2degrees activates 5G network for testing in Auckland and Wellington

A 5G cellphone tower
A wider launch isn't scheduled to take place until into the new year. Photo credit: Getty Images

Some 2degrees customers in central Auckland and Wellington are getting a speed boost earlier than planned after the company switched on its 5G network for testing ahead of schedule.

The network isn't set for a full launch until some time in early 2022, but optimisation tests meant early connection for certain customers.

"The 2degrees team is gathering valuable data on network and device performance, upload and download speeds, latency and handovers," 2degrees CTO Martin Sharrock said.

"Early test results have demonstrated speeds over 1Gbps. Work has also begun in Christchurch with the first 5G sites due online for testing in December."

However, only 2degrees customers with parallel imported phones or specially modified devices will be able to get 5G connectivity during the test phase, the company said. If connected, they will see a 5G network message at the top of their screen and will be able to use the 5G network for data downloads.

Earlier this year the telecoms provider, which has more than a million customers in Aotearoa, announced it had partnered with Ericsson to build its new 5G network. Upgrade work to the network has been underway for over two years, according to the company, and builds on the $1 billion it has already spent on its network.

Vodafone and Spark, the company's biggest rivals, already offer 5G coverage in multiple parts of both the North and South Islands.

The 2degrees 5G network will initially cover 100 sites in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch, with plans to expand to 700 sites over time.

"In addition, as we continue to add 5G capability, Kiwis will also reap the benefit of significantly increased 4G capability," Sharrock said.

That will mean a doubling of current 4G capacity, providing a boost to those with older phones not compatible with 5G.

"Over the coming months the team will be rigorously testing 5G on numerous devices so when this new network and technology is launched for customers it will be fully optimised on a range of 5G enabled devices," Sharrock said.

"We're thrilled with the early test results. Kiwis have come to expect immediate access to data and faster download times for business purposes as well as streaming and gaming.

"The timing of our network upgrade and 5G launch meets the growing demand from customers for greater connectivity and speed."