Telecommunications in New Zealand

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Telecommunications in New Zealand are fairly typical for an industrialised country.

Fixed-line broadband and telephone services are largely provided through copper-based networks, although fibre-based services are increasingly common. Spark New Zealand, Vodafone New Zealand, and 2degrees provide most services.

Mobile telephone services are provided by Spark, Vodafone and 2degrees, although a number of smaller mobile virtual network operators also exist.


The first telegraph opened in New Zealand between the port of Lyttelton and Christchurch on 16 June 1862.[1] The line was constructed along the Lyttelton - Christchurch railway line.[1] The Vogel Era from 1870 saw a major expansion of the telegraph network, including an inter-island cable.[1] Telegraph lines increased from 699 miles (1,125 km) in 1866 to 3,170 miles (5,100 km) in 1876.[2] The first overseas telegraph cable between Australia and New Zealand began operation on 21 February 1876.[1]

The Electric Telegraph Department formed to manage the growing telegraph network was merged with Post Office Department to form the New Zealand Post and Telegraph Department in 1881.[3]

Following early experiments with telephones on telegraph lines, the colonial government established a state monopoly in telephony with the Electric Telegraph Act 1875.[1] By 1900 there were 7,150 subscribers to telephone services.[4] Telephony subscriptions grew greatly over the next century, it was estimated by 1965 that 35% of New Zealanders had a telephone.[5]

By the 1980s there was major telephony traffic congestion on the New Zealand Post Office network.[6] In Auckland, the central exchange was overloaded and "verging on collapse"[6] elsewhere in New Zealand users often experienced network overloading and crashes.[6] Some areas still had manual telephone exchanges; Queenstown, for example, wasn't upgraded to automatic service until 1988.[7] The New Zealand Post Office was highly inefficient, being hamstrung as a government department and required to apply to the Treasury for capital investment.[6] As the Post Office was a monopoly, it had no incentive to improve customer service.[6]

The monopoly over telecommunications came to an end in 1987 when Telecom New Zealand was formed, initially as a state-owned enterprise and then privatised in 1990.[8] Competition began in the early 1990s, greatly reducing prices. The first competitor to market was Clear Communications, a consortium of North American and New Zealand businesses. Chorus, which was split from Telecom (now Spark) in 2011,[9] still owns the majority of the telecommunications infrastructure, but competition from other providers has increased.[8] A large-scale rollout of gigabit-capable fibre to the premises, branded as Ultra-Fast Broadband, began in 2009 with a target of being available to 87% of the population by 2022.[10] As of 2017, the United Nations International Telecommunication Union ranks New Zealand 13th in the development of information and communications infrastructure.[11]


Telephone booths in Dunedin

Mobile phone system[edit]

Fixed-line telephone system[edit]

  • Number of fixed line connections: 1.92 million (2000)
  • Individual lines available to 99% of residences.
    • Operators:
      • Chorus Limited
        • A large numbers of ISPs (referred to as "retail service providers") retail Chorus' connections to personal and business customers. Chorus does not retail internet connections.

Cable and microwave links[edit]



  • Television broadcast stations: 41 (plus 52 medium-power repeaters and over 650 low-power repeaters) (1997)
    • These transmit 4 nationwide free-to-air networks and a few regional or local single transmitter stations. Analogue was phased out between September 2012 and December 2013
    • Digital Satellite pay TV is also available and carries most terrestrial networks.
    • Freeview digital free satellite with a dozen SD channels, with SD feeds of the terrestrial HD freeview channels.
    • Freeview, free-to-air digital terrestrial HD and SD content.
    • Cable TV is available in some urban areas with Vodafone's broadband services.
    • See also: List of New Zealand television channels
  • Televisions: 1.926 million (1997)


Telecommunications Development Levy[edit]

The government charges a $50 million Telecommunications Development Levy annually to fund improvements to communications infrastructure such as the Rural Broadband Initiative. It is payable by telecommunications firms with an operating revenue of over $10 million, in proportion to their qualified revenue.[26]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e Newman 2008, Chapter 1.
  2. ^ Lloyd Pritchard 1970, pp. 131–132.
  3. ^ Shoebridge, Tim (11 March 2010). "Mail and couriers – Mail in the steam era, 1850s–1890s". Te Ara – the Encyclopedia of New Zealand. Retrieved 5 January 2019.
  4. ^ "An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand - Post Office". Te Ara: Encyclopedia of New Zealand. 1966. Retrieved 28 April 2019.
  5. ^ "An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand - Post Office - Inland Telecommunications". Te Ara: Encyclopedia of New Zealand. 1966. Retrieved 28 April 2019.
  6. ^ a b c d e Newman 2008, Chapter 3.
  7. ^ "Reunion 30 years after Queenstown telephone exchange closes". Stuff. Retrieved 20 May 2020.
  8. ^ a b Wilson, A. C. (March 2010). "Telecommunications - Telecom". Te Ara: The Encyclopedia of New Zealand. Retrieved 11 August 2017.
  9. ^ "Telecom separation". Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment. 14 September 2015. Retrieved 11 August 2017.
  10. ^ "Broadband and mobile programmes - Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment".
  11. ^ "2017 Global ICT Development Index". International Telecommunication Union (ITU). 2018. Retrieved 18 September 2018.
  12. ^ "Warehouse Mobile".
  13. ^ "Telecom New Zealand Website – Information about mobile network". Archived from the original on 8 March 2009. Retrieved 15 August 2014.
  14. ^ "Digital Island".
  15. ^ Putt, Sarah (29 September 2011). "CallPlus switches from Vodafone to Telecom for mobile". Computer World. Retrieved 2 April 2012.
  16. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 11 July 2015. Retrieved 15 June 2015.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  17. ^
  18. ^ Vodafone NZ Website – Information about mobile network and 4G LTE
  19. ^
  20. ^
  21. ^ "More mobile choices for NZ". Stuff. 8 September 2008. Retrieved 12 September 2011.
  22. ^
  23. ^ "Hawaiki opens new subsea route to the US with direct access to LA". IT Brief. 25 June 2019. Retrieved 23 March 2021.
  24. ^ O'Neill, Rob (30 March 2017). "Tasman Global Access cable lights up". ResellerNews. Retrieved 12 April 2017.
  25. ^ Ryan, Sophie (9 December 2015). "Here's what New Zealand's internet looks like". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 12 December 2015.
  26. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 6 March 2014. Retrieved 6 March 2014.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)

Further reading[edit]