Extra effort for coverage

Telecom is working to ensure its mobile phone network does not become congested during the Challenge Wanaka triathlon next week. Photo by Mark Price.
Telecom is working to ensure its mobile phone network does not become congested during the Challenge Wanaka triathlon next week. Photo by Mark Price.
On a normal Wanaka day, Telecom's mobile phone system handles 25,000 text messages.

But, on New Year's Day the number peaked at 450,000.

The figures are contained in a letter of apology from Telecom's chief executive retail Chris Quin to Wanaka Chamber of Commerce chairman Alistair King for mobile phone congestion in the first five days of this year.

Mr Quin assured the chamber Telecom was using the experience as ''valuable learning to reinforce our mobile presence in the region''.

The letter indicated the text message peak - twice the usage of the previous New Year - was just part of the problem.

Voice-calling volumes rose from a normal rate of 275 call hours per day to about 650 call hours per day.

The overall transmission of data went from a normal rate of 37,500MB per day to a peak of 100,000MB per day.

''Over the past two weeks, we have seen an enormous increase in mobile traffic nationally compared to previous years,'' Mr Quin said.

''This increase has been particularly noticeable in holiday hotspots such as Wanaka, where consumption of mobile data was six times as high as last year.

''We had anticipated and planned a 2-3 times increase.

''This explosion in mobile data is the result of our customers using data-heavy smartphone technologies and apps such as Facebook, YouTube and Instagram to share their experiences via pictures and videos.

''Unfortunately in Wanaka this jump in demand is coupled with a geography that makes it difficult to deliver mobile coverage.''

Mr Quin said the congestion continued until January 5.

Telecom spent $250,000 on the Wanaka system leading up to New Year - increasing the number of radio frequency carriers from 12 to 16 - but was adding another carrier in central Wanaka in readiness for the Challenge Wanaka triathlon.

It is expected to be operational by Monday.

An additional temporary mobile site might also be deployed.

The Wi-Fi network, which is separate from the mobile phone network, is also being ''bolstered'', Mr Quin said.

He expected Wanaka to get 4G coverage by May or June and that would provide ''further relief'' for mobile phone users.

Mr King said disruption to mobile phone services were a ''pretty major concern'' for Wanaka businesses.

''We needed to know what had happened, why it happened and what they are going to do going forward.''

''We just have to hope that come Challenge Wanaka ... it doesn't happen again.''

- mark.price@odt.co.nz