Sunday, December 3, 2023

ALTERNATIVE VIEW: 5G is a threat to rural internet

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The 2019 Rugby World Cup has come and gone with gone being the operative word in New Zealand’s case. For the record, I haven’t found anyone who begrudges England their victory over the All Blacks. We were totally out played.
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Even my 10-year-old grandson Jack, a passionate and fervent supporter of the ABs, told me England deserved its win.

The final was a showstopper and, again, congratulations to South Africa.

What the Rugby World Cup did show was the grossly inadequate telecommunication services in many parts of rural NZ.

As a result, relatively few Kiwis watched the RWC, live which must have damaged Rugby NZ’s brand.

I have friends who are Spark customers. They received a letter telling them their Spark service was too slow for the streaming. My reaction to that would be simple – fix it.

Spark, showing its usual contempt for those in the provinces, didn’t.

It massively publicised the 4G wireless network to get people off copper landlines so Spark could keep the money as against paying Chorus the landline rental.

The 4G network is a waste of space for those in the provinces who want to watch any streaming services and that includes the RWC.

For the uninitiated 3G and 4G are cellular networks. They use the same technology as your cell phone does. As Spark itself has admitted they don’t do streaming.

I’m at a loss to figure why Spark would take the RWC from Sky while knowing most of its provincial subscribers wouldn’t be able to receive it at the recommended speeds advertised on its website. The service is just too slow as Spark would have known.

Conversely, we’re on the Wairarapa wireless system, WIZwireless, and our reception was superb. I have no complaints whatsoever.

We watched all the games and didn’t have a problem. I was only grateful I had WIZwireless, unlike my neighbour on Spark who didn’t have fast enough internet.

WIZwireless is one of about 40 provincial internet providers. As the name suggests it uses wireless technology and that is fast enough for streaming. In my case I can edit a DVD from the office in far-flung rural Wairarapa.

When the big telcos weren’t interested in the provinces these wireless internet providers stepped up. In the case of WIZwireless it was two Tinui farmers who put up the cash and got the show on the road. 

As one of 70,000 rural households connected to terrestrial wireless internet rather than the mobile network of the big operators Spark, Vodafone or 2 Degrees I was pleased with the RWC coverage but ecstatic with the service we’ve been receiving over the years.

The problem is our rural wireless networks are under threat from the 5G network.

The big firms want, for their big city 5G, the wireless spectrum local operators are using .

The big telcos are spending an absolute fortune on flashy advertisements about the benefits of 5G. 

They’ll be spending a fortune on political lobbying, donations and all the tricks of the trade to get their 5G.

The iniquity is that Stuff published what I believe was an absolutely spurious, self-congratulatory article from the Rural Connectivity Group owned by Spark, Vodafone and 2 Degrees. 

Their apologist told me 3G and 4G provided a world-first in terms of mobile and broadband services to rural users.

Great, it’s not up to the speed of the private rural wireless users and you couldn’t watch the RWC on it. 

There are about 40 rural wireless internet providers relying on wireless spectrum for their services.

That spectrum is now under threat from the future use of 5G and could mean our rural wireless internet services won’t be able to operate as they do now.

Rural wireless internet providers don’t have the resources to do any of the tricks the big people do.

The key is the GURL, the General User Radio Licence that guarantees wireless operators their spectrum.

Spark, Vodaphone and 2 Degrees want more of it.

Once it is gone it is lost forever.

The issue is that 70,000 rural customers, the productive sector, is surely more important for the benefit of the country than the big city 5G is.

The chance of usable 5G ever getting to rural Wairarapa is zip.

There’s every chance it will get to central Auckland but my issue is that central Auckland has massive telecommunications options now including fibre.

The Government, under Broadcastings, Communications and Digital Media and Commerce and Consumer Affairs Minister Kris Fafoi has put resources into the rural wireless internet and that is appreciated.

I just hope the Government will hold out on the 5G spectrum, do its own research and listen to all the operators so the provinces can continue to enjoy good internet services.

We’re isolated and need good systems. We’re never going to get fibre but we can work with wireless. 

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