Wel Networks pleased with UFB uptake
Hamilton lines company Wel Networks says it has received a ''pleasing'' 60 orders for ultrafast home broadband connections since its retail partners began offering the service to consumers in Hamilton and Tauranga last week.
Labour last month turned up the heat on the Government over the pace of UFB uptake, voicing concerns the flagship government initiative might prove a white elephant.
Wel won the contract to build about 15 per cent the UFB network in six central North Island cities and towns in 2010 through its subsidiary Ultrafast Fibre and said it had now laid fibre passed 10,500 premises in Hamilton and Tauranga, including more than 7000 homes.
Spokeswoman Heather Claycomb said it was pleased with the early numbers of consumers taking up the service, bearing in mind there had been ''no big marketing push'' and only a few retail service providers were selling the service. Most were ''busy testing and preparing their marketing plans and launches'', she said.
Communications Minister Amy Adams last month told a select committee that 1012 homes had connected to ultrafast broadband at the end of April.
It was not clear how many of them had purchased services over fibre-optic cable before the UFB initiative got under way and how many had been connected as a direct result of the Government-backed $3.5 billion scheme.
Opposition communications spokeswoman Clare Curran decried the numbers as very low, but Adams said she was not concerned as residential connections would only gather pace once the network reached a ''critical mass''.
Orcon, which was first out of the blocks with a $75-a-month and $90-a-month consumer UFB plans in March, said it had connected fewer than 200 households by the end of May. It is expected to announce details of an initiative to accelerate uptake next week.
Chorus spokesman Robin Kelly said it did not expect to announce connection figures until August.
Adams told the select committee UFB network builders were on track to meet their collective target of laying fibre passed 70,000 homes by the end of last month. They must then connect homes if asked by a retail provider.
Northpower spokesman Steve Macmillan said today that 10 per cent of homes and businesses in the parts of Whangarei where it had made UFB available were now taking services over the network. It won the Whangarei UFB contract in 2010 and had passed 3700 homes and businesses in December.
Chorus had laid fibre passed 31 fewer rural schools than the 521 it had planned to pass through the Rural Broadband Initiative by the end of June, Adams said, in part because of delays caused by the Ports of Auckland industrial dispute.
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