TNZ touts for national broadband job

Telecom New Zealand (TNZ) has said it is still in the running for the job of rolling out the country’s proposed national broadband network despite revelations that it is not one of the players the country’s communications authorities are talking to at the moment.

Three firms are in “prioritised negotiations” over the build of the NZ$1.5 billion network. Government investment vehicle Crown Fibre Holdings (CFH) is examining the proposals of utility companies Alpine Energy, Central North Island Fibre Consortium and Northpower about delivering services in eight of the 33 regions up for sale – around 12% of the country – but has indicated TNZ remains on its shortlist for possible future dialogue. TNZ entered a revised, last-minute proposal for the Ultra-Fast Broadband (UFB) Initiative in August, offering structural separation to increase the appeal of its bid.

“Because of TNZ’s long absence from negotiations, other bidders –the utilities – have jockeyed themselves into prime positions,” said Paul Budde, managing director of the Buddecomm consultancy. “Now the government needs to find a way to facilitate TNZ that means the early supporters don’t get squashed in the rush. Everyone understands the importance of TNZ getting itself back into play and the need for it to get a key role.”

CFH has indicated that TNZ could enter into a consortium with one or more of the other 10 parties on the shortlist, although it is unclear whether it would accept a regional role rather than the national one it has expressed interest in.

With the major cities of Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch still to play for, Budde said the best solution would be for TNZ to work out a role for itself “in co-operation with the utilities”. “There is also a consolation prize on offer,” he said. “The government has said it prefers national bidders for its separate NZ$300 million rural broadband initiative, which TNZ has a good chance of winning. The process is not very transparent and a lot seems to go on behind closed doors, which is frustrating for the industry.”

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