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Three into one - telcos come together for RBI2 bid

Paul Brislen, Editor. 04 April 2017, 7:53 pm

In an unprecedented move, the three main mobile network operators Spark, 2Degrees and Vodafone have teamed up to pitch for the government's Rural Broadband Initiative (RBI) 2 project.

RBI2 plans to take mobile and broadband coverage out into the furthest reaches of the New Zealand countryside and with $150 million of public money up for grabs, a number of consortia are bidding for the work

RBI1 was awarded to Vodafone and Chorus which between them provided a blend of fibre to the node, copper-line extension and fixed wireless service. Vodafone built a number of towers that were designed to be tall enough to enable co-location for a large number of wireless providers. 

However, because of the technical requirements in building towers tall enough to enable network equipment to operate alongside other devices on the same tower, each tower was "gold plated" and cost upwards of $300,000 to build.

The RBI2 proposal will see the three telcos sharing the same pieces of equipment (Radio Access Network or RANs), a prospect that would have been unthinkable just a few short years ago.

Under the new proposal, the three telcos will each pitch in an additional $25 million to build 520 new towers that should cost less than RBI1 equivalents. Backhaul is likely to be provided by digital microwave relay for most, although there is some hope that a reduction in the cost of deploying fibre that should be part of the new resource consenting process for broadband deployment will mean some sites can get fibre.

Chorus is bidding on its own for the same project and will use a mix of fibre and VDSL services to deliver broadband reach. A consortium of wireless ISPs (WISPs) is also bidding for the project.


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