Coromandel’s Kauaeranga Valley is now utilising the arrival of 4G broadband and mobile coverage under the Government’s Rural Broadband Initiative (RBI).
“Broadband and mobile coverage to Kauaeranga Valley will ensure residents can use fast broadband for their day-to-day business, while visitors who come here to enjoy nature, tramp for the day or camp overnight can stay connected and keep safe,” says Communications Minister Amy Adams.
“The tower also provides connectivity to a DOC Visitor Centre that’s vital to tourism within the region, and brings mobile coverage to an area where there was previously little to none.”
Adams was on site this week to launch the new Kauaeranga Valley RBI tower, which is powered by solar, wind, a back-up diesel generator, and battery supply.
Prior to the construction of the tower, mobile operators had limited coverage in the area.
According to Adams, the move is part of the Government’s $300 million investment into the first phase of the Rural Broadband Initiative that has seen 135 new towers built and 336 towers upgraded across New Zealand’s provincial areas, as at the end of 2015.
Across New Zealand, more than 266,000 households and businesses are now able to access wireless broadband under the RBI, as a result of the Government’s partnership with Vodafone.
“The Government’s Rural Broadband programme reflects our commitment to rural communities - we are working with our private sector partners to provide services and coverage that would not otherwise be feasible,” Adams adds.
“By 2025, I want to see 99 per cent of New Zealanders able to access broadband capable of 50 Mbps, and the remaining one per cent of New Zealanders in the hardest to reach locations able to access broadband of 10 Mbps.”
The RBI - which Vodafone delivers in partnership with the Government and Chorus - is designed to bring improved mobile coverage and high-speed wireless broadband to thousands of New Zealanders living in rural areas.
The new Kauaeranga Valley cell site means local residents, visitors and businesses could now gain access to wireless broadband capable of delivering fibre-like speeds up to 100Mbps.
DOC’s Operations Manager for Hauraki, Avi Holzapfel believes the improved mobile coverage also brings a significant safety boost for visitors to the region.
“Every year more than 30,000 visitors check into DOC’s Kauaeranga Valley visitor’s centre prior to enjoying the history of the area, or setting off on one of the stunning hiking tracks,” Holzapfel says.
“With improved broadband and mobile signal, there is an element of convenience for visitors, but the real benefit is the safety factor. If an incident happens where emergency help is required, having cell phone signal can be the difference between life and death, as it gives search and rescue teams another communication tool to coordinate their efforts.”
Holzapfel says 60 square metres of solar panelling and two 600 watt wind turbines are generating the cell site’s power - this energy is captured in a large battery system, with a diesel generator providing reliable power backup if required.
The newly erected site has been built on 100 cubic metres of concrete, and is now capable of delivering broadband services and mobile phone coverage to approximately 350 households and businesses from the Kopu-Hikuai Road, across the Kauaeranga Valley to Thames.
“We are thrilled to have delivered this important piece of telecommunications infrastructure whilst keeping within the greatly respected environmental ethos of the Coromandel community,” adds Steve Rieger, Wholesale Director, Vodafone.
“This outcome is a result of a lot of hard work by the teams at Thames-Coromandel District Council and the Department of Conservation, who in collaboration with the team at Vodafone have been steadfast in their commitment to seeing this project through to fruition.”
Vodafone first received consent to build the Kauaeranga Valley cell site in 2013, however the inability to access a nearby mains power source meant an alternative solution was needed.
Aware of the importance of the cell site for the local community, the Thames-Coromandel District Council’s (TCDC) Economic Development Committee provided a grant to fund solar and wind power at cell site, thereby overcoming the need for mains power.
“Fast, reliable telecommunications services are essential for communities and businesses to thrive so we are delighted this new, environmentally friendly cell site is now in operation,” adds Benjamin Day, Deputy CEO, TCDC.
“We hope local residents and visitors alike will make strong use of these services."