Service fails to spark for fed-up cellphone users

BLANTON SMITH
Last updated 05:00 20/08/2014

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Residents in Onaero and Urenui are outraged at a lack of action by Spark after their cellphone coverage disappeared in June.

Several complaints were laid with the service provider, previously called Telecom, but nothing was done and until yesterday there had been no real explanation.

Yesterday, Spark communications adviser Vicky Gray said coverage had degraded after the cell tower was moved.

Spark had a cell tower on leased land in Urenui and when the lease ran out in June the landowner did not want to renew it. That resulted in a move further up Kaipikari Rd.

"The new location meant the coverage area from the site changed. For some customers coverage improved, but unfortunately for others coverage degraded," she said.

Gray said the cell site also experienced technical issues following the move, which may have affected coverage.

To improve service Spark would need to build another tower, but that was not going to happen.

"Whilst we look at all suggestions and proposals made by our customers unfortunately we do need to prioritise, and at this point there are no immediate plans to improve our mobile coverage in the area," Gray said.

Onaero resident and Waiau Country Estate owner Leanne Fox said she was frustrated.

Having little to no service was beginning to affect her restaurant, function centre and wedding venue business. "I'm having to leave the [landline] phone with people in meetings because they're coming to me and saying ‘we can't call out'."

Electrician Karl Jenkins was another who said he was losing work because of the degraded service. "I can't get coverage so the phone doesn't ring. If people can't get hold of me they go somewhere else."

Jenkins said he had rung Spark several times before getting a straight answer.

"I was calling them every day for weeks and they told me it was a fault. Finally I got higher up the chain and they told me the lease had run out and they had to move the tower."

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