Rural broadband applicants crank up publicity

Regional Fibre Group and Vector make waves

Contenders for the government’s Rural Broadband Initiative are beating the publicity drum, with both Vector and the New Zealand Regional Fibre Group announcing moves related to their bids today.

The New Zealand Regional Fibre Group released a statement this morning noting that its members have submitted coordinated responses to the Government’s EOI (request for expressions of interest), while Vector has posted an update on its bid on the NZ Stock Exchange website.

The NZRFG statement notes: “The group is planning extensive coverage in the 19 zones specified by the government, ensuring fibre is delivered to at least 94 per cent of rural schools – with potential to connect the entire country to fibre – should NZRFG members become Local Fibre Companies through the Government selection process”.

Many NZRFG members are electricity lines companies, and NZRFG chief executive Vaughan Baker says this gives NZRFG a natural advantage.

“Because so many of our members are already integrated in their respective communities with electricity lines networks, we understand the needs of the rural community and have those needs firmly in our sights.”

The NZRFG envisages a bid that includes a mixture of fixed fibre, mobile and wireless technologies.

Meanwhile, Vector says in a statement posted on the NZX website this afternoon that its bid, which covers rural regions surrounding north, west and southern Auckland, would see speeds of 1Gbit/s provided, more than that minimum 100Mbit/s specified in the Government EOI.

That will come by way of an extension of Vector’s existing fibre network in the region, targeting the health and education sectors.

“While the fibre extension is specifically targeting schools and health facilities, it could also eventually improve broadband access to rural customers by supporting and extending the range of fixed, wireless and cellular technologies,” Vector CEO Simon Mackenzie says in the statement.

“We have identified the agriculture, aquaculture and viticulture sectors, along with the tourism, creative and service industries as potential users of high speed broadband in rural Auckland.” The deadline for responses to the EOI was May 31. The government expects to release the first Requests for Proposals for the Rural Broadband Initiative in August.  It is envisaged that allocating funding to successful bidders will start before the end of the year.

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