New Zealand mobile broadband still easy and affordable

20 January 2013 by Steve Blum
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Lake Wanaka, New Zealand. Why spend time on the Internet?

I’ve been doing my annual check on New Zealand’s mobile telecoms, from a traveler’s perspective. Coverage appears to be much the same. Some prices have gone up and some down.

Vodafone and Telecom NZ both deliver 3G service pretty much everywhere I go, in both North and South Islands. I haven’t seen any change from last year in 2degrees’ coverage, which seems to focus on urban areas and not so much in the countryside, where I’ve been spending most of my time this trip.

Prices for mobile SIM cards seem to have dropped. A traveler arriving in Auckland last week could pick up a $5 SIM card from the Telecom NZ or Vodafone kiosks at the airport. Or wait until they get into town and get a free 2degrees SIM card from a tourist information center (i-Site information and assistance centers are ubiquitous in New Zealand and are a genuine convenience for international travelers). SIM cards of various kinds are also on sale at supermarkets and other retail outlets, at or near the $5 mark.

Once you have a SIM card, though, it appears the price of a megabyte is creeping up. Last year, I saw pay-as-you go plans that included an iPad compatible micro-SIM and 3 GB of data for $50. Now, the best price I’ve seen for 3 GB is $60. The low end hasn’t changed, though. $20 will still get you a micro-SIM and 250 MB of data.

On the wired and WiFi side, prices have definitely come down. Last year, a week’s worth of unlimited hotspot use from a major provider cost $50. This year it’s only $12. Same downward price trend in Internet cafes, where $2 an hour rates are commonplace. Kiwis I talked with say the same about home Internet costs.

Of course, the best option in New Zealand is to go off the grid and enjoy the spectacular scenery and good living. But these days, you do it by choice.