"Eleven years after the birth of 2degrees, and a billion dollars later, we've finally completed our network," says the telco's chief technology officer Martin Sharrock.
The CTO is talking about a new infrastructure-sharing deal with Vodafone NZ that will give 2degrees nigh-on 100 per cent national coverage for the first time - meaning it can leave domestic roaming behind, which formerly meant a speed-hit for its customers in some rural areas.
Since it launched in 2009, 2degrees has built its own network to cover 98.5 per cent of the country by population.
The deal involves around 200 Vodafone NZ cell towers covering the remaining 1.5 per cent of the country by population - or around 20 per cent of the country by area.
How is the new setup different from 2degrees' old roaming deal with Vodafone?
Where previously 2degrees customers piggybacked on the same spectrum used by Vodafone customers, the 200 or so Vodafone towers covering the final 1.5 per cent of customers have now been fitted with "MoRAN" (Multi Operator Radio Access Network) gear that means they can send and receive 2degrees' own 4G spectrum.
A variation on the multi-operator concept was first deployed in New Zealand by the Rural Connectivity Group, a joint venture between 2degrees, Vodafone, Spark and Crown Infrastructure Partners that connects remote rural communities and removes mobile blackspots as part of phase two of the public-private Rural Broadband Initiative.
Sharrock calls it 2degrees' own motorway. Its customers will now be able to hit full-speed.
The CTO won't say what 2degrees is paying Vodafone for the privilege, but says it involves a move from a cap-ex to an op-ex model - and that the new arrangement works out much cheaper that the cost of his company building another 200 or so cell sites to cover the 20 per cent of the country, by geography, involved.
That will free up funds for investment in 2degrees' urban network, Sharrock says - which will include the company's 5G upgrade, although there is still no timetable for that project.
Sharrock, who joined 2degrees from Chorus in March, says planning is now "well under way" for 5G.
That follows a shift in rhetoric from 2degrees chief executive Mark Aue, who said last month that the telco had been assessing different vendors - hinting for the first time at a possible move away from longtime partner Huawei, which remains sidelined by the GCSB.
Sharrock says, "Operators will share infrastructure where it makes sense, including in sparsely populated areas of New Zealand because it extends the benefit of competition to less populated areas while reducing costs for network operators.
"The three mobile operators have invested in their own infrastructure in urban areas. In remote and rural areas, there are fewer customers, so recovering the cost of a new duplicate cell site becomes very challenging. In either instance, operators are able to differentiate their services and offer competition."