Despite a rocky start, the Government's flagship Ultra-Fast Broadband project is now exceeding expectations with 63 per cent of the fibre rollout complete, Chorus announced today.
In a presentation in Wellington, the telco infrastructure provider said it was now establishing on average one new connection per minute, with 708,000 New Zealanders now able to connect to the UFB network.
Chorus customer service general manager Nick Woodward said the time it took between a customer ordering fibre and the installation occurring had improved from 20 days in December 2015 to 16 days in July 2016 and 11 days in April this year.
Re-scheduled jobs had dropped from 14 to 4 per cent during this period and the number of jobs being carried out each day risen from 421 to 550.
This came as data consumption "soars" to well over 200GB per month in most places, Woodward said. In Auckland, for example, the average connection was consuming 245 gigabytes of fibre data in April 2016 and 277GB in April 2017.
In Wellington it rose from 223GB to 258GB during this period and in Queenstown from 218GB to 265GB.
"Some of the numbers that are now emerging are getting to quite exceptional levels," Woodward said. "The speed and the amount of data that is being used is also just continuing to escalate."
Initiatives that had improved the rollout included a reduction in technician re-schedules and "no-shows"; an expanded field work force; and a new website app enabling easier access to information about UFB.
However, just 35 per cent of those able to connect to fibre have done so which, Woodward said, was largely due to a lack of information about the remarkable new technology.
Although the uptake was ahead of Chorus' expectations, public information would be a key focus for the organisation going forward.
"I think [what] we do know is if we promote fibre and explain to people what the benefits are then there's a much greater uptake," he said. "Fibre is a really superior product and when people know that, they get it."
It has not always been such smooth sailing for Chorus. In the early stages of the rollout its services were stretched when a quarter of businesses and households wanted to connect to the fibre network when it arrived in their street.
Time to fix faults blew out, some fibre connections were badly done and at one point in early 2016 the Herald was receiving some 40 complaints a day regarding the rollout.
Woodward acknowledged past struggles, but said things had completely changed. For example, it had initially not met its business customer commitments but the latest data showed it had gone from meeting 58 per cent of business commitments in December 2015 to 95 per cent in April 17.
"The change in performance for our business customers is quite significant. Clearly our performance wasn't good enough to meet the market and now we're meeting our commitments to business customers every time," Woodward said.
"We're doing more connections, we've got more crews, we hear less problems in the systems, we meet more of our commitments on a month-by-month basis, lead times are less than they were so customers don't have to wait as long."
IDC telecommunications research manager Shane Minogue said today's announcement clearly emphasised that a section of the market was clearly unaware that they could get access far better broadband.
"I think that for those areas where fibre is available it is a no brainer to connect. Fibre is fast, future-proof, and cost effective for consumers.