Rural Connectivity Group Awarded Chatham Islands Contract

6th April 2021

New $11.5M Telecommunications Network Confirmed for Chatham Islands

Crown Infrastructure Partners (CIP) have confirmed that the Chatham Islands will receive a new 4G wireless telecommunications network under the government’s Rural Broadband Initiative Phase 2 (RBI2) and Provincial Growth Fund.

An upgraded telecommunications network is a strategic goal in the Chatham Islands Investment Strategy along with another government funded project announced in August 2020, to lengthen and strengthen the runway at Tuuta Airport.  

The Rural Connectivity Group has been working since June 2020 with CIP, Chatham Islands Enterprise Trust, Kaingaroa Trust, Hokotehi Moriori Trust, Chatham Islands Electricity, Ngati Mutunga o Wharekauri, local landowners and Chatham Islands Council to scope and design the new telecommunications network.  CIP have confirmed $11.5M funding to build the new network including contributions from the Provincial Growth Fund, RBI2 and the three mobile network operators Spark, Vodafone and 2degrees.

The investment will allow the build of a new satellite dish and satellite link, providing four times the capacity of the current satellite link serving the island.  This is fundamental to improving broadband speeds for residents and allows 4G wireless broadband for almost all households and businesses on the island. The new satellite link will provide the backhaul telecommunications link back to New Zealand for five cell sites positioned around the island to maximise broadband coverage to residents on both Chatham Island and Pitt Island, whilst also bringing 4G mobile coverage across the majority of the island’s roads.

The project priority is to deliver reliable fast broadband, and as that is delivered over the cellular network, mobile phone services will also be available to the Island for the first time.  The mobile coverage will also extend into the marine territory providing support for farming, tourism and the fishing industry, the islands main source of employment and income. 

“The Chatham Islands rely on the fishing industry and the safety of our people at sea is paramount.  The fishing workers are at sea for days at a time and having broadband and mobile coverage will enable them to keep in touch with their families, the fish market, as well as achieve MPI compliance by being able to submit their daily catch reports” says George Ririnui, MPI Fisheries Officer on Chatham Islands.

Mayor Monique Croon is excited by the new RCG network, knowing that the addition of mobile coverage to the islands roading network will provide peace of mind for residents. “Locals will no longer have to sleep overnight in their car in the case of a breakdown or accident and wait for daylight to seek help.  Help will be just a phone call away at any time of day or night.”

New Zealanders are flocking to the island to enjoy the unique landscape and way of life, especially since the NZ borders have been shut since 2020.  “Being able to keep track of our tourist operations and keeping people safe as they travel the island is going to be a huge advantage, saving time,

resource, improving efficiency and ultimately enhancing the visitor experience. Our whole health and safety approach on the island will be enhanced as a result of the new network, along with vastly improving access to our health services” says the Mayor.

The Rural Connectivity Group has been working closely with locals to understand the challenging environment the new network will operate in.  Chatham Islands is positioned in the “roaring forties” latitude and is a windswept, harsh, coastal environment, no matter where you are on the island.  Designing the network has had to consider the tremendous wind load on each RCG facility, as well as the footings required due to the unique ground conditions, such as the peat fields encountered around the island.

“We created a dedicated team to work on the Chatham Islands project to ensure we understood the unique challenges, developed clever solutions to them and can build the entire network within a short timeframe”, says John Proctor, CEO of the Rural Connectivity Group. “Our team have got close to the local people and are really grateful for their support in bringing the project to fruition so quickly.  We are building this network to improve life for the locals, so it is wonderful to have had their input from the beginning.”

John Proctor explains “Build of the new network is scheduled to commence in April and it has been a major logistical exercise to ensure all components required for the new network are freighted to the island ahead of the build commencement.  We expect the first connectivity to be available in late August, with the network completed and optimised by the end of the year.”

Eutelsat are providing the satellite link to the island and RCG are also working with Downer NZ Ltd to deliver the satellite station and five mobile cell sites.  The steel poles have been designed and manufactured by CSP Pacific taking into account the wind-swept environment on the Island. To ensure a robust network on the island the five cell sites are linked with diverse paths, so any fault on a particular site can be isolated and still allow the other sites to operate.  The internal linking is being delivered by UBB- Ultimate Broadband, a Wireless Internet Service Provider based in Canterbury.

“Our team are keen to get started on the build programme to deliver these much-needed services to the island and hope the weather is kind to us during the construction phase.  We have enjoyed full support from locals and know this new network will have a huge impact on their daily lives” says John.

Reliable broadband and mobile services are essential for emergency management, such as in the Covid-19 Level 4 lockdown that the Chatham Islands were also affected by.  “We need these services to connect our people who are isolated and need our support” reports Owen Pickles, Council CEO and long-term Civil Defence stalwart.   “The new network is important for our families to contact emergency services in the case of an accident, fire or other emergencies.  Our residents will be better informed of potential hazards related to events, such as earthquakes, tsunamis or Civil Defence warnings and have immediate ability to report any criminal activity.”  

The new RCG sites are the result of an industry leading collaboration between the three mobile network operators and Crown Infrastructure Partners to build over 500 cell sites across rural New Zealand delivering essential broadband and mobile services. 

The RCG is a joint venture between Spark, Vodafone and 2degrees, and has been contracted by CIP to deliver the government’s Rural Broadband Initiative Phase 2 (RBI2) and Mobile Black Spots Fund (MBSF) programmes.  The RCG is responsible for building, operating, and maintaining this essential rural network infrastructure. 

The RCG cell sites are running the latest 4G technology and services will be available to customers of Spark, Vodafone, 2degrees and their wholesale resellers.  Customers may need to upgrade their mobile phones to enable 4G voice calling. Information is available on the websites for each company and anyone unsure if their device can receive and make calls over the 4G network should contact their service provider.

Rural Connectivity Group liven their 200th site

26 February 2021

RCG liven 200 sites marking significant progress in the build of the new cellular network that’s getting rural New Zealanders connected.  

The Rural Connectivity Group (RCG) has livened their 200th site under the government funded Rural Broadband Initiative 2 (RBI2) and Mobile Black Spot Fund (MBSF) programmes. 

The 200th RCG site on air is located on farmland off Seafield Road, Puketapu, and is providing 4G wireless broadband and 4G mobile services from Spark, Vodafone and 2degrees to over 115 households in the Puketapu area. Livening the Seafield Road site takes the total number of operational RCG sites in the Hawkes Bay Region to twenty, with another eleven sites planned in the region by the end of the programme in December 2023.    

The twenty RCG live sites enable one thousand homes and business, over 50km of local State Highway and three tourism hotspots, previously with poor or no network connectivity, access to high-speed 4G wireless broadband and quality mobile coverage, across the Hastings, Central Hawkes Bay and Wairoa Council areas.

 “We’re delighted to have livened RCG’s Seafield Road site, making this our twentieth site in the Hawkes Bay region. We’ve a substantial build programme with a total of 31 sites of our 500 cell sites located here.” Says John Proctor, CEO of RCG. 

“Livening this site marks a significant point in the RCG journey, including for our suppliers and contractors who have all contributed to our 200th site live. We are very aware what this means to Hawkes Bay locals and how eager they are for services to be delivered via our network. We are very grateful to Philip and Robyn Holt for realising the benefits of this site for their local community and working with us to get this new facility built to provide services to Puketapu.” he says.

Local farmer and landowner of the Seafield Road site location, Philip Holt, says “gaining fast broadband and mobile services is a huge boost to our family run farming business. We have three families directly involved in our farming operation and gaining reliable broadband and mobile services will be hugely helpful in sharing business information, making informed decisions for the business, and keeping in touch whilst out on the farm.  Our neighbours are also thrilled to have services available to assist them with daily business chores and lessen their trips into town.”

The RCG network of 200 live sites across rural New Zealand is providing fast reliable internet connectivity allowing rural people to make a choice about working and schooling from home, providing opportunity to pursue online business, promoting their goods via social media networks, and selling products via online shops.

Mayor Sandra Hazlehurst, Hastings District Council says the primary sector is the backbone of our economy and improved connectivity benefits everyone.  “It allows our farmers and growers to enhance their business performance, it connects families and friends and it also helps our rural community in times of emergencies.  Reliable broadband is essential for emergency management, such as in the recent floods and drought crisis.  We need it to connect our people who are isolated and need our support.”

Rural Kiwis report that it is also vitally important to have good connectivity so they can provide social and wellbeing support within their local community, to help prevent neighbours from feeling isolated.  Local Police Officer Pete Gimblett, speaking on behalf of NZ Police adds, “The new network is important for rural and isolated families to contact emergency services in the case of an accident, fire or other emergencies.  Rural people will now be able to be better informed of potential hazards related to events, such as earthquakes, tsunamis or Civil Defence warnings and also have immediate ability to report any criminal activity.”  

The new RCG sites are the result of an industry leading collaboration between the three mobile network operators and Crown Infrastructure Partners (CIP) to build over 500 cell sites across rural New Zealand delivering essential broadband and mobile services. 

The RCG is a joint venture between Spark, Vodafone and 2degrees, and has been contracted by CIP to deliver the government’s Rural Broadband Initiative Phase 2 (RBI2) and Mobile Black Spots Fund (MBSF) programmes.  The RCG is responsible for building, operating, and maintaining this essential rural network infrastructure. 

The RCG cell sites are running the latest 4G technology and services are now available to customers of Spark, Vodafone or 2degrees. Customers may need to upgrade their phone settings to enable 4G voice calling. Information is available on the websites for each company and anyone unsure if their device is capable of receiving and making calls over the 4G network should contact their service provider.

First West Coast Chorus fibre enabled RCG site goes live

12 February 2021

Chorus and the Rural Connectivity Group (RCG) are pleased to announce that the first West Coast fibre enabled cell site, called Fox West, has gone live.

Located along the Haast Highway 8kms west of Fox Glacier township, the site will provide 4G wireless broadband and mobile calling services to homes, businesses, the farming community across the area, and to approximately 20km of SH6 covering Haast Highway to the Cook River.

The Chorus fibre roll out, which is primarily Government funded from the Provincial Growth Fund will enable upgraded broadband services and provide backhaul to the RCG network along the West Coast route. The Fox Glacier to Lake Hawea link will create diversity in providing an alternative route to existing fibres and will also mean the Haast township is added to those getting Ultra-Fast Broadband (UFB).

The roll out will also enable RCG to connect over 20 mobile cell sites from Fox Glacier to Haast in the Westland District Council area, and from Haast to Lake Hawea in the Otago region, to the Chorus fibre.

Funded under the government’s Rural Broadband Initiative (RBI2) and Mobile Black Spot Fund (MBSF) programmes, these sites will deliver 4G wireless broadband and 3G mobile services to over 400 homes and businesses, nearly 140km of State highway and 13 tourist hotspots.

Chorus CEO, JB Rousselot, is delighted to see Fox West come online and begin bringing greater digital connectivity to the West Coast.

“Chorus is pleased to partner with RCG in upgrading the telecommunications performance, capacity and resilience and bring West Coasters much improved phone and broadband services. Having seen the part communications infrastructure played during the Covid-19 lockdown, we are proud to be further supporting this investment regionally.

“The 250km of fibre running along the West Coast’s SH6 will provide additional resilience to our network, something we know will be welcomed in the region. From a health and safety perspective, this is a huge milestone in having reliable coverage as Kiwis traverse the beautiful coastal roads.

“We are also pleased that, as part of this work, fibre will be made available to Haast residents, adding to the hundreds of towns nationwide already able to connect to world-class, fast fibre broadband.

“This truly is a game changer for providing telecommunications services to the West Coast,” Mr Rousselot says.

RCG CEO, John Proctor, shares Mr Rousselot’s sentiment.

“We’re delighted to have livened RCG’s Fox West site. We’ve a significant build programme across the West Coast and Otago regions and livening this site marks the start of a vastly improved modern telecommunications network across the West Coast. We are very aware what this means to West Coasters and how eager they are for services to be delivered via our network.” he says.

“We know our network across rural New Zealand is making a huge difference to the daily lives of rural people by allowing reliable and fast access to the Internet. Now more than ever, a greater number of Kiwi’s are working, schooling, and running businesses from their rural homes. The feedback we have received from communities already benefiting from the RCG network is overwhelming as they can now complete tasks that most of us take for granted for example paying wages, ordering inventory, attending online meetings, and helping their children with homework. We’ve seen how rural Kiwi’s lives are transformed once they are able to connect.”

Once the Government Funded RBI2 programme is fully completed in 2023, approximately 84,000 rural homes and businesses will receive improved broadband. The Mobile Black Spot Fund programme will provide approximately 1,400 kms of state highway coverage and connectivity to 168 tourism sites across New Zealand.

ENDS

Chorus contact
Steve Pettigrew
027 258 6257
Steve.pettigrew@chorus.co.nz

RCG contact
Gill Evans
021 240 6507
Gill.evans@thercg.nz

Connect Tararua Governance Group’s lobbying pays off

18 August 2020

Connect Tararua Governance Group, Mavis Mullins, Henare Kani, Caitlin Metz – RCG, Jessica Lethaby – RCG, Mel Poulton, mayor Tracey Collis, Callum Skeet, Sharon Wards, Tim Poulton, Alison Franklin, Richard Murfitt with men in the high viz gear who will be building all the towers in the Tararua District for the RBI2 rollout.

Bush Telegraph
After more than three years hard work, Connect Tararua has finally had success in lobbying Government for better 4G cellphone connectivity for the Tararua District.
As the first spade went in the ground at Ahiweka, the team were present to bear witness to the blessing of the site by Henare Kani. For the team, this was the culmination of their years of hard work.
Mayor Tracey Collis accompanied the team to the site, together with Caitlin Metz and Jesse Lethaby of the RCG (Rural Connectivity Group).
“It was very moving for us all to be present for the karakia and the blessing of the first site. It was gratifying for me as mayor of the district to see the years of work put in by this dedicated team finally result in some runs on the board. They deserve the kudos for their tireless efforts on behalf of our people,” Tracey said.

The countless hours of volunteer work put in by this committed team resulted in an additional nine cellphone towers allocated in the RBI2 rollout. The original allocation by Crown Infrastructure Partners and the Rural Connectivity Group was only one tower, which was destined for Pongaroa.
But now, with absolute dogged determination, Connect Tararua has finally achieved a great result for their efforts as the first of the 10 new cellphone sites begins construction.
Team lead Mel Poulton said the RCG is committed to providing additional connectivity to serve Tararua rural residents and lease negotiations, power design and site design work began before lockdown and now the build to ensure efficiencies in the Tararua District, has begun.
“When the RBI2 rollout allocations were first announced, we were disappointed to find that our district was only allocated one additional tower, so you can imagine our excitement when we learned that the our year’s of hard work researching and providing statistical information that enabled the RCG to look at our district with a new lens, had finally paid off,” Mel said.
“And now here we are, witnessing the first spade in the ground at the Ahiweka site which fortunately already has power to site as all the Districts emergency services communication technology are already located up here.”
Mel said the Connect Tararua Governance Group do still have some ongoing concerns.
“Given the modelling work provided, it looks possible that this government funded RBI2 rollout will still not meet the needs of the whole district. There is a risk that there will be pockets of communities and households that still may not get the digital connectivity that they need. Connect Tararua is very mindful that there is likely more work to be done once these towers are built.”
Mel said it won’t be until after all the towers are up and running that Connect Tararua will be able to ascertain where the gaps are and what the quality of service is actually being delivered across the district.

“Until then we can not determine what the scope and scale of work will be to connect those of us who may miss out, however, one thing we can assure everyone of is, that progress is being made, the build of cell phone towers for Tararua in under way and this will make a huge difference to many people and businesses across the district,” Mel said.
“This is a considerably better outcome to the one tower that was originally assigned to the Tararua District for the RBI2 Government rollout. The build will make a substantial and positive difference for a significant portion of the district.”

RCG 100 Sites Live

Thursday 11 June 2020

RCG liven 100 sites during Covid-19 keeping rural New Zealanders connected.  

On Thursday 11 June 2020 the Honourable Kris Faafoi, Broadcasting, Communications and Digital Media Minister marked RCG’s 100th site live during a ribbon cutting event in Gebbies Valley, Christchurch.

The 100th site on air under the Rural Broadband Initiative (RBI2) and Mobile Black Spot Fund (MBSF) programmes means that a further 8000 households and businesses and over 300km of State Highway previously with poor or no network connectivity, will have access to high-speed wireless broadband and quality mobile coverage, from Spark, Vodafone and 2degrees.

The living of the Gebbies valley sites takes the total number of operational RCG sites in the Canterbury region to eight, in an effort to keep rural New Zealanders connected as they worked and schooled from home during Covid lockdown.

With the livening of these eight sites in Cass, Eyrewell, The Pines Beach, Bealey, Ashburton East, Birdlings Flat, Albury and Gebbies Valley and another three sites planned to go live imminently, a further one thousand Cantabrian homes and businesses and over 55kms of state highway,

“At the time of the lockdown we had a number of sites around New Zealand close to completion which we had to secure and leave. As an Essential Service our team has been focused on getting built sites ‘on air’ to provide immediate service to as many rural communities as possible.” says RCG Chief Executive John Proctor. “Our team has worked in extraordinary circumstances but the importance of new coverage to isolated rural communities cannot be underestimated. Livening sites makes a huge difference to the daily lives of locals and is why it’s more important than ever we’ve worked hard to complete sites during lockdown.”

The challenges presented by a national state of emergency and subsequent levels of lockdown has meant that in addition to the already strict Health & Safety protocols followed by the RCG, controlled and meticulous Covid-19 procedures to access and work on sites needed to be implemented, including ensuring Police permits were obtained for the RCG staff movements.

Mr. Proctor says “These remain unprecedented times. We’re working together with our shareholders, build partners, power companies and landowners with one goal – to build and liven sites and keep everyone safe whilst doing so. I can’t thank everyone enough for their contribution; it’s been a huge team effort and we’re proud to be providing coverage when it is most needed.”

Today Tori Peden, Banks Peninsula Community Board Chair made one of the first calls from her phone using the new service.

” Being able to make one of the first calls using service from this site has been fantastic. Giving our rural communities and emergency services access to reliable high-speed broadband and mobile service is essential and means that the southern side of State Highway 75 no longer has a black spot for coverage. Thanks, from all of us, goes to the RCG and to central government for getting this programme into our community” said Ms Peden.

The new RCG sites are the result of an industry leading collaboration between the three mobile network operators and Crown Infrastructure Partners (CIP) and aims to build over 450 cell sites across rural New Zealand delivering essential broadband and mobile services. The RCG is a joint venture between Spark, Vodafone and 2degrees, and has been contracted by CIP to deliver the government’s Rural Broadband Initiative Phase 2 and Mobile Black Spots Fund programmes.  The RCG is responsible for building, operating, and maintaining this essential rural network infrastructure.

Spark Technology Director and RCG Board Member, Mark Beder said Spark was pleased to be part of a solution that is helping to bridge the digital divide for rural communities, at a time when connectivity is more important than ever before.

“Lockdown has shone a light on how important connectivity is for all New Zealanders. Building critical infrastructure in our rugged rural terrain is no easy task, and even more challenging during a pandemic and various stages of lockdown – but RCG responded and continued connecting rural communities when they really needed it.”

Tony Baird, Wholesale and Infrastructure Director at Vodafone New Zealand and RCG Board member says, “Switching on 100 cell sites is an awesome achievement, and we’re pleased to help connect even more rural New Zealanders to digital services as part of our commitment to levelling the urban-rural playing field. Connectivity is more important than ever now, and we’ve seen massive increases in internet usage as people work and learn from home. I’m proud of the collective mahi from the industry during lockdown.”

2degrees Chief Commercial Officer and RCG Board Chair, Paul Mathewson, offered his congratulations to the wider RCG team: “It’s fantastic to have reached this milestone – especially through such challenging times and when staying connected to the people who matter most, has never been so important”

The mobile sites are running on the latest 4G technology and services are now available to customers of Spark, Vodafone or 2degrees. Customers may need to upgrade their phone settings to enable 4G voice calling. Information is available on the websites for each company and anyone unsure if their device is capable of receiving and making calls over the 4G network should contact their service provider.

RCG liven sites during Covid-19 lockdown.

The RCG Liven 27 additional sites across rural New Zealand connecting thousands of households and providing new mobile coverage across the State Highway network.

As New Zealand continues to ‘stay home’ in our fight against Covid-19, the importance of the work being undertaken by the RCG to deliver the government’s Rural Broadband Initiative Phase 2 programme cannot be underestimated.

So far in lockdown RCG, who have been granted designated essential service status, have switched on 27 new RBI2 sites to provide rural communities the ability to work and school from home.

With the addition of these 27 sites into the RCG network, over 2000 homes and businesses now have access to high-speed wireless broadband and quality mobile coverage whilst around 95km of State Highways now have improved mobile services.

“At the time of the lockdown we had a large number of sites around New Zealand close to completion which we needed to secure and walk away from. Being granted Essential Service status means our team has focused on getting built sites ‘on air’ providing immediate service to as many rural communities as possible.” says RCG Chief Executive John Proctor. “Our team and build partners have worked in extraordinary circumstances but the importance of new coverage to those in isolated areas cannot be underestimated. We know the new connectivity will make a huge difference to the daily lives of locals and that’s why it’s more important than ever we have been able to complete sites and get them on air.”

The addition of the 27 sites takes RCG’s overall live sites across New Zealand to 90, a figure that all those working on the project are proud of, given the challenges presented by a national state of emergency lockdown.

As well as following already established strict Health & Safety protocols, the RCG and our build partners have successfully implemented controlled and meticulous Covid-19 procedures to access and work on sites, including ensuring Police permits are obtained for the RCG staff movements.

These are unprecedented times. We’re working together with our build partners, power companies and landowners with one goal – to liven sites and keep everyone safe whilst doing so.

“Response to the livening of these sites has been overwhelmingly positive from local community and council stakeholders and I can’t thank everyone enough for their contribution; it’s been a huge team effort and we’re proud to be providing coverage when it is most needed.”

The RCG delivers mobile coverage to the Bay of Plenty’s TECT Park

Long awaited mobile broadband coverage has now been switched on at the popular TECT Park in the Western Bay of Plenty. The move ensures that the more than 30,000 visitors, thrill seekers and outdoor adventurers can rely on seamless connectivity across the 1650 hectares of all terrain park.

The Rural Connectivity Group (RCG) was there for a special reception early December to mark the switching on of the park’s first mobile facility built under the RBI2 initiative (pictured).

RCG Head of Communications and Engagement, Caitlin Metz  joined Western Bay District and Tauranga City mayors, Garry Webber and Tenby Powell, TECT Chairperson Bill Holland, Deputy Chairperson Natalie Bridges and TECT Trustee Peter Blackwell, Ngai Tamarāwaho kaumatua Des Tata and Sonny Ranapia, and Park Manager Bill Wheeler for the occasion.

Western Bay Mayor Garry Webber says the facility is the coming of age for TECT Park.

“Until now, lack of telecommunications has been a risk factor to users’ safety and has also been a barrier to commercial development at the park and hindered our ability to promote the park to its full potential as a tourist and visitor attraction,” says Garry.

”From its inception, one of the Park’s core values has been ‘create’ and, with the development of basic infrastructure such as telecommunications, roading and power, the two councils are providing users with the tools to create their own dream playground at TECT Park.

“Our thanks go to the Rural Connectivity Group for being faithful to its mandate under the RBI2/MBSF programme to provide mobile and wireless broadband services to the TECT Park and surrounding neighbours.”

The RCG’s Caitlin Metz says the team had enjoyed working with the two councils, TECT Park management and Base Power to bring this much needed facility to the park.

“It has been a shared goal and successful collaboration. The services provided by Spark, Vodafone and 2degrees will provide safety and convenience for the 30,000 plus visitors to the park. Mobile operators have tried for a decade to bring services to the area and it is the success of the RBI2 and MBSF programmes that have ensured coverage has finally been delivered,” says Caitlin.

Cell phone reception will also be welcomed by the wider community between Oropi and Ngawaro which, until now, have put up with no coverage.

TECT Park and the Adrenalin Forest Adventure Experience received a mobile facility from Government’s Mobile Black Spots Fund Programme (MBSF).

The RCG appoints Chorus to deliver Backhaul Fibre to RBI2 cell sites

The Rural Connectivity Group (RCG) and Chorus have agreed that Chorus will play a key role in providing backhaul fibre to new mobile sites scheduled to be built under the RBI2 initiative.

Scalable backhaul is a critical component for the successful rollout of RBI2 across rural New Zealand, according to RCG acting Executive Programme Director John Proctor.

“We are really pleased to be working with a key partner like Chorus to deliver fibre, alongside our other backhaul solutions, key to enabling delivery of the sites in our programme.”

Chorus’s Chief Customer Officer Ed Hyde said: “We recognise the importance to New Zealand of high-quality mobile services in rural areas, and equally the importance of fibre in rolling out mobile infrastructure.

“This is a good deal for all participants and we expect it to benefit many rural communities over the coming years.”
“In order to deliver on this agreement, the team had to design a new fibre-based mobile backhaul product. In line with our requirement not to discriminate, this new backhaul product will now also be made available to any other mobile network builders to consume,” Hyde said.

The deal sees Chorus provide fibre backhaul to those RCG sites within fibre reach and in return Chorus will receive backhaul revenues from the completed sites for a 10 year period.

The Rural Connectivity Group meets the milestone of 100 sites signed

The Rural Connectivity Group (RCG) have celebrated reaching the milestone of securing the land needed for the first 100 cell sites to be built. The team are now ahead of schedule as they roll towards providing a minimum of 400 new mobile cell-sites, delivering high speed mobile broadband to at least 34,000 additional rural New Zealand households.

Brad Clarke, Head of Site Acquisition and Planning said that the progress to date hasn’t been without its challenges but reaching this point, ahead of schedule, shows that the strategy is hitting the mark with rural New Zealanders.

“We’re talking to rural Kiwis every day, and it’s clear that landowners who are coming onboard to provide a home for RCG sites are willing to go above and beyond, working with us for the good of their communities. Even though we recognise that the process and build can sometimes be challenging, we wholeheartedly thank them for their patience and fantastic support.”

Many of the towers to be erected amongst this first group are set to liven remote areas of the Far North and West Coast of the South Island, previously with little or no access to mobile and broadband services. A good proportion of these 100 sites are set to provide mobile services to former state highway ‘mobile blackspots’, areas of roading where motorists would not previously have been able to contact emergency services via mobile.

“There’s a reason why these parts of New Zealand haven’t been connected sooner – it’s not easy out there. Our build teams are working in geographically challenging conditions, often dealing with wild weather and rugged terrain. As we’ve progressed, what’s been evident is how critical it is the teams have that ‘number 8 wire’ innovative approach in getting the job done out there, “Brad says.

“The rural heartland of New Zealand has been waiting a long time for these services to arrive and local people fully expect having improved connectivity to provide more opportunities for those living, working and visiting nearby. We’re proud to be supporting that.”

Rural broadband to extend

Imagine not being able to check your emails or check the weather report online.

These days our expectations of being able to connect to the internet have increased.

But, believe it or not – black spots still exist, particularly across the rural sector where some farmers cannot get the optimum benefit from their technology-based farming equipment.

Reporter Alexia Johnston finds out what the Government is doing to rectify the situation in Central Otago and Wanaka.

Work is finally under way to bring rural Central Otago and Wanaka up to speed across various digital platforms.

Rural Connectivity Group (RCG) staff were in the wider district last week, to determine where potential sites could be rolled out under the Government’s Rural Broadband Initiative Phase 2 and Mobile Black Spot Fund.

It is a work in progress, but those initiatives will ensure a growing number of people throughout the district can tap into those services over the coming years.

Central Otago and Wanaka will feature among 400 new sites capable of delivering 4G broadband by December 2022.

Among those sites are Moa Creek, Lowburn, Lindis Valley, and Patearoa in Central Otago, and Blue Pool, Makarora and The Neck, near Wanaka.

An additional 54 towns, including St Bathans, will benefit, once the initial 400 were completed Rural Connectivity Group (RCG) engagement manager Caitlin Metz said.

sites in Central Otago and Wanaka will be capable of delivering 4G broadband over a shared mobile network by December 2022.

Ms Metz said work on the extra 54 towns would not start until the initial 400 were completed.

“The area needs to be investigated for a suitable site location that can provide the required coverage to the identified residents, and for the facility to be connected to mains power, connected to a fibre network, or connected via digital microwave radio to provide backhaul into the national telecommunications network. Negotiations with the identified landowner need to take place, a lease agreed and resource consent applied for,” she said, of the overall process.

Each site also needs to be designed, equipment ordered, the site built and then connected to the RCG network.

Ms Metz said that process alone could take up to 12 months.

Once it was up and running people on Spark, Vodafone and 2degrees would benefit.

Among those keen to see more services put into remote areas, particularly cellphone coverage, is Alison Fitzgerald, of St Bathans.

Ms Fitzgerald said lack of cellphone coverage in the township was a concern, particularly if someone needed urgent medical help while out walking and could not get to a landline.

“Having cellphone coverage in St Bathans will just establish security for those who have only got cellphones as a means of communication and visitors to the valley,” she said.

“People, like myself, don’t have a landline in their house. That’s what it will do – it will just make the place a bit more safer. My main concern is having that ability to call if you need help.”

“Rural residents will feel safer with better mobile coverage.” – Central Otago chief executive officer Sanchia Jacobs

Central Otago chief executive officer Sanchia Jacobs said the rollout would also have a “huge” impact on economic growth.

She said for example, some farmers were still unable to use their pivots to full potential due to a lack of connectivity.

It would also provide better access to online education, social services and health information.

“Rural residents will feel safer with better mobile coverage, first response teams will have quicker response times in emergencies and connectivity will also reduce the feeling of isolation for those living in remote areas.”

She believed it was not impossible to eventually have everyone connected.

“At this stage I would say that it’s not impossible – just a big task that relies on many factors coming together, including provision of funding, time, providers and collaboration between local and central Government agencies.”

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. Continue reading “Westland Update from the Rural Connectivity Group”