Several common misconceptions about rural broadband in New Zealand include that it is slow, expensive and unreliable. This couldn’t be further from the truth! A number of providers have entered the rural broadband market in the last decade which, along with the continuing Rural Broadband Initiative (RBI)*, is helping to ensure that rural businesses and households have broadband options that are both cost-effective and comprehensive.

As competition in this sector is relatively new, however, you should be aware that there are significant value differences between packages and providers. Read on to discover more about the ins and outs of rural broadband.

“Rural broadband” is simply broadband delivered to rural parts of New Zealand. Some of these areas traditionally have not been able to access mainstream broadband packages. While satellite broadband was once seen as the only viable option, rural communities today have greater options. This is seen as a significant step in supporting rural communities and businesses to be able to compete in bigger marketplaces as well as for schools in isolated areas to be able to access educational resources and tools previously beyond their reach (and budgets!).

So, what are the options for the average rural household?

Satellite Broadband

This delivers broadband via the IPSTAR Satellite directly to a small satellite dish on your property. It is a reliable, reasonably cost effective option that can provide coverage no matter where you live. Depending on your plan (e.g. download and upload speeds and data allowances), prices generally fall within a monthly range of $50 – $200.
Fixed Line Broadband. This is the cheapest option for rural communities, with broadband provided through existing phone lines. Unfortunately, it cannot provide acceptable coverage to all parts of New Zealand, although with the continuing RBI, the reach of fixed line broadband is slowly increasing. Standard monthly plans range from between $40 – $100.

RBI Fixed Wireless Broadband

Finally, when the RBI project is completed, rural Kiwis will be able to have access to high-speed internet access. Initial prices are being offered in some areas, albeit with quite a variance between packages. For instance, Farmside is offering standalone packages at rates similar to satellite broadband. Vodafone, on the other hand, is providing total “wireless solutions” for households for no more than $110 per month. Installation costs can also vary markedly with Farmside offering a flat rate of $199 and Vodafone charging rates between $228 – $598 for 24-month packages.

Who offers rural broadband?

Most New Zealand providers offer rural broadband packages, although it is not their core business. There are also several specialised and regional players such as Farmside (farmside.co.nz/) and WizWireless. Whether you value the security of a national organisation or the highly personalised service that smaller providers can offer, you are sure to find one that suits you.

* What’s the ‘Rural Broadband Initiative’ all about? Telecommunications firm Chorus is working with Vodafone to upgrade existing rural networks with fibre networks and broadband equipment as well as delivering fibre to Vodafone’s mobile sites that will provide Wi-Fi to rural communities.

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