Chorus Offers Reduced Monthly Charges for Nationwide Gigabit Fiber Services

New Zealand’s telecom operator Chorus is ready to offer nationwide gigabit services from 1 October at a cost to retail telecoms operators of around $50 a month. By doing so, the operator intends to promote high-speed broadband services throughout the country. Chorus hopes the end-users will definitely get the benefit of the cheaper broadband services.

Chorus first launched gigabit speeds on its ultra-fast broadband (UFB) services in the city of Dunedin in February 2015. Chorus officials say the gigabit services will be available throughout its UFB footprint from October – an increase from the current download speeds of around 30Mbps. The operator estimates that the download speeds will be “approaching 1,000Mbps” but not quite at a full gigabit.

Chorus CEO Mark Ratcliffe said, “Making New Zealand a true ‘Gignation’, beyond the 5,000-plus connections we have in Dunedin, should see us catapulted up the league tables of broadband speed rankings and reinforce the high quality of the broadband infrastructure we’re rolling out”.

Chorus provides wholesale access services to a range of retail telecoms operators and internet service providers in New Zealand, including Spark and Vodafone NZ. “Chorus’s gigabit broadband service will run at the maximum speed the network electronics allows today,” said the company. “In practice, this means customers will see download speeds between 900Mbps and 970Mbps and upload speeds of up to 500Mbps.”

Chorus’s residential wholesale gigabit broadband service will be available to broadband retailers at an introductory price of NZ$60 a month (US $45) until 30 June 2017 after which it increases to NZ$65 a month. The business service will be priced at NZ$75 a month (US $56) from launch. The rollout is supported by a government body, Crown Fibre Holdings, which is managing an NZ$1.5 billion investment in UFB infrastructure. The objective is to accelerate the roll-out of UFB to 75% of New Zealanders for over ten years. Chorus has a contract from Crown Fibre to cover 69% of the country with UFB. Other companies in the project are Northpower, Waikato Networks and Enable Services.

Chorus is a provider of telecommunications infrastructure throughout New Zealand. It is listed on the NZX stock exchange and is in the NZX 50 Index. It is the owner of the majority of telephone lines and exchange equipment in New Zealand. It is also responsible for building approximately 70% of the new fiber optic Ultra-Fast Broadband network. It has received a government subsidy of $929 million to build the new fiber network.

The company was demerged from Telecom New Zealand in 2011 (now Spark), as a condition of winning the majority of the contracts for the Government’s Ultra-Fast Broadband Initiative. By law, it cannot sell directly to consumers, instead, it provides wholesale services to retailers. Most of the telephone infrastructure in New Zealand is owned by Chorus. As of January 2014, Chorus can provide ADSL service to 97.3% and VDSL2 (up to 70/10 Mbit/s) service to 62.4% of its copper phone lines. In April 2013 Chorus had signed contracts with Visionstream and Downer worth NZ$1 billion to build its part of New Zealand’s ultrafast broadband network, after receiving a government subsidy of $929 million. Early in 2014 Transfield Services signed agreements to help build the ultrafast broadband network.

Contrary to the usual practice overseas, most connections are at full speed, instead, plans differ in the amount of data included. As DSL is sensitive to distance, the closer the customer is to the equipment, the faster the connections. Chorus has implemented a fiber-to-the-node (also known as “cabinetisation”) project to bring the equipment closer to the user, so 91% of the lines are able to access an ADSL2+ connection of 10Mbit/s or more.

The copper loop is unbundled, so operators like Vodafone, Orcon, and Callplus/Slingshot can install their own equipment at telephone exchanges and just rent the copper line from Chorus. As of December 2013, 130,000 (7%) lines are unbundled. Chorus is responsible for installing most of the government’s Ultra-Fast Broadband fibre. UFB is planned to connect about 80% of the population to 200Mbit/s services throughout New Zealand, with a particular focus on schools and hospitals.

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