COW to rescue beach callers

WARM RECEPTION: Cellphone coverage at Himatangi Beach is set to improve this summer – but only for Telecom customers.
WARM RECEPTION: Cellphone coverage at Himatangi Beach is set to improve this summer – but only for Telecom customers.

A Manawatu beach community concerned about another summer without cellphone coverage has been given a temporary solution by Telecom - but only for its customers.

Himatangi Beach holidaymakers have been promised improved cellphone services, with the mobile service provider Telecom wheeling out a Cell-site On Wheels (COW) - a temporary mobile tower - this Christmas.

But the short-term summer fix will benefit only Telecom customers, with owners of handsets from other companies, such as Vodafone and 2degrees, being encouraged to buy Telecom sim cards, so they, too, can reap the benefits of better reception.

Himatangi resident George Annear said getting the cellphone coverage was good, regardless of the company providing it.

"We've got nothing at present, so anything helps, and it's the first attempt at getting us decent mobile communications out here.

"Himatangi Beach is a holiday resort; the majority of people who own properties down here are weekenders, and those people can't use their cellphones when they're here. It's long been a bugbear for our community."

Telecom's community relations manager, Emma Blackmore, said although the tower would service only its customers, cellphone users would not be left in the lurch if there was a crisis.

"In the case of an emergency, [anyone] within coverage of the Telecom COW will be able to dial emergency services.

"The COW is a temporary solution for the holiday period, but in early next year a permanent cell site is being built at Himatangi which will enable [us] to offer permanent mobile services to the community," she said.

Earlier this year, Himatangi residents put together a 200-signature petition and put forward a proposal to the Ministry of Communications, Civil Defence and various telecommunications providers requesting cellphone coverage by summer, for safety reasons.

Emergency services joined in the cause and backed the need for the Government to fast-track installation of a cellphone transmission tower in the area to ensure that, if there was an emergency, the right people could be reached easily.

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment confirmed earlier this year that a cellphone tower was planned for the beach town, some time between July 2014 and June 2015.

The Government's $300 million Rural Broadband Initiative programme includes upgrading 387 cellphone towers and building 154 new ones nationwide. The Government's rollout began at Himatangi Beach last year, but details for a permanent cellphone transmission tower site were still being worked out.

Manawatu Standard