New Zealand’s Chorus makes bid for wholesale 5G network

11 December 2017 | Alan Burkitt-Gray


The CEO of New Zealand’s wholesale open-access fixed broadband company is making a bid to run the country’s 5G network on the same basis.

Kate McKenzie, who joined Chorus from Telstra early in 2017, told the New Zealand Herald in an interview that 5G should be built out using the same model the country uses for fixed ultra-fast broadband.

Chorus was hived off from the former Telecom New Zealand– now Spark – six years ago to create a fixed infrastructure company to which Spark and its rivals have equal access.

“We’ve been saying that when you get into the 5G world, there’s a pretty strong argument that we should be thinking about using the same model we’ve used for the fibre infrastructure,” McKenzie said in the interview.

She described it as “insane” to raise “the amount of capital that’s going to have to be spent to build out those [5G] networks for a country of this size and this population, with small cells every couple of hundred metres”.

New Zealand has three mobile operators, Spark, Vodafone and private equity-owned Two Degrees. For all three to have separate 5G investments is “just going to be not sustainable”, said McKenzie in the interview.

Chorus won around 70% of the New Zealand government’s contracts for ultra-fast broadband in competition with other last-mile providers.

In November 2017 at the company’s annual meeting she said: “In the last three months alone 50,000 customers upgraded to VDSL and 36,000 on to our fibre network. We now have 53% of broadband customers on high speed broadband, up from 45% in June. As a result, the average broadband speed on our network has gone from around 11Mbps in 2012 to almost 60Mbps in September.”

The target is to deliver fibre to 80% of the population by 2022. According to the New Zealand Herald interview, she accepted that competitors might see her 5G position as an attempt to allow Chorus to maximise returns from its investment in fibre.

Chorus is also experimenting with a long range wide area network (LoRaWAN) in the Auckland area for future internet of things (IoT) services.