Chorus weighs in over advice given to consumers

Chorus chief executive Mark Ratcliffe (right) says fixed-line technology is superior.

Chorus chief executive Mark Ratcliffe (right) says fixed-line technology is superior.

Tensions have surfaced between Chorus and Spark over the best way to provide broadband.  

Chorus chief executive Mark Ratcliffe fired an arrow in Spark's direction, criticising "a push by some in the industry to talk up fixed-wireless broadband" as superior to fixed-line broadband.

"The industry should be putting the best interests of consumers at the front of their minds and ensuring that consumers are getting the best broadband possible. Unfortunately this is not the case," he said.​

Spark has a tool on its website that provides consumers with a recommendation on the broadband option they should choose, after they have keyed in their address and data requirements.

READ MORE: *Spark recommends wireless service over same-priced UFB

It last month began recommending customers select its wireless broadband service, instead of same-priced entry-level ultrafast broadband (UFB), unless they wanted uncapped data.

Chorus earns wholesale charges when customers select a fixed-line service and it loses that income if homes switch to a wireless service.

Independent experts questioned Spark's advice to prefer wireless broadband over entry-level UFB – if not copper – when approached for comment last month.

Gavin Male, chief executive of independent broadband comparison site Broadband Compare, described the advice as "a tad surprising".

"A wireless connection will be quicker to set up and connect than a new UFB connection and on the 4G network it can provide a very good solution but my first thoughts would be it is short-sighted to offer or choose wireless ahead of UFB if it is available," he said.

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John Butt, chief executive of independent testing company TrueNet, said lag was usually much higher on wireless connections, which could affect activities such as computing gaming. 

"Contrast this with fibre, where speed is set and usually met, especially upload speed, latency is as low as possible and jitter almost nil, then I would go for fibre for the same price."

Telecommunications Users Association chief executive Craig Young also said its advice remained that if there was fibre available, it was the "service of choice".  

Spark spokesman Andrew Pirie said it was still recommending UFB connections for a significant number of its customers but it believed wireless was a good solution for "low to moderate" internet users.

Chorus was "nowhere near" meeting its service agreements to install UFB within six days of receiving customer orders, he said. 

"It is pretty hard to sell something to customers and tell them they have got to go through two or three months of pain to get a product they don't necessarily feel they need."

Spark was also trying to get customers off "legacy copper" technology, he said.

"The challenges our customers had over this current winter with regard to the copper network were terrible. We had huge challenges in our call centres from people with faults."  

Customer satisfaction scores for UFB installs were improving but still in negative territory, while Spark had extremely positive scores for wireless broadband "as it is a very easy process for customers to go on there", he said.

Ratcliffe said customers needed to be aware about the way in which capacity on wireless networks was shared.

"As more customers connect to their fixed wireless service the throughput speed diminishes, especially during periods of peak demand. For example in the evenings when many are watching video streaming services like Netflix," he said.

 - Stuff


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