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Cellphone Networks in New Zealand

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What are your mobile phone Network options in New Zealand?

Staying connected even on the other side of the world has never been easier. Cellphone providers have offers tailored to everybody’s needs. Even in New Zealand, which has a bit of a reputation for being a bit “behind the times”, you’ll be able to get yourself something to suits your budget and needs.

The first thing that you will want to do when landing in New Zealand? Get connected. We are a social herd, after all. But don’t worry, we’ll clear the path of the New Zealand network jungle out there.

In this article, we will run you through the basics of cellphone networks in New Zealand, from the different carriers and their network to common questions and basic tips. Once you are familiar with the info below, move on to our Which cellphone company is best for a gap year in New Zealand? guide so you can start planning the first step of your trip in New Zealand.

The different cellphone companies in New Zealand

There are three main cellphone companies in New Zealand. All three of them own and operate their own network of towers:

  • Spark
  • Vodafone
  • 2Degrees

There are also a lot of smaller operators that rent the towers from the main operators and sell their plans at a discounted price:

  • Skinny Mobile (Spark Network)
  • Warehouse Mobile (2Degree Network)
  • Compass (Spark Network)
  • Blue Sky (Spark Network)
  • Slingshot (Spark Network)

For more information about those different companies check out our guide on which cellphone company is best for a gap year in New Zealand?

Haka Tours

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Considering roaming during your trip in New Zealand? DON’T!

Aside from being incredibly expensive, roaming is the best way not to be contacted by anyone in New Zealand. Should it be an activity provider that needs to give you more information about your upcoming tour or an employer wanting to interview you for your dream New Zealand job, you will not be called back if you have an overseas number.

Your best bet for your trip in New Zealand is to get yourself a New Zealand mobile number for you to use during your trip. Some cellphone carriers even offer weekly prepay options so you have great options even for the shortest trips. See the last section of this article for more details.

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Do you need a new phone for your trip in New Zealand?

Unlocked phones

If you have bought your phone in your home country as a stand-alone (not from a phone carrier), they usually come unlocked. In that case, you will be able to use it in New Zealand. Make sure that your phone is using the right technology for the network that you want to use:

  • 2degrees: GSM, UMTS and LTE
  • Spark: UMTS, HSDPA and LTE
  • Vodafone: GSM, UMTS, HSDPA and LTE

If you are planning to use it with an operator on the Spark network, you can even do this quick online check to make sure it works on their network.

Locked phones

If you have bought your phone through a cellphone carrier back in your home country, then you will have to make sure that they unlock your phone so you can use it overseas and with other networks. Be aware that some companies will have fees or terms and conditions forbidding you to do so. In that case, you have two choices:

  • Unlock it through a third party unlocker (This will break your warranty)
  • Buy a new phone for your trip in New Zealand. In that case, we suggest you get yourself a “cheap as” cellphone when landing in New Zealand, this will help you save money on hefty internet bills and you won’t be crying too much when you break it during a hike.

For more information on this subject, see Will Your Phone Work in New Zealand?

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The New Zealand phone networks Coverage and network speed

Coverage comparison for New Zealand phone networks

New Zealand has three main operators that share the market: Spark, Vodafone and 2Degrees. Aside from the difference in technologies used by Spark, Vodafone and 2Degrees, there is also a considerable difference in coverage.

First things first, the coverage in New Zealand is usually stated with this kind of statement: “Covers 90% of places where Kiwis work and play.” This means that a network may only cover 50% of the country but 90% of the place where the population lives.

New Zealand is blessed with incredible huge national parks and mountainous sections where coverage is non-existent. This means that every small percentage in the numbers below makes a huge difference. With that in mind, here are the coverage claims from each network:

  • Spark: Covers 98.5% of places where kiwi work and play
  • 2Degrees: Covers 98.5% of places where kiwi work and play
  • Vodafone: Covers 98.5% of the New Zealand population
Network Speed

It is also worth noting that any operators using the Spark network usually have the fastest speed internet due to the new XT-4G network rolled out by Spark which is faster than 4G. Vodafone is not far behind on the network speed with a good number of LTE-A sites and 28 sites of 4G Band.

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What type of plan should you get for a gap year in New Zealand?

Without a doubt, the best type of plan for a gap year in New Zealand is a prepay plan. This means that you have no contract and can stop your plan any time without any charge.

Prepay is very easy to work with:

1. Get a SIM card: SIM cards can be found in every single city in New Zealand, in cellphone shops, convenience stores (Dairy shops), supermarkets, and even in hostels.

2. Activate the SIM card: It is usually a 2-minute automated process to do over the phone.

3. Top-up and select your options: This means adding money onto your account and choosing how to spend it.
The “top-up” system is very simple, you can buy top-up vouchers in any supermarket. After you have purchased your voucher, simply follow the instructions on the voucher to add the value of the voucher to your account.
Once that is done, you can choose how to spend your money, which is either “pay as you go” meaning that you will be paying a flat rate for everything you use (Example: 20c per minute, 10c per text and 20c per Mb of data) or you can buy a bundle (Example: NZ$20 for 200min, 250 Texts and 1Gb of Data for 1 month).
Note that Skinny Mobile even offers weekly prepay plan so you can save heaps even on short periods.

For more information, see 8 Reasons to Choose a Prepay Phone Plan in New Zealand.

Power Tip: Because free Wifi is quite hard to come by in New Zealand, we recommend getting a data-heavy plan if you plan on using the Internet on your phone. For more information, see How to get Internet and WiFi in New Zealand.

More about Cellphone networks in New Zealand

For more information on staying connected, check out these articles:

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