60 new or upgraded mobile towers completed across rural New Zealand in last quarter


Crown Infrastructure Partners

12 Mar 2021

Media Statement

60 new or upgraded mobile towers completed across rural New Zealand in last quarter

In the quarter ending December 2020, 39 new mobile towers and 21 upgraded mobile towers were completed providing broadband coverage across rural Aotearoa.

The December 2020 Broadband Quarterly Connectivity Update released today by Crown Infrastructure Partners (CIP) reports on this significant progress under both the Rural Broadband Initiative phase two/Mobile Black Spots Fund (RBI2/MBSF) programme and the capacity upgrades programme for mobile towers deployed under the first Rural Broadband Initiative that have become congested.

“It is fantastic to see that the programme has already provided improved rural broadband services to households served by the 21 upgraded mobile towers, including rural areas around towns such as Tirau in Waikato, and Kaitaia in the Far North”, said Graham Mitchell, CEO of CIP.

“At the time these mobile towers were built, the current level of demand for broadband and growth in the number of households in some rural areas was not anticipated. With more people working and learning from home and general population growth, the demand on the capacity of these towers has increased, and it’s fantastic to be able to upgrade these mobile towers and provide service to rural households who have been missing out”. The Government approved CIP funding these mobile tower capacity upgrades as part of the response to connectivity issues experienced during last year’s COVID-19 level 4 lockdown.

39 new mobile towers have also been commissioned under the RBI2/MBSF programme in the quarter, making better broadband available to 4,405 rural homes and businesses. In addition, CIP’s wireless ISP (WISP) partners have made improved broadband available to 577 rural homes and businesses under RBI2 during the quarter.

There are also six new tourism sites with mobile coverage, including Pongaroa in the Tararua District and Glinks Gully and Northland as well as 77 additional kilometres of State Highway now have mobile coverage, making it easier and faster for first responders to attend incidents in these often remote areas. This brings the total kilometres covered under MBSF to 788km.

When work on RBI2 and MBSF is completed by 2023, and combined with completion of the UFB roll-out and existing broadband networks, New Zealand will have broadband coverage to 99.8 per cent of the population.

The December quarter also saw 85 kilometres of fibre deployed on the State Highway 6 fibre link on the West Coast.  The Fox Glacier to Lake Hawea fibre link will create connectivity resilience in the South Island, by providing an alternative route to existing networks and provide fibre connectivity to the 19 of mobile towers being built along State Highway 6. It will also mean the Haast township will get access to Ultra-Fast Broadband (UFB).

Under the UFB programme, CIP’s partner Northpower Fibre completed its UFB expansion build in this quarter. This is a great achievement and was five months ahead of schedule. 9,710 households and businesses in 11 towns in Whāngārei and Kaipara Districts are now able to connect to UFB broadband services.

UFB connections have continued to increase, with 33,800 new connections to the UFB network in the quarter. “Uptake is now at 63% across the country. With the programme 94% complete, there are 248 towns and cities that now have UFB available”, said Mr Mitchell.

The average speed of UFB services is now 245 Mbps, and close to 12,500 new gigabit connections were taken up this quarter. Mitchell said, “There are now almost 174,000 gigabit connections. People want the fastest connection they can get, and with multiple people per household seeking to connect to work and learn, this is increasingly the choice of connection for families as fibre is the only broadband solution that can provide the assured highest speeds”.

Marae connectivity has continued at pace with 374 marae across Aotearoa now connected to broadband. In the December quarter, under the Marae Digital Connectivity programme, an additional 97 marae connected to broadband and 122 new marae had digital equipment installed. “The digital equipment installed allows for video conferencing for virtual hui, and marae are provided with the technical support they need to utilise these services”, said Mr Mitchell. “Enhancing their digital capabilities and supporting whanau and hapū to undertake economic activity are key goals of the programme, and we are pleased with this uptake of connections”.

The Quarterly Connectivity Report is released by CIP and can be found at: www.crowninfrastructure.govt.nz/quarterly

The report provides information on the progress of:

  • Ultra-Fast Broadband roll-out;
  • the Rural Broadband Initiative Phase Two and Mobile Black Spots Fund programme;
  • the rural capacity upgrades programme;
  • the West Coast and Southland fibre links programme; and
  • the Provincial Growth Fund Marae Digital Connectivity programme.


  • At the end of the quarter, the Rural Broadband Initiative phase two (RBI2) has made improved broadband available to 59,439 rural households and businesses, which is 70 per cent of the overall target.
  • Under the Mobile Black Spot Fund Programme (MBSF), mobile coverage is being deployed to:
    • State Highway ‘blackspots’ where there is currently no mobile coverage, to support public safety in high traffic areas where there are high incident rates. 788 kilometres of mobile coverage have been deployed on State Highway ‘blackspots’; and
    • tourism locations around New Zealand where there is currently no mobile coverage, to support tourism and economic growth. 58 tourism sites have new mobile coverage.
  • WISPs are the 17 ‘wireless internet service providers’ who have partnered with Crown Infrastructure Partners (CIP) to deliver the RBI2 programme, along with the Rural Connectivity Group (RCG) who has contracted to deliver RBI2 and MBSF. RCG is a joint venture of the three mobile network operators, deploying mobile towers for RBI2/MBSF.
  • The rural capacity upgrades programme is upgrading mobile towers deployed under the first Rural Broadband Initiative which are now experiencing congestion with 22 completed to date (see https://www.beehive.govt.nz/release/rural-broadband-upgrade-boost-covid-19-recovery-remote-communities).
  • The West Coast and Southland fibre links programme is deploying two fibre links – one from Fox to Hawea, and another from Te Anau to Milford Sound 106.7km completed to date (see https://www.beehive.govt.nz/release/better-digital-connectivity-coming-west-coast-and-southland).
  • The Ultra-fast Broadband (UFB) programme is the broadband programme deploying fibre-to- premises to 87 per cent of the population by 2022 (including private fibre). At the end of the quarter, UFB is available to 84 per cent of the population; with UFB connectivity completed to 248 towns and cities.
    • National uptake of UFB is 63 per cent, which is much higher than original forecasts.
  • UFB partners are the four companies contracted to CIP to deploy the UFB network: Chorus, Ultrafast Fibre, Northpower and Enable.
  • The Marae Digital Connectivity programme enables marae (and regional digital hubs) to receive a grant-funded broadband connection and associated hardware to enable use of the connection, creating marae ‘digital hubs’ that support communities to undertake economic activity and enhance their digital capability. The programme also includes urban Marae in Auckland, greater Wellington and Christchurch. The programme now includes all eligible marae nationwide.
  • The 11 towns completed by Northpower for its UFB expansion build are:
    • Hikurangi
    • Kaiwaka
    • Mangawhai Heads
    • Mangawhai
    • Maungaturoto
    • One Tree Point
    • Paparoa
    • Ruakaka
    • Ruawai
    • Whangarei
    • Waipu
  • The ‘gigabit service’ is a UFB broadband Ethernet service that provides speeds of up to 1 gigabit per second download and 500 megabit per second upload on the wholesale UFB network. It is important to note that technical constraints mean the retail service will deliver close to a full gigabit to end customers, as some of the bandwidth is required for internet overheads and address headers for the end service.

More information can be found at CIP’s website:  www.crowninfrastructure.govt.nz