The New Zealand government has shortlisted three proposals, including a joint bid from Telecom NZ (ASX:TEL) and Vodafone NZ, for the government's Rural Broadband Initiative (RBI) project.
Communications minister Stephen Joyce also named as a finalist a consortium bid from state-owned Kordia, as well as wireless operator Woosh Networks and fibre backbone owner FX Networks.
A third proposal from Torotoro Waea, a Maori alliance of 24 members led by start-up Opto Networks, is also in the running.
Five bids had been submitted for the NZ$300 million ($230.4m) project to bring high-speed broadband to the 25% of homes not covered by the concurrent Ultrafast Broadband initiative.
“The short-listed proposals demonstrate that they merit further evaluation based on an their plans to deliver the RBI objectives and provide open access to government-subsidised infrastructure,” Joyce said.
The project aims to deliver at least 5Mbps broadband to 80% of rural households, with the remainder on at least 1Mbps, and connect at least 93% of New Zealand schools to fibre.
The project will be partly funded through an NZ$48 million government grant, with the rest to come from the industry-funded Telecommunications Development Levy introduced as part of the nation's universal service obligation reforms.
Joyce said he expects binding contracts to be signed early next year.
Telecom NZ's ASX-listed shares fell 0.3% to $1.660 during market hours on Wednesday. In New Zealand, the company's shares stayed flat.
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