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40,000 households might miss out on RWC due to broadband issues

Newstalk ZB, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Thursday, 7 March 2019, 7:56p.m.

Around 40,000 rural householders will need to leave the couch (nay, the house) to watch the full gamut of Rugby World Cup matches this year. That's because their broadband won't be good enough to stream the games.

That was the message from the bosses of Crown Infrastructure Partners, the body tasked with providing ultra-fast and rural broadband to New Zealanders.

Quizzed by MPs on the Transport and Infrastructure select committee, CIP's chair Simon Allen and chief executive Graham Mitchell said the second Rural Broadband Initiative rollout was still in its early stages, but had already seen 31,000 households hooked up.

That will have increased by the time the World Cup kicks off in Japan on September 20. However an estimated 40,000 households, many who still have only dial-up level internet speeds, will have to look at finding a pub or a friend with better broadband, Mitchell said.

However, technology expert Paul Spain told Larry Williams that he is doubtful that the figure will still be that high by September.

"I've heard that we're going to have some reasonably fast satellite broadband in New Zealand by the time the Rugby World CUp rolls around, and that potentially will fill in some of those gaps." 

Spain says they won't know how good it will be until it arrives, but predicts it will be good enough to stream sporting matches.

Only seven RWC games will be screened free-to-air on TVNZ; the others will be available only by streaming them on a broadband or mobile connection via telecommunications company Spark.

Asked by MP Paul Goldsmith whether the network would cope with a huge increase in traffic with everyone streaming world cup games, Allen was optimistic.

"The ultra-fast broadband wholesale fibre network has ample capacity. It will well and truly cope with the increase. And the rural networks will be engineered to cope with it, though not all the rural build will be finished by then."

Less certain is how the broadband retailer networks will handle the stress - particularly Spark, which hasn't had to deal with such potentially large spikes in traffic before.

Spain says there is a potential for things to go wrong, but thinks Spark can handle the task. 

"I think if anyone can get it right, Spark should be able to do so. They've been prepping for this for some time."

He says that our internet is better than the "fairly average" network in Australia, and we cannot compare our network to theirs.

He says that the number of those missing out is probably comparable to the number of people that could not have afforded it on Sky Sports. 

A spokeperson for Spark says that speed you need to watch the world cup depends on the device. 

"While the vast majority of New Zealand households will be able to watch Spark Sport, we've always been clear that there will be a small minority whose broadband isn't streaming ready. That just a reality of NZ broadband infrastructure, that we've been open about from the day we won the Rugby World Cup rights," a spokesperson for Spark says.

The telco is set to reveal its full World Cup plan, including how it will cater to those without ultrafast broadband, during April.

"We know that New Zealanders have a very special place in their hearts for the All Blacks and the Rugby World Cup, so this is top of mind as we firm up plans for how New Zealanders can watch critical games," the spokeswoman says.


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