NZ. The home of world class broadband.

By Steve Biddle, in , posted: 22-May-2013 08:07

It’s safe to say that the vast majority of New Zealanders think that broadband service in NZ is crap. Despite what they may think, we’ve actually got some of the best broadband connectivity in the world, and the harsh reality is that many of those with a poor service are probably suffering because they’re a) too tight to actually pay decent money for a decent service or b) completely oblivious to issues such as their home wiring impacting their broadband performance. Many people who fall into b) fall into a) once told of their problem – they expect somebody else to fix their problem, and don’t expect to pay for it either, despite wiring within the premises being owned by the property owner.

With the completion by Telecom of their Fibre to the Node (FTTN) cabinetisation project in 2011 over 3500 new fibre fed roadside cabinets were constructed across New Zealand. As the speed of xDSL based technologies decreases the further you are away from an exchange or cabinet, the installation of these roadside cabinets has meant that average attainable xDSL sync speeds have increased significantly. Over over 80% of premises in New Zealand have access to xDSL broadband with a minimum sync speed of 10Mbps using ADSL2+, a technology that is capable of delivering downstream speeds of up to approximately 18Mbps and upstream speeds of approximately 1Mbps. Over 40% of those premises also have access to VDSL2 which can deliver speeds of up to 70Mbps downstream and 10Mbps upstream if  you’re within 300m metres of an exchange or cabinet, and speeds of between 30Mbps and 50Mbps downstream and 10Mbps upstream if you’re within approximately 900m from a cabinet or exchange. Due to the higher frequency range used by VDSL2 performance will degrade very quickly past 1km.

There are very few countries in the world that have such an advanced network that is capable of delivering speeds this high to such a large percentage of premises. xDSL broadband speeds in Australia for example pale in comparison, and despite Australia now being part way through a Fibre to the Home (FTTH) rollout as part of the National Broadband Network (NBN) it’s likely that a change of Government in September will result in the FTTH project being scaled back and replaced with a cheaper FTTN network using the existing copper for the last mile. If this happens by 2017 Australia could have a network replicating what New Zealand has had since 2011 – VDSL2 to those premises close to an exchange or cabinet, and ADSL2+ to those further away. In the UK BT’s Infinity project rollout is deploying in a large number of new fibre fed cabinets to deliver VDSL2 and ADSL2+ as a last mile technology. The facts don’t lie – New Zealand is literally years ahead of most of the world.

Not content with FTTN and copper for the last mile, New Zealand is currently progressing along the path of building a FTTH network to deliver fibre to 75% of New Zealand premises by 2019. Once again what NZ is doing is world class – based upon current planning very few countries anywhere in the world would have fibre to 50% of their premises by 2019, let along the 75% that New Zealand is aiming for. In those areas that aren’t receiving fibre, rural FTTN cabinets are being built and wholesale fixed wireless services being being deployed by Vodafone as part of the Rural Broadband Initiative (RBI).

Now that I’ve explained this all to you there are probably people out there wondering what sort of kool aid I’ve been drinking. The answer to this is that I haven’t.

Many people are receiving a substandard internet service, but the reasons for doing this aren’t because of the technology used to deliver the service,in many cases it’s because of their choice of ISP, and more importantly, their home phone wiring.

All ISP’s aren’t created equal. There are many factors that will heavily influence end user performance such as domestic and international transit (ie the amount of upstream bandwidth your ISP has purchased), backhaul inside NZ (the capacity your ISP has purchased  to carry data between the Chorus network and their own), the location and performance of DNS servers (closer is always better), whether your ISP is caching data, and whether they may have their own content delivery network (CDN) node to deliver bandwidth intensive traffic from within their network, rather than from somewhere else in the world. Like a fine bottle of wine price ultimately becomes a deciding factor as building and running a network doesn’t come cheaply. In the real world a $10 bottle of cheap bubbly wine isn’t going to taste as a good as a $200 bottle of Vintage Champagne, but many consumers are oblivious to that. Many people in this country seem to want the expensive quality Champagne, but aren’t willing to pay more than $10 for it.

If you're receiving your internet via  xDSL based technology your internal wiring within your home is the single biggest factor that will affect your internet speeds and performance. Over $1.5 billion was spent building roadside cabinets to deliver faster speeds, yet despite over 80% of premises being capable of receiving speeds of at least 10Mbps, the true number is below this. Why? Because the legacy phone wiring in many premises is simply incapable of delivering the performance required to deliver these speeds. The simple reality is that if you don’t have a master filter installed, or don’t have your xDSL connection terminated to a single dedicated jack point within your premises you’re probably receiving a degraded service. Rather than sounding like a stuck record I suggest you read my recent blog post here which talks in detail about this issue.

Last week the industry received a very significant announcement from Chorus announcing price reductions to the VDSL2 service that has now been available for a couple of years. With VDSL2 offering upload speeds that are 10x faster than ADSL2+, and download speeds that are up to 4x faster, the low uptake of VDSL2 (currently only 3000 people in NZ are using this service) really has been surprising. Unlike ADSL2+ which is a fully regulated offering with wholesale pricing set by the Commerce Commission, VDSL2 is a commercial service which maintained a $20 price premium over ADSL2+ to position it as a premium offering. While many larger ISP’s don’t currently retail VDSL2 as a product there are currently well over 20 ISP’s and resellers offering VDSL2 services and once again it seems that many people are either oblivious to the product offering, or merely not interested in receiving a faster service. Hopefully this price reduction will see VDSL2 uptake increase significantly – but remember that your wiring needs to be up to spec to support VDSL2, with a master filter or dedicated xDSL jack point being mandatory.

The ball really is in the consumers court… It’s just up to them to do something with it.

Other related posts:
Spark Paging network shutdown – the event nobody cares about? Not quite.
UFB voice, power cuts, copper invincibility and mainstream media FUD.
New Zealand’s growing BUBA problem (AKA I feel sorry for you if you’re on a Conklin)

Comment by Alex, on 22-May-2013 09:47

While I do agree that NZ have a high quality network, the existence of data caps have already scarred the users.

Just ask whether people are traffic concious? Are they constantly worried about how much traffic they're generating?

And we built this network precisely because we paid for it, so yes this was a good effort but it wasn't through exploitation of the telcos. It was a fair deal.

The simple truth is we collectively don't know how to monetise this network. And as result the investment's came from consumers rather than private industry. With NZ's GDP per capita of 46678(take home pay of 3224/month) on a typical plan of $99/month flat rate Orcon plan, one is shelling out 3% of income on such "world-class" network. Comparisons are welcome, in my humble opinion though it is definitely not on the lower side of costs.

Comment by reven, on 22-May-2013 10:27

ISPs now have great data plans, I'm paying $100 a month for home phone and 275GB a month with snap.  

I wish I could get VDSL but sadly I'm about 100m too far away.  The extra $10 a month (only $10 since with snap you go from regular phone to VOIP phone) is well worth it.

Comment by paradoxsm, on 22-May-2013 11:21

A master filter/dedicated feed for the DSL helped immensely with our syc speeds, going from about 7Mbps/600 to 18Mbps/1200.

However, it seems that some areas have some serious contention problems, I'm currently in the middle of the country with a 6Mbps sync and it hoses all over my home connection in Wellington with regards to international traffic so it seems area ad exchange have a lot to do with it. I have tried Snap, Vodafone, Fyx, Orcon, Telecom, Telstraclear (ordered into speed performance) and have simply resigned to choosing the cheapest provider, in this case Telecom.

Disclaimer: I currently live in Newtown which has no cabinets, crazy old above ground spaghetti wiring and a massive student population which is possilibly having the huge effect, particuary in peak times.

Comment by Kim Dotcodotnz, on 22-May-2013 11:44

Alex, your point about data caps is incredibly pertinent. When Vector were bidding for the UFB Contract a few years ago, they had a wonderful advert on TV that metaphorically put NZ Broadband alongside using straws to deliver your mains water: doesn't matter how much water you try and throw down that straw, ultimately the size of the straw dictates how quickly your water arrives into your house.

Datacaps are a massively contended point of disgruntlement across so many ISPs in New Zealand. The concern that we are running out of space on the Souther Cross international cable is null&void by the fact that said cable is not even at 50% capacity yet! So the news from last week's National Party Budget that $15 million has been made available by the government "to maintain the option of making a strategic purchase of capacity on a new international cable" is very welcome.

The only way to drive down the cost of international traffic is to create competition for the bandwidth leaving and entering NZ. The only way to do this is to break the veritable monopoly that the Southern Cross stakeholders have.

Comment by antoniosk, on 22-May-2013 11:45

Good article Steve

Perhaps worth mentioning that Premises Wiring really is the responsibility of the home owner in the same way as Gas, Water and Electricity is.

There seems to be a generalised perception that the ISP should correct faulty house wiring because they are the service provider - a bit like stating that Samsung should fix coax/aerial wiring because the old stuff isn't capable of driving freeview etc.

Comment by David, on 22-May-2013 14:45

Are datacaps really still that much of an issue. In the last 12-18 months we've seen very large datacap increases, which has seen mine increase from 10gb (which I blew in one weekend with a new apple tv) to 150gb for the same price. While my data usage is going up, I've still got a fair way to go to get up to that level and could still increase to 500gb now. I think Telecom (my provider, not sure about the others) has become a lot better about overage and not killing you high charges.

Great article. Compare our OECD ranking with our BB ranking and that shows that we are hitting above our weight!

Comment by Griffsta, on 23-May-2013 12:06

I believe the main factor why people in this country are not getting the best speeds is the wiring in the homes. At the current premises I reside at we are achieving great speeds over ADSL2+, just wish that the ISP provided VDSL2+ at the local cabinet. Almost the maximum speeds attainable on ADSL2+ according to speed test 20.20 Mb/s download and about 0.93Mb/s upload comparing that to the Australian speeds I've seen they barely hit the maximum speeds of ADSL. So i to believe we have a good network here in this country.

Comment by H, on 23-May-2013 12:31

That argument fails for those with new build houses.
Like my friend.
All excited she expected great speeds but alas, nothing has changed.

Comment by DaveyMG, on 24-May-2013 10:36

"Perhaps worth mentioning that Premises Wiring really is the responsibility of the home owner in the same way as Gas, Water and Electricity is."

Where does responsibilty lie for those that pay the monthly "wiring maintenance" fee?

Author's note by sbiddle, on 24-May-2013 10:39

If you have wiring maintenance Chorus will repair any fault that develops in your wiring and restore it to the same condition it is was before the fault developed.

Wiring maintenance does not pay for the installation of a master filter, or rewiring of your premises.

Comment by Patrick, on 24-May-2013 18:44

Most western countries have fast fibre connections available now - NZ isn't leading the field there at all.
Data caps are the main problem with Internet in NZ. I pay £13/NZ$26 for unlimited Internet in the UK and there are plenty of cheaper unlimited plans available. The main issue is the low population which means few suppliers and minimal competition.

Author's note by sbiddle, on 24-May-2013 18:52

I'm really going to call you out on that comment Patrick because your comments really are without merit.

"Most western countries have fast fibre connections available now - NZ isn't leading the field there at all."

Define "most" - I'd like a list please. Remember your average "fibre" connection such as BT Infinity and Virgin Media cable aren't fibre despite using the terminology in their advertising.

"I pay £13/NZ$26 for unlimited Internet in the UK and there are plenty of cheaper unlimited plans available."

You clearly forgot to mention the BT line fees on top. When caps of 500GB at an affordable price are available from NZ's biggest ISP any arguments about caps are quite frankly also without merit. This represents over 20x more data than the average NZ user, and around 15x the average US user (the home of "unlimited" internet which in most cases is limited to 250GB soft caps).

"The main issue is the low population which means few suppliers and minimal competition."

There are plenty of suppliers in NZ and there is also plenty of competition however broadband pricing is very much controlled by the Commerce Commission as DSL is a fully regulated product offering, and prices can't drop below the wholesale pricing which our competition regulator has set.

The issue of population is a very valid one, we live in the middle of nowhere and a lot of our traffic has to travel half way around the world to get to the content we want. This is changing though as more and more CDN's set up shop in Australia.

Comment by Robin Watkins, on 18-Apr-2016 20:59

Steve,I am trying to contact you through a prompt on the blog. However, there is no email address for Steve Biddle. I wanted to ask you some questions about the Internet.

sbiddle's profile

Steve Biddle
New Zealand

I'm an engineer who loves building solutions to solve problems.

I also love sharing my views and analysis of the tech world on this blog, along with the odd story about aviation and the travel industry.

My interests and skillset include:

*VoIP (Voice over IP). I work with various brands of hardware and PBX's on a daily basis
  -Asterisk (incl PiaF, FreePBX, Elastix)

  -xDSL deployments

*Structured cabling
  -Home/office cabling
  -Phone & Data

*Computer networking
  -Mikrotik hardware
  -WAN/LAN solutions

*Wireless solutions
  -Motel/Hotel hotspot deployments
  -Outdoor wireless deployments, both small and large scale
  -Temporary wireless deployments
*CCTV solutions
  -Analogue and IP

I'm an #avgeek who loves to travel the world (preferably in seat 1A) and stay in nice hotels.

+My views do no represent my employer. I'm sure they'll be happy to give their own if you ask them.

You can contact me here or by email at