Vodafone is running an unlimited rural fixed wireless broadband trial.
Farmside is offering the trial. The rural broadband specialist has been a wholly owned Vodafone subsidiary since 2018.
Capacity constraints mean Vodafone has to limit the trial to customers in areas covered by the second stage of the government sponsored RBI programme.
It will run for three months. Customers will pay $80 a month. There is a fair use policy, which means Vodafone may restrict users who abuse the unlimited data offer.
Wholesale operators to get same deal
Wisps (wireless internet service providers) who buy wholesale services from Vodafone can offer unlimited rural fixed wireless broadband deals to their customers.
Farmside trialled unlimited data options last year. These ran from midnight to noon.
Trials aside, rural wireless broadband customers have had to live with data caps until now. This is in contrast with New Zealand’s urban broadband customers. The majority of fibre customers buy unlimited data plans.
Unlimited rural fixed wireless broadband needs capacity
Service providers like Vodafone use data caps to manage demand and reduce congestion on wireless broadband networks. Because users share bandwidth, performance can drop if many attempt to connect at the same time.
Vodafone acting consumer and SME director Ralph Brayham says there is spare capacity on a number of the recently build RBI2 cell sites.
Not everyone will be able to get the unlimited data option. Brayham says Vodafone will contact the households where it is possible. He says: “We’ll then assess whether we can offer unlimited RBI2 data plans longer-term.”
Rural Broadband Initiative part 2
RBI2 is a $150 million program to provide better broadband. When complete it will reach84,000 rural homes and businesses not covered by the first stage of RBI.
The work is being done by The Rural Connectivity Group.
This is a joint venture between Spark, Vodafone and 2degrees.
At the time of writing the RCG has built 250 mobile towers. By the end of 2022 this will be 400 towers.
While Vodafone’s uncapped trial is welcome, the biggest problem facing rural fixed wireless broadband customers is poor performance when there is no line-of-sight to a RBI1 tower.