There has been a huge jump in the number of New Zealanders on UFB fibre over the past 12 months, and most of us are now on unlimited data plans, Stats NZ says - with the rise and rise of Netflix and other streaming video services fuelling both trends.

Some 70 per cent of households with a broadband connection are now on an uncapped data plan.

READ MORE: FIVE WAYS TO SAVE SKY TV

In 2014, only 127,000 residential broadband connections had no data cap. Today, that
number stands at 1.3m, with 182,000 added in the past year alone.

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Unlimited data plans are popular with people who take UFB fibre plans - the better to watch hours of Netflix, Lightbox, Amazon Prime Video or on-demand services from Sky TV, TVNZ and others without having to worry about busting your cap.

Average household monthly data use, June 2013 to June 2018. Graphic / Stats NZ.
Average household monthly data use, June 2013 to June 2018. Graphic / Stats NZ.

And fibre connections increased by 54 per cent to 598,000 in the year to June 2018.

One in three households are now on fibre, compared to one in eight in 2016.

Stats NZ analyst Laura O'Leary says the average household used 150 gigabytes of data in June.

"This is equivalent to streaming 60 hours of high-definition TV online, or watching all seven seasons of Game of Thrones back to back," she says.

According to a Roy Morgan survey released on August 13, 1.91m New Zealanders were in a household with Netflix access in June - a 35.9 per cent year-on-year increase that gave the streaming giant wider reach than Sky TV.

The latest Broadband Deployment Update from MBIE, for the quarter to June 30, says 605,345 premises now have UFB fibre - or, to put it another way, 44.1 per cent of those within reach of UFB fibre have chosen to take a UFB fibre plan.

While fewer than half within reach of UFB fibre bothering to connect might seem low, it's still ahead of government projections. In 2012, then-Communications Minister Amy Adams was targetting 40 to 45 per cent uptake by the completion of the build (then scheduled to wrap up in 2020) while Commerce Commission was projecting 20 - 25 per cent uptake by 2019.

Based on a survey of 1586 New Zealanders aged 14+, April-June 2018. Graphic / Roy Morgan.
Based on a survey of 1586 New Zealanders aged 14+, April-June 2018. Graphic / Roy Morgan.

Still, with the Rugby World Cup 2019 now less than a year away, Spark will be hoping for another big jump in fibre uptake, and soon.

And while households have adopted UFB fibre at a faster pace than anticipated, it hasn't translated to higher profits for providers. Spark and other telcos have complained that tightly regulated wholesale prices and fierce competition at the retail level have made it hard to make a buck from fixed-line broadband.

The amount of data consumed by Kiwis peaks between 7pm and 10pm - primetime for streaming video. Graphic / Chorus.
The amount of data consumed by Kiwis peaks between 7pm and 10pm - primetime for streaming video. Graphic / Chorus.

New Zealand is slightly behind Australia for average monthly data use, according to OECD figures. But aggregated results from speed-test platform Ookla for August show Kiwis (81.9 megabits per second) enjoy a faster average broadband connection than across the Tasman (32.3Mbit/s) where the Aussie equivalent of our UFB, the NBN (National Broadband Network) has been something of a dog's breakfast of ever-shifting strategy.

The UFB build is currently 74.8 per cent complete and is 7 per cent ahead of schedule, MBIE says.

UFB fibre will be available to 87 per cent of New Zealanders, in about 390 towns/cities by the end of 2022.

While unlimited data has become pervasive in landline broadband, mobile broadband connections still labour under relatively tight data caps. The past year has seen Spark, 2degrees and Vodafone introduce "unlimited" mobile data plans.

However, the Commerce Commission is currently investigating Vodafone's "unlimited" plan, which, like those offered by Spark and 2degrees, is subject to a number of usage restrictions.