Operators propose to deploy 500 new cell sites with a view to increasing landmass coverage by 25%.

New Zealand mobile operators Spark, 2degrees and Vodafone this week made a joint pitch for the government’s Rural Broadband Initiative (RBI), which aims to pass 99% of the population with 50-Mbps networks by 2025.

New Zealand issued a request for proposals (RFP) for phase two of the RBI, called RBI2, in October 2016. The RFP also included the Mobile Black Spot Fund (MBSF), which as the name suggests, aims to improve mobile coverage, with a focus on major roads and popular tourist destinations. NZ$100 million (€65.3 million) has been allocated to RBI2, and further NZ$50 million to the MBSF.

The three operators propose to contribute NZ$75 million towards building and operating 500 new cell sites, extending coverage of New Zealand’s landmass by 25%. Under the plan, thousands of households and businesses would be covered, as would 1,200 km of state highways.

"2degrees has a proud history of investment and innovation in New Zealand, we are therefore very happy to be part of this proposal to address the digital inequity between urban and rural communities," said 2degrees CEO Stewart Sherriff.

Under the MBSF, there is a minimum requirement to provide 3G voice services, with 4G preferred in tourist areas. Contracts for the project are due to be awarded by June.

"If successful this joint infrastructure investment bid will enable 2degrees to compete strongly to provide rural households and businesses – and domestic and international tourists – with the products and services they deserve," Sherriff said.