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RCG flips switch on Chatham Islands 4G network

The Chatham Islands, one of the most remote communities in New Zealand, is now connected to the rest of the world.

RCG flips switch on Chatham Islands 4G mobile network

A new 7.5 metre satellite dish and five mobile towers mean Chatham Islanders now have 4G mobile voice and data.

The network was built by the Rural Connectivity Group, a joint project run by Spark, Vodafone and 2degrees. It is part of the second stage of the Rural Broadband Initiative where the RCG is working with Crown Infrastructure Partners. The project was paid for out of the Provincial Growth Fund.

Each of the Chathams Islands towers connects back to the dish by digital microwave connections. RCG says it designed the towers and the island network to take the windswept nature and the salty air of the islands into account. There are multiple paths linking the towers. That means a fault in one place doesn’t take out the entire network.

RCG constructed the satellite dish on Target Hill overlooking the main settlement at Waitangi. It says the new link provides eight times the capacity of the islands’ previous satellite link.

The dish points at the Eutelsat 172B satellite and from there to a ground station at Gateway Teleport in Wellington. This links to a point of interconnect. Up to the POI all the infrastructure is shared by the three RCG partners who all sell services to customers in the Chathams using their normal brands.

2degrees previews 5G in Auckland, Wellington CBDs

While the official launched is planned for the first quarter of the New Year, 2degrees has switched on 5G sites in city CBDs.

Towers in central Auckland and Wellington are now being used for testing and optimisation. The company says the first 5G sites in Christchurch will switch on later this month.

Martin Sharrock, 2degrees’ chief technology officer says early test results have clocked download speeds over 1Gbps. Work has begun in Christchurch with the first 5G sites due online for testing in December.

He says: “We expect to launch the 2degrees 5G network with up to 100 sites on air, and we’ll continue to turn on additional sites throughout 2022 as we build out the network across our main cities.

As 2degrees builds its 5G network it will upgrade 4G sites. Sharrock says for most sites this means there will be double the 4G capacity.

How green is my broadband?

Research commissioned by New Zealand’s fibre wholesalers says theirs is the greenest broadband technology.

Chorus, Enable, Tuatahi First Fibre and Northpower Fibre looked to Sapere Research Group to determine the carbon footprint of broadband technologies. It compared fibre with copper-based VDSL, Hybrid Fibre Coaxial (HFC) and 4G and 5G fixed wireless.

Researchers found that an entry-level 50Mbps fibre plan is 41 percent more efficient than copper. It is up to 56 percent more efficient than 4G fixed wireless broadband.

For higher speed plans fibre is as much as 29 percent more efficient than broadband delivered by HFC and up to 77 percent less carbon hungry than 5G fixed wireless.

Fibre does not change its carbon emission profile as speed increases. That’s not the case for other broadband technologies, especially fixed wireless broadband.

Spark, Vodafone, Orcon boost fibre speeds

Three of the most important broadband resellers have signed up to increase customer fibre speeds at no extra cost.

Chorus, Enable and Tuatahi First Fibre, formerly UFF, have all offered to increase speeds for customers on 100Mbps fibre plans to 300Mbps at no extra cost. Upload speeds will also increase.

NorthPower, the fibre company for Whangarei and parts of Northland has not made a similar offer.

To date Spark, Vodafone and Orcon have taken up the offer. Their customers are being upgraded to the faster speeds at the time of writing.

Vodafone HFC Max speeds halve

Average download speeds dropped by around 50 percent on Vodafone’s HFC network.

The latest Measuring Broadband New Zealand report shows speeds average 355 Mbps in the September quarter. This compares with 717 Mbps in the May quarter.

The report says speed tests in the Wellington region negatively impacted the nationwide HFC Max download speed results. Vodafone is investigating the cause of its regional differences. The HFC network is available in Wellington, the Kapiti Coast and Christchurch.

Measuring Broadband New Zealand is a quarterly report prepared for the Commerce Commission by UK-based Sam Knows.

Away from Vodafone’s HFC network, the report shows New Zealand’s broadband performed well during the recent Auckland lockdown. Users in the city did not experience a drop in performance compared with the rest of New Zealand.

Five more years of number portability

The Commerce Commission says number portability will remain in place for another five years. Number portability allows users to keep their landline or mobile number when switching provider,

Telecommunications Commissioner Tristan Gilbertson said that this ability is important for competition because it makes switching easier. This keeps providers on their toes as they have to match rivals’ offers.

The Commerce Commission has to revisit the number portability regime every five years.

Radio Spectrum Management releases draft five year outlook

Radio Spectrum Management has issues a five year outlook which reveals the trends it expect to see between now and 2026. This includes growth in 5G networks and devices along with more IoT and private mobile networks.

RSM’s planning includes the need to free spectrum for 5G networks and other wireless technologies while continuing to deal with the needs to existing spectrum users.

The outlook singles out the 600MHz, 3.3–3.4GHz, 3.4–3.8GHz, 3.8–4.2GHz and 24–30GHz bands as potential spectrum for 5G. It plans to change the way small cell networks are licensed.

Elsewhere there is a focus on the needs to LEO satellite networks and investigating the 6GHz band for Wi-Fi use.

Spark Finance sets up sustainability-linked loans

Spark Finance says it has set up three sustainability-linked loans worth $425 million. The loans will refinance existing loans for the telco’s financial subsidiary.

Sustainability-linked loans reward borrowers with lower interest rates in return for meeting environmental goals. If they fail to meet goals, they pay a higher rate.

In Spark’s case this includes reducing greenhouse gas emissions, moving suppliers to lower emissions and meeting diversity and inclusion goals.

The lenders are Westpac NZ, Commonwealth Bank of Australia and MUFG Bank.

Spark says the loans will be used for general purposes.

WiFi 6 not improving end user experience

A survey of US WiFi users suggests WiFi 6, also known as 802.11ax, does little to improve an end-user’s wireless network experience.

Speedcheck, the broadband speed measuring company, found half of all WiFi users are happy with wireless performance. This only rises by 10 percent if the user has WiFi 6. The numbers are similar when users are asked about reliability.

This puts a fresh perspective on the question of whether you should upgrade to WiFi 6.

New Zealand makes top ten for 5G download speeds

New Zealand users get an average 5G download speed of 240.7Mbps. That puts us in the ninth spot in OpenSignal’s latest global 5G experience table and one place ahead of Australia.

South Korea tops the table with an average download speeds of 423.8Mbps. Taiwan wins when it comes to peak download speeds clocking an impressive 934.9Mbps. Norway has the fastest 5G upload speed at 41.9 Mbps.

In other news…

European telcos want the big technology firms to contribute to network build costs. A letter from The European Telecommunications Network Operators’ Association (ETNO) says the sector expects to spend €300bn building gigabit networks and notes that the big technology firms pay none of the costs, do not have to comply with the same laws as telcos and in many cases don’t even pay tax.

Australia plans legislation forcing social networks to name internet trolls allowing victims to sue for defamation. The move will put social networks on an equal footing with traditional publishers making them liable for defamation even if the offending material is written by a third person.

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