Spark wants to move as many customers as possible off old copper broadband and onto the newer broadband technologies, fibre and wireless broadband.
Jason Paris, CEO of Spark Home, Mobile and Business explains, “We’re announcing an ambitious new programme today called ‘Upgrade New Zealand’. First, we want to accelerate take up of fibre: we are trialing new deployment methods that aim to simplify the process of installing fibre in individual homes and improve the efficiency of the roll out of fibre across New Zealand. Second, we are encouraging customers who are low to moderate data users and currently have copper broadband to move onto far more reliable and easy to install wireless broadband technology.”
Chorus copper lines are a legacy technology; they are getting older and are increasingly prone to faults. Every month, Spark logs around 30,000 requests with Chorus for customers who report faults on their broadband or landline services that rely on a Chorus copper line connection – and these volumes increase over the wet winter months. It is not uncommon for some unfortunate customers to experience multiple faults within a few months, each requiring investigation by Chorus technicians.
Paris says, “During winter, we apologized to customers for the poor experience they had on the Chorus copper network. Now it’s time for Spark to take action, to help customers avoid the pain that they experienced last winter, in future. We’re making sure that when customers do experience faults, that they can get back online quickly – and now we’re providing options so many of them can change to a more reliable broadband solution.”
Accelerating fibre take-up through a ‘street in a week’ streamlined installation process
Spark and Ultrafast Fibre (UFF) are trialing a new scheme that aims to makes it much easier and quicker for homeowners to install fibre for their broadband service. The scheme involves upgrading all homes in the same street that want Spark fibre broadband, in just one week – with customers having the certainty of being able to select a specific day within that week for their fibre installation.
This new approach should be a big improvement from the current process, where customers need to place their order with their service provider (such as Spark) and then go into the queue for the local fibre company to carry out the installation.
The current process involves a great deal of ‘to-ing and fro-ing’ between the customer, their service provider, the fibre company and the contracting technicians who actually carry out the installation. It can take several weeks or longer for installations to take place.
Jason Paris, CEO of Spark Home Mobile and Business, says the ‘street in a week’ trial with Ultrafast Fibre aims to boost the take-up of fibre by Spark customers by removing a lot of the frustration and uncertainty from the installation process:
“Spark has been a big supporter of the UFB fibre rollout, with a 43% share of the fibre broadband market. We’ve upgraded a good proportion of our broadband customers who have already had fibre laid in their street from their old copper line connection to fibre.
“However, while our customers tell us that they love fibre when they get it, the process of getting it installed is often problematic and can involve lots of hassle. For many customers, that can prove a turnoff as the installation process seems just too hard.
“Many of our ‘early adopter’ customers have already got fibre, so we’re really pleased to be partnering with Ultrafast Fibre to explore new, more efficient installation methods to encourage many others to move across to a fibre broadband connection.”
William Hamilton, CEO, Ultrafast Fibre adds, “We are constantly working to identify quicker, smarter ways to complete fibre connections for our Retail Service Providers and we’re excited about testing any new initiatives that may enhance the industry’s migration to fibre and the End User customer experience.”
The initial trial aims to upgrade a neighbourhood of 400 households to fibre, in selected streets in Nawton, Grandview Heights and Western Heights in Hamilton, in mid-November. Spark and Ultrafast Fibre are aiming to take the feedback from this trial and then use it to scale up the approach for further communities. Spark is also looking to work with other LFCs to take this approach to other communities.
Moving customers with lower data usage onto wireless broadband
While fibre is the preferred broadband technology for customers who use large amounts of data, Spark is offering wireless broadband to customers with low to medium data usage, who currently have a copper broadband connection.
Wireless broadband uses Spark’s super-fast 4G mobile network to provide home broadband, without the need for a copper line connection. Essentially, customers who live in the wireless broadband ‘footprint’ (an area with a strong 4G mobile signal) receive their broadband and phone line to a modem in their home over the mobile network – and then the modem allows them to access the internet on their computer or mobile device using Wi-Fi in the same way as they would with a copper or fibre connection.
Kayne Munro, Spark’s lead for wireless broadband, explains, “The 4G network offers fast speeds, with less risk of faults than most copper connections. Spark customers relying on a copper line connection are approximately 50 times more likely to report a fault compared with those on the Spark mobile network.
“The 4G network continues to expand the reach of Spark broadband – 150,000 NZ homes that previously had no access to copper or fibre broadband can now sign up to wireless broadband. In total, over 1.6m homes and businesses can access wireless broadband. And we continue to expand coverage: in the last three months, wireless broadband has become available to 40,000 more addresses.
“Best of all, it’s really easy to set up. The customer can have a modem delivered to their door in a couple of days. They call Spark to activate their connection and then jump online in minutes. No technician or installation is needed. Customers tell us they enjoy the ease of installation for wireless broadband and are loving the speed and reliability improvements they’ve experienced since upgrading from a copper connection.”
From today, wireless broadband is available in Spark stores, online at www.spark.co.nz/wirelessbroadband, or by speaking to Spark on the phone or through online chat.