The New Zealand government has short-listed 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 $NZ300 million ($230.4m) project to bring high-speed broadband to the 25 per cent 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 per cent of rural households, with the remainder on at least 1Mbps, and connect at least 93 per cent of New Zealand schools to fibre.
The project will be partly funded through an $NZ48 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 per cent to $1.660 during market hours on Wednesday. In New Zealand, the company's shares stayed flat.