SpaceX to provide 100% mobile coverage of NZ

Thursday 6 Apr 2023

Vodafone has reached an agreement with Elon Musk’s SpaceX satellite business to provide mobile coverage of the whole country for its customers via Starlink. The telco announced the landmark deal on Monday morning to coincide with its name change from Vodafone to One NZ.

One NZ’s mobile service is currently delivered though cellphone towers, but the Starlink agreement will mean customers will be able to use their smartphones to connect via satellite when they are in areas that don’t have cellular coverage. Chief executive Jason Paris said One NZ’s mobile network covered 98% of the places where people “lived and worked”, but only just over half of the country’s geographical land mass.

When the new service was turned on late next year, there would be coverage across the country “whether you’re out on your boat, climbing a mountain, fixing a remote road or on your farm”, he said. He said it would save lives.

Spokesperson Nicky Preston said the satellite service would initially only allow text messages, including multimedia (MMS) texts, but would later be expanded to also support voice calls and mobile broadband. Paris said the text service would be available to One NZ customers but once the voice service was available it would be open to all so people could make a 111 call no matter which company they were with.

One NZ has yet to decide how it will price and market the service, but customers should not need new smartphones or any extra equipment to make use of it. Paris said a smartphone would be required, though. The deal mirrors a similar arrangement that United States’ telco T-Mobile agreed with SpaceX in August.

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