Vodafone is launching consumer UFB plans in parts of Whangarei, Auckland, Palmerston North, Wellington and Dunedin (all bar Whangarei are covered by Chorus). Christchurch and other areas will follow over the next few months.
The carrier has matched the $75 price-point set by other ISPs for their cheapest plans. Unlike Telecom, a voice-over-fibre service is included (meaning there’s no need to hold onto a copper line). Vodafone also offering a naked fibre service – that is, without a voice line (see all the plans here).
Vodafone’s key point of difference is that it’s offering customers the Vodafone TV Digital Recorder, decoder that can play either Freeview or Sky TV content UFB fibre. The Recorder will be available from November 1, initially for Auckland.
The decoder is a “next generation T-Box” Vodafone consumer director Matt Williams says – a reference to the set-top box used by “tens of thousands” of customers on the HFC network in parts of Wellington and Christchurch that Vodafone inherited with its purchase of TelstraClear last year.
The Vodafone TV Digital Recorder is software upgradable, and quite versatile. Asked if Vodafone could approach Netflix or a similar independent TV and movie download service, Mr Williams said it was technically possible, but “We connect New Zealand homes. They [Sky TV] provide the content. Our intention is not to go to Netflix.”
TV content will be unmetered (that is, won’t count toward your data cap. Multicast technology used by Chorus will mean there is no interference with regular broadband use, Vodafone says. There is one piece of fibre, but electronically it’s configured as two virtual pieces. Someone on a 30Mbit/s or 100Mbit/s plan could effectively get more bandwidth if it’s required by the TV decoder.
Vodafone’s UFB plans (click to zoom). Sky TV Basic through the Vodafone TV Digital Recorder costs $45/month; adding Sky Movies costs $22.05; adding Sky Sport $26.66. Pay-per-view movies cost $6.95 in standard definition; $7.95 in high definition.
The set-top box, which has a 300GB hard drive and the usual recording and live pause options, will cost $14 a month on Vodafone’s cheaper plans, and will be free with higher-end plans.
Customers can get Freeview channels free, or pay extra for various Sky TV channels (tied to Sky’s rate card but with discounts based on the overall UFB plan you buy from Vodafone).
Vodafone doesn’t have an exclusive license to provide Sky TV content over broadband. Telecom and others also have deals with Sky TV to resell its boxes or create a clone of Sky TV’s decoder. Vodafone pitches the fact it’s the only ISP with a set-top box ready to go.
Vodafone will shortly launch a VDSL fast copper service, which will also likely include the TV service offer, Mr Williams says. The lack of a multicast option will make it more of a technical challenge, Vodafone says.
Vodafone stresses there are no capacity restraints with fibre. That Sky TV channels offered over satellite in HD will be HD on Vodafone’s set-top box. But some standard definition channels will be less compressed than they are on Sky TV.
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