Vodafone's rural broadband service faces performance audit

The New Zealand government-funded Rural Broadband Initiative faces a technical audit to ensure that performance levels contracted with Vodafone are being met.

Vodafone's rollout of wireless rural broadband across New Zealand will be independently audited to ensure that it is meeting its contracted levels of service.

The Ministry of Business, Innovation, and Employment (MBIE) has tendered for suppliers to carry out the audit, which will check the performance of Vodafone's cell sites across a range of common applications.

MBIE said that in addition to the technical audit, the exercise will also gather information to inform the design of any expansion of the Rural Broadband Initiative (RBI).

In 2011, Vodafone and Telecom headed off government-owned Kordia to win the NZ$300 million RBI contract, which was initially scoped to serve 252,000 customers. Most of the funding for the project was raised from an industry levy, with the government directly investing only NZ$48 million.

Telecom's now-separated Chorus network division supplied fibre to Vodafone's 154 new cell towers, and to rural schools.

The contract stipulated that 86 percent of rural houses and businesses were to receive peak downlink broadband speeds of 5 megabits per second.

MBIE said in its tender that comprehensive tests for coverage are not required, as these are provided already by Vodafone at the completion of each site.

The audit will instead focus on measuring peak and average performance levels at a limited number of sites to assess whether the Vodafone-supplied acceptance test data accurately reflects real-world coverage.

Service usability will also be tested for its streaming video capabilities (using TVNZ's On Demand service and YouTube) and for Skype calling to a New Zealand landline number.

"We wish to obtain the best value for money over the whole of life of the contract," MBIE said. "This means achieving the right combination of fit for purpose, quality, on-time delivery, quantity, and price."