Thursday, 02 June 2022 14:55

Is space-based internet the answer for rural NZ?

Written by  Mark Daniel
The Monk family from Fox Glacier is happy with their satellite based internet. The Monk family from Fox Glacier is happy with their satellite based internet.

It's clear the internet has become a fundamental service for New Zealanders, with a Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) paper on connectivity finding a "clear upwards demand" for internet services in NZ - rising by around 40% each year.

However, the challenge for many rural addresses and lifestyle blocks centres around fast, reliable connectivity. Fibre is not an option, copper lines are becoming increasingly unusable, while wireless doesn't suit everyone as there may be no line of sight to the existing cell towers. Additionally, the local tower may already be at full capacity, so no more homes can be connected, or connection plans may be incredibly expensive, restrictive or slow.

It's estimated there are around 40,000 rural families who suffer from lack of access to fast, unlimited, affordable broadband, and might be able to find a solution via a satellite connection.

Gravity Internet provides services from one of the newest and most powerful satellites in the Asia Pacific region, called Kacific1.

A high throughput kaband geostationary satellite built by Boeing, it sits about 39,000 kilometres above the region and serves 25 countries. Its spot beams have been designed for spectrum re-use, which means more efficiency, that in turn dramatically lowers the cost of data for users.

Gravity Internet can deliver download speeds of up to 30 Mbps, depending on your plan; as an example, Netflix recommends a download speed of 5 Mbps to stream HD videos. Ideal for those in remote areas, be they Queen Charlotte Sound, Cape Reinga or Great Barrier Island, satellite internet only needs a clear view of the sky.

Help From The Sky

Ben Monk owns and operates the South Westland Salmon farm and café near Fox Glacier.

Frustrated with patchy, slow internet that made things "just about impossible", the family made the switch from a wireless service to a satellite service in 2020.

"It's a real lifeline to have good satellite internet," says Ben.

As mobile phones don't reach into the valley, Gravity has set up connections at Ben's home, his business, his parents' home, and even at their whitebait hut, so everyone can keep in touch day-to-day.

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