Spark to abandon copper for fibre or wireless broadband

Spark announces ‘Upgrade New Zealand’

Spark has announced a plan dubbed ‘Upgrade New Zealand’ to get as many of its broadband customers as possible off copper networks: it will move high data volume users to fibre and others to wireless broadband.

The CEO of Spark Home, Mobile and Business, Jason Paris, said the company was trialling new deployment methods to simplify the installation of fibre to individual homes and encouraging copper-connected customers that were low to moderate data users to move to “far more reliable and easy to install wireless broadband technology.”

Spark said that, with Ultrafast Fibre (UFF), it was trialling a new scheme that would make it much easier and quicker for homeowners to install fibre for their broadband service,”

Under the new plan all homes in a street that want Spark fibre broadband will be connected in the same week and customers will be able to select a specific day within that week for their fibre installation.

Paris said the current fibre connection process was often problematic. “It can involve lots of hassle. For many customers, that can prove a turn-off as the installation process seems just too hard,” he said.

“This new approach should be a big improvement from the current process, where customers need to place their order with their service provider (such as Spark) and then go into the queue for the local fibre company to carry out the installation.

“The current process involves a great deal of ‘to-ing and fro-ing’ between the customer, their service provider, the fibre company and the contracting technicians who actually carry out the installation. It can take several weeks or longer for installations to take place.”

The new process will be trialled in selected streets in Nawton, Grandview Heights and Western Heights in Hamilton, in mid-November. “Spark and Ultrafast Fibre aim to take the feedback from this trial and use it to scale up the approach for further communities,” Spark said. “Spark is also looking to work with other LFCs to take this approach to other communities.”

Spark described fibre as “the preferred broadband technology for customers who use large amounts of data,” and said it would offer wireless broadband “to customers with low to medium data usage, who currently have a copper broadband connection.” However it gave no indication as to the threshold data volume on which the decision would be based.

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Driving the move is the high rate of faults on copper services. According to Spark, network operator Chorus receives around 30,000 fault reports every month from customers served by copper lines, and higher volumes over the wet winter months.

“It is not uncommon for some unfortunate customers to experience multiple faults within a few months, each requiring investigation by Chorus technicians,” Spark said.

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