New Zealand rural mobile broadband program to be complete by 2021

The 100 tourism blackspots and 1,000km stretches of state highways being covered by RBI2 have been announced, with the mobile coverage to be provided by the end of 2021.
Written by Corinne Reichert, Contributor

The New Zealand government has announced moving up the timeline of its Rural Broadband Initiative Phase 2 (RBI2), which will now be complete by the end of 2021 rather than 2022.

"New Zealanders must have access to technology as a right, regardless of income or geography," Broadcasting, Communications and Digital Media Minister Clare Curran said on Monday.

"We have to close the gap between the digital 'haves' and 'have nots' to ensure people and communities benefit from the jobs, access, and participation that a digital future brings."

RBI2 is being funded via a levy on telcos, as well as private funding from its mobile carriers Vodafone NZ, Spark, and 2degrees.

"Announcements will be made in the coming months on the outcome of the RBI2/MBSF [mobile blackspot fund] expansion process, which is currently under way," Curran added.

"There will be additional resources for rural communities not covered by these programmes to apply for under the NZ$1 billion Provincial Growth Fund."

The RBI2 website provides an address checker for citizens to see when they will provide coverage and from which service provider, with the government on Monday also announcing which areas will see a base station built under the program.

"Four regions -- Tairawhiti/East Coast, Tai Tokerau/Northland, the West Coast, and Manawatu-Whanganui -- were targeted for increased investment through a Provincial Growth Fund 'surge' effort, and they also overlap with work on delivering faster broadband to rural and remote communities through RBI2," Curran said.

"The basis of a digital economy is universal access to efficient and cost effective broadband for all corners and communities in New Zealand. This government intends to grow ICT to be the second largest contributor to GDP by 2025 so we have to start the work now to close the digital divides."

Under priority 1 of the mobile blackspots fund for tourism sites -- those with the lowest speeds below 20Mbps -- coverage will be provided for 24 blackspots: one each in Tane Mahuta, Cape Reinga, and Ninety Mile Beach in Northland by 2020; one in Auckland at Bethells Beach by 2020; one at Buried Village, Bay of Plenty, by 2019; one at Palliser Bay Lighthouse, Wellington, by 2020; one at Makara, Wellington, by 2018; one in Blue Lake, Tasman, by 2019; two in Nguroa Bay, Wellington, by 2019; one each in Haast, Ruatapu, and Buller Gorge South, West Coast, by 2020; one in Little River, Canterbury, by 2019; two in St James, Canterbury, by 2020; one each in Blue Pool and Makarora, Otago, by 2019; one each at Mirror Lake and Routeburn Track, Southland, by 2020; two at Milford Sound, Southland, by 2020; and two in Waikawa, Southland, by 2019.

Priority 2 will provide coverage to 16 blackspots: three in Waikato, two in Bay of Plenty, four in Canterbury, four in West Coast, and one each in Nelson, Otago, and Southland.

Priority 3 will cover 68 blackspots: 10 in Canterbury, 10 in Northland, seven in Waikato, seven in Otago, seven in West Coast, six in Bay of Plenty, five in Hawke's Bay, four in Manawatu-Whanganui. four in Tasman, four in Southland, two in Marlborough, and two in Taranaki.

Under priority 1 of the mobile blackspots fund for state highways -- areas of road with the longest blackspots, highest traffic, and highest crash rates -- 57km of the SH12 in Northland will gain coverage by 2021; 6.6km of the SH3 in Waikato by 2020; 7.8km of the SH2 in Gisborne by 2020; 29.8km of the SH3 in Taranaki by 2020; 18km of the SH2 in Hawke's Bay by 2020; 9.4km of the SH6 in Marlborough by 2020; 18.4km of the SH6 in Nelson by 2019; 35.7km of the SH6 and SH65 in Tasman by 2019; 125.3km across the SH6, SH69, and SH65 in West Coast by 2021; 9.7km of the SH1 in Canterbury by 2020; and 33.7km of the SH94 in Southland by 2020.

Priority 2 will extend coverage across 9.9km of the SH16 in Auckland; 19.9km of the SH1, SH4, SH30, SH32, SH25, and SH41 in Waikato; 29.4km of the SH2 and SH35 in Bay of Plenty; 77.9km of the SH2 and SH35 in Gisborne; 32.2km of the SH43 in Taranaki; 54.7km across the SH4, SH41, and SH43 in Manawatu-Whanganui; 0.2km on the SH7 in West Coast; 52.8km across the SH7, SH8, SH73, and SH75 in Canterbury; and 9km on the SH8 in Otago.

Priority 3 will provide coverage to 39.2km along the SH1 and SH15 in Northland; 23.8km of the SH30, SH31, SH32, and SH38 in Waikato; 2.6km of the SH38 in Bay of Plenty; 77km on the SH50, SH2, and SH38 in Hawke's Bay; 12km on the SH30 through Manawatu-Whanganui; 16.6km on the SH6 and SH63 in Tasman; 28.9km of the SH6, SH7, and SH67 in West Coast; 37.7km of the SH8, SH79, and SH80 in Canterbury; 111.1km in Otago across the SH6, SH8, SH85, SH87, and SH90; and 3.2km of the SH6 in Southland.

The NZ$150 million RBI2 was announced back in October 2016 by then-Communications Minister Amy Adams to provide broadband speeds of at least 20Mbps.

"My aim is to provide high-speed broadband to the greatest number of under-served rural New Zealanders within the funding available, and give regional communities access to high-speed broadband. We also want to improve the reach of mobile services to support safety on state highways and enhance the visitor experience for tourists," Adams said at the time.

The RBI will provide broadband for 20 percent of the New Zealand population, with the initial RBI project completed two years ago, having enhanced and extended fixed-line coverage to approximately 110,000 premises for a total cost of NZ$282 million.

The remaining 80 percent of the population will be covered by the Ultra-Fast Broadband (UFB) project, which provides speeds of up to 1Gbps using fibre to the premises (FttP).

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