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New 5G threat to rural broadband

Bridget Canning. PHOTO/FILE

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The introduction of a 5G mobile network could threaten rural broadband, say the Wireless Internet Service Providers Association of New Zealand [WISPA].

Wireless internet service providers [WISPs] provide broadband to around 70,000 business and homes through spectrum allocations.

President Mike Smith says there is a “real risk” the government may reallocate some of the spectrum currently used to provide broadband for rural customers to big mobile phone companies for the development of a 5G network.

“For WISPs less spectrum could mean having to either incur the cost of a whole lot of additional towers to service the current customer base or discontinue service to some customers completely.”

His concerns are shared by Bridget Canning from Wairarapa’s WIZWireless, which specialises in providing wireless broadband for rural users, shares his concerns.

“It certainly is a concern for rural people.”

Though 5G was a “great idea in theory”, she worried that those in the rural community would miss out as a result.

“In cities they will develop applications for 5G, but we really can’t see anything happening on the farms or even in small towns.

“For them to get more, someone else has to have less. Something is going to be lost,” she said.

The 4G service available is described as a network which operates on internet technology and combines it with other applications and technologies such as Wi-Fi, connecting to a mobile network with a SIM card.

The new 5G promises to be much faster.

In comparison, fixed broadband doesn’t rely on a cellular network like your phone and instead requires line of sight access between the subscriber and radio repeater.

Canning said their spectrum was “invaluable”, with their network covering areas in the Wairarapa and Tararua districts.

“In our radio network, every tower and every device in every house uses radio signals of one sort of another.

“Your mobile phone can go over a big distance but not with a lot of data and speed. The wireless systems go the opposite way – they can give you lots of data and lots of speed.”

She said losing spectrum would make the job more difficult and they’d have to come up with another solution, which could mean investing in more towers or even turning off services in some areas.


  1. In my area, which is rural Waipu, there are many bees, insects and birdlife. I am glad 5G possibly won’t be available here because the bees and birds and us human beings will be safe. As we’ve seen, the 5G network puts these creatures as well as ourselves at serious risk. There needs to be more tests to prove these towers and the frequencies they emit is safe for all sentient beings. I for one am satisfied with 4G. I don’t need a faster download speed nor do I need more data. We all need safety and our health to be top priority. Too many people are getting cancer and it is becoming more widely known that cell towers and constant radiation from wifi and cellphones is the cause. I vote for less which in the long run is more.

  2. The concern raised by WIZwireless is their current frequencies may be ‘taken’by Government for 5G which will only be viable for urban residents. If this happens, WISPs such as WIZwireless will struggle to meet their customers needs; their rural customers will suffer too. Not good to contemplate. Probably time to start complaining to one’s parliamentary representatives.

  3. 5G has been questioned by 230 scientists. There have been no safety guidelines set to protect all living organisms against the extreme hazards posed by 5G…a moratorium is needed while research independent from industry is carried out

  4. The whole idea of 5g is only going to be a reality for city dwelling people just because of the sheer number of towers and repeaters that will need to be cost effective to install. As always this won’t be a cost return scenario for rural folk who are scattered to great a distance for 5 g which has greater speed but limited range. Even the fibre network has not been rolled out to rural folk unless there was a school at the end of the line. The tech we have isn’t perfect but it works and do we really need the extra speed?

  5. 5g, well, were I live I cant even get a good reception for 2-3g.
    I do live in a rural area and only wifi is available.
    So how is 5g going to help me.

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