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Vodafone helps Great Barrier bridge the digital divide

Media Release
1 February 2013

Vodafone helps Great Barrier bridge the digital divide

Broadband is now live on Great Barrier Island, thanks to Vodafone, the government’s Rural Broadband Initiative (RBI), and a unique combination of sun, wind and battery power.

Prime Minister John Key officially launched the Island’s first high speed internet service today, which is being delivered via a wireless broadband tower at Claris, powered by hybrid alternative energy sources.

Vodafone’s 25 metre monopole tower, which will deliver broadband services and mobile phone coverage to 210 households and businesses between Awana Bay and Jack Ryan Bay, will generate its own power via solar panels and a wind turbine. Energy will be captured in a large battery system, with two diesel generators providing reliable backup if required.

Sandra Pickering, Vodafone Chief Technology Officer, says the company worked closely with the local community to deliver the site.

“We have built 31 new wireless broadband towers in rural communities across New Zealand since starting the RBI in June 2011. But this has been one of our more technically challenging – being 90km away from the mainland, without mains power and in a beautiful yet rugged area. By following sustainable practices throughout the build, such as minimising earth disturbance and retaining maximum bush shelter, and designing an energy system that will ensure a reliable power supply to the tower, we’re confident that we’ve stayed true to the ethos of the Barrier.

“As broadband access rolls out across the countryside, it is making a real difference to rural New Zealanders’ lives. This unique new tower at Claris will not only help improve employment and study options for residents and visitors but make it quicker and easier to stay in touch with friends and family.”

Ms Pickering says Vodafone in conjunction with Auckland Council, plans to install a repeater site to bring RBI service to the Medlands community, to the east of Claris. Vodafone also has a mobile phone tower, powered by alternative energy, on Kaikoura Island, off the western coast of Great Barrier.

Members of the Great Barrier Island community joined the Prime Minister, Minister of Communications Amy Adams , MP Nikki Kaye and Vodafone executives at an event to celebrate the new tower at Claris this morning. Kaumatua from Ngati Rehua officially blessed the site.

Vodafone’s rural high-speed service, with urban comparable pricing, delivers wireless broadband via a high performance modem, adding a WiFi network into the home.

Phone calls can also be made through this service by plugging an existing landline phone directly into the modem, removing the need for a landline connection. Customers can port their existing landline number to this new service.

Under the five year RBI plan, Vodafone will upgrade 387 existing cell towers and build a further 154 new towers in rural areas. The government is funding the site acquisition and construction costs of these new sites which are designed to accommodate Vodafone equipment and that of other mobile and wireless operators. Five new sites have already been built in the Greater Auckland area so far, and 39 have been upgraded, predominantly in the Rodney and Franklin districts. A further six new and 21 upgraded sites in Greater Auckland will be completed by June 2015.

Residents and businesses can find out if this service will be available in their area online at

© Scoop Media

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