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NZ Telecommunications Forum Provides A Q&A On Connectivity During Covid-19

Telecommunications is essential infrastructure at any time, but it is especially top of mind during the current Covid-19 lockdown. Many New Zealanders will be asking themselves if they have the best connection for their needs during this time.

It’s helpful for New Zealanders to have an understanding of how the different networks function, in order to make the best decision for their household.

What is the difference between fixed line, wireless and mobile connectivity?

  • A fixed line connection is a fibre or copper line or cable into your home that provides broadband and/or voice services over an Ethernet cable or Wi-Fi.
  • A fixed wireless connection uses the mobile network to deliver a broadband connection and/or a voice service into your home over Wi-Fi.
  • A mobile connection uses the mobile network to deliver a broadband connection and/or voice service both inside and outside your home, via mobile-enabled devices. These devices can also be connected to a fixed service via Wi-Fi.
  • People who live in very remote areas may have satellite connections.

What is the difference between making a phone call and using a video conferencing or messaging app to communicate?

Phone calls using your mobile phone or landline are mostly connected using dedicated voice services. A video conference or messaging app uses data over a broadband service. An important difference is that voice calls to 111 are prioritised when they are made via dedicated voice services.

Will I be able to upgrade to get faster internet speeds during the Covid-19 lockdown?

This depends on what plan you currently have, and what technology is available in your area. Contacting your service provider – the company that provides your internet and/or phone service – is the best place to start as they will be able to advise you on what services are available to you. It is best to contact your provider via their website during this time.

If you are on a copper connection, you may be able to upgrade from ADSL to faster VDSL technology – but this depends on how close your house is to a street cabinet or an exchange. It may also be possible to switch to a fixed wireless connection if that is more suitable for your location and connectivity needs. Neither option requires a technician to visit your home.

If you live in an area that has fibre available, you may still be able to get this connected during the Covid-19 Alert Level 4 lockdown provided you can demonstrate an essential need or that you do not currently have an existing broadband service at your home. If your house already has the fibre equipment installed but you are not currently receiving a fibre service, you can order a fibre service and it can be activated remotely and will not require a technician to visit your house.

It is expected that standard connections will resume as we come out of lockdown. You can still order a fibre service now in advance of this.

Finally, if you are on a lower speed fibre connection, such as a 30Mbps plan, you can easily upgrade your plan now to enable faster speeds with greater capacity as this does not require a technician to visit your house.

Does it depend on where I live as to what plan I can get?

Yes, location can play a part in the type of connectivity available to you, that’s why it’s important to speak to your provider about the best option for your household. You can also see what access technology is available to you by checking the national broadband map:

Is there any way I can improve my home network without upgrading my plan or technology?

A good place to start is to take a look at your home broadband set up, see here for more information:

Can I get a plan from Chorus, or one of the other Local Fibre Companies Enable, Northpower or UltraFast Fibre?

No, internet plans are sold by Retail Service Providers (RSPs) of which there are around 80 in New Zealand. Chorus, along with Enable, Northpower and UltraFast Fibre, are wholesalers who sell the underlying broadband service to the retailers.

Enable built the fibre network in Christchurch, Northpower in Whangarei, and UltraFast Fibre in the central North Island. Chorus has built the fibre network in the rest of the country. In addition, Chorus owns the copper network throughout the country.

With most of New Zealand in lockdown due to Covid-19 do the networks have enough capacity to cope?

Over the past ten years the telecommunications sector has made huge investments in upgrading our infrastructure. We have built an entirely new fibre networks, significantly upgraded rural connectivity, and evolved our mobile networks from 2G to 3G and then to 4G connectivity.

New Zealand’s shift into alert level 4 lockdown saw hundreds of thousands of employees taking to video-conferencing from home, school children and university students shifting their learning online and the use of entertainment and communication platforms climbing sharply. Despite this unprecedented demand for reliable connectivity New Zealand’s networks have stood up to this demand.

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