Ross buzzing with cellphones

By Julian Lee

In the week that the world celebrated 40 years of cellphones, and 20 years after they became commonplace in New Zealand, on Friday modern telecommunications finally caught up with Ross.
The town’s first telecommunications tower, which was erected in February, went live on Friday with Telecom, and today with Vodafone.
Vodafone won the Government contract to construct the towers when the Government announced its decision to roll out broadband services across the country several years ago, but the Government ensured in the plan that Telecom was able to use the infrastructure to provide some competition in the market.
Vodafone spokeswoman Michelle Baguley said the company had been working as fast as possible to get the services up and running for Ross.
“We have been waiting on some final software tweaks. According to our calculations the tower can provide wireless broadband to 251 addresses in the area.”
Asked why Ross was only now receiving mobile coverage she said the company was only in year two of its contract with the Government to roll out wireless broadband services across the country, and everything was going according to plan.
“It is not like Ross was bumped down the list. We had to present a plan to the Ministry of Economic Development to win the contract, and Ross was planned for year two.
“We are 100% on schedule and there haven’t been any delays. But I can understand why local residents in Ross may be frustrated. Unfortunately, we can’t build all the towers on day one.”
The Ross tower was only part of a greater scheme to bring greater telecommunications coverage to Westland.
“The Ross tower is one of three that are planned to be built in the Westland District Council region, the other two being Kumara, which has already gone live, and Kaniere, which will be built next year. There are also two other existing sites at Hokitika and Whataroa that are due to be upgraded this year. We have a plan to provide rural coverage across New Zealand as part of the Government’s scheme.”
Meanwhile, Telecom said it has spent $150,000 installing its own equipment on the Ross cell tower to enable its customers to access both voice services and mobile broadband.
The site will provide coverage in and around the township of Ross — from the Totara River in the north to the Mikonui River in the south.
Telecom spokeswoman Emma Blackmore said getting telecommunications services out to the Coast had been a difficult task.
“Providing mobile coverage across the Westland district and along the West Coast region in general is very challenging due to the constraints imposed by the region’s topography and a small, scattered population.
“Over the years, Telecom has made significant investment in the West Coast region and currently has 14 mobile phone sites across the West Coast region, with six in Westland district, and we have continued to invest in improving coverage.
“We will also be enabling improved mobile services to residents and visitors to Kumara Junction with the latest site at the Camerons, which we expect to go live soon.”