Rural broadband is the access to the internet from areas outside of towns and cities, aka the countryside. For those of you that live in these rural areas, you’re probably already aware that “broadband” doesn’t quite live up to its name. In a perfect world, every home in New Zealand would have fibre - but this simply isn’t possible for those living rurally.
As a result of this, The Rural Broadband Initiative (RBI) was created. The RBI is a partnership with the government, Chorus and Vodafone to bring faster internet to rural areas. This provides a range of rural broadband options for both homes and businesses that reside outside urban areas.
If you live rurally and want to get broadband speeds, there are a handful of options, depending on where you live and what type of connection you can get. For example, on a copper network, a broadband signal can generally be delivered within a 6km radius - however, its performance degrades when the distance increases from the connection to the cabinet.
Let’s discuss the different types of rural broadband connection options available for your home or business.
How to get rural broadband for your area
If you currently live or work outside of urban areas, there are roughly five main options available for getting broadband in your property:
- ADSL or VDSL - regular broadband capable of high speeds
- 3G/4G - fast, wireless mobile network
- Satellite - ideal for those out of a decent wireless range
- Local wireless networks - fast networks available in specific areas
- Fibre - delivers fastest speeds through an optic cable
First, you’ll need to determine what sort of broadband services are currently available in your area. The National Broadband Map is a free online tool that will tell you what’s available and what sort of speeds you can expect across different connection types.
Once you know what type of broadband connection you can get, you’ll need to find a broadband provider to get everything set up and installed. We recommend spending a bit of time to find and compare rural broadband providers to ensure you’re getting the best deal.
Requirements for rural broadband
The requirements for your rural broadband will depend on both what connection types are available in your area, as well as which rural broadband service provider you sign up with.
While some broadband providers take care of everything, others may ask that you provide the following:
- Working 240v power outlet
- Antenna pole
- Surge protected multi plug outlet box
- Network card
- Owner consent for installation (if you are not the homeowner)
Generally, if there’s a specific item that is required for installation that you don’t already have, you can purchase it at an additional cost from your provider (i.e. a wireless modem or modem extender).
It’s important to have a full understanding of what you will need to provide for the broadband installation. Most providers will send a technician out to your area where they will undergo a presale site assessment. This will help inform you of everything that’s involved in the process, including additional costs that may be separate to the standard installation expenses.
VDSL, ADSL or fibre for your rural connection
The most common types of rural broadband connections in New Zealand are VDSL, ADSL and ultra-fast fibre. There are certainly pros and cons to each type of connection:
ADSL is split into two types of speed - ADSL and ADSL2+. It’s easy to install and is suited for general everyday internet use. While ADSL is the slowest type of broadband connection available on the copper network, ADSL2+ can deliver speeds of up to 24Mbps.
VDSL can provide speeds of up to 70Mbps, making it a suitable option for rural family homes. Although it’s not as fast or has the stability of a ultra fibre connection, VDSL comes at a comparatively reduced cost. It uses the same copper phone line as ADSL, but has much faster speeds and greater capacity.
Rural UFB - ultra fibre broadband - is the most popular type of connection, mainly for its huge increase in speeds (in comparison to VDSL or ADSL). With a reliable and secure connection along with increased bandwidth, it’s easy to see why so many Kiwis have switched to fibre.
The biggest downfall or fibre is that it’s not available in every property across the country, particularly rural areas.
3G or 4G for your rural connection?
3G and 4G is a mobile connection network that you can use for wireless internet in rural locations.
3G - short for “third generation” - is used to describe the former generation of standards within mobile telecommunication networks. It was introduced in the early 2000’s, and could transfer data from 200 kilobytes per second - enough to download an app or stream a small video.
A 3G network is ideal for low internet users as well as for properties that are unable to get a 4G connection.
4G is the next generation of mobile communication standards. 4g has rolled out into many areas of New Zealand, with a focus on capital cities as well as large regional centres. It can provide speeds of up to 10 times faster than on a 3G connection, as well as better coverage areas.
Recent research has shown that New Zealand has the fastest 4G speeds in the world, making it the preferred network connection for the majority of Kiwis. All the major broadband service providers are committed to extending their 4G coverage over the next few years.
VDSL speed vs distance
On the copper network - i.e. an ADSL or VDSL connection - an internet signal can be delivered within a 6 kilometre radius. However, copper is sensitive to distance, meaning that the further away your connection is from the source, the slower your network will be.
This chart on VDSL speed vs distance explains:
Wherever possible, fibre is used to extend the reach of the copper network through fibre-fed cabinets to rural areas. As part of the Rural Broadband Initiative, Chorus have installed 1,200 fibre-fed cabinets to deliver fixed line broadband for over 50% of rural New Zealand!
If you’re within an 800-metre radius of a fibre-fed cabinet, you can expect speeds of up to 70Mbps.
More cabinets are continuously being installed rurally throughout the country. As well as making more broadband ports available, these new cabinets are helping to bring the waiting list for rural broadband dramatically down.