Vodafone's 5G rollout plans risk a serious downside to rural broadband users, according to the Wireless Internet Service Providers Association (WISPA).
At the heart of the issue is a planned spectrum reallocation now being considered by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment's Radio Spectrum Group.
"Vodafone and its competitors are putting huge pressure on Government to reallocate radio spectrum so they can run 5G more cost-effectively,” WISPA Chairman Mike Smith said.
Some of that spectrum the mobile companies are trying to claim is already used commercially by about 30 regional WISPs, servicing around 70,000 of rural customers.
"These customers are farms who use the internet for business management, rural kids who use it for study, and rural people who depend on it for social inclusion," Smith said.
"Most can't get Internet any other way. If the government responds to the cellphone companies’ land grab, some of those users could face more expensive Internet or even lose their hard-won connectivity altogether."
Smith said the advantages of 5G are "very much in the future" while WISPs are solving the rural connectivity issue now.
WISPA is mobilising it users to make their voices heard in support of their WISP.
“It makes no sense to slow or reverse the progress made in connecting our major export sector, just so that some online games will work a nanosecond faster or city people can connect their home air conditioning to their car GPS," Smith said.
“WISPA seeks a clear assurance from Minister Faafoi that no decision will be made to reallocate spectrum until the issues have been thoroughly aired in public.”