The upgrade to the telecommunications network for the Chatham Islands (a 4G wireless telecommunications network funded by the government’s Rural Broadband Initiative Phase 2 (RBI2) and Provincial Growth Fund) commenced in April with the Rural Connectivity Group (RCG) once again calling on trusted partner CSP® to design and manufacture the telecommunication towers.
The project will see the island receive a new 4G wireless telecommunications network, including a new satellite dish and satellite link which will provide four times the capacity of the current system.
This new network will be fundamental to improving broadband speeds for residents and allows 4G wireless broadband for almost all households and businesses on the island. The new satellite link will provide the backhaul telecommunications link to New Zealand for five cell sites positioned around the island to maximise broadband coverage to residents on both Chatham Island and Pitt Island, whilst also providing 4G mobile coverage across the majority of the island’s roads.
The mobile coverage will also extend into the marine territory providing support for farming, tourism and the fishing industry, the island’s main source of employment and income.
The Chatham Islands are positioned in the ‘roaring forties’ latitude and are a windswept, harsh, coastal environment, no matter where you are. Designing the network has had to consider the tremendous wind load on each RCG facility, as well as the footings required due to the unique ground conditions, such as the peat fields, encountered around the island.
John Proctor, CEO of the RCG explains, “Building of the new network commenced in April and has been a major logistical exercise to ensure all components required for the new network were freighted to the island ahead of the build commencement. We expect the first connectivity to be available in late August, with the network completed and optimised by the end of the year.”
|“We created a dedicated team to work on the Chatham Islands project to ensure we understood the unique challenges, developed clever solutions to them and could build the entire network within a short timeframe,” adds John.|
Eutelsat are providing the satellite link to the island and RCG are also working with Downer NZ Ltd to deliver the satellite station and five mobile cell sites. The steel poles have been designed and manufactured by CSP® taking into account the wind-swept environment on the Island.
CSP® is also involved in the wider RCG programme of work by supplying several hundred telecommunication monopoles and lattice towers for the new RCG network delivering 4G mobile and wireless broadband to at least 30,000 rural homes and businesses across New Zealand.
|“CSP® was once again happy to assist RCG on this project,” says Neil Watson, Head of CSP®. “The design changes required were worked through and five towers were in production quickly to meet the extremely tight deadlines required due to limited shipping options out to the Chatham Islands. Our team worked hard to meet the deadline and pulled together to ensure the towers were on the back of the truck as needed for their trip down to Napier Port to meet the boat.”|
Mayor Monique Croon is excited by the new RCG network, knowing that the addition of mobile coverage to the island’s road network will provide peace of mind for residents. “Locals will no longer have to sleep overnight in their car in the case of a breakdown or accident and wait for daylight to seek help. Help will be just a phone call away at any time of day or night.”
New Zealanders have also been flocking to the island to enjoy the unique landscape and way of life, especially since the closure of NZ borders in 2020. “Being able to keep track of our tourist operations and keeping people safe as they travel the island is going to also be a huge advantage, saving time, resources, improving efficiencies and ultimately enhancing the visitor experience,” says Monique.
The RCG has worked with Crown Infrastructure Partners (CIP), Chatham Islands Enterprise Trust, Kaingaroa Trust, Hokotehi Moriori Trust, Chatham Islands Electricity, Ngati Mutunga o Wharekauri, local landowners and Chatham Islands Council, since June 2020 to scope and design the new telecommunications network. CIP confirmed $11.5M in funding earlier in the year to build the new network which included contributions from the Provincial Growth Fund, RBI2 and the three mobile network operators - Spark, Vodafone and 2degrees.