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Telecom upgrades Chatham Islands communications

Telecom upgrades Chatham Islands communication services

Telecom is investing $300,000 to improve telephone services for more than 80 households and businesses on the remote Chatham Islands.

The investment involves the installation of a new digital microwave radio (DMR) system to service customers in some areas of Chatham Island, reducing the volume of traffic on the island’s existing, heavily congested radio systems.

“Not only will the upgrade improve telephone service specifically in Owenga, but by shifting customers in this area to their own radio system we will also free up telephone access for other customers on the Chatham Islands,” Telecom Network Deployment South specialist Brent Jones said.

“We’ve been working with the Chatham Islands Enterprise Trust to understand the telecommunications needs of our Chatham Islands customers. We expect that about 110 households and businesses will benefit either directly or indirectly when the new service is up and running, so this is a significant investment for each customer.”

The changes will improve internal communication on the islands but will not augment the capacity of the satellite link connecting the Chatham Islands with the mainland, he said.

The system upgrade will involve work on existing radio equipment at three locations - Pukekio Hill, Owenga and Rangitihi – plus associated work at the telephone exchange at Waitangi. It is also hoped that work can be carried out at Kaingaroa, which will allow transfer of the Kaingaroa area customers on to the new DMR system and thus further reduce the volume of traffic on the existing, congested radio systems.

The key site for the system is Rangitihi, where extreme weather conditions and the absence of “mains” electricity will pose unique challenges for the construction and ongoing maintenance of the radio equipment, Mr Jones said.

Telecom will run the equipment with three parallel forms of power generation: solar panels, wind generators and a trailer mounted diesel generator known as an engine/alternator set. These sources of power will be backed up by a battery installation.

Mr Jones said the wind generators were likely to be an excellent source of power. “We’ve heard stories of “riggers” dropping tools in the area and instead of falling to the ground they’ve been carried out to sea by the wind.

“By harnessing some of that energy, in addition to solar power, we will maximise our use of green-energy and minimise the need to run the diesel generator.”

Telecom will also provide critical spare parts to Chatham Islands-based contractors to ensure the equipment can be maintained and repaired efficiently.

The construction work began in early May and is expected to be completed by late June.

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