Saturn Communications' $130 million investment in cable infrastructure in the Lower Hutt area of Wellington faces the acid test with the launch of its local loop tele-phone service — the first time in New Zealand landline calls can be made where Telecom is not involved.
Pricing has been pitched at a discount to Telecom's; monthly line rentals are nearly $6 cheaper, and there is a maximum price cap of $4.50 on all national toll calls. Customers who purchase both telephone services and cable television pay $10 a month less for their second telephone line.
Chief executive Jack Matthews says that within 12 months virtually everybody in the region will have the choice of becoming a Saturn subscriber.
"What Saturn is doing, for the first time, is introducing competition into the most fundamental aspect of telephone service — the provision of physical telephone lines to both residential and business subscribers."
The mainstay of the system is a Nortel DMS 100 digital exchange, which is complemented by synchronous digital hierarchy fibre-optic transmission equipment.
Saturn, which signed its first cable tele-vision subscriber in 1992, is jointly owned by United International Holdings (UIH), a publicly listed US telecommunications company, and SaskTel, a government-owned telco serving Saskatchewan, Canada. UIH has ownership interests in systems operating in 24 countries.