Mobile coverage a reality for three rural communities 20-Feb-2012

February 20, 2012 10:31 pm

Three small rural communities, two in the South Island and one in the North, will get mobile phone coverage this year, as the first successful applicants in the Vodafone community cellsite scheme

The residents of Waihau Bay in the East Cape, and North and South Catlins in the South Island were among several communities who applied for the scheme, which is available to the 2 per cent of New Zealand not covered by Vodafone’s network and outside the scope of the Rural Broadband Initiative.

Vodafone’s chief network officer Tony Baird, says he was hugely impressed by the time and effort communities had committed to the application process.

“When we opened this scheme in October we planned on funding two rural sites this year – one in the North Island and one in the South. But when the applications came in, they were of such high quality that we simply could not narrow down our selection to just two. So, we are pleased to be funding three sites this year. This positive result will ensure both residents and visitors to these coastal areas will now enjoy the freedom and accessibility of the Vodafone mobile network.” 

Jill Borland, co-ordinator of the north Catlins application and District Development Manager for Clutha District Council is delighted: “This is a huge boost for the entire Catlins area as an emerging international tourism destination. The benefits will be shared by residents, visitors and businesses alike and recognises the partnership between Clutha District Council and Venture Southland, and the huge effort in preparing the application invested by Tourism Catlins.” 

Venture Southland’s Community Development lead Bobbi Brown submitted an application alongside the south Catlins District community. “Venture Southland is thrilled that Vodafone is supporting a unique and deserving community” says Brown. “Improving cellular coverage will have life altering consequences for this local community . An improved ability to communicate will both save and enhance lives and will complement significant investment already committed to the area associated with several economic, tourism, infrastructural and community initiatives”. 

Local business owner Derek Aubertin co-ordinated the application for Waihau Bay, Opotiki. “This is brilliant news, our community is in total support of making this scheme a reality.” 

The new cellsites will be designed to give the broadest reach, and locations will be determined through suggestions from the local community, distance to power supply, and network requirements. Site survey work will start immediately.

Applications for the scheme closed on 15 December and were individually assessed on the positive impact to the community and the community’s ability to meet the required criteria.

Vodafone plans to run a second round of the Community Cellsite Scheme later this year and will invite applications from other small rural communities.

About the scheme

Communities with no existing mobile coverage who applied were asked to demonstrate as many of the following criteria as possible to qualify for consideration:

  • Proximity to existing mains power supply
  • Letter of support from local MP(s)
  • Supporting petition of signed residents who desire the service and their assistance to obtain RMA consent
  • The location must be able to provide line of site options for microwave linking (Vodafone will need to determine this)
  • A willing landowner
  • Community willing to provide track maintenance
  • 4WD vehicle access
  • Support of local iwi including contact person name and number
  • Support of local Council or Community Board member/s
  • Description of the positive impact the site will bring to the community

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