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More than 20km of a notorious mobile reception black spot between Omarama and Tarras has been filled.
Two new cell towers on State Highway 8 — one northeast of the Lindis Pass viewpoint and the other in the Lindis Valley — went live last week, bringing coverage to 20.2km of the 57km black spot.
The towers were installed by the Rural Connectivity Group (RCG) as part of the second phase of the Rural Broadband Initiative, which aims to deliver 400 new cell towers throughout rural New Zealand, from which mobile operators and wireless internet service providers can supply services to rural customers.
‘‘We’re very pleased to be part of a solution that aids in bridging the digital divide for rural communities and helps the rural sector remain competitive,’’ Spark mobile network lead Renee Mateparae said.
The RCG, a joint venture between Spark, Vodafone and 2degrees, was also assessing the possibility of building more towers across the Lindis Pass.
While the population across the Lindis was sparse, many motorists used the route, which could often be icy and snowy.
Constable Nayland Smith, of Omarama, said any improvement in coverage would be welcomed by emergency services.
"The sooner we can hear about a serious crash, the better."
Another RCG cell tower in the Outram township centre also went live last week.
The towers between Omarama and Tarras provided 3G and 4G services, but the Outram tower was exclusively for 4G.
As mobile voice calling was usually done over the 3G network, some people using the Outram tower would need to update their phone’s software or, in some cases, upgrade to a 4G-compatible phone.