Cheaper to travel to Japan than stream the Rugby World Cup for some Kiwis
It will be cheaper for communities in some remote areas of New Zealand to travel to Japan than it will be to stream the Rugby World Cup later this year.
Tim Johnson, CEO of Gravity – New Zealand’s only dedicated satellite broadband provider – says that apart from the challenges of doing homework and running a business in remote areas, capped broadband data rates would make it cheaper for some Kiwi’s to fly to Japan than it would to stream the Rugby World Cup later this year.
For Gravity Internet, who has as one of its shareholders former All Black Andrew ‘Andy’ Ellis, that scenario was intolerable.
“We started Gravity Internet because we wanted to solve a problem over making a quick buck. Uncapped satellite data helps solve a lot of issues, not least economic development in the regions and education for children living remotely.
“The reality is that satellite is the only answer for many families living in remote areas, but it doesn’t need to be capped and it doesn’t need to cost as much as it does.”
Gravity Internet’s search for a solution means that for the first time remote households can purchase an unlimited data plan via a satellite connection for under $200 per month, but uptake was initially slow because nobody would believe it.
“There’s just no business case for the Government to run fibre to these outlying areas because we’re talking about only 20,000 to 30,000 families in total. Being able to provide affordable, faster access to the Internet to remote areas will help those people who have been neglected for so long,” says Johnson.
The cost of capped data plans, the penalties for exceeding data limits and ridiculously slow speeds are a major frustration for many rural communities, who can only look on as the Government subsidises high speed fibre connections to everywhere else in New Zealand.
In some remote parts of New Zealand it still costs families hundreds, even thousands, of dollars every month in capped broadband data fees just so their children can get their homework done – nobody gets much homework done on just 10 gig of data month, and the penalties for exceeding data limits are astronomical.
“To get to one of our customers in Marlborough we had to boat across seven rivers. Later, when one of our customer’s tractors broke down, he was able to make repairs by watching YouTube videos. It saved him the $4,000 it would have cost to transport the tractor to a repairer.
“We also took a jet boat up to a white bait facility in Haast,” says Johnson. “What we’re doing is opening up education and economic development opportunities for people and that’s very exciting.”
The idea for Gravity came about when fellow director Emani Fakaotimanava-Lui and Johnson were working on providing Internet access to remote regions in the Pacific Islands, and they realised that there were parts of New Zealand that had exactly the same problems.
“We figured we could fix them with a bit of intention, a genuine desire to help and some cutting-edge technology. We came to the attention of the companies that own the satellites because we were the only exclusive satellite provider, and as a result we’ve had international companies bending over backwards to help Kiwis in remote areas,” says Johnson.
Gravity Internet’s unlimited broadband package, which costs under $200 per month, is unlikely to suffer rain fade because the dishes are large – 1.2 metres in size – and the company uses several satellites, including geo-stationary and orbital satellites.
There is however an installation fee of between $1,600 and $1,700 for the equipment and a specialist technician for those that want an open term contract. Customers who sign up to a 24-month contract can expect to spend between $200 and $300 for equipment and installation.
“In the cities people have access to speeds of up to 800 Megabits per second (Mbps), In some remote areas, customers are celebrating getting just 15 Mbps – you can do a lot on 15 Mbps speeds if you have unlimited data, including watching the Rugby World Cup.
“Later this year or early next year we will be introducing an even faster service when a new satellite, Kacific-1, comes online offering revolutionary speeds and capacity targeted at New Zealand,” says Johnson.