Ambitious target set for rural broadband

  • Amy Adams

Recognising the ever-increasing demand for high-speed broadband across New Zealand, and its importance to regional growth, the Government has today announced a bold new connectivity target for areas outside the UFB footprint.

Under this target virtually all New Zealanders, regardless of where they live or work, will be able to access broadband at peak speeds of at least 50 Mbps by 2025, Communications Minister Amy Adams has announced.

“Our use of, and reliance on, technology and broadband connectivity are increasing rapidly. It’s vital that we set aspirational targets to ensure we keep up with this pace of change. This is about setting a vision of where we want New Zealand to be in ten years,” says Ms Adams.

By 2025, the Government’s vision would see:

  • 99 per cent of New Zealanders able to access broadband at peak speeds of at least 50 Mbps (up from 97.8 per cent getting at least 5 Mbps under RBI)
  • The remaining 1 per cent able to access to 10 Mbps (up from dial up or non-existent speeds).

Rural communities are set to benefit most under the new targets which mark a ten-fold increase on the current target peak speeds of 5 Mbps under the Rural Broadband Initiative (RBI).

“This change will see NZ move from 17th in the world for rural connectivity targets to 7th and ensure no-one misses out on the opportunities of the digital age. We want to see all Kiwis, whether urban or rural, with access to the economic and social opportunities high-speed connectivity brings,” says Ms Adams.

“We’ve come a long way already in improving rural connectivity under the RBI and 4G networks, with average internet speeds having tripled since this Government took office, but we want to take that even further.”

Budget 2015 set aside $360 million to extend Ultra-Fast Broadband (UFB) and the Rural Broadband Initiative and establish a Mobile Black Spot Fund.

The 2025 rural broadband targets are aligned with the Government’s two-pronged approach to boosting economic growth across regional New Zealand through the Business Growth Agenda and Regional Growth Programme.

Ms Adams says fast, reliable broadband allows rural and farming communities and regions to remove the barriers and disadvantages of distance, and provided opportunities for them to raise productivity, attract and retain staff, and compete on a national and global stage.

“The targets send a critical signal to industry and consumers. They will provide guidance for industry investment, regulators, and the Government’s broader policy settings. They also recognise the importance we attach to connectivity as a critical enabler of economic growth,” says Ms Adams.

The target date aligns with completion of existing connectivity programmes which are timed as follows:

  • RBI phase one due for completion December 2016
  • 4G rollout requirements due for completion August 2019
  • UFB phase one build due for completion December 2019
  • UFB phase two currently planned for completion 2022 (subject to contract)
  • RBI phase two completion subject to tender process
  • Rural broadband target of 50 Mbps for 99 per cent by 2025.