The New Zealand national government has pledged NZ$270 million (approximately US$194m) investment in ultra-fast broadband (UFB), reaching 190 more small towns by 2022. The investment will also enable an extension of rural broadband (RBI) to another 74,000 homes and businesses.
Communications minister Simon Bridges, “We’re also bringing the completion of the UFB network forward by two years. By the end of 2022, our UFB program will provide more than four million New Zealanders with access to world-class interne.” He adds, “We started UFB in 2010 with the original goal of connecting 34 towns to world-class fiber-to-the-premises. Earlier this year we expanded it to 200 more towns and this announcement will bring us to 390. We want to ensure that some of our biggest sectors that operate in rural New Zealand – such as agriculture and tourism – can benefit from the productivity improvements that better connectivity offers.”
The minister continues, “This announcement brings our total investment in rolling out world-leading communications infrastructure to more than NZ$2 billion. Once complete, New Zealand will be in the top five countries in the OECD for access to high speed broadband. By 2022, 87 percent of New Zealanders will have access to UFB and 99 per cent will have access to high speed internet.”
The investment breaks down as follows:
- NZ$130 million to extend UFB to an additional 60,000 homes and businesses in 190 new towns and complete the UFB network build by 2022
- NZ$140 million to extend rural coverage of high speed broadband under the rural broadband initiative (RBI) to another 74,000 rural households and businesses, and to deliver mobile coverage on 1000 kilometers of rural highways and more than 100 tourist areas through the mobile black spot fund (MBSF).
This funding announcement is in addition to the $150 million the Government has already allocated for rural broadband and mobile coverage.
UFB utilizes fiber optic cables to provide broadband to homes and businesses. It is usually considered most appropriate and cost effective in urban areas with higher dwelling and business densities – and hence why the initial target was to reach 75% of New Zealand’s population.
Because UFB is not feasible for every rural community, the RBI provides faster internet to homes and businesses outside UFB areas through a combination of fixed lines upgrades and new fixed wireless coverage.
Over 300,000 rural homes and businesses already have access to improved broadband under the first phase of RBI which was completed in June 2016.
The mobile black spot fund will improve public safety and visitor experiences by providing greater mobile coverage on stretches of state highway and in tourism locations where no coverage currently exists. Minister Simon Bridges highlighted, “We are providing coverage along remote parts of the state highway network that until now had no coverage at all. For example, state highway 6 on the west coast and state highway 1 in the far north. Better connectivity in these remote areas will enhance visitor experiences at some of the countries tourist hotspots, such as Milford Sound, Cape Reinga and Bethells Beach.”
Together, the rural broadband and mobile black spot program will be delivered through the construction of more than 450 new towers, in addition to the 150 already built.
The NZ$270 million program will be funded by NZ$240 million of recycled capital from earlier stages of the UFB program and NZ$30 million from the telecommunications development Levy. Simon Bridges concluded saying “This investment is a vital part of the Government’s plan to support regional growth and develop a productive and competitive economy.”