Chorus quiet about rollout

MATTHEW LITTLEWOOD
Last updated 05:00 19/02/2013

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Fibre-optic provider Chorus is tight-lipped over whether Timaru will be affected by proposals to string more of the ultrafast broadband network up on power poles.

The Government granted Chorus and Downer a $900 million contract to roll out UFB to most of New Zealand: the work in Timaru began in June last year, and should be completed in late 2014.

So far, all of the deployment has been underground, but Fairfax recently reported industry concern about Chorus installing more of the network above ground as a cost-savings measure.

Chorus spokeswoman Melanie Marshall said parts of the national build would be aerial, but could not confirm whether this included Timaru.

"We're waiting for our half-year results next week before we make any comment," she said.

More than 4500 residences within Timaru already have UFB capability, with internet speeds up to 100 megabits per second.

Telecommunications Users Association NZ chief executive Paul Brislen said aerial cabling could be potentially a good move for some areas.

He was more concerned about the unnecessary power and water outages caused by poor planning.

"We need to make sure that all of our infrastructure deployments are co-ordinated," Mr Brislen said.

"The moves by the transport authorities to say that roads are for vehicles and nothing else has also limited progress. Roads should be a utility corridor."

Mr Brislen said the roll-out was a once-in-100-year project.

"It is a massively up-scaleable network, once you've got the pipes in the ground," he said.

Mr Brislen said the option to move some of the work above ground provided an opportunity to make the job easier.

"The trouble is you're likely to run into parochialism. Many years ago in Auckland, there was a campaign against Telstra for its proposal to install aerial cables, and we never got cable television as a result," he said.

Snap retail manager James Koers said it had signed up "several dozen" customers in Timaru since late last year.

Mr Koers said if Chorus decided to move some of its deployment above ground, it would not change the products on offer. He acknowledged the roll-out had been slow.

"Chorus has improved its practices as they've gone along, but it's not ready for one of the big players to arrive on the scene yet," he said.

Orcon, Vodafone and Telecom have said they would launch retail products later.

Communications Minister Amy Adams said the Crown's contracts did not specify how deployment should be conducted but overhead lines must meet the same standards and specifications as an underground build.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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