A Guide to Rural Internet and 5G

Rural Internet and 5G
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Many internet users have been hearing and reading a lot about 5G in recent months, particularly relating to the rollout of this latest cellular network in many parts of Aotearoa. But where does NZ’s rural community stand? Below, you can learn more about 5G and its relevance for those living a little off the beaten track.  

What Is 5G? 

5G means 5th generation, the most current cellular network after 2G, 3G, and 4G. Comparing 5G to previous generations, it’s more technologically advanced while still using frequencies in the same range as 4G. 

All cellular networks in Aotearoa transmit data with radio waves (electromagnetic radiation), which vary in frequency and intensity. The frequency and intensity of these waves determine the data volume, signal strength, and harmlessness. 

While our 5G network uses frequencies akin to those used for 4G, that is set to change in the future. 5G will eventually utilise lower wavelength waves, called millimetre waves, which are closer in frequency to what vehicle radars and satellite communications use. 

Which Parts of the Country Already Have 5G? 

Just as fibre broadband was slowly rolled out across the country, we’ve seen something similar with 5G. Some providers launched it in limited locations, and initial trials were carried out in Alexandra, Central Otago, before being extended to Westport and Hokitika on the West Coast, Twizel in the Mackenzie District, and Clyde in Central Otago.  

Mobile users can also now enjoy a 5G mobile service in Dunedin, New Plymouth, Palmerston North, Te Awamutu, Takapuna, and downtown Auckland. In 2019, a competing provider also offered 5G in Queenstown, Christchurch, Wellington, and other parts of Auckland.

What About Rural New Zealand? 

When you learn that 5G is being rolled out in many parts of Aotearoa New Zealand, it’s only natural to be curious whether rural areas will be treated to the same advancements. 

It’s complicated.

New infrastructure is required for 5G, and telecommunication companies will need to work together to share that infrastructure to reduce costs and make 5G accessible for all – including people living in rural areas.

However, that’s not to say it won’t happen in the future. We already have a Rural Connectivity Group to expand 4G coverage, so there’s potential for the same or a similar group to roll out 5G.  

There is also the concern of aesthetics to consider, with the Ministry for the Environment (Manatū Mō Te Taiao) weighing in on anything that might impact the visual appeal of rural communities. However, with the potential for operators to share infrastructure, the number of structures that would need to be installed to provide 5G might be reduced.  

Why Are Rural New Zealanders Missing Out? 

Living in a rural part of New Zealand can sometimes make it feel like you miss out on everything. Most rural New Zealanders can’t even access pizza delivery, let alone something as advanced as 5G. But why are rural Kiwis missing out? 

Often, it’s to do with 5G access points, which must connect to the network – often via fibre. This isn’t an issue in most urban areas since most streets now have those access points. However, with many rural areas still lacking fibre, this would have to be the first step towards ensuring rural properties could have access to 5G. 

5G also has a shorter wavelength, which means it can carry data much faster than 4G. However, it also has a shorter range. 5G providers combat this problem by having multiple access points in areas where 5G is accessible. If they offered the same service in rural areas, they would need access points on almost all farms and lifestyle blocks. 

In the future, we might see 5G added to existing rural towers, but consumers might not see any improvements in their speeds and pricing, making it essentially redundant for now. 

What Are the Benefits Of 5G? 

So, why are people raving about 5G? This cellular network does boast a wide range of benefits. Compared to 4G, it offers faster upload and download speeds, which might be desirable for businesses heavily reliant on the internet for productivity. 

The lower latency is also desirable as it can often mean you experience shorter delays while streaming content and playing online games. More connectivity is a surprising benefit, too, since it means more devices, such as smart gadgets, can connect to each other. 

No 5G? You Have Options 

It doesn’t seem like 5G will be available on all rural properties any time soon, but that doesn’t mean rural internet users have to miss out. Woi offers an internet plan for every rural Kiwi, with ultra-fast unlimited broadband more within reach than you might think.

There are many different plans to suit all lifestyles, including satellite internet, wireless internet, rural internet plans, and more. You can learn about internet plans and pricing here, or phone Woi on 0800 438 964 to find out more.