18 Apr 2023

Chorus apologises for high-speed fibre rollout delays

From Checkpoint, 5:42 pm on 18 April 2023

So many Chorus technicians left the country when the borders opened it is now running months behind in installing new fibre connections. 

Chorus, the country's main provider of telecommunications infrastructure, on Tuesday said some customers are waiting up to 10 weeks for fibre - much longer than the usual 15 days. 

"The worst wait times are in Northland, central North Island, and then in the South Island it's the West Coast and Blenheim," national field capability manager Cindy Duck told Checkpoint

Other regions where Kiwis' Netflix might have been struggling to stream in HD included Coromandel, Rotorua, Taupo, Whakatane, Blenheim, Balclutha, Waikouaiti and Ranfurly.

The company is nearly 200 technicians short.

"It's an industry-wide issue, and it comes back to the borders reopening after the pandemic and the workers who got the visas going home to see their friends and family, and in some cases, going home for long periods of time," Duck said.

"We just haven't had enough technicians in the ecosystem in New Zealand."

To plug the gap, she said Chorus was training more locals - but the majority of replacements would need to come from overseas. 

"We have about 100 who went, and we have about 50 who are coming back, so we're expecting them back. They're gradually coming back now."

Duck said Chorus should have its full bandwidth for fibre installations by "July-ish", and denied low pay was holding up recruitment.

"It's just a shortage of people in that industry in general. The median kind of wage is what the pay is - the median wage. It's higher than the basic wage." 

She declined to say what a fibre installation technician would typically get paid. 

According to the government's careers website, technicians with less than three years' experience could expect to be paid "between minimum wage and $52,000 a year". 

Senior technicians - those in the job for five years or more - typically get between $75,000 and $95,000. 

The site noted there is currently a shortage, so job prospects for new technicians are "good". 

"I don't know that the pay is the problem," Duck said. "It certainly isn't the reason we can't get technicians into the industry, and we are bringing them on board now. It's just that so many left when the borders opened." 

Chorus was focused on Northland for now, sending out roving teams of technicians to those waiting the longest. 

"We started in Northland at the beginning of April, and we sent crews up there. They've been there for two weeks, they've got another six weeks. They won't be leaving until they've connected everyone in Auckland, and then we'll move them to the next area." 

The bigger centres, such as Auckland and Wellington, were "absolutely fine", she insisted.