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Chinese firm may be named to UFB project


Thursday 21st July 2011

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Chinese telecommunications company Huawei Technologies may soon be named as preferred supplier for New Zealand’s $1.5 billion ultrafast broadband network deployment, says an industry commentator.

"The Chinese vendor will soon achieve preferred supplier status to Crown Fibre, making it vendor of choice for companies rollout out the 33 city-based networks," a UK-based information technology news website, The Register, reported.

The UFB project, run by the Government's Crown Fibre Holdings, would retain the right to use other vendors bidding into the network -- such as Alcatel-Lucent and Ericsson -- to help deliver fibre-optic broadband to the urban population, the website reported.

The Government is investing up to $1.5 billion in an "ultrafast" open-access fibre service providing download speeds of 100 megabits or millions of bits per second (Mbps) and upload speeds of at least 50 Mbps to 75 percent of (mostly urban) New Zealanders over 10 years.

But its target for 80 percent of rural households and businesses is only for access to broadband services of 5Mbps or better and with the remaining 20 percent on speeds of 1Mbps within six years.

The website noted that a year ago the Government and Huawei were "hosing down" speculation that the vendor had already made significant headway in securing the contract after Prime Minister John Key returned from a trip to Shanghai World Expo and told TVNZ that the company could play "a major role" in the Crown fibre roll-out.

"Sources close to the deal now claim that Huawei’s place has been solidified via the free trade agreement between New Zealand and China," the website said.

New Zealand and China have agreed to double their trade to about $20 billion yearly within five years.

In September last year Huawei held a three day UFB focused event, that included technical workshops, an exhibition, and a day-long conference opened by Crown Fibre Holdings chief executive Graham Mitchell.

But it was confronted with Labour Party allegations that Crown Fibre Holdings board member Murray Milner -- a keynote speaker at the event -- had been hired as a consultant. Huawai said Milner’s consultancy was for work relating only to retail services and not directly targeting the UFB project.

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