Rural Northland's not where you'd expect to see broadband speeds above the national average. I've known people to leave the region because their job called for a fast internet connection.
Nevertheless, I'm seeing speeds of 40 megabits a second (Mbit/s) after my internet provider, Uber Group, in Whangarei, upgraded my wireless broadband service on the quiet.
A new 5GHz aerial (small) was needed at my end for the speed boost, with the downlink going from 10-12Mbit/s to 40Mbit/s and the upstream speed staying about 6Mbit/s.
That download speed is well above the 8.4Mbit/s average connection rate recorded by content delivery network giant Akamai for the country in its latest state of the internet report.
The ping time, or latency, on the link is actually better than Speedtest indicates, at 8 milliseconds (ms) to Uber's network, and 14ms or so to North Island internet providers.
It's not the extremely quick 100-200Mbit/s speeds of the Government's fibre ultrafast broadband (UFB), and I'd love to have faster upstream speeds. Overall, though, it means I can work up north just as I do in Auckland, and that's fantastic. The speed is much better than the 5Mbit/s of the current Rural Broadband Initiative and more than the Vodafone 3G service in the area, which is frequently overloaded to the point that it doesn't work. In fact, it's close to the 2025 minimum target of 50Mbit/s that the Government announced last month for the RBI-2 upgrade, 10 years ahead.
And yes, Netflix streams just fine over it. I tried with high definition and 4K movies, which played back without buffering. As it should, because launching a new broadband product in 2015 that doesn't handle streaming video would be just silly.
Uber is still working on the final parameters of the service, to make it run even better and to package it up, so it's not ready for general consumption quite yet. It's encouraging to see that kind of investment and effort, however, and it'll make a big difference for residents, businesses and tourism operators in the area.
Speaking of potential broadband upgraders, there's a fair chance that they'll be disappointed if they order a faster service only to discover that it doesn't seem to live up to the hype.
That's because once you get broadband speeds quicker than 15-20Mbit/s, older home network gear often finds it hard to keep up.
People tend to use Wi-Fi rather than ethernet cables to connect their computers, smartphones and tablets, because it's much more convenient, but don't realise that fast broadband, multiple users and devices require beefier routers with new technology, ideally in the less congested 5GHz frequency because so much gear uses the lower 2.4GHz band indiscriminately and creates interference.
Mixing older devices with newer ones can also lower a router's overall performance, as it has to step down to the lowest common denominator Wi-Fi standard.
Uber's techies tested this, with a newer laptop and an older Sony PS3 console. Without the console, the laptop managed to push 97Mbit/s down and up on 2.4GHz Wi-Fi, which is very good performance. Once the console joined the Wi-Fi network and the access point streamed to it at 6Mbit/s, the laptop speed almost halved to just under 50Mbit/s.
This can be a real problem in areas where customers might have the money to upgrade the network connection to something faster, but not necessarily to buy newer devices or expensive Wi-Fi routers as well.
Bar putting more money in people's pockets or internet providers supplying affordable equipment, there's no easy way to solve that problem.
Broadband upgraders need to be aware of it, though, and more education is needed - again, easier said than done, as Wi-Fi is a technology full of cryptic terminology and names, and the difference between, for instance 802.11a (old, slow) and 802.11ac (new, superfast) eludes most of us.