Super net in slow lane

20:11, May 25 2014
Stephen Barker, super fast broadband
CONNECTED: Commercial photographer Stephen Barker looks over the options of fibre optic broadband. The service is critical for his business.

Ultrafast broadband is catching on ultraslow in the Waikato.

More than half of the region can tap into super-fast internet speeds but the number of people taking up the option remains minimal.

Hamilton's network is nearly 55 per cent complete while 60 per cent of the total ultrafast fibre network, which includes Waikato, Hawera and Whanganui, have access to ultra fast broadband (UFB) speeds.

However only 12 per cent of businesses and 7 per cent of residential customers have made the switch to UFB.

Ultrafast Fibre chief executive Maxine Elliott said they would soon see a surge in activity.

Installation of the network in Te Awamutu, Cambridge and Tokoroa was expected to be completed within months and would give retailers the chance to drive sales across the towns.


"We've built across all the regions consistently and naturally, because they are smaller, they are finished first," she said. "Also it means from a retailer's perspective, they've got a whole town they can go and market to, which means it'll help drive uptake a lot faster."

She said the uptake was "on plan", but they needed to create a market big enough to create demand and retailers needed to get their products ready for sale.

Those factors were close to alignment and she expected to see a boost in customer numbers.

"We're expecting to see another lift again next year," she said. "More retailers are coming on board and more premises are available so we are predicting a big shift up again."

Hamilton business manager Cosmin Albu, 28, watched workers install the network throughout Rototuna and couldn't wait to upgrade to UFB.

"I checked it as soon as the guys finished our street," he said. "I saw the nozzles at the end of the house and rang up the ISP and said: ‘Good, what happens now?"'

He had to wait until the whole suburb was completed and switched on but he said: "It just can't come fast enough".

Albu has a home-based network attached storage device and has made a complete leap to digital and UFB would complete the package.

"My family live in Australia so they can jump on and have a look, so UFB will just allow them to access stuff a whole lot faster."

He said upload speeds were "significantly faster" but that depended on getting the right plan. His personal online "cloud" means he could get the benefits of home anywhere in the world.

"This thing has the ability to record TV shows and store them. Like, I could be at work and watch TV shows off this [storage device] granted I've got a good enough speed coming out of this house to support that.

"So UFB, yeah, that's the business."

Down the road, caregiver Derek Spicer was concerned the UFB network would be priced out of his range.

"I'm going to see what they have to offer price-wise. I'd go with it if the price was reasonable but it just seems like, what is the next speed going to be when this one slows down?"

UFB retailer and managing director of Houston Technology Group Alan Chew said there was little to motivate households to embrace UFB.

"For many businesses, on the other hand, there are real financial benefits from the faster connections," he said.

"When the benefits are not clear, most business owners focus only on the price."

Download speeds on the copper system were already high but upload speeds was the bigger problem, and businesses on UFB would reap greater rewards.

He said education was the key and the benefits to businesses should be pushed. "I think it is a shame that no collective body has taken upon itself to educate the business community about the costs [and] benefits of UFB. If done properly, the uptake will be a lot greater."

Ultrafast Fibre is owned by WEL Networks Ltd and Waipa Networks Ltd and is building 13.7 per cent of New Zealand's total UFB coverage in Hamilton, Cambridge, Te Awamutu, Tauranga, Tokoroa, New Plymouth, Hawera and Wanganui. 

Connecting to fibre network

Switching to the fibre internet network was a "no brainer" for photographer Stephen Barker.

Extra cost has stopped him taking up the fastest option and he's found the shift "satisfactory" rather than "amazing".

The Hamilton man was previously on ADSL and had been watching and waiting for the fibre network to become available for his Queenwood home.

He signed up about May last year when he discovered the switch wouldn't cost him a dime, despite his house being up a long driveway.

"I thought ‘I've got nothing to lose and everything to gain'."

The conditions were that he signed up to a 12-month contract and stayed in the same house.

As a self-employed commercial photographer who works from home and often sends large files, the lure of better speeds was a major motivator. He opted for an entry-level Fibre 30 pack - 30 mega bits per second (Mbps) downloading and 10 Mbps up - through Orcon, he said.

On average he gets close to that, but with ADSL he was already getting 8-9Mbps on uploads.

"We don't seem to get any glitches, like it doesn't seem to ever go down," he said.

"The whole system seems very stable. The speed - while not blisteringly fast - is fine. It's slightly better than ADSL so that's good . . . It's better."

His plan with 80GB of data sets him back around $85 a month and covers his business use and the data his family gets through. Barker has looked at upgrading to the maximum speed of 100Mbps down and 50 up, but the extra $30-$44 a month put him off. So, for the moment, he's sticking with what he's got.

Waikato Times