The first batch of new cell sites under the Rural Broadband Initiative (RBI) have been switched on by Vodafone, with more to come by the end of June.
Under the RBI plan, Vodafone will upgrade 387 existing cell towers and build a further 154 new towers in rural areas, funded by the government.
Five new sites have been built so far – the first wave includes sites at Eureka, between Hamilton and Morrinsville; Puketaha, Hamilton; Kumeu and Waitakere in West Auckland; and Motueka in the Tasman Bay. Another is due to go live at Mystery Creek prior to the annual Fieldays in June.
And an additional 38 have been upgraded, predominantly in the Canterbury, Rodney and Waikato districts.
Construction will continue on five more sites in Marton, Mystery Creek, Ashurst, Tauhoa and Bayleys Beach, with a further 31 upgraded sites to be completed by June. Last year Vodafone and Chorus (at the time Telecom) won with a joint bid to build the cell sites. Each tower will be available for open access for other service providers to attach their own wireless equipment.
Telecom and Vodafone are delivering the initiative, with Telecom building the fixed infrastructure and Vodafone the wireless towers:
As part of their agreement with the government, the RBI will deliver 100 Mbps connections to approximately 750 rural schools and six hospitals; fixed broadband service to more than 50 percent of rural customers and fixed wireless broadband to 80 percent of rural customers.