Cellphone usage surges during city power crisis

Auckland has gone cellular, at least until the power is back on. Telecom's cellular network, which is now running at 65% to 70%, surged to near full capacity during the first days of the power crisis, while Bell-South's network has enjoyed its greatest usage ever.

Auckland has gone cellular, at least until the power is back on. Telecom’s cellular network, which is now running at 65% to 70%, surged to near full capacity during the first days of the power crisis, while Bell-South’s network has enjoyed its greatest usage ever.

“The first three working days of the power crisis were the best days BellSouth has ever had in terms of network usage,” says BellSouth communications manager Mark Champion.

Telecom’s mobile network ran close to capacity during the first days of the crisis, says Telecom PR person Peter Brittenden. However, after that it fell back to around 60% to 75%.

“I know that cellphone usage has been up by about 20% to 25% on a daily basis,” he says, “while traffic on Telecom’s entire network [cellular and fixed] has been increasing by 2% to 3% each day, over the past 10 days.”

BellSouth has 15 critical sites in Auckland’s CBD, mostly relay points, which were battery and generator-backed late last year, says Champion. Whether cellphone sales have increased is not clear. “Although BellSouth dealers are experiencing an increase in phone sales, it is very difficult to attribute that to the power situation”, says Champion. “However, we have had a huge jump in the number of rentals going out in the last week — in the order of 300%.”

Hart Candy rentals manager Lisarna Heath says the Telecom cellphone dealer ran out of phones last week. “Rental business has definitely increased but it’s difficult to say by how much, as this is always a busy time anyway because it’s the tourist season. However, last week every rental phone on the shelves was taken.”

Heather Nye-Hingston, branch manager for Cellphone Warehouse in the St Luke’s shopping centre, says the most noticeable increase has been in cellphone accessories.“We’ve definitely been selling more batteries.”

A spokesperson from Cellular Systems in Newmarket agrees that batteries have increased in demand but says it is too early to say whether rentals or permanent sales have jumped as well.

Michael Quixley of Quixley Communications says he has not noticed any increase in business.

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