Communications Minister Amy Adams has announced the completion of the Rural Broadband Initiative (RBI) Phase 1 new tower programme, with 154 new cell towers now built ahead of schedule.
Adams was on site to celebrate the completion of the programme in Waipu, claiming 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.
“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 per cent. With the rollout of RBI, mobile coverage is now approximately 50 per cent of the country’s mass.”
In 2011 the Government signed a $60 million contract with Vodafone for the supply of services under the RBI and 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,” Adams adds.
“This agreement has been very successful, with approximately four out of every five new cell towers hosting a mix of competing operators.
“Improved connectivity reduces the geographic and social isolation of people living and working in rural communities, and for those travelling through these areas.”
According to Adams, the second phase of the RBI programme will see a further $150 million allocated to extend rural and mobile connectivity.