Overview of cellphone providers

Telecommunication companies play a major role in a lot of the areas of our lives these days, as they control one of the most important pieces of technology in our day - the cellphone. Without our providers, we wouldn't be able to call, text, tweet, update, hashtag, or whatever else anyone may do on a regular basis from there cellphone, but trying to decide between them can cause some headaches. They've all got their pros and cons, but they're not normally laid out somewhere easy to read. Hopefully the following article will shed some light on the major options we have in NZ and give you a better idea of who you might want to be giving your money to.


Spark

I'll start with these guys. Spark has been around for a very long time, and claim to have the largest customer base of any of the providers. They've kickstarted a few great ideas, one being their XT network. Love it or hate it, it's provided signal to plenty of rural people, not to mention all those out of the way hills and valleys that can now make calls. In saying that, it's not the most reliable network at times. There were more than a few problems in getting the network up and running, to say the least, and even now that it's all finished things are still shabby in a few areas.


As far as value for money goes, they've got a few good offers, particularly in the prepaid market. They held out as best value over the entire Christmas 2012 period, despite fierce competition from the others in the market. They're falling behind a bit as far as post paid plans go, offering less minutes and bonuses than some of the alternatives.


Vodafone

Since they're introduction to New Zealand in 1998, Vodafone has been a strong market competitor. They've advertised themselves on more than one occasion as New Zealands fastest and most reliable network, and in a lot of cases that's true. They are the first, and currently only provider of the 4G network, and even when you're operating on standard 3G speeds can be very quick, signal depending. The way the network is set up, with a 2G network running in the background to their 3G network, means increased reliabilty in a lot of areas. If you lose signal on 3G, you're phone will automatically switch to the slower, calling dedicated network we know as 2G. This is particularly good if you live somewhere rural, or travel a lot where 3G signal can be sketchy.


Which brings us to our next point - they also offer excellent signal in a lot of areas utilising what they call their "3G Extended" side of the network. This is a higher frequency, broader range network that high end smartphones can connect to, offering much improved signal in a lot of areas. Add to that the option of getting "Sure Signal", an addon which connects to your house in order to guarantee you fantastic reception while indoors, and you'd definitely have a leg to stand on arguing for Vodafones reliability.


When it comes to value, they're good, but they do sit somewhere awkward between the two other major providers. They're prepay is ok, but nothing fantastic, and the same goes for their plans. The bonuses can be decent, and you get a good amount of minutes, but it's not really that comparable to the likes of 2 Degrees. They do offer quite a good scheme with their Freebees prepay line, which offers you data and texts before you even use your credit.


2 Degrees

One of New Zealands newest providers, their aim and motto is to be New Zealands cheapest, and ultimately best network. They're working hard at this and have already made great strides towards being the most popular choice. They operate by piggy backing off of Vodafones network, which as you read before is nice and reliable, while in major cities they have their own cellphone towers, with more going up all the time.


Where 2 Degrees really shines is in their post paid plans. They offer the most minutes, data, and texts, as well as the largest bonuses, for the smallest amount of money. Sounds good? It is. The only real limitation you may find with their plans is a limited number of handsets in comparison to their competition, although if you already have an unlocked phone then that won't be an issue for you. With prepay, their cheap, but not the cheapest. Spark still has them beat for combos and value.


Skinny

Possibly the least known about network, these guys operate on a weekly pay type, as opposed to monthly, like the other networks. Their motto is all about living skinny, which means getting as much as you can for as little as possible, and they're definitely aimed at a younger age bracket than the other three. To put it simply, while the other networks are wearing shirts and ties, these guys have fluffy onesies. Proverbially speaking, of course. And that's not a bad thing. For a uni student wanting great value for money and not wanting to be locked into a term, they're fantastic. All their combos cost $4 a week, and you can pick one to suit your exact needs, be that calling, texting, or internet related use.


There's not really a downside to these guys, just more of a limited market. They're not trying to get you to join them if you'd prefer to be on an account, or need a plan with exhorbidant amounts of data and minutes. They're here to give students an option they can afford.


The verdict

Just in case that got confusing, here's an extremely quick run down of the four networks, with the main points of each;


Spark

Excellent prepaid value, and a very good rural network. Not quite there with postpaid plans, although they're not enormously more expensive


Vodafone

Extremely fast and reliable network, and the first to roll out 4G. Good value with their Freebees bundles, although they're plans and casual rates are falling behind a bit.


2 Degrees

Best value postpaid plans, also a very reliable network. Great bonuses offered when signing up to a contract, although their range of handsets is slightly limited when compared to the likes of Spark and Vodafone.


Skinny

Great for people wanting to only spend a couple of weeks, or people who only call, or text, or use data. Not such good value for people wanting a combination of large amounts of all of those, and no good for people wanting a contract - they don't offer one.