Broadband for the masses this year

Provincial New Zealand hasn't been forgotten in the rush to broadband - BCL's network, branded as eXtend, is on track to deliver broadband services as well as voice over IP and switched voice from November 1.

Provincial New Zealand hasn't been forgotten in the rush to broadband - BCL's network, branded as eXtend, is on track to deliver broadband services as well as voice over IP and switched voice from November 1.

Stage one of BCL's network rollout will see service offered to 28 sites up and down New Zealand carefully avoiding the main centres, according to managing director Geoff Lawson.

"We're working to an outside in model. We'll start on the outside and work our way in to the centre."

Because this strategy puts them at the opposite end of the spectrum from newly launched Woosh Wireless's products, Lawson isn't worried at all about duplication of services.

"There's room for all of us I think."

Lawson says this is the year New Zealand finally gets broadband in a big way.

"Last year we were talking about it, this year we're delivering it."

Already BCL has completed rollout at more than a dozen sites and has "activity" at around 20 of the 28 locations, which include towns like Ashburton and Clutha as well as Gore, Matamata, Stratford and many others.

This should be good news for the three resellers who have signed up to offer BCL services under their own banners. Telecom, Ihug and ICONZ have all signed deals with BCL and will begin offering service from November 1. No announcements have been made on pricing or availability from the three resellers yet.

Lawson hopes that as work on stage one is wound up, stage two will begin immediately.

"That's an expansion into a further 24 sites as part of the Fonterra deal."

BCL and Telecom have won the contract to provide dairy giant Fonterra with broadband access for its farming membership. Lawson hopes the work on stage two will take only around three or four months.

"Of the 17,000 odd dairy farmers about 8500 only have access via wireless so it's very exciting for us."

In addition, BCL is also working with Telecom to provide service as part of the government's broadband initiative, Project Probe. So far six tenders have been announced and the Telecom/BCL consortium has won three of them. No new announcements have been made on Project Probe's remaining regional tenders and none is expected for another month.

Lawson says the number of wireless broadband offerings means pricing is sure to tumble in the months ahead.

"That makes initial pricing very important because it's only going to go one way, and that's down."

Both Walker Wireless, now rebranded as Woosh Wireless, and Wired Country have launched broadband residential offerings in the past week.

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