Chorus out to create NZ's fastest town

Chorus out to create NZ's fastest town

Infrastructure provider Chorus has revealed plans for a contest it hopes will create the most hyper connected city in the southern hemisphere - the kind that will drive economic growth.

Although it's yet to finalise details, Chorus says the Gigatown competition to give a region gigabit per second broadband will likely run for a year. Consumers may be able to download an application and community members' social media discussion about what fibre could do for them possibly monitored via hashtags to decide finalists.

The winning town will likely be chosen by popular vote in the second phase of the contest.

At its Chorus Connection event, the company asked wholesalers to offer prices that would get gigabit fibre plans into Kiwis' hands. But it said the initiative was about more than fibre adoption, adding there's a "massive opportunity"  to extend connectivity in the winning region with things like wireless mesh. It's also been talking to manufacturers and providers about devices and services that could be tested as part of the scheme.

Gigatown is part of Chorus' 2020 strategy and is inspired by the Tennessee city of Chattanooga, named in the 1960s by Walter Kronkite as the dirtiest city in the US, which has now been revived off the back of fibre network investment.

Company Lab founder Sheldon Grizzle, also involved with entrepreneurial support organisation Gigtank, says people now associate gigabit internet speeds with Chattanooga. In 2010 it rolled out gigabit fibre to the home across 600 square miles. In all it introduced 8000 miles of fibre using two redundant 400GB rings.

As a result entrepreneurs returned to the city, 6700 jobs were created and venture capital in the region has grown five fold. "Fibre has given us street cred and shown we're serious about innovation," Grizzle says.

Chorus wants a similar economic boost in New Zealand. It wants at least of third of Kiwi to adopt fibre by 2020 and to "create global broadband envy". 

It says New Zealand is let down by the fact we're ranked seventh globally for internet usage rates but too much of this is for fun and too little for economic impact.

Chorus marketing and sales boss Victoria Crone cited a study that showed there are potential productivity benefits from UFB  worth $33 billion for New Zealand, with business, education, healthcare and education able to benefit most. There was also an opportunity for $5.5 billion of economic growth through fibre.

Chorus began making ultrafast broadband connections in January last year and ended the year with 272 connections. It's now making 90 connections each day, says product development manager Mike Lott.