PrimoWireless wins tender to connect rural Taranaki and grant for Whangamomona
Some of the most remote homes and businesses in Taranaki will soon have access to the fastest internet available - wireless broadband.
Internet service provider PrimoWireless has been named the Wireless Internet Service Provider for the region after winning a bid for the Government's second phase of the Rural Broadband Initiative (RBI) - a $150 million package to pay for connecting rural areas to the internet.
Matthew Harrison, PrimoWireless managing director, said the RBI funding would mean another 300 people in North Taranaki, including Tarata, Tongaporutu and Ahititi, could be be connected to the internet by mid 2020.
"We can go out into areas where no one else is, where there is no coverage," he said. "They're all finally going to get broadband as fast as what townies can have."
Their wireless network runs through an internet signal sent out by PrimoWireless in New Plymouth. The signal then bounces along specially built towers until it reaches an antenna on top of a customer's roof and is piped down into their home.
The new funding announcement last week coincided with a grant from the Taranaki Electricity Trust (TET), which handed $54,000 to the people of Whangamomona - an area that was not covered under the RBI scheme - to pay PrimoWireless to connect the town to broadband.
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"The campgrounds really want it and the hotel really needs it because their eftpos will stop working when they switch off the copper system at the end of next year," Harrison said.
In order to reach the town from the provider's furthest point of Strathmore, Harrison said PrimoWireless would need to build at least another four sites - priced about $20,000 each.
"It's just a lot of money to get all the way there," he said.
"It's all very well in building it but in five years when we need to go and replace all the batteries, we need to have the customer numbers to have paid for that."
While it's "commercial non-viable" for larger companies to build towers for rural communities, Harrison said PrimoWireless used "different technology" and were able to come to mutually beneficial arrangements with people in rural communities.
"We can actually build sites on farm land and not have to pay rent because we'll give the land owner free unlimited internet and in return, they just have to give us four square metres of land on their farm - on a hilltop they probably don't use anyway."
"It just opens the door for the rural community to have everything else that the local community has in town."
Before the funding, Harrison said it would have likely taken 10 to 20 years to connect these remote areas.
"By the Government effectively putting their weight behind us and funding the infrastructure, we're able to roll out of those areas much faster than we would have previously," he said.
The tender process included outlining connection plans which were then compared to what larger companies, such as Spark and Vodafone, had planned as part of the Rural Connectivity Group (RCG) - a collaborative effort between Vodafone, Spark and 2Degrees to service mobile "black spots."
"They're going to be doing parts of Taranaki as well, but we've effectively got all the hard-to-reach ones because that's what we specialise in doing," Harrison said.
Harrison said the timeline for roll-out had yet to be worked out as land first needed to be acquired.