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What is Wireless Broadband NZ?

Due to NZ’s often challenging geography, not all homes have access to fibre internet. However, thanks to wireless broadband, it doesn’t mean you have to forego speedy internet access.

If you’re looking for quick and easy internet access, without the commitment of a cable connection, home wireless broadband could be the way forward. Wireless modems typically deliver plug-and-play functionality, making it possible to get set up and online in quick time.

There are a number of internet service providers currently offering wireless broadband plans, providing a point of difference in the wider broadband market. It’s also noteworthy that 5G plans are slowly becoming the norm, and have the capacity to significantly boost download and upload speeds.

What is wireless broadband?

Wireless broadband is a type of broadband that operates without a cable connection. Whereas UFB and older ADSL/VDSL set-ups require a physical connection to the provider’s network, wireless broadband provides plug-and-play functionality.

That means there’s no waiting around for a technician to get you connected. It is simply a matter of plugging in the modem/router (which your ISP typically provides) and wirelessly connecting to the provider’s mobile network. From there, you can set up a wi-fi network and connect multiple devices, just as you would any other broadband connection.

The only real difference is, instead of plugging into a wired connection, you are accessing your internet provider’s 4G/5G network wirelessly, via cell towers. Not all too different from turning on your phone data and instantly connecting to the internet.

Although, it is still a bit different… Notably, it’s designed to be used at one location. So you can’t access it on the go, like you can with your phone data.

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Average broadband speeds

Broadband Download
speeds (Mbps)
speeds (Mbps)
Latency (ms)
ADSL 9 1 26
VDSL 38 10 18
4G Wireless 51 15 53
Starlink Satellite 210 24 40
5G Wireless 252 24 n/a
Fibre 300 310 108 7
Fibre Max 883 499 6

Average speeds and latency for different types of broadband, according to the latest Measuring Broadband New Zealand Report. 5G Wireless speeds from Open Signal.

As you can see, while 4G wireless outperforms ASDL and VDSL, it clocks average download speeds significantly slower than Starlink, 5G Wireless, Fibre 300 and Fibre Max.

However, the average 4G download speed of 51Mbps is still fast enough for everyday internet applications, such as streaming video, gaming and making video calls.

Here are the Mbps speeds required for some common data-intensive internet services:

  • Video streaming – Netflix recommends a download speed of 3Mbps per stream for playing SD-quality TV shows and movies, 5Mbps for HD and 25Mbps for UHD
  • Gaming – Microsoft advises via its Xbox website that minimum download/upload speeds of 3/0.5Mbps are recommended for Xbox One online gaming
  • Video calling – Skype recommends that HD video calling download/upload speeds are 1.5/1.5Mbps

→Related article:  Cheapest Wireless Broadband Plans NZ

What should you look for in a wireless broadband plan?

Wireless broadband may be a good option if you don’t have UFB in your area, or if there are issues establishing a cable connection at your household. It could also be a convenient option if you’re looking for a short-term broadband solution in a rental property. Or if you live in an area with a good mobile signal, but without fibre accessibility, and don’t want to pay for an expensive Starlink subscription.

As a first step, it’s worthwhile seeing what’s on offer from providers in your area. Most providers will allow you to search your address via their website to determine broadband availability.

Features to keep in mind when shopping around for a wireless broadband plan include:

  • Modem/router: you’ll need to use the provider’s modem/router, allowing for connection to the 4G/5G mobile network. Is the modem free, or are you charged upfront? Or is it paid for over the life of the plan?
  • Fixed or open term: fixed-term plans typically include the cost of the modem/router. However, if you cancel early, you’ll need to pay a termination fee. Open-term plans provide the flexibility to cancel when you wish. However you’ll probably need to pay for the modem/router upfront.
  • Data caps: many wireless broadband plans come with data caps, however unlimited options are becoming more common. If you’re considering a plan with a data cap, it is worthwhile confirming the cost of data add-ons should you exceed the cap.
  • Home phone: many wireless broadband plans also come with the option of a home phone line, provided at an additional cost.
  • Incentives: keep an eye out for any additional sign-up incentives, such as discounted or free introductory monthly rental, along with any other included services and bundle discounts.
    In addition, it’s worth weighing up the provider as a whole. How is their customer service? What online tools and management do they offer?

Compare Broadband with Canstar Blue

To help you get a clearer picture of broadband providers in NZ, Canstar Blue rates all the big providers annually. We survey thousands of broadband customers and ask them to score their providers across categories including Overall Satisfaction, Value for Money and Customer Service. We then award the best broadband providers our Star Ratings and Most Satisfied Customer Award.

See Our Ratings Methodology

The table above is an abridged version of our full research, to find out more about NZ’s best broadband providers, just click on the button below.

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About the author of this page

This report was written by Canstar Content Producer, Caitlin Bingham. Caitlin is an experienced writer whose passion for creativity led her to study communication and journalism. She began her career freelancing as a content writer, before joining the Canstar team.

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