Broadband wars: Vodafone ups the stakes with $55/month all-you-can-eat fixed-wireless

Photo: File / Getty
Photo: File / Getty
Vodafone has upped the ante in the broadband wars, wiping the data cap from its $55 a month 4G fixed-wireless plan.

Vodafone and Spark are pushing fixed-wireless hard in part because it's a much easier to setup, cheaper alternative to UFB fibre for some households and small businesses - and in part because it cuts landline network operator Chorus out of the loop, physically and financially.

Last week, Chorus doubled the speed of UFB fibre with new Hyperfibre 8 plans - keeping landline technology well ahead in bandwidth arms-race, in raw speed terms.

But, without naming Chorus's upgrade a Vodafone NZ exec gave it the bash overnight - or at least said it was over-the-top for most Kiwis.

"We like to think of Unlimited 4G Broadband as being a bit like a brand-new Toyota Corolla. It provides great performance at a really attractive price and suits a lot of drivers," acting consumer director David Redmore said.

"Just as most New Zealanders don't own a Tesla, they don't need blisteringly fast or expensive internet either - but increasingly they do want unlimited data, and the certainty that they won't hit their capped data limit."

Hyperfibre plans start at around $149 per month, although there are step-down UFB fibre plans that cost half that.

Vodafone says Unlimited 4G Broadband is available in areas including most parts of Christchurch, Auckland, Hamilton, Tauranga, Rotorua, Palmerston North, Napier, New Plymouth, Wellington, Queenstown and Dunedin (a coverage map is here).

There are a couple of qualifications: a fair-use provision applies, and you'll need a Vodafone mobile pay-monthly plan to qualify for the keenest rate (otherwise the service costs an extra $10 a month).

Vodafone's 5G fixed wireless plan, which includes unlimited data costs, $79 a month or 89 if you don't have a Vodafone mobile.

At the other end of the scale, Vodafone offers a fixed-wireless broadband plan with a 60GB cap for $40 a month (60GB is good for basic email and web surfing and social media, but if you mainline Netflix it's best to go for a cap of 300GB or, better, unlimited data.

Spark is offering 5G fixed-wireless broadband on three tiers - $75 per month (with a 60GB data cap), $85 per month (covering up to 120GB) or $95 for unlimited data.

For an extra $10 on each plan, you get all-you-can eat Netflix data included.

Spark's 4G fixed-wireless plans start at $45 per month for 40GB of data, with every 10GB of data costing $10. Its budget sub-brand Skinny starts at $35 per month with a 60GB cap.

Its uncapped 4G plan costs $85 per month - and comes with the provisio that if you exceed 350GB of data per month for three months, Spark may move you to UFB fibre.

The speed of fixed-wireless broadband depends on mobile coverage in your area, and mobile network congestion. That variability makes it hard to benchmark, but the Commerce Commission recently published a report that pitted it against UFB Fibre and HFC cable for streaming 4K (ultra high definition Netflix (see results here).

While Vodafone and Spark have been pushing fixed-wireless hard. A recent Commerce Commission report found they now have more than 200,000 fixed-wireless customers between them - prompting Chorus to offer cash bounties, running to hundreds of dollars, for retail ISPs won win-back customers to fibre.

2degrees, which offers a $55/month 300GB cap wireless broadband plan, has so far taken a more softly-softly approach to fixed-wireless - but CEO Mark Aue recently told the Herald his company would turn up the dial after its 5G upgrade begins later this year.

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