It may sound complicated, but it’s actually pretty simple and hassle-free for the consumer – it’s the LFCs that do all the work. And it’s not just home owners and schools that will reap the benefits of UFB – Kiwi businesses will be better armed to compete in the global economy. The applications and services that high speed broadband enables are profound. Cloud computing, teleconferencing, telecommuting and much more all become a reality. This will lead to improved productivity, access to new markets, lower costs and higher GDP.
"A fibred-up business community in New Zealand will transform our economy,” says Scott Bartlett, CEO of Orcon.
The way we consume media is also changing.
"In the US and UK, it’s estimated up to a third of internet traffic is through users accessing online video and entertainment services. Fibre ensures these services can be enjoyed without delays or interruptions,” says Bartlett.
"And imagine the possibilities for education and health care. Applications such as remote teaching, online medical care and remote patient monitoring become an effective reality,” he adds.
With speeds many times faster than traditional copper lines, the opportunities fibre offers are vast. Current broadband speeds just aren’t enabling Kiwis, preventing us from exploring the full potential and power of the internet.
Crown Fibre Holdings awarded contracts in regions across the country to four different ‘Local Fibre Companies’ (LFCs) – Chorus, Enable, Northpower and Ultrafast. These companies will dig up streets, or string cables on overhead lines, and over the next 10 years, build the Ultra Fast Broadband network. The fibre optics will connect back into the local telephone exchanges or to roadside cabinets installed for the UFB network.
The network will run past 75% of New Zealand houses and businesses when it’s finished. Of course, it’s a massive job, and the rollout is staggered. Some areas will naturally get UFB before others, and the rollout schedule is being announced in year by year blocks. At the moment, we have the roll out schedule for years one and two. Crown Fibre Holdings has required that ‘priority’ users – schools, medical facilities and some businesses – are finished first, and these should be connected by 2015.
As these priority premises are connected, nearby residential properties will also be connected.
So what does this mean for a small business or household? The LFCs have already started building the network. Their plans are on their websites. You can check if your house is ready for fibre by visiting Orcon.net.nz/fibrenow. If you are eligible, then you can place an order with any Internet Service Provider (ISP) that is offering the service. The ISP will liaise with the LFC and connect your home to the fibre in the street.
In some cases, you’ll need to pay for a portion of the install costs – especially if you are down a long driveway – but your ISP will be able to talk to you about this, so you can decide whether to proceed.
The LFC will run a cable either overhead (like many older-style phone and power cables) or underground (yes, they may need to dig a trench, but they will discuss all of this with you and talk you through the options). Then, they will install a small box on the outside of your house called the External Termination Point (ETP). From there, another cable will run to another small box called the Optical Network Termination (ONT).
You can plug a fibre-ready modem or router into the ONT, and that’s what will connect your computers and devices to the internet, just like it does today. In the UFB world, all your internet and phones will run over this fibre connection.
For some people, this won’t make much difference to how they do things. But, if you want to have all your traditional phone jacks working around the house, you may need to pay for an electrician or technician to rewire them for you.
While it may sound tricky, in reality installing fibre is just like installing any new utility or service. Contractors will come out and do the work, and once it’s done, it’s what you’ll use for years and years to come.