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Vodafone joins Spark in 5G-powered wireless broadband business

Peter Griffin, Contributor. 23 February 2021, 9:25 am

Vodafone yesterday began offering its wireless broadband service over the 5G network it has constructed in parts of the country, offering a faster, untethered alternative to fibre and copper connections.

The 'fixed wireless access' service is available in parts of Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch and Queenstown where 5G cell sites are active with plans starting at $69 a month. Spark last year offered wireless broadband services in Alexandra, Westport, Twizel, Tekapo, Hokitika and Clyde before extending them to downtown Auckland and Takapuna, Te Awamutu, New Plymouth, Palmerston North and Dunedin.

Both operators had existing 4G wireless broadband services on offer and, avoiding the wholesale charges paid to network operator Chorus for fibre and copper line connections, have been pushing them aggressively in the market.

Spark revealed in its 2020 full-year results that 22% of its customer base are wireless broadband customers. It has a target of adding 40,000 customers by the middle of this year. The Vodafone 5G Broadband service is plug and play, with a 5G modem connecting to the mobile network to offer residential and business users broadband. 

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Vodafone's existing 5G coverage in Auckland

The 5G plans come with unlimited data and data transfer speeds and the service also works with Vodafone's recently launched SuperWifi system, which extends coverage with a mesh network that Vodafone is offering for free to wireless broadband customers.

"Our testing shows 5G Broadband download speeds on the Vodafone network could reach up to 750 Mbps - with 5G surpassing 1 Gbps speeds in optimum conditions. This compares well with other broadband technologies including fibre," says Carolyn Luey, Consumer Director, Vodafone NZ.

That could see connection speeds of up to ten times faster than existing 4G connections and lower latency.

The drawback, currently, is limited 5G coverage - most homes aren't able to access it yet. It may be in major centres via Vodafone's network but is patchy throughout the city centres. Vodafone says it has a "turbocharged network investment program" for 2021 including extending 5G coverage to Tauranga and Palmerston North.

In other product news, Spark today announced it would offer small businesses productivity suite Microsoft 365 free for a year for new customers signing up to one of its Business Flexible plans. A year's subscription to Microsoft 365 Business Basic is worth $91.20 per user while Microsoft Business Standard is worth $226.80 per user.

The Microsoft 365 Business Basic deal is available with selected Business Endless Mobile plans and Microsoft 365 Business Standard with selected Business Flexible Broadband plans. Spark said its "nationwide IT partner network" would be on hand to help set up Microsoft 365 for customers that needed support.


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