Spark is starting the next phase of its landline voice calling upgrade, starting with 1,000 home and business customers
spread across Devonport, Auckland and Miramar, Wellington.
The upgrade will move customers off an end-of-life voice calling technology onto modern alternatives that are already
used by the majority of kiwis across the country – voice over wireless and voice over fibre.What is changing?
There are three ways customers ‘plug in’ to Spark’s network to make a voice call from a landline phone:Voice over wireless: the home phone connects to Spark’s mobile towers, like a mobile phone does.Voice over fibre: the home phone connects to the Ultra-Fast Broadband network via underground fibre optic cables that are connected to
the house.Voice over copper (sometimes called the Public Switched Telephone Network or PSTN): the home phone connects to a network of switches over copper lines that are connected to the house.
The PSTN is at the end of its lifecycle and needs to be replaced using new technologies – meaning Spark customers need
to move to voice over wireless or voice over fibre. Because some of Spark’s broadband over copper services are also
delivered through systems associated with these old switches, Spark has also made the decision to withdraw all of its
copper based broadband services in these areas.What does the change mean for customers?
For the majority of customers this will be a simple change and they will pay the same or less than they do now for the
In September Spark will send customers in Devonport and Miramar information on the options they have available to them
through Spark at their address – voice over wireless, voice over fibre, or both. Spark’s copper broadband customers will
also receive the options available to them.
If customers choose to move to Spark’s voice over wireless, we will send them a new modem and two new wireless handsets,
free of charge. Installation is as simple as plugging in the modem.
If customers choose to move to Spark’s voice over fibre, we will advise them whether fibre is already available at their
property, or whether they need a technician to get it installed. Installation and a new handset, if needed, are also
provided by Spark free of charge.
After that it is business as usual – customers can continue to use their phone or access broadband as they always have.
They can keep the same phone number, and will still enjoy all their landline perks, like free local calling to and from
their landline, and toll calling.
We have a dedicated team of Spark support people who can talk through any concerns and find solutions for those with
more complex needs.Why is the change needed?
The PSTN was built in the 1980s and is now end-of-life. It will not continue to work in the future.When will the change happen?
The upgrade started in 2017 and the majority of Spark’s customers have already chosen to make the move. We have
announced the next phase today, as we are giving notice that we will no longer be selling PSTN services in Devonport and
Miramar from mid-August. We plan to stop providing services over the old PSTN to existing customers in Devonport and
Miramar on 18 December 2020.
This means customers in Devonport and Miramar have plenty of time to prepare. In September, at least 90 days before the
change, we will start direct communications to all customers with the information they need to make an informed choice
about what service they would like to move to.
Spark Customer Director Grant McBeath said the upgrade is about ensuring Spark’s customers have access to modern
technology that will keep them connected.
“When New Zealand went into Covid-19 lockdown it brought into sharp relief just how critical it is for everyone to have
access to modern technology that is reliable and can keep them connected.
“The reality is that the old network of switches that currently underpins voice calling is end-of-life. Its components
have not been manufactured for 17 years, and the people with the skills needed to maintain this technology are also
getting harder to find.
“Our customers have been moving off this technology in droves, and we now need to start completing that process for all
customers. When we started the upgrade in 2017, we had over a million customers on the PSTN – it is now around 400,000,
with another 10,000 customers on average leaving every month.
“We do understand that for some customers a change like this can feel daunting, and we are committed to doing everything
we can to make the process as easy as possible. We have a customer support team dedicated to this project, who can
provide personal, one-on-one support wherever it is needed.
“Our customers can also take heart in the fact that the technology we are moving them to is tried and tested. It’s what
the majority of kiwis use to make calls every day, and once they have made the switch their day-to-day experience won’t
change – all we are doing is changing how their phone plugs into our network behind the scenes.”