Vodafone reveals rural broadband pricing

First rural broadband tower goes up, and some reasonably robust pricing is posted. UPDATED

UPDATE: In response to NBR reader comments about its rural plans' data caps, which some have seen as stingy, the company told NBR:

"Vodafone will shortly be introducing a redirect step to our RBI wireless broadband solution. When a customer reaches the end of their data bundle they will be stopped and taken to a web page which will offer them the option to buy another bundle of data - 5GB for $20, or continue to use their broadband on overage and pay the 3c per whole MB.

"A customer may choose to pay overage if there is only a couple of days left in the month. This will ensure they never pay more than they expect, giving the customer the choice to keep using or stop and pay no more - removing the risk of the risk of the customer being surprised at the cost of their monthly data bill."

On the heels of ICT Minister Amy Adams openiing its first celltower under the Rural Broadband Intiative (RBI), at Eureka (between Hamilton and Morrinsville), Vodafone has revealed the first retail pricing under the scheme.

It was previously promised that rural broadband would be comparable to urban pricing.

With the the first plans announced, that's true of the headline price (given calling is included) but the data caps are on the low side at a time when many townies are on 20GB, 40GB or 60GB limits. Telecom's $105 Total Home bundle, for example - perhaps the benchmark for middle New Zealand given its market share - offers 20GB.

The modest data caps have drawn some social media flak.

Chorus and Vodafone have emphasised that the fibre, cellular and wireless network they are building after winning the six-year, $300 million public-private Rural Broadband Initiative is a wholesale one.

The shape of things to come. Photo courtesy Tuanz. Click to enlarge.

Under the terms of the pair's contract with the government, all retail service providers (Telecom, Vodafone and rivals) should be given equal access to the network.

A spokeswoman for Vodafone told NBR that her company was in talks with six potential resellers. She added, "We expect to bring more on board as the build intensity progresses."

Installation and a modem costs $448 on a 24-month term, or $698 on a 1-month term.

A "special installation," which can be required if a home is made of glass or brick, cost $598 on a 24-month term or $848 on a 1-month term.

Wireless Broadband and Calling plans come with a standard per minute calling plan, which includes unlimited local calling.

National calls are 26c per minute, capped at $2.50 per call (for up to 2 hours).

Calls to New Zealand mobiles are 36c per minute.

A range of add-ons includes calls to NZ landlines for $20 a month.

The company's fulll plans are listed at: vodafone.co.nz/rural-broadband

On Tuesday, the cellsite in Eureka was officially switched on today by Minister of Information and Communication Technology, Amy Adams, and Russell Stanners, CEO of Vodafone. The first wave of RBI cellsites also includes sites at Puketaha, Hamilton; Kumeu and Waitakere in West Auckland; and Motueka in the Tasman Bay.

Construction will continue on a further five sites in Marton, Mystery Creek, Ashurst, Tauhoa and Bayleys Beach, with even more sites due to be completed by June 30, 2012 (the end of the first year of the scheme).

An additional cellsite is due to go live at Mystery Creek prior to the annual Field-Days in June, an event which sees a huge influx of people into the area every year.

Vodafone’s rural high-speed service, with urban comparable pricing, delivers wireless broadband via a high performance modem, adding a WiFi network into the home.

Phone calls can also be made through this service by plugging an existing landline phone directly into the modem, removing the need for a landline connection. Customers can port their existing landline number to this new service.

Under the five year RBI plan, Vodafone will upgrade 387 existing cell towers and build a further 154 new towers in rural areas. The government is funding the civil construction costs of these new sites which are designed to accommodate Vodafone equipment and that of other mobile and wireless operators.

Five new sites have been built so far, and an additional 38 have been upgraded, predominantly in the Canterbury, Rodney and Waikato districts. A further 31 upgraded sites will be completed by June 2012.

Who's covered?
Under the Rural Broadband Initiative, 86% of rural houses and businesses will have access to broadband peak speeds of at least 5Mbit/s (slower than the 10Mbit/s plus experienced by many urban homes, but better than rural connections today; about 20% of rural homes and businesses at present have access to 5Mbit/s at present).

As part of the roll-out, Chorus is also extending its existing fibre network by approximately 3100 km to provide backhaul for celltowers built under the scheme.

Most rural schools are going to have access to ultrafast broadband speeds of 100Mbi/ts with 798 rural schools connecting directly to fibre networks, and 48 schools having digital microwave radio connections. The tender for providing fibre connections to the remaining 192 schools in larger rural towns will be completed by the end of the year.

The MED has a Rural Broadband Initiative (and urban Ultrafast Broadband or UFB) location finder here.

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