New Zealand’s Crown Infrastructure Partners (CIP) has announced that it installed 39 new mobile towers and upgraded a further 21 sites providing broadband coverage across rural areas of the country during the three months ending 31 December 2020. The government approved funding for these mobile tower capacity upgrades as part of the response to connectivity issues experienced during last year’s COVID-19 lockdown.
The December 2020 Broadband Quarterly Connectivity Update released by CIP, the state-owned body set up to coordinate the country’s national connectivity programmes, reports significant progress has been made under both the Rural Broadband Initiative Phase 2/Mobile Black Spots Fund (RBI2/MBSF) programme and the capacity upgrade programme for mobile towers deployed under the first Rural Broadband Initiative which have become congested.
The 39 new towers commissioned under the RBI2/MBSF programme provided improved broadband access to 4,405 rural homes and businesses, while the CIP’s wireless ISP partners made improved broadband available to 577 rural households and companies under RBI2 during the quarter. Mobile coverage was also extended to six tourism sites, including Pongaroa in the Tararua District and Glinks Gully and Northland, as well as 77 additional kilometres of State Highway, making it easier and faster for first responders to attend incidents in these often remote areas.
The CIP also reported that the government’s Ultra-Fast Broadband (UFB) programme, which aims to deploy fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) to 87% of the population by 2022, was 94% complete and available in 248 towns and cities at the end of 2020. Almost 1.08 million homes and businesses were connected to UFB services at that date – equivalent to uptake of 63% – with the average download speed of services rising to 245Mbps thanks to the popularity of gigabit plans (173,868 connections). When work on RBI2 and MBSF is completed by 2023, and combined with completion of the UFB rollout and existing broadband networks, New Zealand will have broadband coverage of 99.8% of population.