New Zealanders have always loved being connected. New Zealand was the first in the world to pass legislation to protect its 'wireless telegraphy' stations in 1903, and the first country in the Pacific to connect to the internet. By 1939, New Zealand had more phones per capita than anywhere but the USA and today, 70% of New Zealanders have a smartphone.
The New Zealand Post Office had been operating for nearly a century and was struggling to service a growing nation thirsty for the latest technology and connectivity when Spark (then called Telecom) was born. On March 31, 1987, the Post Office was replaced by three state-owned enterprises, one of which was Telecom. That year, Telecom launched New Zealand's first mobile phone network.
Two years later, New Zealand got its first internet connection, the telecommunications market was deregulated and in 1990, Telecom was sold for NZ$4.2b in what was then New Zealand's biggest deal. Soon after, it listed on the New Zealand, Australian and New York stock exchanges. In the 90s, calling cards, 0800 and 0900 numbers, voicemail and telebanking were introduced, toll calls became much cheaper, and Telecom launched its first ISP, Xtra.
As we ushered in a new millennium -- surviving the dreaded Y2K bug intact -- Telecom celebrated its millionth mobile customer. Next, it acquired Gen-i (now Spark Digital), greatly expanding its ICT capabilities, and in 2004 launched New Zealand's first 3G mobile network.
Changes to New Zealand's legislation in 2006 saw Telecom reorganize itself into separate retail, wholesale and network operations. Then on August 8, 2014, CEO Simon Moutter heralded Telecom's continuing evolution into a truly transformative provider of digital services like communications, entertainment and cloud computing by rebranding Telecom as Spark New Zealand.