In a move that will open New Zealand’s internet to a raft of innovations, Vocus Group New Zealand and Vodafone New Zealand today unveiled the country’s first unbundled fibre broadband connection.
The telecommunications companies joined forces to unbundle fibre in mid-2018, seeking to accelerate innovation and improve the reliability and performance of broadband connections for their customer bases.
Today they demonstrated an unbundled fibre connection at an Auckland home, running at 10Gbps – ten times faster than the fastest residential product currently available.
Mark Callander, Vocus Chief Executive New Zealand, which owns the Slingshot and Orcon brands, describes fibre unbundling as the most exciting development since the introduction of fibre broadband itself. “With an unbundled connection, we have complete control over the signal which lets us ramp up innovation and bring even more services to market to meet the needs of specific customer groups.”
With a new wave of transformative new technologies expected globally, Vodafone NZ CEO Jason Paris says fibre unbundling is necessary for retail service providers to deliver world-leading connectivity to Kiwis. “Unbundling fibre will provide retail service providers with a flexible future-proofed platform regardless of what tomorrow brings. And we believe every New Zealander will thrive with access to the world’s best digital services.”
To date, ISPs have only been able to supply fibre products that are bundled. Bundled broadband means Chorus and other providers control the physical fibre connection and the technology that makes it work. Unbundling allows ISPs to use their own technology over the physical fibre lines.
Both Vocus and Vodafone played a major role in unbundling copper lines a decade ago. The benefits for consumers were clear: prices of telecom services came down dramatically, and innovations such as new ADSL technology and VOIP were brought to market.
Advocacy group InternetNZ has long advocated for unbundling, historically on the copper broadband network and more recently for UFB fibre, including through the recent Telecommunications Act review. The organisation’s CEO Jordan Carter has previously noted that unbundling has worked for New Zealand before. “We see the potential for it to lead to more choice and more competition on fibre too," he said.
Paris explains the limitations of a bundled service from a broadband perspective: “To date, retail service providers could only sell a range of ‘one size fits most’ fibre products. But retailers such as Vodafone and Vocus are constantly watching world technology markets and the constant stream of new developments. We know there is a lot more than can be done with an unbundled fibre connection and a lot more choice in the types of products we could be offering our customers.”
By investing several million dollars into unbundling technology, Vodafone and the Vocus are better positioned to create unique services suitable for specific customer types.
“Fibre unbundling also removes barriers to emerging technologies, as we can rapidly implement innovations we know will work for our customers,” says Paris.
These technologies can deliver advantages including boosting the speed of individual connections, making 10Gbps residential grade connections to the home a reality. “Currently LFCs have no real urgency to accelerate speeds or make available a wider variety of services - there is just no incentive to do so,” says Callander. “However, as retailers operating in a competitive market, we know that increased speed, a broader portfolio and indeed the ability to better manage costs and reliability are absolutely key to attracting new customers and retaining existing ones. And unbundling gives us the means to do all these things.”
He adds that emerging technologies such as virtual reality and some artificial intelligence applications require exceptionally fast internet connections. “Even more everyday applications such as various cloud services in use at home and in offices across New Zealand today benefit from a faster connection. We’re completely ready to have unbundled fibre in market by the first of January 2020 and bringing the benefits to all New Zealanders who are using fibre connections, and further driving innovation and competition in this market.”