Ultra-Fast Broadband Plans

Not sure what Ultra-Fast Broadband is all about? Find out what you need to know and how to check if it’s available at your place.

Updated

Back in 2009, the New Zealand Government tendered a programme to introduce Ultra-Fast Broadband (UFB) to New Zealand. UFB, also known as fibre broadband, is a faster and more dependable type of internet connection than ADSL and VDSL and improves business operations, education facilities, health services the lives of Kiwis.

UFB uses fibre optic cables rather than copper cables, and data is transmitted through light signals. Since these light signals are not affected by interference or distance, this broadband technology allows for a more reliable experience where multiple users can be connected at the same time without a dip in quality.

How fast is UFB?

UFB has a range of speeds but the slowest UFB service sits at around 30Mbps download. This is is not much different from what you can get on VDSL, so it’s not really worth changing over to fibre for if you truly want to experience what this technology can do.

The most common that we see across providers is 100Mbps download and 20Mbps upload. Upload speed refers to how quickly you can upload video and files, and download speeds influence how fast you can download files, stream video and load webpages.

If 100/20 is not fast enough for you, the next step up has download speeds of 200Mbps, and the fastest currently possible is 1000Mbps download/500Mbps upload, known as a Gigabit plan. A lot of companies tend to sit under this though for their fastest plan, with 900 or 950Mbps download speeds.

This may not mean much to you just yet, but when we look at how fast you can download a movie with UFB, you can really understand just how fast it is compared to copper connections.

Example

A 5GB HD movie would normally take about an hour to download on ADSL. With 100Mbps download this reduces to 6 minutes, 200Mbps is 3 minutes, and 1Gbps is an impressive 40 seconds.

If you’re more of a song downloader than a movie downloader, you can download 100 songs in 4 minutes on ADSL, but with 100Mbps UFB this task is easily completed in less than 30 seconds.

Why should I consider UFB?

There are many reasons why you should consider UFB for your home:

  • Faster download and upload speeds. Do more in shorter time including downloading files, uploading videos and browsing pages.
  • Capacity. Multiple devices can connect at the same time and all have the same speeds and same quality service. Some providers state that UFB with 100Mbps download speeds is suitable for up to 20 devices, and the faster UFB plans can handle many more.
  • Reliable connection. Get consistent speeds throughout the day, even in known peak internet use times.
  • No more buffering. Stream movies and TV shows without any buffering at the beginning or during your viewing time.
  • Better gaming. When playing online games you’ll enjoy a smoother and sharper experience.

Can I get UFB?

At the time of writing, UFB is currently available to 79% of the population in the following regions.

Places currently with UFB

North Island: Auckland, Hamilton, Te Awamutu, Tokoroa, Tauranga, Cambridge, Whanganui, Whangarei, Dargaville, Rotorua, Whakatane, Gisborne, Taupo, Napier, Hastings, Palmerston North, Levin, Fielding, Masterton, Wellington.South Island: Nelson, Blenheim, Greymouth, Ashburton, Timaru, Oamaru, Dunedin, Mosgiel, Queenstown, Invercargill, Christchurch.

If you are in a smaller town close to one of these locations, fibre may be available to you already.

The best way to check is by entering your address on the National Broadband Map. This incredible online tool shows you exactly what types of broadband connections are available at your property, plus you can also see which companies can provide the service.

If fibre is available, instead of specific internet service providers, you will be shown the name of the local fibre company who is responsible for the fibre network in your area. For example, we put in a Hamilton address which told us that UltraFast Fibre owns the network and to contact one of its retailers. From here you can click through to the UltraFast Fibre website and then click on Find a Retail Provider.

After selecting your town or city, you will see the list of companies that you can get a fibre plan through. Depending on your area, there could be a lot of companies to choose from, both nationwide and regional, but keep in mind that some of these may be for business customers only.

If you already know the name of the local fibre company in your area you can go straight to their website to check availability and see which internet service providers can offer you a plan.

Getting UFB installed

Due to being new infrastructure, if UFB is available in your area there is still work that needs to be done to connect it from the street to your property. This is how the process works:

The internet provider that you sign up to places an order with the local fibre company to connect your home to the fibre network.

  1. A technician will visit your home to plan how to install UFB. You will need to be at home while they survey the property and put a plan in place that you agree with.
  2. The next step is the build day, which is where the local fibre company connects the fibre cable from the street to an External Termination Point on the exterior of your house.
  3. The last thing that needs to happen is bringing the fibre inside, and again you’ll need to be home for this part. An Optical Network Terminal, which is about the size of a brick, will be installed and your modem or router will connect to this. Sometimes this step can be done on the same day as the building work is done.

Standard installations are currently free and should be for the foreseeable future. However, there may be extra charges in some cases, for example, if you want to get trenching for cables.

There is no guaranteed time for how long the installation process will take, and the service providers do advise that it could be anywhere from a couple of weeks to a few months. Factors that influence the time it takes include:

  • Technician availability
  • When you are able to be home
  • Amount of building work required
  • If consents are needed from third parties such as landlords or neighbours. If you don’t own your home then the landlord needs to agree on the building work, and neighbours that you share a driveway will need to give their consent.

Customers who live in a mixed-dwelling unit or down a right-of-way tend to have much longer lead times than single dwelling customers. This can be a frustrating and slow process but the benefits of UFB will be worth the wait.

Who offers UFB and what does it cost?

The following internet service providers currently offer UFB plans:

  • Vodafone
  • Spark
  • Orcon
  • Bigpipe
  • MyRepublic
  • NOW
  • Skinny
  • Slingshot
  • Stuff Fibre
  • 2degrees
  • Trustpower
  • Nova Energy
  • Wireless Nation
  • Compass
  • megaTEL
  • WorldNet
  • voyager
  • Unicom
  • Sinch
  • Inspire Net
  • Econofibre

This list is not exhaustive, as you may find a few other smaller or local companies that also have UFB plans.

While some companies offer a few UFB plans with different speeds and data allowances, others may only have one or two options. Many offer unlimited fibre plans rather than capped data, which makes sense if you do a lot of streaming, but you can still get capped plans of varying data allowances. Just remember that a lot of companies refer to UFB as fibre, so if you only see fibre plans rather than UFB plans, you’re still on the right track.

When it comes to pricing, monthly costs can vary depending on the company, the UFB speed, data allowance and if any other perks or extras are bundled with the broadband.

For standard UFB with speeds of 100Mbps up/20Mbps, the average cost per month for an unlimited plan tends to be between $85 and $100. If you’re wanting the fastest speeds possible, a Fibre Max or Fibre Pro plan will set you back between $95 and $120 a month. It is possible to pay as little as $65 per month, however, this will have a limit of 120GB or 150GB of data.

To get the best deal, it can be worth checking out bundle options with telecommunication and energy companies for combining your power, gas, home line, or mobile phone with your broadband. For example, energy companies like Contact and Trustpower give you a discount for having both your broadband and energy plans together, and Vodafone gives a $10 monthly discount for having a pay monthly mobile plan.

There are also discounts on offer for prompt payments, with Orcon and Slingshot both giving 10% discount on your power and broadband bills if you pay on time each month.

What if UFB is not available at my place?

If you can’t get UFB, don’t fret just yet, as there are many more towns to get coverage over the next couple of years. In fact, your town could be ready to go really soon and the National Broadband Map will indicate the month and year when this will happen from 2020 through to 2022.

While you are waiting for UFB, you can still get online through ADSL, VDSL or wireless depending on what is available. Rather than locking you into a 12- or 24-month contract for one of these connections, some providers will allow you to switch over to UFB as soon as comes to your area.

You won’t need to pay exit fees, only the difference in plan price plus any applicable non-standard installation costs. Through our research this isn’t always obvious from looking at a company’s website, but give them a call and see what they can do.

If fibre isn’t going to be available at your house at all, perhaps because you live in a rural area, you may now have access to faster broadband thanks to the work that has been carried out by the Rural Broadband Initiative. This project has been extending wireless and copper broadband throughout the country and improving current services.

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