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3 September 2014

Landline still needed in the country

Hamish Wilson says Vodafone's extinction claims are premature.

The death of landlines? As Mark Twain once said of rumours that he had expired – “greatly exaggerated”.

Vodafone thinks landlines will be extinct in a little more than 5 years.

Content in the Herald suggests we’ll all have gone mobile by then, especially businesses.

That I very much doubt. At least where I choose to live nowadays. OK – maybe they will become extinct where Vodafone chooses to offer 4G phone services, but there’s a lot of businesses around us that will likely want to keep the landline for a fair while yet. There’s a lot of other, similar businesses around the country that also will likely want to keep a landline. They’re all called farmers.

We are about 25km due east of Masterton and we get our internet via satellite, like most of our neighbours who are almost all real farmers. We keep a dial-up connection going because some days the weather kills the satellite signal. Satellite is not cheap, and the datacaps are low – we pay $115 a month for 6GB. So, we don’t Skype or Voip. And, in the rain, chances are we’d end up disconnected and back on the landline.

But you say, didn’t Vodafone get paid a fair whack to bring 4G to rural areas, so stop moaning. It’s true – Vodafone and Telecom got $285 million from government.

Yes, our local school already has fibre to the door – 15km out of Masterton. But that’s where fibre stops. We’re 15km further along the road, so fibre won’t do it for us. So, where will Vodafone’s 4G cover extend to? If you check the final 4G coverage map you’ll see large expanses of white to the east of Masterton, with occasional sprinkles of blue that are the covered spots. Those are the tops of hills. We’re in the white bits (lower down in the valleys), along with most of our neighbours. No 4G for us.

We called Vodafone a while back, when they began advertising their upcoming rural cover, and got told pretty bluntly that we’d never get rural 4G.

There’s some alternatives, like Telecom’s 3G service which doesn’t claim to cover us, but does work in a limited way through much of our valley. It’s not fast and quite unreliable where we are, which is why we use satellite. Better still – there’s Wiz Wireless who provide a very fast wireless service to much of the area that won’t be covered by Vodafone through a series of hilltop towers. Unfortunately, much of our local area is too low down in the valley to get the Wiz signal.

We wonder why the Government gave all the money to Vodafone when there already was a fast wireless broadband service covering much of the real rural Wairarapa. Are Vodafone using the rural broadband money just to convert their existing Wairarapa towers to 4G?

So, like our neighbours, we’ll keep our copper wire landline on for a fair while yet. And, I’ll get the old plastic phone a nice bumper sticker - “I’m not dead yet”. (borrowed from Monty Python/Spamalot)

About the author:

Hamish Wilson is our newest life member. Before, he worked for Consumer forever. Well, at least longer than most of our staff can remember!

Long ago, he joined the test team to work on ancient devices like computers with floppy disc drives, video recorders and pre-digital cameras. More recently, he’s got lost testing car GPS devices, found his way using smart phone apps, and, like many of us, been baffled by set-top box and TV remote controls.

Now semi-retired, he writes occasional blogs when it’s too wet to be fixing fences or chopping wood on his lifestyle block.

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