The Government is ensuring that rural New Zealanders enjoy the benefits of faster, better internet through the Rural Broadband Initiative (RBI).
Providing improved internet to rural areas has many significant economic benefits, while also giving rural New Zealanders access to online health and educational services.
For many rural New Zealanders, upgraded internet is already available, but the government has recently extended the RBI to even more rural locations.
The RBI uses fibre optic and cellular technology to delivery varying speeds. Because Ultra-Fast Broadband (UFB) isn’t feasible for every rural community, peak broadband speeds of at least 5Mbps (megabits per second) is being provided to more than 90% of homes and businesses outside UFB areas.
Remote Users’ Scheme
For remote rural customers unable to access broadband over their copper connection, the TCF recommends applying for support via Crown Infrastructure Partners’ Remote Users’ Scheme which is currently calling for applications from eligible households and communities.
A major public-private partnership is underway to improve mobile coverage for rural New Zealanders. The Rural Connectivity Group (RCG), a joint venture between 2degrees, One New Zealand and Spark, is building more than 400 new cell towers across the country by 2023. Supported by the Government’s Rural Broadband Initiative and Mobile Black Spots Fund, the RCG programme is well underway and when completed will provide vastly improved telecommunications services to about 84,000 homes and businesses, provide mobile coverage along an additional 1400km of state highways, and bring connectivity to more than 150 tourism hotspots. For more information, see the RCG website.
The new RCG cell sites have only 4G coverage, which means consumers will need to use phones capable of 4G voice calling (otherwise known as VoLTE) to make mobile calls. Some mobile phones are not VoLTE-capable and will not be able to make calls whilst connected to the new RCG sites despite seeing coverage bars (although calls using data-based apps like WhatsApp, Facetime, Skype etc. will still work). See 4G Calling for more information, including how to find out if your phone is VoLTE-capable.