The New Zealand telecommunications landscape has shifted dramatically this year; new legislation was passed easing the consent process for the UFB roll-out, new wholesale and retail regulatory regimes have been proposed, the significant UFB infrastructure roll-out has continued at pace; and Statistics NZ data shows consumers are increasingly getting better services at relatively lower prices.
IDC's annual telecommunications market report states that the investment in Ultra-Fast Fibre and 4G mobile networks has meant New Zealand is fast becoming a land of digital opportunities. The report further noted that telecommunications retailers are shifting from being connectivity providers, to digital services providers, and have launched innovative new digital products and services this year.
Consumption of fixed line data has almost doubled in the last year, with the Commerce Commission reporting average usage of 117GB per month in 2017, compared to 69GB recorded for 2016. Average broadband speeds remain high and continue to increase in-line with the number of new fibre connections.
According to Statistics NZ, consumers have benefited from an average 4.5 percent reduction in the price of telecommunications services this year, and IDC research has found there was more than a 25 percent reduction in the average price of a residential 100/20 Mbps fibre connection with uncapped data since 2016.
With over 80% of the Ultra-Fast Broadband 1 build complete, Chorus and the Local Fibre Providers are shifting their focus from build to grow. One in three households with access to fibre has connected, and with the introduction of the property access regime in June, we expect to see fewer consent issues in situations where fibre is being installed across shared property.
During the year, the industry continued to demonstrate its ability to work together in the interests of consumers. Important initiatives such as the emergency services location system for emergency calls from cell phones, and the cell broadcast alerts system, have been implemented. Other consumer services such as the blacklisting service for lost and stolen mobiles, and our cell phone recycling scheme, continue to benefit the community. The recycling scheme has raised over $50, 000 which has gone to Sustainable Coastlines to support its work cleaning up our beaches and waterways.
And for the future, further change is ahead; the Telecommunications Amendment Bill has set out a new wholesale regime, which is intended to be in place by 2020, once the current Crown contracts are completed. In addition, the Bill proposes a new retail regulatory regime. Regulating the quality of retail services is a challenge, and the Bill proposes that the industry will take the lead by developing appropriate retail service quality codes, with a backstop of Commerce Commission intervention if the industry codes fail to achieve their purpose.
Overall, it has been a busy but satisfying year for the TCF and industry. We're looking forward to another year of significant progress in 2018, and continuing the challenge of resolving industry issues to benefit end-users of telecommunications services.
By Geoff Thorn, CEO NZ Telecommunications Forum