Vodafone and Vocus are partnering to unleash what could be a new front for disruption in the telecommunications market, unbundling UFB to deliver 10Gbit/s broadband.
The two companies have demonstrated an unbundled fibre connection at an Auckland home, describing the move as one that would "open New Zealand’s internet to a raft of innovations".
The connection is ten times faster than the fastest residential product currently available, though Chorus last week announced its own 10Gbit wholesale trial program.
The partnership was signalled in the middle of last year, when a tender was issued to the local fibre companies (LFCs) that currently operate the UFB network and wholesale services to ISPs.
To date, ISPs have only been able to supply fibre products that are bundled, meaning Chorus and other LFCs control the physical fibre connection and the technology that makes it work. Unbundling allows ISPs to use their own technology over the fibre lines.
“Currently LFCs have no real urgency to accelerate speeds or make available a wider variety of services - there is just no incentive to do so,” said Mark Callander, chief executive of Vocus New Zealand, owner of the Slingshot and Orcon ISP brands.
“However, as retailers operating in a competitive market, we know that increased speed, a broader portfolio and indeed the ability to better manage costs and reliability are absolutely key to attracting new customers and retaining existing ones."
Callandar described fibre unbundling as the most exciting development since the introduction of fibre broadband itself.
“With an unbundled connection, we have complete control over the signal which lets us ramp up innovation and bring even more services to market to meet the needs of specific customer groups," he added.
Meanwhile, Vodafone New Zealand CEO Jason Paris said fibre unbundling was necessary for retail service providers to deliver world-leading connectivity to Kiwis.
“Unbundling fibre will provide retail service providers with a flexible future-proofed platform regardless of what tomorrow brings," he said.
Right now, retail service providers can only sell a range of "one size fits most" fibre products, but Paris said there is a lot more that can be done with an unbundled fibre connection and more choice in the types of products that could be offered to customers.
Advocacy group InternetNZ has long advocated unbundling, both on the copper broadband network and more recently for fibre, including during the recent Telecommunications Act review.
“Fibre unbundling also removes barriers to emerging technologies, as we can rapidly implement innovations we know will work for our customers,” said Paris.
Callandar said there were a host of services coming on-stream, including virtual reality, AI and even cloud services, that would benefit from a faster connection.
"We’re completely ready to have unbundled fibre in market by the first of January 2020 and bringing the benefits to all New Zealanders who are using fibre connections, and further driving innovation and competition in this market," he added.