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Whangarei schools first to go live on UFB

6 September 2011

Whangarei schools first to go live on UFB

A group of Northland schools is the first in the country to log on to the government’s ultra-fast broadband (UFB) initiative, set to propel New Zealand in to 21st century communications.

Broadband solutions provider Orcon today announced four schools were set up for service, with a fifth due to connect in the coming weeks. Orcon is delivering telecommunications over fibre to the entire cluster in partnership with Orewa-based internet service provider Watchdog Corporation Ltd.

Manaia View Primary School, which was the first to receive fibre optic cabling under the government’s UFB plan, has also been the first to go live. School Principal Leanne Otene says she is delighted with the possibilities her 50 megabit symmetric fibre service has created in recent weeks.

“UFB is making a significant difference already. We’re uploading and downloading video incredibly quickly and the iPod Touches in use in our classrooms are humming. We now have an innovative broadband service to match the way we teach,” she says.

To help make the most of UFB, the school formed a buying group with four other schools in the Whangarei area, creating the scale that allowed them to benefit from lower pricing.

“Partnering with other schools in the area to form a cluster was incredibly beneficial – not just in terms of pricing but also support and advice – and we would encourage other schools to do the same. The 20GB international data cap and free domestic data deal we’ve negotiated is great. It means we can connect and collaborate with any other New Zealand school without worrying about the bill,” Otene adds.

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The four other schools in the buying group are Whangarei Intermediate, Blomfield Special School, Whangarei Primary and Morningside School. Regional TV station Channel North, which is co-located with Manaia View, has also taken the service for future delivery of its broadcasts over the internet.

Whangarei was the first area in the country to have UFB deployed, in a partnership between Crown Fibre Holdings and Northpower. The government set up Crown Fibre Holdings to manage New Zealand’s $1.5 billion national rollout of fibre cable. Orcon has been gearing up to meet what it believes will be high demand especially in the education sector.

“It’s all about speed, and the benefits that come from that. A fibre connection opens up a world of possibilities, such as high definition video conferencing and cloud computing where teaching tools and school administration systems can be accessed remotely,” says Orcon CEO Scott Bartlett.

“We are really proud that we have been the first retail service provider to come to the party and connect the first schools cluster to UFB. This is about the transformation of the telecommunications marketplace, not just the infrastructure, and it’s an exciting time to be in our industry.”

Bartlett says UFB is capable of delivering data download speeds around 60 times faster than DSL (digital subscriber line) speeds obtainable over existing copper phone lines.

“Speed is especially important for schools because they have a lot of people connected to the internet at the same time and they download big chunks of information. Fibre optic cables can carry larger amounts of data over longer distances and faster than any other internet method.”

Watchdog Director, Peter Mancer, hopes that the ‘go live’ of Manaia View Primary School will drive increased interest in the use of cloud services amongst the education sector.

“Today’s announcement about UFB will be of huge interest to the many schools around the country looking to make use of cloud-based service such as Moodle, KnowledgeNET and Google Apps,” he says.


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