Why does a fibre install take so long?

Chorus has come under scrutiny recently for issues and delays in the roll-out of the Government’s ultrafast broadband scheme.

The company has racked up scores of complaints from businesses and households about long wait times in getting connected to the new fibre network, with some waiting over 100 days for their installation.

As a cloud communications provider and ISP, we’ve also had our share of frustration with the slow pace of UFB installations. We have lost customers due to hold-ups with consents for installations and sliding connection dates.

So what does it take to get connected to the fibre network? While some of the delay is due to Chorus being unable to cope with the demand, there are several other factors involved too.

Stuff recently published an excellent guide of the process involved for residential users to get onto UFB. We’ve borrowed that and adapted it for business users…

Step 1: Ordering fibre

Even if fibre is available on your street, you need to still get your premises connected to it.

This is done by Chorus (along with a few local fibre companies) who have been charged with deploying fibre across New Zealand. However, since they don’t sell broadband directly to consumers, customers need to first request fibre from their ISP, like Conversant.

We then lodge a request with Chorus, which will then schedule a job for the installation – and they arrange the timing with the customer, ideally within a few weeks.

Step 2: Consents

As with many developments in New Zealand, the consent process can be a big hurdle when it comes to getting connected to fibre.

If you own your own business premises, then things are easier. However, if like most businesses, you lease premises, things can get tricky. Before your fibre installation can even be scheduled, consent is required by any “affected party”, including for example all those who share a driveway that needs to be dug up. Of course, you’ll need agreement from the building owners too.  

Getting the building owners and other tenants on board before requesting fibre is vital, because if consent is not granted, the install will not proceed. Chorus will also not attempt the install process for another six months - that includes for any other tenants in the same premises!

Therefore it’s a good idea to get together with other businesses in the same building and request fibre to the premises at the same time. Landlords or building owners can hardly ignore requests from most or all of their tenants!

To gain consent, Chorus will send consent forms to all affected parties. This can cause significant delays, as this is done by mail! To save time, stay in touch with all the parties involved and suggest they complete the consent forms online to save time.

With so much that can go wrong with the consent process, it’s hardly surprising that this is where most delays for fibre installations happen.

Step 3: Pre-installation meeting

Because each premise is different, Chorus or its subcontractors will need to visit your property to assess what’s required for the fibre installation.

This could add even more weeks of waiting until a technician in your area is available for a site visit. In fact, they may even need to come more than once, so be patient… And if they uncover something out of the ordinary, they may decide even more consents are needed before the installation can begin. Again, it would work in your favour to be as prepared as possible and to talk to your landlord and fellow tenants beforehand to iron out any potential issues as soon as possible. At the very least, find out where the existing copper connections enter your building.

Step 4: Installation! (Part One)

At this stage, you may have been waiting weeks, or months, but the good news is, the installation is now ready to go ahead – well, hopefully. Asthe Stuff article quite rightly states, the installation “may be quite simple, [or] may be quite complicated”. And since the actual work is done by a Chorus subcontractor, there are once again plenty of opportunities for delays – especially as you’ll be talking to your ISP, they’ll be talking to Chorus, who in turn will be talking to the subcontractor. With so many cogs in the wheel, something is bound to get derailed.

Step 5: Installation! (Part Two)

The home stretch! Once the installation is done, a technician will need to come to your office to connect and test your router. Yes, inexplicably, this does NOT happen at the same time as the actual installation! Proving once again that traditional telco processes follow a bizarre logic of their own… So if all technicians are busy, this relatively simple step could happen weeks after the first part of the installation. But once it’s done, dust off the bubbles, because you’re ready to use your fibre connection – at last!

A massive waiting game

In conclusion, getting UFB installed is one massive waiting game that requires patience in bucket loads. In our experience, it’s not possible to hurry the process along either.

To compound matters, getting status updates from Chorus is less than straightforward. It has a minimum 90-day period before it will even enter into correspondence regarding requests for updates. And updates are often not reliable - it is common for an install to be done and for us to be advised by the customer, not by Chorus!

One of the underlying reasons for this poor communication is that Chorus does not actually do the installations themselves. All work is done by various contractors, subcontractors and sub-subcontractors. This makes the process longer and more frustrating than it should be for both customers and us as ISPs, as it’s very difficult for us to manage customer expectations.

The good news however is that you don’t need to wait to get connected to fibre to switch to Conversant. While our cloud phone system works brilliantly on fibre, it works perfectly well on copper broadband connections like VDSL and even ADSL. Just get in touch and we can help you get started.