Hamish Fletcher

Business reporter for the NZ Herald

Orcon fires first shot in fast-fibre war

Photo / Thinkstock
Photo / Thinkstock

Orcon has beaten its competitors with the announcement of ultra-fast broadband prices, but there is still no word on what content packages will be available to entice consumers to sign up.

Chief executive Scott Bartlett revealed Orcon's fibre plans yesterday and said the entry-level option of $75 per month for residential customers was on par with what the company charges now.

This plan, which includes phone services, comes with download speeds of 30 megabits per second, upload speeds of 10 megabits per second and a data allowance of 30 gigabytes per month.

Customers will need to pay a premium for faster download speeds or more data. Orcon's business fibre plans will start from $169 plus GST per month.

Although there is no connection fee for the first set of residential customers, the question of who foots the bill for the bulk of home installations has still not been finalised, Bartlett said.

Orcon is the first major internet company to reveal prices for services on the Government's $1.35 billion ultra-fast broadband (UFB) network.

The UFB scheme will see the Crown and its private-sector partners deploy thousands of kilometres of fibre cables, providing download speeds of 100 megabits per second to 75 per cent of New Zealand by the end of 2019.

This is around 10 to 20 times faster than the speeds the majority of urban internet users now enjoy.

The companies responsible for the build hope to have more than 50,000 homes across the country connected by the middle of this year.

In Auckland, Crown-partner Chorus aims to have fibre rolled out to customers in parts of Herne Bay, Ponsonby, Grey Lynn, Albany, Remuera and East Tamaki by July.

Customers in these areas can sign up for the Orcon plans now and will receive the service once they are hooked up to the fibre network.

The Herald understands Chorus will reveal further details of its build schedule today or tomorrow.

While Orcon came to market yesterday with its prices, Bartlett would not reveal his hand on what content packages - such as movies and television - the company had planned.

Although he gave no specifics, Bartlett said content packages were "in the pipeline".

Television and movie content is seen by commentators as a key driver for the uptake of fibre internet services.

Telecommunications User Association chief executive Paul Brislen said although early-adopters would be keen to get fibre just for faster internet speeds, the bulk of internet users would need other incentives to sign up.

"It's going to have to change dramatically before the vast bulk of middle New Zealand wants to get connected because they're going to need their own drivers and that predominantly is content," Brislen said.

Brislen also expressed some reservations about Orcon's data caps. "Pricing wise it's excellent. It's exactly what we wanted to see, good entry-level plans to get people started. My only concern would be the data caps being so low, but that's not just an Orcon issue that's a broader issue we've got to address here in New Zealand," he said.

But Bartlett said Orcon's UFB plans were a "step-change" in the amount of data being offered per month, with customers able to get a terabyte (roughly 1000 gigabytes) over fibre for $199.

CallPlus and Slingshot chief executive Mark Callander said the companies planned to release pricing details next month.

Telecom said it would announce its plans "soon". Vodafone hopes to release details after trials are completed "in a few months".

- NZ Herald

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