Months of mind-numbing discussion about local loop unbundling and number portability is finally starting to yield some cheaper, faster broadband.
Vodafone formally launched its "Red Network" Friday, which provides broadband to your home courtesy of Vodafone DSL2+ gear installed in local Telecom exchanges under the unbundling legislation.
So far, half of Auckland's exchanges have Vodafone's own broadband switches (shown) sitting alongside Telecom's (and joining D-SLAMs already there from state-owned Orcon). The rest are promised to be covered by October (see a coverage map here). Other centres will follow, though with no set time-table. (The pace of change is dictated by Telecom, which is required by the Commerce Commission to unbundle at the stately pace of five exchanges per quarter. "But [it's] beating that considerably. 15 last quarter. So it's driven by Telecom but they're doing OK", says a Vodafone spokesman.)
If you're close enough to your local exchange, you'll be able to get DSL2+; and from around August the super turbo-charged form of copper cable broadband, VDSL2, will be available too, for those who live practically on the door-step of an exchange where Vodafone has installed the requisite gear (more on DSL2+ and VDSL2 here).
Home phone + broadband from $70
There's some keen pricing, too, with home phone line and broadband plans starting from $70 a month (with a 1GB cap) to $90 (with a 20GB cap). Generally they're around $10 cheaper than equivalent Telecom plans. Orcon's cheapest home phone line + broadband plan is $79, albeit with a higher data cap (10GB) than Vodafone's modest entry level.
Legislative changes mean you can now keep your Telecom number if you switch to Vodafone, or another provider (though unfortunately the people who changed the number portability law didn't think as far as email).
Vodafone Chief Marketing Officer Mark Rushworth says a deal with lines company Vector to lay fibre optic cable between exchanges provides beefy backhaul capacity. (Rushworth's name may be familiar to PC World readers as the CEO of Vodafone's ISP acquisition ihug, which is now Vodafone-branded in most contexts).
Naked DSL + cellphone
In an interesting aside, Rushworth was asked whether Vodafone had any plans to bundle in mobile plans with broadband.
He said by Christmas his company would offer one account that combined a naked DSL plan (that is, broadband DSL without a home phone account) with a cellphone plan.
For modern types who've ditched their landline to go cellphone-only, that could prove pretty attractive.