Gaming or baking pies – fibre is key ingredient.

You could say fibre broadband enabled Dean Hall and New Zealand gaming firm Rocketwerkz to...rocket..

This computer games company shot to prominence when entrepreneur Dean Hall (a man who has climbed Mt Everest and who has similarly high international hopes for his Dunedin-based company) returned to New Zealand after a stint overseas where he designed Day Z - the popular, open world survival game.

But it wasn't until fibre fuelled his business that it really began to operate at "light speed".
Hall - who also created a recent stir when he revealed he offered unlimited annual leave to his staff while capping his own salary at no more than 10 per cent higher than the firm's next highest-paid employee - is a fervent advocate of fibre and its effect on his business.

"There were problems getting fibre into our building but 2degrees and Chorus solved them quickly," says Hall. "If you want an illustration of what that has meant to us, look at scaling.


"Before we went onto fibre, we had four employees. Now we have 44. Yet there are some New Zealanders who do not understand the opportunities fibre gives their business compared to standard internet. I am very happy to talk about that - and get the message out there."

That message clearly needs sending - and receiving. A MYOB Business Monitor survey, published in December, revealed only 32 per cent of New Zealand SMEs have fibre even though nearly 60 per cent believed it would benefit their business.

The number of SMEs in New Zealand is just under 488,000 - representing 97 cent of all businesses, employing 30 per cent of our population and producing about 27 per cent of New Zealand's GDP.

So Hall's contention that widespread adoption of fibre can only boost the businesses which use it - and the economy as a whole - seems valid.

But what were the differences fibre made to his operation?

First, "version control" - when a video game is being developed, work is regularly submitted to a central repository. That means big files have to be saved and re-saved.

"It's called version control," says Hall. "Individual files can be pretty big - 100MB or more - and a finished game can easily be 40 Gigabytes or more. But it's very important for us to be able to go back into the history and, for example, check and make sure an error is corrected."

Another huge plus for Rocketwerkz has been fibre's ability to handle updates. Tools like 3-D and programming tools are updated "all the time" - meaning regular delays.

"Trying to download updates with the old internet often took half a day," says Hall, "or even most of a day sometimes. That is time someone cannot work. Just getting fibre made a huge difference - what took half a day now takes a few minutes."

The third benefit is what Hall describes as fibre's "killer app" - uploads: "Under the old ADSL and even VDSL, you found downloads were okay but uploads were terrible. With fibre, uploads are great.

"Fibre has actually been a great recruitment tool for us as well," says Hall. "We try to attract skilled and highly creative people from overseas to work with our talented people here - and a lot of them play video games for hours.

"If they know they are plugging into fibre in Dunedin, that's a big drawcard - especially because they know Australia has poor access to quality internet."

"Fibre's important to us because what we do is visual; we do not physically manufacture anything. What we do is seen on a screen."

In Contrast, what Franz Lieber does is seen on a plate. The celebrated pie-maker in South Canterbury runs Fairlie Bakehouse, famous for Lieber pies - and his business is also growing fast.

Franz manages and runs his factory and his bakery in Fairlie and works a gruelling 16-hours-a-day, 7-days-a-week working schedule. In 7 years, staff numbers have grown from 4 to 40 and he is keenly aware that fibre will be needed to help further growth.

"We have broadband at the moment with 2degrees and that works great for me, along with my phone - I am able to keep up with everything all the time."

But the man who was a chef for 40 years before opening his bakery knows further expansion is needed - and that fibre is not only excellent for reaching out to customers, it is also a growth tool.

"I started this business when I had a holiday home here," he says. "Just a little business - but now it is a big business. We are building a new bakery now and I will have to have more people, so I know we will probably need to upgrade to fibre in the future."

2degrees Chief Marketing Officer Roy Ong says fibre not only gives speed and big file transference to a company like Rocketwerkz, it also enables SMEs to access a tool up to 20 times faster than ADSL and VDSL broadband services.

"That means you can get to market, you can attract customers and service them faster - a huge advantage. All the old constraints affecting your market are loosened; the brief history of fibre is already populated with companies who turned that advantage into profits.

"It's a mystery why more businesses are not doing it here in New Zealand."