New Zealand telco Spark has welcomed the next phase of the Rural Broadband Initiative (RBI) that's just been unveiled.
Communications Minister Amy Adams announced that a Request for Proposals has been issued to extend the RBI and provide mobile coverage to black spots on state highways and in tourist areas.
John Wesley-Smith, GM of Spark says the company looks forward to the next phase.
“We welcome this decision, and we're looking forward to working our way through the details and working with Government, community stakeholders and other telecommunications network operators to identify how the Government's RBI and Mobile Black Spot Fund can be best directed to improve ultra-fast broadband availability in rural New Zealand,” he says.
Improved broadband and mobile services for rural New Zealand will grow regional economies and boost tourism in key destinations, according to Adams.
“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,” she says.
“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 fr tourists.
Under the RBI Extension, improved broadband will be delivered to communities that don't currently have access to 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.
Adams says there are more than 200 mobile black spots noted in the RFP for potential inclusion it's important to understand that not all those locations will get coverage..
"We identified a long list of mobile black spots to guide respondents to highway zones and tourism areas without mobile coverage,” she explains.
“The areas finally selected from this list will be as a result of negotiations in the course of the RFP process.
The programmes will work towards contributing to 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,” says Adams.
It's expected the first contracts will be awarded by June next year.
“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,” she explains.
“I encourage network operators regardless of size to put their hand up and be part of this proposal."