2degrees has outlined a new infrastructure sharing agreement that will see an end to national roaming and ensure all of its customers receive the full 2degrees experience.
The deal marks a significant transition for the company, which has spent the last decade expanding its network site-by-site across New Zealand, delivering a mobile network that reaches 98.5% of the places kiwis work and play. These improvements mean 2degrees has now invested $1 billion dollars in its network infrastructure, a significant milestone for the 11-year-old company.
2degrees Chief Technology Officer Martin Sharrock said the agreement targets the small pockets of remaining roaming coverage, mainly on regional roads and in rural areas, where the company carries less than 1% of its traffic via a partner network.
“Most New Zealanders are unaware of the scale of the 2degrees network and we’re now at a point where we're completing our national coverage and choosing to do that efficiently by using our own spectrum over a partner’s cell sites,” he says.
“Using our spectrum in these areas for the first time is like adding a new motorway for our customers to use, they move from sharing our partners’ network to a network dedicated just for 2degrees. This is possible without building new cell towers.”
Mr Sharrock said the upgrades utilising 4G are enabled by an innovative new technology known as ‘MoRAN’ (Multi Operator Radio Access Network), which will improve video calling, streaming and download speeds.
The concept was first deployed in New Zealand by the Rural Connectivity Group, a joint venture between 2degrees, Vodafone, Spark and Crown Infrastructure Partners that connects remote rural communities and removes mobile blackspots.
“Operators will share infrastructure where it makes sense, including in sparsely populated areas of New Zealand because it extends the benefit of competition to less populated areas while reducing costs for network operators.
"The three mobile operators have invested in their own infrastructure in urban areas. In remote and rural areas, there are fewer customers, so recovering the cost of a new duplicate cell site becomes very challenging. In either instance, operators are able to differentiate their services and offer competition”
2degrees also recently confirmed its plans to build a 5G network, following the government’s decision to allocate early access 3.5GHz spectrum to the company.
Mr Sharrock says infrastructure sharing could also make sense for 5G but having a foundation layer of competing mobile infrastructure was important to ensure operators continued to drive each other to invest and innovate.
“We’re excited about 5G and planning is well underway. While we do so, it’s important to recognise that 4G will be a very effective in meeting the needs of less populated and remote communities.”
The milestone comes following the news that 2degrees has recently reported its largest operating profit in its 11-year history, built largely on market-leading growth in fixed line broadband connections.