Sparks fly as NZ rural wireless broadband battle heats up

Spark New Zealand begins nationwide trials of a new wireless broadband product...

Spark New Zealand has begun nationwide trials of a new wireless broadband product, aimed at connecting thousands of Kiwis living throughout heartland New Zealand to faster and more affordable internet services.

“We are extremely close to launching a new, competitive and affordable product giving rural customers fast and reliable internet access using the 4G network on the 700MHz spectrum,” says Lindsay Cowley, General Manager of Wholesale and Product, Spark New Zealand.

“We deliberately held off launching a wireless broadband product until we could be confident of delivering a quality service to our regional and rural customers using only the fastest mobile technology available - 4G.

“And, when we officially launch our wireless broadband product customers won’t require a technician to install the service so they needn’t worry about the shock of big installation costs.”

According to Cowley, the uptake of existing Rural Broadband Initiative (RBI) products has been quite low with a degree of poor customer satisfaction voiced by consumers and industry spokespeople.

“Spark’s wireless broadband product will address these concerns and deliver speeds of up to 10 times faster than what some customers tell us they are experiencing on the current 3G RBI product,” Cowley adds.

“Our customers expect the very best from the Spark New Zealand network, and we intend to deliver a world class, reliable solution for rural residents.”

Cowley says Spark New Zealand’s product will also be different to other wireless broadband products because it won’t require a technician to install the product or any external antennas.

Last year Spark New Zealand future-proofed its network by investing $158 million to secure four lots of the 700MHz spectrum - more than any other provider.

“The 700MHz spectrum is like a highway and we secured more lanes - four in fact - on that highway - over 30 per-cent more than anyone else,” Cowley adds.

“By adding more 4G lanes we’re adding more capacity to our mobile network so that we can offer our customers faster, more reliable speeds and a seamless experience using the 4G network, even as 4G becomes available to more people.

“700MHz is also the ideal spectrum to roll out fast 4G services to rural and regional cell sites across New Zealand due to its greater reach of coverage from the cellsite over other frequencies.”

Cowley says the product will initially be available to customers in selected areas covered by 4G on the 700MHz spectrum and on launch, customers will be able to access an online tool to check their range of 4G coverage over 700MHz to see whether they are in an area suitable for wireless broadband.

“We’ve been working hard and fast over the past 12-months to leverage the spectrum advantage we have by successfully rolling out 4G to 150 cell sites across the country on 700MHz,” Cowley adds.

“We’re excited that this number is increasing by the day and as our coverage footprint of 4G over 700MHz expands so does the number of customers that will likely be able to access wireless broadband for a more affordable option to use internet services.”

Cowley adds that Spark New Zealand has begun nationwide trials of its wireless broadband product with staff this week and customer trials will start early into next week.

“We think the right thing to do by customers is to carry out trials of the product so we can get valuable feedback from both staff and customers and make the necessary improvements to the product and the experience ahead of its launch,” Cowley adds.

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