Chorus: UFB delay not to pressure govt

Chorus has moved to mollify concerns that its commitment to offer better-value ultrafast broadband plans might be wavering in the wake of regulatory pressure on the company.

Vodafone issued a statement this morning drawing attention to the fact that Chorus had put discussions on wholesaling faster ultrafast broadband plans on ice. The company said it was “disappointed".

Chorus said last month that it would increase the speed of its entry-level $37.50 UFB product from 30 megabits-a-second to 50Mbps. It also announced plans to offer a raft of better-value consumer products, including new, lower cost 100Mbps and 200Mbps plans.

Vodafone said in its statement that Chorus had “suspended" a briefing on the new services, indicating they might now be under threat.

Chorus spokesman Ian Bonnar said, however, that it was simply a postponement of an industry consultation session “not a withdrawal of the proposed upgrades".

“It would not be appropriate to progress with an industry consultation at this time while we work through the implications for our business of potentially significant reduction in our revenues and therefore our ability to invest," Bonnar said.

“We recognise that this period of uncertainty may be frustrating for our customers but it would not be an effective dialogue session as we would find it hard to answer many of their questions."

Chorus said it still planned to launch a new $75 wholesale product offering 200Mbps download speeds and 50Mbps upload speeds on December 9.

The company has warned it may not be able to fulfil its UFB contract with the Crown if new lower pricing for its copper services come into effect, as ordered by the Commerce Commission, in December next year.

Since Chorus announced its intention to offer the faster UFB plans, the likelihood of government intervention to assist Chorus over the copper pricing ruling appears to have diminished.

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But Bonnar said the advisory was not a tactic to pressure the Government into interceding on its behalf over copper pricing.

Vodafone chief executive Russell Stanners said New Zealanders needed faster entry-level UFB products. If Chorus and other companies building the UFB network felt unable to provide them, the UFB network should be “unbundled" so Vodafone and other retailers could, he said.


 - The Dominion Post


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