Fibre optic cable en route

GETTING CONNECTED: Then Minister for Communications and Information Technology Steven Joyce helps lay the first ultra fast broadband fibre optic cable in Albany’s industrial area in 2011.
GETTING CONNECTED: Then Minister for Communications and Information Technology Steven Joyce helps lay the first ultra fast broadband fibre optic cable in Albany’s industrial area in 2011.

As ultra fast broadband time frames are announced for the Hibiscus Coast starting July next year, Rodney villages could easily beat them to it.

Two years ago Rodney businesses were in an uproar over news they would miss out on the government's ultra fast broadband initiative, having to settle instead for much slower speeds under the Rural Broadband Initiative. They were the only urban areas in the Auckland region left out.

Whangarei is the only urban area north of the Hibiscus Coast to be included in the government's UFB.

But now, thanks to an iwi-owned fibre optic cable network, businesses in Helensville, Wellsford, Te Hana and Kaiwaka can be as internationally competitive with connectivity as downtown Auckland.

In May last year, Taitokerau Networks finished laying its 165 kilometre, $8.5 million Auckland to Whangarei fibre optic cable. Profits in the first stage of the network to Whangarei will bankroll further development into the north, with a two-year target to get to Kaitaia.

Taitokerau Networks, owned by Northland iwi Te Rarawa, Ngati Whatua and Whaingaroa, has joint funding from China through Axin NZ and is managed by Wellington company Datalight.

The Taitokerau Networks cable runs north through Helensville and follows State Highway 16 through Wellsford and further north through Te Hana and Kaiwaka to Whangarei.

This sees residents and businesses in the towns and along the way able to connect directly with fibre to the cable. The four marae between Helensville and Wellsford are working toward getting connected, which will happen in the next couple of months.

"What we're interested in doing is putting community based networks in place so people can access large bandwidths," Datalight director Roger MacDonald says.

While the cable doesn't yet go south to Warkworth, the company is looking at a cost sharing option with a power company for underground ducting from Wellsford.

"We've already done the design work to get there so we know what the costs are to build it," Mr MacDonald says. "We just need a commitment from the power company to share these sorts of bills."

But not everyone is fired up about ultra fast broadband.

"People often don't realise what they will have at their fingertips if they haven't experienced it before," Mr MacDonald says.

"Often it's business people who are the champions for connectivity in rural areas as they want to be as competitive as anywhere else in the country. Once you've got high speed connectivity it's also a good way to attract new businesses to that area."

Several Wellsford businesses, including Rodney College, are already hooked up. Talks are under way with businesses and developers at Te Hana.

"If Helensville businesses are within easy reach of our network, we can certainly hook them up," Mr MacDonald says.

While not as fast as fibre, wireless is also a good option instead of current copper-to-the-house options such as Telecom's VSDL upgrade or RBI.

"Wireless generally sits at 10Mbps plus, up to about 30Mbps. But if a particular client wanted a 100 Mbps service we can deliver that in wireless easily," Mr McDonald says.

Wireless has also become cheaper to install, making it more attractive.

"Costs have come down significantly over the last two or three years as well. While the ulitmate fibre to house is expensive in rural areas the most cost effective solution will be high speed wireless links to the house," he says.

"Costs have plummeted so getting connectivity is not a heinously expensive activity like it used to be."


Rodney Times