Go for 5G, but bring rural NZ along too

Wednesday March 21

New Zealand’s ambitions to get on with the roll-out of 5G technology should be applauded but don’t put dealing with woeful rural coverage on the back-burner, Federated Farmers Vice-President Andrew Hoggard says.
Tests of 5G mobile technology were carried out on the streets of downtown Wellington this week and industry players are talking about putting this next generation of digital communications infrastructure in place from 2020.  Meanwhile there are still plenty of towns and provincial hinterland limping on without broadband, and patchy or non-existent mobile coverage.
“Primary producers play a dominant role in earning the nation’s living and technology is pervading every aspect of agriculture.  With poor or no access to ultra-fast broadband and mobile, faming businesses – and family life – suffers,” Andrew says.
“It’s a very significant safety issue too.  What happens when there is a fire, a medical emergency or the like?  With communication black holes farmers, staff or family members can be reduced to driving around trying to find a location where they can get a signal just to call for help.”
5G technology can offer nine times the data speeds currently available but there are plenty of rural folk who are a long way off the access that urban Kiwis have taken for granted for years.
“By all means push on for the best technology available, but let’s take all New Zealanders with us,” Andrew says.  “The RBI 1 programme was a great step forward for some rural areas and RBI 2, when funding is confirmed, will bring many more into the loop.
“There is a lot more to do to bridge that urban/rural technology divide.”