Free deals to drive fibre network uptake

By PATRICK O'SULLIVAN - Business Editor

Poor fibre-network uptake is making Chorus partner with internet retailer Now to offer free deals, while UnisonFibre is connecting customers at twice the speed of the national average.

Now CEO Hamish White said Chorus was offering an opportunity for an expanding number of potential customers to no avail.

"The resulting trickle of connections that have come through hardly justifies the $1.5 billion investment the Government has made in the new fibre networks," he said.

"In response, Now are offering free standard installation and free monthly service rental for residential customers for a 50GB broadband plan with a phoneline for the rest of the year, for those that sign up by the end of August."

He said the offer of free ultra fast broadband (UFB) for the year was expected to drive a step-change in people's appetite to adopt the new technology.

Now was the first company to launch fibre-to-the-home plans in Hawke's Bay in June, offering a service competitive with copper-based broadband (ADSL) pricing "and to date we have been underwhelmed by uptake".

The offer is restricted to those areas that have been furnished with Chorus UFB fibre: Pandora, Marewa, Westshore Napier's Hospital Hill and parts of Onekawa.

Unison's network was almost complete and serviced the business areas of Napier and Hastings.

Until the end of April the Government-subsided network had only 1012 connections to its network in New Zealand out of a potential 60,000 premises.

UnisonFibre sales and marketing manager Wayne Baird said his company was connecting "well above the national average".

"We have well over 150 connections and it is starting to build momentum. We are getting a lot of enquiry - well over 500 businesses are considering it."

Despite a relatively good uptake it is nowhere near Unison's ambitions, and UnisonFibre has set up a demonstration room for its internet providers to showcase the network's potential.

"We are trying to replicate in here what their customers can use, but if anyone wants to look directly in here we will make it available," Mr Baird said.

"The key thing is for people to touch and try things out."

An Eftpos terminal will soon be an added demonstration.

Mr Baird said speeds would always be limited with ADSL uploading. "If you have fibre, your uploads and downloads can be at the same speed.

"Speed is one thing but it is also getting that clean access. With digital fibre you get a far better performance - you get a far more reliable speed. Whereas if you are running on copper line your speed is determined by a number of factors: how far from the exchange you are, how many other people are online at the same time.

"But with fibre you are guaranteed all that."

Fibre was also about the bottom line, he said.

"We are seeing and getting comments from our suppliers that end users are putting in things that are actually saving them money.

"I went to an end user to a company that had 12 different phone lines, and they were able to save at least half.

"Now each retailer will have different costs and different solutions - it is not always going to be as good as that example but there will still be significant savings," he said.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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