Vodafone announces UFB plans, television-over-fibre service

New ‘Red Home’ packages offer ultra fast broadband, Freeview and SKY TV over fibre

Vodafone NZ’s new ‘Red Home’ packages will offer ultra fast broadband and 150 TV channels delivered over fibre including Freeview, SKY and pay-per-view movies.

The full service launches first in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch, with UFB-only (no TV service) in Whangarei, Palmerston North and Dunedin.

Vodafone NZ consumer director Matt Williams and head of consumer fixed services Steve Jackson announced the Red Home plans this morning at a press event in Auckland. The event was held in a Herne Bay home, which had been connected to Vodafone’s fibre service and set up to display the company’s television-over-fibre offering in action.

Vodafone's Matt Williams and Steve Jackson demonstrate Vodafone TV in action.
Vodafone's Matt Williams and Steve Jackson demonstrate Vodafone TV in action.

Vodafone’s fibre-based UFB plans will be delivered – depending on region – over the Chorus or Northpower networks as with other UFB retail service providers. The ‘standard’ bandwidth options of 30Mbit/s and 100Mbit/s are on offer, at three data caps: 80GB, 150GB and 250GB. Each plan is available with, or without, home phone service.

Williams said the UFB service would be available from later today, and the Vodafone TV service would make its way into homes by the end of this month, or start of November. Vodafone’s marketing campaign will begin on Monday.

Vodafone TV: A case for UFB

Vodafone is “taking all of the best TV content available in NZ and delivering for the first time over the fibre network”, said consumer director Matt Williams, and providing “the starting point of the next generation of TV in New Zealand.”

With UFB adoption in New Zealand currently very low, it’s unsurprising that Vodafone has come to market with a built-in use case for the service.

An HD streaming service of this nature would be unreliable, or simply impossible, under ADSL2, making streaming video one of the expected drivers for UFB adoption. However, limits on content legitimately available to New Zealand users are another barrier to streaming video use, completely separate to bandwidth constraints. If Vodafone can remove that barrier by providing its own premium-quality video content, it may be able to use streaming video as a UFB sales driver in a way that other RSPs cannot.

Vodafone head of consumer fixed services Steve Jackson said the content available over Vodafone TV is “very rich”, and includes up to 150 channels: all of SKY (for a fee), all of Freeview, including Mediaworks, TVNZ and Maori TV content, and 36 channels of Vodafone pay-per-view movies.

The 1 December switch-off of Analogue TV to the remainder of the North Island (parts have already been switched off) makes Vodafone TV particularly relevant, Vodafone said. It provides an alternative to terrestrial or satellite Freeview, and to broadcast-delivery of SKY TV.

Vodafone is very clear on its role, Williams said. It is “very explicitly, partnering with the TV companies – SKY, Mediaworks, Maori TV, et cetera” to provide Vodafone TV service, rather than competing with those companies as a media content provider.

In the case of SKY, Vodafone TV simply provides an alternative distribution mechanism to broadcast, at similar pricing to the broadcast SKY TV service. However, as all Vodafone TV content is in HD, and Vodafone TV always includes a PVR (personal video recorder), the $10/$15 fees that SKY chargers for those services respectively under its broadcast distribution are excepted. So, in other words, you save $25/month on SKY if you want to be able to watch in HD and record programmes for later.

Vodafone’s 36 channels of pay-per-view movies run on schedule, with movies playing “5-6 times per day”. The release date on some movies is ahead of “some competitors”, and parallel to the DVD release date, Jackson said.

Video-on-demand is “on the roadmap”, we were told, though Vodafone is not currently releasing any details of those plans.

The ability to access Vodafone TV content through devices other than the set-top box, particularly mobile phones and smartphones, is similarly “on the roadmap”.

The Vodafone TV box acts as a receiver and PVR.
The Vodafone TV box acts as a receiver and PVR.

Vodafone TV: The tech

Underlying the Vodafone TV system is a multicast setup, in which each property is connected via a 30Mbit/s or 100Mbit/s (depending on plan) fibre for UFB, and a second dedicated fibre for TV. Multicast allows both to be provided virtually over a single physical fibre.

This means internet activity has no impact on TV performance, and vice-versa. Vodafone is the only company using the multicast capability of the UFB network at this stage, it said.

Bandwidth and data constraints are not applied to the television connection, we were told. If you have a 100Mbit/s connection, Vodafone TV activity is not subtracted from that. You could utilize 100 per cent of your connection and still watch TV with no impact. Likewise, data charges are not applied on video streamed over Vodafone TV.

Vodafone TV is “Linked in via Fibre to Sky’s transmission centre in Albany and Mt. Wellington”, Vodafone said. Because the company is bringing SKY content into its own network from the source and delivering it through Vodafone TV, it is able to fully integrate the service within the Vodafone TV electronic programme guide (EPG).

Vodafone Red Home UFB + Vodafone TV pricing structure

Broadband & home phone
Local calls included
Naked broadband
Monthly data cap 80GB 150GB 250GB 80GB 150GB 250GB
Ultra Fast 30 price/month
$95 $109 $119 $65 $79 $89
Ultra Fast 100 price/month
$125 $139 $149 $95 $109 $119
Monthly discount for Vodafone On Account mobile users $10 $30
Vodafone TV installation (introductory special) Free with SKY, $100 with Freeview
Vodafone TV installation (normal price) $99 with SKY, $199 with Freeview
Vodafone TV with Freeview|HD - price/month Box* rental: $14.95 Box* rental: Free Box* rental: $14.95 Box* rental: Free
Vodafone TV with SKY - price/month Box* rental: Free
SKY Basic (HD): $45
+ SKY Movies: $22.05
+ SKY Sport $26.66

* Vodafone TV Digital Recorder, the set-top box required to view and record Vodafone TV content and pay-per-view movies

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