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Tuanz wants more more news on ultra-fast broadband

Tuesday 7 Dec 2010 4:59 p.m.

A telecommunications lobby group wants to hear of more progress on the Government's rollout of ultra-fast broadband (UFB), following today's agreements with companies to deliver the service to around 16 percent of households.

Communications and Information Technology Minister Steven Joyce today announced the first areas that would be part of the programme, after Crown Fibre Holdings (CFH) concluded negotiations with two partner companies, Northpower and Ultra Fast Fibre.

They were Whangarei, Hamilton, Cambridge, Te Awamutu, Tauranga, New Plymouth, Wanganui, Hawera and Tokoroa.

Northpower would begin its rollout in Whangarei before Christmas, while Ultra Fast Fibre was expected to get started next year.

However, Mr Joyce said he did not want to put a timetable on other cities, including Auckland and Wellington, which could be waiting up to 10 years to benefit from the UFB rollout.

"If you put limits around negotiations then that does make it more difficult for CFH to do their job to get value for money for taxpayers with the investment, and we need to give them the time to make those calls."

Mr Joyce said he would be hoping those deals would be made within this political term, but there were no guarantees.

"I can be confident that we can get it all built within the 10-year term, 2019."

Telecommunications users association Tuanz was pleased an initial agreement had been made, with fibre likely to be in the ground before Christmas.

However, Tuanz chairman Pat O'Connell said he was concerned about the slow pace at which the remaining contracts were being issued.

"With the Telecommunications Amendment Bill due to go before Parliament tomorrow, it looks likely that the deadlines for the rollout to the rest of the country will be missed," Mr O'Connell said.

"This is troubling despite New Zealand overtaking Australia in terms of broadband penetration. Now is not the time to take our eye off the ball."   

He was pleased with the pricing announced today, however, which appeared to be set at an affordable level for many household, business and school users.

Wholesale household prices would start at $40 or less per month for an entry level product and $60 per month for the 100 Megabit product. There were no connection charges for households.

Mr Joyce said it was expected that prices would be similar throughout the country.

The difference between the copper service and the UFB was significant, Mr Joyce said.

"It will open up a huge range of opportunities for ISPs to provide new services as well as existing services.

"As well as getting your video faster you'll also have the opportunity for things such as movies on demand, from a retail perspective, two-way video conferencing to work from home, the options for e-health are quite exciting," he said.

NZPA

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