Government offers $150m to extend rural broadband and mobile coverage

The scheme is aimed at communities unable to access broadband at bandwidths in excess of 20Mbps

Communications Minister Amy Adams has released a request for proposals to extend the Rural Broadband Initiative (RBI) and provide mobile coverage to black spots on state highways and in tourist areas, at an estimate cost of $150m.

The scheme is aimed at communities unable to access broadband at bandwidths in excess of 20Mbps.

Adams said the programmes would help the Government meet its aspirational targets for rural broadband. “We’ve set an ambitious goal of ensuring that by 2025, 99 per cent of New Zealanders will have access to broadband peak speeds of at least 50Mbps, and everyone will have at least 10Mbps.

There are more than 200 mobile black spots in the RFP for potential inclusion but Adams said not all these would get coverage and others not listed could also end up with increased coverage.

"We identified a long list of mobile black spots to guide respondents to highway zones and tourism areas without mobile coverage. The areas finally selected from this list will be as a result of negotiations in the course of the RFP process.”

Adams said the first phase of the programme had given 293,000 rural New Zealanders improved broadband services. “My aim is to provide high-speed broadband to the greatest number of under-served rural New Zealanders within the funding available,” she said, “We also want to improve the reach of mobile services to support safety on State Highways and enhance the visitor experience for tourists.”

The RFP is open to any telecommunications technology able to meet a set of user outcomes. For the Mobile Black Spot Fund there is a minimum requirement to provide 3G voice services, with 4G preferred in tourist areas.

The Government says it expects the first contracts to be awarded by June 2017. The RFP closes on 2 February.

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