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Potential of satellite broadband for rural NZ

30 July 2023
The Commerce Commission’s latest Measuring Broadband New Zealand report shows the potential of low Earth orbit satellite (LEO) broadband internet as an option for the 13% of Kiwis who are not able to access fibre.

This report is the first in the new phase of the programme, launched in November 2022, which aims to cover more providers and technologies and expand analysis into rural and remote areas that don’t have access to the fibre network (UFB).

Early test results for Starlink – the LEO provider with the largest customer base – show peak hour download speeds are above 120 megabits per second (Mbps). This compares with an average of 9 Mbps for copper-based ADSL, 25 Mbps for 4G wireless broadband and 33 Mbps for copper-based VDSL in rural areas.

Telecommunications Commissioner, Tristan Gilbertson, says these results confirm that satellite technology is a step-change in performance for consumers in areas that don’t have access to fibre-to-the-home or to their business.

“We’re excited about these results which start to give a clearer picture of how the technologies available to consumers in rural areas are performing – including satellite for the first time.”

Another new dimension of this MBNZ report splits 4G wireless broadband into urban and rural and looks at the distribution of results across both areas. This enables consumers to more accurately compare the performance of 4G wireless broadband against other rural options like Starlink and VDSL.

“We can now see that 4G wireless broadband is, on average, more likely to be slower in rural areas, with average speeds of 25 Mbps compared with 33 Mbps in urban areas. We can also see that rural consumers are more likely to experience speeds below this average – with 59% of rural tests showing speeds slower than 25 Mbps, compared with 44% in urban areas.”

Mr Gilbertson welcomed seven more internet service providers to the programme – Lightwire, Inspire Net, Contact Energy, Farmside, WIZwireless, Unifone and Wireless Nation.

“It’s encouraging to see more providers and their customers participating in the programme. Data from these providers is now feeding into the programme and, as more customers sign up, we’ll be able to report on individual performance and provide insights into more technologies, over a greater range of geographies.”

This report and previous reports are available on the Commission’s website.

Background:

While the Commission has been monitoring residential broadband performance since 2007, it first launched the MBNZ programme in 2018 when it partnered with SamKnows, a world leader in broadband performance measurement.

Since then, the programme has published quarterly reports to provide independent information that shows broadband performance across different providers, plans, and technologies to enable consumers to make confident and informed choices about their connectivity and encourages providers to compete on performance, not just price.

The new phase of the MBNZ programme launched on 28 November 2022 broadens the technologies and geographies in scope, with particular emphasis on building towards reporting for 4G, 5G and WISP wireless, and satellite technologies.

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