The new 25m Vodafone tower near Owaka. Photo by Helena de
Mobile coverage and broadband options have improved for
Catlins residents with a new cellphone tower at Owaka, under
the Government's Rural Broadband Initiative (RBI).
The tower primarily covers the Owaka township, but also
reaches surrounding areas in Hinahina, Pounawea, New Haven
and Otekura. The 25m lattice tower provides service to more
than 440 households in the area.
The service, which Vodafone claims is comparable with urban
pricing, delivers mobile coverage and wireless broadband
through a high-performance modem, adding a wi-fi network into
the home. Phone calls can also be made through this service
without a landline connection. Vodafone said the proposed
tower at Papatowai, which will be built under a community
cell-site scheme, was expected to link to the new Owaka RBI
Through the RBI scheme, a new site at Tokanui is under
construction and a second community-requested Catlins site is
expected to be confirmed further south.
Senior Constable Murray Hewitson, of Owaka, said the
improved Vodafone coverage would be good for visitors to
popular Catlins holiday spots.
''Until all the towers are up and running in the Catlins,we
won't notice much of a difference.''
Presently Telecom coverage extends to a few kilometres south
Snr Const Hewitson, who is also a member of Catlins Search
and Rescue, said the new coverage would not make a difference
to the group but would help those trying to contact emergency
services and search teams.
Last year, Vodafone activated a new tower in Kaitangata, and
one existing cell site at Balclutha has already been upgraded
to deliver the wireless broadband service. Four more sites at
Lawrence, Milton, Mt Stuart and Clinton will also be upgraded
Vodafone business development manager Jeremy Begg said the
new Owaka site brought greater options to the community, with
households and businesses now having choice in broadband
''Switching to wireless broadband can provide a consistent
and reliable service to residents It also offers the rural
community the opportunity to increase production and
monitoring through machine-to-machine automation.''
He said an additional benefit of RBI for rural communities
was the extension of mobile coverage to include a further
4500km of rural roads.
Under the five-year RBI plan, Vodafone will upgrade 387
existing cell towers and build a further 154 new towers in
rural areas all over New Zealand. The Government is funding
the civil construction costs of these new sites which are
designed to accommodate Vodafone equipment and that of other
mobile and wireless operators. So far 33 new sites have been
built, and a further 135 have been upgraded.