Vodafone New Zealand stepped up its infrastructure investment to improve coverage and expand capacity, after data usage jumped 56 per cent in 2020 as people relied more on mobile technology and digital services due to Covid-19 (coronavirus) restrictions.

The operator said it plans to upgrade or build more than 250 cell sites around the country, and bring 5G to more cities.

Tony Baird, director of wholesale and infrastructure, said it is upping its infrastructure investment “this year and beyond”, as Covid-19 had “accelerated the use of digital services and data consumption”, pointing to rural areas in particular.

“These investments will be great for our fixed wireless access products, meaning Kiwis can access fast and easy broadband internet connections via our mobile network without the need to wait for specialist technicians or lay fibre cabling.”

Baird said the company is “building for the long-term”, adding “it’s important to accelerate investment into our network, despite being in the middle of a very challenging business environment”.

The operator detailed plans to expand its 5G coverage to Tauranga and Palmerston North.

It launched the service in December 2019 in parts of Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch and Queenstown.