Crown Fibre Holdings (CFH), the government agency in charge of managing New Zealand’s NZD1.35 billion (USD972.4 million) Ultra-Fast Broadband (UFB) initiative, has announced that it has entered into priority negotiations with the Central Fibre Consortium (CFC) over the UFB network rollout in towns and cities across the North Island region. The areas pinpointed by CFH for CFC negotiations are Napier-Hastings, Palmerston North, Rotorua, Taupo, Pukekohe, Waiuku, Whakatane, Gisborne, Feilding and Masterton. CFH has already entered into negotiations with Telecom New Zealand over the North Island region, but it has been rumoured that it hopes to secure a rival bidder in each of the regions that Telecom is vying for; in December 2010 Telecom was selected to enter priority negotiations in all 25 candidate areas across New Zealand.
Simon Allen, chairman of the CFH chairman, commented: ‘Fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) will not only enhance the way we do things in major urban areas, but also in smaller population centres. It will make regional centres more competitive, improve our health and schooling systems, and help local businesses to connect to world markets. It is great to have Telecom and the Central Fibre Consortium contesting the opportunity to become the Crown’s partner for UFB in regional cities such as Napier and Palmerston North, as well as smaller centres like Whakatane and Masterton’.
The Central Fibre Consortium is made up of the regional lines companies Counties Power, Horizon Energy Distribution, Unison Networks, Centralines Limited and the Eastland Group. Two companies involved in the consortium, Counties Power and Unison Networks, have already deployed fibre-optic networks in the region.
The news follows last month’s announcement that CFH has selected Vector Limited for priority negotiations for the Auckland leg of the UFB scheme. Aside from Telecom, other companies previously selected for priority negotiations include Enable Networks (covering Christchurch and Rangiora); Flute Joint Venture represented by Aurora Energy Limited (Dunedin) and Alpine Energy (Timaru). The UFB’s ultimate objective involves rolling out high speed broadband to 75% of New Zealand’s population over the next ten years; the first six years will see the service offered to businesses, schools and health services, as well as selected green field developments.