Chatham Islands gets wireless broadband service

Previously, residents' only options for internet access were dial-up connections or private satellite services

Internet service provider Wireless Nation has launched a wireless broadband service in the Chatham Islands, servicing 25 percent of dwellings and businesses on the remote islands, which lie 680 kilometres east of Christchurch and have a population of 650.

Customers can access the broadband service for a $199 + GST setup fee and monthly subscriptions starting from $45 + GST.

Previously, Chatham Islands residents’ only options for internet access were a slow dial-up connection or a private satellite service that comes with installation and set-up costs in the thousands of dollars.

Wireless Nation technical director Tom Linn says the company has invested around $50,000 in the Chatham Islands.

Its ‘point-to-multi-point’ network infrastructure on the islands consists of four strategically placed wireless access points and a satellite backhaul link to Auckland.

Subscribers receive a small in-building wireless unit, which is easier to install and configure than a satellite dish, and less prone to problems in adverse weather conditions. The localised network will also make it viable to introduce mobile phone service (via femtocell technology) and locally switched Voice over IP calling technology for the first time.

A local technician, Ross Morrison, is doing all of the in-home installations for Wireless Nation in the Chathams. “The world is online. This is our opportunity to leap frog straight to wireless technology and leave hard-wired and dial-up systems behind,” he says.

Following an initial trial, the company is planning a second-stage roll-out to link dwellings in Kaingaroa and Owhenga that are not currently covered.

ICT Minister Amy Adams and Chatham Islands Mayor Alfred Preece recently announced a grant under the Rural Broadband Initiative (RBI) to help secure better connections and modern communications technology for the islands’ three schools and the wider community. Wireless Nation responded to a Request for Information (RFI) on improving connectivity in the region and outlined how extending the existing Wireless Nation network to the schools could be easily achieved.

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