Tenders for the extension of the Rural Broadband Initiative (RBI2) and coverage of mobile black spots under the Mobile Black Spot Fund (MBSF) close on 3 April 2017. Together, these $150 million grants, funded by the Telecommunications Development Levy, will deliver high speed broadband to more rural communities and cellular mobile coverage to key stretches of state highways and tourism locations. You can find a full copy of the RFP here.
These programmes are aiming to meet three key policy objectives: to provide high-speed broadband to the greatest number of rural end users within the funding available; to support similar access to high-speed broadband by rural end users across all regions; and to improve the availability of mobile services to support safety on state highways and enhance visitor experience at key tourist destinations.
There is no prescribed technology for the delivery of the rural broadband extension, rather bids will be assessed against how well they meet a set of preferred user outcomes. For the Mobile Black Spot Fund there’s a minimum requirement to provide 3G voice services, with 4G preferred in tourist areas. The RBI2 and MBSF programmes will deliver open access to government funded infrastructure (towers, cabinets), with exemptions from some obligations for regional operators. Councils are invited to co-invest to extend target coverage beyond what can be funded by central Government.
Target Coverage Areas
RBI2 target coverage areas are those where rural end users have access to terrestrial broadband services (fixed line or wireless) of less than 20 Mbps maximum speed in any region in New Zealand (including the Chatham Islands). The MBSF is intended to cover locations where mobile service is absent, comprising segments of state highway and tourism destinations.
The RFP indicates stretches of state highways and eligible End Users in each region which can be covered using central Government funding.
CFH invites Councils to participate and respond. Councils are asked to advise CFH of any additional areas for which they would fund coverage beyond what can be funded by central Government. More information for Councils wishing to participate can be found on our RBI2 Mobile Black Spot Fund Tender page. The RFP can be found on GETS.
Rural Broadband Extension Preferred User Outcomes
Rural users will able to do two of the following simultaneously, without data caps being an unreasonable inhibitor: stream HD video without significant re-buffering; and carry out general web-browsing, including accessing online banking, cloud based applications, e-commerce site and education services; and be able to maintain voice and video call without interruption (including at peak usage times of 6pm-11pm).
Timing and Targets
It’s expected the first contracts will be announced in August 2017. The Government has set aspirational targets that by 2025, 99% of New Zealanders will have access to broadband of at least 50 Mbps and 100% of New Zealanders will have access to broadband of at least 10 Mbps. The Government is interested in seeing how proposals for delivering coverage under the RBI2 and MBSF programmes show an upgrade path compatible with this vision.