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Current as of 09/12/16 07:39PM NZST
Sophie Ryan is online editor for the Business Herald

Tangled fibre maze for apartment broadband

Getting fibre into apartments at The Galleries in downtown Auckland has been a complicated process. Photo / Geoff Dale.
Getting fibre into apartments at The Galleries in downtown Auckland has been a complicated process. Photo / Geoff Dale.

The roll-out of the fibre network around the country has been touted as world class, but Auckland apartment dwellers are struggling with a complex installation process.

Latest numbers from Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment show 184,000 households and businesses had connected to ultra-fast broadband (UFB) by the end of February 2016, taking total UFB uptake to 20 per cent.

But, the process for installing fibre into apartment buildings or corporate blocks, classified by MBIE as "multi-dwelling units" (MDUs) has been a sticking point for the roll-out, according to body corporate managers spoken to by the Business Herald.

Chorus says 2500 MDUs have had fibre installed, with 65,000 end users now able to connect to the network.

Two body corporate managers in central Auckland spoke to the Business Herald about their experience with having fibre installed in their apartment buildings and struggles tenants have had connecting.

David Watt, body corporate manager for The Galleries apartments on Graham St in Auckland said Chorus had installed fibre in the building, but apartment owners and tenants had not taken advantage of being connected to fibre due to the complicated process.

WATCH: Chorus-produced animation describing the installation process for UFB in a 'multi-dwelling' unit:

Video

Watt said the installation of fibre by Chorus had gone ahead once the body corporate gave consent for work to be carried out in "common area" of the building and he was pleased with the result.

No different from someone who lives in a house on a street ... But, there will be times when it doesn't happen like that but it definitely is our intent.
Mark Mayerhofler, manager of consents and acquisition at Chorus

Each apartment now had easy access to the fibre cable thanks to technicians leaving a "tail" of the cable coiled in a ceiling cavity outside each apartment's door.

Watt had connected his apartment, but had heard from other residents of trouble getting apartment owner's consent and miscommunication between the telcos and Chorus.

"With all that [government] funding [for the fibre roll-out], only 25 per cent of all owners have had it installed ... it's not right," he said.

READ MORE:
Chorus confident free non-standard UFB installation will continue
Land rules changed to speed up UFB install
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Trevor Giles, body corporate manager for apartment building H47 on Hobson St, Auckland, said there appeared to be a breakdown in communication between Chorus and the telecommunication companies.

"There's a lack of communication and a lack of knowledge passing from the main players, Chorus, to the [telcos]." "Every week we're repeating ourselves to every team [of technicians] that comes through." Manager of consents and acquisition at Chorus, Mark Mayerhofler said because of the number of end users in MDUs its a priority to complete the installations.

I don't think people understand that this is actually a construction job. It's like putting a new bathroom into your house - it's not going to happen overnight.
Geoff Thorn, chief executive of the Telecommunications Forum

Mayerhofler said Chorus wanted people who live in apartments to be able to be connected to UFB "relatively quickly".

WATCH: Chorus produced video showing how the UFB consent process works:

Video

"No different from someone who lives in a house on a street ... But, there will be times when it doesn't happen like that but it definitely is our intent." Mayerhofler said Chorus and ISPs maintain communication throughout the installation process and the most common difficulties arise during the consent process.

Industry representative Geoff Thorn, chief executive of the Telecommunications Forum, said the industry was "refining its processes", but denied a lack of communication as being the cause of difficulties in MDU installations.

"I don't think people understand that this is actually a construction job. It's like putting a new bathroom into your house - it's not going to happen overnight." Thorn said the biggest area of difficulty was around the consent process, and because a lot of people living in apartments need to seek consent from its owner it could add problems.

"The industry is looking at a range of options. We've never stopped trying to work around that because we don't like it ... It is difficult [for customers] to understand."

Fibre install:

* Request for connection to fibre network is lodged with an ISP (Spark, Vodafone, others).

* ISP lodges request with local fibre company (Chorus, Northpower, Enable) to connect property to network.

* LFC seek consent to install fibre at property.

* Pre-build process begins, including scoping property and agreeing on installation.

* Fibre installation/construction undertaken.

* LFC tells ISP the installation is complete.

* Customer has access to ultra-fast broadband.

- NZ Herald

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