Spark has supersized the data cap on its fixed-wireless broadband plan to a stonking 600 gigabytes - removing one of the historic barriers to this fast internet technology, at least for Auckland customers.
Fixed wireless uses a 4G (or soon 5G) mobile network to deliver broadband into a home, removing the need for a landline.
The bandwidth is often good enough for high-def video streaming, though results vary depending on your proximity to the nearest cell site, among other factors.
Fixed wireless can also be installed in a day, and is relatively cheap (Spark's new "Unplan Metro" fixed wireless plan, available from today, offers costs $65 for a base data usage of 0-60GB, $75 for 60 – 120GB of data and capped at $85 for 120GB – 600GB of data.)
But previously, fixed wireless customers have suffered relatively stingy data limits, although they've gradually been increasing.
Spark technology director Mark Beder says, "While we originally developed wireless broadband as a great option for low to medium data customers, over the last few years we have been extensively upgrading our existing network, including adding new mobile sites to meet our wireless broadband customers' capacity requirements.
"We're really pleased to be in a position to offer a 600GB plan to eligible customers in Auckland. This means that those who were previously considered high users due to their love of streaming may now be able to move to wireless broadband."
Spark says existing eligible fixed wireless customers will be upgraded to 'Unplan Metro' with their current data caps automatically increased to 600GB at no extra cost.
The telco couldn't immediately say which areas of Auckland and how many customers were eligible.
The bad news
While 600GB is a stonking amount of data, it might not quite be stonking enough for some households.
In mine, where two parents stream all their TV, one teen spends a lot of time on PlayStation Online and another sets TikTok records, we usually chew threw between 800GB and 1TB (1000GB).
Spark says if someone on its new Metro Unplan fixed wireless plan goes over the 600GB limit then "data restrictions will apply" - but a spokeswoman says this process will involve nudging someone onto a fibre plan rather than throttling.
The fixed wireless war ahead
Spark has made hay from fixed wireless.
At its recent full-year result, the telco said its fixed wireless subscribers had increased by 36,000 over FY2019 to 166,000 or roughly 20 per cent of its customer base.
And Vodafone NZ, which currently has 46,000 fixed-wireless customers (mainly in rural areas) says fixed wireless will be one of its top priorities over the next two to three years as its guns to move up to 25 per cent (or around 100,000) of its fixed-line customers onto the technology as it launches 100 5G cellsites from December, and continues to upgrade its 4G network.
2degrees says it also plans to move into fixed wireless, though has no timeline at this point.
Fixed wireless has obvious commercial appeal for Spark, Vodafone and 2degrees. Namely, it cuts landline network wholesaler Chorus out of the loop.
Spark (which is trialling 5G in Alexandra, with Nokia) and Vodafone have both hinted that 5G's extra capacity could allow for unlimited data fixed wireless plans at some point, while Vodafone is already planning a business-focussed fixed wireless service that will offer more bandwidth than any fibre plan today.
Chorus shoots back that there will always be a place for fibre, and that it sees landline technology always staying ahead. But watch for fixed wireless to take bigger share in the months and years ahead.