Chorus is set to offer new UFB fibre plans in the New Year that are many times the speed of the first 5G plans as Vodafone and Spark turbocharge their mobile networks.
The network provider says it will provide 2 gigabit per second and 4 gigabit per second UFB fibre plans for some South Islanders from February, followed by Auckland in May and a broader rollout to follow (see table below).
Chorus chief customer officer Ed Hyde says 8 gigabit per second plans will follow. That bandwidth was demoed at a preview event in Auckland this morning at production house Augusto, one of several trial customers.
That will give Kiwis access to some of the fastest broadband in the world.
Hyde says today the most common type of UFB fibre plan offers 100 megabit per second downloads, although some 20 per cent of new orders are for Chorus' current top-tier plan, which offers 1Gbps (that is, 1000 megabit/s).
The Hyperfibre plans will be up to 40 times faster than today's most common UFB plans.
You'll be able to download a high definition movie in one second.
Wholesale pricing has yet to be revealed, and the full price will depend on the margin that retail internet service providers add.
But Hyde indicated it would not be cheap. The Chorus executive said initial pricing would probably only appeal to business customers, although plans would also be open to residential customers.
The line-up of ISPs who will offer Hyperfiber plans has yet to be set, though Chorus says Spark, Vodafone, Vocus (owner of Orcon, Slingshot and Flip), 2degrees and Trustpower - who collectively account for around 95 per cent of the market - all participated in a trial.
Who needs 2Gbit/s or 4Gbit/s of bandwidth? Even with every member of a household mainlining 4K Netflix, online gaming and videoconferencing at once, it's hard to max out a 1Gbit/s line.
Any internet connection typically involves several servers and is only as strong as its weakest link - which is often less than 1Gbit/s.
Hyde says that's why the business is the initial target. He concedes many homes won't have the latest version of wi-fi - Wi-Fi 6, which is needed to take advantage of the new 2Gbit/s and 4Gbit/s plans (a new ONT box will be required too - that's the bit of hardware between the fibre from the street and your ISP's modem/router).
Mariano Segedin, Head of Operations at Augusto, a hybrid creative and production agency that has been trialling Hyperfibre products, says the hyper-connectivity has been critical to the workflow and growth of their New York office and client base.
"Given the nature of our business, we constantly find ourselves transferring large video files to offices across the globe. Having trialled Hyperfibre services, a 1TB file (1000 Gob) that would ordinarily take 12 hours to download/upload, now takes just 18 minutes."
Hyde said Weta Digital would be a candidate for Hyperfibre once the rollout hit the capital.
Facing down 5G threat
More broadly, Chorus is, in part, looking to head off the threat from fixed-wireless - where Spark and Vodafone use their 4G networks to deliver broadband into a home, eliminating the need for a landline - literally and financially cutting wholesale network operator Chorus out of the loop.
Spark - which last week raised data caps to a chunky 600GB for some fixed-wireless customers - added 36,000 fixed-wireless clients in 2019 for a total 166,000. Spark is trialling 5G fixed-wireless in Alexandra, with more towns to follow shortly.
Vodafone NZ currently has around 46,000 on fixed-wireless and wants to ramp that up to a quarter of its fixed-line customer base or around 100,000 with a couple of years as it upgrades to 5G.
Earlier, Vodafone NZ technology director Tony Baird said people could expect speeds of up to 300Mbit/s when his company goes live
Hyde says fibre can guarantee consistent speed and 1ms latency. Vodafone and Spark say 5G will offer fibre-like speed almost whenever you go, once their 5G networks fill out.
Baird also said once millimetric 5G spectrum was available (likely post-2022), then Vodafone would be able to utilise landline and cabinet assets it inherited from TelstraClear in major centres to offered fixed-wireless for business.
Telecommunications Users Association chief executive Craig Young says it's all good.
"It's always a good question as to whether any user will need the newest and fastest speeds but experience has shown that once the service is in place, services and users find ways to make the most of it," the consumer watchdog says.
"And with the new 5G networks being rolled out, Chorus and the other fibre providers need to stay ahead of the offerings available on the new mobile networks so I see this very much as being an outcome of competition that's pushing innovation.
"My view is that users will work out what is the best type of connectivity they need for the services they want. It's not an either/or but a choice of options.
"Competition in infrastructure is good."
Chorus' indicative Hyper fibre rollout timetable
• February 2020 – Queenstown, Arrowtown, Wakatipu, Wanaka & Cromwell
• March 2020 – Courtenay Place, Johnsonville, Miramar, Wellington
• April 2020 – Invercargill, Invercargill East, Invercargill South, Waikiwi
• May 2020 – Auckland, Avondale, Birkenhead, Mayoral Drive, Ponsonby
• June 2020 – Palmerston North
• September 2020 – The wider Chorus UFB1 fibre network