Chorus chief executive Mark Ratcliffe has said that the firm “certainly wouldn’t go through any form of separation and lose out on the biggest commercial and residential centre in the country.” His statement is the clearest expression to date of an unconfirmed story that has been doing the rounds in New Zealand: Telecom NZ and its Chorus subsidiary will disengage from the entire structural separation and UFB process if it is locked out of Auckland.
Ratcliffe was quoted by the New Zealand Herald in a piece on the broadband options facing the New Zealand government. He is currently on leave from his Chorus role and overseeing Telecom NZ’s ultra-fast broadband negotiations with Crown Fibre Holdings, the government body in charge of the commercial process.
Another, equally unconfirmed, story says CFH is looking at an option where electricity lines company Vector gets the nod for the Auckland bid while Telecom NZ gets some or all of the remainder of the country. Auckland’s compactness, size and relative wealth makes it potentially the most lucrative part of the entire UFB network.
The story goes on to suggest Telecom NZ may now be trying to delay the whole UFB process which is due to begin before the year end.
Tuanz CEO Ernie Newman picked up on this last point writing in his blog: “Has the company only now got around to looking at its narrowing options which have been so obvious to others for so long? Can there be any rationale for delaying the Crown Fibre process while Telecom works through issues it should arguably have been resolving many months ago?”
Newman said: “we hope Telecom is a willing and major part of the Ultra Fast Broadband project. But that hope is not unconditional. Re-writing the rules, delaying the outcome, or imposing added costs on other tenderers who have stuck to the game plan, might be too high a price to pay.”