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Spark fast-tracks intensive rollout of fast 4G broadband services across rural Canterbury
Posted on 10-Dec-2015 15:27 | Tags Filed under: News

Spark New Zealand and the Canterbury Mayoral Forum announced today that Spark will fast-track its rollout of fast 4G wireless technology to enable fast broadband services across rural Canterbury.

Spark is investing $14 million in an accelerated programme that within the next 12 months will see Spark’s 4G services covering 96% of the places rural Cantabrians live and work. Previously, this rollout was expected to take at least three years.

The initiative will mean thousands of residents, farmers and businesses, especially in smaller communities and rural areas, will have access to much better and faster broadband services. This is enabled by replacing traditional ADSL modems connected via a copper phone line with new fixed-wireless broadband technology that runs on Spark’s 4G cellular network.

It will also allow more Canterbury businesses to unleash the potential of new technologies such as machine-to-machine (M2M) communications, allowing farmers to do things like soil monitoring and irrigation management or tracking herd movements via remote mobile devices.

Today’s announcement is the culmination of several months’ work between Spark and the Canterbury Mayoral Forum on how Spark can best help deliver better digital connectivity for Canterbury residents and businesses.

Digital connectivity, in particular fast broadband across rural areas, is one of seven key work programmes supporting the Canterbury Regional Economic Development Strategy (CREDS), launched in August this year.

For their part, all Canterbury councils have agreed to work with Spark on design and consenting issues associated with such a large-scale and rapid 4G rollout, to ensure mobile cell tower site acquisition and consenting processes will be as fast and efficient as possible.

Spark Managing Director Simon Moutter said Canterbury will be the first region where Spark has committed to an accelerated, intensive rollout of 4G services in collaboration with local councils.

“We’ve been impressed by the way all the councils across the Canterbury region are working together on economic development, so we worked with the Canterbury Mayoral Forum on how we might do things differently to help unleash the potential of Canterbury.

“This development will be a huge step change for Canterbury. For most rural customers, it will mean for the first time they can get urban broadband performance at close to urban broadband pricing levels – delivered via 4G wireless rather than a physical copper or fibre connection.

“We’re talking of download speeds ranging from well above 20 to up to 135 megabits per second – compared with traditional copper line broadband which for many people in remote areas only delivers speeds of under 2 megabits – and that’s on a good day! That’s the difference between several people watching streaming internet videos or surfing the net off the same modem at once, and someone struggling even to open a website page.”

Dame Margaret Bazley, Chair of the Canterbury Mayoral Forum, commented: “Today’s announcement represents an early, positive outcome from the Mayoral Forum’s Canterbury Regional Economic Development Strategy. It’s a great example of how by working together and by collaborating with the private sector, councils across the region can deliver real benefits for the people of Canterbury.”

Damon Odey, Mayor of Timaru and lead for the CREDS digital connectivity programme, commented: “We are delighted at the way Spark has stepped up to help a strategic priority for Canterbury. We urgently need fast, reliable, affordable broadband in rural Canterbury, as this is a key contributor that underpins all other CREDS work programmes.”

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