Vodafone NZ first to go big with 5G wireless broadband

People who can’t afford UFB fibre – or don’t have it available in their area – have a new option for super-fast internet from today.

Vodafone has become the first telco in New Zealand to stage a widespread 5G fixed-wireless access 5G launch from $69 a month, with an unlimited data option for $79 per month.

A wireless phone “line” costs an extra $10 a month. There’s no installation charge.

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Fixed wireless access (also known in the jargon-crazy telco world as FWA, fixed-wireless or wireless broadband) is when a mobile network is used to deliver fast broadband to a fixed location, such as a home or business.

A special router is required, but unlike UFB fibre there’s no waiting around, and no cables to string. Installation is DIY and can be done in minutes.

With a 12-month contract, Vodafone throws in its SuperWiFi product, which consists of two TP-Link Deco X20 units which take the wireless broadband signal coming into your home, then use Wi-Fi to spread it around your home. Vodafone says if you don’t get wall-to-wall coverage, they’ll give you a $100 credit.

Wireless broadband has been around for a few years, with Vodafone, Spark and 2degrees offering it over their 4G networks.

It’s proved a hit, with some 200,000 households now using the technology for their broadband.

Wireless broadband over 5G should boost that number because it offers much faster speed (equal or faster than many fibre installs), very little latency (or lag) and much more capacity on mobile networks – meaning bigger data caps or even unlimited data.

It’s important to note, however, that UFB fibre (which Vodafone and Spark also sell) does have the advantage of consistency. Your wireless broadband experience will depend on the quality of mobile reception at your home or business. The technology might also not be suitable for your monitored alarm.

Vodafone was first to launch mobile 5G as it rolled it out to parts of Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch and Queenstown a little over a year ago, and it’s in those locations that its 5G wireless broadband service is being launched(see www.vodafone.co.nz/5GBroadband. for exact coverage).

The pandemic pushed back Vodafone NZ’s 5G commercial wireless broadband launch.

But it also offered the telco the opportunity to give the technology a major workout, as it stood up a 5G fixed-wireless network for the All of Government Covid-19 Response Centre last March. Speaking for the Centre, NZ Police deputy chief executive Mark Evans told the Herald the 5G fixed-wireless network was set up for some 120 staff in just minutes.

Your home office might not be quite so demanding, but Vodafone NZ staff recently tested its 5G wireless broadband in five locations. The aim was to see how fast they could download all seven episodes of The Queen’s Gambit (a Netflix series available for down-to-go) in high definition. The exercise took between 47.3 and 58.46 seconds. Downloading a whole series to your phone or iPad in less than a minute sounds just the ticket if you’re late for a plane, or just your bus to work.

Vodafone NZ chief executive Jason Paris says his company wants to migrate some 25 per cent of its customers to fixed-wireless within two to three years (implying a jump from 40,000 to more than 100,000) and 5G should give a boost to that goal.

Analysts following parent company Infratil will follow progress toward that goal keenly – because although fixed-wireless is cheaper to customers, it’s also more profitable for mobile network operators like Vodafone and Spark, because it cuts wholesalers like Chorus, and their clip of the ticket, out of the loop.

Spark was first to 5G wireless broadband as it piloted the technology in five small South Island towns in late 2019 (Westport, Clyde, Alexandra, Twizel, Tekapo and Hokitika).

The telco has since added 5G mobile and wireless to five towns and cities over the past year: Palmerston North, New Plymouth, Te Awamutu, and parts of central Auckland and Dunedin CBDs (see a coverage map here).

Earlier, Spark committed to launching 5G in five to seven locations by the end of its financial year (June 31).

“We have already launched five and we are due to announce another major city very soon.” a Spark spokeswoman said. The telco is due to release its first-half result this morning.

2degrees has yet to begin its 5G mobile upgrade but says it is on track to do so by the end of this year.

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