Better phone coverage in 2015

SAHIBAN KANWAL
Last updated 12:10 12/05/2014

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There should be relief for the problems people have been experiencing with cellphone coverage in Twizel and Otematata during holidays and weekends but it is still some way off.

Vodafone is upgrading existing cell towers and building new ones but an upgrade in Twizel and Otematata will not occur until 2015.

Other parts of Waitaki with poor coverage are also in the process of being upgraded.

Vodafone's external communications manager Michelle Baguley said under the Government's five-year Rural Broadband Initiative (RBI) Vodafone is funding the upgrade of 387 existing cell towers.

It is also building a further 154 new towers in rural areas to achieve government coverage targets.

At present Twizel has enough weekday cover but weekend population increase means problems.

Summer holidaymakers overloaded the system in Waitaki Valley.

Vodafone will upgrade its existing cell site at Twizel in the final two years of the RBI programme, along with Otematata and Dunback.

"The upgrades at Twizel, Otematata and Dunback will occur between January and June 2015 and will improve mobile capacity (so more people can connect) and will also make wireless broadband available to over 1168 addresses for the first time."

In Waitaki, Vodafone built a new cell tower at Maheno last August, making wireless broadband and mobile coverage available to more than 430 addresses for the first time, Baguley said.

"Vodafone will build another new tower at Weston in the Waitaki District late this year, connecting another 700 addresses. Sites at Oamaru, Big Hill and Herbert have already been upgraded," she said.

Vodafone says rural-based New Zealanders need fast, reliable 3G mobile and broadband, just like people in towns and cities, and has teamed up with the Government and Chorus to get the RBI delivered.

Waitaki Valley homeowner Stewart Dovey reported problems with his ability to link to the system over the Christmas break.

He said it was frustrating not being able to use the data he is paying for.

In Otematata on New Year's eve, Dovey estimated there were 2000 to 3000 more people than usual.

"It's good for business but it has a huge impact."

At the time, a Vodafone spokesman said data use in Waitaki had more than doubled since July 2013 following similar trends nationwide with the rise in smart phones and social apps.

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- The Timaru Herald

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