New Zealand moved a step closer to its ambitious plans to provide almost all its population with ultra-broadband by 2025 -- and simultaneously offers a template for other nations to consider.
Back in 2008, the country began the Ultra-Fast Broadband Initiative; today, New Zealand once again expanded the program to four more towns, part of an additional $300 million (US $218) the country pledged in January to invest in 151 more towns. This money is part of a total $2 billion (US $1.45 billion) that New Zealand's government allocated to improve connectivity across the country via UFP and the Rural Broadband Initiative (RBI).
The UFB initiative will provide 99% of its population of about 4.6 million with broadband speeds of at least 50 Mbp/s by 2025, according to the Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment. The country -- which ranked number 30 in a recent report by Cable.co.uk with a mean download speed of 16.6 Mbp/s -- will deliver access of at least 10 Mbp/s to the remaining 1% of the populace, the government agency said. (See US Broadband Speed Ranked Number 21)
"Having access to fast and reliable broadband is critical to growing our regional economies and to New Zealand's future," said Communications Minister Simon Bridges in a statement. "Over one million New Zealand households and businesses already have access to fiber. Once the UFB build is completed by the end of 2024, approximately 85% of New Zealanders will have access to speeds close to 1,000 Mbp/s."
Unlike neighboring Australia, which is using government-owned nbn to implement its ultra-broadband deployment, New Zealand is taking a mix-and-match approach, using public-private partnerships (P3s) managed by Crown Fibre Holdings. The "crown-owned company" contracted with four providers; as a result of the program, three participating operators -- Northpower Limited; Waikato Networks Limited (WNL), owned by WEL Networks Limited and Waipa Networks Limited; and Enable Services Limited (ESL), owned by Christchurch City Holdings Limited -- each formed a local fiber company (LFC) and Telecom New Zealand forged a new company, Chorus Limited.
Providers are using a mix of fiber -- both fiber-to-the-node and fiber-to-the-home -- and GPON, plus VDSL and copper, along with regulation changes to get the job done. Chorus, for instance, is also using IP routing and optical carrier transport services;
In another example, electric utilities could use new environmental legislation that makes it easier for them to add fiber optic cable on power lines, Clare Curran, communications spokeswoman for New Zealand's Labour party told Stuff.Co.NZ. That could help address the length of time it's taking to bring ultra-broadband across the country, she said.
On Aug. 8, Bridges introduced a bill to bring new regulatory framework to New Zealand's telecommunications industry. Among other things, the bill deregulates copper lines where fiber is available; introduces a utility-like regulation model for ultra-broadband and increases regulatory oversight.
"The Bill supports the shift to fibre as the technology of choice among an increasing number of consumers, by establishing a stable and predictable framework for regulating fibre and by removing copper regulation from 2020," said Bridges in a statement. "To ensure that consumers are protected, copper will continue to be regulated outside of fibre coverage areas. Safeguards will make sure that customers do not lose their copper landline or broadband unless there is an alternative service available at a comparable price and service level."
Copper, of course, remains an important aspect of ultra-broadband when combined with Gfast technologies to deliver high-speed, low- latency connectivity, especially in multi-dwelling units (MDUs). (See Gfast Stampede Starts in 2019 – Report.)
While New Zealand's population is small (the city of London, for example, has more than 8.2 million residents and 46-million-plus call Spain home), like other countries its residents are dispersed among thriving cities and sparsely populated rural regions, scenarios replicated across the globe.
No doubt the world is watching.
— Alison Diana, Editor, UBB2020. Follow us on Twitter @UBB2020 or @alisoncdiana.