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Telco survey: Mobile and internet service providers

Tired of being left on hold by your telco? Internet connection not delivering the speeds you were promised? Our latest survey finds telcos have a lot to do to keep their customers satisfied.

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Internet satisfaction

Just 51% of consumers were happy with the service they were getting from their internet provider. That’s changed little since our 2017 survey when overall satisfaction was 49%.

Most of us get our broadband from Spark or Vodafone, which command more than two-thirds of the market between them (see “Who’s who”). But the big two haven’t distinguished themselves in our surveys for top-notch service.

Last year, Vodafone scored below average on all our key performance measures. It lifted its overall satisfaction rating to 47% this year, up from 39%. However, complaints about underwhelming customer service still dog the company.

Seven out of 10 Vodafone customers said they had been left on hold waiting to speak with a service rep. Four out of 10 had been on the receiving end of unhelpful service. The same proportion had run into a billing dispute with the company.

Value for money was the only measure where Vodafone scored better than Spark. Just 33% of Spark customers were very satisfied with the value they were getting. Vodafone scored 39%.

What about the rest of the market?

Only one of the 12 companies in our survey stood out for its overall satisfaction rating: MyRepublic. Sixty-eight percent of the company’s customers were very happy with its service. It rated above average for value for money too, with a score of 61%.

However, MyRepublic has a black mark against it in our book. It’s yet to join the Telecommunications Dispute Resolution (TDR) scheme, a free service consumers can use when they strike problems with their telco. For that reason, it doesn’t get our tick.

Flip, which topped our satisfaction table in 2017, dropped in the rankings this time round: 61% of its customers were very satisfied with the company’s service, compared with 70% in 2017.

The company continued to rate above average for value for money (63%), but its customers were more likely to report slower-than-expected connection speeds. It also rated below average for technical support (30%).

Speed issues

Flip customers weren’t the only ones less than impressed with the speeds they were getting.

Telcos spend a lot of advertising dollars trying to convince us they’ve got the fastest internet in town. But sub-par speeds was the most common problem reported in our survey.

Seven out of 10 consumers said they’d had problems with slower-than-expected internet speeds at some time during the past 12 months. Disconnections and drop-outs were also a problem for six out of 10.

The issue isn’t just with internet delivered over the old copper network. The Commerce Commission’s broadband monitoring report, released in December, found fibre services were consistently delivering less than 75% of the maximum speeds available.

Telecommunications commissioner Dr Stephen Gale said, “while broadband fibre is delivering much faster speeds than copper-based services, it is not yet performing at its peak. This is especially the case for the highest speed fibre services, which consumers pay a premium price for”.

The commission is continuing to monitor speed performance. Its next report is due in April.

Mobile satisfaction

Satisfaction with mobile service providers has remained fairly static as well. Overall, 56% of mobile customers were happy with the service they were getting, compared with 54% in our 2017 survey.

Vodafone, which has the biggest share of the mobile market, retained its place at the bottom of our table with a score of 51%.

Top of the table? For the third year in a row, it was Skinny. The Spark offshoot outperformed its parent company – as well as the two other brands in our survey – with a satisfaction score of 77%.

The pre-pay service also rated above average for value for money (76%), while Spark got the lowest rating, scoring just 41%. The industry average was 47%.

GUIDE TO THE TABLES OUR DATA are from a nationally representative survey of 2150 New Zealanders aged 18 years and over, which took place in December 2018. Companies are those with 30 responses or more (response numbers are in brackets). Overall satisfaction shows the percentage of consumers who rated their internet/mobile retailer 8, 9 or 10 on a scale from 0 (very dissatisfied) to 10 (very satisfied).

Who’s who?

Spark and Vodafone are the biggest players in our telco market.

Spark holds an estimated 43% of the broadband market and 32% of the mobile market. It also owns Bigpipeand Skinny. Bigpipe offers broadband only while Skinny offers mobile and internet services.

Vodafone has an estimated 26% share of the broadband market and 41% of the mobile market.

Vocus Communications is the third biggest player in broadband, with a 13% share. Vocus owns Flip, Orcon and Slingshot.

2degrees is best known as a mobile operator (with 21% of the market), but has expanded into broadband.

Other companies in our latest survey include MyRepublic, Now NZ, Stuff Fibre and Trustpower.

MyRepublic set up shop in 2013 and is owned by Singapore-based MyRepublic Group. It offers home phone and broadband.

Now NZ is a Napier-based company that has been around since 2002. It offers home phone and broadband. Spark has a 37% holding in the company.

Stuff Fibre is owned by media organisation Stuff. It offers fibre services and movies through StuffPix.

Energy company Trustpower now sells home phone and internet plans, as well as electricity and gas.

Video streaming

Seventy-six percent of internet customers also subscribed to at least one video-streaming service or Sky TV. Satisfaction varied widely depending on the service:

Fair trading complaints

Telcos continue to top the Commerce Commission’s list of the most complained-about traders. Last year, the commission received 584 complaints about the telco industry

The commission said many consumers reported that telcos made claims about their products that weren’t easy to substantiate. “Consumers have explained that they were not sure about a trader’s offer of the ‘best price’ or ‘best deal’ in the market. Other complainants allege that a trader promised a speed and quality of broadband that the consumer did not believe they received,” it said.

In 2018, the commission laid charges against Spark and Vodafone for alleged breaches of the Fair Trading Act.

Spark pleaded guilty to charges brought against it for over-charging customers and failing to disclose the conditions of a $100 credit available to customers signing up to a particular broadband plan.

Vodafone is facing charges for allegedly making false representations in invoices sent to customers and for claims made for its FibreX broadband service. The commission said the name FibreX misled consumers into thinking they were getting a full fibre optic-service, when FibreX is delivered via Vodafone’s cable network. Vodafone has pleaded guilty to some charges relating to FibreX but is defending others.

Settling disputes

If you have an issue with a telco and have been unable to resolve it with them you could take your case to the Telecommunication Dispute Resolution service.

The TDR can look at unresolved complaints to do with billing, customer service, hardware faults, contracts, network performance, or something similar. This includes pre-paid mobiles.

TDR can consider:

  • Complaints about companies that are TDR scheme members.
  • Any service or product from any TDR member. You can also complain about how you have been charged for products and services (but not the pricing).
  • Complaints that have already been made to a telecommunications company, as long as it is within 12 months of the complaint first being made.
  • Complaints that involve claims for $15,000 or less, including compensation for direct loss.
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Skinny Mobile is a Consumer NZ Trusted Business programme. The programme is designed to advance the interests of New Zealand consumers. Businesses are assessed against our Code of Conduct and agree to comply with the code’s principles. Customers of a Consumer Trusted business can also use our advisory service.

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