Ultra fast broadband roll-out, New Zealand

Year:2022

Duration:7 years and counting

Cost:NS$1.78bn (about £916m)

Country: New Zealand

What did this project achieve?

Give everyone in New Zealand the fastest possible broadband service

The Ultra-Fast Broadband (UFB) initiative is the New Zealand government’s programme to bring fibre network internet access to 87% of the country’s 4.7 million population by 2022.

The scheme is one of the largest and most ambitious civil engineering projects ever in New Zealand. A public-private partnership sees 4 private sector companies working with the government to increase broadband coverage across the country.

The programme is part of a 2008 government policy aiming to strengthen the economy and boost wages. Authorities recognised that if New Zealand was to compete internationally it would need better broadband.

Better internet speeds should improve video conferencing for New Zealand businesses and provide faster access to cloud services. The government sees both as essential for successful international trade.

The programme has encouraged what is currently the fastest uptake of fibre-optic cable services among members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

The OECD is a group of 34 market economy nations that work together to promote economic growth and sustainable development.

Programme bosses predict that New Zealand will be in the top 5 of OECD countries for fibre-optic by the time the UFB scheme is completed.

Difference high speed broadband will make

The UFB could see around 87% of New Zealanders in over 390 towns and cities with fast broadband speeds by the end of 2022.

The rural broadband initiative – part of the UFB programme - has already provided new or improved broadband to over 300,000 rural households and businesses.

Over 110,000 rural households and businesses now get improved fixed line broadband.

How the work is being done

The government has set up 2 schemes to bring better broadband to New Zealand. The UFB programme runs side by side with the Rural Broadband Initiative (RBI).

Engineers working on the UFB scheme are connecting broadband to homes and businesses in towns and cities using fibre-optic cables.

The RBI is aimed at rural communities and remote areas where cable is not an economical solution. As New Zealand telecoms companies have not invested widely in remote areas – making rural coverage very poor - the scheme is partly funded by an industry levy of NZ$430m.

Work on the RBI has seen engineers upgrading 1,200 cabinets – connection hubs – to improve fixed line broadband for over 110,000 households.

RBI engineers have also built more than 150 new rural phone masts and upgraded 400 existing masts to connect homes and businesses to fixed wireless broadband. Project workers have also upgraded over 110,000 copper lines.

A third scheme, the Mobile Black Spot Fund (MBSF), is improving mobile phone coverage on around 1,000km of state highway and in over 100 tourism locations.

Mobile phone coverage currently covers areas where over 95% of New Zealanders live and work. Geographic coverage of the country is only 50%.

Engineers hope MBSF will increase geographic mobile coverage by up to 30%.

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We’re working to improve connectivity for all New Zealanders.

Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment

New Zealand Government

Fascinating facts

Towns in New Zealand were invited to take part in a competition called Gigatown run by telecoms company Chorus. The event aimed to ‘educate and inspire’ New Zealanders about the benefits of ultra-fast broadband.

Gigatown winner Dunedin – the second largest city on South Island – was connected to broadband with speeds of up to 1 gigabit per second. Chorus claims this is the fastest speed in the southern hemisphere.

Dunedin also won a NZ$500,000 fund donated by the telecoms firm. Community organisations can apply for cash to showcase projects that use gigabit infrastructure ‘for social good.’

People who made it happen

  • Client: New Zealand government
  • Contractors: Telecomms companies Chorus, Enable, Northpower, Ultrafast Fibre

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