​Spark launches home wireless broadband for low to moderate broadband users

New Zealand-based Spark has announced the rollout of home wireless broadband that will rely on its 4G cellular network.

New Zealand telecommunications provider Spark has launched its home wireless broadband product that will be rolled out to urban areas across the country, targeting customers who are low to moderate broadband data users or have no access to reliable broadband services.

According to Spark, home wireless broadband, which was piloted with selected customers and Spark staff, will rely on its 4G cellular network to provide customers with speeds similar to those achieved on a 4G mobile device.

The service will be available to customers living in a wireless broadband coverage area, and will only require customers to activate the connection and plug in the modem. The company added that the services will also replace a customer's existing landline connection; however, services connected to a traditional copper-based landline may not work on a wireless landline. Spark noted it plans to expand its home wireless broadband availability across New Zealand in coming months.

Spark Home, Mobile and Business CEO Jason Paris said the service will be relief for many existing broadband customers.

"The reality of older copper network technology, which most New Zealanders still rely on for their broadband, is that customers who live a long way from important network equipment or who are connected by deteriorating copper lines will always struggle to get decent broadband," he said.

"While fibre broadband is the preferred solution for customers living in areas where UFB has been rolled out and who use a lot of broadband data each month (such as those on Unlimited plans), our wireless broadband services represent a great new choice for low to moderate data users, giving them fast, reliable, and affordable broadband."

Spark will be offering its home wireless broadband on three plans: Home wireless broadband with wireless land including free local calling, plus 40GB broadband data for NZ$79.99; home wireless broadband with wireless landline including free local calling, plus 80GB broadband data for NZ$89.99; and a naked home wireless broadband, plus 80GB broadband data for NZ$84.99.

The announcement comes after Spark said it will use its 2300MHz spectrum to roll out a fixed-wireless fibre network in rural and remote areas.

However, a report released by the New Zealand Commerce Commission (ComCom) that looked into the state of mobile telecommunications competition among business customers, found the dominant perception about Spark is that it is "impersonal".

This was in spite of 36 percent of Spark customers interviewed during the quantitative research segment being unlikely to say that their costs were significant, 77 percent of customers reporting reasonable satisfaction with using Spark as their provider, 32 percent of all respondents rating it as having the best customer service, and 33 percent voting Spark as the best at good invoicing.

In regards to coverage, 48 percent rated Spark as having the most reliable coverage. Spark was also voted as having the best pricing by 26 percent and the best bundles by 23 percent.

The report also found Spark remains the primary mobile telco, with 46 percent of all respondents using it as their main provider. On the South Island, 40 percent of businesses use it as their main provider, while 55 percent use it on the North Island. It is also the most likely to be used by primary industries, at 60 percent, with 42 percent of small companies with fewer than six people and 40 percent of large companies with more than 100 people also using it.

The incumbent telco provider announced during its half-year results for the 2015 financial year net earnings of NZ$158 million, up NZ$11 million or 7.5 percent from last year's NZ$147 million.

During the period, broadband revenue grew by NZ$15 million or 4.6 percent to NZ$339 million due to customers moving to higher-cost plans. Spark increased its broadband connections by just 1,000 over the half, from 674,000 to 675,000.