Why is New Zealand pushing forward with fibre-optic broadband?

Article New Zealand map

New Zealand reaps fibre benefits as copper-choked UK risks digital exclusion | Computer Weekly

My Comments

What is the broadband Internet scenario in New Zealand

Like Australia, UK and a lot of European countries, New Zealand started off with Telecom NZ which a telecommunications monopoly that was initially run as part of a government-run post / telephone / telegraph service. In order to assure competition, Telecom NZ was split in to an infrastructure entity called Chorus and a retail services entity called Spark in 2011, something that is very similar to how Openreach in the UK and NBN in Australia are operating.

Chorus provide a DSL-based wholesale broadband Internet service with the infrastructure being provided on an unbundled local-loop basis. There is the ability for these services to be sold with a classic dial-tone telephony service or as a “naked” or “dry-loop” service that doesn’t have this service.

They provide a fibre-copper next-generation broadband service for 91% of New Zealand’s households with a throughput of at least 10Mbps – could most of these services implement VDSL2 technology? But they are also providing fibre-to-the-premises in some cities with some services benefit from Gigabit throughput in a few neighbourhoods.

Vodafone New Zealand are providing competitive Internet service in some of New Zealand’s urban areas namely Kapiti, Wellington and Christchurch but this is based around cable-modem technology thanks to them taking over TelstraClear’s HFC cable service. But they want to make sure of a fibre backbone infrastructure throughout both of the islands. Citylink also provides their own infrastructure to Auckland and Wellighton central-business districts.

New Zealand’s main ISPs are Vodafone, Spark, CallPlus with Slingshot and Orcon, 2degrees, Trustpower and REANNZ.

Rural Broadband

New Zealand are approaching the rural broadband situation through use of fixed-wireless technology with Vodafone and Spark offering retail broadband to those markets. But Vodafone and Chorus are setting a goal of at least 5Mbps bandwidth to 86% of rural customers. This includes Chorus implementing fibre backbones to Vodafone’s mobile towers, and most of the schools, libraries and health providers in New Zealand’s rural districts. It also includes establishing more of the cabinets associated with FTTN fibre-copper service in to rural districts to “push out” the bandwidth coverage.

Chorus even started off a Gigatown competition where a town could be set up for Gigabit broadband as the norm in a similar manner to some of the “Gigacities” that are happening in the UK. The town that won the competition ended up being Dunedin.

Next-generation broadband effort

The New Zealand Government are behind the provisioning of fibre-to-the-premises in all of New Zealand’s main urban centres that have a population of at least 10000. This is being backed by Chorus and the local electricity utilities, with an initial goal of 75% but now 80% since 2015.

This has been achieved through having more of the FTTN (fibre-copper) areas converted towards FTTP (fibre-to-the-premises) along with placing the FTTN cabinets nearer more of the rural population areas – it could be feasible to benefit from decent cost-effective broadband down at that bach you use as a “bolt-hole”.

Why push ahead with fibre broadband?

An article that I read called out why New Zealand is pushing ahead with fibre-to-the-premises rather than “sweating out” copper infrastructure for their broadband infrastructure. This in in comparison with what Openreach is doing in the UK and, to some extent, NBN in Australia where they are preferring to deploy fibre-copper technology seeing it as being cheaper to deploy than fibre-to-the-premises.

Here, it called out the situation in the UK compared to what is happening in New Zealand where the UK central government along with Openreach haven’t been supporting innovation when it comes to providing Internet service.  They highlighted the fact that the Kiwi government were willing to risk more money with a view to see a prosperous country with the benefit of an increased tax base thanks to increased Internet bandwidth and the fact that it could draw more business there. They also were seeing a network that was also cheaper when it came to operational costs such as being more energy-efficient. They also underscored that cellular-technology mobile networks can benefit thanks to many smaller base stations (microcells and picocells) connected by fibre-optic backbones rather than few large towers for the same coverage.


Governments on a national, regional and local level need to support deployment of next-generation technology that can do the job properly. It also includes supporting and protecting a competitive Internet-service marketplace at the infrastructure and retail levels in a manner that empowers value-for-money and service differentiation.

The benefits that these governments can achieve include a stronger financial benefit including a GDP uptick courtesy of the newer technology and businesses wanting to set up shop in that country; along with a future-proof technology approach that answers many realities.

Make the next-generation broadband infrastructure beautiful

Painted street cabinet

This is how you can make those cabinets part of the street fabric

Whenever any new infrastructure is laid down, there is an increase in the number of street cabinets that will appear as the result of this infrastructure. This is more so with next-generation broadband especially if the service is based around fibre-copper technologies, implements active components or is prepared to do so.

But these cabinets attract a “not in my backyard” comments or activism from local residents or neighbourhoods because of them looking ugly and becoming a surface for the local graffiti artists and gangs to scrawl their “tags” on to. Similarly, the street cabinets can effectively become obstacles in their own right.

There can be something better done about this. One way would be to encourage or commission local artists to paint these cabinets with designs that complement the neighbourbood or a local effort. They then look beautiful in their own right rather than as ugly boxes. Such paintwork can be directly applied or painted on to a vinyl “skin” or “wrap” which is applied to the box. The latter approach can apply to seasonal efforts like Christmas decorations or advertising campaigns if the “skin” can be removed.

Another approach would be to design the street cabinets to be integrated to other street furniture. This would work well if there isn’t a need to provide maintenance access or equipment ventilation from all sides of the cabinet. Examples of this could include a cabinet that is integrated in to a street bench or litter bin. Simply an infrastructure cabinet could benefit from being equipped with a closed rail especially if it is located close to a café or bar with a street dining area. This is because it can be used as a hitching-post for a patron’s dog or bicycle.

What needs to be done to prevent the NIMBY attitude concerning next-generation broadband and similar infrastructure in urban areas is to look at ways to integrate the cabinets in to the neighbourhood area’s fabric so they effectively blend in.

Wires-only self Install to come to UK FTTC services

Draytek Vigor 2860N VDSL2 business VPN-endpoint router press image courtesy of Draytek UK

Draytek Vigor 2860N VDSL2 business VPN-endpoint router


Broadband Router Options for UK FTTC VDSL ISPs – 2015 UPDATE – ISPreview UK Page 2

My Comments

When a person signed up to “fibre-to-the-cabinet” next-generation broadband service in the UK, they would have to make an appointment with a BT Openreach technician to install their VDSL2 modem and rewire their telephone service. Here, you then had to make sure you had a broadband router with an Ethernet WAN connection on the “edge” of your home network which is something you would have to do for fibre-to-the-premises (all-fibre) setups.

Now BT and others are offering this service on a “self-install” or “wires-only” basis where they do the work with getting you ready for next-generation broadband at the FTTC cabinet only. You would have to buy your own VDSL2-capable modem router and microfilters to benefit from this service. This is similar to the current practice of providing ADSL in the UK, Australia and most other countries.

There are an increasing number of high-end modem routers available from most of the well-known home-network equipment names like Draytek, Billion, and TP-LINK. But the VDSL2 modem must work to UK standards which means that it would be a good idea to go to local online or bricks-and-mortar outlets to purchase that VDSL2-compliant modem router.

Bear in mind that some high-end ADSL2 modem routers that are advertised as VDSL2-ready may implement a software-programmable modem which can be set up to “do VDSL2”. Here, check on the manufacturer’s Webpage for a firmware update that opens this functionality and make sure this update is “fixed” to UK requirements.

As well, for anyone around the world who is benefiting from VDSL2-based “fibre-copper” services and having it on a “self-install” or wires-only basis, make sure that you are dealing with equipment or firmware that works to the standards supported by your ISP or infrastructure provider.

To start you off, consider the Draytek Vigor 2860N as a flexible VPN endpoint wireless router for your small business or the Billion BiPAC 8800AXL AC1600 wireless router as modem router ideas for your FTTC-driven home or small-business network.

BT to investigate remote-node setups for fibre-copper broadband


First BT Fibre-To-The-Remote-Node FTTrN Broadband Trial Set For Q4 2014 | ISPReview.co.uk

My Comments

British Telecom are trialling in Yorkshire a deployment setup for fibre-copper (FTTC, FTTN, etc) next-generation broadband setups. This is based around a miniature housing containing VDSL2 DSLAMs that can be mounted in smaller locations and able to serve a small number of copper connections.

This system, known as FTTrN (Fibre To The Remote Node) allows for longer fibre runs and can be powered either by the client premises or by a low-power independent power supply like a solar panel or simply neighbouring electrical infrastructure. It is intended to be mounted on telegraph poles, installed in small manholes or integrated in to existing infrastructure in some other way.

This is pitched as an alternative to the street cabinet that is essential to the FTTC (Fibre to the Curb / Fibre To The Cabinet) model because these have costs and installation issues as their baggage. This includes aesthetics and streetscape issues including attractiveness to grafitti vandals as a tagging surface as well as assuring dedicated power-supply availability.

Useful for difficult installations where a street cabinet would be difficult to install – cosmetic issues with large cabinets including attractiveness to grafitti vandals, planning / streetscape integration, dedicated AC power requirements including cabling infrastructure

Personally I would see these setups appeal to fibre-copper setups like “fibre-to-the-node” / “fibre-to-the-distribution-point” where the bridge between fibre-optic infrastructure and copper infrastructure is closer to the customer. They also do appeal as a way to “wire up” remote settlements, estates and hamlets with next-generation broadband in the fibre-copper way while assuring improved throughput.

I do still see these having the same limitations as any fibre-copper setup where the user experience can be impaired by use of poorly-maintained copper infrastructure which would be a common problem with rural installations.

At least BT are trying out a highly-flexible fibre-copper next-generation broadband setup which can also appeal as a tool for supplying real broadband to rural areas especially where there are the remote settlements or estates.

NBN to consider FTTN in regional areas


NBN Co ponders rural reversal | The Australian

My Comments

With the NBN considering moving regional areas to Fibre-to-the-node technology, we need to be aware of other similar developments taking place in UK and Germany where similar technology is being deployed for next-generation networks.

Here, we need to know of any deployment mistakes that have been made in these countries and are at risk of being made here. This includes connections that have or are likely to impede operation of the technology as well as catering to the changing landscape that will affect these areas, which is a fact as a town expands and farmland is subdivided for multiple housing projects. It is also why the concept of adaptability is very important when working on a next-generation broadband infrastructure

In the same context, the concept of adaptability  is important as a way to allow customers to buy increased broadband which I would say is important for professionals working from home or if the concept of “fibre to the basement” / “fibre to the building” is to be realised for subsequent multi-tenancy developments that occur in the neighbourhood.

What we need to be sure of for a next-generation broadband service is a competitive highly-adaptive system that can suit the way neighbourhoods change.

Can a fibre-copper next-generation broadband network be considered economical for all brownfield developments?

The recent NBN announcement put forward to the Australian people by the Coalition has determined that a fibre-copper setup is a more economical method for delivering the broadband service to already-developed (brownfield) locations than the fibre-to-the-premises setup that Labor is running with. There are some countries like the UK and Germany who run these networks, mainly with the option of full fibre deployment as an option.

The kind of talk I am raising here may work against the “preferred” idea of using existing copper infrastructure in existing condition for delivering next-generation broadband to the customer. This is because of certain realities concerning the existing infrastructure, such as a copper network that was engineered for an area that was more sparse than the current occupation density or a network that needs a lot of attention to provide reliable and optimum service.

A copper network that suited a sparse development

But I see the issue of a fibre-copper network as being area-specific for each brownfield area. Here, this could depend on the density of the brownfield area such as the concentration of multiple-tenant developments or the existence of many smaller properties since the copper network was established.

In this case, one may have to factor whether the copper network may need to be revised to cater for this increased density or whether the point of exchange between the fibre backbone and the copper network needs to be moved closer for some developments. For example, a large apartment block like some of the ones on the Gold Coast or St Kilda shoreline; or a large shopping centre like Doncaster Shoppingtown or Knox City may find that it is better to have a “fibre-to-the-building” approach with the point of exchange in the development.

Older copper networks that need extensive repair work

A copper telephony network that has been neglected by the incumbent telephony provider may need a fair bit of attention to have it work at an optimum speed for a fibre-copper broadband development. This can be more so for those networks that exist on peri-urban, regional and rural areas where there has been minimal investment in these areas.

The network may “just work” with voice telephony or baseline fax applications but may not perform as expected for a DSL application as I have written about before. In some cases, the customer may not even benefit from a reliable DSL service, and the VDSL service is most likely not to be as fault-tolerant as the existing ADSL technology.

If there is a planned fibre-copper deployment, it shouldn’t be just a case of installing a street cabinet and connecting service wires and the fibre backbone to that cabinet. In some cases, it may be about surveying the copper infrastructure for pair-gain setups, decrepit wiring / connections and other situations that may work against optimum VDSL service. Here, it may be worth dong a comparative cost analysis on remedial work for a copper infrastructure to see whether rolling out new fibre or copper infrastructure would be cheaper than doing many repairs to existing decrepit infrastructure.

This kind of work may benefit the retail Internet service providers in the reduced number of customer-service issues due to substandard service, thus providing a positive customer-service image for them.

I would therefore argue that not all copper telecommunications networks that exist in brownfield areas can be the economical basis for a fibre-copper next-generation broadband setup unless they have been surveyed and found to provide reliable service for the area concerned and the technology that is being considered.

La Réunion to have a fibre-optic next-generation broadband network

Article – French language

ZEOP apporte la fibre optique à La Réunion – DegroupNews.com

My Comments

Previously, I had written an article about La Réunion, one of France’s “Départements Outre Mer” colonies having to deal with the issue of costly Internet access on that island.

Now there is action afoot to set up a next-generation broadband network on this island near Madagascar. ZEOP, who is an ISP that services this colony has put up the idea of a fibre-optic network being set up via their “Réunicable” subsidiary.

They will initially work on Saint Gilles which is their main economic centre due to the existence of a popular seaside resort with the work starting in April 2013. The goal is to connect 11000 premises to the network but I am not sure whether this effort is the same “fibre-to-the-node” deployment with a coaxial run to the subscriber as has been set up by Réunicable for the Pont D’Yves and Bras de Ponth dual-play services.

There will be an expectation that ZEOP /Réunicable shares the infrastructure with competing retail carriers and providers in that territory as has been mandated in the French mainland. But ZEOP want to run their retail service as a triple-play €49.90 / month with included telephone calls to landlines within La Réunion, to France and 60 other international destinations; 50 TV channels and an Internet service of 35Mbps download / 2Mbps upload bandwidth.

Of course, as I have mentioned in the previous coverage on this Département Outre-Mer, there is the issue of increasing the bandwidth that the island has to the rest of the Internet world. This could be about making La Réunion become a link between Africa and other European and Asian territories through the use of more satellite and submarine cable uplinks.

As well, I would like to see ZEOP look at other technologies that can do the job better, for better value in this island like use of VDSL2 for the copper run or full fibre-to-the-premises.

The VDSL2 technology to be tried for fibre-copper setups in France

Articles – French language

France Télécom va tester le VDSL2 – DegroupNews.com

My comments

Most next-generation broadband deployments in France’s competitive Internet market are either FTTP (fibre-to-the-premises) fibre but Numericable are running with what is called an “FTTLA” fibre-to-the-cabinet setup. This is where the copper run to the customers is a short-run coaxial cable similar to existing cable-modem setups and is based on DOCSIS 3.0 technology.

On the other hand. VDSL2 telephone-line-based technology is successfully used in Germany and the UK for the copper run in fibre-to-the-cabinet setups in those locations. Now France Telecom are intending to try it in the highly-competitive French market for cheaper fibre-copper next-generation setups. This will most likely be used as another method of covering sparsely-populated outer-urban or regional areas where the cost to deploy would be prohibitive for a full-fibre rollout.

The reason they are running with this technology is its ability to provide a “fat pipe” over telephone cable for short runs. For example, as I have seen from the article, an 800m run of telephone cable could yield a download link speed of 25Mb/s on ADSL2 technology, but could yield 100Mb/s for the same distance. Similarly a longer run which could typically achieve a link speed of 1Mbps under ADSL2 could achieve 42Mbps with VDSL2.

As I have already known, these rates are dependent on the line condition between the street cabinet or exchange and the customer’s premises. Of course, this would be delivered under sub-loop unbundling which would be part of the call for a competitive Internet market in France. Similarly, there would have to be competitive access to those street cabinets so that competing Internet providers like Free could run their fibre backbone to the newly-created VDSL2 infrastructure and reach these markets.

Personally, I would like to see any fibre-copper deployment scenarios involving rural properties like farms be looked at so that there is a proof of feasibility for bringing next-generation broadband to the farmhouse door in a reliable manner.

Customer-supplied line-filters to give VDSL2 setups the same promise of self-install as ADSL2


thinkbroadband :: Openreach in technical trial to test micro-filters with FTTC service

My comments

Previously ADSL required a truck-roll to the customer’s premises to provide the service. Here, the technician installs a DSL line splitter at the line’s entry point and a socket for the ADSL modem. Now installs don’t need a technician to visit unless they are difficult or sophisticated setups like dealing with business phone systems or monitored security systems.

Typically, the customer installs a micro-filter or ADSL line splitter on each phone device and connects the ADSL modem-router to a socket that doesn’t have a micro-filter attached to it or connects the modem to the ADSL or DATA port of the line splitter. In most cases, we tend to use DSL line splitters rather than line filters at each phone socket. This can allow us to move the ADSL modem-router around as needed to suit different living arrangements or simply to relocate the wireless router for best performance.

Most fibre-copper next-generation broadband setups such as FTTC, FTTN or FTTB typically will implement VDSL2 but this is a different kettle of fish when it comes to provision. Here, a technician still visits the premises to put in a VDSL2 central splitter and run Ethernet-grade cable to where the VDSL2 modem-router would be installed.

BT Openreach are trialing the use of selected line filters and splitters as a way of providing self-installation of VDSL2-based fibre-copper setups. They are assessing these for radio and audio interference and degradation of data throughput with the commonly-used line filters attached to existing phone equipment.

Initially, the tests will be based around professionally-installed setups, but they will move towards self-install setups. It could also then give the same level of flexibility that we have enjoyed with ADSL2 equipment.

These tests could be observed by other countries and companies interesting in deploying fibre-copper next-generation broadband that uses VDSL2 technology; but can also be used as a way of justifying these setups over fibre-to-the-premises setups.

VDSL now in Havelland, Germany–Let’s not forget small communities outside large urban areas


DNS:NET bringt VDSL ins Havelland | VDSL-News (Germany – German language)

My Comments

Comments relating to an experience with an ADSL service in a country district outside an urban area

Even a country district outside of a well-serviced metropolitan area can suffer limitations with communications. This can happen where you have “green wedges”, farming districts (e.g. wine districts at Yarra Valley or Rosebud) or “beauty districts” (e.g. The Dandenong Ranges in Melbourne or the Blue Mountains in Sydney) located on the edge of or as “pockets” in a metropolitan area and many small communities exist through these areas.

Take Yarra Glen, which is located in the Yarra Valley Wine District outside of Melbourne, for example. You could get the radio and TV programmes receivable in the Melbourne metropolitan area very easily but you can end up with a telephone system that is allowed to “go rotten”.

This was exemplified when I saw a friend of mine who was living in the town and she had trouble with her ADSL Internet service. She had an ADSL modem but it appeared that there was no ADSL signal after she had the service for a few years. The service provider suggested that she try out another modem and she bought a wireless ADSL router and this unit wouldn’t show the existence of ADSL service.

After many troubleshooting hours on the telephone to the service provider and the wireless router’s manufacturer, we found that the telephone infrastructure had “gone rotten” as far as proper ADSL service was concerned. The service provider had come back with information that a lot of repair work needed to be done at the exchange (where the DSLAM was) and at a lot of wiring points between the exchange and her location. This then allowed the router to register proper service and the service had yielded significant improvement since the repairs were done.

I have been following the issue of country areas being set up with decent-standard broadband service and even hamlets, villages and small towns that exist outside a metropolitan area need to be considered.

Comments and notes on the Havelland VDSL deployment

This VDSL2 deployment is taking place in the Brandenburg-Land (German Federal State) outside the Berlin metropolitan area. For Australian readers, this may be similar to a deployment that takes place in a state like South Australia but isn’t servicing the Adelaide metropolitan area. It is in the Havelland district which is between Brandenburg town and west of the Berlin metropolitan area.

There are two main deployments in this area – one in Seeburg which will have a fibre backbone and one covering Elstal (Wustermark) and Falkirk which will have a radio backbone. Each deployment will use the VDSL2 technology to bring the next-generation broadband to the customer’s door and this technology has been valued due to less need to lay out new infrastructure to the door.

DNS:NET, who are behind this project, are working on extending its next-generation broadband infrastructure to bring this calibre of service to the small Brandenburg communities.


The reason I was citing the Yarra Glen poor-quality ADSL incident is that small communities that exist just outside major urban areas are at risk of being neglected when it comes to providing proper broadband service. I was citing this in conjunction to the Havelland VDSL deployments because DNS:NET were working on small communities outside the Berlin and Brandenburg conurbation by making sure they have real next-generation broadband service.

It also caters for the reality that as urban sprawl occurs, these communities will end up becoming part of that urban area and their transport and communication infrastructure needs to be taken care of.