Drilling down and digging up pavements and roadsides nationwide, contractors in hi-vis vests are laying down thousands of kilometres of fibre to connect with the lion’s share of New Zealand homes (70 percent by 2020) and bring them into the network that will be ultrafast broadband (UFB). Once in place, the network is predicted to grow New Zealand’s GDP by $5.5 billion over 20 years – that’s $1.37 in GDP for every dollar invested – in the form of growing businesses and communities by opening up endless internet capability. Currently making fibre available to 830,000 premises at the rate of a house a minute, New Zealand’s ultra-fast broadband and rural broadband initiative is one of the most ambitious broadband upgrades in the world.
Leading the $2.5 billion project is Chorus, which sees UFB playing a significant role in health, government, education, business, smart cities and more. Chorus is New Zealand’s biggest provider of essential fixed line communications (phone lines broadband, and fibre optic cable) and 44 percent Kiwi-owned.
The company already owns approximately 1.8 million lines in various forms connected to homes and businesses throughout the country, but UFB will bring New Zealand’s internet speeds into the world’s top 20 percent. This should pay off, considering monthly internet traffic per household in New Zealand is expected to rise to 44GB by 2016, up from 9GB in 2011.
“Today New Zealanders are looking at 30mbps and 100mbps over UFB, but soon Kiwis will be able to access speeds of 500mbps and even 1GBps,” says Victoria Crone, general manager marketing and sales at Chorus.
But for New Zealand to pick up the ball and run with it once it has UFB – that is, make sure it’s utilised to its maximum potential and really see the benefits to the economy – an innovation programme called ngConnect has been created and brought to New Zealand by Chorus’s hardware and technology provider, Alcatel-Lucent.
The objective of the ngConnect programme is to spark innovation of applications around UFB, creating tools that take advantage of the new higher speed of internet. The programme is described as an ecosystem – organisations, or people with ideas and technical abilities, coming together across a range of fields to develop technical solutions for use over UFB.
The innovative solutions will help businesses operate and they can be monetised, with the intellectual property and revenue shared across the ecosystem. Crone says Chorus envisages partnering with developers to make dozens and dozens of services available.
“The difference with ngConnect is that it’s not only about development, it’s also about commercialising the model – allowing the members of the ngConnect ecosystem to generate revenue by making their ideas a reality,” she says.
Chorus market development manager Hamish Girvan says there is massive demand for fibre – from consumers, from enterprise and in the design of new services. However, he says
New Zealand businesses and consumers should start thinking about how to integrate fibre into the businesses and lives as they deliver and consumer services.
“That is what ngConnect is developing a community for – to make fibre a natural part of business and consumer service delivery. And that is what will result in 50 percent of New Zealanders having fibre by 2020,” he says.
The first ever ngConnect members meeting in New Zealand was held last month in Auckland at the Chorus UFB Innovation Showcase, with attendees from across both Australia, New Zealand and the US. It will be held every quarter, gathering the brightest minds, and the brightest ngConnect facilitators to guide them, to realise the best possible potential of UFB.
“NgConnect will help join the dots between the network, applications, retailers and Kiwis,” says Crone. “UFB is one of the largest infrastructure projects ever undertaken in New Zealand but we don’t know what we don’t know. We’re talking about the future when we talk about UFB.”