Vodafone New Zealand, the country’s largest cellco by subscribers, has announced that it is offering small rural communities the opportunity to improve mobile coverage in their areas. To that end the cellco has said that it is re-starting its ‘Community Cell Site Request Scheme’, which was first announced last year and allows applications from those rural communities which are both without mobile service and outside of the scope of the government’s Rural Broadband Initiative (RBI). As noted in TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database, the RBI was unveiled in March 2010 and seeks to provide fibre to 97% of rural schools and minimum 5Mbps transmission speeds to 80% of rural households within six years.
In this latest round of the scheme, communities can lodge their applications between 21 November and 23 December and, following a consultation and liaison process, one new site will be built in 2013/14. Vodafone has revealed that those communities with no existing mobile coverage which may look to take advantage of the initiative must be able to meet specific criteria including ‘a willing landowner, available power supply, support from local Iwi and four-wheel drive access to the site’. Decisions will reportedly be based on Vodafone’s assessment of the sites, positive impact on the local community, and the community’s ability to meet the required criteria. Outlining the outcome of the scheme last year, Vodafone noted that there were successful applicants from Waihau Bay, East Cape and both the North and South Catlins, and work on these sites is currently underway.
Commenting on the initiative, Vodafone’s head of community and government relations Roger Ellis, noted: ‘These communities see the benefit in having Vodafone’s reliable mobile coverage in their area for both local economic development and communications purposes … Vodafone and the community work together on the project. Essentially Vodafone provides the expertise, technical equipment and manages construction of the facility, while the community provides the land, and is responsible for the ongoing maintenance of the access track and site location.’