Staying connected: The quest of internet in New Zealand

One of the biggest drawbacks of working remotely is finding access to the internet, especially a fast and reliable connection. In some countries, it is already challenging on land. But living and working as a nomad on the ocean takes it to a new extreme.

You don’t know how difficult it is to be connected until you are not connected.

Initially, we thought that when sailing we kind of didn’t need or want to be connected. We thought it was good to just be in the environment. Fully present. We also thought that we could find coffee shops with internet when on shore. That was the plan.

Pretty soon though we found ourselves in rural communities, and the open internet becomes very scarce. That might not sound surprising, but what was quite a surprise to us was that most of Marinas did not provide internet (at least not for free or with an adequate speed or data bundle). Moreover, even in touristy and popular cities like Whitianga, it was quite a challenge to find a coffee shop with sufficient connection.

New Zealand has one the worlds highest penetration of mobile usage. The reality is, that they also have some of the most expensive services in the world.

Two people working location independently in a coffeeshop in New Zealand.
Working location independently has benefits and drawbacks.
Yes, we are fortunate that there is a 4G network in New Zealand which can carry high data usage. It is just at a ridiculous price. Last month, we spent nearly 120NZD on data. So beware when it comes to mobile internet.

The 4 main providers

These are the 4 main providers in New Zealand and our personal experiences with them. Here are the reviews:

  • Spark – It is probably the most expensive, and they had a monopoly on communications in New Zealand coverage. But since the 4G network launch, it seems to be all the same. Spark also provides Spark internet boxes all over the country, where you can connect with the network (no matter what your actual provider is) and use 1 GB for free. We actually thought, Spark would also have the best coverage but soon found out that the Spark-phone we bought for Kahu was less connected than our own 2degree phones. Quite disappointing, so did not use Kahu-phone anymore after a couple of weeks on the ocean.
  • Skinny – This is Spark, but with no guarantee. If you want a no thrills, no liability carrier, this is your go to. Surprisingly not that much cheaper than 2degrees for the lack of customer service.
  • Vodafone – Known all around the world and has been in New Zealand for the last 25 years, it was more a service provider for the cities. However, now the coverage is comparable everywhere. It is slightly cheaper than Spark.
  • 2degrees – A New Zealand brand established by leveraging the Maori network allocation. It is by far the cheaper operator, however, the coverage in the past has been average. On the ocean, though we were surprised to discover that 2degrees sometimes worked better than Spark. End of April, a new service came out: 2degree data clock. Now you can get unlimited data for a specified time, let´s say a couple of hours or 24 hours for up to 6 NZD. As this is a pretty transparent system and cheaper than other options, we have been working with this lately.
We tried to get in touch with all providers to get better deals or sponsorship for our trip but were not successful. But even if we had found “our provider”, the reality is: Internet is average in New Zealand, and once we are out there, we might not be able to be connected all the time. Then all we can do is be present, go with the flow and enjoy the moments… The moments, we will share with you once we are online again!

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