Ultrafast broadband is coming to more than another 200,000 homes, but doubts are already being expressed that the expansion of the network is quite ambitious enough.
Another 423,000 people will be able get ultrafast broadband (UFB) by the end of 2024 as a result of a long-awaited decision to expand the network.
Prime Minister Bill English said UFB would be extended to more than 151 additional towns, on top of the 33 cities that are already getting the service.
The expansion will mean UFB will be available to "up to 85 per cent" of the country, up from the 75 per cent coverage that is planned to be delivered by 2020.
Telecommunications Users Association chief executive Craig Young said the Government needed to be congratulated but it wanted a "fibre-like" service to all of the country.
"85 per cent is another good step along the way but we will continue to argue for the other 15 per cent to get some sort of service that is equivalent," he said.
At the moment, there is no other technology that is equivalent to UFB, he added.
The new coverage target is higher than the 80 per cent goal that former communications minister Amy Adams set for UFB2 when she first announced there would be a second leg to the UFB scheme in 2014.
However, it is below the 90 per cent figure that industry sources said could be achieved without pushing the per-premise cost of the roll-out to unrealistic levels.
InternetNZ chief executive Jordan Carter said the new target was impressive and more than it had been expecting, but agreed it was "not the end of the road".
"Whether there needs to be a 'UFB3' or not ... we need to digest the areas that are being covered and talk with people about the economics beyond that."
Communications Minister Simon Bridges has been approached for comment on whether there might be a UFB3 down the track, or whether the new footprint of the network was likely to be
The cost of the extra coverage would be $300 million, the Government said. Adams had set a cap of $210m on the money that would be spent on the expansion.
The four existing UFB network companies, Chorus, Enable, Ultrafast Fibre and Northpower will pick up the job of building out the network, with Chorus getting the bulk of the work.
Chorus said its contract would see it extend UFB to another 200,000 homes.
"Rolling out faster, more reliable internet is a vital part of our plan in developing a productive and competitive economy, improving health and educational outcomes and creating more jobs for Kiwis and their families," Bridges said.
He added that it would put New Zealand "among the leaders in the OECD for access to fibre".