14 Apr 2021
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NZ rural-urban mobile divide is narrowing - report

By Shannon Williams

The New Zealand rural-urban mobile divide is shrinking, according to a new report. 

However, the report, from independent mobile analytics company Opensignal, which specialises in quantifying mobile network experience, found there were notable disparities in users’ experience between urban and rural areas on three major operators: Spark, 2degrees and Vodafone.

The proportion of time that rural users spent connected to 4G has increased significantly across all three operators between late 2019/early 2020 and late 2020/early 2021.

The rural/urban gap in 4G availability shrunk by an 7% for 2degrees users, 5.8% for those on Spark and by 4.8% for Vodafone users between these two periods.

According to the report, rural users have "Good or Very Good" video experience.

Video experience in New Zealand’s urban areas ranged between Very Good (65-75) and Excellent (75 or above) in late 2020/early 2021, while in rural areas it ranged between Good (55-65) and Very Good (65-75). 

Games experience shows that playing multiplayer mobile games over a cellular connection can be challenging in both urban and rural areas regardless of the choice of operator. The Games experience of users in late 2020/early 2021, on all three networks, in the urban areas placed in the Fair category (65-75); while in rural areas, the Games Experience fell into the Poor category (40-65).

The report found rural users experienced significantly lower download and upload speeds.

The average download speeds observed in rural areas in late 2020/early 2021 were between 32 and 44% slower than those seen in urban areas, depending on the operator used.

Opensignal also released its 2021 Global Mobile Experience Network Awards which found that in New Zealand:

  • All three of New Zealand’s national operators - Spark, 2degrees and Vodafone - have been recognised fo their strong performance when compared against other operators around the world in terms of the mobile network experience observed by Opensignal’s users. 
  • 2degrees is a Global High Performer in four out of six categories: all three of Opensignal’s experiential metrics — Video Experience, Games Experience, Voice App Experience — and Upload Speed Experience.
  • Spark is a Global High Performer in Voice App Experience and Download Speed Experience with scores of 79.9 out of 100 and 38.8 Mbps, respectively.
  • Vodafone New Zealand is a Global High Performer in Download Speed Experience. Opensignal’s users on its network observed average download speeds of 36.6 Mbps, 13 Mbps (55.1%) faster than the global average of 23.6 Mbps.
  • In addition all three operators have been recognised as Global Rising Stars for the rapid increase in the proportion of time that Opensignal’s users have spent connected to 4G services on their networks (4G Availability) with increases of 7.1-13.9% in their 4G Availability scores.
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