He got Telecom coverage, now he's after Vodafone

Tapawera Area School student Matt Ball won a significant battle when he secured cellphone coverage for Tapawera, but the war is not over.

As a result of an online and letters campaign begun by the 17-year-old in 2011, Telecom built a $350,000 mobile tower last year. It went live in July, giving about 600 locals and visitors 3G coverage for voice, mobile broadband and text services.

Now, Matt wants Vodafone to step up and match Telecom's gesture. He and his friends use Telecom, but he said most adults in Tapawera would prefer to use Vodafone.

"It's been a while since the Telecom tower went live - a great step forward for Tapawera and a huge boost to the morale of the campaign. Unfortunately, [Vodafone] seems to have stopped completely. People have no choice but to use Telecom."

He said Vodafone had made "little to no" progress, quoting communications from the company sent in December 2012 which promised results by the end of 2013. He said a "big point of interest" was that Vodafone receives funding from the Government under the Rural Broadband Initiative to cover areas like Tapawera.

Vodafone's external communications adviser Brad Pogson apologised for the delay.

"We've been working as quickly as we can to bring the RBI tower to Tapawera, but there have been some delays outside our control, and we're a few months off target."

He said building a tower involved finding a suitable location, negotiating power supply and site easement, and working with the local council before ground could be broken. Vodafone had applied to the Tasman District Council for resource consent to build a tower in Tapawera, describing the decision as "imminent". Once council approval was secured, the site could be expected to go live by October.

"Building the RBI tower at Tapawera is still a priority for us and we're committed to delivering our commitments under the RBI for the Tasman area."

He encouraged Tasman district residents to write to the TDC in support of the tower's resource consent.

Mr Pogson said Vodafone planned to build four other towers across the Tasman district over the next two years, covering Wakefield, Pohara, Tasman and Mapua West. These towers would jointly provide mobile coverage and wireless broadband for more than 3300 homes and businesses.

The Nelson Mail