Simon Wadsworth

Master of Science | Computer Scientist

New Zealand Prepaid Mobile data offerings
Published Mon 17 December 2012 by Simon Wadsworth in New Zealand

Recently there were quite a few posts on the NZNOG mailing list regarding mobile data options in New Zealand, especially for travelling and cost. I thought I would write a post regarding the different options and my opinions on them. I am specifically looking at packs marketed as “Prepaid Mobile Broadband” plans. So I won’t be counting data included in plans such as the $19 prepaid combos that 2degrees, Vodafone and Telecom offer.



Telecom’s prepaid offerings are:

  • Mobile Broadband 500MB 7 Day - $10
    • 500MB valid for 7 days only. Would be good if you only needed data for a very short time. Only available for purchase until 28 February 2013 unfortunately.
  • Mobile Broadband 3GB 90 Day - $60
    • 3GB valid for 90 days. This is better value if you plan on staying more than a month but only want to check your email and do some light browsing. Works out roughly $20 a month and is $20/GB. Only available for purchase until 28 February 2013 unfortunately.
  • Mobile Broadband 500MB - $25
    • 500MB but valid for 30 days. $50/GB
  • Mobile Broadband 2GB - $50
    • 2GB valid for 30 days. $25/GB. Far better value than the 500MB pack, so if you’re planning on using it a bit more than just emails once or twice a day, then probably better to go with this plan.

On all Telecom plans, once you reach your including limit you revert to their Casual data rate which is $1 for 10MB and $1 for every MB over that. You can of course just purchase another data pack.


  • Broadband Lite - $10
    • 100MB valid for a month. Would be good for extremely light usage. $100/GB
  • Broadband Surfer - $30
    • 512MB valid for a month. Would be okay for someone wanting to check emails and the occasional light surfing. Approximately $60/GB
  • Broadband Plus 2GB - $50
    • 2GB valid for a month. Vodafones best value prepaid mobile broadband plan. If you can afford the $50 this would be your best bet. $25/GB


2degrees is a bit different. Due to the way their network works they have two different data systems, but see down a bit further for that.

Their National Mobile Data packs are:

  • 50MB for $6
  • 100MB for $10

Their Mobile Broadband Zone packs are:

  • Broadband Zones 1GB - $20
    • Valid for 1 month. Reasonably good value for some browsing and email checking
  • Broadband Zones 3GB - $50
    • Valid for 2 months. Depending on your budget for 2 months this could be better value over the 1GB plan. You get 1.5GB per month (although that’s not a hard limit, more of a guide, you can choose to use any amount in either of the two months, providing you stay under 3GB in the two months). $16.67/GB
  • Broadband Zones 12GB - $99
    • Valid for 6 months. You get 2GB per month, but as with the previous one that’s not a hard limit. Very good value. If you need data over a prolonged period, or just need alot then this would be the one to go with. $8.25/GB

Best pricing: 2degrees

Coverage and Performance


Telecom have 3G coverage nationwide. They use 850MHz and 2100MHz as infill. It is important to note that just because a phone supports 2100MHz doesn’t guarantee coverage. There is very real potential for coverage to be lost even in cities if you don’t have a device that supports the 850MHz frequency.

The boast to be the fastest, and to be the “smartphone” network. In reality I have found their coverage to be very good, and have been able to pickup signal in areas that Vodafone and 2degrees can’t be received. I have also seen Youtube videos streamed without buffering in fringe coverage areas, where Vodafone and 2degrees coverage has ended.


Vodafone have 3G coverage on the 2100MHz frequency and 900MHz. Their original 3G network deployment in Urban areas used 2100MHz, but they have been moving towards 900MHz on new towers to provide 3G coverage to all New Zealanders (in roughly the same coverage area as their 2G GSM network).

Their coverage can be a bit sketchy sometimes, although I have often heard of it being available in places where Telecom is not. I have also heard horrendous stories about latency and speeds on Vodafone. I haven’t experienced this myself, the speeds I’ve had over Vodafones network have been entirely reliable.

If you move outside of their 3G coverage areas you will be on their 2G data network which will be horribly slow.

Vodafone do have DC-HSDPA in some areas, but I have no information regarding the performance of this.


2degrees are building their own network using the 900MHz and 2100MHz as infill in urban areas. Areas that have had their own towers installed and activated are part of their Mobile Broadband Zone and therefore the cheaper and better value pricing packs are available. Where they do not have their own network you are roaming on Vodafones network so coverage will match theirs, and you can expect the same performance as Vodafone.

In terms of their own network performance I have generally found it to be faster than Vodafone, and match XT, out performing XT in some cases.

2degrees do provide EDGE on 2G connections, so if you end up outside their 3G network you will get slightly better 2G speeds than Vodafone, but it will still be painful.

Best coverage and performance: Telecom

Overall if you want good nationwide coverage and good speeds with good value then Telecom would be the way to go. However if you are inside 2degrees Mobile Broadband zones and are not planning on using it outside these zones, then 2degrees provide the best value for money out of the three. If you need nationwide coverage and your equipment only supports 900MHz not 850MHz, then Vodafone would be your choice, but it’s hard to recommend Vodafone in any other situation, simply because of their pricing.



contact at simonwadsworth dot geek dot nz

Hamilton, Waikato
New Zealand

+64 27 403 4531


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