7 May 2018
Today marks a significant date for residents of Haast as a long-awaited new 3G mobile tower is switched on and operational – finally connecting Haast to the rest of the country’s mobile network.
Brett Jenkins from Downer worked on the new mobile tower for fifteen days straight, working through torrential downpours and sand fly attacks in order to get the site up and running as soon as possible.
“It’s been all hands on deck to get the tower up and operational quickly. Not only have there been challenges with the weather, we’ve also had to fit three sets of electronic equipment on to the small compound” he said.
The tower in Haast is the first site in New Zealand where all three mobile networks are sharing one set of antennas, and the only site where all networks are operating on satellite backhaul. These technical challenges have added an extra level of complexity to the build.
Local company Electronet has been on site and completed the civil work, including the earthworks, laying the concrete pad and standing the pole up.
The tower has been built on Marks Road, in the centre of Haast township, and provides 3G mobile coverage for approximately 3km – covering the town and State Highway 6 north and east of Haast. Residents and visitors to Haast will now be able to text and make phone calls on three mobile networks – Spark, Vodafone and 2degrees.
Myreen Kain, owner of Haast River Safari, is looking forward to being able to use mobile phones to communicate between the office and the river, where their tourist boat tours leave from.
“At the moment we are able to re-route calls from our landline out to a satellite phone at the river but having mobile phone coverage is really going to enhance our business and make things a lot easier” she said.
“It’s a great thing for the community, especially in emergency situations, and something we have needed for years”.
FIRST TOWER FOR THE RURAL CONNECTIVITY GROUP
Today also marks a significant date for The Rural Connectivity Group (RCG) as Haast is the first site built and operational by the Group, as part of their remit to build over 450 mobile sites across rural New Zealand by 2022.
With the help of the Westland District Council, the Haast community, Electronet, Crown Infrastructure Partners, and Vodafone, Spark and 2degrees – RCG accelerated the building of the Haast tower, switching it on three weeks earlier than planned.
The initial infrastructure built in Haast uses satellite backhaul and is aimed at improving safety – so doesn’t include broadband or data facilities. A permanent 4G solution for Haast and other locations on the West Coast will be in place by the end of 2022.
FURTHER CELL TOWERS FOR WEST COAST
Currently the West Coast Region suffers from a great lack of connectivity due to the rugged rural terrain, low population numbers, and lack of commercial viability for mobile operators. The RCG is using joint funding from the Government’s Rural Broadband Initiative Phase 2 (RBI2) and Mobile Black Spot (MBSF) programmes, as well as from 2degrees, Spark and Vodafone.
In this initial phase of the project, the RCG is identifying the ideal build locations across the West Coast so that services can reach the greatest possible number of rural households, improve mobile coverage on state highways and at key tourist destinations.
In order to stretch the funding and ensure as many build sites across the region as possible, the RCG are keen to collaborate and work with all local parties – communities, councils, Iwi, hapu, whanau, DoC, NZTA, landowners, local businesses, our suppliers, and the mobile network operators. By working together – we can all contribute to a successful outcome for a connected rural New Zealand.
By December 2022 the infrastructure built by the RCG across New Zealand will see at least 30,000 rural homes and businesses gain mobile and high-speed wireless broadband coverage. As well as this, over 1000 kilometres of state highways will gain mobile coverage; and at least 100 top New Zealand tourist destinations will be connected.