Competitive ISP Spark has launched an ambitious new program dubbed "Upgrade New Zealand" that aims to encourage customers to ditch fault-prone copper connections and upgrade either to fiber or a wireless broadband connection.
This might seem like a very audacious plan, but Spark logs approximately 30,000 fault requests every month with Chorus, New Zealand's wholesale broadband access network operator, due to problems with the wholesaler's ageing copper network. The problems get worse during the wet winter months, so in an effort to improve customer experience and its own operations, Spark has launched this program to accelerate fiber and wireless take-up.
In a public statement about the launch, Jason Paris, CEO of Spark Home, Mobile and Business, notes: "During winter, we apologized to customers for the poor experience they had on the copper network. Now it's time for Spark to take action, to help customers avoid the pain that they experienced last winter. We're making sure that when customers do experience faults, that they can get back online quickly -- and now we're providing options so many of them can change to a more reliable broadband solution."
The good news for customers is that the upgrade to fiber or wireless does not result in higher bills: "A copper ADSL plan is the same price as a fibre 30 or wireless broadband plan, offering the same amount of data," a Spark spokesperson tells UBB2020.
The wireless option, which makes use of Spark's 4G/LTE network, is designed for those who are not able to get a fiber connection, or, indeed, any broadband connection at all: Currently 150,000 homes that previously had no access to copper or fiber can now sign up to wireless broadband.
Spark notes that more than 1.6 million homes and businesses (about 65% of the total) in New Zealand are now able to access wireless broadband, with more being added each quarter (40,000 more addresses were covered during the past three months).
Spark, which is also
testing gigabit ultra-broadband services currently, reported revenues of NZ$3.5 billion (US$2.6 billion) from its broad range of retail, enterprise and wholesale services. It has about 675,000 broadband and 2.3 million mobile customers.
Wholesale operator Chorus is also steering New Zealand's retail and business users towards next-generation broadband, detailing the advantages of fiber over copper on its website.
In light of the operating costs of sending out engineers to investigate and fix faults, this makes sense: It also raises questions about how many other operators are fighting a copper access cost battle while resisting the shift to a full fiber-to-the-building strategy.
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