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Compare wireless broadband deals
If you're unable to get a physical broadband connection, a wireless broadband data SIM could be your best option.
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Compare wireless broadband plans
How does wireless broadband work?
Wireless broadband uses the same wireless networks that mobile telephone networks use to deliver a connection between the nearest cell tower and a modem in your home. As a connection can be made if you live in proximity to a cell tower, there is no need for cables and wires to be installed like with other broadband types. In most cases, wireless broadband can be set up relatively easily by plugging in a modem and connecting your devices. Sometimes a range extender is needed to boost your network range.
In New Zealand, wireless broadband is delivered over 3G, 4G and 5G. 3G is the older technology that has been overtaken by 4G in many areas, and 5G is the next generation of wireless broadband currently only available in a few select parts of the country.
Only a small number of providers have their own network to provide wireless internet, and while some other ISPs piggyback of these networks, there are fewer wireless providers than other broadband connection types.
How fast is wireless broadband?
Wireless broadband speed is highly relative because it’s a shared spectrum, meaning it’s dependent upon multiple factors: how much broadband other users in the same area are taking up, what your device’s technology capabilities are and the network itself.
As an example, Vodafone’s 4G network is capable of download speeds up to 100Mbps, which is comparable to some fibre plans. Vodafone also states that its fastest 4G available in some areas has download speeds of up to 300Mbps. Both speeds are quoted as “up to” figures because they’re theoretical maximums that can vary a lot depending on location, local usage figures and device compatibility.
When it comes to 5G, which is expected to be rolled out further across New Zealand in 2020 and 2021, speeds get even faster than 4G. Spark is currently the only provider with 5G plans, and states that expected speeds are up to 3Gbps, with the potential for 10Gbps or higher.
Where is wireless broadband available?
Even though the availability of wireless broadband is not restricted by wires or cabling, it is not available everywhere in New Zealand.
3G is available to around 97.5% of Kiwis, with 96% of the population able to access 4G. Launched at the end of 2019, 5G is currently only available in select locations in the South Island, but we will see this expand in the near future.
If you are unsure whether wireless broadband is available at your house, you can enter your address in the Broadband Map.
Alternatively, you can check coverage areas on the websites of ISPs like Vodafone or Spark.
How can I compare wireless broadband plans?
Wireless broadband speed is always referenced with the qualifier of “up to”and depends upon the network, infrastructure and equipment modifiers. Typically speaking you should get better data throughput via a 4G connection than via a 3G connection.
Both 3G and 4G are available in many parts of New Zealand, so you will be able to connect to the best available. Keep in mind that there may be times that your connection drops from 4G to 3G, although this seems to be rare.
If you’re lucky enough to be in an area with 5G, this will be your fastest option.
There’s no such thing as an “unlimited” wireless broadband plan at this stage in New Zealand and it’s unlikely that we’ll see such plans emerge in the near future. Even the Spark Unplan wireless option, which moves you through different usage tiers, comes with a disclaimer that you may be moved to a new plan or to fibre if your usage exceeds a certain amount.
It’s common to see plans offering 60, 120 and 200GB of data, so you’ll need to take a look at how much data you typically use or make an estimate. If you need some help in doing this, you can check out our data usage calculator.
You may not get it right straight away, especially if there are changes in your household data usage. If you are unsure, look for a provider that will allow you to easily change your plan up or down without penalty, and that has data packs available to purchase for when you need more.
The cost of wireless broadband plans varies provider to provider, although you can expect to see prices in a similar range for comparable data allowances.
Other than the per month plan cost, you also need to factor in if there are additional costs for your modem, and for early exit fees if you decide to leave your contract early.
No-term or open-term contracts are becoming more common these days, although you may find that it is less cost-efficient than signing on for a 12- or 24-month contract. While opting for no-term gives you greater flexibility, you may be required to pay more per month or pay for a new modem upfront. One and two year contracts often come with signup bonuses, which are not available on open-term.
As a way of enticing you to signup, some wireless broadband providers offer a bonus or incentive. This could be something like half-price broadband for 12 months, free Netflix for a year, or a joining reward such as a laptop, fridge or TV. Deals like this usually run for a few months or more, so keep an eye out on what’s available. However, don’t forget that opting for a plan with these types of bonuses will lock you into a longer contract, and early exit fees will apply if you decide to cancel.
There are energy providers in New Zealand that also offer broadband to their customers. Trustpower is currently the only one that has wireless, but you may be able to save on its broadband and power bundle.
Which New Zealand providers offer wireless broadband?
There are a handful of ISPs in New Zealand that offer wireless broadband plans. Take a look at the list of providers below and click on the links to find out more information.
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