Ultrafast broadband uptake crawls along

By Laurel Stowell

Ultrafast broadband may move with the speed of greased lightning, but it's not being taken up that fast.

The fibre that carries the signals has been laid in half of Wanganui streets now, slightly ahead of target.

But providing the physical means to convey it is only half of what's needed to get people hooked up. The other half is service providers who will sell it.

As far as the Chronicle can ascertain, Wanganui has only three service providers ready at the moment. One is Palmerston North's InSpire Net.

Its owner, James Watt, has just nine customers and they are all businesses. He's committed to the long-term future of fibre, but guesses it will take 18 months to two years for the trickle of users to become an avalanche.

John Williams, a member of Wanganui's Digital Leaders' Forum, is frustrated by the slow pace. He's stopped writing articles talking up the advantages of ultrafast broadband because he can't cite examples of people making good use of it.

Marketing manager Brett Morris at Ultrafast Fibre, the company responsible for the Wanganui roll-out, said Callplus and FX Networks also have some customers connected. There were other big providers doing trials.

He said there were two things slowing the response of big provider companies. One was the newness of the technology.

"There's a lot of work for a larger retailer to go through. It's a whole new product they've never dealt with before. They need new plans and new pricing."

The other was the small size of the Wanganui market.

A third factor could be the needs and aspirations of Wanganui consumers.

Despite hitching his wagon to ultrafast technology, Mr Watts acknowledges that broadband through the present copper wires is enough for most individuals, and most businesses.

"People aren't quite ready for it yet. Copper does everything they need just now. Even for the majority of businesses it's probably plenty."

His company spent $200,000 on equipment for supplying ultrafast broadband in Wanganui. He said big providers would prefer to spend that amount of money in bigger centres.

For $70 a month his company offers free installation, a 30MB download speed, 10MB upload speed and 50GB of traffic. It's an extra $15 a month to add a telephone line.

"That's our trial pricing. We're probably going to double the traffic cap."

That's not enough to tempt Wanganui man Ed Minnell, who works with computers and spends a lot of his leisure time online.

"They don't have any plans that would suit me. I have got a better deal out of copper," he said.

"I think there's a ton of people like me. Why go to something more expensive if you're only browsing web pages?"

- Wanganui Chronicle

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