Vodafone’s Farmside unit says it now has 10,000 RBI customers following a surge of sign-ups during the Covid-19 lockdown.

The Timaru-based business says there are 15,000 customers in total including those on satellite, fixed line and fibre broadband.

Farmside reports a huge jump in data consumed on its rural wireless network. Traffic in September 2020 was 33 percent higher than the same time a year earlier.

That growth has been helped by the introduction of unlimited data bundles from midnight to midday in July. The company says customers take advantage of this to download data files for entertainment.

Jason Sharp, Farmside’s general manager says the business has been able to offer its service to more customers thanks to the Rural Connectivity Group. In September the RCG had 150 new RBI2 towers. The most recent was switched on in Tongaporutu last week.

The RCG expects to have added a total of 400 rural sites by the end of 2022.

Sharp says: “We’ve seen remote working increase in popularity and online discussion groups replace face to face gatherings. Combine this with a trend towards on-farm monitoring, agriculture sensors, cloud-based applications, and online entertainment, we can only expect that data consumption will continue to rise."