New Zealand’s three mobile operators – Vodafone, Spark and 2degrees – jointly proposed at least matching the NZD150 million ($105 million) set aside by the government to improve broadband and mobile infrastructure in rural areas.

The three companies said they will invest hundreds of millions of dollars over the life of the project, including capex of NZD75 million to roll out the infrastructure under the government’s rural broadband initiative extension and mobile black spot fund.

The proposed investment package would include the contribution of spectrum, ongoing opex and other resources required to deliver and run the infrastructure deployment programme.

Spark MD Simon Moutter noted working together is the only economically viable way to deliver quality mobile networks and wireless broadband infrastructure to the more challenging and remote rural areas of New Zealand.

Vodafone NZ CEO Russell Stanners said rural New Zealand is a key driver of the country’s economic growth and productivity, and for these sectors to remain competitive they need fast broadband and mobile coverage – not just in offices, but on farms, in schools and on the roads.

2degrees CEO Stewart Sherriff said: “we are very happy to be part of this proposal to address the digital inequity between urban and rural communities”.

The proposal would see about 500 new cell sites delivering a 25 per cent increase in land coverage across the country, the operators said in a statement. Existing mobile networks cover more than 90 per cent of the areas where New Zealanders live and work, but there are still remote land areas without mobile coverage.