FutureFive New Zealand - Consumer technology news & reviews from the future
Story image
Spark brings 5G to five South Island towns and communities
Fri, 29th Nov 2019
FYI, this story is more than a year old

Spark has committed to delivering New Zealand's first 5G commercial service into the five heartland communities of Westport, Clyde, Twizel, Tekapo and Hokitika. These South Island towns will receive Spark 5G wireless broadband services.

This builds upon the 5G service Spark switched on in Alexandra in September, with further locations coming next year.

Spark technology director Mark Beder says that the focus is on getting New Zealand ready for 5G.

He says, “With our new commercial 5G wireless broadband service, were offering Kiwis in regional New Zealand towns the chance to be some of the first people to discover 5G with Spark. Were inviting these customers to come on the 5G journey with us.

“Wireless broadband is one of the first use cases for 5G, and we've chosen to deliver it to several towns in heartland New Zealand who are all high users of our current wireless broadband product as we think these customers will get the most benefit,” says Beder.

Spark has created a new 5G Discover plan which provides up to 600 GB per month of data, a substantial increase in data over the wireless broadband plans available in those regions previously.

Beder says, “We know that a lot of people are interested in wireless broadband as a service, but some are put off by the data cap. The much higher data cap on 5G wireless broadband opens up an attractive proposition for a lot more customers, as it can offer fibre-like speeds in places with no or limited fibre coverage. With 600GB of data, a customer could stream around 180 hours of sport on Spark Sport for example.

The Spark 5G Discover plan flexes based on a customers data usage so if they use less, they pay less. Plans start from $75 a month and go up to a maximum of $95 per month. The 5G Discover Entertainment plan includes Lightbox and Netflix and is priced between $85 and $105 per month. For these five towns Spark has included an introductory discount of $10 per month for the first twelve months of the plan.

The introductory discount for twelve months makes it the same pricing and datacap as Spark's recently announced Unplan Metro wireless broadband plan in Auckland, which is delivered over Sparks 4G and 4.5G network.

The launch today of Sparks 5G Discover plan means that New Zealand is the 27th country in the world to offer a commercial 5G service to customers, according to the Global Mobile Suppliers Association.

Bruce Smith, Mayor of Hokitika says, “I'm delighted that Spark has brought 5G to Hokitika, and it's exciting that we can be among the first people in New Zealand to try out this new technology. We definitely need better connectivity on the West Coast so this is a chance for residents to experience the real difference that 5G will bring.

The 5G wireless broadband service in Alexandra will transition from a trial to a commercial service next month, meaning Spark will have six towns with 5G commercial services.

Beder says that Spark's ability to offer 5G services in these heartland towns is due to its recently completed wireless network upgrade, Spark's biggest ever.

“We enhanced our capacity by approximately 80% over the past two years. This included building new cell sites and the extensive rollout of 4.5G, which significantly enhances network performance and capacity relative to conventional 4G,” Beder says.

“As we did in Alexandra, we are using 2600 MHz spectrum to bring these 5G services to New Zealand. We will still offer 4G services in these towns, but over our other spectrum bands.

“This 5G Discover wireless broadband service is a great way to demonstrate the possibilities of 5G, but our preference will always be C band (3500 MHz) as we believe this will be the primary spectrum band for mass deployment of 5G.

“Acquiring enough C band spectrum is an important requirement for all wireless network operators. As the spectrum is released we'll be bringing more services, which well roll out over time,” he says.

The Spark 5G services in the five towns use the latest Nokia 5G radio equipment including a smart antenna system, which will provide optimised capacity and coverage compared to 4G.