Rural Broadband NZ

If you live outside of an urban area, you may well be familiar with the challenges of finding a reliable broadband provider, and a high-speed broadband plan.

But, living in a rural area doesn’t mean that you need to resign yourself to a poor broadband connection. The government’s Rural Broadband Initiative (RBI) has made some changes to the types of broadband plans available to homes in rural areas.

There are likely to be several rural broadband providers, and rural broadband internet plans to choose from depending on where you live.

At Broadband Compare we aim to give you all the tools and information you need to compare rural broadband internet plans side-by-side to make an informed choice about the broadband products and services that are best for you.

What is the Rural Broadband Initiative (RBI)?

The Rural Broadband Initiative is a government initiative to bring broadband to rural areas. The RBI rollout is complementary to the UFB (Ultra-Fast Broadband) rollout. The initiative aimed to deliver better broadband to rural schools, health providers, some libraries and tens of thousands of residents.

In a perfect world every home across the country would have high-speed fibre, but this isn’t always practical outside of urban areas. So, the initiative used a combination of copper, fibre and wireless networks to improve connection speeds and overcome the technical and financial difficulties of line distance and low population density.

The RBI’s goal was for 90 percent of homes and businesses outside urban area to have broadband with peak download speeds of at least 5Mbps (megabits per second).

Under the Rural Broadband Initiative:

  • More than 3,500km of fibre cables were laid
  • Over 1,200 new broadband cabinets were installed or upgraded. This resulted in better broadband for about 110,000 homes and businesses!
  • Over 40,000 lines were enabled in rural areas, allowing homes and business that previously couldn’t to access broadband services 
  • Over 1,000 rural schools were connected to fibre broadband
  • Fibre access to 39 hospitals or integrated family health centres
  • Fibre access to 183 rural libraries
  • More than 150 new Vodafone cell sites connected to fibre providing fixed broadband

Broadband Options in Rural Areas

Where you live will determine the type of internet connection that is available and how fast it will be. If you live in a rural area and want to get broadband speed internet, your main options are:

  • ADSL broadband or VDSL broadband – These are “regular” broadband connections which are provided through existing copper phone lines. ADSL and VDSL Broadband connections are capable of high speeds, depending on where you live and how many other users are connected through the same broadband cabinet.
  • 4G or 3G wireless broadband - These ‘wireless’ broadband plans connect you to the internet  through the mobile phone network using 3G or 4G technology
  • Local wireless broadband networks – These are fast wireless networks that are offered in specific areas
  • Satellite - Satellite internet connections connect you to the internet with a satellite. They are useful if you live in an area that doesn’t have good wireless coverage
  • Fibre - An optical cable that delivers the fastest broadband speeds available

Enter your address into the Broadband Compare Address Finder for a customised list of the broadband plans available at your address.


ADSL & VDSL Internet in Rural Areas

ADSL and VDSL rural broadband nz is typically delivered over regular copper phone lines. But, the speed of your connection will depend on how far your home is from the exchange or cabinet – the closer you are the faster your internet will be. Typically your home will need to be closer than five to six kilometres from the exchange or cabinet.

Luckily around 30 percent of homes, farms and businesses are within 800m of a cabinet, meaning they can get VDSL which offers download speeds around 20Mbps. Homes in a wider radius, up to 6km from the cabinet, should be able to get an ADSL connection which averages around 1Mbps. If you are only getting around 1Mbps or you’re further away from your nearest cabinet you may wish to consider wireless broadband.

Installing an ADSL or VDSL connection is much simpler than installing fibre, because you are connected through your phone line, and most homes have phone lines installed. If you live close enough to the exchange or cabinet, choosing a broadband provider and getting your broadband set up should be relatively straightforward.

The main hitch can be if there are lots of other homes in your local area that are already connected. More users mean more traffic, so your speed may suffer during peak hours. If you live in a rural area with a VDSL or ADSL broadband connection, but are frustrated with your speed during peak times, you may wish to consider a Wireless Internet connection.

Enter your address into the Broadband Compare Address Finder to see if ADSL or VDSL broadband connections are available at your address.

3G and 4G Wireless Internet in Rural Areas

Wireless internet uses the 4G or 3G mobile network to connect you to the internet. The type of wireless internet connection you can use will depend on where you live. If you live in an area outside the 4G network, you may need to consider a 3G wireless connection.

The Rural Broadband Initiative (RBI) has improved connectivity and wireless broadband speeds available across large areas of New Zealand.

The two Wireless Broadband connection types available in New Zealand are:

  • 3G Wireless Internet - this refers to “third generation” mobile internet. 3G technology has been around longer so it offers better coverage than 4G, but it is slower. The 3G network was introduced in the early 2000s  and could transfer data from 200 kilobytes per second, enough to download an app or stream a small video
  • 4G Wireless Internet – stands for “fourth generation” mobile internet. Luckily, New Zealand has some of the fastest 4G speeds in the world. It is much faster than 3G with superior mobile connection speeds that are on par with ADSL and some home fibre broadband services. The 4G network is newer in New Zealand, so its coverage is not as extensive as the 3G network. If you live in a home within the 4G signal, it will be a better option than 3G

How much faster is a 4G wireless connection?

Well, if you live in an area with perfect signal conditions 4G can be up to 10 times faster than a 3G connection – potentially matching fibre (100Mbps). 3G wireless internet will be slower, delivering speeds of 20Mbps depending on signal conditions.

Just like a normal mobile phone signal – the speed and quality of your connection will depend on factors like the distance from the cell site, surrounding geography, and the number of other users during busy periods (usually 3pm-8pm).

If your phone connection isn’t great, keep in mind that the aerial that will installed on your roof will be much bigger than the one in your phone. Your wireless broadband reception should be much better than your phone connection.

How to set up 3G or 4G wireless internet

Setting up wireless broadband is relatively straightforward. If you live in a strong signal area, you can usually opt for a ‘plug and play’ option, where the wireless broadband signal is received directly through your modem.  You plan will either include, or you will need to purchase a suitable modem, which you simply plug in to connect.

If you live outside of the coverage area and have a weaker signal, a technician may need to install a directional aerial on your roof, and run cabling from the aerial to the modem.

Vodafone own and run the RBI network, but that doesn’t mean that you are required to use them to set up wireless broadband. You can choose to use a different internet provider, so it is worth taking the time to compare the options and make an informed choice about Wireless Broadband Providers. 

Local Wireless Broadband Plans

Local Wireless Broadband plans provide 3G or 4G wireless broadband across a specific geographical area.

For example, The Wiz Wireless network covers areas in the Wairarapa and parts of the Tararua Districts only. And, Primo Wireless are Taranaki owned and operated, and specialise in providing wireless broadband to remote Taranaki communities.

If a provider in your area offers a local Wireless Broadband network, you may find that they deliver better service, or have more expertise for your specific area than a national broadband provider.

Is Fibre Broadband available in Rural Areas?

If you hit the location jackpot, you may find that you can still get fibre broadband from a rural address.  This is because fibre has been installed in rural areas to connect schools and hospitals, so if you live nearby you may still be able to connect to the high-speed fibre network.

Simply enter your address into the Broadband Compare Address Finder for a customised list of the broadband plans available at your address. 

Fibre offers the fastest speeds around, so it’s worth considering it if you can get it.

Fibre broadband can be a bit more complicated to install if you live in an isolated area because it needs to be physically connected from the street to your house. Once you pick your broadband provider, they will work with you to figure out how fibre will be installed and what the costs may be.

The costs will depend on factors like the density of properties in your area, how far you are from the exchange or cabinet, and how far your home is from the road. This means it will probably be cheaper to get fibre installed if you live in a rural township than on a farm.

If you live in a high-use home with lots of people streaming videos, gaming, or working from home, then it may be worth the cost of installing fibre broadband. But, if you’re not sure that you want to invest in installing fibre, you may prefer to try out your local ADSL, VDSL or Wireless internet plans to see how they perform for you. You can always choose to upgrade to fibre at a later date!

Satellite in Rural Areas

If you are too remote for all the other options, then you can opt for Satellite broadband. This is the internet that is provided via a satellite signal which is received by a dish at your house. It can provide internet in even the most remote locations.

Satellite internet should usually be considered if you can’t receive other types of internet connections. It has traditionally been one of the highest cost options with the lowest data caps and slowest speeds.  However, satellite broadband plans are becoming more competitive, with no cap data plans available from some providers.

The satellite dishes for the internet, are usually larger than the type needed for Sky TV. The dish will need a clear view of the western or northern sky. The set up for satellite internet is similar to wireless broadband – you’ll need a technician to come and set up your dish.

Rural Broadband NZ

Rural Broadband Providers in New Zealand


Farmside deliver fast and reliable internet throughout New Zealand including extremely remote and hard to reach places. They offer a full range of connection types to suit homes in rural areas – including Wireless, Satellite, VDSL and ADSL. Their selection of phoneline services include Landlinse, Wireless Phone, Farmside Voice (VoIP) and Mobile plans.

Farmside’s expertise lie in providing broadband access to the high percentage of New Zealanders who live beyond city boundaries, and experience difficulties with broadband access and performance due to limitations in their local broadband infrastructure.

Farmside has overcome these barriers by developing a reliable rural broadband nz network that spans the ensure country.

Farmside has thousands of farmers and other rural dwellers regardless of distance from an urban centre, isolated location or challenging topography.

Compare Farmside Rural & Wireless Plans

Spark Rural Broadband

Spark Wireless Broadband is a fast broadband service for residential customers in rural areas. Spark connect your home to the internet through Spark’s rural 4G network, offering a connection that should be better than ADSL broadband.

Spark offer two Rural Wireless Broadband Packages:

  1. Rural Wireless Broadband and Landline – this option comes with a landline, phone number and broadband connection. 
  2. Rural Wireless Broadband – offers a broadband connection only, if you don’t need a landline or phone number. 

Spark’s Rural Broadband plans currently come with a number of extra – including Lightbox, Spark Security Suite, email, 24/7 Help and Support, and more.

Compare Spark Rural & Wireless Plans

Vodafone Rural Broadband

Vodafone were a key partner in rolling out the Rural Broadband Initiative (RBI), which makes them a great option if you are looking for a Rural Broadband Provider. Vodafone offer some great solutions for rural communities under the Rural Broadband Initiative.

Vodafone Rural Broadband customers can access a fast and reliable internet connection over 3G and 4G for remote and hard to reach locations.

Depending on where you live, you can choose between a 3G and 4G Aerial connection. A technician will be require to install an aerial and set up the broadband service. If you live in an area with very good or excellent Vodafone 4G coverage you can opt for “4G Plug and Play”. Simply sign up for Vodafone Rural Broadband, purchase a superfast 4G modem and you should be good to go!

Compare Vodafone Rural & Wireless Plans

Wireless Nation

Wireless Nation specialise in providing internet access anywhere you want it. They pride themselves on being an innovative internet service provider (ISP) who provides fast broadband access anywhere in New Zealand.

They have been connecting urban and rural homes and businesses for more than 10 years using a mix of technology including RBI, fibre, custom wireless solutions and satellite.

Wireless Nation offers their rural customers a choice of Broadband only plans, or Broadband and phone bundles – through the RBI network or by satellite.

Compare Wireless Nation Rural & Wireless Plans

Wiz Wireless

Wiz Wireless pride themselves on offering world-class rural and urban broadband Wairarapa wide.

The Wiz Wireless network covers areas in the Wairarapa and parts of the Tararua Districts only. They provide high-quality broadband in hard to reach places that national operators may not cover because of low population density and challenging topography.

Wiz Wireless offer a variety of broadband internet speed and data options to suit everyone – farms, homes and businesses. They offer both terrestrial wireless over their own broadband network and Rural Zone over the 3G/4G RBI1 network.

Compare Wiz Wireless Rural and Wireless Plans

Primo Wireless

Primo Wireless brings Ultrafast broadband services to Taranaki homes, businesses, schools and farms. Primo Wireless are truly local, they are 100% Taranaki owned and operated, and specialise in providing wireless broadband to remote Taranaki communities.

Primo Wireless have a local team to offer customers free technical phone support and customer service.

Their ultrafast broadband is backed up by their own high speed rural wireless network across Taranaki. And, they’re a local regional service provider for the Ultra-Fast Fibre network, and Rural Broadband Initiative (RBI)

Compare Primo Wireless Rural & Wireless Plans


Netspeed develop, maintain and market internet connection services for a range of small & medium sized businesses, farms and residential users. Netspeed pride themselves in being professional, cost-effective and easy to navigate.

Compare Netspeed Plans

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