WISPs Working with Ministry of Education on Student Connectivity Project


“Wireless Internet Service Providers (WISPs) in regions throughout New Zealand have been working with the Ministry of Education to support the fast tracking of Internet connectivity for  students as announced by the Minister of Education today,” the Chairman of the Wireless Internet Service Providers Association (WISPA.NZ) Mike Smith said.

“Since the lockdown our 26 regional WISPs have been burning midnight oil helping Ministry officials identify homes in our regions with students but no Internet, and who we can connect rapidly.

“WISPs are already heavily committed rolling out the government’s Rural Broadband Initiative project to keep adding to our tally of around 70,000 regional and rural customers. However we recognize the extreme importance of student home connectivity in the present circumstances and will be redoubling efforts to make these connections once the details are resolved.”

Beware the Risk 5g Poses to Rural Internet Users

Despite the hype surrounding Vodafone’s launch of the next cellphone technology, it risks a serious downside to thousands of rural broadband users, according to the Wireless Internet Service Providers Association (WISPA.NZ).

“Vodafone and its competitors are putting huge pressure on Government to reallocate radio spectrum so they can run 5G more cost-effectively,” WISPA Chairman Mike Smith says.

“However, some of the spectrum the mobile companies are trying to claim is already used commercially by about 30 regional WISPs, who collectively service many tens of thousands of rural customers. These customers are farms who use the Internet for business management, rural kids who use it for study, and rural people who depend on it for social inclusion. Most cant get Internet any other way.

“If the government responds to the cellphone companies’ land grab, some of those users could face more expensive Internet or even lose their hard-won connectivity altogether.

“The advantages of 5g are very much in the future. By contrast, WISPs are solving the connectivity issue for rural New Zealand here and now. 

“It makes no sense to slow or reverse the progress made in connecting our major export sector, just so that some online games will work a nanosecond faster or city people can connect their home air conditioning to their car GPS. 5g’s benefits are marginal and futuristic, but basic  connectivity for rural families and businesses is here, now, and economically essential.

“WISPA seeks a clear assurance from Minister Faafoi that no decision will be made to reallocate spectrum until the issues have been thoroughly aired in public.”


Communications Minister addresses WISPA.nz delegates

Communications Minister the Hon Kris Faafoi was unable to attend and open the WISPA.NZ conference recently due to an unscheduled visit to the Nelson fire victims.

Here is a video address he recorded in advance for our delegates – including acknowledgement of outgoing WISPA Chairman Matthew Harrison.


WISPA Statement on Rural Broadband Announcement 18 December 2018

Rural New Zealand is fast approaching a milestone where almost every farmhouse and rural residence can access city grade broadband at city prices.

That’s the view of WISPA.NZ – the Wireless Internet Service Providers Association – following today’s government announcement of significant additional broadband funding.

“That’s an extraordinary achievement for a country with our geography and challenging rural landscape,” says WISPA.NZ spokesman Ernie Newman. “Today’s announcement of another significant government investment in WISPs is a further step to close the gap.

“Fifteen years ago New Zealand’s telecommunications industry was the least competitive in the developed world alongside Mexico. Today its one of the most competitive. Our broadband coverage especially is way better than Australia’s.

“WISPs, or Wireless Internet Service Providers, have been a key part of the solution. About 30 of them supply broadband services over digital mobile radio, bouncing Internet signals from one hilltop to the next using thousands of radio sites around rural New Zealand. They are regional companies, mostly owner operated, with a strong commitment to customer service which sets them apart from the mainstream urban telcos. They represent private innovation and entrepreneurship at its best.

“WISPs are very skilled at fast deployment. Since they first became part of the government’s Rural Broadband Initiative last year they have built many hundreds of new wireless sites in some of the most isolated parts of the country – vastly faster than the mainstream national phone companies.

“WISPs are looking forward to the challenge of completing the job for the benefit of  rural communities economically, socially and educationally. “


CONTACT FOR COMMENT: Ernie Newman, 0223764363,  ernie@ernienewman.com


Closing Taranaki’s Digital Divide

PrimoWireless – Closing Taranaki’s Digital Divide.

(Re-posted from The Download)

Fibre is making Taranaki’s rural wireless internet service run much better. It can reach deeper into rural areas it couldn’t get to before.

Regional wireless internet service provider PrimoWireless has used fibre for four or five years now, to improve internet speeds and reliability for its rural customers. Fibre also extends its network into those deep rural pockets even satellite can’t reach.

PrimoWireless’ managing director, Matthew Harrison, says fibre is proving particularly valuable to those at the furthest-most points of its network. “Some of those farms can’t even get satellite because the hill country is too steep. They were stuck on dial-up and they used to wait a whole day for an email,” he says.

Taranaki was one of the first regions to have fibre installed as part of the UFB initiative. The aim is to deliver the kind of fast telecoms service city people take for granted to rural New Zealand.

UFB fibre has helped transform communications in rural Taranaki, says Harrison.

“It’s the fastest there is. Nothing else can go as fast as fibre – you can do 10 GB or 100 GB. You change the equipment on the end and it will go faster.

“We use the fibre to get better speed and latency [faster response times]. We get it as close as we can to our sites, and then we use wireless to deliver the service to the end-user. The closer we can bring the fibre, the closer effectively we can bring Auckland to them – which is where all the internet comes from,” he says.

PrimoWireless’ combined broadband radio wireless and fibre service means its business and rural customers can now, for example, set up a viable home business, no matter how remote their farm. And local marae can persuade reluctant young Māori to join in their activities as they can now use the internet for downtime entertainment.

In the same way, wool farmers can attract younger shearers as they no longer face being disconnected from the internet while working on a remote farm.

Farmers can now make more use of Internet-of-Things’ precision agriculture applications – for herd testing and to manage irrigation and water levels, for example – because both the cowshed and woolshed can now connect to the internet.

PrimoWireless is 12 years old. It has 3,000 customers and operates 80 broadband radio wireless sites that form a ring around Mount Taranaki. The sites vary in size from small ones serving 10 to 20 people, to big ones serving around 200 customers.

In September 2017, PrimoWireless secured funding from Crown Infrastructure Partners (CIP) to further develop its network. It uses regional radio spectrum on the 2.6Ghz
and 5Ghz bands so it can serve both non
line-of-sight and line-of-sight customers.

“We’re closing the urban and digital divide,” says Harrison.

“We aim to close that gap up, so rural people can have the same opportunities as townies.”


Speech for RBI2 Launch – Mystery Creek, Waikato.

Kia Ora everyone…
Minister Bridges, Graham and your team, distinguished guests, fellow WISP’s….

For those that don’t know me, I am the founder and managing director of PrimoWireless, and we based in the region like no other, that is Taranaki.

As the elected president of “WISPA NZ” – the Wireless Internet Service Provider’s Association of New Zealand– it is a huge honour to be able speak to you here today.

Many of New Zealand’s wireless ISP’s have traditionally flown under the radar of the telco sector, we are well known locally, but less so nationally – so it’s incredibly satisfying to see that so many WISPs have been entrusted with parts of the government’s latest RBI2 initiative.

Today feels like an accumulation of all the hard work that Wireless ISP’s have done behind the scenes in rural New Zealand for more than a decade.

WISPA New Zealand was only formed in January of this year, as an independent collective of small businesses getting us on the same frequency was a challenge, however RBI2 was the catalyst for bringing us,
and our industry closer together and with a combined voice.

In recent months we have grown to become an industry body with nearly all of New Zealand’s leading Wireless ISP’s among our members.

So, let me tell you four important facts about those members.

Firstly, we are very much local and part of the scenery of rural New Zealand. Individually our businesses may be small but collectively we are significant and second only to Spark with a combined customer count of over 40,000 users in rural New Zealand.

Secondly, we are totally focused on customer service. We have to be. As local businesses, we see our customers at the supermarket or when out for dinner, our “call centres” are answered by locals, who know the area, and can often be family, sometimes it’s even the business owner on the end of the phone.

Thirdly, “WISPs” are resilient, adaptable and fast on our feet – we build our networks with stability, and redundancy in mind, if you need a service in a remote place then we can deal with it rapidly due our local knowledge and our community support, where we can’t get easy site access, farmers have made tracks for us and in return we sponsor our community’s organisations and events.

And fourth, our technology is leading edge. We use modern radio equipment that has capabilities to deliver high capacity connections with fast installations at an affordable price, rural New Zealand should no longer miss out on the benefits of ultrafast broadband. Multiple users in each household will now be able to go online together using video and other high bandwidth applications.
Our technology is constantly evolving and we are there at the forefront with it to ensure that rural New Zealand doesn’t miss out.

Don’t just ask for better, Ask for the best.

There are about 10 WISPs here today, all members of our association, but there are 2 people I want to recognise officially for what they have done.

I can even claim they were the founders of the WISP industry in New Zealand, and they are none other than James Watts of Inspire.net (Hand up please) and Murray Pearson of Lightwire (Hand up please). James was the visionary who used a combination of business planning, audacity and sheer cheek to get New Zealand’s first WISP established in the Manawatu – Murray led the way doing much the same in the Waikato and with the support of the Waikato university’s WAND research group built one of first wireless networks for schools in New Zealand.

James, Murray – you are part of New Zealand’s telecommunications history, thank you for opening the doors to what is now a thriving industry in the rural New Zealand landscape.

More recently, “WISP’s” have demonstrated just how resilient we can be. Chris Roberts from Amuri.net in Canterbury kept Kaikoura connected during the recent earthquake while every other telecommunications service went off line. The Kaikoura supermarket was able to make sales, the hospital was in contact with the outside world, and the residents were able to reassure their families. Well done, Chris – for showing in a very practical way the resilience of wireless ISP services when the mainstream providers lost their networks.

Lastly, I’d thank Crown Fibre Holdings for the very professional way you have supported the WISP’s through this RBI2 process. We are but little businesses.
We don’t have multi story buildings full of lawyers like the big mobile phone companies and you have been great to deal with and we look forward to continuing to work with you for the good of the families, businesses and schools in the remote corners of rural New Zealand.

Rural New Zealand is our home, and rural Kiwis are our people.

The WISP’s here today may all be dressed up for the occasion but tomorrow morning we will all be back home, clambering up hills with radio gear, getting another site commissioned and closing that digital divide.

Thanks to everyone and here’s to RBI2 being a huge success.

Ma te Wa

– Matthew Harrison.