After what seems like an eternity of negotiations and hyperbole, ultra-fast broadband has taken another step closer to becoming real. UFB is coming first to Hamilton, Tauranga, Whangarei, New Plymouth and Wanganui, Minister for Communications and Information Technology, Steven Joyce, has announced. Crown Fibre Holdings concluded its negotiations with Northpower Limited and Ultra Fast Fibre Limited in early December. Both companies will now begin to roll out fibre in Whangarei, Hamilton, Cambridge, Te Awamutu, Tauranga, New Plymouth, Wanganui, Hawera and Tokoroa.Northpower will commence its rollout in Whangarei before Christmas, with Ultra Fast Fibre expected to begin laying fibre early in 2011. The deployment is expected to be completed by 2015, said the government. "This is very good progress in the rollout of UFB, which will see new fibre services available in Whangarei by the end of 2010 and in the areas covered by Ultra Fast Fibre Limited commencing early in 2011,” said Joyce. "The access prices CFH has negotiated will ensure the benefits of fibre are within reach of businesses as well as everyday New Zealanders.”Wholesale household prices will start at $40 (less per month for an entry level product) and $60 per month for the 100 Megabit service. There will be no connection charges for households. Crown Fibre Holdings will announce the list of companies it will elect to negotiate the remaining 25 UFB regions soon. InternetNZ Chief Executive Vikram Kumar quickly came out applauding the announcement, but said that more information on data caps is needed. "Ultra-fast broadband is a game changer and seeing fibre rollout beginning in 2010 is welcome, especially given the delays that have cropped up in the process to date,” he said in a statement. "The initial pricing information set out today is excellent. The services will be affordable and really will drive uptake of fibre services, which is essential to making the UFB investment work, and to realising the economic gains the network can offer. Other things that influence uptake – non-price issues like data caps and maintaining a level playing field for online content providers – will also be a focus for us.