Spark claims its campaign to shift customers from copper broadband services onto fibre or fixed wireless is paying off, with 50 percent of its total broadband customer base now on fibre (34 percent) or wireless (16 percent), delivered using is cellular network.
Spark’s goal is to have at least 85 percent of its broadband customers on fibre or wireless by the end of June 2020. Two years ago the figure was 16 percent and at the end of June 2017, 37 percent.
According to MBIE, by March 2018 there were over 1.3 million users able to connect to UFB fibre, but only 550,000 (42 percent) had made the switch, and 44,000 had connected in the most recent quarter.
Spark announced, in November 2016, a plan dubbed ‘Upgrade New Zealand’ to get as many of its broadband customers as possible off copper networks, and in November 20127 managing director Simon Moutter foreshadowed significant consolidation in the fixed broadband retail market. He cited low margins on the wholesale price fixed broadband retailers pay to Chorus another fixed network owners and said it would likely be cheaper for Spark to buy up smaller providers than to acquire customers directly.
Grant McBeath, interim CEO of Spark Home, Mobile and Business said the growth of content streaming, gaming and the need for a reliable, high quality connection were all big drivers of the shift. “New Zealand households … are increasingly seeing the need for upgraded broadband as things like video streaming move into the mainstream,” he said.
He added: "With Spark set to stream the 2019 Rugby World Cup we expect even more New Zealanders will be thinking about how they can get match fit internet, ensuring their home is ready to go with the best possible streaming capability and experience."
He said Spark had invested heavily in its mobile network to ensure it could meet demand. “Over the past year the company switched on 39 new 4.5G sites across the country to bring wireless broadband to thousands more households, and introduced larger 240GB plans in some areas,” he said.
Spark launched fixed broadband services on its cellular network in April 2016, and by December 2017 had 100,000 customers using the service.