The first phase of the government’s Rural Broadband Initiative has been completed, with Communications Minister Amy Adams on site in Waipu to celebrate the milestone on Friday.
The completion of Phase 1 of the RBI new tower programme sees 154 new cell towers now built ahead of schedule.
Adams says that under the RBI, nearly 300,000 rural families and businesses are now able to access high speed 3G and 4G broadband services.
Under original specifications, the fixed wireless broadband service was to provide at least 5Mbps peak download speeds. Recent testing shows the 4G service is delivering speeds nine times faster than originally promised, Adams says.
“The new tower build has extended nationwide mobile coverage by 6200 square kilometres to reach a total of 125,700 square kilometres of coverage in rural New Zealand,” Adams says.
“The programme has extended coverage to areas where previously there was none.
“At the start of the build, nationwide mobile coverage of New Zealand’s land mass was at 38%. With the rollout of RBI, mobile coverage is now approximately 50% of the country’s mass,” she explains.
In 2011 the Government signed a $60 million contract with Vodafone for the supply of services under the RBI. Alongside this, 387 towers will be upgraded nationwide by June 2017.
“The contract we signed with Vodafone allowed co-located operators to install their own equipment on the towers to provide their own mobile or broadband services,” says Adams.
“This agreement has been very successful, with approximately four out of every five new cell towers hosting a mix of competing operators,” she explains.
“Improved connectivity reduces the geographic and social isolation of people living and working in rural communities, and for those travelling through these areas.
“The second phase of the RBI programme will see a further $150 million allocated to extend rural and mobile connectivity,” adds Adams.