The good news: a new satellite service called Iridium Certus will offer phone and internet service to people anywhere in New Zealand or, in fact, almost every corner of the world from March. Say goodbye to blackspots.

The bad: the pricing is out-of-this-world. And its bandwidth is closer to dial-up speed than fibre.

Iridium Certus has been made possible by the US$3 billion Iridium NEXT satellite constellation launched by Elon Musk's Space X – the eighth and final launch took place last week, seeing a total of 75 new satellites deployed over less than two years.

Pivotel will sell access to Certus for Kiwis and Aussies.


Phone plans will cost from $130 per month. Broadband will also cost from $130 per month, but with the base price including a measly 10 megabytes of data.

For context, a recent Commerce Commission report said the average NZ household uses more than 160 gigabytes of data per month or 160,000 megabytes). Extra data on Certus costs $1 per megabyte.

With that sort of pricing, you wouldn't want to use it for Netflix - but it's much too slow for streaming video anyway.

At launch, Certus will offer 352 kilobits per second. That's expected to be upgraded to 702kbps later this year. In 2020, there should be another speed 1.4 megabits per second (for contrast, most dial-up copper line internet connections get around 10 megabits per second; UFB fibre connections are typically ten times as fast or more).

A terminal to receive the satellite signal costs $2875 but can be thrown in free if you're a larger volume customer. Satellite phones cost in the region of $2300 to $2500 each.

Space X, Telsa and The Boring Company founder Elon Musk. Photo / Getty.
Space X, Telsa and The Boring Company founder Elon Musk. Photo / Getty.

"The new terminals and services while they might not be cheap to the everyday consumer, are very well priced for agencies and organisations," a spokeswoman for Pivotel said.

"We're expecting the biggest take-up of the Iridium service to occur with emergency responders, government agencies, private and government utilities and maritime."

The internet of things (IoT) - or machines talking to machines over the internet - is another key market - especially for the likes of moisture sensors in remote rural areas. IoT gadgets typically need only a small amount of bandwidth.


Certus users will get an Australian 04 mobile number and be able to make calls for around 60 cents per minute, which Piovotel says is a tenth of the usual satellite phone calling rate.

Satellite service alternatives for Kiwis include Farmside, which delivers service predominantly though the Optus satellite. Vodafone NZ took a controlling stake in Farmside in 2017 and bought it outright in May last year.