Warkworth, Snells Beach, Matakana, Omaha and Wellsford are all on the Government’s Ultra-Fast Broadband (UFB) to-do list, but exactly who, when and where is still uncertain.
Minister for Communications Simon Bridges announced last month that an additional 423,000 New Zealanders would benefit from UFB by 2024, bringing the total coverage to 84 per cent.
According to the Crown Fibre Holdings website, work will be undertaken in partnership with Chorus, the main supplier in the area.
Warkworth business owner and One Warkworth Business Association deputy chair, Mark Macky, employs around 30 staff and like many other businesses, uses cloud-based systems. He says the network becomes swamped when hosting more than 15 staff.
“Data speed in Warkworth is terrible,” Mark says. “It’s holding businesses back and stopping new businesses moving to the area.”
Priority for the UFB rollout is linked to population growth. Warkworth is predicted to grow to 4759 by 2023 and UFB completion is expected in 2021. Mark says those figures are based on the 2013 census and are “completely inaccurate”.
“We will have that many people in Warkworth by the end of the year. It looks like nothing’s going to happen for the next four years and that’s too far away because the old copper system will be completely overloaded by then.”
Auckland Council’s chief of strategy Jim Quinn says they are awaiting further details from the Government about what the next steps are in the implementation of the programme. One Warkworth is compiling a report challenging Council’s growth figures and it hopes this will help re-prioritise the rollout.
Many rural residents have increased data speed by signing up with private providers. Darrell McNab runs Rodney Broadband which supplies around 130 rural residents across Mahurangi with wireless internet connection using strategically placed microwave dishes. Darrell says his customers are predominantly in ‘black spots’ and download speeds are improved from around two megabits per second (Mbps) to 20 Mbps.
He says connecting rural or semi-rural residents to UFB, which is normally categorised as speeds of around 100 Mbps, is difficult because it requires fibre cable to each household, rather than to central ‘nodes’.
“To get UFB to the average rural household would be time-consuming, costly and would require significant planning. Increasing fibre to the node will improve speed, but using existing copper wires to the house means it will only be souped-up VDSL,” Darrell says.
Fibre is being installed in new subdivisions, but many existing cabinets have reached connection capacity. Darrell says people are increasingly contacting him for advice before purchasing homes.
Rodney Broadband customer and business technology consultant, Nat Torkington is doubtful the UFB scheme will be sufficiently widespread.
“The devil is always in the detail,” Mr Torkington says. “Those of us down rural roads are unlikely to be satisfied even by 2024.”