Christchurch broadband getting a ‘Hyperfibre’ turbocharge

Christchurch will get “Hyperfibre” from early August, Enable Networks CEO Steve Fuller says.

The new service will offer up to eight times the speed of today’s fastest broadband plans in the city.

Pricing has yet to be announced, but Fuller says retail internet service providers will offer Hyperfibre plans shortly after network operator Enable makes the new service live – initially in the CBD before a broader rollout.

In places where Hyperfibre is already live, retail ISPs are charging from around $150 per month. Enable says its wholesale pricing will start at $75 per month, at least for the first 24 months – indicating Christchurch will be in the same zone (Ultrafast Fibre, which offers UFB service in the central North Island, and Chorus, which covers most of the rest of the country, have already introduced Hyperfibre, leaving Northland;’s Northpower Fibre as the only laggard out of the four network operators for the public-private UFB rollout).

The Christchurch City Council-owned and operated Enable also recently confirmed it would pay an $18 million dividend to the city for its 2021 financial year, which closed on June 30.

It was Enable’s first profit payout since the UFB rollout began in 2011, and was an increase on the $13.5m dividend it had forecast at the start of the financial year.

The council-owned company’s full financials won’t be released until October (last year, Enable more than doubled its profit to $11m and increased the book value of its UFB network from $482m to $498m).

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Enable had 130,000 residential and business customers connected to its fibre network as of June 30 – up on its forecast 127,500.

With the heavy-sending years of its main UFB rollout now behind it Enable, like the larger Chorus, is potentially in a position to steeply increase its dividends over coming years.

However, the exact level will depend, in part, on how the Commerce Commission finalises new financial and regulatory rules that will be phased in for Enable, Chorus, UFF and Northpower Fibre from January next year – major elements of which have yet to be finalised.

The fastest broadband plan available in Christchurch today is 1000 megabit per second (or 1 gigabit per second) UFB fibre.

Next month, Enable is launching a range of Hyperfibre products,including 2Gbps, 4Gbps and 8Gbps, all with the symmetrical download and upload speeds. That is, top speed in both directions.

The company says the plans will be “suitable for homes and most businesses”.

Most households would still fall far short of using 2Gbps of bandwidth, even if every family member is mainlining 4K Netflix at the same time, while online gaming and watching a Zoom call in the background.

But Enable (like Chorus and the other fibre operators), is in an arms race against Spark and Vodafone in their push to promote fixed-wireless broadband, which uses a mobile network to deliver fast internet to a home or small business – and the fibre companies want to keep bragging rights about offering the fastest service.

Enable boss Fuller says Hyperfibre 8 will be up to 300 times faster than fixed-wireless broadband, with no worries about proximity to a celltower or peak-time congestion.

Spark and Vodafone argue their cheapest unlimited data broadband plans start from just $50 a month, with same-day install, and that their 5G rollouts are allowing increasing abouts of bandwidth that, depending on the location, can handily outpace entry-level 100Mbps UFB fibre plans.

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