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 were largely provided through copper-based networks, but fibre-based services now represent the majority of connections. Spark New Zealand, One NZ, and 2degrees provide most services, while a number of smaller mobile virtual network operators also exist.


The historic telegraph office in Lyttelton from which the first telegraph transmission in New Zealand was made

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]

New Zealand's first payphones were installed in 1910, which was 21 years after the first ones in the United States. They were originally bright red.[6]

By the 1980s there was major telephony traffic congestion on the New Zealand Post Office network.[7] In Auckland, the central exchange was overloaded and "verging on collapse"[7] elsewhere in New Zealand users often experienced network overloading and crashes.[7] Some areas still had manual telephone exchanges; Queenstown, for example, wasn't upgraded to automatic service until 1988.[8] The New Zealand Post Office was highly inefficient, being hamstrung as a government department and required to apply to the Treasury for capital investment.[7] As the Post Office was a monopoly, it had no incentive to improve customer service.[7]

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.[9] 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,[10] still owns the majority of the telecommunications infrastructure, but competition from other providers has increased.[9] 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, which was achieved.[11] As of 2017, the United Nations International Telecommunication Union ranks New Zealand 13th in the development of information and communications infrastructure.[12]


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.
  • VoIP Cloud Based Voice services are now mainstream.
  • Traditional Copper line Operators:
  • Chorus Limited: A large numbers of ISPs (referred to as "retail service providers") retail Chorus' connections to personal and business customers. As a wholesaler, Chorus does not retail internet connections to end users.

Cable and microwave links[edit]


As of May 2022, there is approximately 2000 payphones in New Zealand, which few people anymore use due the abundance of cell phones.[28] Some of them offer WiFi with a reception radius of 50 metres. Most calls made on these phones are 0800 numbers.[28] Telecom previously made phone cards, which had various designs such as New Zealand plants and birds. They were a fad for collectors; some cards would sell for up to $14,000.[29] Telecom phased these out completely in 1999,[30] which caused prices of phone cards price to drop significantly. Today, mint condition cards sell for $1.[29]



  • 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.
    • 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.[32]

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. ^ "The reminders of a telco past still standing today". RNZ. 22 May 2022. Retrieved 18 November 2023.
  7. ^ a b c d e Newman 2008, Chapter 3.
  8. ^ "Reunion 30 years after Queenstown telephone exchange closes". Stuff. 27 March 2018. Retrieved 20 May 2020.
  9. ^ a b Wilson, A. C. (March 2010). "Telecommunications - Telecom". Te Ara: The Encyclopedia of New Zealand. Retrieved 11 August 2017.
  10. ^ "Telecom separation". Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment. 14 September 2015. Archived from the original on 11 August 2017. Retrieved 11 August 2017.
  11. ^ "Broadband and mobile programmes - Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment".
  12. ^ "2017 Global ICT Development Index". International Telecommunication Union (ITU). 2018. Retrieved 18 September 2018.
  13. ^ "Annual Telecommunications Monitoring Report - 2021" (PDF).
  14. ^ "Warehouse Mobile".
  15. ^ "Endless Mobile, Nova Energy". Retrieved 15 May 2023.
  16. ^ "2degrees and Vocus NZ merger completes | 2degrees". 1 June 2022. Retrieved 27 December 2023.
  17. ^ "Coverage at your location over 5G, 4G, 3G and even 2G. Look for Coverage everywhere. One NZ".
  18. ^ a b "New Zealand Flexiroam". Flexiroam. Retrieved 18 April 2024.
  19. ^ "Kogan Mobile Prepay Plans".
  20. ^ "Mighty Mobile: Mighty Ape, One NZ partnership offers unlimited high-speed prepay mobile plans".
  21. ^ "Rocket Mobile: Unlimited mobile data plans". Rocket Mobile. Retrieved 27 December 2023.
  22. ^ "Telecom New Zealand Website – Information about mobile network". Archived from the original on 8 March 2009. Retrieved 15 August 2014.
  23. ^ "Digital Island".
  24. ^ "Mobile plans". Retrieved 18 April 2024.
  25. ^ "Hawaiki opens new subsea route to the US with direct access to LA". IT Brief. 25 June 2019. Retrieved 23 March 2021.
  26. ^ O'Neill, Rob (30 March 2017). "Tasman Global Access cable lights up". ResellerNews. Retrieved 12 April 2017.
  27. ^ Ryan, Sophie (9 December 2015). "Here's what New Zealand's internet looks like". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 12 December 2015.
  28. ^ a b "The reminders of a telco past still standing today". RNZ. 22 May 2022. Retrieved 18 November 2023.
  29. ^ a b Edmunds, Susan (10 November 2016). "Collectible fad collapses leave buyers out of pocket". Stuff. Retrieved 18 November 2023.
  30. ^ "Telecom folds hand in phone card battle". NZ Herald. Retrieved 18 November 2023.
  31. ^ "Digital 2021: New Zealand". DataReportal – Global Digital Insights. Retrieved 19 December 2022.
  32. ^ "2012/13 Telecommunications Development Levy | Commerce Commission". Archived from the original on 6 March 2014. Retrieved 6 March 2014.

Further reading[edit]