Rural Broadband

The Rural Broadband Initiative (RBI) is bringing better broadband to rural schools, health providers, some libraries and tens of thousands of rural residents. RBI pulls together copper, fibre and wireless networks to deliver improved services and better broadband to 87% of rural New Zealand with almost all rural schools connecting to fibre.

The Rural Broadband Initiative

The Rural Broadband Initiative (RBI) is bringing better broadband to rural schools, health providers, some libraries and to date, over 81,000 rural phone lines.

Distance is no longer a barrier to children going to rural schools as they'll get up to 100Mbps access to broadband.

RBI was conceived when the Government acknowledged the challenge of delivering better broadband to rural areas, with line distance and low population density making it difficult both technically and financially. 

We're working with Vodafone to deliver the Government's RBI programme which will see much of rural New Zealand get better broadband.

RBI pulls together several elements to bring 87% of rural New Zealand ADSL2+ or VDSL broadband using copper, fibre and wireless networks to deliver better broadband. Where you live and work determines what solution we provide you - either fixed line broadband (over our copper and fibre networks) or fixed wireless broadband (over Vodafone's mobile network).

Our role 

Our main focus is laying fibre to rural schools, medical facilities and some libraries, often to exchange areas with no fibre.

We're installing around 1,200 fibre-fed cabinets to rural areas to give fixed line broadband access to around 57% of rural New Zealand. Over 30% of homes, farms and businesses supplied via our new cabinets can now access a VDSL broadband service with speeds in excess of 20Mbps. This is the fastest service over our existing copper network.

We're also delivering fibre to new Vodafone mobile sites that'll be used to provide a fixed wireless broadband to rural communities.

We've made great progess and are now well past the halfway mark in our rollout of fibre and high speed broadband cabinets. As at 31 December 2014, a total of about 3,100km of fibre has been laid for the programme, with fibre extended to 965 schools. The rollout has also brought new or upgraded broadband coverage within reach of 81,000 rural lines with broadband uptake approximately 84%.

As at 31 December 2014, we've laid 3,100km of fibre, brought 81,000 lines within reach of better broadband and connected 965 rural schools to fibre.

By the end of 2015, we'll have:

  • laid 3,350km of fibre
  • installed or upgraded over 1,000 new broadband cabinets
  • enabled over 40,000 lines in rural areas to access broadband services that had no previous access
  • connected over 1,000 rural schools to fibre
  • connected 154 new Vodafone cell sites to fibre
  • given fibre access to 50 hospitals and integrated family health centres and 183 rural libraries

See what broadband services are currently available at your address with our Broadband Capability Map. This will also give you an idea of planned upgrades to improve your broadband services.

Broadband speed (Mbps) Rural lines within reach (%)
Technology Distance from cabinet/exchange
5 57 ADSL (copper) Up to 6km
10 50 ADSL2+ (copper) Up to 2.4km
20 34 VDSL (copper) Around 800m
100 6 GPON (fibre) Around 20km but eligibility criteria applies

Fibre eligibility 

We're now offering fibre connections to eligible farms, businesses and homes where new duct infrastructure has been laid, in which fibre has been deployed as part of RBI, enabling broadband speed of up to 100Mbps. Check our Rural Fibre map which shows where new infrastructure ducts have been deployed. For more information including details of installation costs and plans, please contact your broadband provider.

We can't cover all rural areas 

The challenge of distances and low population density means we can't deliver faster fixed line broadband to all of New Zealand. We've partnered with Vodafone to deliver fixed wireless broadband to 86% of rural households.

We use Digital Subscriber Line (DSL) technology to deliver broadband services over our copper network. Due to the resistence inherent in copper lines, the maximum distance we can push a broadband signal from an exchange or cabinet is around five to six kilometres. The closer you are to the cabinet or exchange, the faster your broadband speed. If you're within 800m of our fibre-fed cabinets, you could get broadband speeds in excess of 20Mbps but at five to six kilometres, you're likely to get around 1Mbps. 

Read more about distance and the challenge of delivering broadband over copper.

We regularly review our investment plans but our capital expenditure only stretches so far. If you're unhappy with your broadband speeds or can't get broadband at all, you can:

  • see if you can access Vodafone's RBI fixed wireless broadband service.
  • Google your region and 'wireless broadband provider' as there are a number of regional wireless broadband providers who could help. 
  • consider a satellite broadband service such as Farmside or Wireless Nation.
  • work with your local community to identify opportunities created by the fibre connection to your school.

In the meantime, please register your community's interest for the next round of rural broadband funding with The Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment (MBIE). Please note we have no indication from MBIE as to the likely policy settings, priorities or timing for the release of any funding to go towards improving rural broadband.

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Click on "Pages" or "Next Page" to find information on trenching and telecommunications lead-ins.

Fibre to rural communities

Our main focus in RBI is delivering fibre to rural schools, libraries, cell sites, hospitals and medical facilities. To achieve this as efficiently as possible, we've leveraged our existing network and only built new duct infrastructure to reach these priority users.

Fibre is also available to eligible farms, homes, businesses and marae adjacent to new duct routes indicated on the below map. Search your address to see if you can access fibre and talk to a broadband provider about availability, plans and installation costs

The cost of the work involved in connecting you to fibre depends on:

  • density of properties in an area
  • distance from the exchange or cabinet
  • distance of the premises from the road

You can only connect to RBI fibre in areas where we have dug trenches and installed new ducts. You'll need a trench dug from the road to your premises. If this is longer than 10 - 15 metres, you may prefer to do this yourself to an acceptable standard so we can place our fibre there.

More complex builds require a design and price on application approach. Your broadband provider can discuss these costs with you which can vary e.g. a rural town adjacent to the fibre will be cheaper to connect than a farm outside of town.

Search your address to see RBI fibre access

Please note:

  • The map gives an indication of our network capability so you'll need a broadband provider that offers services over our network.
  • The map shows fibre currently available not the full fibre rollout under RBI.
  • There will be installation costs which your broadband provider will provide. Work will not begin until you accept the costs. You can provide your own trenching but we need to inspect it before going ahead with the install.
  • Installation involves getting fibre from the roadside into your property and includes an external termination point (ETP) outside and an optical network terminal (ONT) inside your property.
  • The service and speed you'll get depends on your broadband provider and location.

Delivering fibre to schools

Under both the Rural Broadband Initiative (RBI) and the Ultra-fast Broadband (UFB) rollout, we're delivering fibre to New Zealand schools.

97.7% of schools and 99.9% of students will receive ultra-fast broadband capability by 2016.

This is an exciting development for Kiwi kids, particularly those at rural schools where good broadband access has been a challenge in the past.

We're delivering fibre to over 1,000 rural schools and more than 800 urban schools. Urban and most rural schools will have a broadband connection capable of delivering up to 100Mbps.

Around 2.3% of schools are in areas of New Zealand that are too remote for fibre, so they will receive improved access to broadband services via wireless. A small number of schools will receive satellite services.

More information on the fibre rollout programme for schools is available on the Ministry of Education website.

Connect your school

Getting fibre to your school often involves building a new connection to the school gate. In rural areas this can involve digging trenches and laying ducts over distances.

See our regularly updated list of schools and delivery dates:

Once your school has fibre, order a service with a broadband provider or Network for Learning.

Once we have fibre to the school gate, you can order a service from your broadband provider or Network for Learning. If your current provider is not offering fibre-based services, click on your region below for a list of providers offering solutions for schools.

Once you place an order with your provider, we send a service technician to look at the best way to get fibre from the gate to your school. The technician will work with the school's staff to come up with a plan which takes into account the school's current communications infrastructure and what type of service they'll use.

Service providers for schools

These telecommunications service providers offer fibre-based services to schools:

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West Coast



Superfast broadband to Okarito

Okarito on the South Island's West Coast is the real New Zealand - wild and beautiful but its remote location and small population made it challenging and expensive for us to deliver them good broadband services. However, this small passionate and determined community worked together and now have broadband with speeds in excess of 20Mbps over VDSL.

Drive 127km south of Hokitika on State Highway 6 on the wild West Coast and you get to the idyllic coastal township of Okarito. The Southern Alps provide the backdrop and the town itself is built on a sandspit in the Okarito Lagoon. Its setting makes it ideal for bird life, in particular the kotuku or white heron. Around 30 families permanently make their home there, growing over holidays when bach owners move in as well as a good number of tourists calling in on their way to Franz Joseph.

Okarito had broadband but with most residents getting 1 to 2 Mbps, it didn't allow them to watch TV on demand, download movies and shop online or for local businesses to run websites and take online bookings.

The Okarito Community Association had been in discussions with Chorus and local MPs. From our perspective, Okarito had access to broadband and the existing equipment was only about 50% utilised. Unfortunately due to the size of the community and the lack of a school, Okarito wasn't covered by the Rural Broadband Initiative.

We assessed what needed to be done to improve broadband services but saw that:

  • fibre was already available to provide increased backhaul capacity
  • the existing cabinet was capable of being upgraded

As Okarito was not covered by the UFB and RBI build programmes, there was limited funding available, so we worked with the Okarito community to come up with a plan that allowed us to provide the network solution, with the community providing the funding.

On Friday 7 March 2014, our Industry & Comms Manager Gerard Linstrom travelled to Okarito to sign a community-funded upgrade contract. This gave the community the opportunity to ask questions about what was going to be delivered and the service they could expect once the upgrade was complete.

Okarito is remote
The road to Okarito
We sign the agreement

What the locals have to say 

A message from Ian James of the Okarito Community Assocation

Small rural communities all over New Zealand complain about the lack of access to good internet. Okarito residents took the initiative and fully funded an internet upgrade to their community.  

A majority of members believe that high speed broadband is an essential infrastructure for rural communities. Without city-grade internet it is difficult to attract new residents.  That affects everyone through living in a shrinking community and lower property values.

Okarito was one of the first places on the West Coast to gain a fibre cable 12 years ago.  The cable was initiated after lobbying from local businesses unable to operate in the village without infrastructure better than four copper lines from Whataroa. That fibre cable and associated ADSL1 hardware provided a basic internet service.  

Delivering better broadband services to Okarito was a real challenge.The town is not included in the Rural Broadband Initiative. We don’t meet the basic requirements of having sufficient people, nor a school or a local health clinic. There was no alternative on the horizon but to fund an upgrade ourselves.

Two options were researched, an independant radio signal involving remote repeaters, and a Chorus proposal to upgrade the local exchange box from ADSL1 to ADSL2+. The Chorus proposal was the preferred option at a cost of $35,000 + GST.  

The upgrade was completed in June 2014 and has provided a “city” grade service. Chorus provided a 900Mbit backhaul connection with capability for ADSL2+, VDSL, and individual fibre connections in the future.  This involved replacing the current Chorus cabinet, installing Alcatel ISAM unit providing ADSL2+ and VDSL service. Additionally, Chorus allocated a fibre to provide 1Gbit/s backhaul to Greymouth, the handover point for wholesale DSL services to connect to.

Residents have now had six months to see the full impact of a better service. Local downloads now range between 6-15 Mbit/s download speed for ADSL2+ service and 25–70 Mbit/s download speed for VDSL.

For residents and business alike, the upgrade has removed much of the frustrations involved in sending and receiving data. The village is undergoing a revival, especially this year, with many visitors staying overnight able to tap into Wi-Fi provided at several holiday houses.  

I asked several residents about their experience with the upgrade and here are their comments:

“Makes our business competitive again in being able to rapidly upload large files.”

“Nice to have internet service that is reliable and consistent for our business”

“Satisfied with new internet that is reliable and fast enough”

“Noticeable improvement - that is great”

“YouTube runs without long pauses”

“Great, wish we had a cell service as well”

“Being close to the exchange box I get over 70 Mbit/s down"

A good local internet is a big factor affecting prospective new residents.  There are several couples, looking to Okarito as a home place, who regard city-grade internet as an essential requirement.

No local cell coverage remains a problem. Okarito is an icon in the growing tourist market with up to 100 people bed-nights over summer and several hundred daily visitors during the peak season. Lack of cell coverage affects visitors. It also makes the village vulnerable in a civil defence emergency, e.g. earthquake or tsunami. Cell coverage is a vital communication link in such an event. The upgrade will make it possible for telcos to provide a cell service.

Finally, I would say that Chorus’s performance in upgrading the exchange was first class.  The whole system was up and running within a few weeks and has run consistently since.

Ian James - Okarito Community Association

The tyranny of distance

We understand the importance of good broadband connections in rural New Zealand. The RBI gives us the opportunity to deploy around 1,200 fibre-fed cabinets to rural areas delivering fibre to over 1,000 rural schools.

Rural cabinets

Broadband pedestal installed to provide additional space
S300 which delivers voice services for 240 lines
New RBI cabinet delivering VDSL

Copper built for voice 

Attenuation is the gradual loss in intensity of any kind of flux through a medium such as the reduction in signal strength due to length of your copper phone line.

Our copper network was designed to carry phone calls and has done the job well for over 100 years. The configuration of exchanges, cabinets and copper lines was focused on delivering a great phone call. One of the challenges of delivering phone and broadband services over copper lines is attenuation, meaning the further you're away from our exchange or cabinet, the poorer your phone service and broadband speed will be.

Loading coils

We've had to add components to our network, including loading coils, to deliver good voice services and we now use that network to deliver broadband services.

Loading coils were built into our copper network to amplify voice signals to travel further. These extend the reach of voice services on long cables from our exchange or cabinet to your property. However, they can't deliver a Digital Subscriber Line (DSL) broadband service over that line.

DSL broadband services can travel a max of 6km 

We can push a broadband signal no further than five to six kilometres over a copper line.

Broadband allows us to send multiple signals and traffic types along the copper line simultaneously. So, we can receive a phone call while surfing the net!

We use a number of DSL technologies to deliver broadband signals over our copper network - ADSL, ADSL2+ and VDSL. The speed you receive using each of these technologies is very dependent on the distance you are from our exchange or cabinet:

Technology Distance from cabinet/exchange Broadband speed % rural lines within reach
ADSL (copper) up to 6km up to 5Mbps 57%
ADSL2+ (copper) up to 2.4km 10Mbps 50%
VDSL (copper) around 800m 20Mbps 34%
GPON (fibre) installation cost the limiting factor 100Mpbs  6%

We've been able to rollout fibre-fed cabinets to rural areas due to RBI delivering fibre to the local school.

We use fibre to extend the reach of our copper network as it's not subject to the same distance constraints as copper. A key part of improving broadband services to 72,000 rural households has been to install fibre-fed cabinets deeper into rural areas allowing us to make the most of the five to six kilometre reach of DSL broadband. If you're close to one of our new cabinets, you can potentially access a VDSL service, with speeds faster than 20Mbps.

Installing fibre and cabinets is expensive and it wouldn't have been feasible without the RBI programme. Fibre has been delivered to most rural schools under RBI. There is extra capacity in the fibre cables that have been installed to the local school. Over time, we'll see different models emerge for using this capacity to deliver better broadband to more rural households.

Growing rural broadband capacity 

As we install more cabinets, we also make available more broadband ports, the connection from your phone line to our network to deliver broadband services. 

Older rural cabinets only have about half the number of broadband ports as phone lines serviced by the cabinet. Rural customers have been regularly told they are on the "waiters" list - you can't get a broadband service unless one of your neighbours relinquishes their service and the all important broadband port.

Our new cabinets have a broadband port for each phone line, and many have spare capacity or at least room for additional broadband equipment to meet increasing demand.

Electric fences

Do you hear a tick-tick-tick sound on your phone line? It could be interference from electric fences that are poorly constructed or not earthed correctly - a common challenge in rural areas. These cause noise, typically a clicking sound, on phone lines and can make broadband connections slow or cause disconnections.

When electric fences are installed correctly, there's minimal impact on phone services. Broadband is less affected than dial-up as it uses higher frequencies. Chat to your broadband provider if you'd like to upgrade.

Your electric fence could be interfering with your phone and broadband connections and causing similar problems for your neighbours.

It can be difficult to work out what or who is causing the problem as it can be anywhere along the line - from the exchange, cabinet, to the furthest connection on the line. An issue at your property could be impacting someone several kilometres away.

We, along with Gallaghers (world leaders in electric fencing), recommend the following approach. If this doesn't solve your problem, you need to arrange with your neighbours and others on the same phone line to turn off one fence at a time to identify where the interference is coming from.


1. Find the phone lines

Some phone lines are buried and others overhead but they usually run along roadsides and driveways so look for marker posts or grey connection pillars. We also provide a service called BeforeUdig to help find underground cables.

2. Find electric fences and connecting leads

These run parallel to phone lines or cables. A 'leaky' fence with high current can be a problem, even when 100m or more from the line.

3. Check the current in your electric fence near the phone line

This should be less than 2amps per kilometre of fence. Locate and fix any shorts if necessary.

4. If current is high, make sure the section of fence close to the phone cable is at tail-end of fence

Feed the main supply through sections of the fence further from the phone cable.

5. Check earthing system meets manufacturer instructions

It needs to be at least 10m from buildings or another earthing system. Check the energiser earth electrode connecting lead and output leads are well clear of phone lines.

More information

Gallagher have excellent information on their website, including setting up electric fences correctly and you can download a copy of their "Is your electric fence phone and net friendly?" brochure.