Thursday, 27 October 2016 12:55

Next phase of flagship rural connectivity rollout launched

Written by 
Communications Minister Amy Adams. Communications Minister Amy Adams.

Improved broadband and mobile services for rural New Zealand will grow regional economies and boost tourism in key destinations, Communications Minister Amy Adams says.

A Request for Proposals has been issued to extend the Rural Broadband Initiative (RBI) and provide mobile coverage to black spots on state highways and in tourist areas.

“Around 293,000 rural New Zealanders are accessing better broadband under the first phase of our RBI programme. This next stage sees an investment of $150 million to extend coverage to even more New Zealanders,” says Adams.

“My aim is to provide high-speed broadband to the greatest number of under-served rural New Zealanders within the funding available, and give regional communities access to high-speed broadband. We also want to improve the reach of mobile services to support safety on State Highways and enhance the visitor experience for tourists.”

Under the RBI Extension, improved broadband will be delivered to communities unable to access broadband speeds of at least 20 Megabits per second.

The Mobile Black Spot Fund will improve the availability of mobile services to areas which do not have coverage from any mobile operator. A long list of State Highway and tourism locations has been identified that the Government is interested in seeing proposals for.

There are more than 200 mobile black spots noted in the RFP for potential inclusion but Adams noted it was important to understand that not all those locations will get coverage and others not listed could also end up with increased coverage.

"We identified a long list of mobile black spots to guide respondents to highway zones and tourism areas without mobile coverage. The areas finally selected from this list will be as a result of negotiations in the course of the RFP process.”

The RFP is open to any telecommunications technology able to meet a set of user outcomes. For the Mobile Black Spot Fund there’s a minimum requirement to provide 3G voice services, with 4G preferred in tourist areas. The RBI2 and MBSF programmes will deliver open access to government funded infrastructure (towers, cabinets), with exemptions from some obligations for regional operators.

Adams says the programmes will contribute towards meeting the Government’s aspirational targets for rural broadband.

“We’ve set an ambitious goal of ensuring that by 2025, 99 per cent of New Zealanders will have access to broadband peak speeds of at least 50Mbps, and everyone will have at least 10Mbps. We’re interested in seeing how proposals for delivering coverage under the RBI2 and MBSF programmes show an upgrade path in line with this vision,” says Adams.

It’s expected the first contracts will be awarded by June 2017.

“This is a unique opportunity for national and regional providers to partner with the Government to deliver increased connectivity and improved services to rural communities,” says Adams.

“I encourage network operators regardless of size to put their hand up and be part of this proposal.”

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