Tapawera residents' mobile woes may be about to end, as long as they are Telecom customers, with the telecommunications company announcing it will erect a cellphone tower in the town.
Tapawera, 30 kilometres southwest of Nelson, has struggled with cellphone reception over the years, with teenagers in the town resorting to heading to Tapawera Bridge to find a signal.
Vodafone has been working on building a site to service the town as part of the Rural Broadband Initiative (RBI), but a definite time has not yet been given.
Last week, a Vodafone spokeswoman said the company was making progress on the site and was working with the landowner of its chosen site.
But earlier this week, Telecom announced it had invested more than $350,000 in building a site in the town.
It will provide good Telecom service to Tapawera township and for 6km northwest of Tapawera, along the Motueka Valley Highway and southeast along State Highway 6 as far as the North Rd turnoff.
Coverage is expected to extend another 7km down Valley Rd almost as far as Golden Downs and along State Highway 6 past the Atapo turnoff.
It is also expected that major parts of Tadmor and Matariki will receive good coverage.
Telecom network capability manager Marian Pink said the site would provide 3G-quality signal to Telecom customers.
It was not being installed as part of the RBI rollout, and would be used to add to the capacity of the site in Mt Campbell.
While it was possible for other mobile providers to collocate on the mobile tower, there had been no such discussions.
Tapawera Area School student Matt Ball, 16, has been running a campaign to encourage telecommunications companies to install cellphone towers since 2010.
He said he had not heard of the development, and had previously been told the only mobile site would be built by Vodafone as part of the Rural Broadband Initiative.
The announcement was great news, but he was not counting his chickens before they hatched, he said. "I have heard it before. [Vodafone] said a tower would be installed in years two and three about three years ago.
"It seems like a pretty hefty load if it follows through."
He hoped the announcement would motivate Vodafone to bring the installation of its own mobile site forward.
A Vodafone spokeswoman said the announcement would not affect the company's plans for Tapawera.
"We have a contractual obligation with the Government as part of RBI to deliver wireless broadband to communities across the country, and this requires a different type of tower," she said.
- The Nelson Mail
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