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Growth in the uptake of ultra-fast broadband on the networks Chorus is installing slowed in the December quarter as more of the roll-out was completed.
The firm had about 504,000 UFB customers connected at December 31, representing about 51% of the 981,000 able to connect at that date. That was up from 42% a year ago, but only up from 50% at the end of September.
The uptake rate is a function of both customer bookings and the pace at which Chorus rolls fibre past more homes and businesses. It installed 38,000 active connections in the December quarter, down from a record 46,000 in the prior quarter, but 4000 more than a year earlier.
Chorus is the biggest contractor for the Government's $1.35 billion UFB co-investment programme, started in 2010. That work, which was to deliver fibre to about 75% of the population by 2019, has since been extended to now target almost 99% of the country by 2022.
Chorus aims to install fibre that passes 1.05 million premises by December that year, enabling 1.36 million customers to connect.
Its shares fell a cent yesterday to $4.74. They have gained 13.6% in the past year.
The firm's latest quarterly update shows the biggest boost in uptake late last year was in Kapiti, where the roll-out is still under way, and in Gisborne, Feilding and Nelson.
Uptake is being driven by consumers' growing demand for data for work and entertainment. Demand peaked on the Chorus network at 11 million gigabytes on November 25.
Fibre users now use an average 315GB a month, up from 307GB in September and 297GB in June, it said. Household data use averages 235GB a month, up from 221GB in September and 210GB in June.
Chorus said it scaled back the number of field crews in the quarter to 750 from 770 in September and 800 in June. Work in progress was down 3000 to 22,000 installations. The average lead time widened to 12 days, from eight at September 30 and 13 at the end of June.