A planned third mobile service has taken a step forward, as latest figures continue to show New Zealand is a comparatively expensive place to make phonecalls.
Vodafone and NZ Communications announced today they had signed a deal to provide NZ Communications with national roaming services, enabling it to provide nationwide mobile services.
When NZ Communications customers travelled outside the coverage of network being established by that company, they would be able to automatically roam on Vodafone's 2G network, the companies said.
The service covered voice, text messaging and data, and might be extended to include 3G at NZ Communications' request.
NZ Communications, previously Econet Wireless New Zealand, is owned and controlled by private equity companies General Enterprise Management and Communication Venture Partners.
The Maori-controlled Hautaki Trust owns 20 per cent.
In March it announced it had signed a contract with Chinese telecommunications supplier Huawei to build a national cellular network.
Today NZ Communications chairman Bill Osborne said the agreement with Vodafone indicated his company's commitment to being a provider of mobile telephone services.
"There is still much work to be done and agreement still has to be reached on detailed implementation plans around roaming and co-location before NZ Communications can provide services to New Zealand consumers," he said.
A start up date of late next year was being targeted, but that depended on the progress made on detailed implementation plans.
Vodafone chief executive Russell Stanners said there had been enormous interest from all quarters in ensuring there was a third player in the mobile market.
"NZ Communications and Vodafone have worked hard to put a commercial deal in place and we are now finalising implementation plans to deliver the service," Mr Stanners said.
On the same day as the deal was announced, the Commerce Commission published its key telecommunications statistics for the third quarter.
The report includes comparisons of telecommunications costs in OECD countries, based on a series of standard consumption baskets reflecting different end-user profiles.
Details of publicly available plans are used to calculate the cheapest cost of filling each basket in each of the OECD countries.
For August, Vodafone's "Base 20" plan ranked 14th out of the 30 countries for the low user basket, with a price that is 89 per cent of the OECD average. That is an improvement from 17th place and 103 per cent of average in May.
But the report said unavoidable restrictive conditions in Vodafone's different "Base" plans made them particularly unattractive.
Other plans suitable for the low user basket and available in this country are ranked 27th and 28th equal.
In the medium user basket, Vodafone's "Base 60 plan" is ranked 12th, with other New Zealand plans 27th and 29th.
In the high user basket Vodafone's "Base 150" is 16th and others 24th and 30th.