Hamish Fletcher

Hamish Fletcher is a business reporter for the NZ Herald

Fibre ready homes 'anything but'

Twisted copper pairs are unsuitable for the speeds being planned for the Government's ultra-fast broadband scheme (UFB). File photo / NZ Herald
Twisted copper pairs are unsuitable for the speeds being planned for the Government's ultra-fast broadband scheme (UFB). File photo / NZ Herald

Some new homes built in areas marketed as "fibre ready" do not have the wiring to support ultra-fast broadband, says an industry standards group.

The Telecommunications Carriers Forum (TCF), which produces best practice codes for the industry, said there was the "ridiculous scenario" of houses not wired for high-speed internet, despite being in new sub-divisions with underground fibre.

"There have been instances of exactly this happening. [One case involved] internet at Hobson Point where Vector was providing fibre but the developers weren't wiring up homes appropriately," said TCF chief executive David Stone.

Stone said most homes in New Zealand were wired using twisted copper pairs, which was unsuitable for the speeds being planned for the Government's ultra-fast broadband scheme (UFB).

"Twisted copper was designed for voice telephony, not broadband," he said. "[For fast internet] you need Cat-5 or Cat-6 cables."

Some residents would be able to get around this using wireless internet, but others would need to upgrade the wiring at their own cost.

The UFB network hopes to offer internet speeds of 100 megabits per second by rolling out fibre cables throughout 75 per cent of New Zealand over the next ten years.

This is more than twenty times faster than last year's average browsing and download speeds.

Preparing for the introduction of UFB, the forum has updated its wiring code, which it released for public consultation last Friday.

The code is not mandatory and only gives a set of guidelines for electricians to ensure houses will be ready for fibre.

Stone said it was difficult to get property developers to install "fibre-ready" wiring as standard practice because of the costs involved.

"Twisted copper is cheaper, it's what [tradespeople] know and unless you specify you want wiring of a higher specification, you tend to get the low-spec [version]," he said.

The TCF had met Building and Construction Minister Maurice Williamson, but Stone said nothing concrete had been formulated.

Telecommunications Users Association chief executive Paul Brislen had also heard of cases of old-style wiring in new houses and said the TCF's code should be binding.

"For new subdivisions, I think the code should be mandatory and there needs to be a way of explaining the issue for those who already own a house who might want to [change the wiring] when doing renovation work," he said.

Brislen also called for the Government to be involved in ensuring houses were wired correctly.

"If the Government is going to force the UFB on the industry, then it does have a role to play," he said.

Maurice Williamson was unavailable for comment yesterday.

Older computers 'not designed for UFB'
Web users may have to upgrade their personal computing equipment if they are to benefit from ultra-fast broadband, says a Northland internet provider.

While the Government has stated there will be no connection fee for residential users on the UFB scheme, managing director of UberGroup, Hayden Simon, said many households might have to buy new gear to get the most out of fast internet.

"A lot of people's computers just can't take advantage of 30 megabits per second, let alone 100 [megabits per second]," he said.

"They are still running PCs which are five or six years old now and are bogged down and were never optimised for fast broadband."

New network switches would need to be purchased if households had more than one computer and were networking them, he said.

"If they've got a single computer it's straightforward, but if they've got a [home] network they would need a decent network switch, not one you go buy from a retail store," he said.

Wireless equipment will also need to be high-end to take advantage of the speeds.

"A good number of people are using wireless in their homes the cheaper [equipment] stuff just cannot deliver," he said.

The Government arm responsible for rolling out fibre internet, Crown Fibre Holdings, said all costs involved in upgrading equipment must be borne by retail providers.

As a small provider, Hayden said he could not afford to provide new equipment and said it was unlikely larger companies would bear the cost themselves.

- NZ Herald

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