vodafone are yet to offer the product, says Young.


"But the small internet providers are making a big play," he says.


"I think the bigger guys want a bit more of a market before they offer it. But from all the feedback I get from business owners, they can't wait to have it."


The rollout


So far Chorus has laid

1500km of fibre, putting the services in reach of more than

72,000 people - its network will cover

24 of the 33 districts in the greater Auckland area.

- THE AUCKLANDER

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