New Zealand Communications and Information Technology Minister Steven Joyce has confirmed details of the country’s Rural Broadband Initiative (RBI) shortlist, with proposals from Maori partnership Torotoro Waea, OpenGate (an alliance between state-owned Kordia, Woosh Wireless and FX Networks) and the surprise Telecom New Zealand-Vodafone coalition making it onto the shortlist. However, the New Zealand Regional Fibre Group (NZRFG), an alliance of local power and fibre companies, has missed out on a place on the list, with CEO Vaughan Baker commenting: ‘It is disappointing that our wholesale-only, service provider agnostic approach has not been allowed to make the shortlist’.
The Telecom-Vodafone partnership will see Telecom extend its existing fibre infrastructure by 3,000km, taking it to key rural points, including schools and hospitals, whilst Vodafone has pledged to build 154 new mobile towers. OpenGate has pledged to provide wholesale wireless access, delivering ‘last mile’ connectivity, with FX Networks contributing the fibre component. Lastly, it is believed that Torotoro Waea impressed the government with its commitment to providing additional connectivity to around 1,000 marae (Maori community centres), with a view to enabling them to become a base for the delivery of educational content. The RBI’s ultimate goal is to see 80% of rural households receiving broadband speeds of up to 5Mbps, with the remainder receiving transmission speeds of at least 1Mbps. In addition, the proposals must connect at least 93% of rural schools to fibre.
A statement from the Telecommunications Users Association of New Zealand (TUANZ) regarding the shortlisted bidders explained: ‘By adding in fixed wireless and mobile capability, by extending the reach from rural households to include marae, by talking about delivering services over so-called fourth generation technology, the bidders have shown they’re interested in more than just meeting the standard. They’re as eager as we are to see rural New Zealand become a world-class case study in delivering ultrafast broadband’.