Telecom New Zealand, Vodafone to manage New Zealand's Rural Broadband Initiative

New Zealand's Crown Fibre Holdings has chosen Telecom New Zealand and Vodafone to build and manage the country's open access broadband network targeting rural areas through its Rural Broadband Initiative (RBI).

Under the terms of the agreement, incumbent telco Telecom New Zealand will build out a fiber-based network that will link schools, hospitals and rural exchanges, while Vodafone will build an open access 3G-based wireless network.

New Zealand's Communications Minister Stephen Joyce, believes that the joint Telecom New Zealand (which was kept out of initial negotiations) and Vodafone bid will enable it to get contracts signed before the end of March. Ultimately, the RBI plans to bring fiber-based broadband to 97 percent of rural schools and 5 Mbps broadband speeds to at least 80 percent of New Zealand's rural homes in six years.  

"The government specifically asked for parties to consider collaborating on joint bids to reduce construction costs, and this bid does just that," he said in a statement.

The duo beat out four other consortiums to win a seat on the RBI, including the Maori partnership Torotoro Waea and OpenGate (an alliance between state-owned Kordia, Woosh Wireless and FX Networks).

Not everyone was happy with the decision, however.

Geoff Hunt, CEO of Kordia, said that "the decision effectively condemns rural communities to suffer from same old duopoly services that continue to under-deliver and hold rural New Zealand hostage," adding that the "3G element of the Telecom/Vodafone solution is being superseded all around the world by fourth generation wireless technologies like TD-LTE."

For more:
- TeleGeography has this article
- Reuters also has this article

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