The Government has awarded contracts worth $130m for the, previously announced expansions of the Rural Broadband Initiative phase two/Mobile Black Spots Fund (RBI2/MBSF) programme saying these will take coverage to 99.8 percent of the population over the next four years.
It said contracts with a total value of around $130m had been entered into by Crown Infrastructure Partners (CIP) to provide improved broadband to around 10,000 rural households and businesses, and to provide new mobile coverage to approximately 365 kilometres of State Highways and 59 tourism areas.
CIP’s partnership with the Rural Connectivity Group (RCG) -- a joint venture established by Spark, Vodafone and 2degrees to deliver the RBI2 and MBSF -- will mainly focus on delivering mobile coverage on state highways and at tourism areas, with some rural broadband coverage as well.
The Government announced in November that it would provide $40m from the $3b Provincial Growth Fund (PGF) to improve connectivity in regional New Zealand by boosting the $105m already allocated to phase 2 of the Rural Broadband Initiative (RBI2) and the Mobile Blackspots Fund (MBF).
This followed an announcement in March that the schedule for RBI2 and MBF had been brought forward for completion in 2021 instead of 2022.
Under the contracts East Coast/Tairāwhiti, Hawke’s Bay, West Coast and Manawatū -Whanganui will have close to 100 percent population coverage of improved broadband at the conclusion of the expansion.
The West Coast will receive more than 100 kilometres of new State Highway mobile coverage, and Canterbury and Waikato will both receive nearly 50 kilometres of new mobile coverage. The new mobile service will be available from all three mobile operators.
Minister for regional economic development Shane Jones said approximately $65m would be spent in the regions that are the highest priority for investment in regional development from the PGF – Manawatū-Whanganui, Northland/Tai Tokerau, East Coast/Tairawhiti, Hawkes Bay, the Eastern Bay of Plenty and the West Coast.
The Government said the network expansion would boost tourism, with a number of tourism areas receiving new coverage. These include Pelorus Sound, Doubtful Sound and Hokitika Gorge. "Key tourism regions such as West Coast and Canterbury will have 23 tourist sites in total receiving new mobile coverage," it said.
The minister of broadcasting, communications and digital media, Kris Faafoi, said eight new wireless internet service providers (WISPs) had joined the nine already in the Wireless Internet Service Provider programme providing coverage to another 8,400 rural households and businesses.
"The WISPs have great local knowledge in their communities and provide a high-class service to many rural households who would otherwise be without broadband coverage," he said.