The Government would get “more bang for its buck” if it used wireless fibre internet instead of trenching in fibre cables, a Waimate Community Wireless Trust spokesman says.

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) invested $2 billion in faster broadband through two major initiatives – Ultra-Fast Broadband (UFB) and the Rural Broadband Initiative (RBI).

The UFB would use fibreoptic cables to deliver fibre to 85 per cent of New Zealanders by the end of 2024.

Trust operating manager Matt Hampton said he was delighted the Government had invested in better internet accessibility for rural areas as it levelled the playing field.

Why pay all that money for trenching when Waimate has fibre access today.”

The UFB could be several years away from many rural towns, when the Waimate Community Trust – a not-for-profit organisation – had a “low-cost alternative to trenching”.

“One could assume that the Government could get more bang for its buck by looking for wireless networks,” Hampton said.

Chorus communications manager Steve Pettigrew said it would not be possible to use wireless as it had a Government contract to provide fibre to the home or to the premises.

This meant that even if fibre was brought to the first floor of an apartment building, wireless could not be used to connect upper apartments, Pettigrew said.

When ultrafast broadband was first discussed, “I don’t think wireless had the capacity to handle [the growth]”.

Wireless had improved, but it still used a shared spectrum, which meant the more people using it, the less available bandwidth, he said.

When video-streaming applications were used, which were “killer applications for broadband”, a viewer would start to get buffering.

The increase in streaming usages showed no sign of slowing down, Pettigrew said.

“You get a regular speed dedicated for you” with a fixed copper or fibre connection, he said.

Hampton disputed these comments and said the fibre connection would have the same issues.

“There’s no real difference between using physical cables and wireless” as they would both be impacted by the distance from the exchange and multiple connections, he said.

The wireless fibre was “well up to spec in transmission”, Hampton said.

Pettigrew said wireless fibre internet was a “good thing for some towns, which have not got UFB”, especially as it could be years away.

MBIE building, resources and markets ICT police and programmes manager Jane Tier said the UFB used fibre ptic cables to deliver fibre to premises.

But phase two of the RBI could improve internet speeds for areas outside of the UFB areas, she said.

The RBI was out for tender until April 3, and regional operators were encouraged to participate with innovative solutions, Tier said.

“The tender process does not prescribe a technology but is instead focused on end user outcomes.”

Hampton said the trust would submit an application to try to secure funding to duplicate the wireless fibre project into other towns.

InternetNZ chief executive Jordan Carter said it was great to see Waimate on the list of 151 towns as part of phase two of the UFB initiative.

“Fibre is the best option for internet connectivity in most parts of New Zealand and the UFB phase two extension will provide more Kiwis with world-class internet infrastructure.

“However, with a completion date of 2024, it’s important for projects such as the Community Wireless Trust Waimate development to provide Internet access to the community for the next eight years so growth and digital development isn’t hindered.”

 – Stuff