Westland Update from the Rural Connectivity Group

28 June 2018

The Rural Connectivity Group (RCG) has been busy making excellent progress in the Westland region with new mobile towers built and operational in Lake Wahapo and Haast, and plenty more underway. NZ Transport Agency contractors have also installed a new short-range cell site at the Department of Conservation’s Pleasant Flat Campsite – adding another “island” of mobile coverage along State Highway 6.

The West Coast has been identified as a priority area for new telecommunications infrastructure under the Government’s Rural Broadband Initiative 2 and Mobile Black Spot programmes.

HAAST

The new 3G mobile tower in Haast was the first site to be built and operational by the RCG, with services connected and operating from 7 May 2018.

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 are now able to text and make phone calls on three mobile networks – Spark, Vodafone and 2degrees.

The tower in Haast was 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. Local company Electronet completed the civil work, including the earthworks, laying the concrete pad and standing the pole up.

As the initial infrastructure built in Haast uses satellite backhaul and is aimed at improving safety – it 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.

LAKE WAHAPO

The new mobile tower at Lake Wahapo provides 3G mobile phone and 4G data services over more than 4 kilometres along State Highway 6, providing connectivity to road users and emergency services as well as tourists frequenting the route. The tower will be operational and providing 3G mobile phone services from Spark, Vodafone and 2degrees in early July 2018. 4G data services will be added to the tower in the next couple of months.

PLEASANT FLAT

NZ Transport Agency contractors installed a new, short range cell site at the Department of Conservation’s Pleasant Flat campsite on State Highway 6 last week – just ahead of the worst of the winter weather.

The sun and wind-powered cell site services all three mobile network operators – Spark, Vodafone and 2degrees – within a 300 metre radius of the campsite. The site is fully off grid from power, with a 270 watt solar panel, 150 watt wind turbine, and three days’ worth of battery storage.

The cell site provides essential coverage for road crews and emergency services as well as for the many international visitors along the popular tourist route.

Pleasant Flat is where the new road closure point will be in the event of the Haast Pass being closed, so drivers can phone and update their journey status, and make alternative accommodation arrangements if they need to from this campsite.

IMAGE: Peter Anderson, of Fulton Hogan and Sean Lewis, of Green Signal, at the new Pleasant Flat cell site.

NEXT SITES

The RCG is continuing to identify ideal build locations so that services can reach the greatest possible number of rural households and improve mobile coverage on state highways and at key tourist destinations. Currently, over 30 sites are under active acquisition, with seven new leases signed in various locations across the West Coast.

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.

For further information about The Rural Connectivity Group please visit www.ruralconnectivitygroup.nz or contact Caitlin Metz, Engagement Manager, directly at Caitlin.Metz@theRCG.nz