Chorus is predicting that the average household's broadband use - already stoked by the Rugby World Cup and Covid-19 - will double to 1000 gigabytes per month by 2023.
That's the equivalent of downloading 250 high-definition (HD) movies - although in two years' time, most of us might be doing most of our streaming in 4K (ultra-high definition), which hogs four times as much data, or even 8K.
While cloud computing in the office and video streaming at home have been the two background drivers, an unusual mix of phenomena has been behind our biggest spikes over the past three years.
An update to the wildly popular online multiplayer game Fortnite driving the biggest demand in 2018, the 2019 Rugby World Cup (with a couple of wobbles) fuelling a 2019 spike and the work-from-home Zoom-boom pushing broadband use to new heights this year.
Chorus chief executive JB Rousselot says his company has seen what it believes will be a permanent shift in broadband use, with remote working levels remaining relatively high post-lockdown. Organisations have found working-from-home - which typically consumers more broadband - is more productive than they thought and many staff are continuing to work remotely. In part that's because of lingering pandemic fears, but also because it eliminates the energy and time-sink of rush-hour.
The data use will double prediction was made in an investor presentation, released this morning to spruik a possible $200 million retail bond offer.
Chorus says it might have two series of bonds with seven and 10-year-terms (but not interest rates) as its existing two debt market offerings: a $400m issue with a coupon rate of 4.12 per cent that matures in May 2021 (which was recently trading at $101.69 per $100 for a yield of 0.74 per cent, having tumbled two-thirds over the past 12 months) and a $500m, 4.35 per cent issue maturing in December 2023 (recently trading gat $109.95 for a 1.30 per cent yield, which is flat over the past 12-months).
Assuming it goes ahead, proceeds from the $200m issue will be used to refinance the $400m bond.
The $200m issue is set to open on November 16, with ANZ, Craigs, Forsyth Barr and Westpac as joint managers. Further details will be released ahead of that date, Chorus says.
Jarden research head Arie Dekker calls it "Business-as-usual balance sheet management."
On the equity side of the fence, Dekker has a neutral rating on Chorus neutral rating and a 12-month price target.
Shares closed at $8.64 on Friday. The stock is up 66.47 per cent for the year.
While Chorus is now in the final stages of the capital-intensive UFB, and luring investors with the promise of much higher dividends post-2021, Dekker cautions that the regulatory process that will determine the rules of the telco game from 2022 onward are still being determined - and notes the potential of 4G then 5G fixed wireless to take the gloss off the landline network operator's bottom line.
This morning's Chorus presentation underlines some themes from the company's annual meeting on Friday - including the pending entry of Sky TV into the broadband market (as a Chorus partner), the fact that some 20 per cent of new customers are choosing super-fast 1 gigabit per second (or "one gig") plans, and the nationwide launch of Chorus' new 2 gig and 4 gig plans, with an 8 gig plan in the offing by the end of this year.
Hyperfibre has so far had a distinctly muted reaction from retail providers, with four of the big five who account for around 80 per cent of the market (Spark, Vodafone, 2degrees and Trustpower) saying the technology is not ready for primetime, leaving Vocus (owner of Orcon) as the only top-tier player to offer plans based on the new service.
Rousselot countered on Friday that mobile network operators could not be "relied on" to push fibre because they were pushing 4G and soon 5G fixed wireless as an alternative for some customers. The Chorus boss said he would ask the Commerce Commission to take a look at how fixed wireless was, in his view, being pushed on some customers. Vodafone and Spark disputed his claims.