One NZ and 2degrees sign LEOsat deals to fill in black spots

One NZ and 2degrees sign LEOsat deals to fill in black spots
Image by K_O_A. | Bigstockphoto

CommsUpdate: Two of New Zealand’s mobile network operators (MNOs) – One New Zealand and 2degrees – have announced deals with satellite providers to improve mobile coverage across the country and eliminate so-called black spots in remote areas.

One New Zealand – the new brand for Vodafone NZ as of April 3 – has signed an agreement with SpaceX to work in conjunction with the US firm’s company’s Starlink satellites from late 2024. Meanwhile, 2degrees has announced initial trials with satellite provider Lynk.

No more post-cyclone outages, says One NZ

One NZ said in a press release that the collaboration with SpaceX would deliver mobile coverage “across the entire country and out to its territorial limit”.

Chief executive Jason Paris said the deal meant the immediate communications issues experienced after Cyclone Gabrielle would be “confined to history”.

“Currently, our mobile network covers 98% of the places New Zealanders live and work. However, due to the length and geography of the country, almost 50% of the landmass still has no coverage,” he explained. “When the service goes live, there will be coverage across the country whether you’re out on your boat, climbing a mountain, fixing a remote road or on your farm.”

SpaceX’s next generation Starlink LEO satellites will be in orbit and ready to provide connectivity from late 2024. The technology will initially support text and MMS, with voice and data services to follow.

“Cell towers in space”

Meanwhile, 2degrees said initial trials with US firm Lynk would begin this month, and over time expects its customers to be able to send text messages, voice calls and basic data services from anywhere in New Zealand.

Lynk has been developing a LEO satellite-to-mobile service, which would enable MNOs to connect their customers via “cell towers in space” when they are either beyond current mobile coverage, or when the mobile network has an unplanned outage.

“LEO satellites are going to be a future contributor to the mobile experience and we’re committed to ensuring our customers have access to opportunities as they develop,” said 2degrees chief executive Mark Callander.

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