7 Dec 2010

Ultra-fast broadband network contracts signed

11:15 pm on 7 December 2010

Hamilton, Tauranga, Whangarei, New Plymouth and Whanganui will be among the first cities to benefit from the Government's planned ultra-fast broadband network.

Crown Fibre Holdings on Tuesday signed its first two contracts - with Northpower and WEL Networks - as part of the Government's ultra-fast broadband initiative.

The deals will see a fibre network built in Whangarei, Hamilton, Cambridge, Te Awamutu, Tauranga, New Plymouth, Whanganui, Hawera and Tokoroa.

The Government says the joint ventures with Crown Fibre Holdings are worth more than $200 million.

They represent about 16% of the Government's overall plan to deliver ultra-fast broadband to 75% of New Zealand by 2019.

WEL Networks project manager Jack Ninnes says work will begin next year, and is expected to create up to 300 new jobs.

Mr Ninnes says the company's subsidiary, Ultra Fast Fibre Ltd, will build the infrastructure with Government money, and as customers connect it will pay back the Government.

New services

Communications Minister Steven Joyce says under the deals, the benefits of fibre will be within the reach of businesses and households.

Wholesale household prices will start at about $40 a month for an entry level product, and $60 a month for 100-megabit access.

Mr Joyce says the network will allow new services such as movies on demand, and high-quality video conferencing, as well as creating opportunities for the health and education systems.

The Telecommunications Users Association has welcomed the contracts but says it's concerned about delays covering the rest of the country.

Business development manager Katherine Hall says the deals look good for consumers, with competitive pricing.

But she says the industry needs more certainty about what is happening in the remainder of New Zealand.