A big differentiator between urban and rural broadband may be removed when Vodafone-owned Farmside trials unlimited wireless connections for customers.
The service trial will be delivered through recently built Rural Broadband Initiative 2 cellular sites, funded by taxpayers and priced at $79 a month, a Vodafone spokesperson told the New Zealand Herald.
Farmside is launching the unlimited trial at the Fieldays agricultural show starting June 16.
The offering is similar to Vodafone's current fixed wireless access network using 4G LTE cellular broadband technology.
Users are able to install the 4G modems themselves, with no external aerials required.
The Farmside trial runs in the 700 MHz band 28 frequency range which, according to the New Zealand Broadband Map, can provide up to 100 megabit/s downloads, and 40 Mbps uploads under ideal circumstances.
By 2025, the government's target is for 99 per cent of the population to enjoy download speeds of at least 50 Mbps. Streaming video services such as Netflix require around 25 Mbps per high definition channel.
Vodafone has worked with the Rural Connectivity Group to upgrade its access network in country areas, to meet steeply increased data use after the Covid-19 pandemic, the spokesperson said.
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"We'll be reaching out to households in certain geographical areas over the coming weeks to let them know if their address can connect to RBI2 broadband and access unlimited anytime data, and interested customers can also visit the Farmside stand at Fieldays to learn more," the spokesperson added.
"We're really excited about this RBI2 unlimited data service, and if the trial goes well, we'll look at whether we can expand it," the spokesperson said.
because of several factors such as low customer numbers per site, and the difficulty for internet providers to connect them to their backbone networks, rural customers face higher monthly subscription costs and low data caps.
The biggest data cap option from Farmside presently allows for 200 gigabyte usage, and costs $156 a month.
Mike Smith, chairman of the Wireless Internet Service Providers Association whose members specialise in providing broadband in rural areas, declined to comment on the Farmside trial.
Further broadband options for rural and remote customers will be arriving this year, with the SpaceX Starlink low-orbit satellite broadband entering commercial service in New Zealand.
Starlink is expected to provide between 50 to 150 Mbps download speeds for $159 a month, with the Dishy customer premises equipment costing $799 plus $114 handling and shipping.